Bands like Blink-182, New Found Glory and Sum 41 paved way for the gnarly roster of British bands that have been pleasing our ears in recent years—Neck Deep, Moose Blood, ROAM and Boston Manor, to name a few. WSTR is one such band. Heavily influenced by American pop punk and incubated by their local English scene, they’re looking to make the hop over the Atlantic to show us all exactly what they’re made of.
“We really want to come to America,” says vocalist Sammy Clifford. “There seems to be a big market for this kind of sound at the moment. Our label [No Sleep] is American; all my influences have always been very Americanized, like Blink and New Found, so I’ve always kind of sang that way. We’re excited to get out there.”
But WSTR isn’t Clifford’s first shot at conquering America. Years ago he was in another band on the verge of brokering a record deal with an American label, when a night in California, a few too many Four Lokos and a donkey sent everything askew.
“I was in a band with some friends from Liverpool, just playing local stuff really, and then we got approached by an American record label,” he says, “I’d gone out to America for the first time and we were in California drinking Four Loko, showing off. We went for a walk and saw a donkey, I got on it and I blacked out. I was so drunk I ended up breaking my neck, which is a pretty heavy experience. It’s all good now, luckily, but at the time I was out for about a year, and I had to train myself to walk again. I was under really heavy medication.”
Clifford, the class clown type, spent the next year of his life trying to rebuild what he had lost. And just like any good musician, he came out stronger and inspired.
“I had something like a near-death experience, and having that whole year of my life that was kind of a blur because of the medication—[it] has definitely given me some writing material.
“There’s a song about it actually, the accident, on this album called ‘King’s Cup’ because that was the drinking game I was playing before it happened.”
WSTR signed a deal with No Sleep Records before they had even played their first show. Now, getting ready to release their debut LP, following up the SKRWD EP released in September of last year, they have found their place somewhere in the midst of the emotional spectrum. It’s with happy on one side and sad on the other that Red, Green Or Inbetween was born.
The album’s first single, “Lonely Smiles,” is an example of the mixed headspace.
“This song is a weird one for me,” Clifford says, “because originally it wasn’t actually meant to be positive and it turned into taking something really negative and becoming positive. Originally, ‘swinging from the rafters’ meant hanging yourself, being depressed. It’s pretty dark, and that’s why at first I didn’t want to put that out as the single. We decided to change it and take a spin on it and focus on what does make you happy.
“I’m happy that it’s come out positive. It was meant to be a dark song, but it isn’t anymore.”
WSTR embraces the essence of pop punk on their new record, with lots of octaves. However the band has heard criticism for “ripping off” Neck Deep, even bringing up accusations that the members ghostwrite WSTR’s music, which is just not true.
“Basically we get a lot of comparison to them because we’re good friends, and that’s all it is,” Clifford says. “We grew up together; if we sound similar it’s because I’ve been writing songs with Ben since we were kids. Of course there’s some similarities, but we just want to come across as our own band.”
Because they grew up in the same small town—Wrexham, Wales—even their accents are indistinguishable from each other. Clifford says they’ll continue to champion the positive comparisons and rectify the negative.
As they did in the past, fundamental truths still hold rigid the archetypes of pop punk, and the fluid partnership of intellectual and creative exchange across the pond continues to enrich all our lives.
WSTR’s Red, Green Or Inbetween is out January 20, so lock up your donkeys, fellow Americans: the British are coming.
But until then, here's an exclusive first liten of WSTR's newest single, “Footprints.”
“This is our favourite video that we have made so far!” shares Clifford. “We feel it gives much more insight to life as a WSTR, and it's great to watch back over all the memories, even though to be honest we can't remember half of the footage actually happening.”