Friday, 30 September 2011
Keeping and maintaining a blog takes some level of dedication and constant thought for the reader, at least that’s what it says in the book. I personally just spew out a load of random gibberish regarding whatever coherent views I maintain that day and some of it works. Every now and then when I see no albums/singles/EP’s/Gigs worth mentioning I create a list of various songs or artists for my beautiful online droogs to investigate in the hope that their own personal tastes and collections can be grown to include artists such as Todd Rundgren, Frank Zappa and Phil Spector records. Although I can’t perform miracles I still look forward to the day long in the future when some twenty something verjazzled bint wanders up to me and mentions that "that Captain Beefheart is bare sick bruv!" only then I will feel I have in some respect participated in this world.
I don’t really believe in the diary concept. The idea that thoughts and general musings are somehow supposed to be kept secret while at the same time noted down and kept in chronological dated order seems a bit suspect, surely if something is supposed to be kept personal then probably best not writing it down and logging it in your own fair handwriting would be a good tip. It's almost false modesty, "oh please don't read that, it's private...what do you mean the handwriting is messy!!" its the same as pop stars and movie icons thanking God in their speeches trying to be selfless and modest when what they are in fact saying if you read between the lines is "thank god for making me so fucking talented, it is truly a gift that I'm the greatest thing around"...do me a favour.
You can probably tell that I don’t have anything interesting to post music wise today, probably due to the fact the sun is shining, I’m stuck at work and the only music to pass through my psyche in the last 48 hours has been a constant loop of ‘Safe As Milk’ by Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band and a handful of pub rock songs for my upcoming foray from semi musical retirement into the world of cover bands and mercenary cash for hire type playing.
There will be proper posts coming your way in the next few weeks (ok next week) including an interview with Dev Hynes/Lightspeed Champion/Blood Orange as well as a review of the new album from Brooklyn band Forest Fire so in the mean time Friday is here, log off and go and get some fresh air…
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 14:34
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
With the recent re-issue of Nirvana’s breakthrough album ‘Nevermind’ calling to arms all the ex-grungers of my generation to pull out their old baggy jumpers before giving the ol’ girl another listen with fresh re-mastering and extra tracks I was alarmed to see drummer Dave Grohl’s view that ‘Lounge Act’ was simply considered filler and was simply written to order to complete the album. He even went as far as to say that it was his least favourite of the tracks that he played on with the group. I always loved the track and although I can see where his points may originate I can’t possibly agree with them.
This leads me very nicely into my latest inclusion of bile and random chat, what are the tunes that should have been chucked off your favourite albums? The ones that you ALWAYS skip but you feel bad for not liking as the rest of the material is of such strong stock? Like the little bow legged middle child, you don’t hate them, but they aren’t holding their end up properly in the great scheme of things. In 2011 such trivialities no longer matter with playlist keeping all the good stuff together and quietly un-ticking the dregs off to the recycle bin like a cyber room 101.
Here are a few of my choices…
‘Sloop John B’ – From one of (if not) the greatest album of the 60s. ‘Pet Sounds’ by The Beach Boys. The album to teenage love and romance has this old folk song crow barred into the mix for no other reason than Rhythm Guitarist Al Jardine mentioned it to Brian Wilson who saw this as a personal challenge to take the bare bones structure and chord sequence apart and then re-make it in his own style. A fine piece of work on it’s own but one that doesn’t fit in with the whole cycle and concept of the album as a separate entity.
‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ – The opener on the bone’ fide classic ‘Blonde on Blonde’ by Bob Dylan. First of all it’s a long album anyway so the fact this stoned nonsense wasn’t binned either shows the unwavering backbone Dylan had/has or simply that he was too stoned to care. The musical example of your drunken relative telling you a joke…maybe you had to be there to get it?
‘Love to You’ – Right, this has always been a bone of contention with me regarding George Harrison. He loved to moan about not getting enough songs on Beatles albums, Lennon/McCartney give him a space or two for his own creations and how does he repay them? With tosh like this. On ‘Revolver’ he was given 3 spaces no less, the amazing ‘Taxman’ (with McCartneys Fuzz guitar solo keeping the sitars at bay) and ‘I Want to Tell You’ on side 2 of the album, but ‘Love to You'?… Really? Imagine if this was swapped with the single ‘Rain’ or ‘Paperback Writer’ both written within the same time period, how much better would this already phenomenal album be? This is why he was quickly demoted back down to 1 song per album on the follow up album ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and his contribution? I can’t chuffing believe it either ‘Within Without You’… we had to wait until 'The White Album' before he finally stepped up to the mark and produced the goods, stay away from the brown acid.
‘Pentonville’ – Right before I get my windows bricked in I’m not standing on a soapbox and crowing that Babyshambes debut ‘Down in Albion’ is a classic album, it definitely has it’s moments but this track (which features ex-Doherty cell mate The General) is beyond comprehension. Pointless is too weak a word for this dribble. Smacks of "you promised I could do a track" during the recording sessions, just ignore and play ‘Loyalty Song’ again without a hint of irony.
‘Don’t Stop’ – Shields up once again. I love the Stone Roses as much as the next post baggy Oasis fan but there is no need for this. For those not in ‘the know’ after the 5 star indie banger that is ‘Waterfalls’ the demo version of the same song is played backwards (keep awake at back!) and then a ton of reverb is dropped over it while Ian Brown mumbles over the top. Poor show indeed, maybe the extended version of ‘I am the Resurrection’ for the closer is a blessing, otherwise we might have had ‘Fools Gold’ backwards, remixed and featuring Jazzy Jeff.
'Little James'? – Oasis… too easy. In fact the whole album doesn’t have many saving graces. ‘I Can See A Liar’ would have to be right up there too for ‘Standing on the Shoulder of Giants’
God bless The Ramones
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 17:06
Thursday, 22 September 2011
For all of you out there in cyber-land still worried about whether your jeans are skinny enough or whether your keyboards and haircuts are ironic enough for post 80s indie pop you can fear no more. IC1s have released their debut single 'Levitate' and instead of trying to re-invent the wheel like a lot of bands they've decided to get another 3 wheels and run over the boring wimpy NME flavour of the week tat and just simply kick out the jams muddy funsters!
'Levitate' should be released with a warning 'MUST BE PLAYED LOUD' and this isn't due to a bad mastering mix but down to the fact that true rock and roll in its purest form is always best when played loud, proud and dripping with arrogance.
IC1s wear their influences on their sleeves, with rock and roll guitars, fat bass notes reminiscent of The Who and lead vocalist Dan Coburn acting as the ring master for the rock and roll circus that is IC1s.
Already a fan favourite at their gigs 'Levitate' complete with it's driving verse and sing along chorus 'Levitate' is bound to be a massive festival track in 2012
download from the link below.
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 16:10
Friday, 9 September 2011
The blog will be a little quiet from Monday as I will be sunning my royal behind in sunny Spain, although fear not little ones as I have a great interview with Dev Hynes (Lightspeed Champion/Blood Orange)prepared which will be all formatted and ready to publish as soon as I'm back in dear ol' blighty...
Also one to watch out for while I'm away is on the 19th September when the debut single 'Levitate' from IC1s will be released via Gary Powell's (The Libertines) 25 Hour Convenience Store Records and is a perfect introduction to the band and their no frills rock and roll sound. A teaser trailer for the single is currently on YouTube.
October also has in store: Todd Rundgren (in Todd we trust)
Miles Kane @ Electric Ballroom
Late October also sees the official release of 'The Smile Sessions' from the original Beach Boys recording dates which I've already dismissed as a pointless cash in although in typical fashion will probably spin a 180 once I've heard and digested.
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 15:53
Thursday, 8 September 2011
Questions for THE VACCINES
Interview with Justin Young Vocals/Guitar
Q. Since the group started you’ve taken off pretty quickly, do you think you’ve been given enough time to really settle into your own sound and style or do you worry about being almost sonically type cast already?
A: I think that can happen to bands that rise too quickly. Fortunately for us we had our record finished before people really knew who we were. We’d been working hard on our sound for nearly two years. It evolved during that period and it will continue to evolve. We’ve never done the same thing for too long. You just need to look at our pasts to see that is true. I’m excited about moving forward. Hopefully people will move forward with us.
Q. ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ only lasts 1 min 24, when you were recording it did you ever worry it needed to be longer or maybe add another verse or solo or something? It’s a very brave thing to do especially for a single.
A. We didn’t realise how long it was until it was finished. It always felt complete to me. It doesn’t need another verse. And it has a solo! I like the immediacy of it. It’s an exciting song. I think if you start letting song length dictate its character, you’re in trouble. Also, I grew up on a healthy diet of 30second punk rock songs.
Q. The 2nd release ‘Post Break up Sex’ is one that has already been assimilated into every indie DJ’s record bag, is the song based on any real situation or real life experience? Do you think songs are better if the writer has actually based it on a real life experience?
A. Yes it absolutely is based on a real situation. I’ve noticed my lyrics get criticised for their tried and tested, simple subject matter but I only ever write about things that are very important to me and things that are affecting me. I think if the writer doesn’t believe in what he is saying, no one else will either. So it’s very important to me to sing about my life and things that make me feel impassioned, however simple they are.
Q. Who would you say is your biggest influence both musically and with song writing?
A. I can’t really speak for the band as a whole. And obviously I have maybe major influences. When we made the record we listened to bands we thought made great, direct, energetic and exciting rock n roll. It wasn’t about what they were playing, but how they were playing it. Stuff like The Monks, The Modern Lovers, The Clash, The Velvet Underground.
Q. Were there any bands that you were looking forward to seeing while at Reading?
A. I wish I could have stayed the whole weekend. There was so much I wanted to see. Metronomy were good. Everyone was actually! It was a great day. Everyone I spoke to seemed really happy with how their show went. A lot of kids really into their music. No pretensions.
Q. Even though the first release only came out 9-10 months ago, are you writing any new material for the next album yet? Do you get time to write on the road?
A. I find writing on the road hard. It’s not the right environment. But we have started writing the new record. When songs come, they come and they’ve now started to, so we're excited about that. Although as the record is new, it still feels fresh to us and it’s still great fun and fulfilling playing it live.
Q. Are there any up and coming bands you may have seen on the circuit or met through support slots that you think are ones to watch?
A. Hundreds. Other Lives just supported us at The Forum in London. They blew us away.
Q. The track ‘Wolfpack’ was recently used in an episode of The Vampire Diaries on the soundtrack, what is your opinion on songs being used in adverts and commercials, where does the line exist between promotion for the band and selling out?
A. It’s hard for a band to sell out. I think they have to say one thing and do another. But when you’re clear about what it is you want then I don’t think any one can have any complaints. I think films and commercials etc, (providing they are not too tacky) are a great way to open up your music to a new audience and get it out there. Why limit who is exposed to your art? I’m proud of ours and I want as many people to hear it as possible. It’s also a good way for bands to get paid in an era where people don’t really buy records. You can download our music for free, but don’t complain when our music gets used on TV.
many thanks to Karen Piper at Radar Maker and Lauren Clifford at Coda Music Agency LLP
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 16:03
Monday, 5 September 2011
This is the footage of my recent interview with Miles Kane backstage at Reading Festival 2011, we discussed his album, his recent live shows as well as the new Last Shadow Puppets project with Alex Turner...
thanks to Jodie for her camera and filming skills...
thanks to Jodie for her camera and filming skills...
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 23:25
Nirvana – Nevermind 20th Anniversary reissue
I can honestly say that when an album that you remember listening to constantly when it was first released becomes a ‘classic’ and more terrifying a ‘classic RE-ISSUE’ you know that you’re getting old. It’s happened.
For some, Nirvana’s breakthrough album ‘Nevermind’ is an album from a long ago era that should be recalled along with Chaplin films and ration books. For some of us it was the first real album that you could use to pinpoint your own personal tastes in music coming into existence and entry into ‘your’ life’s rich soundtrack. The album is a true classic in the sense that there isn’t really any filler or ‘flick to the next track moments’ for me, every song from ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ (and yes granted it has been played to death) to the final moments of ‘Something In The Way’ take me on a musical photo book of my early teenage years. I’m positive that, without prompting or clues, I could probably still sing every line on the album and have a stab at playing them on guitar as well, simply because they were so much part of my DNA throughout the hibernating in my bedroom and underage drinking years.
It seems now that the pre-OASIS, pre-Britpop and New Labour barrier of the early 1990’s has now been smashed and, like everything, goes in a cycle. Even fashion is heading back to the ripped jeans and underground punk rock look this year (did you really think the Kings of Leon and TopMan invented flannel checked shirts and clumpy boots fashionably untied?). Before the internet and the constant on the hip mobile phones era existed Nirvana hit like a tidal wave and I would go as far as to say that it has never settled back down since. If you look at the charts at the time ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was released you’ll get an idea of how stagnant music and ‘the scene’ was (yes I’ve taken the liberty of doing this for you as well and can confirm that Bryan Adams was warbling the never ending ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It For You’ the week S-L-T-S was first released). To sound even OLDER…Kids today don’t know how good they’ve got it. Top of The Pops and The Chart Show on Saturday mornings was all we got for music TV…MTV2? Might as well been discussing 5.1 blu ray to a cave man.
This barrier has now been breached with the new re-issue of ‘Nevermind’ 20th Anniversary special complete with such extras as Producer Butch Vig’s original rejected mix (strange inclusion if you ask me), the demos for the album as well as the most exciting thing for fans, the full 1991 Halloween concert on both CD and DVD all packaged in a lovely 4CD/1DVD box.
The album itself was my first introduction to the band and although not their first album it might as well have been as I don’t think anyone outside of their own circle of friends bought the groups’ debut ‘Bleach’ when it was first released, and I don’t care how much they try and convince me they did. Cut the crap you heard ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and fell off your chair like everyone else you didn’t by a brand new shiny 45 of ‘Love Buzz’ on Sub Pop records by mail order in Ruislip so ‘fess up.
Fans of Nirvana will know that although the songs on ‘Nevermind’ are amazing examples of Kurt Cobain’s ability and talent for mixing punk rock with pop melodies the production and mixes have always been argued over as being too slick and polished. I think that the sonic excellence of the album doesn’t hinder the songs; on the contrary, it just widened the net for fans across the world and succeeded in its mission. The older I become (now 30 years old, that’s 3 years older than Kurt managed) I start to feel that a lot of Cobain’s punk rock mentality was for appearances and he actually loved a lot of the trappings that come with being the biggest band in the world. I don’t believe that he would have been happier being on some tiny label in Seattle selling 100 copies of each release and being overshadowed by bands such as Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, he knew what he wanted and went for it. He signed his band to the biggest mainstream rock label in the world GEFFEN and happily made hay while the sun shone. The bands he left behind on the $5 dollar on the door underground circuit may have bleated about ‘selling out’ so he took a lot of criticism personally. He couldn’t hide the fact he made great music that had as much to thank from The Beatles as it did from The Melvins and Sonic Youth. For a generation he was the poster boy for their own teenage years. It just so happens that he may not have realised how much it would have taken off and we’d have everything from ‘teenage angst genres and bands’ and convince horrible 80s metal bands to ‘go grunge’ in the hope for a piece of the flannel shirt pie.
For those who missed the show the first time around I am jealous beyond words as you have a bone fide ‘classic’ album waiting to be discovered. Just the thought of having a song like ‘Lithium’ waiting to be heard for the first time in a world where half arsed pap like ‘Viva Brother’ is being touted as a musical revolution, it only proves how much of a legacy Nirvana have left for everyone and also for generations to come.
Now where are my slippers and blanket…
Super Deluxe Edition of 'Nevermind' is released on September 19th (20 years! after it's original release)
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 14:03
Thursday, 1 September 2011
Reading Festival 2011
My plan of action for Reading was always going to be; day 1, complete my allotted 3 interviews as originally planned, day 2 and 3 try not to abuse the hospitality of the ‘guest’ section to such an extent that the velvet rope is never lowered again for a man such as me. I believe I have lived up to my end of the bargain (well 2 out of 3 ain’t bad I guess). I also managed to fit some time in to watch some of the acts that would be appearing on the nearby stages. This year the line up had been controversial due to the fact that it was such a mixed bag of acts and styles. Following on from Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis who’d made a similar decision to mix his own line up’s and genres rather than just sticking whole heartedly to the rock and rock/indie bands as previous years had offered. Reading in 2011 had bands such as My Chemical Romance along side 80’s Ska pop band Madness (to the horror of many the self harming Emo boys in the audience that didn’t know what to make of the crowds ‘dancing’ during ‘Baggy Trousers’) as well as comedians and dance orientated groups. One of the highlights of the entire festival was the ‘guest’ appearances that seemed to happen on a daily occurrence from the amazing; John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin handling bass guitar and mandolin duties during Seasick Steve’s set, to the strange i.e. Jarvis Cocker appearing on stage after Pulp’s storming set (only just previously concluded) with the drab Strokes to duet with singer Julian Casablancas with the misguided and head scratching performance of The Cars 1978 hit ‘Take It Or Leave It’. In fact I would go as far as to say that the biggest shock of the festival was the lackluster ‘by numbers’ performance by The Strokes. A band that I’ve been looking forward to seeing since it was first announced. On paper the set list and choices were exemplary with favorites from their catalogue such as ‘Reptilia’, ‘New York City Cops’, ‘Last Night’ mixed in with tracks from their recent offering. Although the playing was technically all correct and the sound was fine the performances themselves were so obviously phoned in and running on auto pilot you’re surprised they bothered turning up at all. I don’t think the slot would have suffered if the band had simply played the chosen songs on a spotify playlist over the PA. Never the most talkative of bands at the best of times it seems that the division between the band and singer Julian Casablancas is very apparent and if they are still together as a band this time next year with the original 5 piece it will be a pleasant surprise for me as from this slot it seems like a band walking their last mile towards the abyss.
Pulp were criminally added as the support slot here at Reading while being pushed to the headliner and more deserving slot at the Leeds show (as if the audience would be so petty that they need a northern band up there but in Reading need a big named American band headlining). After seeing them recently at Wireless I was expecting more of the same and was happy with that ideal. The band once again blew me away by not doing the same set as before, instead adding some more obscure tracks along with the gold. Jarvis Cocker seems to have had a physical and musical re-birth and has the energy and stage performance of a man of 18, slipping between guitars, synth while taking care of each syllable of the vocals while dressed like a 1978 geography teacher. Songs like ‘Disco 2000’ went down a storm while tracks from ‘This is Hardcore’ including the title track (which featured guest performances by Sheffield luminary Richard Hawley on slide guitar) took the crowd on a musical journey through their back catalogue and incorporated a mind swirling light show which I personally liked but could picture a hoard of epileptics being lead towards the medical tent a few flickers later. ‘Common People’ was introduced by Cocker explaining that if Pulp are only ever remembered for this song that he’d still be more than happy with that as “it’s a great song” showed the power of music in it’s purest form.
Peter Doherty was on the same time has headliners Muse and due to the fact that a little Buckley-esque falsetto screeching goes a long way with me, after the opening ‘New Born’ I was happy to wander over to Doherty, although kudos for the use of Tom Waits ‘What’s He Building?’ as the opening gambit. In my dry shampooed opinion one of the highlights of the festival was the lucidness and on point set by Peter who simply armed with an acoustic guitar (more on that later) and flanked by some celestial and ethereal ballet dancers managed to bash through Libertines and Babyshambles classics as well as his own solo material and didn’t falter once. The only downside of the set was the aforementioned guitar being thrown from the stage into the crowd with such a limp wristed effort that the poor guy 3-4 rows in probably didn’t even see the teeth bound Gibson until it was too late, although they have a memento of a great set, even if they whistled all the way back to their tent and now drink their steak sandwiches through a straw.
It wasn’t all Champagne and Skittles though, sets by Beady Eye saw the tents slowly empty out as the minutes ticked by as although Liam Gallagher has enough swagger and self confidence to run a small country he has forgotten to bother bringing any tunes to the table and by simply trying the hypnosis and reverse psychology of "this is an amazing tune" comments before the intro kicks in didn’t actually convince anyone that Beady Eye are any successor to Oasis and deserve the billing they got. There were moments that showed their potential such as the singles ‘Four Letter Word’ and the ‘Instant Karma’ template ‘The Roller’. It is hard for a band with a single album to make a headline slot great from start to finish although adding some of Liam’s previous bands hits wouldn’t be a bad thing either to help steady the ship. ‘Songbird’, ‘Soldier On’ and ‘Born on a Different Cloud’ spring immediately to mind.
Another plus point with Reading 2011 is the volume of great bands playing each day. I barely managed to see an entire set before being rushed to a new stage to see another act. The View performed a professional up beat set but it was Madness that really had the first rays of sunshine on their side and brought the momentum and overall good time feeling up a notch. The set wasn’t a complete surprise from the first intro to ‘One Step Beyond’ to the closing ‘Night Boat to Cairo’ with each hit and fan favorite in between touched on. They were never going to be a band to play obscure b-sides and ignore the material that put them there in the first place and more fool the bands that do in this type of sunny afternoon environment.
I managed to catch up with a few bands/artists while at Reading including Miles Kane who had performed shortly before racing through songs from his debut album as well as trying out newer tracks on a festival audience that went down extremely well. Here is the transcription of our conversation regarding his current plans, recent tour with Beady Eye and the future of The Last Shadow Puppets…
Miles Kane READING FESTIVAL 2011
How was the tour with Beady Eye? Did it go exactly how you’d imagined?
Miles: Yeah, it was a while ago now; it was definitely a very exciting time especially as it was their first gigs as well. It was an honor to get asked really. We picked up a lot of mod fellas, you know, good fans; I think it's a similar world really. It was great, really buzzed off that tour…we'll be watching them tonight for sure.
The singles ‘Inhaler’, ‘Come Closer’ and ‘Rearrange’ have all become pretty much essentials in most indie DJ’s bag ever since they first come out. When you wrote them did you envisage them being played in stadiums?
Miles: Well...(laughs) its nice of you to say (laughs)I think I may have even said before, when we last spoke, that when we made this record I had a very clear idea that I wanted to keep it simple and I still feel like that now really. Quit the bullshit and keep it grooving, don't have it more than 3 minutes, have great choruses, that's the music I love.
You mentioned 'Plastic Ono Band' being an influence on the overall sound of the record?
Miles: Yeah definitely, simple, good melodies, good lyrics and really just let the music do the talking.
When we spoke previously you mentioned that after the album was released and toured and the Arctic Monkeys had done the same there would be some time penciled in for the next ‘Last Shadow Puppets’ Album, is this still on the cards, there are many, many fans waiting with bated breath.
Miles: Right, (laughs) well. We’re really going to see what happens, I saw him last week at V Festival, looking good, good vibe... *Miles and Alex just completed a new song for a new Arctic Monkeys b-side 'Little Illusion Machine (Wirral Riddler)*
I’ve seen at some shows ‘Hey Bulldog’ making an appearance in your set, any other left field choices looking to make their way into the running order live? – I thought a good choice for your style would be ‘Nobody But Me’ by the Human Beinz, old garage rocker, previously an old Isley Brothers song I believe.
Miles: Well we would have done it today but we run out of time ('Hey Bulldog'), we still do that one, and there is a french one as well, I don't know if I mentioned it before that we are doing one by Jacques Dutronc and a new one called 'Kaka Boom' which we played today… Whats's that one? Beas? Beings? oh Beinz…I love Beans. (Laughs) F*cking hell, I'm gonna add that on my phone.
On the album you have a duet with Clemence Poesy on ‘Happenstance’, how did that come about? Did you think it helped give the album more scope rather than just straight ahead rockers, having this almost sexy Serge Gainsbourg type track?
Miles: Yes, I love that style of music, moving forward I'd love to do more of that style of playing, I love it all, Gainsbourg and that. I like to have a swagger and that on the album, but at the same time I like that sexy and French thing as well (laughs)
In the Little Flames you were the guitarist, in the Rascals although you were the front man and guitarist, you were still one of the band, and with the Last Shadow Puppets you are part of a duo, was there any apprehension on your behalf about going the whole hog and being a front man solo artist.
Miles: I think, I love it, being the front man, I love the photos, playing live, I'm lucky to have such a great band, it's me, it’s my style of music that I love, so it's great really. Nobody is really doing it either at the moment, solo artists especially.
And after that the Wirral Riddler himself disappeared. Kaka boom!
Still armed with my trusty Dictaphone I also managed to speak to Nick Brown, lead vocalist and guitarist of the newly MTV awarded upstarts MONA.
MONA interview with Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Nick Brown
I’ve seen from your bio that although you’re from Dayton, Ohio originally you’re now based in Nashville, what is it with Nashville and bands at the moment? Kings of Leon, Jack White all seem to have a base there now. For an outsider it would seem country music and fiddles rather than skinny jeans and Arctic Monkeys gigs, is there a indie/rock scene building there?
Nick: No, nothing, it's cheap to live there. It’s the land of studios and has the best musicians in the world really, there's no scene as such. Its like if you've never been to London and you arrive, you're saying 'Where's the scene? You know? Where's Harry Potter hanging out? (Laughs) Like anyone who has been to London will tell you the idea of 'the scene' is very different from the reality, same with Nashville. Like you said…Kings of Leon, Jack White it’s very good to meet people in the industry and other musicians. It's still predominantly a country and gospel town really; anyone that has ever done anything in Nashville had to leave to make it.
How do you compare UK festivals to those in the US?
Nick: You know in someway we started here in the UK, we travelled Europe, Japan, then back to the USA, we just love anywhere they speak English, anyone who speaks English on the road is family to us (laughs). With the festivals over here, you (the crowd) have a lot more 'give', you let yourself go much more than the crowds in the states. You have Glastonbury, Leading… (Laughs) Leading and Reeds… (Laughs) you know what I mean. Reading, READING. At Glastonbury its so historical, we were on the John Peel Stage, I think Reading is really only second to T-in the Park for me, and the reason I say that is because I was so hammered at that gig, you know when the crowd is almost challenging you drink by drink. Some crowds are against it and get angry, but in Scotland they are throwing more drinks up (laughs)
Would you say that your influences are mainly British?
Nick: Not at all, I have human influences. I don't claim America or Britain; I think it's limiting to do that. Whether it's Bob Dylan or Joe Strummer I don't care where you're from, it's really just something that resonates about ambition, the second you label is the second you limit what it can do to you. It's the same with girls, are you in love with a black girl? An Asian girl? You're in love with a girl you know? That’s the power there, when you start putting labels and limits on things then we build ceilings and I don't like ceilings and limits…under a blood red sky (laughs).
Is there any other bands/artist here on the bill today at Reading that you are looking forward to seeing?
Nick: Well, I don't really come to festivals to watch other people, I come here to play and see my friends backstage, The Vaccines, Miles Kane, we're off to Leeds in a couple of hours so there isn't really much time in all honesty. At times we are let go and have more time to go and see other bands, like in Australia we had a chance to go get involved and hung out for a couple of days, but here? We're kind of coming in and coming straight out. Most of the bands I've seen anyway at one point or another on the circuit.
I've noticed on your MySpace page there wasn't a lot of your album showing on there. Was this intentional as a stand against the fast food culture of the immediate availability of music?
Nick: Yeah, well we didn't really go that far, we try and do things that feel ok to us really. We're not trying to out-market ourselves or anything.
Congratulations on your recent MTV award for ‘brand new for 2011’, apart from the acclaim you are getting for your work and your art, do you worry that getting awards so early on can sometimes lead to pressure on the group to deliver a massive commercial hit in response?
Nick: Big time, the hype blew up in our face. We were given so much hype that when the album was released, it was never going to be good enough to compete with that. A lot of the people hadn't even heard the record and the music and just went ‘Oh’; they didn't even give it a fair chance. If I could go back and change it would I? No, it is what it is really, although I would have preferred to wind back the buzz and let it be released without anything so people just respond to the music. It resonates. It's the industry we are in though, you can't really know if something is going to be successful or not. I'm happy with how it went all in all. We are still here, still with our middle finger up and when eventually everyone comes around to it and says 'Oh wow' it'll be us that hasn't changed. We've been here all along. There is nothing 'hype' about our performance. It's just us playing, no extra instruments or anything; you can't really say that about a lot of bands out there. We're not afraid, we're not going anywhere and we don't give a shit.
Album chart positions? Do they really matter in 2011 with downloads and fans almost choosing their own singles?
Nick: Well yeah, half the time the song that didn't make it as a single or get released as one is the track that everyone likes the most and this only comes out in our live shows. I mean we're doing ok, we're doing blah…we're decent. Live we're selling out every show, every festival we play its either full stage or full tent completely, you can't chase all these business ideals when you're talking about art, its rock and roll. I always joke that rock and roll is dead…and yet we are right here, it'll bounce back. (Laughs)
Nick, you’ve been vocal in your dislike of ‘side projects’, is this because you think that if a bassist is working on his own stuff he’s not giving 100% to the band? What do you think about artists like Jack White and Josh Homme that seem to be in about 5 bands at any one time?
Nick: Well this is how I look at it, do you want your girlfriend thinking about other guys when she's f*cking you? I mean it could work I guess (laughs) but traditionally I see it like that, you're here…so be here. We are all talented enough so have plenty of time for other stuff later on, just focus on this.
What about Jack White? He manages to keep afloat The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, formally The White Stripes?
Nick: Yeah, he didn't do it at the same time though, he focused on The White Stripes, then when he moved on he gave his complete attention to The Raconteurs, nothing ever seems confused with him, there's definitely a strategy there, with recording and releases, there has never been an over-lap. Smart guy.
With that the clouds parted, the sun shone momentarily and the cocktails we on special offer, only the nightmare of the campsite and toilets could put a dampener on this weekend. What a stroke of luck.
Many thanks to Andy Bell at DawBell, Alex Fordham at Authority Communications and Steph for all her help.
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 12:59