The Dauntless Elite are an elusive fast-paced punk band from the sunny city of Leeds. Featuring members of Fig 4.0 and Joe90 they have records out on Plan-it-X, Somebody’s Song and Bombed Out. Chris 12oh5 chatted with guitarist Lee Wall in her kitchen about his band(s), the state of the punk scene and being lazy.
LH: The Dauntless Elite have a website, but it hasn’t been updated since 2005 and no Myspace page. Are you guys making a statement or are you just lazy?
Lee: The website being crap is definitely because we are lazy. Myspace is more of a statement. Myspace is owned by Rupert Murdoch, so from our point of view we don’t really want to be part of Murdoch’s conglomerate. I think that Myspace has become a scary kind of scene in itself. It is not some massive political statement, but we just don’t want to be associated with it.
LH: Recently I saw someone had posted on a forum saying, “How does anyone get in touch with The Dauntless Elite? We want them to play a gig down South”. How do you expect people to get in touch with you if you haven’t joined the age of technology? Or is that how you like it?
L: Well, I guess because we are so aloof and mysterious, it just adds to the charm. We do have an e-mail address, but we, er, never check it! It is difficult. I guess we are just picky. We are all working and have a lot of other commitments. So perhaps consciously, we have made it so that not everyone can bombard us with things all the time. I think people expect you to drop everything and just drive for hours to play a gig to a few people. Maybe I’m sounding a bit cynical here, but as you get older and have loads of other stuff on you can’t really do that. So constantly having to say no to everyone is not very good, but there is not another option and I think part of it is that we know who can get in touch with us and what the score is. I guess e-mailing us is the only option. Buy our CD, the address is in there!
LH: Do you feel happy with the way the band is now? Would you ever want to quit your jobs and do this all the time?
L: I would definitely like to do more gigs. Everyone has got other commitments though. It would be great to quit our jobs and have loads of money, but we are just not interested in becoming a major label money-making machine and obviously the flip side is that it isn’t as glamorous as people say it is. The Kaiser Chiefs practice where we practice and they make a lot of money but they spend a lot of time in buses and hotel rooms away from people that they care about.
I think people misconstrue what being a big band is all about. I don’t think it is anything we would like to get involved in. We have had major labels get in touch with us and ask us to send them things. In all honesty there was an internal debate, and I felt that we could send stuff and it wouldn’t really matter, but a couple of the others said it was a waste of time because we were never going to do anything about it. That decision really didn’t bother me at all because I think it is far more important to be in a band with friends.
LH: It seems that whenever I am out at a gig I see you playing in a different band. Can you explain a little about what other bands you are in?
L: I am in another band called Tatako. The main reason that I did that was because my friend Penny, who used to do The Oubliette and Afraid of the Dark, sent me an e-mail out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to do a band. I was flattered that she asked me of all people and I thought it sounded like fun. Rob who used to be in Joe90 and is also in The Sword, he is one of my closest friends but I didn’t really see him enough, so I thought he could play drums and Sam from Dugong could play bass. I guess it is kinda 90s pop punk, people have said it sounds a bit like Discount. Penny writes most of the stuff and does most of the singing.
Then there is also Kayako, unfortunately another Japanese name. That is more hardcore, fast stuff. Steve from The Dauntless Elite plays drums, Stoz plays guitar for us, Dale from The Mingers and then my housemate Benny is hopefully going to start playing guitar for us so that I can sing because I want to be dead vain and rock out. Again, it all just came together and I got roped in because Steve wanted to play something faster. The other thing I do is a band called Homebrew which I have been in for a long, long time. Far longer than I originally intended to be. It is just cider punk nonsense.
LH: Do you not feel really overstretched? Or is this just keeping you busy and enjoying your life?
L: Sometimes I do feel a bit overstretched. This will sound sad, but if you are in a relationship you get no time to yourself because, in my case, I was either making music or with my girlfriend. That is really hard! You know sometimes you just need some time on your own to do stuff that needs to be done, like your washing. I’m not in that situation now though, so The Elite have been practising more in preparation for the album and some of the other bands have taken a bit of a back seat, not doing as much. It is quieter now, but in honest truth it gets really mad and is not an ideal situation. However, because I am in bands with my friends I’m not really in a position where I want to stop doing anything as that would really impact on whatever band it is. I guess there will be a point where I have to call one or two of them a day.
LH: Do you consider The Dauntless Elite to be a political band or are you just happy playing songs about whatever springs to mind?
L: That is interesting because we got interviewed for another fanzine and one of the questions was, “How do you feel coming from Joe90 which was not a political band to The Dauntless Elite which is an overtly political band?” I was a little offended because although I don’t think Joe90 was really political protest type music, the lyrics had some real depth. I would say that for me it is a logical progression, I’ve not suddenly gone left or right from where I was in Joe90. I think some of it is really political but some of it is a lot more personal.
I personally like to stay away from being overtly political because you can sound a bit like you are sloganeering. There have been some bands that have come through as a really political band and people have been into them because of that rather than because of the content. Then they either run out of steam or do something against what they have been saying in their music. Obviously people change, but I wouldn’t want to turn myself into a liar. I think there is a political element. If you are going to make music worth making you should certainly have something to say and have some credibility. But I would not want to be categorised as either a political band or a non political band. Seeing beyond the realm of politics is as important as being able to see politics and criticise it.
LH: One last thing. I want to try and articulate my observations as an outsider living amongst you lot for two years. There are a lot of bands in Leeds who are talented and popular but only seem to play/be acknowledged in Leeds. For example Joe90 when they were around, but there are others. Why is there this Leeds scene in which people rave about Leeds bands but the rest of the country is indifferent?
L: I would disagree that Joe90 were popular in Leeds. I would disagree they were popular anywhere. The key thing is that we get a lot of people in, but they are all our friends. I think the Leeds scene is misrepresented in terms of how big people really think it is. I think if there is a lot of stuff going on in Leeds and a lot of big stuff happening, so if you come to something like Out of Spite [three day annual mini-festival at Joseph’s Well] then you think that every gig they play, The Dauntless Elite play to two or three hundred people. I think the reason we are not popular throughout the country is because it is natural to be bigger where you are from where all your mates come out and see you.
I think there is a lot of apathy in the UK punk scene towards UK punk bands and I’m probably guilty of that as well. People don’t think a band are as good if they are from England and there are a few bands that everyone loves but are really over-hyped. It seems like a lot of southern bands get hyped more, whereas in Leeds people are supported by their mates. I think people are just not as connected as they were before.