British rocker Kristian Bell employed a hardscrabble method of starving for his art to form his gothic surf-garage combo The Wytches. He crashed on friends’ couches for a year after moving from tiny Yaxley to bustling Brighton and subsisted mainly on bargain-priced cheesy bread — not the savory pizzeria kind.
“It was just a little loaf of bread with cheese baked onto it. I’d buy one of those every week for 45 cents and just drink a lot of coffee,” he says. Occasionally, he’d splurge on a relatively lavish cup of Pot Noodles.
“I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, but starving is exactly what I did. But I wasn’t complaining, either, so I guess I kind of knew that what I was doing was right for my work,” says the singer-guitarist, who brings The Wytches to San Francisco this week, promoting the band’s lean and hungry debut, “Annabell Dream Reader.”
Clamorous tracks such as “Digsaw,” “Gravedweller” and “Beehive Queen” rumble like a furious, empty stomach. And one, “Wire Frame Mattress,” even recalls his no-frills sleeping setups.
In Yaxley, Bell lived at home with his mother and used the family garage to record with drummer Gianni Honey in punk-metal outfits like The Crooked Canes. He recently moved back there to save money while The Wytches tour America.
Yet when the duo decided to attend music college in Brighton, without a student loan, Bell says, “I didn’t have money, so I knew full well that I was moving away with no house.”
He crashed at a friend’s place for two months before upgrading to his next digs — an actual walk-in closet.
“It was such a small room that you could just about fit a bed in there. But it had a window, which was nice,” Bell says. “So I got a lot of writing done there — I’d shut the closet door and hole up in there with a four-track recorder and just work all the time.”
He also stopped attending college, instead concentrating on his Wytches concept with Honey.
“We’re big into horror, and we love AFI. Goth bands and doom metal,” he says. “Plus Duane Eddy and Dick Dale — if you slow down a Dick Dale cut, you’ve got a doom-metal song.”
Now that his Wytches are flying, Bell — on a nostalgic whim — recently purchased a bag of cheesy bread.
“It brought back some really weird memories,” he says. “But the best part was, it didn’t have to be that way anymore!”
IF YOU GO
With Metz, The Wytches
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Monday