West Indian Girl Interview
By alexander laurence
There was a time when The Stone Roses and Primal Scream were seen as the coolest bands around. They were stoned and sexy and had cool songs that went on to the infinite. Those bands both inspired and fostered the shoegazer movement. West Indian Girl are a duo that are a lot like the shoegazer bands of old. But this new album is totally modern and thoroughly unique. They are akin to some LA bands of today that are spiking their drinks with something: like The Shore and Run Run Run. When I heard this record I thought at first they were an English band. It was a shock to find that they had a studio around the corner from me in Downtown LA. West Indian Girl started out as a studio project with Francis Ten and Robert James, both LA transplants from the east coast. They released their first album in September 2004. Now they have a complete five-member band and have played two-dozen shows.
Apparently the guys in West Indian Girl were inspired by rave culture too. They take the knowledge learned from psychedelic dance music and bring that into a rock format. Songs like "What Are You Afraid Of?" and "Hollywood" are totally memorable and epic. It's as if the whole grunge, neo-punk, and alternative generation never happened. They make music that sonically advanced and that is introspective. Their music re-imagines a space where music conjures up imagination and mystery. It's very blessed out music that is summery and groovy. It's a new exotic flavor in the music world.
I spoke to the original members Francis Ten and Robert James in their studio in Downtown LA right before they started their tour with Fischerspooner. They will be playing at the Henry Fonda Theater on June 1st. They will be at the Fillmore on June 4th. They will be back in Los Angeles with The Coral at The Troubadour on June 14th
AL: How did you start doing music?
Robert James: It's the only thing that we are capable of doing. I have played music since high school.
Francis Ten: I like the hours and the dress code. I have had every sort of job you could possibly have. Making music is the best one. I really hate having a boss telling me what to do. There is an article by Steve Albini where he says that you can make more money being a cashier at a 7-11 than you can in a signed band.
AL: Robert is from Detroit. Were you part of the music scene there?
Robert James: I wasn't aware of any music scene there. There have always been bands there. It's very incestuous. Eminem and Kid Rock came out of there. They were never part of any scene down there.
AL: You grew up around here?
Francis Ten: I am back east. I grew up in New Jersey and Connecticut. I just ended up in Los Angeles. It's the nicest place. It has the best weather. I went to Mexico and loved the weather.
AL: How did you meet each other?
Francis Ten: I went to school in Michigan. I was there for a few years. That is when we met. I moved to Los Angeles and we stayed in contact. We put the band together and started recording. After we had some songs we started thinking of getting a real band together.
AL: It seemed like it was a studio project at first. Now you actually have five members in the band?
Robert James: It started out as a studio thing, with me and Fran. We would invite people to play. We had the drummer play on the record. We didn't think of putting the band together at first. We thought of putting the songs together. We did everything backwards. We invited a bunch of people to audition to be in the band. The original female singer had a psychotic episode.
Francis Ten: The irony of it is that we never intended to play live. Now that we have a really good band, we are really excited to perform these songs in front of a live audience. The girl who is the new singer is great. All the guys in the band now are great people.
AL: In Los Angeles, there are all these bands like Moving Units and Autolux who have played for four or five years before they came out with an album. Your band isn't really known here as a live act. How did that happen?
Francis Ten: We didn't even play live until five months after the record came out! They are doing it all wrong. The imagination is more powerful than reality. We would tell people how great the band is going to be. They believed us. We have high standards. We like the way things sound now, but we still have so much work to do. We are still a baby as a live band.
AL: "Dreams" is one of your first songs. How do songs get written in this band?
Francis Ten: Everything takes so long in this band. It takes so long just to make a t-shirt.
Robert James: Nothing happens that fast. We have a musical idea and we work with it for a while. We are always working on songs because we know it takes a long time. We are already have songs for the next record.
AL: You started this band about three years ago?
Francis Ten: We worked on the first album and then waited a year for it to come out.
AL: Do you write lyrics or music first?
Robert James: It's always music first, and then the lyrics come out of the sounds. The song dictates what style the lyrics are going to be. There is an emotion that you get sonically. The lyrics follow that emotion.
AL: How did you come to the idea that maybe you would have a female singer on some of the tracks?
Robert James: In the studio we were experimenting. We thought "Hey, what if we had a girl sing this part." We invited a friend to do something. We said, "That's not bad." Then we invited someone else to see what see could do. We experimented with a lot of people.
AL: Where did you record this?
Francis Ten: We recorded it in the basement of a studio where I used to live. It was really nice. Then we moved to a garage at someone's house in the Hollywood Hills. We recorded some stuff in Nickel Canyon. We rented a house and lived there for eight months. We moved the studio to Downtown LA in May 2004. We are getting by. Being in a band is like funding your own independent movie.
AL: How many shows have you played?
Francis Ten: Seventeen. We have played the Troubadour three times. We have been to San Francisco a few times. We have been to Seattle. We have done the whole West Coast. We have been really lucky. We have had a good turnout for every show. The last show at the Troubadour sold out. I think that some bands play in Los Angeles too much. You can't expect your fans and friends to show up to shows every week.
Robert James: Some bands are playing the same exact set every night. We try to spice it up.
AL: Have you played the East Coast?
Francis Ten: No. This tour with Fischerspooner will be our first shows over there. The furthest East we have played was in Texas at some SXSW shows.
AL: How many shows can you play in LA during a month?
Robert James: It's unsure how many shows you can get away with here. People who go to shows at the Troubadour are not the same people who show up at Spaceland. There are different scenes. There is an underground dance scene in Downtown LA that we are starting to get into. Those shows are very different from ones at a rock venue. Some people only go to clubs in Silverlake.
Francis Ten: Our next show in LA is going to be at Cine-space. We are playing as a support act to Fischerspooner and The Coral. The Cine-space show is going to be great. It is a great place for visuals. We have a whole visual side to our shows. We aren't going to have a visual show with Fischerspooner. But the Cine-space show we will.
Robert James: There are bands that play the Echo, and then two weeks later, play Spaceland.
AL: I think that Mitchell Frank started having residencies at Spaceland two years ago. He has the same band play every Monday night. A few venues there do that.
Robert James: That's cool.
AL: How did you get to open for the Fischerspooner tour?
Francis Ten: We were submitted for the tour. They had to choose a band. They heard our CD and they were cool with it.
AL: It's funny because your song "Hollywood" sounds a lot like the new Fischerspooner album.
Francis Ten: I don't think they heard till they started arranging this tour. It's going to be interesting. They have never played as a live band. They have a six-piece band.
AL: What is your set like now?
Francis Ten: We are playing seven songs from the new album. We throw in new songs here and there. We change the songs every night.
Robert James: The songs have evolved from since we did the record. They were studio pieces. When we started playing them with a live band they grew into grander pieces.
Francis Ten: "Hollywood" has a whole new middle section. "Trip" has a whole new end section. We just jam on the end. We have new beginnings of songs. People are surprised because we cut loose and reinvent the songs. "What Are You Afraid Of?" is a very heavy song when we play it live. The songs have gotten better.
AL: What do you think about musical influences?
Robert James: Everyone in a band has influences. I think a real band somehow hides them. You can hide them by having members coming from different places and having different influences, and by doing that you can create something original. You have a chemistry in bands that allows that to happen.
AL: A lot of retro 1980s bands use sounds that are already familiar and are sort of musical cliches. You can hear a synth sound and go "That was already used on all the records."
Francis Ten: Whenever we recognize anything like that, it's time to stop. Some bands get a sound that sounds cool, like some other record, and they just stick with it.
Robert James: We have a lot more people in the band now. We have to make everyone happy. To get people involved in the song, you have to take the song to a whole new place. We all have our own ideas about music and how it should be. If one person created all the sounds it might seem more derivative, and the influences would seem more obvious. Since we are bouncing ideas off one another, it forces us to come up with something more unique.
AL: "West Indian Girl" was named after a type of LSD. Did people think that you were this drug band?
Robert James: Yeah. Early on people made the assumption that we were a drug band. But every band could be a drug band. What band doesn't use drugs at some point, except those straight edge punk bands.
Francis Ten: It was a cop out. It was an easy category for journalists to put us into. If you see our live show we can fit in with a lot of different bands. Just look who we have played with: all sorts of bands like Gomez, Fischerspooner, and Phoenix.
AL: You are playing some shows with The Coral.
Francis Ten: We might be playing some shows with Turin Brakes. It didn't sit well with me that we were written off as some drug band. It's not like any of us are taking AcidÉ now!
Robert James: Maybe we should have never told anyone that the name had to do with Acid?
AL: Did Jimi Hendrix really play guitar on Acid?
Francis Ten: Apparently. They said that the baseball pitcher Bill Lee pitched a no-hitter on LSD. Who knows?
AL: People do use drugs at live shows. Half the shows I go to now someone lights up a joint next to me.
Francis Ten: I am all for it. I would like to pass out joints at the door. Our music is adaptable to every drug.
Robert James: If you don't harm anybody, why not?
AL: This record could be for many moods and experiences?
Robert James: Some guy told me that it was the ultimate record him and his girlfriend to make love to. That was the ultimate compliment.
AL: Have you read any good books lately?
Francis Ten: I just read your site, The Portable Infinite. That was cool.
Robert James: I read 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. I read The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama.
AL: Do you have any other hobbies?
Francis Ten: I spend a lot of time on our blog.
AL: I was just looking at that today. I saw the pictures of the new video.
Francis Ten: I just posted those last night. It took me three hours. The director was this guy called Eastern Bloc. I was driving from there to meet you. I was stuck in traffic. The video looks amazing. It looks like a real expensive video. For the budget they had it was really great. The location was amazing itself. All those huge mustard fields. They filmed it with these huge cranes. They filmed us a football field away.
Robert James: Astralwerks is going to freak out. They didn't spend a lot of money on the video. The team pulled it together to make it seem like a huge budget. We had a bunch of friends and fans in the video too.
AL: Was anyone from this FHM magazine in the video? Are any of these hot 100 girls a fan of the band?
Robert James: I gave Eva Longonria a CD. This was before Desperate Housewives. Later she became huge.
AL: She is number 38. Mischa Barton goes to a lot of shows in LA. Are you on any of those compilations?
Francis Ten: We are on the show Tree Hill. It is right before The OC. It was a surprise. We are a new band on Astralwerks. How many people have heard the other American bands on Astralwerks? It's good to get people to hear your music.
AL: What do you think of the band, My Bloody Valentine?
Francis Ten: I am into the album Loveless. They have some hypnotic elements. We share a similar spice rack.
Robert James: West Indian Girl is a big stew. There is some My Bloody Valentine swimming around for sure.
6/02 San Diego, CA - House Of Blues - w/Fischerspooner
6/03 Anaheim, CA - House Of Blues - w/Fischerspooner
6/04 San Francisco - Fillmore - w/Fischerspooner
6/04 Sacramento, CA - Sacramento Heritage Festival
6/14 Los Angeles - Troubadour - w/The Coral
6/15 San Francisco - Slims - w/The Coral
6/17 Seattle - Crocodile - w/The Coral
mariqueen maandig reznor
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Peter Hayes: guitar, bass, vocals Robert Turner: guitar, bass, vocals Nick Jago: drums, percussion
The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club began in 1998. They are a San Francisco-based group who have been performing constantly since that time . The group's distinct sound is a mixture of hard rock and psychedelia. The introspective lyrics and inventive musicianship separate them from the noise of their contemporaries. Their debut record came out in April and has since become one of the most talked about records of the year.
The band has many noticeable influences including Bob Dylan, The Stones, Joy Division, Velvet Underground, as well as more recent bands such as Ride and The Stone Roses. The B.R.M.C. named themselves after Marlon Brando's motorcycle gang in the 1950 movie 'The Wild One'. Originally The group was originally named The Elements. Robert and Peter met in high school. It was there that they started writing and playing together making four-track recordings in their tiny garage.
They needed a drummer to complete the group. In 1998 they met drummer Nick Jago and began recording together. They recorded a full-length demo with no record label backing. In the summer of 1999 the band concentrated on Los Angeles, playing live relentlessly for the next six months and becoming one of the most talked about bands in LA. Their music is dark, heavy, and mesmerizing. I was able to talk to them on the phone while they were in Seattle. They are currently just starting a tour with Warlocks and Vue.
AL: How did you first start the band?
Robert: I met Peter in high school and we were always talking about forming a band. We had played in a few bands before this. We had a few different names. We played in one band called Wave. There were several people involved. We had no songs. We would just show up with equipment and start playing. Some songs lasted thirty minutes. Peter and I always wanted to do more song based stuff.
AL: You were involved with Brian Jonestown's Massacre. How did that happen?
Robert: Every musician seems to have been in that band at some point. We played with Anton for about a year. It was always temporary. When we met Nick Jago, we were able to quit these previous bands and concentrate on our own material. We recorded a demo. That was floating around for a while and people were quickly interested in what we were doing. People like The Dandy Warhols heard it. Soon, we were playing with them. They took a chance on us. We love playing live with other groups.
AL: Were you listening to some of the stuff that Anton of Brian Jonestown Massacre was into, like Spaceman 3 and Spiritualized?
Robert: I like those records. But Anton is a big music fan and he has moved on and is into new things. That time with Anton was really good and we played some really great shows. You'd have to catch up with him on his new ideas.
AL: When did you start recording the album?
Robert: We started with the demo. At the same time we were playing a ton of shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco. We developed very fast as a live act and we wrote a lot of songs. We were trying to make something happen and get the message out. We soon got a lot of attention from the record companies. It was good. We were able to do the music the way we wanted to. We produced the record ourselves because it felt right.
AL: You were talking before about Wave. Is there an improvisational aspect to the music of BRMC?
Robert: Yeah, it may seem that way. We try many things out in the studio. But we are songwriters. Our music has hooks and melodies. It's not just spontaneous. There's a lot of substance to the songs. The songs have a mysterious edge to them as far as their content and sound, and what they are about.
AL: I just bought the Joy Division box set, Heart and Soul. I was reading the booklet. They were saying how Ian Curtis would be able to spot a tune just in rehearsal. They weren't taping it but he could find the songs in just what they were playing. Songs like "24 Hours" or "Digital" were songs that Curtis noticed. They could have just forgotten them.
Robert: I like Joy Division. I am going to let you talk to Nick because he's a big Joy Division fan. We do this all the time.
Nick: This is Nick.
AL: I was just talking about Joy Division and how Ian Curtis could spot a good tune. I was wondering if BRMC is anything like that?
Nick: Peter and Robert are great songwriters and we have a lot of ideas.
AL: In Joy Division the bass guitar is lead instrument and the other musicians react to that.
Nick: That is brilliant. I do that instinctively because I am presented these songs by the other members.
AL: Some of your songs get into a groove that's like a car wreck. They go off into the wilderness. You guys are really into feedback and noise.
Nick: Yeah. That's important to our sound. We have a very natural response to each other. We have a similar vision and many of the same influences. I went to art school. I think that I listen to more music than the other members. After school, I just got back into music and playing drums. Noise and texture is very important.
AL: There is atmosphere to your music which recalls taking drugs?
Nick: I guess there is an aspect there. We aren't a drug band. You don't really need to take drugs to enjoy the music. You could. I play drums so it's very important for me to be sober.
AL: What about some of these other bands you are linked with, like The Strokes? They seem to be like a band from 1977, dropped right in the middle of now.
Nick: We played with them a few times. They are good. I can't see how you could NOT like them. They are really good at what they do.
AL: Are there any bands you've played with that you especially like and respect?
Nick: The Strokes. We are playing with The Warlocks and Vue on this upcoming tour. I like what they do. I am looking forward to playing with them. The shows should be really good. People should like it.
AL: The record came out a while ago, but there are more and more people getting into BRMC and going to the shows. Why is that?
Nick: We sort of deliberately did it that way. We released the record sort of quietly. Then we started doing a few different tours. Every few months more people would show up at the same venues. We have been across the US about six times this year. We went to Europe too. Through word of mouth we built a following. We just want to keep on playing and see what happens.
AL: How have the shows been?
Nick: They have been great.
AL: What's the rest of the year like and when are you going to put out another record.
Nick: Well, we will finish this tour. We will play into early next year. Then next Spring we will think about recording.
BRMC plays tonight at the Little Radio party.
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by Alexander Laurence
It was Bloomsday and I had nothing better to do than do an interview with Irish singer, twenty-five year old Gemma Hayes. Usually I celebrate by drinking a few beers and reading a few pages of Ulysses. I had heard about Gemma Hayes from other musicians like Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse. I heard Gemma's song "Ran For Miles" and was interested. It was only after I heard the full record Night On MY Side, that I was surprised by her range and scope. She seemed inspired by the disparate music of My Bloody Valentine and Joni Mitchell. Her looks alone are impressive. I was looking forward to an interview. She finally played in America in June 2003 and her live show was even better.
Gemma Hayes played locally in Tipperary and Ireland for years and there was big label interest. But she held off for years until a record label took her serious on her own terms. She finally signed to the Source label on the strength of a demo that lacked any photos, Hayes, released the five-song 4.35AM EP. This EP impressed the critics, and lead to tours with Sparklehorse, Mark Eitzel, and David Gray. Hayes released a second EP that was more electronic and rocking, which confused many people who had her pegged as a singer/songwriter. Hayes began recording her debut full-length with Dave Fridmann in 2002. Night On My Side came out in the U.K. in summer 2002, and it was issued in the America in early 2003.
Gemma is playing at the Troubadour on May 26th, 2005.
AL: The American tour has went well?
Gemma: I like places like Boulder, Colorado. We had to drive around places like Nebraska and half the band are vegetarians. The tour has gone great. I am just happy to be here. I couldn't understand why I was doing a headlining tour even of small clubs in America. Because I was thinking who the hell is going to come along and hear me. I didn't know who was going to travel that far to see the shows. So far we have had a great response to each show.
AL: How did the Field Day event go in Giants Stadium?
Gemma: It was thrown together. I played in the parking lot of Giants Stadium. That was a dream of mine. It went really well. Rain poured down from the heavens, but that just added to the "throw away" feel of the gig. People started to get into it. We made it into a really short rock set.
AL: Did you play under a tent?
Gemma: No. It was pissing rain. The stage was flooded. All our gear was flooded. We just got into the spirit of it.
AL: How many people are in your band?
Gemma: I have a five-piece band. The album is not something I can get up and play acoustically. I could probably play about half of it acoustically by myself. To get the full feel of the album you need a full proper band. There was talk of me just coming over here and doing things acoustically. That would have been very hard. Luckily I was able to bring everyone with me on the road: that is better for me mentally and health wise.
AL: You have grown up with images of America in films and books. How has it matched up to ideas of it?
Gemma: I always wanted to travel across America on a bus from east to west, playing my music. Now that has come true. I sort of pictured more dirt roads. You know when the guy and girl are driving in a convertible and the roads just seem to go on forever. We have seen more highways and petrol stations. I am usually asleep most of the time. I wake up every morning and I am in a different place. It is amazing. I woke up in Chicago and I always wanted to go there. I basically woke up, had lunch, did my soundcheck, did the gig, got on the bus and left. I didn't get to see much of Chicago at all. I wish I had more time so I would get to know each city.
AL: You have been playing quite a while now. You didn't rush into things. Why did you wait so long to sign a record deal and put out a record?
Gemma: There are a bunch of reasons actually. Five years ago when I was nineteen, a bunch of big record labels were interested in me. I think that they were looking for something a bit more accessible and commercial. They talked about changing my image and getting me in with a bunch of pop songwriters. It wasn't where I wanted to be. I had a drive to do my own music. While it might be outright pop, I wanted still to try to carve out my own path. I gave up on record labels because they always wanted to work more on my image rather than my music. At that time I had a few friends in music. They started doing their albums on their own. They would just arrange distribution deals instead. That seemed like the way to go. You could just do your own thing and not have people nag you over radio singles. Then Source came along who are French record label that are known for dance music. They liked what I did and didn't care about image. I took a chance and it worked out.
AL: When did you do the 4.35AM EP?
Gemma: That was the first thing I did on Source. I wasn't ready to do an album yet. I wasn't musically or mentally ready to do an album. I was just trying to get used to the idea of having a record out. I wanted to build a foundation up slowly, as opposed to having a record by this girl who nobody knows, then shoving her face on a whole bunch of posters. The first EP was mad. It was the first time I had put out anything. It was the first time I was reviewed in newspapers. I read some of these. By the time the album came out I learned a lot and by the time the album came out I was tougher. I formed a leathery skin so nothing would get to me, which was probably a good thing.
AL: The second EP was very different from the first.
Gemma: Yeah. That's really strange. People used to think that it was a premeditated agenda where you put out an acoustic thing and everyone thinks that you are Jewel, and then you put out a more band-oriented thing. The same band that is playing on first EP is playing on the second EP. The second EP we had more money. I could actually have the band stay in the studio longer so that we could do more songs. It was a money thing. Also, before the second EP I had just written a bunch of up-tempo songs. It was just something that happened. There was not a lot of thought going into it. There was a good mood in the studio. It was more upbeat for me, which is probably more downbeat for everyone else.
AL: You were always doing rock songs?
Gemma: I have been playing with bands for five years. It's been a very long time since I was just an acoustic act. It's always been a mixture of acoustic and rock. Always! The one thing that annoyed me about the record labels at the start was that they told me to choose. You can't be both. You have to either be acoustic and do a folk album, or be rock and do a rock album. I couldn't understand that mentality. Hang on a minute. Music is free. There are no rules in music. Why should I have to do anything? They wanted me to do that I think because they wanted their life easier, so I would be easier to market and be put in a category. The people who I like, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, they did acoustic and they did rock. It's a normal thing. Some songs sound better acoustically. Some songs need a bit of "umpf" to them.
AL: The American version of Night On My Side is split on into the day side and the night side. What was that about?
Gemma: That's right. The album really sticks out and it doesn't fit in comfortably anywhere. People started to have problems. To this day, I don't understand what is so difficult. People would say, "You do two different styles of music." And I would say I don't. I just do songs, some are low key and some are loud.
AL: Some have more guitars.
Gemma: So I said all the songs that are loud and have guitars on them: let's call that daytime music. The songs that are mellow and down tempo: let's call that nighttime music. For those people who find it difficult and the record label who think it's a hard fit, I'll call the it night and day, which are still parts of the same day. It works really. For the American release, there were some songs that I wasn't happy with. So it was a chance to change the artwork and track listing. Maybe we should push this day and night thing even more and actually split it into two CDs? They didn't do that.
AL: What was it like working with Dave Fridmann and Tarbox Studio?
Gemma: It was brilliant and mad. The studio is in the forest in the middle of nowhere. It's in a log cabin. He kept freaking me out. He kept telling me that there was a cult that lived there in the forest. He said that bears come around at night. I had to stay there by myself at night. Dave is a lovely guy and not one bit intimidating. I was afraid because Dave Fridmann has a definite sound as a producer and engineer. I could listen to one of his records and know it is he. Just the sound of the cymbals, drums and mellotron. We had a discussion before we made the album. I said look I don't want this to become a Dave Fridmann project. I want this to be about my sound as well. I have built up a sound with my band. We have really worked hard at it. I don't want it all to be taken away. I think it worked really well. People might think that I went up to Tarbox with an acoustic guitar, and Dave built this sound around me. It's not the case. My band has been with me for years and they need credit for arrangements.
AL: What is biggest obstacle you had to overcome with doing music?
Gemma: For me, it has got to do with confidence really. I was fine for years to play music by myself. It took a lot for me to get up on stage and allow people to have their own opinions: and go, she's crap or she's really good. I feel a real struggle with entertaining. I am very comfortable in the studio or making music at my own pace. When it comes to getting up on stage and playing in front of people, it still freaks the hell out of me. I haven't done a gig where I haven't gotten sick with nerves beforehand. I did some shows recently in New York, and some press was there and the record label was there. Some people from the record label have never heard me play before. I don't understand why they come up to me after the show and say, "Oh Gemma, such and such is here." Why the fuck are you telling me this? I am trying to put in my mind that this is just a gig. Onstage I am crapping myself. Then it wore off and I just get into the music. The other night we were in Minnesota and it was one the best shows we ever did. I just got up onstage and I was full of confidence and full of beans. It was great.
AL: What does your family think of your record?
Gemma: Some of them like it. They have a lot of strong opinions and they always let me know about them. My sister wishes it was more pop. She goes "Come on, Gemma, play the game. Write a bunch of pop songs. Make your money. Then make the album that doesn't fit in anywhere." I have another sister who supports everything I do. She works at a radio station and she is constantly plugging my stuff. My parents are quite old and they like the quiet stuff.
AL: It's Bloomsday in Ireland today. Do you have any experiences of it?
Gemma: Just pick a day in the month and that's an excuse to drink. There are tour buses that go around Ireland and stop around at the pubs and bars where Irish poets and artists used to hang out at and talk. So you go there and sit a the table where they sat at, and you drink, and then you go to another pub. There's a bunch of plaques all over town. There's a tower and it says James Joyce lived here. There is a building right off Stephen's Green in the middle of Dublin where W. B. Yeats lived. Now they're just offices. Because I lived there, I am too close to actually see it. It's like when I went to Chicago, and asked them about a building. What is that museum like? They said, "Oh, I have never been in there. I live here and I don't care."
AL: What was it like being nominated for The Mercury Prize?
Gemma: It was amazing. It actually took me a few months after it all happened, to relax and allow myself a pat on the back. It's something nobody can take away from me. It happened and it was really cool. I was a massive fan of the awards ceremony anyway. It's one of the special nominations because it's not broken up into best band and best female. It's just twelve albums that they chose for the year and people should go get them. To be part of those twelve albums is amazing. To be alongside people like David Bowie did a lot for the old ego.
AL: I can't remember who won last year.
Gemma: I'll never forget. Ms. Dynamite won. I think she is great but I was so jealous. Her table was next to mine. I was just happy to be nominated. No bullshit. But just as they were opening up the envelope I thought: "Oh, come one, wouldn't it be so nice?" Then they announced her name and all the cameras were on the everyone to see their reaction. I had a pain in my cheeks from smiling. Okay take the camera off please. I am happy for her.
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Here is a bunch of Louis XIV for you to enjoy.
http://suicidegirls.com/LouisXIV/ - this is the video for "Paper Doll."
It's been featured on the Suicide Girls website for a short while now - you may have seen it already. If not, it's a great video featuring some of the Suicide Girls. Not safe for work. The video was directed by Eon McKai, best known for his films "Art School Sluts" and "Kill Girl Kill." Check out these sites if you want to find out more. Definitely not safe for work.
Audio for the new single: God Killed the Queen - Audio real http://mfile.akamai.com/9139/rm/warnermusi1.download.akamai.com/12529/streams/atleeg/atlrec/louis_xiv/godkilledthequeen-rm-full.rm
And finally, upcoming tour dates.
5/23 - 6/10 on tour w/ THE KILLERS
Fri June 24 - LA (Avalon) Sat June 25
Fri July 29 - San Diego, CA (Street Scene)
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This happened in November 2000
I feel more comfortable in Manchester than in London. Manchester and Liverpool have a complete hatred of each other. A genetic rivalry. The population of Liverpool has gone down every year for the last forty years, but recently it stabilized. There's been a lot of redevelopment. In a way, what we do reflects how Liverpool has changed.
There is also a lineage with the musical past, especially the early 1980s, like The Teardrop Explodes. People in England have a fixed expectation of what Liverpool produces, specifically Beatles influenced guitar bands, which is sort sometimes true but there's a lot more out there than that.
I sent an email message to the person who did it and asked them if they had any more Ladytron stuff. They said, "No." Then we had a series of messages back and forth and I told them that I was actually in the band. And they wouldn't believe me.
I checked back on Napster a few weeks later and the content had multiplied. One song appeared off of this Japanese mini-album we had done. Some of the tracks off this will be on the album coming out in January. Well, I saw one track and thought that's weird. Then a few minutes later there were two more songs. So this guy was in the process of ripping off all the songs on the CD. This panicked me because it wasn't out yet. It was out in Japan but we deliberately kept it away from the rest of the world. We didn't want to take any of the impact off the album. I thought that was scary. I felt that someone had gotten into my computer and taken these songs out.
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Saturday, July 16th
Death From Above 1979
The Go ! Team
Broken Social Scene
Magnolia Electric Co.
Beans Featuring The Holy Fuck
Head of Femur
Sunday, July 17th
Les Savy Fav
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I was hanging out with West Indian Girl this week. Interview following:
5/20 Mercury Lounge - New York, NY
5/21 Tower Theatre - Philadelphia, PA - Bob Mould, Son Volt, and My Morning Jacket
6/01 Los Angeles, CA - Henry Fonda - w/Fischerspooner
6/02 San Diego, CA - House Of Blues - w/Fischerspooner
6/03 Anaheim, CA - House Of Blues - w/Fischerspooner
6/04 San Francisco - Fillmore - w/Fischerspooner
6/04 Sacramento, CA - Sacramento Heritage Festival
6/14 Los Angeles - Troubadour - w/The Coral
6/15 San Francisco - Slims - w/The Coral
6/17 Seattle - Crocodile - w/The Coral
Photos: West Indian Girl
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Long-View is a new band with enough advance warning. Their debut record has
been out a while, July 2003, in the UK. British music lovers here in the USA
have been hearing good things about this Manchester band for a long time, and
probably downloaded many of the tunes. Even though they have been playing for
over three years now, only now are they having an American release. It’s been
worth the wait. The first song “Further” introduces their brand of universal
rock to our shores. With Coldplay and Snow Patrol doing well here, it’s no
wonder that Long-View have been thrust upon the crowded scene. They are played SXSW
and impressed just about everyone. I saw them at the Viper Room during their
first LA show and they were amazing.
The band are Rob McVey (vocal/guitar), Matt Dabbs (drums), Doug Morch
(guitar), and Aidan Banks (bass guitar). They are all over England but met up in
Manchester in 2001.
Some of the songs like “When You Sleep” and “In A Dream” have a more
aggressive sound that suggest some of the shoegazer bands. “Still” is an amazing
song that sends shivers through my body. It promises, “Good times are coming.”
This band definitely has what it takes to find an audience. It sounds sincere.
They may be for this year what bands like Snow Patrol and Keane were last
year. This may be one of the great records that we are still talking about in six
months. They seem concerned with making a mark in America. There has already
been one successful tour in March and April 2005. They are returning in June
with the band Embrace. I spoke to Rob McVey recently.
Long-View performs in Los Angeles with Embrace on June 22 at The
AL: How did you meet the rest of the guys in the band Long-View?
Rob: When I was 19 I moved from the south of England to the north, to
Manchester to start a band. I went on me own. I had that romantic vision of starting
a band there. It worked. I met Matt who was studying at Music College there.
And Aidan and Doug were hanging around. I was doing a music degree as well. In
England, you get a little money from the government. That is how I removed
myself from suburban southern England. I was pretending to be studying music, but
what I really wanted to do was meet musicians and start a band. Manchester is
a good place for that.
AL: Did you move to Manchester because it was “Manchester” or was that just
where you were accepted to college?
Rob: Yeah, I moved there because it was “Manchester.” There are so many
bands from there. Bands like Joy Division, New Order, Oasis, Doves, Elbow, so many
band that I loved. I wanted to go to Manchester because of that history, but
I also wanted to get away from the south as far as I could. Manchester was
AL: You didn’t like suburban England?
Rob: It’s not so much that I didn’t like it. It was because you have to be
surrounded by musicians and venues if you want to start a band. Suburban
England doesn’t have that. You have to venture to the bigger cities. When you write
music you find so many interesting things to write about in the suburbs. There
is a sense of hope out there in the suburban dreariness. Half of Britain
lives like that. You have those sorts of people. You have a McDonalds and a
Woolworths and shops and schools. But there are no venues. It’s very typical and
comfortable. I am very uncomfortable with comfort. I grew up an hour outside
AL: When did the band start to happen?
Rob: We were playing around Manchester as a three-piece. We were playing tons
of shows. We had residencies. We were trying to make money. Matt and I would
get 25 pounds for playing in a club till two in the morning on a Wednesday. We
would play just anything. All the time I was writing songs. I was going
around putting up posters for extra members. A person, Ben Durling, spotted us from
Nude Records. I was 21 years old at the time. We were signed to Nude Records
and then the record company went bust. He became our manager. A year later we
got the final member in the band, Doug. Then we started to gel. We did four
shows and then we were signed again.
AL: You played with Elbow a lot in the early days?
Rob: Yeah. Guy from Elbow was at a lot of our first shows when we were a
three-piece. I didn’t know who he was. But Manchester is a very small place and
you bump into people all the time. Elbow was unsigned at that time too. I
actually met Doug, from Long-View, at an Elbow video shoot. Elbow had all their
friends down for the video shoot. That is how I met Doug. You find liked minded
people there in Manchester.
AL: The first single “Further" came out in the UK three years ago.
Rob: That’s right. We released it as a demo. When we got the fourth member we
had a bunch of songs, so we decided to spend some money to make a demo. That
first version of “Further” was the demo that we were signed on. It was a
four-song demo that had “Further” and “falling For You” and two other songs.
When we got signed we thought it would be cool to put out the demo, because we
had recorded it ourselves.
AL: The album came out a whole ago in the UK. It’s only coming out now in
Rob: It’s been out in the UK for a year and a half. The story with America is
that we were playing a show with Elbow in Manchester. Matt Pinfield from
Columbia Records came to the show. We were having coffee with him the next
morning. When you are in a band that is how it works. You never know when these
albums are going to come out elsewhere. You never think about going Transatlantic.
It just took that long for America to catch on. We didn’t have to play one
show in America. Matt Pinfield found us and signed us up. That was more real than
playing a showcase to a bunch of corporate types.
AL: Matt Pinfield is known in America for being a host on MTV. Now he is like
an A&R guy. He can fit in over there in the UK because he looks like a
Rob: Yeah, I didn’t know who he was. He should be wearing a Celtic shirt.
He’s a good guy. He was a fan of the band. It took a year for the American deal
to go through.
AL: Your band started at the same time bands like The Strokes, The White
Stripes, and The Libertines were getting a lot of attention in the media. What do
you think about them?
Rob: That’s a good question. We weren’t really part of that. I think that
The Strokes have some good songs, but many of the spin-off bands from that were
just rubbish. It was just all style. It was weird to get signed at that period
because all the record labels were trying to hunt down all the new Libertines
or the new Strokes. We were against that. We wanted to write songs that were
real to us. And “NYC Cops” was not real to us. The Strokes are great
songwriters. Many of the bands that were part of that scene weren’t. When we got
signed we wanted to not record an album in that sort of fashion. The White Stripes
recorded their album at Toe Rag Studios in London. It was all about trashy
sounds. Although they did it well, most bands did it badly. The whole trend went
that way. We decided to go to Seattle to do our album. We wanted to sound like
something that was akin to a scene. We wanted to transcend the scene by using
the best sounds we could get.
AL: How do you write the songs in the band? How does the process go?
Rob: Where do songs come from? Sometimes they fall in your lap. You think
“God, that is a real song.” The songs usually start with an acoustic guitar and
an idea of a sentiment. A good songwriter captures a sentiment. That’s the art
of it. The talent is spotting when a feeling happens and trying to reflect on
things you see around you. A song starts with me on acoustic guitar. Then I
take it to the band and we exaggerate it, to emphasize the point of the song.
It’s important to create something that you are connected to.
AL: What are you songs about? Are they about your life or catching general
feelings that are in the air?
Rob: You try to be inspired by what is around you. I like how John Lennon
tried to put into words what everyone was thinking. It’s a talent to translate
what everyone felt. I can’t say that we do that successfully. But what we do is
find a sentiment and nail it down. Whatever that may be: nostalgia or hope.
But to do that with things we know about, like with suburban England, or that
sense of nostalgia when the seasons change, or with the feeling of loss. I think
that music and art should deal with sentiments. That is what we are trying to
do. Hopefully it will be something inspired. We are not trying to invent
ourselves with a gimmick. We are not a novelty band.
AL: What is a good example of that?
Rob: I read an article recently that said the Kaiser Chiefs were searching
for inspiration in their shallow lives. Like most other bands they were creating
something new. I didn’t agree with that at all. I think that you have to
write about what you got and what is inspired. It might be boring but at least
it’s inspired. It’s far shallower to create some scenario to write some music
about. Bob Dylan once said “The world doesn’t need anymore songs, unless you
have something to say.”
AL: Will your next record be different?
Rob: I am really proud of the first album. I wrote Mercury during a certain
part of my life. I was 19 years old when I started and 22 years old when it was
done. I had a lot of hope. I was young and naïve. I wanted that naivety to
come across in the record. There is a kind of beauty in the passing of those
late teenage years. For the next record I would like to be inspired by what is
happening in my life now. I have traveled around the world. I know so much more
now than when I wrote Mercury. I want to write about whatever pain that I feel
now. I think that the record will be darker. One song we have done is called
“Coming Down.” It was something that we worked on in the rehearsal room. We ha
ve just started thinking about the next record.
AL: How has the first tour of America been?
Rob: It’s been amazing. It’s a young country. We have seen so much.
Everything from seeing a person get run over by a car to having our gear stolen. We
had our crew locked up in prison. It was amazing going to these places like New
Orleans and Dallas. There is certain similarities with England and parts of
America. It’s been a new experience. We had all guitars stolen in Dallas. There
is a buzz in the air.
AL: How did the remixes happen?
Rob: That happened naturally. A guy named Ulrich Schnauss made it. It was by
friends of the band.
AL: And Depeche Mode?
Rob: We did a cover of the song “Stripped.” We thought that we could add
something to that song. We put it out as a limited edition. It was funny. One of
the papers didn’t realize that it was a Depeche Mode song and slagged us off
completely. They said something like “McVey’s lyrics have slipped tremendously
on this song.” I had a good laugh. It was a vehicle for our second album. The
sound change was good to put it through a cover version rather than one of
our own songs, and being laid bare. By doing that song, it let us move towards
how we see our direction going. We could do that without giving away the crown
AL: What do you think of people putting on Long-View records as come down
music after a big night out?
Rob: When I used to come home from parties I used to put on shoegazer stuff
like Ride or Slowdive or Verve. These are albums that I love. Whatever people
want to use my songs for I am into it, as long as it’s not for a doormat.
AL: What is this summer going to be like?
Rob: We are going to be touring America. We might play some shows with
Idlewild. We played Glastonbury last year. We are going to concentrate on America
for a while.
Upcoming June 2005 shows:
Thu 06/16/05 Seattle, WA Crocodile Cafe
Fri 06/17/05 Portland, OR Douglas Fir Lounge
Sat 06/18/05 Reno, NV Satellite Bar
Sun 06/19/05 Sacramento, CA Harlow's
Mon 06/20/05 San Francisco, CA The Independent
Wed 06/22/05 Hollywood, CA The Troubadour
Thu 06/23/05 San Diego, CA Epicentre
Fri 06/24/05 Tempe, AZ The Clubhouse
Sun 06/26/05 Denver, CO Larimer Lounge
Mon 06/27/05 Lawrence, KS The Bottleneck
Tue 06/28/05 Minneapolis, MN Ascot Room @ Quest Club
Thu 06/30/05 Chicago, IL Double Door
Fri 07/01/05 Detroit, MI The Shelter
Sun 07/03/05 Nashville, TN 3rd & Lindsley
Tue 07/05/05 N. Charleston, SC Centre Stage @ The Plex
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