With a catalogue that spans almost 30 albums, and having been cited as an influence on everyone from REM to Radiohead, Bristol's The Blue Aeroplanes have a considerable history, but they won't be closing the book any time soon.
The longstanding group are set to release new album Welcome, Stranger! at the beginning of 2017, which delivers their trademark amalgamation of spoken word, punk, alt-rock and folk, and features the Aeroplanes' longest-serving line-up to date - a considerable feat given over 80 musicians have been involved at one point or another.
Guitarist Mike Youe is among these seemingly more stable Aeroplane ranks, but, as he reveals, life in the band is anything but, especially when you're trying to handle six-string duties alongside a classically trained Polish dancer…
1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
"I bought a beaten-up, budget Les Paul copy secondhand when I was about 13 - I think it was from an older kid on the same street as me, if I remember right. It had burn marks on it and a skull scratched into the paintwork - the maker's name had been painted over in black tip-ex. I covered the burns and scratches with gaffer tape (which is still there).
"Over time, I bodged sticking a Tele pickup in the bridge (space adjustments made with a piece of Perspex and a pen-knife), a P-90 in the neck and added a Bigbsy-style tremolo. All in a clumsy DIY, suitably teenage and underprepared way. It's probably worth about £40 quid if I sold it, but it's still my main go-to guitar for live and studio work. The pro-standard guitars I own ('80s Strat, Vintage Modified Tele and Emperor Swingster) are my back-ups!"
2. The building's burning down - what one guitar do you save?
"If the Aeroplanes' practice space at The Fleece was burning down, I'd run out with Bec [Jevons]'s Nashville Telecaster under my arm. It has all the bombproof qualities and angular bridge pickup tone of a Tele, but because of the added middle pickup you can also have the out-of-phase sound Strats have."
3. Is there a guitar, or piece of gear, that you regret letting go?
"I used to use a Laney Cub 12R for practices. I thoroughly recommend them as a first tube amp for any guitarist. They are by far cheaper than any alternative, super-portable and sound great, especially if you upgrade the tubes. There are plenty about for even cheaper secondhand, too."
4. And what's the next piece of gear you'd like to acquire?
"I'm going to get a '60s Fender. It's amazing how much cheaper '60s Mustangs are compared with Teles or Strats. I think it's because they're less desirable and often broken-down, then harvested for parts. But you can get one for about £1k. Good luck finding even a '70s Strat or Tele for that kind of money. They're super-cool looking, to be honest, so I don't know why they are so much cheaper; there's less of them about, too, I think."
5. When did you last practise and what did you play?
"The Aeroplanes are currently rehearsing up a set for our upcoming tour in January. Excited to get out and gig the tracks off the new record, plus the usual crowd-pleasers and a few Aeroplanes oddities from the back catalogue. "
6. Is there an aspect of guitar playing that you'd like to be better at?
"All of it, seriously! But especially hybrid picking at the moment."
7. If you could have a guitar lesson from one guitarist, dead or alive, who would it be?
"Richard Thompson - and forget his acoustic playing, which he is perhaps most lauded for. He is hands-down one of the most idiosyncratic and interesting electric players I've ever seen and heard. He also doesn't appear to slow down or lean back on the same old things with age."
8. What item of gear would you take with you to a desert island?
"My dad's beaten up 1970s Eko Ranger; it was my dad's guitar he bought when he was a young man, and we found it in the attic. Not sure how much use it gets round his house - in fact, it's probably back up in the attic. But I could play it on the beach to my imaginary island friends and it would remind me of my family. The action is ludicrously high, so I could write 'get help' with my bleeding fingers in the sand, too."
9. What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you onstage?
"Aeroplanes gigs are usually suitably chaotic. Quite often, Wojtek [Dmochowski, dancer] has danced himself all over your pedals, oblivious to the fact he is switching random effects on/off or kicking them into the crowd. Usually, the guitar contingent of the band end up with leads intertwined from running about, too, which pulls over amps, etc. All part and parcel of an Aeroplanes gig!"
"I spent about 4 years trying to master a seemingly impossible guitar run, which is an old Aeroplanes crowd favourite (…And Stones). With Ange, the original writer of the part, often laughing off stage, I always fluffed my way though it.
"After years of frustration, Ange has now gifted me with his original echo unit. With the correct delay settings, it turns out it's essentially a quarter of the notes I was trying to play!"
10. What advice would you give your younger self about playing the guitar?
"Think less like a guitarist, and think more like a songwriter or a producer. That's essentially what both will be asking you to do in sessions, and part-writing in a sympathetic way will get you far more work and kudos among fellow musicians."
Welcome, Stranger! is out on 6 January via Artstar. The Blue Aeroplanes tour the UK in January. Tickets are available from Ents24.