I Am Kloot

For a pint-sized, snot-nosed little scruff from Hyde (UK), John Bramwell has a hell of a way with words, a voice like a fallen angel and a genius for penning twisted torch songs laced with gorgeous melodies. The son of a band leader and a famous northern medium, Johnny spent his teenage years picking out tunes on borrowed guitars, busking on the streets of Paris, Athens and San Fransisco. But it was while working as a gig booker in Manchester’s famously bohemian Night & Day Cafe that he recruited bassist Pete Jobson and drummer Andy Hargreaves and I Am Kloot were formed. The name was apparently not Johnny’s first choice. “I was sat in a bar with John one day and he says ‘I’ve got it, I’ve got it. I’ve got the name.’ And I’m like, Right! Great! Let’s have it!’ And he goes, “I am John…”

The band played their first gig in 1999 to a packed-out Night & Day, then released a couple of swaggeringly good DIY singles (To You/ Titanic and Twist/ 86 TVs) on the local Ugly Man label – the latter spawning the ‘There’s blood on your legs/ I love you’ line which has been so consistently identified with the band’s kitchen sink aesthetic. The debut album Natural History appeared in March 2001 on Wall Of Sound’s We Love You label, recorded by Elbow mainman Guy Garvey. The NME called it “a mystical, rapturous, staggering declaration of love.” City Life magazine called Johnny “the best songwriter in Manchester .” “For whatever reason, the strong point of Natural History was that people did find it refreshing,” Johnny says now. “In its sound and in its whole approach.”

The band embarked on a series of increasingly successful forays into Europe, which have given rise to emotion-swept gigs in kellers across the continent, and airplay across the dial. “We did this gig in Paris and Johnny was singing Twist and we just got it,” recalls Pete. “This sort of growl in the voice and then the volume went up and it just hit you. It was emotionalising for any fucker that was there. You see bands all the time, great bands, and they never get a moment like that. But that’s always been the most exciting thing for me, even as a kid, and to hear a band that I’m involved with do that is fucking brilliant.”

It was signing with Echo Records and the release of second album I Am Kloot (US Jan 25) which has raised the bar so spectacularly for the band. In the band’s native Manchester, the twelve-track long player has become as notorious for the manner of its making as it’s been praised for its jukebox-of-heartbreakers track list. Singles Untitled #1 and Life In A Day attested to the growing range and confidence of the band: the former a tender, Revolver-esque dirge, the latter a swanking slab of big chorus radio-candy. Uncut awarded the album four stars, describing I Am Kloot as “about as good as the whole guitar/bass/drum thing gets.” The NME called Johnny “Britain’s most able lyricist .” Check the press clippings and read for yourself a succession of British rock writers trying to convince you that this band is a little bit special.

“It’s something hopeful and almost naive,” said Johnny of one of his songs, recently. “It’s only in the context of the bleakness and the quite filthy passion at the core of us, that when we present something that naive and that simple that it really gets its charm and finds its beauty.”

I Am Kloot is:
Andy Hargreaves – Drums
Pete Jobson – Bass Guitar
John Bramwell – Voice/ Guitar

The Vacation

The Vacation plays a gritty, swaggering brand of rock and roll that recalls the visceral punch of punk, the anarchic energy of turn-of-the-‘70s garage bands, and the monster hooks of such vaunted outfits as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks and The Clash.

Based in Hollywood and fronted by singer Ben Tegel and guitarist Steve Tegel (TEE-gul), The Vacation put itself on the map with residencies at The Kibbitz Room – where members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guns N’ Roses, among other now-famous acts, cut their teeth – Spaceland and The Silverlake Lounge. The band quickly built a loyal following before launching an assault on the U.K. with They Were The Sons, an EP on indie label Fierce Panda (Coldplay, Supergrass, The Thrills). This was followed by the full-length Band From World War Zero on the Echo Label UK. The Vacation also earned slots on the esteemed Reading and Leeds festivals sharing stages with the likes of White Stripes, Green Day, and Supergrass and won the affection of peers such as Jet (drummer-singer Chris Cester even wrote a column about them for the NME).

Band From World War Zero and They Were The Sons, were both produced by the acclaimed Tony Hoffer (Beck, Supergrass, The Thrills). No less than Rolling Stone gave the EP three and a half stars, remarking: “The brash four-piece uses irresistible snake-charmer bass lines to glue together Detroit scuzz, hook-y retro punk à la the Damned and shout-along glam choruses. Bad attitude never felt so good, dude.” L.A.’s trendsetting Indie 103 quickly took notice; the station added four different songs from Band From World War Zero. Leading the Indie charge is Steve Jones, former Sex Pistols guitarist and host of the “Jonesy’s Jukebox” show, who has personally championed the band and their album.

Band From World War Zero will be released in the States on the Echo Label via World’s Fair Label Group April 26. (It already released in the U.K. on September 27, 2004}

Ben and Steve Tegel recently sat down to talk about Hollywood, The Vacation, consumer culture, and how to outsmart one’s parents. Following is their conversation.


Q: Where did you grow up?

Ben: Around St. Louis.

Steve: We’re from southern Illinois, Granite City. We went to high school in the suburbs of St. Louis

Ben: We moved to Missouri when we were 10.

Q: Despite the Midwestern upbringing, The Vacation sounds like something that could only have come out of Hollywood. How does the city factor into your music?

Ben: As an outsider, somebody who moves here, you have this idea about the city. But when you come here, you face the reality of the city. That’s what the song “Hollywood Forever” is about; it’s about the idea of Hollywood, the difference between the dream of Hollywood and the reality of Hollywood. The actual place is a grungy, dirty little town. Then you have this word Hollywood, which connotes fame and wealth. And we live right around the corner from the cemetery [Hollywood Forever, formerly Hollywood Memorial Park].

Steve: Hollywood itself is kind of like a cemetery, for that dream so many people have that never comes true.

Ben: It’s funny because the one cemetery that exists inside Hollywood is one of the few bright spots in the city. It’s kind of like a park; it’s green and pretty. But I really love the old, dirty part of Hollywood.

Steve: We grew up in the suburbs, which are green and clean and boring. Our whole thing when we were kids was that we wanted to live in a city; our idea of a vacation would be to go to a city somewhere.

Q: Speaking of which, why did you call the band The Vacation?

Ben: It seems like a bright and sunny kind of name, but we don’t look that way and our music can be pretty dark. The name is just a reminder that things aren’t exactly what they seem. It’s also an acknowledgment that music is a vacation; the entire rock and roll lifestyle is a vacation.

Q: You’ve been compared to Iggy And The Stooges. Would you consider Iggy an influence?

Ben: The Stooges are one of my favorite bands of all time. But one of the most influential records we had when we were kids was a 45 we got from our uncle. It was a record by The Jimmy Castor Bunch entitled “Troglodyte.” When we were five or six years old, we played that record over and over and over again. It’s an early-‘70s combination of garage rock and funk. I was also really into The Dead Boys.

Steve: And The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground.

Ben: I love T-Rex a lot.

Steve: We listened to a lot of Captain Beefheart, early Funkadelic, War. Bob Marley, Fela [Kuti] – those guys were great songwriters who talked about political issues in their songs.

Q: How did The Vacation evolve?

Ben: When we moved to Hollywood, Steve and I had the idea of starting a band, but we didn’t have a drummer; we were using a drum machine and doing kinda corny white-boy rap.

Steve: It was kind of experimental. But then, when we’d do live shows, we always found that we really liked rockin’ out and putting on a good show.

Ben: We started writing more rock-and-roll-type songs. As we got better at songwriting, we were more interested in melodies. It happened kind of organically.

Steve: It took us a long time, though. We’d just sit and try to come up with as many songs as we could.

Ben: I’d get an idea for a song in my head, or I’d write down some words and sing ‘em to Steve and he’d come up with some music. Or we’d sit down with nothing and Steve would start playing guitar and I’d start singing something. Or I’ll write the words and melody in my head and Steve will kind of translate those to the guitar.

Q: Have you been writing together a long time?

Steve: I remember coming up with stupid songs in my head when I was real little. I had a keyboard and we came up with really dumb songs. I was playing in school bands and learning about music before I started playing guitar, when I was around 13. Then we had a band in high school and we always did original songs, so yeah, we’ve been writing together a long time. But we haven’t really been happy with the stuff we’ve written until now.

Q: What kind of guitar player are you?

Steve: I’ve actually learned to downplay my playing and be a more song-oriented player. Keith Richards is a great guitar player to me because he’s all about the rhythm, the groove of the song. I’m also really into blues players, like John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins, and those guys aren’t showoff guitar players; it’s all about feel.

Q: How did you meet [Vacation bassist Eric] Dutch [Suoninen]?

Ben: We met Dutch at The Kibbitz Room. They used to have open-mic nights on Sundays. We were playing one of our songs and he just came up and played bass on it; we just jammed with him. We got his number and he came over a couple of days later and that’s the end of the story. He just stuck with us.

Steve: That was really easy but unfortunately, the drummer situation has not been so easy. We’re playing with a drummer now who does a real good job, but he’s in another band. We’ve gotten used to playing with these professionals, but they’re really in-demand and they’ve got these other things they’re workin’ on. We’re spoiled now. The other drummers we’ve seen just aren’t as good – they just wanna play loud and too fast and too showoff-y. It’s so important to have a good drummer.

Q: How did you go from playing The Kibbitz Room – a lounge at the back of a Hollywood delicatessen – to the Reading and Leeds festivals?

Ben: We got really lucky. This booking agent from England just happened to see us at the Kibbitz when we were doing our residency there last year. He said he wanted to book us for Reading and Leeds. It just came out of the blue.

Q: Had you ever been to the U.K.?

Ben: No.

Q: What did you think?

Ben: England’s a lot like America, except the bars close earlier and the food’s not as good. A lot of our favorite bands are English, though. Mid-‘60s to ‘70s rock and roll bands. We love The Kinks. We love The Stones. The Beatles, obviously. The Clash.

Steve: The Sex Pistols.

Q: What was it like being in front of those big audiences?

Ben: We were a little bit nervous, but once we got onstage, the crowd was totally with us for the whole show.

Steve: Those were probably the best-received shows we’ve ever done.

Ben: Most of the people in the audience were teenagers, and the thing about teenagers is, they’re not afraid of letting themselves go. There’s none of that cooler-than-thou vibe.

Q: Did you hobnob with the stars?

Ben: We hung out with Jet quite a bit. We were staying in the same hotel. We’d done a couple of shows with them over here, at the Troubadour and Spaceland. They like to party.

Q: I know a lot of the excitement about you guys in the U.K. is also due to the EP you had out over there, which came out on Fierce Panda. Tony Hoffer produced it, as well as the full-length album. What’s it like working with him?

Ben: The thing about Tony is that he has a great attitude in the studio. He diffuses whatever stress you might be feeling and makes everything fun. And he appreciates the sloppiness of rock and roll. He’s a really big fan of The Dead Boys, for example. He worked hard to get that feeling into the sound. He kept saying, “It’s gotta sound like it did when I heard you guys playing at The Kibbitz Room.” Like when we did the background vocals, he said, “You gotta sound like you’re drunk and you barely got to the mic in time to sing the lyric.” He kept it loose and didn’t try to make it too perfect, yet he understood that we were making pop songs. So there was a very fine line between polishing it and getting the harmonies right and keeping the roughness of it.

Steve: It felt really collaborative; we worked together to figure stuff out. Tony really encouraged us to experiment and let us do it until we felt we got it right.

Q: It’s unusual to come across a band fronted by twins, but you guys don’t make much out of that.

Ben: Well, we don’t want to appear, like … remember that band Nelson? We don’t want to come across like Nelson. Being twins isn’t something we’re trying to hide, but it’s not something we want to present as a gimmick. We don’t want people to be, like, “Oh yeah, The Vacation – that’s the band with the twins.”

Q: But I have to ask – is there some kind of twin telepathy at play?

Ben: I think our situation is similar to the brother relationships you see in other bands. It’s really just a highly sophisticated and nuanced sense of empathy – you’re able to anticipate what the other person is feeling. In terms of songwriting, I’ll come up with a lyric or a lyric and a melody and I’ll come to Steve and sing it to him in my own way. Probably, if I sang it to anybody else, they’d be, like, “What the hell are you singing? That doesn’t sound like anything.” But Steve will hear it and see what I’m going for right away and carve out the actual chords and refine the melody and take it to the next part of the song, come up with the bridge or the chorus.

Q: Are there other musicians in your family?

Ben: Our mom’s side of the family were all musicians in bands in high school. One of our uncles plays in a blues/country band. The uncle who gave us the Jimmy Castor record was a DJ for a long time. He passed a lot of his records on to us when we were kids. He had some Cheech & Chong records that were pretty funny. There was also this Frank Zappa album, Sheik Yerbouti. I remember one time, we were about 12, we were upstairs listening to that album, and there’s a track on there called “Broken Hearts Are For Assholes,” and I think it may contain a few vaguely obscene words [“Don’t fool yourself, girl – it’s going right up your poop chute”], and we were listening to that pretty loud and I remember my dad comes into my brother’s room one night when my mom was making dinner. He’s, like, “Guys, your mom doesn’t really want you listening to that; I think we’re gonna have to take it away from you.” So they confiscated the record, but then one afternoon when they were at work we realized they had just hidden the record in their closet in their bedroom. So we took the vinyl out of the sleeve and just left the album cover in there and kept on listening to it.

Steve: They weren’t really repressive, but that record is pretty dirty.

Ben: It’s really funny, though. I think junior high is the ideal time to be listening to Zappa. There are a lot of potty jokes. Comedy has also been a really big influence on us.

Steve: We were as into “Monty Python” as we were music. And Mel Brooks, “Blazing Saddles.”

Ben: Even Weird Al Yankovic was a big influence. We try not to be too serious about ourselves.

Q: Ben, tell me a little about your lyrics. Did you write poetry first? Did you study literature?

Ben: I studied painting, actually, but I never really did poetry. I’ve always loved poetic imagery, though. I’d read Rimbaud or something and think, I wanna be like him.

Q: One of my favorite lines is, “You stand on the edge of a paper cut,” from “White Noise.”

Ben: I really like that one because I have no idea what it means and I really don’t know how I thought of it.

Q: Let’s talk about the songs. We’ll do a Rorschach test: I’ll say the title and you tell me what it makes you think of. We already talked about “Hollywood Forever,” so let’s start with “White Noise.”

Ben: Somebody said that was about bad communication in a relationship, which I thought was really cool. That actually makes sense, and now when I sing the song I think about that. When I wrote the lyrics, I’d just seen “Bowling For Columbine” and I was thinking about all the anger and hatred and fear out there and this sense that you’re helpless. There’s so much confusion. The constant white noise from the media makes it impossible for you to think clearly; it’s impossible to get a moment of silence and clarity.

Steve: It’s about being overwhelmed by media and images and advertising – the oversaturation of people’s daily lives with information.

Q: “Destitute Prostitutes.”

Ben: I had a dream where I heard a dance song, and I heard the phrase “destitute prostitutes.”

Steve: It’s about the idea of prostitutes being outsiders in society.

Ben: Sometimes there’s a certain pride associated with being marginalized by society, taking it back, owning your outsider status: “We’re fuckin’ insects, but you know what? We’re the fuckin’ dirtiest insects in the world.” I guess I should also say that the corner where I live is the transsexual prostitute capital of the world.

Q: “Cherry Cola.”

Ben: It’s about desire, and how desire can be manufactured. There’s a line in there where I say, “I want the freedom from wanting beauty.” Because of advertising, you’re constantly in this state of coveting something, and it’s perpetually unfulfilled; it’s unattainable. Even if you had the most beautiful woman in your bed, you still wouldn’t own her; you can’t possess her. And once she’s gone, you’re left with nothing.

Steve: Everybody wants to be something else, some idealized image that doesn’t exist.

Ben: Like when you sell soda these days, you’re not selling the soda; you’re selling the image of teen sexuality. The product is secondary; what you’re selling is the image of it, the clean, healthy, attractive, smiling, sexy, young people on the commercial. That’s what you’re really buying, but you can never really have it.

Steve: The singer of that song identifies with a girl the same way he identifies with a product. Everything is just a product you consume nowadays.

Q: “What’s In It For Me.”

Ben: People feel it’s okay to be self-interested. We’ve lost the sense of altruism that was part of the ‘60s counter-culture. It’s become acceptable to take advantage of people for the sake of a dollar. People have accepted the fact that either you’re a huckster or you’re a sucker. And if you’re smart, you’ll con as many people as you can – you’ll make as much money as you can selling ‘em junk. And if you’re dumb, you’re the one getting suckered and it’s your own fault. I don’t think that’s right. The song is also about the futility of rebellion. There’s a line in there, “I fought the man with guerrilla tactics/ I’m talking back when I’m watching TV.” Sometimes it feels like your only real weapon against the onslaught of consumer culture is irony; you distance yourself from it by saying, “Oh, I’m cooler than that.” But what does that really amount to? It feels like there’s no real basis for substantial change.

Q: “No Hard Feelings.”

Steve: This may be the most straightforward, literal song on the album.

Ben: It’s a kiss-off. It makes me think of that Bob Dylan song “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” I’ve had a couple of experiences where I’ve felt that way.

Q: “Liquid Lunch.”

Ben: This is very L.A. I was thinking about a businessman, like back in the ‘50s, taking his liquid lunch, the three-martini lunch. What about the guy who somehow drops out of that world, escapes? It’s almost like saying you’ve given up.

Steve: The guy who makes his identity from not wanting to do anything or be anything.

Ben: It’s the idea of dropping out of society as the ultimate rebellion. There’s that line from “Barfly,” where Mickey Rourke says … it’s something like, “I’m so tired of thinking of all the things I don’t wanna do and I don’t wanna be.” “Liquid Lunch” is about freedom – let’s put it that way.

Q: “Trash.”

Ben: That’s our thesis song, the basic summation of our worldview. The problem is people being sold down the river because we’re so greedy.

Steve: Everyone thinks that if it makes a profit, then it has value.

Ben: There can be no political change without cultural change, without people reclaiming their culture from corporations. Yet you can’t even call it culture anymore – it’s only commerce. Steve and I believe that music, movies, TV – the arts – are so important and that their role in society has been denigrated; trash rules. People think of it as just entertainment. We, personally, never think of it as just entertainment. The real source of humanity, and the redemption of humanity, is in culture, and it’s just not given a high enough place in American life anymore.

  • Artist: The Vacation
  • Title: Band From War Zero
  • Label: Echo
  • Release date: 4/26/05
  • click to download CD cover
  • Track Listing:
    • White Noise
    • Make Up Your Mind
    • Spiders
    • Destitute Prositutes
    • Cherry Cola
    • What’s In It For Me
    • I’m No Good
    • Hollywood Forever
    • No Hard Feelings
    • Liquid Lunch
    • Trash
  • WM Video: 56k 100k 300k

Weevil

Weevil are Tom Betts and Jonny Pilcher

Back in the early 90s there was a wave of bands like New Order, My Bloody Valentine, Moonshake, Bark Psychosis and Seefeel, who embodied true experimentation within their indie guitar sound, mixing effected guitars, samples, beats and dreamy vocals to produce anything from intense soundscapes to danceable pop. This was music with its ears listening to the future. It was an exciting time to be just discovering music. Since then the UK guitar based music scene has generally been backward looking rather than forwards with a afew noteable exceptions. Buthey, this is a different decade.

London based Weevil are one of the bands who have taken on this aesthetic and given it a 2004 workout with writing melody laden songs on real instruments as their main driving force. Weevil have a sound that is very much their own and this includes a wonderful mish mash of acoustic guitars, indie boy vocal harmonies, swirling samples, sampled drum skips, static, cut and paste drums, backwards loops, harmonium, melodica, dub bass, bursts of noisy guitar, found sounds, MBV noisescapes, heavenly piano melodies, old school electro beats, vocal snapshots, dreamtronica, atmospheric drones, shoegazing, delayed guitar lines and abstract sounds.

Formed in the Summer of 1999 by Jonny and Tom in South East London.The duo had widely different backgrounds with Jonny’s main interest in experimenting with acoustic instruments, and Tom pushing the envelope of electronic music. Early gigs consisted of special chaotic one off events, where like-minded bands met, collaborations were formed and relationship were forged that still feed into the Weevil sound today.

In 2000 Jonny and Tom set up Orphan Records. In 2001 they released their debut ep Fragile on Orphan and the first album Weevil [S/T] through WIAIWYA. They were pleased to find the album was Xfm and Rough Trade Album of the week. EMI contacted Weevil early in 2002 having heard the 7 inch and signed them to a publishing deal a few months later.

Pining for the country, having spent 10 years in London Jonny and Tom decided to return to their roots. Jonny headed to North Herts and Tom back to Yorkshire. A year later the second album Drunk on Light is finished, and is to be released by Wichita in 2004.

  • Artist: Weevil
  • Title: Drunk On Light
  • Label: Wichita
  • Release date: TBA
  • click to download CD cover
  • Track Listing:
    • Out Of Time
    • Half Smile
    • Too Long Sleeping
    • Silver Rails
    • Handburn
    • Splinters
    • Fragments
    • A Million Things
    • Bytecry
    • No End Soon
    • On Wires

Rjd2: Since We Last Spoke

The major labels are crumbling. The deficit soars. Your neighbor came home with SARS. Teenage youth are more armed than Ted Nugent. There will never, ever, be a new episode of “Friends”. Clay out-sold Reuben. Odds are you are about to enter another 4 years of Bush-brand terror. Not to worry, though. Rjd2 has a new album.

On his breakout solo debut, Dead Ringer, Rjd2 sent listeners on a musical foray into instrumentalism, feasting on styles both old and new, and in the process creating a sound that’s emerging as one of the most interesting and exciting new voices in instrumental music. In a genre filled with ambient spacemen and droning techno fromage, Rjd2 brought a sense of song structure and vitality that was sorely missing, evening harkening back to when instrumental groups like Booker T. and the MG’s got radio play (not a joke). And the accolades rolled in. From industry luminaries like Chris Blackwell, to members of Radiohead and The Strokes, to ?uestlove of The Roots (who nominated Dead Ringer for the prestigious Short List awards in 2003), to Dj Shadow, Rj soon became a favorite of those in-the-know. Dead Ringer was an incredible success globally, appearing on many a year-end list, including Spin’s Top 40 Albums of 2002. In ’03, he followed up the success of his debut with The Horror, an EP of B-sides that played closer to an entirely new album than a collection of leftovers, and cemented Rjd2 as one of music’s most talked about new artists. Touring from Japan to Amsterdam, Rj caught wreck with a dizzying 4-turntable reconstruction of the album for fans worldwide, sharing the stage with the likes of DJ Shadow, El-P and the Def Jux crew, David Lynch, The Roots and Prefuse 73.

While Rj soon became the name to drop in hipster circles, he made his bones in the underground, playing a major role in that mid-west power surge better know as Columbus hip hop. After setting it of in 1998 with the Mhz crew on Bobbito Garcia’s legendary Fondle Em Records, he caught the attention of El-P and in 2000, he locked in with the Definitive Jux camp and soon made his DJX debut on Def Jux Presents I, co-starring with Company Flow, Cannibal Ox and Aesop Rock. Then came the now classic “Good Times” white label 12-inch and the rest has been indie hip hop history. Over the past few years, Rj’s profile as a producer has grown immensely as he’s clocked time on the boards producing or remixing Mos Def, Massive Attack, El-P, Aceyalone, Polyphonic Spree, Elbow, Cannibal Ox, and others, wielding a versatility rarely seen in music today. His prolific nature has brought him the unique accolade of ‘freelance producer/remixer extraordinaire’ in Urb Magazine’s Best of 2003 issue, amongst others. As one half of the duo Soul Position, he’s the ultimate team player, taking a back seat to his MC, Blueprint, and letting him do the talking, while RJ’s music keeps the heads nodding. Their 8 Million Stories LP was received in 2003 to rave reviews and continues to nod, and turn, heads.

2004 brings a new, self-titled album, a more focused and cohesive effort than Dead Ringer, while still maintaining the vitality and soulfulness that made is debut so enjoyable. Like a modern day Quincy Jones in the abstract, RJ truly orchestrated his new record, creating a multitude of new songs from all angles, writing music and lyrics, arranging vocals and melodies, auditioning singers and even experimenting with a vocoder. He cut out any fat or filler, and in an industry virtually afloat on the concept of the guest appearance, the album features none. Its strength instead lies in the meticulous programming, lush instrumentation and solid song arrangements. In many ways, an artist’s sophomore album is when their true colors are shown (or exposed), and when their real career begins (or begins to end). In the words of Jimmy Castor, its just begun.

  • Artist: Rjd2
  • Title: Since We Last Spoke
  • Label: Definitive Jux
  • Release date: May 18 ‘O4
  • click to download CD cover
  • Track Listing:
    • Since We Last Spoke
    • Exotic Talk
    • 1976
    • Ring Finger
    • Making Days Longer
    • Someone’s Second Kiss
    • To All Of You
    • Iced Lightning
    • Clean Living
    • Intro
    • Through The Walls
    • One Day

The Stands

Despite songwriter Howie Payne’s Liverpool pedigree–from the congenial ‘pudlian lilt of his voice to his unwavering dedication to pop-craft–his band, The Stands, sound downright American. Their debut, All Years Leaving (Echo) instantly recalls the dirty blue-jean-clad folk-rock declarations of the Byrds, Bob Dylan and Neil Young–or the contemporary reverb-drenched jangle of bands like My Morning Jacket or Beachwood Sparks.

Is rainy Liverpool trying to soak up some warm California sun? Not exactly … but turn about is certainly fair play. “Everyone thinks all the bands from Liverpool are trying to sound like the bands from California,” explains Payne. “The Byrds were playing folk music but eventually tried to sound like they were from Liverpool after the Beatles came along and went electric!”

Payne, 28, is a musical sponge who writes songs without boundaries, constantly in search of the ineffable elements that make a tune truly meaningful; finding inspiration for his ageless pop from the masters: Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Woody Guthrie, Burt Bacharach, Charles Mingus, The Beatles, Fred Neil, The Band, Curtis Mayfield, The Buzzcocks and countless others.

The Stands are a part of the ever-erupting “Scouse” movement, a tightly-knit posse of bands congregating at Liverpool’s Bandwagon club and creating new creatures with song-based stitches. But while bands like The Coral, The Zutons and The Bandits have one foot turned towards the Beefheart/Zappa school of avant-pummel, the pop-oriented Stands are a strictly melodic affair–becoming the outsiders in a scene made of outsiders. Their meticulously constructed tunes, however, are far more intricate than their giant, gratifying hooks imply.

“There’s a great Brian Wilson quote, when he said that Beach Boys harmonies were so confusing and so complex that it took them months to learn them–but the trick is to make it sound easy. My brother, the drummer for The Zutons, thinks we’re the most complicated band out of everyone. But it just doesn’t sound that way. The only time people notice that ‘The Way She Goes’ is in 5/4 is when they try to clap along.”

Payne honed much of his eclectic, elusive and exceptional tastes when he left his “draconian” Liverpool school at age 13 and moved to America, getting by on demolition jobs, delivering groceries and spraying perfume. He devoured Smokey Robinson and Nirvana on American radio and returned to Liverpool seven years later–gigging around with a few groups, slowly building his on-stage confidence and eventually finding people to start a band of his own. The Stands stood tall once Payne hooked up with drummer Steve Pilgrim through a mutual friend, met guitarist Luke Thompson during a football game in the park and was approached by bassist Dean Ravera after he saw an early Stands gig with a spare Zuton holding the low end.

In fall of 2002, a Scouse epidemic had Brit labels signing anyone with an accent (“You just had a drumstick and they’d give you a record deal,” says Payne). The cautious Stands recorded demos on their own time and on their own terms–holding out as long as possible so their songs and creative inertia wouldn’t be compromised by label demands and executive requests. The band convinced people to lend them money for studio time and fan/tour-mate/Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher invited The Stands to record in his magical, mysterious Wheeler End studio. The band laid tracks with whatever spare time they could wrangle–bouncing between some of their 2003 tours (The Coral, Oasis, The Libertines, Jet and The Vines) and some 250 gigs in 2003 alone.

“Every time we’d get a day off, we’d come back from Switzerland or something, I would run to the studio and start trying to do some tambourine tracks or something,” says Payne, who ended up recording the majority of All Years Leaving before signing with Brit indie Echo (home of Feeder, Moloko and Ray LaMontagne)

Since the album’s release in February, The Stands have garnered critical accolades and fan adulation. And on January 25, 2005, in a slightly remixed fashion, it will finally appear in America. Just like those songs on American radio that burrowed into an adolescent Payne’s heart through some indescribable prestidigitation, he hopes The Stands can capture the same mysterious wave that turns great songs into timeless ones.

“It’s all just playing with music, isn’t it? Chord changes that go where you don’t think they’ll go-or doing the obvious thing. But I really don’t understand what I’m doing. I just write songs and sing over them… If I could pinpoint it, I’d be a musicologist, go to university, study,” Payne laughs, “which I’m not gonna do.” Late last year The Cribs signed to the highly regarded Wichita label. The first fruit of this relationship was the very limited edition single “Baby Don’t Sweat” / “Another Number”. Both the single and the album were recorded at East London’s now legendary Toerag Studios with the band producing. The sessions were completed in eight days with some chemical assistance.