Category Archives: Interview

@MoseleyFolk Festival Headliners Goodnight Lenin to release debut single on Static Caravan @sttccrvn

by Charlotte Payne

Birmingham boys Goodnight Lenin have only been at it a year or so but they caught the eye of the Moseley Folk team back in December after releasing a YouTube video of a simple acoustic performance in which they sat perched on the counter tops of their kitchen. In the last eight months or so they have supported a host of top folk and not so folk acts including First Aid Kit, Features and Darwin Deez.

On the 6th August they will be releasing their debut single ‘Crook in the Creek’ on local label Static Caravan. 500 limited edition 7 inch singles will be available featuring beautiful folk artwork by Clare Rojas and it will also be available to download via iTunes.

'Crook in The Creek' out 6th August

Liam and Matt from the band were kind enough to answer a few questions and here are the answers we got:

First things first, what’s the reasoning behind the name Goodnight Lenin? What’s the association with the film ‘Goodbye Lenin’?

Liam – “We did not want to be another generic ‘The’ band. The band loves the film, its imagery, and the mise-en-scene. We were slightly worried about the communist connotations of ‘Lenin’ but we don’t think people have taken too much notice of that really.”

When you’re on stage you often talk about your love of travel (or John does at least); how come you have all ended up back in Birmingham?

Matt – “It’s not a case of ending up back in Birmingham. We’ve chosen to be here. We have a lot of pride in our hometown and are determined to play our part in putting Birmingham back on the map, in the musical sense.”

If you could fly off tomorrow where would you go, and why?

Matt – “South America is a place we would jump at the chance to visit. It would be an unforgettable experience to tour there, taking in the major capitals like Bogota, Rio, Buenos Aires, Santiago etc but also getting off the beaten track and exploring places like Cartagena and Mendoza. There’s something mesmerising about the continent and the people.”

What music did you grow up listening to and how has this influenced your sound?

Liam – “We grew up listening to a lot of 60’s music, mainly through our parents with the likes of The Beatles, The Faces, Hollies, The Zombies, and Simon and Garfunkel. I also think 90’s Brit guitar music was still fresh when we were young and if it wasn’t for Noel Gallagher I personally would not have picked up a guitar.”

If you could cover any song, what would it be, and why?

Matt – “There are a whole range of songs we would love to cover but above all else ‘Changing of the Guards’ by Dylan is a track we always seem to be drawn to whether it be rehearsing in the lock up or driving to a gig listening to music. At over six minutes long it would be audacious to say the least but if we could nail it, it would be spectacular. That or B*Witched’s ‘C’est La Vie’. It’s a toughy.”

Are there any other bands or records you’ve encountered recently that you think people should know about?

Liam – “As well as Bob Dylan’s 70’s live bootlegs such as ‘Rolling Thunder Revue’, we’re big fans of First Aid Kit with their fantastic harmonies, The Crookes from Sheffield, and a bit closer to home the likes of Boat To Row. Spoken word artist Jodi Ann Bickley is also someone we have a lot of respect for and are very excited to see her and Boat To Row at our debut single launch on August 6th (at The Hare and Hounds).

“Yes that’s a plug!”

Over the rest of the year what are you looking forward to most?

Liam – “It has to be our festival dates. The big one is obviously headlining the Lunar Stage at Moseley Folk Festival before Donovan – it’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time now and it’s personally very rewarding for us to be playing before someone who has had a  massive influence on our music. We can’t wait to see him live. It will also be a nice moment for our family and friends who have got behind us from the outset so they can see how their support has helped us progress. Other festivals we’re really looking forward to are Bestival on the Isle of Wight and Shambala.”

Why should people listen to you if they haven’t already?

Matt – “Because Stone Cold said so.”

What was your favourite toy as a child?

Liam – “I had the Bat Mobile which was the dog’s bollocks. You could fire rockets out of it. Amazing.”

What TV programme do you wish they still made or aired?

Matt – “‘Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?’ purely for the theme tune. Superb.”

If you could travel back in time and meet yourself what would you talk about or do?

Matt – “I think I’d most likely try and come up with some elaborate criminal master plan that involves me always having a stone cold alibi elsewhere. I’d plunder millions. On an unrelated note, the question for some reason reminds me of Bernard’s Watch, the ITV children’s programme where Bernard finds a stopwatch at the end of a rainbow that can stop time. I always detested the little clown as he used it for purely boring purposes like sleeping in late on school days or at his most extreme cheating on an exam. I’d like to think if I had Bernard’s watch I would pillage and steal till my heart was content. Probably wouldn’t make parentally friendly children’s telly mind.”

“I think Hermione Granger had a similar device that was vastly superior to Bernard’s.”

Do you have a lucky charm? If so, what is it?

Liam – “John Joe’s shirt. Whenever he wears it we seem to play well. He always wears it.

Which fictional character would you like to have in the band, and why?

Matt – “Prince… What, Prince is real????”

As it’s festival season, if you had your own festival who would headline, and why?

Liam – “We would take Bob Dylan and his band from the ’75 ‘Desire’ period. Truly amazing. Neil Young would support and Chris Moyles would compere the festival but only so he could be hung, drawn, and quartered on stage post Dylan’s performance.”

You can catch Goodnight Lenin’s Official Single Launch Party at the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, Birmingham on Friday 6th August. Support will be provided by Boat to Row, The Young Runaways and Jodi Ann Bickley. This is Moseley Folk Festival’s Lunar Society offering for August and so advance tickets can be purchased for £5.00 + booking fee from here.

The Soul Food Project – Gourmet Grub @HareandHounds

This is Tomorrow head honcho and regular In The Belly guest, Matt Beck has a lot on his plate at the moment with the opening of Kings Heath’s Soul Food Project at The Hare and Hounds. We, hur hur, grilled him about the grub that is being served at one of the city’s finest music venues.

STOP PRESS: Free samples of the Soul Food Project menu will be served TONIGHT at This Is Tomorrow Presents… James Yuill, Joyous, Waler and Tom Peel.

James Yuill, Joyous, Waler and Tom Peel @ The Hare & Hounds 10th June 2010

Can you describe the Soul Food Project to the uninitiated?

“Soul Food Project is basically a concept kitchen, that’s trying to offer something a little bit different to the Birmingham culinary scene that’s ultimately approachable to everyone. The project is based on the soul food / diner food of America’s deep south.”

If music be the food of love what is the musical style of the food that you love? No, I don’t know what this question means either.

“Noice question. Without sounding too cliche, SFP has massive soul leanings, due to the nature of the food we’re creating, we especially love some the Soul Jazz New Orleans albums, but we’ve been indulging in a slight guilty pleasure in the kitchen recently – we can now recite The Streets – Original Pirate Material word for word.”

Original Pirate Material - The Streets

Why do this?

“We all come from a promotions / service industry background and have massive passion for the food and drinks trade. We all felt a little uninspired by the state of pub grub and wanted to do something that injected a bit more fun into it and to prove that food doesnt cost the earth, but can still inspire.”

Can you stand the heat in the kitchen?

“It can get pretty hectic, but armed with banter, massive iPod playlists and a fridge full of beer for the end of a shift, we can just about get through!”

What are the key dishes / recipes on the menu? Are any named after famous musicians / songs? Sgt Peppered Steak’s Lonely Hearts Club Sandwich for example?

“I’d say the flagship so far has been the Jambalaya – It’s an amazing dish that is quite similar to paella with chorizo, crayfish, chicken and rice and has bags of flavour with loadsa smoked paprika and cayenne. Ha. We wanted to do a Mama Feel Good Salsa, but stayed safe with Mardi Gras Salsa in the end. Apparently Louis Armstrong’s favourite dish was pork and beans so maybe…..”

Louis had the horn for Pork and Beans

Do bands that play at the Hare now get quality food on their rider?

“Yeah we’ve been working with the promoters to use our food on their riders and the feedback has been pretty sweet. Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster said it’s the best food they’ve had on their entire tour, so hopefully we’re going in the right direction. We also did a Soul 2 Soul burger with bacon and HP sauce for Mr Jazzie B but he arrived too late to sample it :/”

The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster had their finest meal of their last tour at The Hare & Hounds. I bet they say that to all the promoters.

Can I come and review the food? Please?

“Nahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”

The Soul Food Project Launch Party happens at 3pm on Saturday 19th June at The Hare & Hounds, entry is FREE featuring:

JOHN NAPIER

TOM PEEL

FOX

BEN CALVERT

RIVERS PRESLEY SET

GREEN GABLES

BRONZE MEDALS

VINNY AND THE CURSE

COPTER

PLUS DJ SETS FROM..

COLOUR

SWEAT

TAKIN CARE OF BUSINESS

THIS IS TMRW

PLUS FREE SOUL FOOD PROJECT MIX CD’S AVAILABLE TO ANYONE ORDERING FOOD.

‘We want our own nuclear weapons’ – A World Cup Anthem for North Korea by The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Think Tank

The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Torture Think Tank

The Graham Parsnip Liquidiser Torture Think Tank isn’t a name you’re likely to forget in a hurry and after recording their World Cup anthem, ‘We Are North Korea’ at Blue Whale Studios, we are definitely not going to forget their insanely catchy chorus either (insane being the operative word). Lead Graham, Kirkio tells us about his plans for nuclear Proliferation:

Are you big in North Korea then?

“It’s hard to believe but we are practically unknown over there, we did a tour last year and we were thrown out of the country as too many North Koreans were complaining from neck ache after our gigs, we ended up playing on our knees which really messed up the drumming and it just all went downhill really.”

What does Kim Jong Il think of the song? If you don’t know would you like to hazard a guess?

“Well it’s hazard a guess time, he’s not our biggest fan, he slated our last album Business Ducks live on TV and declared us ‘dirty’, its highly unlikely he has taken the time to listen to the song, despite its obvious merits. So as a hazard I would say it’s not his cup of tea.”

Are you big fans of nuclear proliferation? Have you any nuclear weapons of your own?

“We want our own nuclear weapons, if everyone had their own I think the world would be a safer place, Broad Street would be better off with circa 2000 warheads bobbing around the Australian Bar. 1 person 1 warhead.”

Was the video filmed entirely on location or did you use big budget special effects for e.g. the scene with the boat at the end?

“You may well have to pour yourself a stiff drink, we didnt shoot it in North Korea due to our ‘dirty’ ban, it was all nicked off Youtube. Hard to believe I know. We did actually have some footage of the band kicking a ball around outside the Custard Factory but it got lost somehow. The security guard was giving us some funny looks but it turned out he wanted to play headers and volleys. He beat us soundly.”

It has been reported that Kim Jong Il may not even allow state controlled media to report on the World Cup if North Korea do not win it, as defeat is considered unacceptable. It is highly unlikely that they will win and all references to the World Cup in North Korea will be erased. Do you yourselves expect to be erased by North Korean officials once the team inevitably gets knocked out of the tournament?

“Although we lost the footage of the band, this could be considered a wee blessing, as some of us have quite distinctive faces and would be easy to spot in a short crowd of Koreans. I imagine in a Korean version of the usual suspects type line-up we would stick out like sore fishes. I’m hoping the intense publicity that is surrounding the song will somehow protect us from Kim’s long arm, surely he cant kill the whole band? Not once we are armed with our very own warheads? It’s a risk we will have to take, life sometimes reaches a peak and there is no doubt we have recorded one of the best songs in human history and if we have to die for our art, so be it.”

Finally, when is the song out and on what label and from what website and from what shop?

“The song is on our own ‘Confused by Geese’ label, you can get it from my house anytime you like. Big North Korean shout out to the Blue Whale! Top studio, top people, top floor (almost!).”

The Empire Strikes Black – Interview with Black Market Empire

Black Market Empire

Building up a significantly sized following on the live circuit in Brum, Black Market Empire‘s beefy rock has recently being given the Blue Whale treatment with the band coming in to record the brooding ‘Unconditional’. Lead singer Shaun Ponsonby gave us the inside scoop on BME’s colonial conquests:

You’ve been described as ‘Merseybeat’ by The Hearing Aid. Although it was a complement, how does a proud Brummie band stomach that?!

“It was definitely took as a compliment. The Beatles are the greatest pop band of all time and they will always be an influence to the music we make.  We are all hugely proud of our wonderful city, though because of it being so unashamedly multicultural and musically diverse Birmingham does not have a typical representative sound.

“I can see how we were described as that but we do have so many types of songs and sounds that it is difficult for us to be compared to bands or genres but obviously it is a reviewers job to do so.”

What other Brummie bands do you rate and why?

“There are many Birmingham bands at present who we are all into. One gig that we are all looking forward to for different reasons is the gig at Rainbow on May 21st involving The Castilians, Swamp Meat and The Rivers Presley Set. My new favourite band currently are absolutely The Castilians, I always knew Dan and Matt’s talent with The Big Bang with Scott and even back to You:Delinquents but the new band is really my thing.”

The Rainbow tonite

“Anthony is digging Swamp Meat and Tom and Kurt are really enjoying The Rivers Presley Set. I always look out for any band to do well from Birmingham, it was great for the City when Editors broke through and I was on the front row watching The Twang‘s rise though are they a Birmingham band or Black Country? I have never been afraid to admit growing up following and still being a fan of Birmingham’s Ocean Colour Scene. Also Tantrums are quality and have only gotten better in recruiting Anna. Barnsey too plus The Filthy Habits also deserve a mention.”

Tell us a bit more about ‘Unconditional’, the tune you recorded with us at Blue Whale. What bands were you listening to at the time of writing and recording? Or where did you draw influence from?

“‘Arizona’ and ‘Cold Desert’ by Kings of Leon were two songs that around the time of writing I could not stop listening to although they do not have the tempo change. Though musically the song was built up over a few weeks from a guitar riff in the studio, we were playing the light riff and then going into the heavier busier part but without it having any structure or lyrics. I took it away and eventually came back with a song.

“The reverb and atmosphere created in the tune is just down to us working at what sounds good in the studio and giving the song the time and effort it needed.”

Lyrically, what does the song touch upon? Is it a piece of advice to someone or is it more self referential?

“I have never really had to speak about lyrics to any of our songs before and this song probably means more to me than any other of our songs. I don’t want to go into it too much but it is an ode to someone special. It is basically about the thankless, difficult job of bringing up a child with learning difficulties. Hope the songs makes sense to you now.”

What do you plan on doing with the recording? Any plans to release it?

“The initial plan was to get the song recorded to a higher quality as possible to what it deserves and after listening to the initial mix I feel that we have achieved that at Blue Whale, plus we had a good time recording it with Ben and John, which is a bonus. We will put it up on the Myspace as that is the first point of call where people will go to listen to our music before seeing us live. We have no plans at the minute for a release but will be looking to do something when we have a few more done.”

Black Market Empire play The Flapper on 19th June, supporting Dogs followed by an acoustic performance at The Sunflower Lounge on 4th July.

White Boy Funk, Chorus Pedals and Eighties Madonna Beats – The Shruburban Bliss of Greg Bird & Flamingo Flame

Shruburbia available to download for free from Speech Fewapy

In The Belly co-presenter and Sunset Cinema Club funkaholic bassist, Greg Haines, has been snapped up by Speech Fewapy Records to release his debut solo EP under the guise of Greg Bird & Flamingo Flame. Available to download for free from www.speechfewapy.com, ‘Shruburbia’ is seven tracks of Eighties Goth and Funk influenced majesty which Greg himself claims to dawning of the ‘Gothic Groove’ genre. The Blue Whale Blog caught up with him to find out more about the Shruburban bliss…..

‘Wonderland’ by Greg Bird & Flamingo Flame from Shruburbia

‘Shruburbia’? where’s the title come from?

“I’ve got a song, that I haven’t recorded yet, called ‘Suburban Dog’ where I’m fantasising about being a middle-class family’s dog lying around and eating all day with no worries, so it’s kind of an extension of that. And ‘shrubbery’ is big theme in the lyrics on this EP, especially as I use the word ‘leaves’ in about three different choruses.

“But it was actually Eve (Greg’s girlfriend) who named the EP, I threw a bunch of words at her to see what she could come up with and that one stuck.”

You recently moved from Redditch to Moseley – has that ‘culture shock’ had any bearing on the writing of the tunes? It obviously played a big part in recording as you did it all under your Moseley staircase.

“It definitely influences my music, as it influences my dreams, which are what most of these songs are based on. But I will have to correct you there, as I’ve been living in Selly Park for over five years…And also, Redditch is very green; I’m sure I read somehwere that there is a higher tree:square mile ratio there than any other town in the UK. So, neeargh!… But yeah, I do love my new surroundings in Moseley, I live in a really sleepy / retirement home area and I just love it.”

Prince +

The Cure +

+ Madonna

=

Greg Bird - Light entertainment - hahahaha ugh, kill me

When did you know you were going to create the EP? Before Sunset Cinema Club went on a hiatus?

“My solo project has been in the works as long as SCC were around, but I never got around to it. I think some people even got sick of me talking about it when at one point it seemed like it’d never happen. It was like a personal Chinese Democracy for me and a few mates really. I think both SCC’s hiatus, and the gradual re-emergence of chorus pedals in new / current music is what drove me to sort it out once and for all, ’cause I can’t let that revival pass without getting involved myself!”

Shruburbia seems quite conceptual as an EP, is that the case? Did you have an intentional sonic target? SCC seemed to throw the kitchen sink into every song, was this an intentional fixed direction?

“Nearly everything I write is conceptual, there’s always a vibe or atmosphere or even just a beat that I want to use before I’ve got anything resembling a song. With SCC a lot of stuff came from jams, but you could probably tell which ones happened in my head before the rehearsal room… Like ‘Breast Strokes’ and ‘Hardcore’. I used to imagine this cartoon version of myself, and a sitiuation, and then write around that like some weird post-hardcore musical.

“But my solo songs mainly, lyrically speaking come from dreams and fantasies and stuff like that. I feel like I can get a lot more weird and personal on my own now, as I’m not putting anyone on the spot except for myself.”

Will you continue to explore the Gothic Shooegaze sound on future EPs? Or do you plan to change direction with every release?

‘Gothic Groove’ is the sub-genre I’m claiming as my own at the moment. I’ve always wanted to go more Goth and I’ve always wanted to go more Eighties Soul / Disco…Both sounds are what I grew up with so I’m always drawn to them. But there was only so far I could take that in SCC because I didn’t want to inflict those styles on Dom and John! And I didn’t want to turn it into “my” band.

“Part of the reason it took me so long to get this done is because I couldn’t settle on which direction – Goth or Funk. Then it became screamingly obvious that it would cool to try and do both sounds at the same time. The Cure did it with ‘Lullaby’ and Killing Joke did it with ‘Love Like Blood’, so it’s not that original, but yeah, my personal challenge is try and push those extremes as far as I can without things getting too muddled or novelty sounding.

“So there will be more whiteboy-funk, and more chorus pedals, more Eighties Madonna beats, and more dream-pop…And on the next EP some New Jack Swing. After that I want to mix Bauhaus with Soul II Soul.”

Greg with his SCC pals

How did the release with Speech Fewapy come to fruition? I take it you’ll release more stuff with them?

“I’m a big fan of Bryn Bowen/The Shalfonts – who I’ll be playing bass for at Island Bar on June 11th, and I love how they give their stuff away for free. I think as long as you’re still recording stuff in your bedroom and not paying for it then you can’t really charge people for it. I also hate it when bands come out of nowhere and you find out they only got together like a year ago; I can only imagine them as label-projects then. So I had this idea to build up a back catalogue of songs and at the same time get as many people into them as possible by giving them away as I went along.

“And then I saw how The Traps have been releasing their singles and EP’s through their Speech Fewapy site, and the presentation and effort they put into that label is just really inspiring…So I emailed them asking how they went about it…And then I was mega chuffed when they offered to do it for me!

“The amount of enthusiasm they’ve had for this so far has blown me away. All the comps and special events they’ve held and are still planning… I imagine this is better than being on a major label in a lot of ways!

“So yeah, I will be doing more stuff with them, at least another two EP’s this year and probably loads more in the future.”

How did it feel taking to the stage as a solo artist for the first time? Did you feel ‘naked’?

“I was dreading it for a while, even to the point where I thought it would put me off pursuing the solo thing altogether like it has done in the past. But it was a lot easier than I thought it’d be. I did rehearse a lot so that helped. And stickers on the keys…And masks do wonders for onstage confidence too, definitely a fixture for future gigs.

“And next time I’ll have Danny Rowe from 35 Seconds jamming on guitar, so there’ll be someone else to take some of the slack heh heh.”

Greg Bird & Flamingo Flame support Casio Kids for This is Tmrw at The Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath on Thursday 27th May. Tickets available from here.

‘Quite Frankly we Were Appalled by Them’ An interview with @DuncAutumnStore and @Simonon about the collaboration between Falling & Laughing & Ace Bushy Striptease – The Tiddlywhips

The Tiddlywhips or at least three of them - Bas, Simon and Darryl

Happy bouncy indie popsters Falling & Laughing and Ace Bushy Striptease have been plotting and scheming within the belly of Blue Whale Studios. Not only have they collaborated as The Tiddlywhips but have covered one of each others’ songs, produced by Dom James and are pasted below for your listening pleasure. We gave them a good talking to try to get to the bottom of this indie orgy.

Arrogance Is My Middle Name, Said Will Davies Arrogantly by Falling & Laughing

So How come you decided to work together?

Simon, Ace Bushy Striptease vocalist and bassist: “The Tiddlywhips originally was kind of a bedroom project.”

Duncan, vocalist and guitarist of Falling & Laughing and promoter of the leftfield Autumn Store indie pop night: “Simon had been in a few other side projects like Jet-Ski Accident and other things, and we’d talked about it as something we’d like to do.”

S: “We need to be in a band with as many people as possible so then we can ride on each other’s coat tails. You’ve got to hedge your bets haven’t you?”

D: “Yeah, like every band that’s come out of Cardiff recently has been in Los Campesinos! Or Little My another massive Cardiff collective, it would be really nice to get a Birmingham collective going.”

The Tidllywhips collective, for this Blue Whale Session at least includes Bas, Jeremy, Daryl, Simon Duncan and also features a debut vocal from Eve Phillips.

Eve Phillips made her debut on 'Roly Poly' by Ace Bushy Striptease but rushed off from the recording session before night fall. We can only speculate as to why.

S: “We thought that it wasn’t going to take long to record these songs, so we thought we could piss around for a couple of hours and see what happens. We’ve already got a following, someone in Japan has written about us on twitter.”

D: “Yeah, I’m following that blog now, it’s called Twee Grrls Club and I don’t understand any of it because it’s written in Japanese but there’s some ace pictures and links to bands, I wish I understood it.”

Are you up on Myspace as the Tiddlywhips yet?

D: “Hmm, we should probably do a Myspace or a Bandcamp, is that what the kids are into nowadays? I’m trying to tie things together with Falling & Laughing and Autumn Store online at the moment so yeah I’ll sort it out.”

S: “And we can ‘leak’ it from there”

D: “We could pretend it’s the new Los Campesinos! album and get loads of hits.”

What made you record each other’s songs, obviously you’re big admirers of each others work. Or did you think the originals were so shit that you could make a better job of them?

D: “Well quite frankly we were appalled by them!”

S: “We played a gig with Falling & Laughing…”

D: “…yeah we both played at Oxjam last year so we secretly worked out an Ace Bushy Striptease cover and played it to them.”

When did you come up with your cover of ‘Roly Poly’?

S: “Well we’re both kind of on a label, releasing through Oddbox and Trev the guy who runs it is looking to put out a compilation and Dunc asked if it was ok to cover one of our tunes for it and we were like; yeah! ‘Can we cover one of yours? Cos your cover is amazing!”

D: “Ahhh, thanks, yours is amazing too.”

S: “Thanks, we tried really hard.”

D: “I think Trev still has to hear the tunes though, before he agrees to put them on!”

Dunc quite clearly laying into Dom

How did you meet Trev?

D: “He used to write for a blog called Indie MP3 with another chap called Tom and also deejayed at a Falling & Laughing gig in London and we carried on talking through the internet and I wrote a bit for his blog. He then started doing the Oddbox blog and label and we continued to mix in the same sort of circles. I like Oddbox, there’s a lot of good things that they’ve been putting out on that label. They’ve found a nice balance between happy pop music and noisy pop music.

“There’s a band on the label called The Humms, which is quite garage, they’ve released a Manhattan Love Suicides record, The Give It Ups I absolutely adore and they put out one of their EPs as well.”

S: “That Milipedes box set, like this Sheffield super group and they released this album on three separate seven inches of this garagey pop stuff.”

D: “OH! Yeah. It was such a gorgeous way of releasing it though, in this really nice box.”

Do you buy most of your music from online stores then?

S: “Well I’ve had my last visit to Tempest about four times now.”

D: “Yeah, it’s sad that Tempest are shutting.”

S: “And that ‘To Let’ sign outside Swordfish isn’t hopeful either. It’s really nice in Polar Bear, I got this really natty recording of the West Side Story soundtrack but done by some Arizona high school, it’s like a bit crap but that’s what makes it so much better than the original recording of it.”

D: “I was in there about a week ago and you know when you just randomly buy things like that, but it was in a section called Japanese Post-Rock so I thought ‘that has to be awesome’. Quite minimal stuff which didn’t really have much going on apart from a singer with occasional instrument and just bird song all the way through.”

S: “Norman Records website is pretty good, they had the Sunset Cinema Club album imported from Japan. WeePOP! and obviously Oddbox! But through our Big Cartel site we’ve been able to sell Ace Bushy albums to people in Canada and Australia.”

D: “That’s awesome, you couldn’t do that even ten years ago, it would never have happened for someone in Australia to find it so easy to find your music online.”

S: “Well when you originally blogged about us on IndieMP3, you wrote about our original bedroom demos ages ago with Dom (James, producer at Blue Whale) and our MP3s got picked up by a torrents site and went to loads of people all around the world. Something you can’t do by playing to people at The Rainbow unfortunately.”
Roly Poly by Ace Bushy Striptease

‘Who the F***s Radio 6?’ – An Interview With Turn Off The Sun

Turn Off The Sun

Regular Blue Whale visitors Turn Off The Sun returned to our studios to record their ‘Vultures’ EP which is already clocking a fair amount of attention in the internet radio world. We grilled them on life in the band and how they see themselves as part of the burdgeoning Midlands music scene…..

Hold That Thought (For Now) by Turn Off The Sun recorded at Blue Whale Studios

What bands / tunes or albums were you influenced by during the writing and recording of ‘Vultures’, ‘Hold That Thought’ and ‘A Days Grace’?

Andy Crawford, bass and vocals:

“I don’t want to use the old cliché and say that we try not to be influenced by other bands when we write, but it’s kind of true. By the time we collectively work on a new song idea and each put our personal stamp on it, it usually bears no resemblance to the original concept. And we’ve all got varied influences anyway. We have nearly 10 years between the oldest and youngest members of the band (I’m not going to name names haha), but it does mean that we bring different influences to the table.”

Ed Taylor, guitar and backing vocals:

“I personally was influenced by early Bloc Party, Rakes, The Pixies, spikey angular guitars that littered their records, their aggression and takes on modern life”.

AC: “Ed got me into The Cribs and I love them now, and I’m always trying to push stuff like Jetplane Landing and At The Drive-In onto the other guys. Neil and Paul are generally into slightly more mainstream stuff like Foo Fighters and Weezer.And I think that gives us good grounding.

“If I were left to write everything myself I’d probably disappear up my own arse and write some weird shit, so having the rest of the guys provides a filter for my more off-the-wall, or just crap, ideas. And the same when the others bring ideas to the table. We all dissect each others’ ideas, take the best bits and throw the rest in the bin.”

Were you after a specific sound when entering Blue Whale? Did you have everything mapped out before you came in or was there much in the way of improvisation or experimentation?

AC: “These are an odd bunch of tunes really because ‘A Days Grace’ was one of the first tracks we wrote as a band over a year ago and the others are newer. ‘Vultures’ we only really wrote a week or so before we hit the studio. So there’s a bit of a mix.

“We tend to play quite a lot of gigs so it’s always difficult for us to concentrate on writing new tunes. And to be honest, ‘A Days Grace’ is a song that we don’t consider to be one of our best, but we listen to our audience and a lot of people have told us they like that one.

“I think it’s probably such a simple song that it’s easy to digest, so that’s why we chose to record it. Some people want that kind of instant hit, whereas I think with the newer stuff we’re aiming to give the music a bit more depth and longevity. ‘Vultures’ is a good sign of what’s to come, it’s more contemporary and bouncy than the older stuff and that’s where we want to head musically. So although ‘Vultures ‘was new we pretty much had it all written. I suppose due to time and money constraints we have to go in with an agenda or we’ll end up running out of time.”

ET: “Yeah, some aspects were planned prior to the recording, the order with which we’d approach laying down the parts, certain effects used and song structures, however, others, such as the intro to ‘Vultures’ came about on the day from just bouncing ideas of each other.”

AC: “And don’t forget your song structure chart Ed! Ask Ben about that, he found it hilarious. Haha!”

You were played by Tom Robinson, not once but twice. How did that come about? He has an ear for fresh talent and must like your stuff if he gave it a second spin?

AC: “Yeah that was a lovely surprise and definitely our highlight so far. I uploaded our tunes to the BBC introducing website ages ago and to be honest I’d forgotten all about it. Then out of the blue we had a generic email saying Tom Robinson wanted to play ‘Weekend in Prague’.

“We were really chuffed, except Neil who said “who the fuck’s Radio 6?” But that’s him all over, he’s a mainstream man. He used to play in a signed band that toured the country playing indie-pop influenced by The Beautiful South!! He’s gonna kill me for saying that. Haha. But it really was an honor, and the second time he played us he made some really cool comments too, which have pride of place at the top of our Myspace biog.

“That’s what being in a band is all about for us. Your mates and your family will always say your music’s great but when it comes from someone so respected in the industry it means everything. But it also means a lot to us getting nice comments from total strangers. We play quite a few free gigs in small area’s like Kidderminster and Bromsgrove and if we get random locals approaching us after to tell us they enjoyed it, it makes the gig worthwhile, no matter how bad the sound was or how many people we played to.”

Vultures by Turn Off The Sun recorded at Blue Whale Studios

What do you plan to do with these recordings?

ET: “Give them out free to people at gigs, open people up to our music, and hopefully entice them to come and see us at our live performances, that’s where we show who we are.”

AC: “We’ve already been sending them to radio stations and this week our tunes were aired on five different shows, one of them in the states. Our main goal is basically just to get our music heard, that’s the bottom line. We have no pretentions about any future ambitions except to just play in front of more people and continue to work on our sound until we’re happy with it. We’re still a way off from where we want to be musically but I think with every new song we write we’re getting there.

“We prefer to give out CD’s for free because as I say it’s all about getting people to hear our music and come to see us live. Whenever we get paid for gigs – nine times out of ten we spend the cash on blank CD’s and plastic wallets, and basically burn as many off as possible. I design the cover and print off as many as I can at work. It only works out at something like 15p per finished CD to produce so we’d rather get our tunes out there than charge people who are probably already paying entrance fees.

“So we’re hopefully gonna use it to gain leverage with promoters. We’ve already bagged ourselves a couple of great London shows this year so more of the same would be ace.”

Do you think there are enough opportunities for up and coming bands, like yourselves, to get recognised in Birmingham? Do you feel part of any particular scene in Brum?

AC: “It’s a difficult one really. I’ve been playing and singing in bands in Birmingham for about 15 years now, and this is the first time for ages I feel like there’s a bit of a scene starting up. I think it takes good, honest promoters and people doing stuff off their own back, like yourself with the blog, to get people interested.

“It’s harder to get good gigs now, which is probably a good thing. But for every gig at a good venue with great bands there are another 10 gigs in overpriced venues where most of the bands are have been together for ten minutes and sound like they’ve been together for ten minutes. I feel like we’re sometimes a bit stuck between the money-grabbing promoters and the opposite kind, who to be fair, put on free gigs with quality bands.

“I’d much rather be involved with the latter but find that sometimes if your not in their clique, or particular circle of bands you won’t get a gig. But that only spurs us on to write better tunes and get our name out there and hopefully we’re heading in the right direction. We definitely haven’t got a small town mentality because probably with the exception of Ed we’ve all grown up drinking and playing gigs in Brum week-in-week-out.

We had a post on our blog that stirred up a fair bit of discussion about local promoters – Do you agree that promoters are making it tough on bands or do you think that they have a difficult job on their hands?

AC: “Yeah I read that blog when it was put on your page, and I think it makes some very good points. I do think that it’s not always as black and white as that though. For example, The Catapult Club as you know put on shows at the Academy 3 amongst other venues. And yes, they expect you to shift tickets etc but at least they are professional and very well organized.

“On several occasions We’ve even had them call us up the day after to thank us for bringing a great crowd. So we don’t mind playing the O2 every now and then and having the pressure of selling tickets. Its part and parcel of being a gigging band. At least you know that you’re playing a good venue, with good equipment. It only becomes a problem when other, less professional promoters expect you to basically fleece your mates to line their pockets, when they provide a crap venue with poor quality bands and no audience.”

Turn Off The Sun live @ The Actress & Bishop by Marcus Wootton

“For example- one of our first gigs last year was at a venue in Wolverhampton. The promoter expected us to sell tickets for £7, and told us we can have the gig if we promise to sell over 25 tickets!! As the night unfolded we ended up being one of six bands crammed into one night and despite getting to the venue very early we didn’t get a sound-check because “there wasn’t time”.

So basically, we played to an empty room (except the members of the other five bands) and the sound was terrible. It was a shocking experience that taught us an early lesson. I sent them a snotty email after that and we were “unfortunately” deleted from their Myspace friends. We now pick our gigs very carefully and have had some great experiences this year so far.”

What are your personal experiences with promoters in Brum?

AC: “I suppose you get to know the good guys from the bad guys. One of our favourite recent shows was at The Bulls Head in Moseley. The sound was good, despite the hilariously tiny stage! And due to the free entry the place was packed. It’s great to play free entry gigs but you need to remember that the promoter / band relationship is a two way thing.

“I think most bands will play all the time without any kind of payment, we just want to play well-equipped venues with good bands and good crowds. And in return we are more inclined to promote the gigs ourselves and try to fill out the audience. I guess what the less scrupulous promoters need to learn is that if they put on good quality bands with cheap entrance fees, it really creates a buzz and generates promotion for itself.”

Is it harder for Bromsgrove or Kidderminster based bands to break through on the Birmingham scene?

ET: “The Kidderminster music scene is at a low right now, with pubs closing so frequently, the venues for performers are decreasing, with a lack of promotion to get the general public to see the music live. It’s a huge shame, I’ve lived there most of my life, it’s not always been that way. Birmingham offers us the venues that we need to play our music.”

AC: “It depends what your mentality is I suppose. We would class ourselves as Birmingham based, as that is where we rehearse and that is where we go out and play the majority of our gigs. So I’d say the fact that we live in Kiddy or Bromsgrove has no bearing on it really.”

Vultures EP out now

What other Midlands acts do you rate and what do you like about them?

ET: “I saw Tantrums with Andy and Paul a few weeks ago at The Flapper, along with (silver) souvenirs, some great performing, they both gave off massive energy, it was exciting to see that in young bands.

AC: “That was a good night. I’m sure it wasn’t just because we were all wasted, we really enjoyed both bands and I’m looking forward to their EP’s coming out. I like the eclectically urban sound Tantrums have got, but their tunes are still catchy as fuck. It sounds fresh. And I was impressed by how slick and well put together (silver) souvenirs songs were, we were talking to them after too and they’re nice guys.

“I’ve been following the local scene quite avidly lately, with help from blogs like yours, and it’s pretty exciting stuff. Although there’s still that whole 80’s synth influence floating around in the air I think bands are starting to branch out and define sounds of their own and it’s refreshing. Our next big aim is to start getting more support slots with local bands like these that we’re really into. We’ve played with some very good bands and it always makes for a more satisfying night.”

Anything else you’d like to plug?

ET: “My barbering shop??”

AC: “Well the obvious thing would be to plug the new EP, which we’re pleased with, but if you want to hear us at our best come to one of our shows as I think that’s what we do best. I bet that’s what they all say, I’m just a one-man cliché machine! Haha. Oh, and come down to our next gig at The Sunflower Lounge on the 28th May, you never know you might get a free CD or ten.”

Days Grace by Turn Off The Sun recorded at Blue Whale Studios