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After the release of their debut album and successful European tour, London proto-rockers Antlered Man are gearing up for festival season with a performance at this year’s Camden Crawl. I caught up with Danny Fury (guitar) and Sam Ray (bass) for a chat about Camden, UK music and masturbation.
The last time TGTF saw you guys was supporting Lower Than Atlantis…
Danny: Yeah, that gig was tough for me. As soon as we got to sound-check, the sound guy wanted a bit of vocals from me, and I went ‘[croaky cough]‘ and my voice just wasn’t there. And I said ‘I can’t sing’ but everyone was like ‘Oh go on, sing you cunt!’. But there was no singing voice there, if I did it would have been like a William Shatner vocal. Spoken word alternative rock.
Sam: Shatner being the word.
Danny: Shat. It was a horrible gig for me, but everyone said it was all right.
What have you been up to since then?
Danny: We did an EP – that was some guy’s bright idea, because apparently people don’t do albums any more(!) [laughs]. It’s like fucking is going out of style. And that didn’t really work out, but on the back of that we got a tour with And So I Watch You From Afar around Germany. All round Europe, actually, and it was unbelievable. We forged a really good bond with those guys and they gave us a lot of advice. We became to realise there’s a lot more outside in the alternative/underground – there is a subculture. We were always pompous enough, but you could afford us that because we locked ourselves away when we first wrote the album, and the only bands we knew were shit ones. Then when we came out we met bands like Exit International, Palehorse, And So I Watch You From Afar, all these cool bands it was like, “Sweet, we’re a part of something”.
Sam: We’ve got quite a bit of touring in the next few months. We’ll be back over in Europe in July, we’ve got a couple of festivals. A few festivals in England around June. But it’s quite sparse so we’ve got a lot of time to do the album, which is good because during festival season you’ve got one gig then a week off, then another gig, so we’ve got time to get some new tracks down.
Danny: The German thing is really exciting, in fact all round Europe. In Poland, we came out of the backstage area onto the stage, and there were three kids moshing at the front to no music. I knew it was going to be good [laughs]. We got offered so much cool stuff from that. To tour Europe is unbelievable because in this country it can be a little bit unforgiving for bands – there aren’t even places to park outside the venues, let alone a rider so you can smash up a fridge up in the backstage area if someone ‘dissed your chorus’.
What do festivals like Camden Crawl say about UK music?
Sam: I think these type of festivals are becoming more popular, rather than the standard music festival thing where people play in a massive field. It’s become more of a thing for journalists and bands to come down to and check out other bands. There’s a massive musical scene happening in one weekend and it gives you the opportunity to go find other bands.
Danny: It gives people the opportunity to see their favourite band, or bands that they’re checking out. I checked out Hawk Eyes like 6 months ago and they were unbelievable. Everyone wants the opportunity to not see those guys in a fucking sterile, big place, they want to go to a little club and see it. I’ve looked at the photos of Camden Crawl from the past 2 years, and I thought there was no fucking way I wanted to go there. I’m just a bit agoraphobic and I don’t really like too many people round me. Ordinarily this place on a Friday or Saturday is fucking nightmare.
Sam: We were going to drive down here but there’s no chance we were going to get anywhere to park and we would probably have been stuck in traffic for hours.
Danny: I’m not sure what it says about the music scene. The scene around Camden has always been thriving, but without wanting to be bitchy, not a lot of it is very good. But there’s the odd gem out there and I think they’ve got a really good line-up this year. I think there is a heavy resurgence that’s definitely occurring with Pulled Apart By Horses, Hawk Eyes, Exit International, all these guys are on the up, and there seems to be a place for it.
There are a lot of heavier bands playing this year…
Danny: I think that’s probably why it seemed like kryptonite to Superman with me for the last 2 years. It was just any old shit and we never really put ourselves forward for it. So when they floated the idea to us, we checked the listings and thought ‘fuck yeah, that looks good’.
What is it you love about Camden then?
Danny: I bitch and moan about the crowds round here, but if ever I am going for a drink I tend to do it round here. I like that there’s more of a laid-back vibe and they’re a little bit more tolerant round here. There’s the young people who come to the gigs who are enthusiastic about everything, and 90% of gigging – if you’re a London band – is done around here. It never used to be like that, about 5 years ago there used to be places in Islington but now it’s primarily here. It’s always good to bop around and sometimes be recognised.
Have you got a favourite venue in Camden?
Danny: The Barfly is cool, especially since they put the new PA in. Never played here [The Black Heart] before but I’ve heard good things about it. But I’d have to say, as far as sound and everything goes, it was always Koko. Then it started getting infiltrated by 15 year olds who are eating off their faces and freaking out, so I stopped going there. So I’d probably say the Barfly.
Sam: I like the size of the Barfly, as it’s good for an intimate crowd as well.
Danny: I would say Proud for the sound but there’s nowhere to park out there and we’ve got about four parking tickets from there and the bar staff just shrug their shoulders when you tell them.
The name of the festival is Camden Crawl, what would you crawl the length of Camden for?
Sam: Hair of the Dog at the moment, I think. It was our drummer’s birthday yesterday so we had quite a few beers.
Danny: We don’t drink before we go on, but we get hammered after. The talent to be able to play arsehole drunk – just to alleviate the hangovers – I would definitely crawl the length of Camden for.
Sam: We got drunk yesterday and tried to play the set but it wasn’t happening.
Danny: That speaks volumes for the intricacies of our parts… we went a bit prog.
You mentioned you’re playing a lot of festivals in Europe, have you got any UK festivals lined up?
Danny: The Great Escape, 2000 Trees… The Great Escape should be really fun.
TGTF’s Editor will be at The Great Escape…
Danny: I remember when we were over in Germany, staying in some fucking rural farmhouse surrounded by deer we read a really good review on There Goes The Fear of our EP. So thanks for that!
That wasn’t long after your Lower Than Atlantis gig TGTF reviewed…
Danny: I remember there being three morbidly obese kids sat outside there drinking from 2 o’clock in the afternoon. And they didn’t have any finesse to their drinking, they had a bottle of blue WKD, a bottle of Bailey’s, and about six cans of Stella. Then a mate would come along with a bottle of [Jamesons] and pour it down his throat and it got to the point where I knew they were going to get nicked, but it was a matter of when. In between playing and losing my voice, I was running outside to see the drama unfold. Then I finally saw the fat little cunt get nicked.
Sam: Hopefully they’ll read this and reassess their life.
Finally, have you heard the world is going to end at the end of the year?
You missed the Mayan calendar saying the world’s going to end?
Danny: I love reading but it’s such a commitment. One book at a time. And I just don’t have time for the Mayan calendar. I’m too occupied with which badass is going to die next – MCA, man. The world can end as far as I’m concerned, as long as we finish the second album… then fire it into space, so one day we’ll get a demographic.
Well the question is, what’s the last thing you’re going to do before the world ends?
Sam: Record this album because I’d hate to think… wait, no-one would know, would they? Scrap that, it wouldn’t even matter.
Danny: I can’t think of anything quirky. For me it would be something really normal like logging onto violent anal porn and whacking off as much as possible. I’ve got nowhere to be. Might as well watch some poor girl gag for money. I’m not going to come across well, am I?
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 15th May 2012 at 11:00 am
Ahead of their appearance at TGTF’s stage at the Liverpool Academy of Arts this Friday night (18/5), the man behind the lead guitar for the Temper Trap, Lorenzo Sillitto, was kind enough to answer my questions about their hotly anticipated second album ‘The Temper Trap’, which will be released in the UK on the 4th of June on Infectious Records. We also talk about the interesting production team they used on this go-around and how they feel about playing in the city of the Beatles.
The phrase “difficult second album” comes up a lot when bands with really outstanding debut albums with related outstanding sales and touring success try and come out with their second efforts. How did you approach writing ‘The Temper Trap’? And why did you choose to self title it?
I guess the approach was to go in and just start to write what came naturally. It had been a long time since we had been in that type of environment and with the inclusion of Joseph the dynamic was obviously going to be a little different since the last writing process. It was pretty amazing after the first week we had a few songs written and everything just seem natural and that pretty much set up the rest of our time writing. We tried not over think what we were doing and treated the writing process as a new chapter and think about what had happened with the last record. The name basically came from us not being able to agree on one. There where a few ideas floating around but none that we could all agree on. It’s funny because some people have asked if its making the statement that we have arrived as a band but really it was us not arriving on a name.
I’ve read that ‘The Temper Trap’ was produced by Beck, as well as Phoenix collaborator Tony Hoffer (Phoenix being your American labelmates on Glassnote). How did this partnering up come about? When I think of the Temper Trap, I don’t immediately associate your music with the anti-folk of Beck. Had you been fans of his for years?
Tony’s name had been appearing over the years in conversations and it wasn’t until the very end of the process that it appeared again. He had been to our one our first SXSW shows way back in 2009 and we had met him at our last L.A. show. He was a fan of the band and when we had the conversation about recording he said some things that just resonated with us. We were fans of things that he had done in the past but it was really just some of the things he said to us that made it clear that he would be the right person to record with. He has a love of music and is also a musician, which was very helpful once we were in the studio. Not only that he is a big kid and likes to joke around, which was a great attribute. The recording process can sometimes be quite stressful and it’s good to inject some humour.
Going on with the album, you recorded ‘The Temper Trap’ in America. Do you think it has an obvious “American sound” and has been affected by the surroundings and recording conditions? Arctic Monkeys and Noah and the Whale were much maligned last year for making albums that sounded too “American”.
I don’t think that it is obvious, but having been recorded in America by an American you can’t help but think that it is going to have that kind of vibe. I like to think that there is a little bit of sunshine that was sprinkled over top of the record. The songs were predominately written in a dark cold environment (the London winter) and some of them needed a little light. As for the Monkeys and the Whale, music is so universal thee days with the internet that I don’t think we can really say that there is as bigger distinction in sound like there was in the ’60s and ’70s.
You’ve added on Joseph Greer, known to those of us who have been seeing you live the last couple years as your fab touring keyboardist and guitarist, as a full member of the band. How did his input as the fifth member of Temper Trap influence the new album? It was really great having another person to come with ideas and a different kind of writing style. I think that one of the unique things with our band is that all five of us have very varying taste and influences and when we come together that is how we create our sound. By adding Joseph, we where able to explore more keyboard driven songs which is a path that we all have been keen to explore and he has the skill that enabled us to venture down that path. He also is a very quirky person and is probably the funniest person in the band, which makes for some great interband banter.
Similarly, is there a different ethos to the band now that you’ve expanded to a five-piece? Do you approach songwriting any differently? Dougy was quoted in an Rolling Stone article as saying: “Joseph is our secret weapon. He’s a really good piano player, so any sappy piano ballad that we may potentially write from this point on will totally be his fault.” Yep, this is true as I mentioned previously, he has the skills that we don’t possess. Well, yet that is! LOL. The song writing process has basically stayed the same as it always has. we may try some different approaches on the next record but as they say, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.
In this NME interview, Lorenzo talked about the conscious decision to add more synths to this record compared to the amount present on ‘Conditions’, and how you used ‘80s synths on ‘The Temper Trap’. Were you fans of ‘80s new wave, of certain bands? And if so, which would you say have influenced this album the most?
The main influences for the record was the acquiring of some synths and not necessarily the music. We used them as substitutes, for maybe once we would try and play them on the guitar or what not, we either tried the same idea on the synths or used them to reinforce the sound and add another dimension to say the guitar to make it sound fresh.
What do you think about this new album will be most surprising to your fans? Which song(s) are your favourite(s) and why?
I think one of the most exciting things about this record is Dougy’s vocals. The record shows off a lot more of his range and ability and has I think a more soul vibe to it. My stand out tracks are ‘Trembling Hands’ (new single stream below), ‘Miracle’, and ‘Leaving Heartbreak Hotel’.
Flipping through the SXSW schedule, I noticed your city of origin was listed as London and not Melbourne. Do you consider yourself full Londoners now? What are the pros and cons of living in London Town? What does Melbourne offer that London doesn’t / that you miss most?
Well, that must have been a typo and probably why I could find us in the program. In terms of being Londoners, I think I am personally still a Melbournian at heart, but I have really embraced living in London, and at this point in my life, it is nice to live in a different environment to the one that you grew up in and had all your formative experiances in. Melbourne’s pros is that it is a very artistic city and it is very accommodating to the artistic community. From music to architecture, there is a lot of outlets for creative expression. Another advantage is food and coffee, it is quite amazing the standard that they have and is probably the main thing that I miss the most. And AFL of course.
What did you think of SXSW this year? Which of your performances stood out (Stubb’s, the Parish, etc.), and why? Were you apprehensive “returning to the stage” in America?
In terms of SXSW, I think that it has become to big for the town and it seems to have turned into a festival where labels showcase their new acts rather than new bands being found. That being said, playing Stubb’s would have to be the highlight, I remember the first time we went to SX the band went to Stubb’s to watch Metalica, and that was followed by a DJ Shadow greatest hits set, which was ace. So playing there and the second show back from a lengthy break was nerve-racking and exciting at the same time.
Did you see any other bands in Austin you particularly enjoyed and/or that impressed you? And if so, how so?
I saw Blood Orange (Dev Hynes) for the first time, and that was on the first day we got there. He is an amazing performer and guitarist, so was a great way to be welcomed. I saw another Melbourne band called Twerps whose album I am obsessed with, and they are old friends. Toby [their drummer] saw Chet Faker who I missed and said he was really great.
You’ll be playing our stage at Liverpool Sound City on the Friday night. Have you played in Liverpool before? If yes, what has been your experience with Liverpool crowds?
I think we have played Liverpool. I believe it was on our last UK tour at an 02 but to be honest I can’t remember. It was at time where all the shows moulded into one for me. but I am excited to go back to the home of the Beatles.
“Advertise” / “plead your case” to our readers why they should come and see you play Friday at the Arts Academy.
If you want to see thee most amazing laser light show and a bass player who plays it like it owes him money, then come down to our show because it will have one of the two.
The Temper Trap headline the TGTF stage at this year’s Liverpool Sound City this Friday night (18 May) at the Liverpool Academy of Arts. They are scheduled to appear at 22.00.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 11th May 2012 at 11:00 am
Clock Opera will be appearing as part of the programming for the TGTF stage at the Liverpool Academy of Arts on Friday 18 May, playing at 20.30, as well as performing at Brighton Dome tonight (Friday 11 May) at the Great Escape at 20.30. I got together a bunch of questions for the band, including asking the band how the band formed, how SXSW this year went for them (including an unfortunate run-in with an oil painting), about all those unusual percussion bits they use live and much. Also, I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask about Guy’s beard. Read on.
Tell us who each of you are and what instruments(s) you play.
Guy Connelly – Vocals, guitars, plethora of bizarre objects sampled
Andy West – Bass, guitars
Che Albrighton – Drums, glockenspiel
Dan Armstrong – Piano, vocals. I’m answering these questions, as Guy is busy remixing…may the rest of the band forgive me.
How did you guys find each other? School, mutual mates, etc.?
Guy started Clock Opera in his own warped mind. He’d already formed a close bond with his laptop (thanks to previous bands/production) and the two of them decided to take their relationship to the next level. Shortly afterwards, other humans were invited to join in the form of Andy West (bass/guitars/looks) and Che Albrighton (rampant rhythm/height). Andy and Guy had been part of the obligatory Shoreditch-warehouse-living scene and Che was in a band with Andy at that time. The two were handpicked for the bracketed reasons. I was subsequently brought in to complete the quadrangle (keys/vocals/availability).
Who came up with the wild name “Clock Opera”, and what does it mean to you now? Does it indicate a love of Thomas Cook timetables or Italian arias?
I’ve known Guy mention in interviews a piece of music once written as a symphony for clocks. Apparently it was never performed but he liked the idea. I’m not convinced the symphony story is true though. I have a feeling Guy dreamed all that. Anyway, to me it’s Clock Opera because of the infinite ticking rhythms and because we like to sing grandiose and emotive melodies.
Some of my blogging compadres have compared your sound to Friendly Fires, the first band I chased around the world as a blogger. Do you agree or contest this comparison? Explain.
I haven’t personally seen our style liked to Friendly Fires but I’d be happy enough with that. Our music is in many ways different to theirs but the attention and passion they put into their live performances is something I would tentatively compare with us. Plus we like euphoria, driving rhythms and hitting objects too.
Going along with that, if you had to explain to someone what you sounded like in 10 words or less, which words would you choose to describe yourselves?
I’ve never been able to answer this question. Many have tried. Music is music. It’s better to listen to it than describe.
Before I heard your music, the buzz around you seemed to be a product of all the remixing you’ve done of other people’s tracks (for example, a pretty high profile one was of Metronomy’s ‘The Bay’). Who in your band are the remix princes? How did you get into remixing, have you always been naturally drawn towards fiddling around with other people’s songs and making them your own?
All the remixes are done by Guy, the remix prince. I’m pretty sure he started by doing one for Marina and the Diamonds (free download of the ‘I Am Not a Robot’ remix below), which people went mad for. Mr. Connelly’s production techniques are definitely suited to the process; he chops everything up into tiny pieces and makes something completely new from it. The Metronomy [one] (stream it below) was high profile, so too his Feist creation (free download of the ‘How Come You Never Go’ remix below too). I still point people towards two others which I love….one for the Drums and another for The Phenomenal Handclap Band. Both are great tracks in my opinion.
Marina and the Diamonds – ‘I Am Not a Robot’ (Clock Opera remix)
Metronomy – ‘The Bay’ (Clock Opera remix)
Feist – ‘How Come You Never Go’ (Clock Opera remix)
How does your remix work come about? Do you hear something and say to yourself, “I really want to put my stamp on that one!” Or has it been more of a word of mouth thing, like “those Clock Opera blokes really know what they’re doing, let’s ask them to remix our single”?
The latter. People ask him. Plead. Beg. Demand. It would be pretty difficult to just remix whoever you choose using Guy’s methods because you need the stems of a track to do it…each part in a separate file. Without them it’s hard to do much more than just add a beat and other sounds….whereas Guy wants parts he can break down into tiny fragments.
When I saw you at SXSW this year, I forget which song it was, but at one point you all reached down on the floor to grab what appeared to be part of mum’s cookery set and then started banging on these pieces. Was this commandeering of kitchen supplies borne out of necessity for the live performance, or have you always been banging on pots since the recording process of ‘Ways to Forget’ (John’s review of the album here) and/or before?
The song is called ‘A Piece Of String’. People often call them pots and pans, but they’re actually extremely sophisticated commemorative tankards and ornate trays. There’s no necessity in it. We do it because we like to. I attended music and movement classes as a toddler, which makes me the crockery equivalent of Vanessa Mae. But yes, the way the samples on the album begin life is often from striking, dropping and pounding strange objects. A World War II amp case, a basketball, a hand fan, etc., etc.
What did you think of SXSW this year? Which of your performances stood out, and why?
SXSW this year was incredible. Truly. Hot, relentless, strange. The whole city is taken over by music in a way that’s hard to describe. Nothing compares. The average bar there takes 40% of its annual takings in those 2 weeks. Every day starts early and ends late. Some days we’d play three shows and for me that’s when the performances stand out. You develop a special momentum where the sweat from one show becomes the hair gel of the next. It’s liberating. Another memorable aspect for me was playing on the same bill with other quality British bands. Slow Club, Django Django, Breton, Dutch Uncles and many more….all different but all part of something (but don’t say ‘scene’).
Did you play any strange venues, and if so, where did you play and how was the reception? Compare/contrast with any weird places you’ve played in London/UK.
They’re nearly all strange venues in their own way. At one an oil painting fell on Andy mid set which isn’t exactly a standard gig scenario. The only recurring theme was a stage, an audience and us. The reception was brilliant. I’d rather not compare and contrast it with London though, because that becomes like a piece of homework and I’m not at school anymore. Unfortunately.
Did you think the largely American audience “got” what you do?
Did you see any other bands in Austin you particularly enjoyed and/or that impressed you? And if so, how so?
The British ones I’ve already mentioned. My personal favourite was Slow Club (pictured above). [Read about their appearance at the Huw Stephens showcase on 17 March here. Clock Opera also performed. - Ed.] I’d never seen them live before and their music sounds so good in that setting. As a singer of harmonies, I’ve got a lot of respect for how they do it with such energy, beauty and ease. Class, unique performers.
Bass player of Fanfarlo Justin Finch admitted on the Thursday night of SXSW at their show at Club de Ville that upon seeing one of their fans sporty a massive beard, he had beard envy. Guy has a pretty epic beard (see photo above). Any other famous beards out there he covets and/or aspires to develop one similar to?
Guy’s beard is unique. It elicits a lot of envy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Finch crumbled in awe too. Unfortunately some people think it’s all right to use that awe as fuel and just walk up and have a feel. You don’t touch people you don’t know without asking first**. But be prepared for a refusal. (**If someone starts touching you first that often means it’s ok to return the favour.)
You’ll be playing our stage at Liverpool Sound City on the Friday night. Have you played in Liverpool before? If yes, what’s the Liverpool crowd like?
When I go to a gig and enjoy it I tend to stand in silence and then applaud at the end of each song. So if you get a thousand mes at a show what you basically have is a pretty average crowd. With that in mind, I try not to judge. What I will say though is that Liverpool is without question my favourite city in England and the people are a big part of that.
“Advertise” / “plead your case” to our readers why they should come and see you play Friday at the Liverpool Academy of Arts.
Is there somewhere I can leave my dignity to collect later?
Be sure to catch Clock Opera live at the TGTF stage at the Liverpool Academy of Arts on Friday 18 May. They play at 20.30.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 19th April 2012 at 4:00 pm
Fashion house Mulberry hosted some pretty exciting, not to mention exclusive parties at this year’s Coachella, including one that featured the crazy guys of Kasabian. Below we’ve got one song from the party and an interview with Tom and Serge. You’re welcome.
By Tom Mughal
on Friday, 13th April 2012 at 11:00 am
With a European tour recently finished, several singles under his belt and a debut album ready to be released in the very near future, King Charles is a busy man. I spoke to him about Hollywood, Huddersfield, his upcoming record and his rather confusing Wikipedia page…
So you’ve recently finished your tour?
I’m just off tour, been in Paris and been back in the UK for a few months now.
That’s not fair. Can you compare Paris to the UK?
You can compare Paris to the UK, sometimes favourably, sometimes not so favourably!
Where’s your favourite place on the tour that you’ve been?
Huddersfield? That’s a really weird choice – why’s that?
(laughs) Yeah, I love Huddersfield so much, it’s so awesome. I don’t know, there’s something about the North of England that really resonates.
I could have had a thousand guesses and I wouldn’t have chosen Huddersfield. So how have the audiences been – have they been all right with you on the tour?
Yeah, it’s been amazing; there’s been some really full and engaging crowds. They’ve really been up for it, especially the Northerners!
(laughs) The whole [population] of Huddersfield are so jokey, I love them!
So, the new album is being released on the 7th of May. I heard you recorded it in Hollywood; what was that like?
Well, I recorded some of it in London at my studio then some of it in Capitol Studios in Hollywood. It was unbelievable; absolutely phenomenal place. The drum sound in that place is second to none, I’ve never heard anything like it. Absolutely ridiculous.
Did you get to take in some of the sights or was it strictly studio time?
Yeah I took in some of the sights, but i don’t really like being a tourist but I guess everyone feels like a tourist in L.A. The best thing was this guy called “The Drum Doctor” who has a massive warehouse full to the brim with drums; the best drums in the world. He’s spent the last 20 years collecting drums and he now has the most legendary drums. One of them was a ‘70s Ludwig which is on most of the album, and the other one was a 1960s crocodile skin drum last played by Stevie Wonder. It was like the best thing ever! As soon as he told me that I was like, “done, bring it!”
How similar is the new album to some of the singles that we’ve heard already such as ‘LoveBlood’ [single review here] and ‘Bam Bam’?
Well, there’s three different muses on the album that the songs are about, I think there’s a different style for the songs about each muse.
If I was to say ‘Ivory Road’; who would that be about?
That’s Coco Schiffi.
Who are your three muses?
Coco Schiffi, Lady Percy [previous Video of the Moment here] and Mississippi Isabel.
How do you know these three people?
Well, you know…(laughs) life!
Now could you describe for album in 10 words for those who aren’t aware of you and your material? How would you describe it?
Okay right, 10 words. Love and Blood have to be two of them. Reallife, one word! Lightning. Loss. Definitely Unrequited. Battlefield, that makes 8. God and Time.
How would you define what genre you are? This time I’ll allow more than 10 words.
(laughs) I only need two words this time: glam folk!
Who would you say are your influences?
I started being influenced by folk, but it wasn’t the sound of the music I was influenced by; it was the drive of the folk artists to be bedded in with the people and understanding the identity of them personally as a generation.
If you had to say a specific folk artist, who would it be?
I like to do my research before an interview and an important part of that definitely has to be reading your Wikipedia Page. I don’t know if you’ve been on it but there is a bit where it says “He is greatly influenced by the songwriter Mahatma Gandhi and Alexander Bunker.”
I’m not too sure who Bunker is, so I was hoping you could shed some light on that?
(laughs) This is legendary! Alexander? I don’t know who that is.
You don’t? Well he majorly influences you. As well as Gandhi. Another part of your page states that “Charles has been described as an epic guy, who is too cool for the charts.” How do you feel about that?
I have actually heard that one before. It’s quite hard to comment on – I don’t want to argue with the first part; I want to be an epic guy who is too cool! But you don’t want to be too cool for charts. I’ve definitely got my eye on the charts. Although I have seen that Wikipedia has my name down as Charles Johnston, which is not my name. I don’t want to correct it, I want to see how far it goes. I might edit it myself and give me an interesting middle name.
(laughs) Yes! And maybe Mahatma. Charles Enid Mahatma Johnston.
Named after the infamous songwriter, of course! Anyway, what’s your festival circuit looking like this year? Where are you playing?
I’m not 100% sure on all of them, but I know I’m playing Secret Garden Party and Great Escape as well as a few in Paris. Also Positivus Festival in Latvia, which I’m very excited about. It’s so dope that festival; it’s legendary. They treat you so well.
So when you’re touring in Paris and playing festivals there, what are the audiences like? Do they appreciate the lyrics?
I think a lot of my set at the moment is less lyrical; I’m not sure what people focus on the most but at the moment my show is much more showbiz. More showy. I try to be as entertaining as I can.
Are you going to any festivals?
No, no. I play a lot of festivals so when I’m there I want to play. Like being at Glastonbury, all I’m doing is looking at the pyramid stage and being like: “How long? When’s my time? When’s my time?”
What sort of music are you listening to at the moment?
I like to listen to a lot of my buddies’ music. Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale, the Vaccines. But I’m also liking Sam Cooke a bit at the moment, some Alice Cooper.
And finally, if you could have written any song already written; which would it have been?
That’s a good question, I think it would have to be ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’. ‘Hallelujah’ as well, or maybe ‘The Times They are A-Changin’’. Really wish I wrote that song.
Many thanks to Paul for setting this interview up for us at TGTF.
Air Cav have long been fêted by Manchester’s in-the-know commentators as one to watch. Yet despite plugging away since 2006, it was only at the tail-end of last year that the world finally got to hear the assertive beauty of long-awaited debut album ‘Don’t Look Indoors’. A clever blend of shoegaze, folk stylings courtesy of Sophie Nield’s pretty violin work, and never far away from the raucousness of punk, Air Cav are quite a unique proposition on record. TGTF caught up with them in advance of the penultimate date of their short national tour, to chat about the gestation of their album, the state of the Manchester scene, and being the musical equivalent of the city of Hull.
So how come it’s taken Air Cav so long since their first single in 2008 to visit Newcastle? Drummer Allan Gaskin takes up the story: “First of all, we took the time to perfect the live show, and learnt how to convert the songs so that they sounded good on record. We self-funded the album by begging, borrowing and stealing studio time. It’s been a long process, but we’re happy with the results, and the album has had a great critical reception. We’ve visited places on this tour that we’ve never seen, zig-zagging up and down the country, and it’s all been very positive.”
Talk turns to the state of the music scene of their native Manchester. Singer and guitarist Chris Nield opines, “Manchester’s all well and good but it’s not the be all and end all. We go down differently in different towns. Even though it’s your home crowd, Manchester can be a hard crowd. I’d rather play places like Oxford last night where the room was packed, than Manchester where it can be arms folded, chins being stroked, trying to impress people.”
Violinist Sophie Parkes concurs: “Manchester can be very trend-conscious. There’s loads of unsigned bands, which sounds really vibrant, but in reality, things can be spread quite thinly and it’s difficult to find like-minded bands to get momentum going.” Chris: “We’ve enjoyed playing with like-minded bands outside Manchester. It freshens you up.”
The obsession with bands reforming to make a quick buck is clearly something Allan takes issue with. “There’s loads of old bands reforming: The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, New Order, Inspiral Carpets… they were even going to wheel out 808 State!”
Oisín (bass): “It’s come at a bad time, just when the scene was moving away from its stereotypical heritage, for years there were new bands trying to copy the old ones, and with these bands reforming it’s happening all over again!”
Chris expands: “If you’ve not got any hype behind you, Manchester’s not interested – it’s as if it needs to be told what to like by a handful of promoters, tastemakers in a way, one or two who really call the shots when it comes to so-called trendy Manchester gigs. If you’re not in with them, then it’s difficult. The “Manchester mafia” phrase gets used quite a lot – but we’re not criticising it too much because we’ve played some of those gigs – we’re in it!”
Sophie: “There are a lot of venues now, which can mean that standards slip because there are a lot of bills to be filled with lots of bands. But it’s not all gloom: we’ve had plenty of support from people like BBC Introducing; we’ve lots to thank them for.”
Well, that’s the music scene on the ground in Manchester put to rights. So how have the band found the rest of the country on this tour? Sophie: “Our favourite city? I enjoyed Oxford, which is my hometown, and Hull was a surprise: we thought it was going to be dead, but we had a great reception, we were signing CDs – I could get used to that! Maybe it’s because Hull’s always been a very independent place and we’ve always been a very independent band – you could call us the Hull of bands!”
And what does the future hold for Air Cav?
Chris wraps things up: “We need to maximise our momentum! We’ll be clever about where we play, and not so long making the second album. We’re flying the flag for DIY, self-release, self touring, which is a great ethos. We’re not waiting for anyone else to do it for us – do it yourself!”
And with that, I leave the band to an all-important pre-gig conflab. Newcastle’s The Watchers are in support; straight out of an early ’70s West Coast acid-drowned summer festival, complete with hazy reverb, distorted vocals, and slow-burning epics that drown in a sea of droning guitar and then come up screaming for air. Yet there are songs buried deep in the bowels of these jams; the band are not just one-trick noiseniks. Watch the Watchers.
And then it’s Air Cav’s debut Newcastle performance. As on record, admirably noisy, delicately ambient, vigourously punky. Chris Nield is Brian Molko and Jarvis Cocker‘s lovechild, his mixture of avuncular Northern chap and piercing, assertive vocals dominate the performance. But this is a band greater than its parts; the rhythm section are tight yet complex, and Sophie Parkes’ violin is one moment an Irish-pub fiddle riff in the middle of ‘A Call to Arms’, the next it provides washes of colour over the more ambient moments in the set; not for nothing do the band claim inspiration from the shoegaze movement. (But doesn’t everyone, these days?)
This is a great set from a band very much hitting their stride. If there’s any criticism it’s not in the delivery. Where is the three-minute punk rollock to go with the more thoughtful, drawn-out material? Where is the power chorus that comes in before a minute is up? The band are clearly capable of invoking a variety of atmospheres – if they add the power single to their repertoire, or simply allow an editor to snip one or two of their current pieces into shape, they would be better placed for world domination. And the freedom of the city of Hull would be one step closer.
More of Martin’s high-res photos can be viewed on his Flickr.