Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: The Leisure Society Nick Hemming

Interview: Nick Hemming Of The Leisure Society

Since they released their debut single, ‘The Last Of The Melting Snow’, last December The Leisure Society have been on a bit of rock ‘n’ roll rollercoaster, or perhaps a fragile indie-pop rollercoaster. Whether it’s gaining celebrity endorsees in the likes of Elbow man Guy Garvey, being whisked from your factory job to The Ivy, or being plucked from obscurity by that fateful Ivor Novello nomination. Yes, in the words of huggable poprechaun Ronan Keating, “You’ve just got to ride it.”

And ride it they have. Amiable frontman Nick Hemming would be the last person to brag about his life thus far, so Rivmixx has taken it upon itself to present this tale of ups, downs and further ups.

Speaking on the phone following the completion of a tour with one of The Leisure Society‘s many sister-bands, Shoreline, Hemming is apparently a tad bleary-eyed. However, despite having quit his much-publicised day-job, the humble singer is not yet beyond a pre-noon interview. What’s more surprising is that he still hasn’t tired of his Novello nomination war stories and nor should he be,

“It was just such an amazing thing to happen, it totally changed my life, so I’m happy to talk about it as much as people want to,” says Hemming. “It was an interesting, totally surreal experience, the whole thing, especially when they first announced it and all the press went crazy. There were film cameras coming in to where I was working.”

Strangely, the fact that Hemming had a day-job at the time of his band’s Novello nomination has been treated by a press – who seem to have forgotten that some musicians don’t just get signed on the strength of their page impressions – to be the exception to the rule. The singer has a refreshing sense of perspective though,

“It definitely helped me creatively – it was always jobs that I didn’t particularly enjoy – but at the same time it allowed me space to think about songwriting and it gave me something to strive for. Now I find that it’s very different because I think, ‘Right, I’m a songwriter now – this is what I’ve got to do today.’ It’s a lot of pressure, which isn’t a good way to be creative.”

Fortunately, the man has a back-up plan, “We’ll see how it goes,” he says. “I’ve got most of the next album written now anyway, so if I get writer’s block then I’ll have to just take a part-time job in a warehouse or something.”

Despite the apparently “bizarre and embarrassing” coverage of his factory worker plucked from obscurity rags to (critical) riches story, Hemming wouldn’t change a thing. “The publicity we got from it was just fantastic,” he says. “Because we’d done it all ourselves and had no money, we couldn’t have asked for anything more really.”

The group are not without their celebrity admirers either, rival Ivor Novello nominee and eventual winner of the 2009 award, Guy Garvey of Elbow, has been a staunch supporter of the group from day one –  something the band are extremely thankful for. “He was just amazing,” says a still slightly flabbergasted Hemming. “He’s such a lovely guy. When they won, the first thing he talked about when he came out to do his interviews was that he thought ‘Melting Snow’ should have won.”

The Novellos of course brought a great deal of interest to the self-funded, run and recorded Leisure Society, but the various member’s long-slogs and an independent streak meant that the band have maintained, in their own words, “a healthy scepticism” of the record industry. In the end the group opted for a friendly face, that of Full Time Hobby founder Nigel Adams.

The group are still without a manager, though, preferring to remain hands-on, but their relationship with their recently acquired label seems to be an extremely healthy one and the group are slowly accepting the fact that a record label can be a good thing. “It’s just nice to have lots of people help us out really,” explains Hemming. “It’s just fantastic because, at the end of the day, we don’t want to sell-out, but we do want lots of people to hear our music.”

Still, things look to be going in the right direction now and The Leisure Society have exciting times ahead, not least in the recording of the new album, “My favourite bit of music really is the recording/creative processs,” enthuses the songwriter. “I’m just really eager to get back into that again.”

In addition, the months on the road over the summer have helped to cement this one-time studio project into a cohesive unit, “It’s really changed the dynamic of the sound, so I think it’s going to be more collaborative arrangement-wise. It won’t just be people coming in and getting told ‘Play this, play that.’ I think it’s going to be a much bigger sounding album as well, probably with a bit more of an edge to it.”

“Within the next couple of weeks we’ll hopefully have started the second album,” says Hemming, clearly ready to try and top his previous year. “We’re aiming to have it ready for next summer so we can start touring again and begin the cycle again.”

Whilst the future is indeed looking just peachy, The Leisure Society, as part of the Brighton-based Willkommen Collective – a group of talented folk-pop musicians who all feature in each other’s bands – are keeping their feet on the ground. “Obviously,” admits Nick, “We’re taking up a lot of time with The Leisure Society at the moment, so it is tough, but I’m trying to make sure that I don’t just leave the other bands and concentrate on The Leisure Society because I owe them a lot.”

Having said that, Hemming guiltily reveals that the ‘Collective – of which the aforementioned Shoreline are a regular feature – are putting together a new release in which all the various bands cover songs from ‘The Sleeper’, Hemming and Co.’s acclaimed debut. Therefore, it would seem, that the respect is mutual.

It’s nice to see someone deserving gain recognition, though, and the songwriter can now look his old friends, ‘This Is England’ director Shane Meadows and actor Paddy Considine, in the eyes knowing he has found acclaim in his own chosen creative path.

That said, Hemming still looks upon their shared adolescence with a friendly nostalgia. “That was a really formative period of my life really,” he states coyly. “Shane introduced me to all kinds of debauchery. He was a bit more experienced and he’d seen and done a lot, so he kind of opened our eyes to a lot of things. Some good,” he pauses briefly. “And some not so good.

“From that point I just used to skive off and go and play with the band every day and it was really inspirational. Paddy and Shane are just such crazy characters, just so much energy, particularly Shane.”

Rivmixx can’t help but wonder if there’s something in the water in their shared home town, Burton-on-Trent, or if the trio just happen to have a shared sense of determination. “I don’t know,” he hums pensively, “Because they had that determination and I really didn’t, I was a lot more insular.”

Considine and Meadows’ creative energy was put to good use early on in one of Hemming’s first musical incarnations, She Talks To Angels. “We had this really crap band,” he states flatly. “But Shane would just phone up record companies and stuff and just arrange things. He just had so much energy to do all that, whereas I was more inclined to just sit back.”

Fortunately, the Burton trinity are still in touch, not only that, but they’re still working together. Hemming even reveals that, as he did with ‘Room For Romeo Brass’ and ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’, he’s co-written a song for Meadow’s new film, ‘Le Donk And Scor-Zay-Zee’.

Starring Considine, it’s based on a local character that the three budding musicians met back home  “who used to manage bands and stuff” and it’s been evoking frequent comparisons to Steve Coogan‘s ‘Saxondale’. However, according to Hemming it’s Coogan who is indebted to Meadows,

“Funnily enough, this Le Donk character has been around for years,” he is keen to explain. “They did some shorts and Paddy showed them to Steve Coogan about eight years ago when he was doing ’24 Hour Party People’, so I think Steve Coogan got a few ideas from that.”

Rivmixx is shocked and appalled, but that’s showbiz and having taken 18 years to get this far, Hemming and co. are enjoying it whilst it lasts.

Matt Parker

Written for Rivmixx

Interview: Robbie Furze Of The Big Pink

big pink car

Interview: Robbie Furze Of The Big Pink

“All that sh*t they talk about us, at the end of the day, we’re just a band and we write music.” Rivmixx is chatting to Robbie Furze guitarist and singer with London-based noise-rock/pop duo The Big Pink. Having been warned that Furze can be a “difficult” interviewee, as well as spending about three days trying to track the man down as he moved Fugitive-like from town to town, Rivmixx, fortunately, is finding him to be a very amiable guy.

As Furze correctly states, there has indeed been some sh*t talked about them. The problem for the industry, with a band like The Big Pink, is that they’re good, they’re really good, and by the same token that makes them hard to pin down and hard to break-in. Major label bosses, sat around lustfully unbuttoning their flies in anticipation of a return to the “glory days” when bands would do anything for their attention, have been caught dick in zip. The Big Pink have kept their integrity intact, signing to 4AD and releasing a debut album, ‘A Brief History Of Love’, that Rivmixx suspects will sit comfortably next to all-time “great” British bands.

According to Furze, honesty and friendship has played a big role in this success,

“We’re very close me and Milo [Cordell, the other 50% of The Big Pink]. We’ve got nothing to prove to each other – I don’t want to say no egos, because me and Milo have big egos, the both of us – but we’re not competing with each other.” The Big Pink it seems, don’t bother with pretension, “We don’t have to give a sh*t, it’s not like a “battle”. We’re very un-precious about what we do at the early stages, so if there’s something we don’t like we just throw it out.”

It helps that both Furze and Cordell have been friends for nigh on nine years now. Having apparently hit it off at a Millenium party, they discovered a shared love of music, but it took a while – seven years to be precise – before the duo decided to form a band. Fortunately, they saw eye to eye creatively, “We like walls of guitars and we like beats,” says Furze. “That will always be a constant and we just love good songs and we love soul music and I think that will be a massive influence on us.”

This mutual love of music got the twosome signed the old-fashioned way (4AD came to an early gig) before the the pair crossed the Atlantic to Electric Lady Studios – that would be the one built by Jimi Hendrix – in New York to lay down their debut album. Strangely for a band with such a fierce independent streak, The Big Pink opted for a real studio, shunning their bedroom roots,

“To be honest, it was actually kind of cheap really,” states Furze, sounding a little embarrassed. “It was like, ‘You can spend three weeks recording in a basement somewhere in Shoreditch or you can go to New York and do it in Electric Lady studios where Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie have recorded’.”

Apparently location – for example a legendary studio, as opposed to a mic precariously balanced on top of a pile of dirty socks – makes a difference to an album, “Studio A where we were recording was just the most beautiful room I’ve ever been in. It was incredible,” says the still awed songwriter.

The experience seems to have left a lasting impression on Furze, “It’s such a f**king wild kind of vibe in there – you’re singing through the same mic that Bowie sang through, you know what I mean? You’re recording guitar with the same f**king mic that Hendrix used. The piano was, I think it was, Steve Wonder‘s Rhodes in there. It’s really heavy stuff.”

“Heavy stuff”, it indeed is, but then again the duo are no strangers to the heavy. Ever since they emerged, elements of the press and other factions have waged a self-induced war to bring The Big Pink back down to size (pun intended). Not content to believe a good band can still make it off the strength of their music, the press want reasons, but there’s no nepotism or “X Factor back-story” here.

“What I didn’t like about the hype,” states a battle-worn Furze matter-of-factly. “Was that I always knew it would come back and bite us on the arse a bit – and you can’t control that, you can’t say, ‘Please don’t talk about us, or please don’t put us on your list’, but actually the backlash hasn’t been as bad as I thought it was going to be.”

“There’s a jealousy thing there,” theorises the singer. “Like Milo’s record label [Merok] – he makes no money – in fact, he loses money – he’s not connected at all and suddenly [to the press] he’s f**king Puff Daddy and because of that, because of Merok, we got signed to 4AD?! Those things are just nothing to do with each other.”

Accusations of nepotism are not the only pious finger-pointing that the group have been subjected to. The band’s lead single ‘Dominoes’, with its chorus line “These girls fall like dominoes”, has created a misguided stir in some circles for its perceived misogynistic content. Accusations which are way off the mark. Whilst the record is not misogynistic, it is – as with all of Furze’s outpourings, spoken or sung – remarkably sincere.

“It’s honest, we’re admitting how pathetic we are, or men are…” says the suddenly introspective singer. “It’s pretty sad, when I think about it, when I sing, it is a kind of sad story – that “girls fall like dominoes”, it would be nice to keep one and be happy with her, you know?”

Unfortunately for Furze, that’s going to be difficult – the tune (and its ludicrously catchy chorus) are currently in high demand. The guitarist is cautious, though, about it becoming their one-hit-wonder tune, “It’s getting a bit much – because of this f**king ad on TV and everything, it is the one that everyone is going crazy for – and I am getting a bit tired of singing “dominoes” to be honest.”

Currently The Big Pink‘s live incarnation are enjoying a quick jaunt around Europe, they then head out on the road with Muse in November, before crossing the Atlantic to the US until early December. Despite having “played a few shows” with Alec Empire before, the gruelling schedule of a band du-jour has come as a bit of a shock to Furze, “I had no idea it would be this f**king… hardcore, you know?” he tells Rivmixx. “I think we’ve got two weeks off over Christmas and then I think we don’t stop again until this time next year.”

“It’s a bit depressing, like I just said, I am in a hotel room, on my own, in Liverpool. It’s my day off, I miss my dog and my home, you know what I mean?” Rivmixx is never one to indulge the egos of rockstars, especially when they believe they’re having a hard time, but it’s hard not to with Furze, mainly because, as with his recordings and live performances, you believe every word he says.

It’s all too rare to find such a candid interviewee, one who believes there’s more honour in an honest response than your standard “the tour’s going great”. This incorruptible approach is one that’s going to have an even bigger impact on their next recording – a new EP, which will be written on the road and recorded “the second” the band comes off tour,

“In America we’re gonna write this four-track kind of thing,” Furze reveals. “Just like guitar, drums, bass and like a basic Juno synth and maybe hardwire it a bit with a distortion pedal, so it’s just one sound on this synth… We’re gonna record it straight to disc and we’ll have all of the artwork already done and it’ll be in the shops the next morning.”

The group got the idea from ’70s punk act, Warsaw Pakt. “It just sounded like a f**king cool idea,”enthuses the songwriter. It seems the more exposure the group get, the more frustratingly mis-represented The Big Pink become. With this new EP the duo have a chance to cut out the middle-man hype and connect straight to fans. As Furze himself rationally states, “F**k all this internet bullsh*t about ‘you’re stealing stuff’ and crying about downloads.”

Fans can probably expect the new EP around early December (their American tour ends December 6). But there’s also been occasional suggestions that the group could wind up doing something else along “different tangents” in the near future. Despite that, and the occasional lapse, it seems Furze still believes he’s living the dream,

“We make jokes about becoming DJs and stuff or becoming like Daft Punk and sending someone else out wearing robot helmets… We won’t, we love touring, we love being on the road, it’s like one big massive party with your best mate.”

Matt Parker

Written for Rivmixx

Interview: Kyp Malone Of Rain Machine/TV On The Radio – Breasts, Religion & Polygamy

Interview: Kyp Malone of Rain Machine/TV On The Radio

Breasts, Religion & Polygamy

Kyp Malone is probably better known for his role as one third of Brooklyn indie experimentalists TV On The Radio. Having announced this September that his group will be going on a one year hiatus, Malone has found plenty to occupy his time, both with avant-garde rockers Iran and more recently with his new solo project, Rain Machine.

Rivmixx: What’s the relevance of the ambiguous Rain Machine moniker?

Kyp Malone: “There are connections to be made yet I also want it to remain ambiguous, and even arbitrary. I feel like a lot of band’s names, take Led Zeppelin as an example, feel kind of arbitrary,  over the course of my lifetime, hearing their music I now have an association. It means something to me, but I’m sure it’s not the same thing it meant to them.”

R: What made you want to make and tour this record?

KM: “I love going to the studio, it’s one of my favourite things in the world. But I was not really hell bent on turning these songs and performances into a record, but my friend Ian Brennan – who was a stranger to me at the time – saw me play a show in L.A. and contacted me and asked me if he could put me in the studio.”

R: Did you always intend to record a full-length?

KM: “I’ve been listening to albums since I was little, through my parents and my older brother. When I started buying music, when I was pre-teen, buying albums on cassette and listening to them in their entirety. Even if I was listening to Top 40 radio and I heard something I liked, I would rush out and try to find the album. There are definitely markets that tend towards the single, but I hear collections in my mind, that’s what I was raised listening to.”

“The only time I have felt connected to what I believe is divine, or the most consistently that I have felt connected to “the divine”, is in music.”

R: You recorded this album out of New York. Do you feel that location played big part in defining Rain Machine’s sound?

KM: “Only a tiny bit, I feel that all inspiration is available if you can find a place quiet enough to hear it. Three tracks did get recorded in New York, but it was important for me to delineate it from TV On The Radio and that structure.”

R: ‘Rain Machine’ feels quite spiritual – the artwork, with its sense of balance, and some of the songs feel like some kind of agnostic prayer – was that intentional?

KM: “It’s hard to talk without cheapening it, but I was raised in a very conservative pocket of Christianity. I’m not connected to that life anymore – only by some small shred of family – but the older I got inside of that, the feeling I was supposed to get from prayer and the study of scripture… I didn’t feel it. I felt more like something was wrong with me or that it wasn’t working, but I definitely felt it in music. For me it is… I don’t wanna say spiritual practice, because that implies something that I’m not doing, but the only time I have felt connected to what I believe is divine, or the most consistently that I have felt connected to “the divine”, is in music.”

R: Do you think that that element is more apparent because this is a personal project, rather than a group one?

KM: “Maybe, but I hear what I think of as spirituality in the first TV On The Radio EPs that I didn’t play on. I feel it on a lot of music that I think is really good music.

“Sometimes it requires more space to actually hear certain things. One of my early complaints musically with TV On The Radio – which I was completely a part of – was “always more”. Adding layer, after layer, after layer. Things are there, but they start to get lost. I think we are getting better at finding a balance for that. I like there to be space.”

R: The Rain Machine artwork is described as “provocative” on the Anti- website. Rivmixx thinks it’s actually quite a peaceful image…

KM: “Yeah, I like the fantastic. I like art nouveau artists – like Mucha – it’s some of the most inspiring to me because it’s fantastic and mythic and beautiful and I also find that I don’t see much reflection of my personhood in it, because it’s Eurocentric.

“Breasts are supposed to be “provocative” in America, which is fucking absurd. You could paint a nuclear mushroom cloud on the cover and they’d probably say nihilistic, but not provocative.”

“You could say the same for American fantastic output, Disney studios, for example, really shaped my aesthetic as a child. I wanted to draw like that, but I didn’t see myself in it because I’m not a sympathising, white supremacist company. Anything that was going to represent me was going to be degrading or dismissive.

“I don’t really feel like it’s provocative. It’s funny, they might say that because they’re American – and I’m American too – but breasts are supposed to be “provocative” in America, which is fucking absurd. You could paint a nuclear mushroom cloud on the cover and they’d probably say nihilistic, but not provocative.”

R: Do you think it’s important to offer your own artwork?

KM: “It’s something I wanted to do, but I feel like part of the reason I buy records and that I visit a record store is because I want the whole thing. People want that less and less you know, but presentation is important, I think.

“It’s funny, I ran into my friend Arrington [De Dionyso of the band Old Time Relijun] and he does all his own artwork. He handed me his new record and our artwork is strangely similar. It’s a fairly psychedelic happenstance. It’s two naked females with wings and holding a severed lion’s head and there’s a rainbow arching out of their crowns over the whole thing… It’s funny.”

“It’s just evident to me that creativity – at least musically for me and how I work – always benefits from polygamy.”

R: You’ve said before that you have to question the honesty of repeat performances. Is that part of the reason that you maintain so many different projects? To stop “the facade” growing too thick?

KM: “I guess in a lot of ways it’s easier to keep it… uh… [puts on self-reproaching voice] “keep it real”. I don’t wanna say that. But the many motivation for that is that I just want as many creative relationships as possible. It’s just evident to me that creativity – at least musically for me and how I work – always benefits from polygamy. As many relationships as you have time to cultivate, the music always benefits from that.”

R: The Rain Machine tour kicked off on Monday (September 21), are you looking forward to that? What kind of preparations have you been making?

KM: “I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been rehearsing with a band of four friends to work on some of the songs – voice and guitar wasn’t going to do them justice. So I’ve been spending some time just trying to figure stuff out, but it’s in the same vein and aesthetic as the record.”

R: Is there any chance of some UK dates?

KM: “I would like to. If it’s possible and if there’s interest to support it then I’d like to get over there with the band in the late winter and early spring.”

Matt Parker

Written for Rivmixx

Interview: Cathy Lucas Of Fanfarlo

Interview: Cathy Lucas Of Fanfarlo

Fanfarlo crept into Rivmixx’s consciousness slowly at first. Their name appeared at the beginning of summer as festival organisers began to announce their various coups. The band seemed to gather pace quickly though, rolling through show after show, blog after blog, and by the time their debut album found its way to this writer, they had become thoroughly intertwined with wistful thoughts of sunny days and sub-par festival foods.

This was no accident or coincidence – Fanfarlo are a band that works hard. Whether re-arranging an entire set in 45 minutes because half the band missed a flight, or driving themselves to swine-flu-suffering exhaustion, the group take what they do seriously and they do it well. They seem to have an innate understanding of how a 21st century group should operate. And, unlike the thoroughly-confused music industry, seem unafraid to dive right in, delightedly tearing up the industry rule book as they go.

Of course, all of this would be useless if Fanfarlo couldn’t put their melody where their mouth is – crafting beautifully melodic indie-folk songs is what they undoubtedly do best. One of the groups’ several talented multi-instrumentalists, Cathy Lucas, believes that – with members hailing from Belgium, Sweden and the UK – the band take influences from their diverse geographical background. They’re as much Beirut as (Peter) Bjorn and John,

“We’re into bands from all over and we’ve felt really welcomed as well in a lot of European countries, especially Spain and Portugal… The reception in the States has been amazing; they make us feel really at home outside of the UK.”

Having been influenced by many American bands, the sextet chose to record their debut album ‘Reservoir’ stateside as well, choosing Peter Katis (The National, Interpol) to handle desk duties. Lucas says that Katis’ pedigree was a big part of the reason they chose him, “To have the input of someone like Peter, who really understood what we were trying to do. It was actually really useful to have someone that – if you can’t quite put your finger on what a song needs – could help you find what that was.”

As is often the case, creative vision seems to require sacrifice and the group have since parted ways with their guitarist Mark West, a victim of that other great pandemic of modern times – musical differences. Lucas remains philosophical about the experience though.  “In the recording process,” she states, “things you didn’t know before kind of show themselves in unexpected ways – but it was mostly very positive.”

Fanfarlo are not afraid to make the tough choices and, having completed ‘Reservoir’ under their own steam, have decided to go the whole hog and release it themselves. Unlike some bands – Boxer Rebellion, for example – it’s not a decision made out of any great animosity to the industry as whole, “We did talk to some labels and it’s a great thing to work with an indie label, because you get that family thing,” explains Lucas. “But we felt like we had all the resources to do it ourselves, so it just made sense.”

It’s not a decision that would suit every band, but Fanfarlo are quickly garnering a reputation for not giving a flying violin-pluck about traditional business models, believing that – in the face of industry inertia – it’s important for artists to lead the charge. The group recently put their very-talented genitalia on the line when they offered their album digitally for the criminal price of one American dollar, an experiment that seems to have paid off – particularly in the land of the free,

“We’d been to South By South West a couple of years running,” says Lucas modestly. “We hadn’t toured or anything, but I think the majority of those one dollar albums were sold in the States and it kind of set things alight and brought us to the attention of a lot of people.”

Unlike the Napster-fearing dinosaurs that are slowly sinking into the tar-pits of irrelevance, Fanfarlo have decided to treat the internet as a friend, and a close one at that. A cursory glance at the group’s website offers a wealth of content – from photo-blogs, bicycle tips and tour diaries to cover songs and living room jams. “The artist now has to offer more than just music,” Cathy proposes. “When you get into a band you’re looking for a whole creative package…You need to have a  really strong identity as a band.” For Lucas, it offers a chance to show the group’s off-stage abilities, “[We want] to do more than the conventional album, you know, ‘This is our music and all you get is a little sleeve if you want more.’ We wanted to have a better connection with the listeners. It’s about expressing ourselves in more than one way.”

One of the many clever routes Fanfarlo have chosen to embrace the internet, and show off their “off-stage abilities”, is through their music videos.  Their recent effort for ‘The Walls Are Coming Down’ (a taut, Houdini-themed carnival extravaganza), for example, offered a chance to collaborate with visual artists (and friends) Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. As Lucas explains, the group thoroughly enjoyed the process, “You get a completely different kind of excitement out of doing something that’s someone else’s vision. To be part of their vision of what our music is about and to have the full gamut of resources that become available to you when you work with professionals; it’s a whole spectrum of experiences that you get to kind of explore.” It’s a point that Fanfarlo have worked hard to reach and, having got there, the group are not planning to take the foot off the gas yet.

Currently preparing to take the plunge and (no pun intended) cross the Atlantic, the group will kick off their first US tour this month, “The whole thing is a little bit of a dream at the moment,” says Lucas, clearly enthused. “Just the idea that our first tour in the States is going ahead… There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of radio play and we’re playing some really interesting venues and going to a lot of exciting cities.”

The band look like they are about to hit that point where their trajectory suddenly takes a turn towards the vertical – when things go from busy to crazy. As Lucas lists their various tour plans – an iTunes session to lay down new tracks; headlining NY’s Bowery Ballroom; Beirut-member guest spots;  Sigur Ros DJ sets – Rivmixx can’t help but get caught up in the excitement.

Matt Parker

Written for Rivmixx

Interview: Friendly Fires

Interview: Friendly Fires

friendly-fires-1

Here’s another interview I did as part of the Standon Calling 2009 coverage, with the *cough cough* MERCURY NOMINATED Friendly Fires. Who were, frankly, knackered from a recent tour down under. All credit to them though, they still put on a great show and were proper gentlemen all round.

Rivmixx:  St Albans is fairly close to here, is this a bit of a homecoming gig?

Edd Gibson:  “Ah let’s not bring on the homecoming vibe!”

Jack Savidge:  “We’ve actually got a homecoming gig coming up on September 3. It’s really exciting, at the Alban Arena.”

R:  You’ve been playing a lot of festivals.  When you’re writing songs, do you see yourself playing for a festival crowd, or do you just write what you’ve got?

EG:  “I don’t think we’re really focussed enough to specifically write for an event or an occasion. It’s just ‘I’ve got an idea, let’s run with it before it peters out’.”

R:  Do you hit upon something and go ‘Oh THAT’S a sing-along’?

JS:  “Yeah, you generally know when something’s kicking arse. There’s a lot of time spent when something’s not kicking arse trying to make it kick arse, but it’s impossible to know.”

EG:  “Yeah, I think when we wrote ‘On Board’ we were well aware that people would hate us for that, for how infectious that could potentially be.”

R:  I’m going to have to ask you about the Mercury Prize nomination.  Was it expected?

JS:  “We were definitely, secretly, hoping.”

EG:  “We were kind of aware of it coming round the corner.”

R:  When you made the album did you feel ‘this could have an impact’?

JS:  “I think, because the album was released last September, we all thought it would have long dropped out of everyone’s consciousness by the time the Mercury Prize comes along. It’s funny, it’s kept on being there, or there about.”

R:  So what are the three most significant points in your band’s career so far?

EG:  “I remember the first was having a Gut Records A&R guy come round to watch us play when we’d had maybe three shows in London, outside St. Albans.  I remember thinking bloody hell, (rubs his hands excitedly) we could be on the same label as the Crazy Frog!”

JS:  “Yeah, it was well exciting. We sort of played through all our songs to this guy and he sort of sat up and we were all like “God, he’s going to offer us a deal!”. Then he was just like, “Yeah, you’re alright.”

EG:  “There was a little rivalry because there was someone else at that label as well who was interested in us and they were almost cheating one another to get to us. But they were the first to tell us, “You’ve got a future, but…”

R:  So is the most recent significant point the Mercury nomination?

JS:  “I don’t know, I think Glastonbury.  There’s got to be something between Gut Records and Glastonbury.”

EG:  “Glastonbury was fucking amazing. That felt like a real ‘moment’.  I think just putting out your own album. Just holding it in your own hands. That’s crazy.”

R:  The album’s been out almost a year now – have you got any new songs your working on?

EG:  “We have one song that we’ll be playing today, we’ve played it the last couple of shows. It’s coming out at the end of August and we’ve got a video all done for it.  I think it’s probably been on Radio 1 and stuff like that.”

R:  Is that something that’ll be on a future album or is it a standalone?

EG:  “That’ll be like a bridging song. A standalone. Come October we’ll be able to wind down and begin thinking about writing the next album, but until then we’ve just had too many good offers to pass up.”

R:  So are you going to head home and chill out for a bit?

EG:  “Well Ed [Macfarlane – the group’s singer] is still living in Sandridge in Hertfordshire so we’ll be going back to his gaff where it all started anyway and just try and get the basics [of a new album] started off.

“It’s comfortable because there’s no money being spent on it. You don’t feel the pressure of having a studio that costs however many thousands of pounds a minute.”

Matt Parker

Written for Rivmixx

Interview: Alex Trenchard (Standon Calling Organiser)

Interview: Alex Trenchard (Standon Calling Organiser)

This was a quickie interview with Standon Calling organiser Alex Trenchard. He’s a very nice chap and it’s quite interesting as a brief examination of the mind of a festival organiser.

Rivmixx:  Alright, now, what made you decide I’m gonna turn this from a birthday party into a festival?

Alex Trenchard:  “I never had any plans to build a festival. Every year we’ve just tried to organically improve on the year before. Whether that’s better music, bigger stages etc.”

R:  And then what makes you carry on doing it?

A.T:  “I like the experience of putting something on for people. It’s a passion. It’s a bit of an artistic outlet to some extent. And also because it’s for charity.”  [All Standon’s profits go to Phoenix Futures – a UK network of drug and alcohol abuse centres.]

R:  Does it take up your whole year?

A.T:  “Normally I won’t think about it until October, then we book acts from about January/Ferbruary.”

R:  Is it a bane or a bonus hosting it on your own land?

A.T:  “I think it’s a bonus for all reasons. Firstly, it feels like home – you know the land, you know the locals, the community.  It’s not like you’ve arrived from somewhere else to put on this big party which, sometimes, local communities can find scary. We get quite a lot of local interest. This year we had a party for them on Thursday night so they could come down and check it out.

“Secondly, from a financial perspective, it’s one less cost and we can then invest the money we save on that cost in a better experience for everyone and pay more attention to detail. That’s why – as a small festival – relative to other festivals, have a line-up similar to other larger festivals.”

R:  What are your hopes for the festival over the next few years?

A.T:  “My focus is on the atmosphere – how to grow it while at the same time remembering what this festival’s niche is. In some ways the bigger you get the more festivals there are and from my perspective I’m interesting in promoting the most experience I can, whilst doing something different. In this market that means doing something a little more intimate. I can see the festival growing to a certain extent, but I’m under no delusion that this will be a big festival. Financially that would be suicide.”

R:  You’ve got a really good reputation for booking up and coming bands. How do you keep on top of that?

A.T:  “It’s going out listening to bands and keeping your ear to the ground.  It’s talking a lot to people, and hearing what’s coming through. I try my best to see who is the genuine article and just cut through the crap really.

“I go out to quite a lot of gigs, less now because I’ve got an eight month kid. But it’s not just about who’s going to be big, it’s about what’s going to work best in the environment. This year we’ve got the Invisible and Friendly Fires who are both great festival bands.”

R:  Who have you most enjoyed/most looked forward to this year?

A.T:  “I loved Friendly Fires, they played two years ago and now they’ve come back this year and it’s just been a fantastic return.  Over the last few years they’ve really come on and blown up.  I’m really looking forward to Femi Kuti – that’s quite a coup – he’s a world music star in his own right. Also, tonight, Easy Star All Stars.”

R:  Who are your ideal bands for the future? Is there anyone you’ve got your eye on?

A.T:  “I really like Casiokids, they are playing this year, but I think that’s someone for next year and the year after.”

R:  What about fantasy bands?

A.T:  “I’d probably go for Bjork. In terms of atmosphere, stage presence, artistic ability, I think she’s amazing.”

Matt Parker

Written for Rivmixx

Interview: White Denim

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Interview: White Denim

Note: This is the full – unedited – transcript from the interview, for an abbreviated, nicely edited version check out the article proper over at Rivmixx.

Austin-based White Denim, whilst relatively unknown in their US homeland, have made a name for themselves in the UK with their distinctive brand of mile-a-minute, sugar-rush garage-rock.

Monday (June 22) saw the release of White Denim’s second album ‘Fits’ and the beginning of their UK tour. So Rivmixx sat down with the band to ask about their intense song writing process, Kings of Leon comparisons and what’s to follow ‘Fits’.

Rivmixx: A lot of people talk about rhythm and syncopation when referring to your music, but I find it’s actually quite melodic. How important is melody in the song writing process?

James Petralli: Yeah, well I think it’s just as important, we’re all, we’re a rhythm section band for sure.

Josh Block: You can’t have one without the other, but I think people say you “have rhythm” because the melodies are long enough that it just sounds like rhythm, melody/harmony moves from left to right [rhythm up and down].

Steve Terebecki: I think in our writing process a lot of the melodies kind of come from rhythmic moves for sure, rhythm definitely comes first but it’s not really complete until it has a melody

R: In terms of the melody is it something that you come into the studio with, or does it come out with the rhythmic elements?

JP: Most of the basic melodies and rhythms come together at a certain point when we enter the studio.

JB: ‘Radio Milk’ was definitely a melody, [to James] you were singing that line… [laughs].

JP: Yeah we got rid of the original melody for that one, we had to obscure it, that song’s been around, as long as the band actually.

ST: Three years or so.

JP: That was one of the first songs we wrote along with ‘Let’s Talk About It’ and all that kind of stuff. It’s been through a lot of different phrases.

R: It just didn’t feel right before?

JP: Yeah I think the melody was just a little too dramatic for everybody, so we kind of tried to obscure it a little bit.

R: I see you self-produced the new album, did it get you closer to achieving the sound you had in your collective heads?

ST: I’d say yeah, definitely.

R: Is it something you’d carry on doing now?

JP: I think so yeah.

JB: I really enjoyed doing it. So I think as long as we can stand how it’s sounding.

JP: Yeah, yeah, I think we made a lot of steps forward, compared to the last one as well. As far as really kind of getting what we’re after.

R: It does sound crisper, the elements are a bit more apparent than the kind of wall of sound you had on the last album…

JP: That’s really exciting to us, kind of being able to give ourselves room to larn and improve like that

R: Do you think it’s the right thing to do artistically? Do you like the idea of working with a producer in a collaborative sense?

JB: We don’t rule it out.

JP: Eventually we might want to do that, if we meet somebody that we really get along with, but that’s really all it’s about, we’ve been working in a certain comfort zone for three years now, to bring another player, or even a producer,  in we’d really need to have a really open, good relationship.

R: As such a musically diverse band with a lot of ideas etc. Would you ever be open to collaborations with other artists? Be it with jazz, punk, funk, rock artists?

JP: Yeah we’d definitely be interested in doing that, as long as it kind of works for all of us.

JB: It would have to be like a partnership.

JP: There are a lot of factors there… I can foresee each of us having something to do other than the group.

R: In terms of with the group is there anyone that you guys would love to work with?

JB: Well we’ve used people in Austin, we do these special shows there where people will play live with us, this girl named Pink Nasty… We work with a guy Lucas who has helped write some stuff.

R: Is this stuff that’s on the record that they’re playing or is it an improvisational thing?

JP: Well this guy Lucas Anderson wrote the lyrics in Spanish for ‘El Hard Attack DCWYW’, then there’s a couple of organ parts that were played by one of our friends in New York named Joe Rig.

R: Your records sound like you’re having a lot of fun. Is having fun what it’s about for you guys or is the eclecticism something that’s actually borne out of a work-ethic, a desire to get record all of your ideas?

JP: I think it’s definitely both, I mean at certain points in the process you’re having a lot of fun, at other points you’re not so it’s really both, it is kind of a long arduous thing sometimes, but it’s music and it’s really fun to do…

R: I read that you treat it as day job 9-5 (at least when writing and recording), does that mean you have times when you take a complete break from the music?

JB: It’s hard to leave alone.

ST: Especially for Josh because he lives in the studio…

JB: It seems like for James too, I’ll get these calls…

JP: Yeah, I’m always working, nine to five makes it easy because I have to like take my wife to work and pick her up so it really works out in a family sense, but I’m definitely a workaholic for sure.

ST: Yeah I mean nine to five we’re together, and then you know the rest of the time we’re at home doing the same thing [as in the studio].

JB: Then we try and do what you’re saying, where we’ll get back from tour and we’ll say, “Ok, we get back Saturday, let’s just not go into it until Wednesday or Thursday this next week.” But, heck, by Monday we’re calling each other and by Tuesday we’re like, “Oh man come on out if [to the studio] if you want, we should just go ahead and do some stuff.”

JP: When we’re off a tour we’ll take three or four days off after a tour and then we’ll work on demoing, then in the winter is when like a lot of the real hard recording work comes in and a lot of tough decisions need to be made. During in that time we’ll take a week and not really talk to each other, but we have certain bench-marks we like to hit before we can really relax.

R: You’ve mentioned on your press sheet about the idea of a ‘paranoia regarding the congratulations you’ve received’. ‘Fits’ has already received a positive reception, do you think you’ll ever get comfortable with praise?

JP: I don’t think you ever get, just in terms of the scheduling and the life-style we’ve been leading this last year and a half, I imagine it would be really difficult to ever get really ‘comfortable’ so I don’t know. I think it’s only a healthy thing to be always concerned and working towards something better.

R: The new record has been finished for a while now, what made you hold out for summer release?

JP: That was really the label’s decision. We always say that we’re not really in the business of putting out records. We have our work flow and they kind of apply their model to it, we don’t really understand timing and the recording business and we kind of like it that way. I think they thought it would be a bit much to put out two in a calendar year.

R: Is this one going out in the US? I know you self-release stuff out there…

JP: Yeah, we’re still kind of waiting to see what’s going to happen, so the UK will probably have a couple of months on the US.

R: Is it hard to get your stuff out on your own in the US, where do you start? How do you distribute it and get it heard? Has your background in the Austin scene helped?

JP: Yes, we don’t have distribution and or anything like that, we’ve just sold our music at shows. It’s rewarding when you’re doing it yourself.

JB: It’s difficult when you see people complaining about it, in the same state or even the same city where you live, saying, “Why don’t you guys release music here?” We do, we just do it on a large scale.

JP: We don’t have it in any stores or anything, it’s basically all soft release.

R: Has your background in the Austin scene helped or hindered?

JB: I don’t know if it’s done either. I mean it helped because we had a lot of places to play so we were able to get really comfortable with the stage.

JP: If we were from like Nebraska playing for SXSW it would have been more difficult to get into that.

ST: I think Austin’s probably one of the top five cities [in the US] as far as bands go. It’s easy to build there.

JP: I think that that festival, in particular, has been [instrumental], that’s how we gained label attention in the UK and stuff like that. So that’s probably been the biggest thing for us.

R: Most of your songs are very short? Is this because of your short attention span or your audiences? Is it in an intentional thing?

JP: It just seems to be what works with this trio, moving through our ideas I think that it’s good for us to make connections and move on to parts and explore a simple idea as quickly and thoroughly as we can.

JB: I hope that doesn’t mean we have a short attention span…

ST: Well also a ten minute song at like 190bpm might be tough. All our songs are at a pretty quick tempo and they end a bit quicker.

JP: I don’t know I think there are some longer things we’ll wind up doing and a bit slower building, but I think we edit one another quite a lot. We’re really critical of one another’s playing, so a big part of our process is trimming the fat.

R: Now you’ve released your second album and once again your profile has been raised another notch, is it hard not to go through the motions with shows, press etc? How do you keep up that pace, keep innovating?

JB: We try and organise our personal time a little better when we’re on tour and in terms of the press, you try and organise that right so you can relax before you play.

JP: As far as the performances go it would be pretty difficult for any of us to be on auto-pilot and get through them because you have to be pretty dedicated but the press, it’s not an easy thing to talk about what you do creatively, but I think each of us at different times have been pretty exhausted at times with different parts of it. [Laughs] It really depends on the interviewer you know, it is hard to answer questions that you’ve answered 50 times, I don’t know how to keep it fresh. What do other people say to that question?

R: You’re actually the first band I’ve thought to ask, as you’re on the up and making that transition…

JP: Really? It’s really weird man, it’s still really new. The only thing we’ve got to compare it to is last year when we did a little bit of press and we were excited about that because it was the first time that anybody was ever interested enough to ask us.

JB: We’re still thankful for it, that helps. Just being appreciative, the being on stage is what we look forward to all day. You spend ten hours of your day just looking forwards to that.

ST: The travelling sucks.

JB: You went to bed thinking about what you just did on stage and you wake up thinking, “Alright, I know what I wanna do tonight. I know what parts I messed up on etc…”

R: The Independent tipped you for Kings-of-Leon-style cross-over success in the UK, do feel any pressure to live up to such expectations?

JP: I don’t feel any pressure because we don’t write like that. I can’t really see us writing any of the tunes that they’ve written for the last four or five years. That would such a compromise for this band.

R: So it’s not something you would even want?

JP: No!

ST: No, when we read it, it was like a “Uh oh”, it was more a “Really?”.

JP: I think we would be so content to not have that type of crossover success. We would be wondering what we did wrong!

JB: There’s some ideas I giggle at you know? [To James] that stuff when you were just laying on the bed with the microphone going… I think that could be some crossover success [Josh then promptly cracks up at the thought].

JP: Well yeah! There are some guilty pleasure tunes that we have in the catalogue. Ideas that could be anthemic.

JB: But they’re just to like have fun with.

JP: That music [Kings of Leon‘s latest] really seems alien to me at this point, the past couple of records I’m just like, [adopts a slightly baffled tone] “Wow guys… Good night.” Good for them you know, but I don’t wanna do stadium rock. I don’t think so. If it happens I guess it happens, but I think we’d be pretty upset if we had to try and make a connection with 3000 people all of a sudden.. That would be pressure.

You’re undertaking a fairly extensive UK tour, taking in some towns that visiting bands don’t always bother with (Nottingham, Bristol, Southampton). Is that because you’ve visited the UK before and wanted to see more? Do you prefer smaller towns and crowds?

JB: We’ve only skipped Bristol once. We love that town. They went nuts for us last time, it was such a great show.

JP: Yeah that was fun.

ST: We’ve always toured a lot of UK cities for some reason, I think Oxford is the only one we haven’t done and maybe Edinburgh. We’ve done a lot of them.

JP: I think our music, it feels better in an intimate setting and I think the people we’re working with are sensitive to that, rather than doing bigger regional shows.

R: It would be interesting to hear your perspective regarding what is it about American bands, particularly from the South, that UK audiences can get into?

ST: I guess we really haven’t traditionally released and distributed a record in the US so our fans are a little bit more… Maybe they’ve seen us before in the city, or read about us or ordered us specifically… That sort of fan. They’ve not really stumbled across us on the radio or whatever.

JB: A lot of the people who listen to us in the states feel like they’ve discovered something. What’s fortunate, talking and meeting people after the shows – it feels the same here, but with the label here [the UK] we have the ability to reach a larger amount of them. It’s actually given us confidence to think that we could release heavily in the states and not lose that intimacy with the audience. That’s a big fear of ours.

R: Does it bother you the way people talk about discovering you? Like a fashion trend or whatever?

JP: Well, I think that we all see certain flaws in that, but that’s kind of who we are. We kind of have to be, you know. And over here really, the people that we speak to after shows, they don’t really fit into a certain niche.

JB: They’re not totally hip either…

JP: Yeah, I’d say our audience for the most part is people like us, anyone between 15 and 60.

R: Just that ‘small’ bracket then…

JP: I don’t know maybe it’s because the music is so personal to us we think that the people who like it are relatable, but in our experience in meeting are audience it’s been good to see a lot similarities.

JB: It’s a real surprise that I meet someone in the audience that I don’t get along with. It’s really rare that I feel like an alien in the audience, they’re mostly people I can get along with.

R: What are you planning after the European dates?

JP: I know, well we’re coming back for Reading and Leeds, but we’ve been working on this kind of companion piece to this record so we’ll probably get back in the studio and finish that.

R: So that’s not necessarily the next album…

JP: It’ll be more like a continuation of this record. It could end up playing like a full-length, but we’re kind of referencing things that we’re between the lines with on this record.

Matt Parker

22/06/09

Originally written for Rivmixx