Thomas White: Radio Reverb – Alex White: Mixtape no.2

Alex White has a new edition of First We Take Manhattan Mixtape Blog: “Hello and welcome back to my blog. It’s been a busy few months, hence the lack of recent updates, but here comes another playlist for your aural delight (I hope). Apologies in advance if you don’t like broadway bulls*** and cheesy 70’s pop music; this edition tends towards that direction” — First We Take Manhattan BlogSpotify

Thomas White interview on Radio Reverb 20th October – Listen Again: mixcloud.com/jeff-hemmings

Jeff Hemmings on Radio Reverb: This is an interview with Tom which I did quite some time ago (just after the release of A Quick One EP in July) and although one or two bits of it might sound a little bit dated, most of it’s still relevant now so hope you enjoy this.

This is Jeff Hemmings, Radio Reverb 97.2, I’m joined by Thomas White from Electric Soft Parade. We’re going to have a chat with him in a minute but first of all we’re going to play a song from the new EP – the song is called Lily… That was Lily, the new single by The Electric Soft Parade which is out now?

TW: Yeah, came out on the 18th of July. Update: The EP is now on general release in UK independent shops and online, check the stockists list here Your local shop should be able to order it.

What’s the EP called? TW: It’s called A Quick One.

What does that refer to? It’s not The Who is it?

TW: It’s a reference to A Quick One While He’s Away, which is a kind of Who mini opera and it’s a reference to A Quick One records which is the label that put it out, which isn’t our label. It’s a vinyl and download only label based in Paris who kindly are putting out our stuff for the time being, which is very nice.

It is yeah and it’s the first new release for quite some time isn’t it, I think the last album was…

TW: 2007. People seem to lose track of time. I’m quite good with dates but people seem to get very confused. Yeah, 2007, No Need To Be Downhearted.

Yeah and that was 4 years ago and you soldiered on for a couple of years after that but a couple of years ago I guess you kind of stopped doing The Electric Soft Parade didn’t you and concentrated on Brakes and your own project.

TW: Yeah we did a show… we supported Sparks in London in 2008 and we kinda thought, off the back of that, that would be a good one to bow out on for a little break. We’re not the biggest band in the world, it’s not a big deal, we’re not reforming, me and Alex never stopped working together in different guises. It’s just a matter of having a conversation and saying “let’s do it” again, you know and then this label popped up and wanted to help us out. It’s all just kind of snowballing along again.

You’ve just done a series of gigs at The Albert haven’t you where you played your back catalogue each gig.

TW: That was one of the most draining things we’ve ever done. You look at it on paper and you think one gig a month, even though we were doing odd bits and bobs aside from the show. It was like one show a month is the kind of focus; learn each album and then play them in sequence. You think 12 songs to learn in a month isn’t that much and then a friend of mine got married and he asked me to put together a wedding band for that… things started piling up. By the fourth one where we had to learn 11 brand new songs that none of us had ever played before, it was like “ah christ”.

We’re in a good position in that a lot of bands go straight into the studio once they’ve written a new record and they don’t get chance to play it out live but we’re, for the first time in our career, ahead of ourselves in that sense. We haven’t recorded the new album yet. We’ve got it all demoed but we’re playing out and we’ve actually got a chance to really sift through the material and work out what works infront of a crowd and what people react well to and what they detest.

I went to the gig where you did The American Adventure. That was brilliant actually. That worked really well, I was really impressed.

TW: It’s such a strange thing because that record essentially got us dropped from our label at the time and we really fought to keep it the way it was. At the time it seemed like this idiosyncratic weird record and then the reaction was actually the best out of the 3 nights, out of the 3 old records that we played that was one that weirdly seems to have… I don’t know whether we approached it differently to how we did when we recorded the songs, when we recorded the album for real. I think we’re just a better band to be honest, we can just play better…

You did seem to be having a good time as well which always helps.

TW: With all the mad stuff that was going on, politically, with the band at the time, we kind of neglected the fact that the songs were actually quite fun, it’s like a really poppy album. It’s a mixture of, it’s nice to feel that those songs finally got the recognition, or rather finally got the reaction we’d always wanted. Also kind of sad that we weren’t on a label at the time that appreciated what we were doing. I think it’s some of our stronger stuff.

How do you approach music because you have tasted some success, your first album Holes In The Wall was a big seller, you got nominated for the Mercury Music prize and you got signed to a major label. So you had a bit of success with that and with Brakes you’ve been touring regularly, they’ve had some decent success with their albums as well. But now you’re almost starting again aren’t you, are you just doing it for fun maybe?

TW: Well no, it’s very strange, we kind of took a year or two out and the industry… it keeps changing so quickly and there’s all these things like Pledge and Bandcamp or whatever these things are called; they’re new tools for people to use. In the nicest possible way, we’re not really remotely interested in any of that. We’ve never really been interested in any angle on what we do other than just the tunes. It’s the last thing record labels wanna hear. That’s just who we are, we’re very very old-school people. We make a slight concession to maybe Facebook or something but that’s just out of absolute necessity because such a huge proportion of people are on it.

How do you approach music now because when you were successful at the beginning you were very young weren’t you.

TW: I don’t think our approach has ever changed; we’re still just guys hacking away at guitars in a bedroom essentially. It’s very hard to step outside of it. I don’t really pick apart my approach too much, I try and just do whatever feels natural, for whatever project. So with Brakes, it’s a harder edged thing and it demands more upfront energy and it’s a bit of a harder approach.

With the ESP stuff, the focus is much more on the playing, the melodies, making that really clear, it’s much more cerebral musically.

You’ve obviously got music in your blood, haven’t you. You and your brother Alex, Brighton born and raised aren’t you. TW: Yeah there’s not many of us.

You started pretty young, as brothers you were making music from a young age and originally you had something out as The Feltro Media. How old were you when that was released. 15, 16, something like that. It’s a long time ago, isn’t it, we don’t have to talk about it.

TW: We started doing stuff for real in ’97 so I would’ve been 12 or 13 and Alex was a year or 2 older. We did that for a few years and off the back of that… it was real weird the way we got signed. We sent a demo to XFM Unsigned, the show they used to run on XFM. A label heard it, it was a real kind of fairytale. We didn’t run round labels giving endless demo tapes, it was the first label that approached us, started making the record with us.

That label came from the old-school; Dave Bates and Chris Hughes, they had big success in the 80’s with Tears For Fears and Adam And The Ants and stuff. Their whole way of A&R-ing which I loved, I absolutely adored the way they worked; very very hands on A&R. That was just a pleasure, having people that you trust so involved in your songs and so emotionally involved in how the record’s going to sound.

I think we were really lucky because I don’t know any label that would operate like that; it takes full focus all the time from everyone at the label. Everyone was really working together on the record. It took a long time to make the first record but I think it’s probably one of the last records… I don’t know of any band that has that, I don’t know any bands personally who are signed and A&R’d in that way, real old-school…

There isn’t that development money anymore.

TW: No. I keep having this conversation with people; where is the next OK Computer going to come from. Not that I’m remotely a Radiohead fan, I don’t mind them, I’d never listened to them. It’s a different era when a band was allowed to get to their third album. To be fair, Radiohead’s first two records are kinda grunge, they weren’t groundbreaking at the time, they were fine, they had a hit with Creep, that kept them going. But the point is, they were allowed to get to album no.3. I don’t see that happening with anyone.

I can think of countless famous artists who probably would’ve been dropped… TW: In today’s climate.

People like Bob Dylan for instance. I think he sold about 3000 copies of his first album. There was a big debate at his record company, “shall we give him another chance or shall we drop him”. TW: Wow, I never knew that, amazing.

But he had a mentor, he had somebody who batted for him. TW: Someone fighting his corner. That’s the old-school nurturing of an artist. Throughout pop history it’s often the 3rd or 4th record where an artist hits their stride and really knows their craft and all the rest of it; all the cheesy A&R phrases but they ring true.

We’re in the studio this coming week (interview was recorded in July) recording another EP for the same label. We’re testing the water a bit. I think we’re going to go down the route of releasing 4 or 6 track EP’s, not spending a huge amount of money or time on the recordings and just keep the songs coming. We’ve worked out a way how we can do videos really cheap and we can tour really cheap. So we’re just going to keep going. There’s a lot of love for the band and a lot of people know about the band. It’s just about reaching them. As more and more people hear that we’re back on, we’re getting more and more offers and stuff. Like I say, it’s snowballing, who the hell knows. But the plan is really, do a few more EP’s, maybe a couple of one-off singles and then aim for a fourth record next year.

Good stuff. Well it’s good to see you guys back. Definitely one of my favourite bands. The Lily EP (A Quick One EP) is out now.

TW: It’s on iTunes or A Quick One Records You can order the 7″ from there. The 4 track EP is on iTunes (update: also see the stockists list here)

Good old-fashioned seven inch, yeah. TW: B***** h*** yeah, sorry I mean yes.

TW: Next February is the 10 Year Anniversary of our first record. So we’re going to do an extravagant one down here (Brighton) and play the whole record. We’re going to try and persuade Eamon to reform his first band, Brighter Lunch, who haven’t played since 2001; Eamon Hamilton, Matt Eaton from Actress Hands, John Farmer and John Griffin. People who haven’t been in a room together for ten years. We started out as massive fans of theirs, they’re like a proper band. We were in awe of them and they split and then Eamon kinda had a couple of years in the wilderness and Brakes got together so… we’re going to try and get them together for February.

I’ve got an old demo of Brighter Lunch so I’m going to dig that out. TW: Really? Dig it out, they were great man. A kind of weird mix of funk and country and punk…

A bit like Brakes. TW: Some of the songs were embryonic versions of what became Brakes songs.

Fantastic. Well thanks very much for popping in. We’re gonna play another track off the EP. What’s the name of this song?

TW: This is one of Alex’s which showcases his absolute love for Chicago – the band, not the city. It’s called Number One.

That was an interview conducted a couple of months ago but thought I’d play it out on air now because they are doing a gig in Brighton, they’re playing with British Sea Power at the Concorde 2 on the 1st of November and doing a tour of the UK and as Tom said in the interview, hopefully a big gig in Brighton next year.

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