EYES OUT FOR LADYHAWKE
Are there ghosts messing with Ladyhawke’s head? She talks to Jane McConnell about being skint, being famous and the paranornal.
LADYHAWKE nicked her stage name from the title of the 1985 medieval fantasy film, and although professing to love cinema, she actually came across the word on her computer whilst she lived in Melbourne, Australia.
“I was online when I came across it. Then I remembered the film Ladyhawke. It just felt right, like a light that went ‘ding!’”
It’s proven a useful persona for the mellow 28-year-old who is finding that her music and life is attracting more attention by the week.
“It helps having my name as Ladyhawke. There’s no character. We’re exactly the same but it separates it for me mentally. It’s funny. I never thought in a million years I’d have ever heard myself talk about myself being in a position where I have to keep my private life private,” she says, with a delicate demeanour that could easily be mistaken for timidity.
Before becoming Ladyhawke, Pip Brown, a New Zealander, had been in bands since she was 13. “Okay then, so it wasn’t a cool band! I was in like, the brass band and I played drums. I was in my first proper grunge band at 15. Ever since then, I’ve always been in a band. There hasn’t been a moment when I haven’t played an instrument.”
It was only relatively recently that she wandered into axe territory: “For the last seven years my main instrument has been guitar.”
Ladyhawke first trained as a percussionist. Her parents found that she had a certain flair for music and painting. She says: “It always got encouraged in me. I was never an academic as far as maths and science went.” Pip progressed to university and studied design, majoring in illustration before changing to photography, and did a minor in digital video production – but she never abandoned her passion for musicianship. “I wasn’t going to leave uni and be a photographer, I just thought it would be a tool that would come in handy in my music career!”
As a guitarist, her stage presence is resolute and she’s finally been able to achieve the live atmosphere she wants. Like the classic suffering artist, Ladyhawke drifted around skint – oftentimes with nowhere to live – before making it.
“I always wanted to be a bit of a vagrant with my guitar, playing music at every opportunity. You hear of broke musicians… so yeah I was broke to begin with. Luckily I’m in a position now where I can pay musicians to play with me on stage.” Her eyes widen: “Though I can’t take that for granted – it could go tomorrow, it could all be over,” before supping more beer.
This pessimism is unwarranted as her career has flourished since the release of her debut album. She’s been confirmed for the festivals too – she can’t say which ones, exactly, but a sly cough won’t deter this article from claiming she’ll be at Glasto.
Onto less libellous subject-matter, Ladyhawke talks about where the ideas for lyrics come from. Everyone knows the story behind ‘Paris Is Burning’…but can all the lyrics be true?
“Yeah,” she says, “or they’re musings. Or little sections of my brain that entertain me, like Dusk Till Dawn and my…slight obsession with the paranormal!”
This particular dressing room at the Apollo isn’t spooky, but its tea-stained walls and dust-spewing red furniture probably holds the wisdom from ghosts of rock ‘n’ roll past.
“I wish I could see ghosts. But I know that ghosts don’t exist. I just really want to see one. You know how every kid is scared of kids and monsters and what’s under the bed? It’s followed my into my adulthood. I haven’t really let go of that, I like living in a fantasy world because…” Ladyhawke looks at the walls.
“I think it makes me more interesting! Or just crazy.”
It’s heartening: despite the glamour of worldwide critical acclaim, sell-out gigs and the constant jetting around and despite headlining the notorious Skins tour with 8-bit-electro mentalists/hype band of 2008, Crystal Castles; she hasn’t become an egotistic ogre.
“I’m easily scared, and I’m also very gullible,” she says. “So people take advantage of that all the time. But I’m not stupid, I know what’s right and what isn’t, but there is a side of myself wants to let go and be scared by these things, because it reminds me of being innocent and being a child.
“If I let go of that, I’ll be a stupid, boring adult.”
MYSTERY JETS//BLAINE HARRISON
Sitting in a musky dressing room, Blaine Harrison is playfully tapping with drumsticks whilst sporting his enviably effortless new wave haircut.
You can only see one of his eyes through his mop; it is bright and piercing. And its true – he looks just like his dad.
Although no longer a part of the performance, Henry Harrison works with production, and during sound check he’s stood in the middle of Academy Two with Student Direct, watching the band’s every move. It’s hard to tell whether he was watching for kicks or through habit, but either way, he smiled. Performances certainly look different without him, but it can be hard to register what exactly has changed. “They do feel different,” Blaine says. “I want to say that in a way, performances are more ramshackle, but they’re not. They’re tighter. When you take an instrument away, you’re making the sounds sparser, and I think we’ve become better players and a tighter unit on stage.” A necessary skill to possess when you’ve got to support The Kooks in Europe. “10,000 people a night – it’s scary,” he says, but he looks more excited than nervous.
The Mystery Jets are booked on a worldwide whistle-stop tour right through to January. Blaine has not
requested any luxury on the rider apart from “an ironing board…and an iron.” He says later that he did actually ask for Sailor Jerry (whisky) but he “didn’t even get it”. You just can’t get the staff these days. But can you get the groupies? “Do we have any groupies?” He sounds shocked. “No we do not. We do have a PA though, called Jo, from Stoke. She’s only 16.” Jo is in the room and has been for the entire interview. She finally speaks: “I’m not 16!” Blaine quickly re-mystifies her and says, “Every now and again, she has to put her SIM card in my phone to check how many times her mum’s called her.”
“We’re close to establishing what kind of fan base we have. Our fans are quite open to what we throw at them.” Just to clarify, the band doesn’t throw stuff at their fans. They used to throw birthday bashes for them on Eel Pie Island for years before 2006 debut album Making Dens started to make serious column inches across the music press. “Eel Pie is somewhere that we called home for a long time. Everything we did there is very much associated with our first record. It served us very well as a launch out into the wider world. We got signed because of the parties we had on the island. They started off as birthday parties, but then it became something different.” Was it time to go across the footbridge towards the smug mainland and make some proper money? The classic ‘You Can’t Fool Me Dennis’ had already been track listed on NME’s Cool List compilation in 2005.
“Not anything bad, just different.”
For those of you not knowledgeable about Eel Pie, firstly, do you know where London is? Secondly, and less bitchily, Eel Pie Island is a real, car-free residential island on the River Thames. In the ‘60s and ‘70s it was almost the UK’s unofficial rock star boot camp, having given the world, among other legends The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who and Rod Stewart ’s first band (although most elderly locals will tell you that Stewart was awful to begin with, so much so that they would beg him to get off the stage). Charles Dickens wrote Little Dorrit whilst living on the Twickenham isle and Led Zep played a gig there. The second album Twenty One released in March this year achieved such critical acclaim that it seems Mystery Jets might just be Eel Pie’s new torch bearers. // published in Student Direct
LEGENDARY ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr treated students at the University of Salford to an exclusive inaugural lecture on the music industry last week Tuesday.
Marr said, “Wanting to teach students is borne out of spite for my schooldays.”However it is clear that Marr does not mean any malice, as he delivered a five-hour masterclass to music production students at the university last Wednesday. “I have some wisdom to give.“
And I like the atmosphere at the University [of Salford]. Not academically, but the notion of staying modern.”The guitarist was last on tour with The Cribs, playing at the 02 Arena, Reading and Leeds Festivals and the NME Awards Tour. “Life is an ongoing experiment for me,” he said.
Marr is famous for being the newest band member for artists like The Cribs, The Pretenders and American band Modest Mouse. “I’ve got no interest in retiring or resting on my laurels. I’m not resting on any theories.” Entitled ‘Always from the outside: mavericks, innovators and building your own ark’, the lecture aimed to provide students with an experienced artist’s view of a business often perceived as a machine, however Marr reassured that he didn’t hate the music business.
After showing video footage of Marr’s appointment as visiting professor and a clip from The Smiths’ 1986 gig at Maxwell Hall – the very same building in which the lecture took place– Marr delivered his talk at the podium after being introduced by renowned music writer John Robb.The rather existential concept of the ‘outsider’ proved to be the running theme throughout. “I didn’t want to be elitist. Like I said in the lecture, it is the outsider who always innovates,” he explained afterwards.“In the ‘80s it was about what kind of musician you were. Everyone was either a bassist or a synth player.”
Second-year Graphic Design student from the University of Salford, Louise Nicholas, was “blown away”. She said: “I’m so inspired, it makes me want to go home and do loads of work.”
ALBUM & GIG REVIEWS
- Cover Image: Rockhack.co.uk, some rights reserved
The Ting Tings @ Apollo
Thursday 26th February
THE BELLY OF the Apollo’s stage is perfect for We Walk – an opener so epic that standing en pointe and risking permanent toe damage became the best option in order to see as much of Team Katie and Jules bash out what was arguably the most intense song of the evening.
Not saying that the rest of the set wasn’t intense. It’s just that once they’d got this and yokelly Traffic Light out of the way, the audience got what they came for: a massive party. Queue the pop visuals, including fanmade graphics, a sassy brass section made up of green wigs and shades (amongst other instruments), and Katie’s own sexy brand of robotic dancing beneath the blue lights and dry ice.
For lesser bands, this apparent gimmickery could take away from the performance but what The Ting Tings are doing is putting on an astronomical show for the kids. Katie White knocks out the power chords and whips her voice into pitch-perfect shape, totally nailing Shut Up And Let Me Go.
Usually The Ting Tings live performance is slagged off for being somehow plagiaristic even though they use their own backing tracks (what is wrong with that, you gig elitist?). They undeniably provide the heartbeat for most of the songs and Fruit Machine wouldn’t have been nearly so decorous without the clatter of the Korg and the Roland against Jules De Martino’s stripper-club slick drumming.
For the encore, That’s Not My Name, a standing ovation gets started by the sitting audience who seem to wish the floor would cave. Members of the standing gang begin looking up to see where that shadow is coming from before pointing and laughing at why anyone would buy seated tickets for a gig of such pure pop calibre.
The Salford Duo, at the end of it all, look genuinely taken aback at the ferocious applause from the Apollo mob – which was surprisingly made up of many fans who brought their parents for a nice, civilised boogie before heading back out into the Manchester rain. It was like they’d officially won approval from the homecrowd.
SHE WOLF: Shakira
AWOOO! SHE’S A cultural icon. Honestly. There is no other Grammy Award winning Columbian lady on the planet who is happy to bang on about how you can’t confuse her breasts for mountains whilst gyrating a pair of massively uncontrollable hips. Industry gold.
Releasing what is technically her eleventh album, Shakira’s She Wolf is stuffed full of her usual Latina-Arabic goodness such as ‘Gypsy’ and has had all kinds of legendary hands on it including those of Pharrell and Wyclef Jean. Seriously. The Perfect Gentleman actually features on ‘Spy’, where Shakira’s voice mimics a trombone in the bridge and may be the only stalker themed song in history that fuses blues and electro.
The surprise track Men In This Town is certainly radiotastic but it restricts the belly-dancing songstress to a sound that’s too easy for her. Still, there’s consolation in the snake-charmingly sexy Why Wait. Mmmm. Bongos and synth.
Speaking of synth, She Wolf is a decent pop record, but Loba – exactly the same song but with Spanish lyrics – is so much better for her uniquely honeyed growl. A friend commented that “clearly the hits don’t lie.” Hell yeah, you know it’s cheesy, and you know it’s right.
Lily Allen @ Academy
THIS TOUR will be remembered as the one in which Allen-mouth has had to prove herself as more than the self-appointed soundbite machine that’s allowed her to be crowned Queen of tabloid fodder for the past couple of years. Luckily, the Mockney babe didn’t throw up on her fans whilst in Manchester and actually gave a good singalong, good stage banter (although her just saying “Hello Manchester” got cheers that were enough to blow your ears back) and looked hot in a red Acne baroque bustier dress.
For the casual members of the crowd abandoned at the sides, the two songs they came for (‘The Fear’ and ‘Smile’) were razor-sharp vocal performances arguably outshined by an even tighter backing band. For the fans, the two songs in quick succession were brilliant for reaching that stage of intoxication where you begin to spout off how her middle-finger-salute dancing was pure political genius during the ‘Fuck You’ chorus earlier on.
It might have been the big glass of wine that made Allen’s voice hamster-like at worst and husky at best – perfect for her Oh My God/LDN/Calvin Harris and Dizzee’s ‘Dance Wiv Me’ medley – but it’s mostly her attitude that sustains the gig. Normally I’m not one for watching a blagger on stage, but when she gets visibly and sonically sarcastic during young-’n'-on-drugs song ‘Everyone’s At It’, well, like the tabloids…I just can’t resist.
Circus: Britney Spears
THERE’S SOMETHING unnervingly Lynchian about the artwork for Britney’s sixth studio album. A good move considering that this record, especially as it is partly written by uber-lyricists The Clutch, simply HAS to cement her status as the queen of reinvention – there’s only a certain number of times Madonna can wear a leotard before it, like her, overstretches.
Dancefloor destroyer Womanizer was the first single and manages to defy linguistic sanity – she says womanizer 35 times. Is she a feminist now? Slowie tune, Out From Under, suggests not. Damn.
Never mind, title track ‘Circus’ warns “Baby/I hope that you came prepared” and is more than capable of rivalling Rihanna and unfortunately for Take That, this is going to be Circus people refer when they say: “It’s such a sick record.” Although, no-one was going to say that anyway.
Mannequin is a top track full of the sexy urban nastiness you wish The Pussycat Dolls would produce just to justify their existence in the industry. It’s a shame then, that Shattered Glass sounds like Disneyfied hip-hop despite it fully exploiting Britney’s set of pipes, as the rest feels like it was pumped straight out of Def Jam.
Cleverly titled If You Seek Amy could be about Sony BMG’s other crazy artiste, Winehouse, but Britney’s clearly talking about herself. This track is the only one which subverts the circus sound with its theatrical stomp and sarcastic laughing. And it stands for F.U.C.K. Me…geddit?
It tops Hard Candy. If you ever have a midlife crisis, you had better hope it sounds this slick.
4 stars //published Student Direct 1st Dec ’08
Mystery Jets @ Academy 2
Sunday 19th October
AS ALWAYS WITH Academy 2, it’s the drums and vocals that are set to stun and art rock starlets Mystery jets are no exception to the rule.
Opening with wailing klaxons was probably a bad set intro for the fans who found themselves squished in the pit against underage drinkers as it only agitated them further, but they soon settled their screams as they exhaustingly thrashed out their oldie tune ‘The Boy Who Ran Away’ – a huge eff you to the critics who slated their summer cancellations. Band oldie but nevertheless ubercool Henry Harrison looked at his proudest during ‘Flakes’, their underrated epic that nods to Jeff Buckley’s Lover, You Should’ve Come Over - a song that fits the look of the thousands of sequins attached to their outfits.
The poptastic Cure throwbacks ‘Two Doors Down’ and ‘Young Love’ kept the audience captivated for at least one verse before they broke out into a frenzy of unabashedly corny dancing. Which is fine. The band left their progressive psych-indie roots long ago.
Notably, the Jets avoided the mistake of retardingly loud keys which many bands now fall sucker to in an effort to sound relevant. Perfect night out, the only glitch being some squealing amp feedback and squealing feedback from a sweaty posh kid who shouted down my earhole, “I’m having a rather good time, actually!” The problem was… he was right.
4 stars// published in Student Direct with Blaine Harrison interview.
HELOISE AND THE SAVOIR FAIRE
What? A band with their own set of dancers? Damn right. Heloise talks Blondie, Madonna-punk and Elijah Wood.
“You know,” Heloise muses, “thinking about the live show, the theatre, I think it’s important to have some…razzle dazzle!”
Eh-louise and The Know How To Do, (Particularly In A Social Situation, according to my Francophile source) made their UK debut with their song “Odyl” on the Graham Norton show, amidst a hail of super sexuality and synchronised limbs. This was bitchily followed up by a “bunch of losers” remark from The Mirror at the end of a Norton-slating session.
Well, no one expected The Mirror to get it.
“It’s about physicality… dancers mime the intentions of the words.”
Encapsulating all 80s pop fetishes, “Odyl” should really be called “The Mutli-Orgasmic Experience With Heels On” and is best described as a flying great big disco ball swerving through a relentless shower of pink glitter and synth lasers. The only thing left to do, after singing out either end of an octave, is to scream a volcanic climax, which Heloise does with incredible chutzpah. This is layered over the top of a fleeting homage to that synth-rattle from Dead or Alive’s classic. But it gets weirder than that, verging on Muse-style idiosyncrasy. Heloise clarifies at length that “Odyl is a measurement of hypnotism. Mesmerising!”
Not quite the horsemen of the apocalypse as much as they are the leotard army however, HATSF are causing a stir stateside. They’re on Mr. Frodo’s budding label, Simian Records. “Elijah’s such a pro,” she beams, “always so articulate.”
Pam from Gogol Bordello, (Elijah’s girlfriend) and fellow gypsy punk Elizabeth joined the band at a gig in New York. “They got into cat head costumes, throwing themselves around the stage,” she giggles. “Good times!”
Theatricality and libido are thematic for HATSF’s new material. “I wrote a song, it’s called ‘Manimal.’ Loosely based on Othello…”
“Umm, it’s actually not. It’s about this woman who’s a princess. She realises she needs a manimal to open up her, [emphatic stress], sexuality. The inspiration behind the song? “Yo Majesty! They’re so hardcore.”
Mash ups and dressing up are integral parts of the band’s erotic-electronic aesthetic. “We go through phases,” she says. “One night, the dancers were wearing these silver, tight stretch pants with stars all over them, cut off sweatshirts, giant berets and ghoul make up. They looked like dead puppets. Everyone was like, “Oh My God!”
Yet not as shocking as Debbie Harry unexpectedly turning up at your show, asking for your autograph…
“She came to a show in New York and my friend Tom said, you’ll never guess who wants to meet you and I had no idea, no clue whatsoever, “ Heloise takes a breath.
“It was Debbie Harry. All the water evaporated from my mouth. She was so effusive, and she said ‘I really loved your show,’ I couldn’t believe it. She bought a CD when I tried to give her one, and she made me sign it!” Heloise’s rock credentials enviably awesome.
“She said something about how I reminded her of her early days. And I feel I’m a huge goofball! I mean, she is a goofball, but she doesn’t come off as a goofball. She’s sexy.”
For a time, Heloise was also Peaches’ driver. “We had this joke that I was her bodyguard. She is small, I am tall.”
Finally finding her place as a frontwoman, Heloise and The Savoir Faire are at home alongside Kap Bambino, CSS and Scissor Sisters.
“We get compared to Scissor Sisters, a compliment for sure,” adding later, “I think we’re dirty, scabbier. Madonna-punk is what somebody said to me. I like that!” Heloise says, suitably chuffed.
With a digital release in September and tours in 2008, Heloise hints at what else to expect.
“We do nudity, acrobatics. By the end there is make-up dripping down our faces and puddles of sweat. By the end it’s disgusting!” //Published March 2007, Disorder Magazine under “Janey Moose”
XEROX TEENS: DEATH BY ELECTRO POP
Xerox Teens speak with such a rush of Day-Glo delirium and self-contradiction, they make sense. It’s all about being hellraisers.
“We are not misogynists.”
Like all misunderstood artists, saying what you mean but don’t really mean to make a throwaway statement, gets you into boiling water. They’re protesting because Playlouder, allegedly, found them a bit sharp, a bit juvenile. “That was totally out of order. But we are juvenile,” they muse, laughing about why Ryan from The Cribs should wear a bigger shirt. “He should stop rubbing ice cubes over his nipples before he goes on stage,” before adding bizarrely, “it’s friendly advice. He should wear a smaller shirt.” Hang on didn’t you just say-
“Who are The Cribs?”
All this irony, post-irony mayhem malarkey suggests that they’re not a bunch of uniform half-wits. Having a conflicted group opinion complements their starfucked music, which is probably more realistic given the messy world we live in. They love it. “Pills, swimming pools, electro, swimming pools full of pills, boys, girls, fags.”
Xerox Teens philosophy aside, their newest release to date was double A-side “Onkwara”/”B54”, which zoomed right out of the shops at the end of January. If you missed it, hurry to their MySpace. Key track “Onkawara” is the growling, jumpy lovechild of Kasabian and Louis XIV, only with brass, probably some major Red Bull abuse and a chorus of humming. No pompous walls of sound, just eccentric, proper dance-punk. Every bland-o-matic lounge musician should be eaten and judged after this record. There was even a delay before the phone interview started because they were “getting into costume.” Although, later on, they admit to wearing just “jumpers and Cornettos.”
They are fittingly eccentric. There’s flashes of “we’re shit really,” defeatism – even more unsettling than the acidic comments flying out of the speakers.
“Bloc Party make me feel boring,” says Rich.
There we go. We need more bands with guts. Timed perfectly, they were posed with a question that would have easily killed the interview: “my friend thinks you’re shit. What do you have to say about that?”
They took it on the chin, and coolly retorted: “your friend’s a whore…we’re the best band ever and always will be. Would you like us to play a gig down the phone?”
Expecting to hear the neon pin-ups pretend to play by sticking an earpiece pumping a demo down the phone, it was a brilliant surprise when sang, harmonised, like some humanoid seaside organ.
“D’you think we’re shit now?” asks Rich. Course not, not many bands can do that.
After their 2004 debut, Rich, Danny, Uber, Nuvo and Pinstripe got to work, stealing London venue by venue. Following the Big Billy Records signing came last summer’s Xerox Teens EP release. In 2006 Xerox Teens toured with “WE LOVE THE HORRORS! WE LOVE THE HORRORS!” The Horrors and Good Shoes, gaining an underground fanbase on their own merit by means of purposefully confusing, effortlessly riotous shows. In fact, their music makes the photocopied skinny-jeans brigade piss their pants in awe. Obviously this leads to some wrong impressions.
“No interviewer we’ve spoken to loved us…we get shit reviews.”
Not true. Pinstripe, in charge of beats, can rage with amphetamine drumming, or just let his kit swagger. (Sexual pun unintended.) Danny Fancy, guitarist/synth dabbler, and guitarist Uber play dark melodies that are smugly symmetrical with disco bassist Nuvo. Layered on top of that are Rich agitated vocals; their uncompromising sound couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank whatever deity you pray to that there’s some new material out soon.
Mocking the drone of a press release, Xerox Teens whirred, “we’re recording an album, going on tour in May, doing the festivals, releasing a single, going on the NME chart show…” but you can tell that really, they’re excited and gagging for it. “We’ve got two good tracks maybe. One’s called ‘Apocalypse Baby.’ The other’s called, ‘I’m In Love With My AK-47, or something like that.” That may or may not be true; such is the beauty of spontaneity, but it’s not too long before they moan about “the same questions we get asked four million times.” So they start repeating “hello, yes” at random intervals. Time to fight fire with fire.
“Would you sex Ladyfoxx?”
Damn my northern accent.
“Would we sex lady fucks?” They repeat, before breaking into laughter. Eventually, they stop jerking about and disapprove of the sexist question, however claim to “LOVE PIRATES.” They adore their counterpart bands. “Shitdisco, CSS. We met them a couple of months ago. One of the singers sat on my lap one day.” No need to ask the same question twice.
Xerox Teens are ready to continue the year with the right amount of freakishness, such as performing covers and selling Adam Latham’s artwork at the ‘Richard Curtis and his K9 Freestyle Dog-Dancing’ show. It was as successful as something that surreal can be.
Asking about what the band name means prompted another performance. They started playing clips of Winston Churchill’s address in 1941 about the Soviet-German war.
“Does that answer your question?”
A very obscure folksy song, followed by some creeping clarinets start playing down the line, signalling the end.
“Does that answer your question?”
It’s bloody terrifying over the phone. The only way I can explain it, is that they are Xerox Teens is because their music sounds like a cut ‘n’ paste job that is so far removed from anything conventional, it’s actually original.
Xerox Teens. The electric horrorshow experience. //published December 2006, Disorder Magine under “Janey Moose”
Born Ruffians. Three twenty year old, musically orientated Canadian lads seek several bunnies for a lo-fi, stomping good time.
Dodgy. Naturally, you respond to the ad and, like a swarm of Duracell rabbits frantically jiggling their wares, you’ve gone pink. They wink. They take you by surprise. They make cheeky zigzag noises: “Sexy; sexy-sexy! /Sexy, sexy-sexxyyyy!” You’re knackered from all this bouncing. Ooh, the innuendo of it all! Thankfully, I’ve borrowed the lovely bassist Mitch DeRosier from the band to elucidate this madness.
It began when writing the MySpace bio (sigh), as all tales of voyeuristic love seem to nowadays. He dreams of Indie Rabbits. This particular species can be spotted dancing, drinking, sporting angular haircuts and thrusting in baggy jumpers. Aye, ‘tis you lot at the Barfly, and he’s got plans for band mascot pro-creation.
“The Indie Rabbits will be everywhere!” Mitch giggles. “ We’d need a lot of top hats, that’s how they appear.”
“I have these little rabbits going around in my head!”
The bonkers mindset must be the trick. They’ve managed to create an incredibly seductive, razor sharp indie debut. It coos and squawks, sparkling exuberantly with wonderfully cunning, itchy rhythm twists.
“The Beatles had time signatures that were awkward, but didn’t sound awkward. I suppose we’re trying to do that in our own way…” Fans of Bloc Party, Duels, Modest Mouse and The Magnetic Fields will find their alt-love sound very attractive. “We try to make simple versions of the most complex sounds, and complex versions of the most simple sounds. ‘This Sentence [Will Ruin/Save Your Life].’ It gives up hope for the future: we’re getting better!”
Imagine Julian Casablancas with a stinging wedgie, train drivers that play instruments, and crazy people barking about student life. The jokingly redneck ‘Hedonistic Me’ is charming and clever; “I will learn/To cook for you…”
It could be an offer of free food. “I love eating! I propose that we will be the first catering band. It’ll be pot luck – with the fans bringing food and the band bringing food…” Pot luck, it seems, has quite a different meaning in Canada. It means food orgy. Or near enough.
“‘Merry Little Fancy Things’ was fun to write,” muses Mitch. ”It sounds like it’s falling apart in the middle.” It chugs along so sweetly and deliriously that you’re in genuine shock when the baby juggernaut ends. The record ends with the bluesy folk swirl, ‘7th Son’; the Iron Maiden reference goes here somewhere but anyway, it refers to Luke. Luke? “He’s the 7th son of 13!”
The chap in question is Mitch’s cousin, Luke LaLonde, lead vocalist and guitarist. “He writes the songs. At high school we decided it would be fun to be a band. We interact well, that’s important. The band’s now been together for four years.”
“Yeah, I guess our main motivation is not having jobs,” he laughs and points out that the band is more widely recognised in the UK and US than in Canada. “In our home town, it’s more of a punk music scene. But that’s influenced us.”
Youthful energy, flaying bodies: yes it has. How about… “Dance rock?” he breathes. “Oh, dancing should be made more accessible at rock shows!”
There’s much excitement surrounding this lo-fi, hi-oomph band. “I didn’t think of ourselves as lo-fi. It’s a fine compliment. We started off covering bands like The Strokes and The White Stripes. And suddenly we’re on the same label as The White Stripes!”
But with a name like Born Ruffians, what’s a geezer meant to think? “We wanted to stay away from crappy band names. Born Ruffians suited us.”
There’s still something charmingly awkward about them. “We’re nice guys. We go to bed early,” he beams. “When we were here in August, it was my first time abroad. I loved it in the UK. When we went to Scotland, I really enjoyed our drive through. We like hanging out around Toronto. Computers, MySpace – we’re a little nerdy! Before the interview, I was in the middle of playing videogames,” he admits shyly.
The ‘Ruffians have just toured the US with our own culinary experts, Hot Chip, however “we’d love to come back early next year. Definitely want to travel as much as possible,” Mitch enthuses in parting. “We’re always thinking…we wanna record new songs fairly soon.”
As Britain wees itself into a soggy winter, you should take the first flight to the art-berserk-rock world of Born Ruffians. Ready? 4! 7! 93! 21! Gasp for air, you just ate the cuckoo clock! //Published October 2006, Disorder Magazine under “Janey Moose”