Formed just two years ago in Wigan, great things are being predicted for Witness - a lyrical four-piece reminiscent of a darker, folkified Unbelievable Truth, a cheerier Tindersticks, or a contemporary take on mid-80s REM.

Having gained initial attention due to their friendship with The Verve's Nick McCabe, the band finally look set to shake off comparisons with their fellow Northern rockers with their brilliant single, 'Hijacker', and debut album 'Before The Calm'. They are currently on tour supporting the Charlatans. dotmusic meets vocalist Gerard Starkie and bassist Dylan Keeton. Click on the links to hear the band in their own words.

dotmusic: So how did the band get together?

Gerard: "Me and the guitarist, Ray, met at college, and spent years in lots of little local bands with our mates until we got disheartened of not sounding how we really wanted to. So we sacked off being in bands for a year, bought a four track and wrote a batch of songs between the two of us, then started looking to put a band together".

Dylan: "I'd put an ad in Loot, and the first people that turned up at my door were Gerard and Ray. I'm not from Wigan, and the first thing I thought was 'They're so Northern! What are they SAYING?!'

dotmusic: Were you conscious of being labelled "the new Verve" while recording the album?

Gerard: "Yeah, because there'd been so many Verve mentions before we went in. Once we actually got stuck into recording those concerns went completely, but it was definitely playing on our minds before went into studio. When we came out of the studio with a record sounding exactly as we wanted it to it was a great weight off our shoulders."

dotmusic: So what's this rumour we hear about you all living in a chip shop in Wigan!

Gerard: "Ray's dad used to own a fish and chip shop that we converted into a practice space. Once people realised it used to be a chippie, they made a big deal out of it, but it was just a studio. I've since moved to Bristol anyway. I've got a lot of friends in Wigan, but take them out of the equation and there's nothing there for me. It's just a typical Northern town, no better or worse than any other. Some people have a sentimental attachment to the place, but if you haven't lived there all your life, it's difficult to see what it is - I've certainly not seen it."

dotmusic: Are you flattered by constant comparisons to REM?

Gerard: "Not especially, but I can certainly see where they come from. I was well into REM when I was about 16 at about time of 'Life's Rich Pageant' and 'Fables Of The Reconstruction'. When they came out I thought they were fantastic, but I don't really listen to them at all now to be honest. With Nick Drake, again, I've listened to him a hell of a lot and I'm sure it's rubbed off, but no more than any other acts."

dotmusic: You shy away from discussing your lyrics, and omit them from CD sleeves - why is this?

Gerard: "I think they only really stand up in the context of the music rather than pulling them out on their own, because it's the melodies and the ideas in the music that tend to spark off the words in the first place."

dotmusic: What would you be doing if you weren't in Witness?

Gerard: "Before we got signed I spent the previous seven or eight years either on the dole or doing labouring, factory or warehouse jobs, and I'm sure I'd still be doing that to be honest. I've always been preoccupied with the idea of being in a band so the idea of following anything else through seriously has just never crossed my mind."

Dylan: "When I first met Gerard I was working in a local government job as an engineer. I went in every morning at 8 o'clock, wrote "On Site" on the destination board, then went over to Gerard's house where we played music. I spent a few years working and inadvertently became successful at it - so I'd probably still be there earning a fortune, driving a big car and living in a big house".

Gerard: "You wouldn't - you'd have got sacked!"

dotmusic: Have either of you ever hero worshipped a band?

Gerard: "I was mad into Adam & The Ants when I was eight. My wall was covered in posters. I wanted to be an Indian AND a highwayman!"

Dylan: "For me it was John Cale, which made our performance on Later very difficult because he was on the same bill. I was standing 20 paces away from a childhood hero. Our manager knows him and offered to introduce us, but I didn't want my image of him ruined. I was going to vomit through the whole thing. It was wonderful and it was horrible at the same time".

dotmusic: "Would you agree that you're more of an 'album band' than a singles act?

Gerard: "I never buy singles at all - I'm strictly an albums man. To be honest, our singles are released just to get a bit more radio play so people switch onto album. It's the album that we're really proud of. Without putting them down, I don't think any of our songs work particularly well as singles. They work better in the context of the album, listened to from beginning to end, rather than being pulled out individually".

Stephen Eastwood