Gideon Coe BBC 6 Music 17th April
So it’s 6 Music Breakfast and as you may be aware our Breakfast Show Record Of The Week is the new single from The Electric Soft Parade, Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone. During yesterdays programme there was much excitement towards the end as we waited for the arrival of Thomas and Alex from the band. It didn’t quite happen but they are via the power of being here on the Tuesday but actually appearing on the radio on the Wednesday here. How are you doing fellas?
A: Not bad. T: Perfect. A: It’s like having a time machine or something. T: It’s magic. A: It’s brilliant. G: It can be done you see, anything can be fixed. I won’t ask you about your journey here but that was one of the questions from our listeners. I think we should just gloss over your journey here and talk about your first album in six years and it’s a very welcome return. There was a hiatus and sometimes with a band when there’s a hiatus some people think that’s it, you’re not gonna come back… that was never the thought…
A: Hiatus always seems to be a code word doesn’t it. We’re brothers so we’re never really gonna break up in that sense unless we do it legally, I don’t know if you can do that, you can divorce your parents and stuff, can you divorce your sibling? I’ll look into it… T: Wow. G: That was a short comeback. A: Well yeah you know we’ll see what happens. We’ve been doing other things; Brakes and everything else that we’ve done. It just seemed like the right time I guess, we had the songs.
T: It’s kinda weird, I remember we did one last show promoting that record with Sparks – we supported Sparks at Islington Academy. I think we had it in our minds we’d take a little break… kind of just stuff kept happening, we didn’t have a label and stuff. It took for the songs to be there really, for everything to start snowballng again.
G: Did you do one of the Sparks shows at Islington in London where they did each album one after the other? 21 nights…
A: We did the second last one or something. I remember talking to them afterwards and they were just so zoned out, they could barely speak, just glazed over, “we’ve been in the same building for 3 weeks”. G: That was the plan, Brothers Mael. A: Well exactly guys. I think they had a different production every show and different band and things like this. It must’ve been such a headache. G: Charming gentlemen though. A: Amazing. T: Charming is the word. Very polite. Very very well-spoken. A: They’ve got this sort of vision of England in the 70’s when they first came here and they still act like that’s the game.
G: Not that we’re going to talk about Sparks all the time but when they arrived in England, they will always be reminded of it, one of the Top Of The Pops moments… This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us; striking, unnerving… A: Devastating. I must say briefly, just give Tom a little shout out here, Tom actually played guitar on This Town on Jonathan Ross’s show on tele. T: I did a bit of session work for Sparks.
G: Sparks aside, your return was also buoyed by some shows you did with Noel Gallagher. When did they happen. A: Indeed. That was end of 2011. G: Was this road testing the material… T: Essentially we were in a place where we were playing live again and I saw he was doing some shows. Hand on heart, I literally just texted him and said “give us a support slot” and we ended up doing the whole European Tour.
A: Fair play to Noel as well, a lot of people of that stature, the perception from the public is that they can just do what they like and get whoever they want on the bill and actually they don’t have that much to do with who’s on first and all the rest of it. We thought, good for his word, maybe we’ll get it, maybe we’ll get phased out along the way through that process. Actually he was good to his word and got us on the shows.
G: And these were shows with the traditional line up of the band, the studio line up? T: It’s kind of evolved over the years. There’s a core line up of four of us which has been solid since we broke up weirdly, it’s kind of evolved over the years. There’s been a lot of different members; we had Mathew Priest whom you know from Dodgy, he played with us for years. There’s been different people but we’ve had a solid line up…
A: Mr Twaites is our bass player, Matthew Twaites… T: He’s been with us the whole time. A: Since the very first thing. G: I did hear that the EP recorded a couple of years ago was the first time you’d taken that band into the studio. A: Yeah that’s right, exactly. We just did it in Brighton, just real cheap, just on our own really and this little French label were up for putting out seven inches and we just did this thing just around, ‘cos we were working at the time and then that then snowballed to Helium records that are putting out this new record. They heard that and heard that we were about and doing shows and everything and it just slowly and surely came from there.
G: What shall we say about Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone? T: There’s a very heavy influence of a particular song which I heard a few years ago now. A song called Elusive Butterfly by Bob Lind… his work was almost an epiphany, it was like half Tom Verlaine from Television, Richard Thompson, all that kinda stuff then with Nick Drake singing. An odd mix of stuff but it really kind of got me at the time. There’s a big influence of that and Belle And Sebastian. And also the idea of getting all this stuff in a two and a bit minute song. G: Which you managed more than well. We’ll hear it and talk some more with Thomas and with Alex. This is Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone…
G: There it is. T: As if by magic. G: It’s the Breakfast Show Record Of The Week, Electric Soft Parade and Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone which is a beautiful tune and you’ve mentioned the influences on it but it’s very much one of your records. It manages to be – it does contradict itself – it manages to be uplifting and yet quite a sad record to listen to as well. T: I think it’s quite misanthropic and it’s quite bitter in a way but it’s housed in a little chirpy, jazzy pop tune.
G: I haven’t mentioned the album title yet but the album from which it comes, the forthcoming LP, is called IDIOTS! A: With an exclamation mark. G: You have to say it like that don’t you. A: Oh you have to yes. T: It kind of demands a delivery of some magnitude. A: It’s shouting at you. All caps. G: IDIOTS! Why is it called that. A: I don’t know, we messed around with different titles and various things and tried to be serious for ages then just thought IDIOTS! It’s that self-deprecating kind of thing, that’s quite fun isn’t it, I dunno.
G: I wouldn’t trust anybody who hasn’t at some point or doesn’t regularly call themselves an idiot. A: For me it’s a bit like people who don’t like The Office. It’s like, well you are David Brent then. That’s my theory. You’ve got to be able to look at it and go, I’ve just totally done that a million times. I can behave like that sometimes, I’ve also got a blind spot and accept that about yourself. T: If you can’t admit that you can see some of yourself in Brent. A: You’ve gotta say you’re an idiot too… if you look at that and go, we’re idiots, you’re idiots, come on… let’s be idiots.
G: So with the title, did it come into the reckoning during the making of the record. A: That song is called Idiots already, the song Idiots, the title track was called that. It’s such a throwaway, where the lyric comes in in the chorus, it’s not like it’s the front bit of the chorus and it goes hey idiots…
T: A big thing for us is you have producers who purely involve themselves on a musical level but Chris Hughes and Mark Frith who made the record with us, there’s a constant dialogue about the nature of titles and how they define a record. Everyone involved in the record was quite equally involved in that and the way the record grew. There was no overriding concept for it.
G: The way the record ended up sounding, was that as you expected it to sound? T: And so much more. A: I mean some of the songs, the first track, that’s probably the third recording we did of it and that itself has been stripped to the bone and then rebuilt as the recording – really getting every single note to speak the maximum… G: That sounds like really hard work. A: Well it’s dull work actually in a way. You go in a studio and record for a week and you just record your songs and mix ’em, this whole momentum of doing it quickly, which can be great but with this we’ve really had a chance which a lot of groups don’t get to sit on this record, sit on every little stage of it… we’ve done our working week down in Bath with the guys then come back to Brighton, then maybe done couple of weeks off then another 5 days, all that sort of thing. You’ve got this time to sit and listen to it and go, you know what, I’ve listened to it in the car, in the kitchen etc and now I can hear what’s wrong with it. Whereas if you just do a record in 3 weeks you do the work and then 6 months later you realise the first track should be a b-side, that it’s rubbish or whatever – the one you’ve put in the bin should’ve been a single.
T: The pay off for me is listening to the record as a whole. G: Good stuff in the meantime upcoming show, Koko on Friday. IDIOTS! is out in June and the single Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone is available to download now. Thanks for dropping by fellas. A: Thanks so much for having us.
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