We look forward to welcoming Pip Summers and the Wandering Waterbears to Turner Sims this month as part of A Southampton Summer Night! We catch up with Pip ahead of their appearance with us on Friday 14 July…
LJ: Where do your musical influences stem from, and what inspires the themes within your songwriting?
Pip: I grew up listening to as much music as I can stand, but I always gravitated towards artists like Frank Turner, Twenty One Pilots, and The Front Bottoms, whose lyrics and messaging were more important than any technical ability they might’ve had. I appreciated people putting words to feelings I was struggling to contextualise, and the way they approached music as a communal catharsis really influenced the way I think about what the point of art even is – I think that’s something I’ve carried with me as I’ve gotten a little older. In a way that’s probably pretty easy to see, the themes of my music stem from my own experiences, be it with mental health struggles or looking at what it means to be queer. My only real goals with the whole thing are to have fun, and maybe find a way to connect with someone the same way I connected to those honest artists when I was a sad lil teenager!
LJ: Your first EP The Black Paintings was self-produced. What was the process behind producing your own music, and what have you learnt in your career since 2017?
Pip: The answer is more depressing than you might hope, haha. Self-producing most of my music mostly stems from a lack of friends and a lack of money. I picked up a guitar partly because I was a sad, lonely kid who wanted some connection. As it turns out, most people don’t actually care if you play guitar. It was still plenty fun though, so I stuck with it and kept plugging away to occupy my ADHD and eventually I wanted to share what I’d been making. It wasn’t very good so it’s probably for the best I didn’t sink any money into it, but no studio hire and no friends to collaborate with meant that I had to turn to that truest of old punk philosophies – DIY, baby.
That first EP was recorded in single takes on an iPhone, and like I said it wasn’t very good, but it was an entry point. Since then I’ve produced all my own stuff – it’s never the best production, but I’m getting to a point where things sounds distinctly like I’m responsible, and for better or for worse I’m pretty happy with that.
LJ: Despite being so young, you have already performed over 300 shows! What are some of your standout moments from your career/shows so far?
Pip: What can I say, I like to stay busy! I’m so glad I started a little list on the day I played my first gig. Playing live music has been such a focus of my life for as long as I’ve wanted to be, so I feel really lucky to have such a comprehensive record of where I’ve been and the shows I’ve played. It also makes questions like this a breeze – lemme just check the list!
- Show 30 was a highlight of my first year – I got to support one of my favourites (Felix Hagan and The Family) with the first line-up of my backing band. It was a very… early-days set, but we all learned a lot and had fun doing it.
- Show 105 at the Monarch in Camden (R.I.P) was a last minute set I’d been asked to fill two days beforehand. I ended up meeting some people I’ve been friends with ever since, including George Gadd and Tom Aylott, both incredible performers who were a total joy to watch play for the first time. I also got paid nothing but a ridiculous amount of beer that night – I don’t remember 18 year old me minding that so much.
- Show 129 was my 18th birthday. I spent the evening helping to run a open mic at 2000 Trees Festival before Frank Turner did a ‘secret’ camp set. I ended up, unamplified, leading a not-too-tiny crowd in a very shaky rendition of Queen’s ‘Somebody To Love’ to fill time. Couldn’t have asked for a better birthday really!
- Show 283 was the last time I got to play with local queer rockstars and wonderful friends Hunting Hearts. This time was at The Art House, it was their annual Yuletide Queer show, and everyone was in the mood to wrap up the year in style. There were singalongs, laughs, good cheers, and I think Manuel of Siobhan and The Sunset Haze broke his violin bow into a million tiny strands by smacking it into a drum cymbal. Good times.
- Show 289 was this March just gone and was my favourite set so far this year. It was the first show with The Waterbears in their current forms, and we were all a little on edge but ready. We were supporting Me Rex, old musical pals who I’d had the absolute pleasure of touring with in 2018, and seeing them for the first time in a long time. The crowd was lovely and receptive, Heartbreakers is a great place to play, and Isaac (my favourite soundperson in Southampton) was doing our mix. Needless to say, we had a lovely time and it’s certainly a set I’m proud!
Oops, I could ramble gig stories forever. Someone *will* have to stop me.
LJ: When did your collaboration with The Wandering Waterbears begin, and how did it come about?
Pip: This one is nice and simple and easy – we go to University together. I started studying Music Performance and Production at Solent last September, and that’s where I met Jess, Lewis, and Bailey. It took a little while to find the right combination of people to hit the ground running with but I’m forever grateful for the hard work and pure skills that those boys bring to the band!
LJ: What can we expect from your performance with The Wandering Waterbears at Turner Sims this summer?
Pip: As a bandleader, I spend a lot of time outside of rehearsals and gigging situations thinking about the stuff that a lot of people don’t pay much mind to during a show. Things like the flow of banter in-between songs and how long those gaps should be, or how to smoothly help guide an audience’s energy to different places over the course of a set. When you put all those elements together you get a show, and lately I’ve been thinking that we need to change things up not just with some new songs, but new parts to… *the show*. Without spoiling anything, we’re giving a few little fun ideas a test run to see how they work. Nothing too crazy, but if you’ve seen us play before you’re probably glad to hear I’m not becoming too much more unhinged. For now, anyway.
Book your ticket to soak in the music of Pip Summers and the Wandering Waterbears live on Friday 14 July here