Tom Robinson Session 16.7.07
TR: It’s an enormous pleasure to welcome to the studio Thomas and Alex White, aka The Electric Soft Parade.
ESP: How’s it going.
TR: Very good, I’m so pleased that we finally get to meet you. When 6 Music started out in 2002, it was all new to us and nobody knew that we were here. And very few people paid attention to this new little digital station. And you guys were enormous at that time, and you came and played sessions for us and were one of our big bands. And then you suddenly got sidetracked, we were all busy going for Electric Soft Parade and suddenly along came this idea, what about Brakes, just on the side. And you disappeared into Brakes.
A: The Electric Soft Parade thing just kind of wound down naturally really, we got dropped and stuff… TR: Let me stop you right there. You got dropped? Who dropped you, how? (disbelieving)
A: I’m not going to start naming names here but you know, when you’re on a label that has the sort of artists you’re alongside like Christina Aguilera and people like that, you’re a bit screwed if you’re not selling a lot of records.
TR: Big record companies, why do they do that thing? (astonished)
A: It was a fun trip man, it was good, we learnt a lot, seeing how that side of things works, it was a really good experience.
TR: So you did the whole expensive studios, big name producers…
TW: Sure, it was fun while the money’s there to fund it but I guess it’s not realistic, the kind of band we are. Personally, we’re a lot more comfortable working on the scale we are now; recording ourselves and making the record ourselves and putting it out through Truck. It seems to suit our music much better and the people we are.
TR: You’re in that rare position that you’ve grown up together. Did you always know that you’d be in a band together?
TW: We kind of played exactly what we’re doing today, round the piano at home I’d have an electric guitar but no amp, just like this cheap Gibson copy thing, and we’d play Elvis tunes…
A: Before we knew what a band was we were playing in a band. It was basically working out Beatles songs. Got this 2 inch thick Beatles song book and just went through it, that’s how you learn music as far as I’m concerned.
TR: So it was a musical household anyway.
A: Yeah, our Dad played clarinet and stuff when he was a kid and was into singing, they’re musical people, played piano and stuff.
TR: It was inevitable. A: Indeed.
TR: Here you are, back full circle again, absolutely in the prime and you’ve got a new record, comes out a week today.
TW: Yeah, I’m looking forward. Like I said before, we haven’t had such good synchronicity between the behind the scenes stuff before, which is a pleasure to do.
TR: This is interesting, listener, take note, because if you’re thinking of signing to a very large record label they won’t necessarily do it better than your friendly local…
TW: They won’t necessarily get you to the radio station the week your record’s out, which is pretty important.
TR: Well we’re thrilled that you’re with Truck records and thrilled that the record’s coming out, can you do a version for us.
TW: Cheers, this is Misunderstanding.
TR: Wow! Live in the studio, in 6 Music, that’s the duo version of Misunderstanding, the new single from Electric Soft Parade, performed for you there by Thomas White on lead vocal and acoustic guitar and Alex White on backing vocals and keyboard. That’s just astonishing.
A: Thankyou. TW: Cheers.
TR: Do you do a lot of rehearsal to do that stripped down version.
TW: We kinda just made the record and that took long enough… A: It’s pretty simple really, it’s just little chords so it’s alright.
TR: No it’s not… it’s really hard to do what you just did there. That’s really wonderful. We have more live music on the way.
TR: (after playing The Weight by The Band) That had Alex and Thomas from Electric Soft Parade grooving away there. Is that one in the repertoire for you. TW: The mike’s weren’t up were they, in radioland. A: We were jamming away, sorry. TR: It was marvellous.
TR: So you’ve been touring in America.
A: Yeah we did. It was the aforementioned Brakes (BrakesBrakesBrakes in America) Us and Brakes.
TW: Two shows a night for a month. In an RV as well, we were travelling in basically like a camper van.
TR: What is an RV? TW: It’s like a caravan. TR: Recreational Vehicle? TW: A family Winnebago type thing, with all our gear on the double bed in the back.
A: Built for two old people to drive round America in. TW: There were seven of us in it.
TR: So you guys would go on and open and had Pela playing the middle. TW: Yeah, they’re a great band from New York.
TR: And then you’d wander back on the stage. TW: Pop up again, vaguely shift the gear about a bit so it kinda looked different.
A: It was funny because over here, every bit of press stuff with Brakes mentions the Soft Parade and mentions British Sea Power that Eamon used to play in, and The Tenderfoot, the bands we’re from. Over there people didn’t actually realise, there were people there to see Brakes who were like “oh I didn’t realise…”, didn’t realise we were in whichever one they didn’t know… it was like, how can you not know, we’re on the sleeve.
TW: And they’re generally the people who then say “oh man, I gotta start reading sleeve notes more”. It’s like, yeah, I think you should, when you’ve paid to come and see a band.
TR: It’s what the internet’s for. TW: All the information’s there, if you want it.
TR: And I read that you had a particularly good time in Vancouver, where you’d never set foot before, and everyone sang along with your songs.
A: It was ace, it was amazing. TW: Eamon, the singer in Brakes, his family are all from British Columbia, there was a few of his relatives there and we’ve got some friends over there who moved out recently.
A: It’s aways the ones you don’t expect. There were certain gigs I was really looking forward to that just didn’t really click. Then other ones that you don’t have any idea what it’s going to be like, then they’re singing along and it’s a full house. It was great.
TR: And that singing along thing is so great, you go to a country you’ve never been before and everyone knows everything you’ve written.
A: Exactly. It’s pretty mad that that can translate. TW: It’s pretty bizarre. It never feels normal does it.
TW: We’re going to do a cover of a Billy MacKenzie song. TR: Of course, you played the night for him at the Shepherds Bush Empire.
TW: We did a benefit for the Soundseekers charity. It was a good night. TR: Brilliant, is this going to be Blue It Is? TW: That’s exactly it. TR: Ha ha! TW: You’ve been on the net, haven’t you, eh?
BLUE IT IS
TR: In tribute to the late great Billy MacKenzie, that’s his song Blue It Is… I understand that’s also going to be available as part of the single that’s out next week.
TW: Yeah it’s on the bside. We kind of got bored playing our own tunes I guess.
TR: There’s a webcam folks, you can actually see the guys sitting there holding up the album.
A: I think that’s a security camera isn’t it?
TR: We have one more live tune from them on the way. But let’s have a bit of Tribe Called Quest next. TW: Oh why not.
TR: (talking about his band) The modestly named Tom Robinson band also signed to EMI… A: Never heard of them.
Tom Robinson talks about Kate Bush taking a break for 10 years…
TR: I wonder if there’ll be any such kind of fallow period for my guests tonight. Are you going to take ten years out to make babies at any point?
A: Does it take that long? I thought it was nine months.
TR: No no, it’s bringing them up afterwards. A: Oh that bit yeah.
TR: It’s not being an absent father, that’s what it’s all about. A bit earlier on we were asking listeners if they thought the album was dead (reads out a listeners email) “Some album’s just are best heard as a whole – Illinois by Sufjan Stevens”
A: Absolutely. TW: Definitely.
TR: “I wasn’t going to send this but then I heard your conversation with the White brothers. The dinosaurs don’t get it and they’re just going to moan all the way to the tar pits”. What does he mean.
TW: Are we the dinosaurs?
TR: No no, he’s thinking about your former record company.
TW: I think the album will be alive – I don’t get the concept of something like an album being alive or dead…
TR: It’s whether it has a future as an entity, or are we going to release EP’s.
TW: If you go out and buy a record, and there’s bands still out there making records and thinking about them as albums, and approaching them like that, and you’re enjoying them and buying into that, then it’s alive and well.
A: The people who don’t really care and just buy singles will just keep doing that and the people who love albums and love making albums will keep doing that and there’s always a market for it.
TR: So you’re not tempted to every time you write a new song, record it and put it out.
A: I think that’s kinda cool. The Wedding Present did that, 12 singles/EP’s, one a month for a year. That was 15 years ago or something. It’s been done, it’s not a revolutionary thing anymore, if that is going with the current trend, I would say do an album just to spite them.
TW: It’s more important for record companies to encourage bands to put out music through different formats… the thing we put out before this record was a 6 track EP, for us, those songs worked well together, they were the songs we had at the time, it was an interesting way of presenting it. The problem is when every record is twelve 3 minute songs. You need to step outside that.
A: A lot of records are great statements and they work like Foxtrot by Genesis or any of the early Chicagos or whatever and a million others, Abbey Road or something. But a lot of them are just 4 singles with the rest of the tracks filled up because that’s what you do and that’s how you make a record. If that’s the case…
TR: We’ve all bought those albums. We’ve all been disappointed. What are you going to do for your last track for us.
TW: We’re going to do… A: An album track. TW: This is called Come Back Inside off the new record.
COME BACK INSIDE
TR: Lead vocals, whistles and acoustic guitar by Thomas White, keyboards and vocals by Alex White. That’s Electric Soft Parade with Come Back Inside which is taken from the album No Need To Be Downhearted which itself is taken I believe from a Fall song. And it’s available now on Truck records, and then we can buy that marvellous single Misunderstanding, with the Billy MacKenzie cover as of a week today (23rd)
TW: On the download it’s got a little cover we did of Across The Universe.
TR: How can you resist buying it. You can’t. TW: Check it out at least, you might hate it.
TR: Any touring plans for this summer? TW: We’re just doing a bunch of festivals, we’re doing Truck festival, Beautiful Days festival, the Levellers festival, down in Devon. A: We’re doing Reading and Leeds with Brakes as well.
TW: And End Of the Road, then we’re heading out doing a bunch of stuff round Europe, then we’ve got a little French Tour in October. The year just gets filled up doesn’t it. A: It was January a minute ago, it’s just gone.
TR: It’s been a complete pleasure meeting you, do please come back and play for us again live soon…