The Automatic beef up their sound

Victoria Leggett Welsh indie outfit the Automatic bring their new rockier sound to Norwich on Monday. VICTORIA LEGGETT caught up with them...

Victoria Leggett

Touring the country, recording their second album in LA and bumping into Paris Hilton - things are going pretty well for the Automatic.

But, according to their newest member, the food on the tour bus could do with a bit of work.

Paul Mullen, the band's guitarist and backing vocalist, hopes a visit to Norwich could solve that problem.

“Hopefully Delia Smith will come down,” he says. “We'll put her on the guest list and she could make us some toast.”

Having suggested it as a joke at first, he soon seems to warm to the idea of having Delia around to cook the band toasted sandwiches in between gigs.

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“Yeah, let's get her down,” he says. “Get her on the tour bus.”

The sold-out gig at the Waterfront in Norwich on Monday is the seventh venue of a 16-date university tour to promote the Automatic's second album This is a Fix. It's also Mullen's first chance to tour with an album he was part of making.

He joined the Cardiff-based band following the departure of former keyboard-player Alex Pennie in late 2007 and the band immediately began reworking old tracks and writing new ones.

Mullen, 26, says: “It's obviously weird going into a band that already existed for 10 years - you never know if the chemistry is going to be ok - but it kind of fell into place.

“Being in the band feels really natural. They made me feel really welcome.”

While Pennie was a keyboard player, Mullen, former lead vocalist for Tyne and Wear band Yourcodenameis:Milo, plays the guitar and has come in to complement existing guitarist James Frost.

The reshuffle has inevitably changed the dynamic of the band and, according to Mullen, it's for the better.

He says: “The way the band are now, it's the sound they wanted anyway. It's more of a rock band than a pop band. It's beefed up the old tracks.”

That rockier sound is reflected in the new album, which has moved on from the pop sound of songs like Monster while keeping the catchy riffs and singalong choruses found in first-album tracks like Raoul and Recover.

Mullen, from Sunderland, says: “We had to change it up - there's no point doing the same record twice.”

And, although the band would never abandon the crowd-pleasing hits that got them noticed, it's the new songs that are proving most popular with audiences.

“The new stuff goes down better than the old stuff really - especially Steve McQueen, he says. “You can't ask for that. The fans are growing up with the band. It's great.”

The Automatic recorded This is a Fix in Los Angeles earlier this year and got a taste of the showbiz life when they bumped into Paris Hilton.

Mullen says: “It was bizarre. It's not something I brag about, but you really don't expect that kind of thing to happen.”

During the band's first visit to Norwich back in 2006, they emphasised their fun side by arriving on stage to the Baywatch theme tune and closing the show with a cover of Kanye West's Gold Digger.

This time around the cover may have changed, but Mullen said the fun was still there.

“We did a Radio One Live Lounge session a couple of months ago,” he says. “We did an Usher track - Love in this Club - and we've been doing that on the tour, so maybe that'll be there in Norwich. We'll see how it goes.

“It's a bit of fun. We're not taking it too seriously. People get their hands in the air and, at the end of the day, we want to put on a good show.”

The This is a Fix university tour ends on November 21 in Derby and the band, which also includes lead singer Rob Hawkins and drummer Iwan Griffiths, will have a short break before throwing themselves into their work once again.

“We get clean and get rid of bugs, then we go back to the studio,” says Mullen. “We're writing the new record already - we're in a good place for writing. There'll hopefully be another tour in January or February.”

t The Automatic play the Waterfront, Norwich on Monday (7.30pm). Support comes from Nick Harrison and Kinkane.

01603 508050 (£11adv) UEA Students' Union, Waterfront, Soundclash and www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk. All gigs are for over-14s only.