Interview: Jimmy Eat World

24 Nov

We speak to Jim Adkins and Tom Linton about their new album Invented, student bands, leather pants and why UK crowds beat US crowds…

Invented is seen as kind of a return to your breakthrough Bleed American album – do you see it that way? And where does it fit in to your discography?

Jim: If you’re in a group for a long time with so many songs, everyone tries to categorise things in terms of the catalogue. For me, it just sounds like us.

You’ve said before that you ‘don’t go in with a concept for an album, just a document of the time’ What things are you documenting on Invented?

Musically, it’s what challenges us and interests us in terms of our current tastes and prejudices as a whole band.

What was the inspiration between Stop and Mixtape on the album – in a few words?

Stop is about jealousy, Mixtape is about….regret.

You’re in Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero. Bands seem to love or hate the relationship between music and games…

Jim: I don’t think it stops anyone from playing guitar. Knowing how to play real guitar doesn’t help you play the game at all…

Tom: There’s nothing wrong with the games, it’s always fun but when you think about how much time people do spend playing the video game, they could be playing an instrument…

Jim: It is fun at parties though, I have to say. If a group of people are hanging out anyway, it does push the party meter to 10.

What advice would you give students starting a band?

Jim: I would say, regardless of where you are, playing music is one of the most rewarding and satisfying things you can do. You have to be satisfied with the reward it brings you on a personal level. I think that’s the only bit you can control. Whether or not anyone’s going to care about what you’re doing is beyond your control. You can be smart about opportunities that come to you but it’s first and foremost about being proud of your work and, you know, some leather pants. Tight leather pants. They definitely help.

You’ve been together for 17 years – how do you stick together without breaking any bones?

Jim: Have you seen how many dressing rooms we have? This is the only time me and Tom are in the same room together…No, but seriously, we were all friends, more or less, before the band got anywhere serious. We knew each other from the same schools growing up in Arizona.

When you approach it all from the perspective of anyone making a connection with what you’re doing as a fragile and fleeting thing and something that should be taken seriously and not for granted, then it’s a whole lot easier to let the small things go when you’re working in a group situation.Things get heated and passionate when we’re in a creative mode but we all realise that we’re struggling for the same goal and get the best end result. So, to answer the question, I’d say Friendship and Respect. And being mildly drunk the whole time…

Where do you get the biggest reaction in the UK?

Jim: All over. The UK is the place where we have some of our best shows. Our London gig sold out before any of the other shows…

Tom: The crowds are always enthusiastic and singalong and you don’t see that too much in the states.

Why do US bands come to the UK to make it big in the US? Like Kings of Leon and The  Strokes?

Jim: Yeah, that happens sometimes, right? I was going to say Kings of Leon.

Tom: And Jimi Hendrix..

Jim: People in America might be cautious to drop the hammer and promote something until someone else tells them it’s good. If a UK buzz gets rolling, that might translate to someone at a label taking notice. It’s weird. But music journalism in the UK is a lot more passionate than American mainstream music journalism. In America, it’s all about blogs – you have Rolling Stone and Alternative Press but those guys are hurting. The American appetite for blog based stuff is way higher than for magazines.

How do you feel about bands like Paramore citing you as an influence?

Jim: It’s extremely flattering. We have bands that we look up to and that we would freak out if we met today. We understand what it feels like to be fans and it’s a big compliment for other bands to feel that way about what we do.

What do you sing in the shower and what’s on in the tour bus playlist?

Tom: LL Cool J!

Jim: I go with old school LL Cool J, Tom goes new school…with Going Back To Cali or even, you know, Mamma Said Knock You Out. On the tour bus, everyone has such different tastes…it could be Hank Williams one minute and then death metal the next. It’s democratic!

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Brandon Flowers @ Kentish Town Forum

18 Oct


Camden rolls out the red carpet for The Killers’  frontman – 17/10/2010

There’s a red dot at the Kentish Town Forum, dancing across the dark stage like a laser pointer. It’s a roadie filming the expectant crowd with a camera phone. The crowd scream, pause and examine the person holding the camera phone. It’s a girl. Confused, they contemplate this for 3 seconds, lower their hand made signs (DO YOU LIKE MY HAT?) and start again.

The roadie quickly tapes the A4 set list to the floor and exits stage left. More screams, then brief silence. As the last house lights dim, brassy intro music accompanies rose red search lights and the screaming is no longer shouting, it’s a communal, constant high pitch gargle of expectation for the man that made it cool to inject pop in to rock.

A gruff rocker emerges from the darkness, guitar firmly strapped across his hips. The hand made signs fall, the moshpit of teenage girls gawp. It’s Transfer from San Diego. In the glamorous, sequin studded glitzfest that surrounds Brandon Flowers like a cape on loan from Elton John, even the support band get a big Vegas style introduction.

Just weeks after his solo debut, Brandon Flowers is on the road, ensuring that the support band follow the Killers’ template of shock and awe, suspense then spectacle. So it comes as a surprise when Brandon walks on stage alone, standing in he spotlight and opening with the stripped down, stage school story-telling of On The Floor. He isn’t wearing any feathers, shoulder pads or posing behind a retro piano. Instead, he looks every inch the  shy 1950’s handyman, with braces, work shirt and hefty  boots. This is Brandon wandering solo, positioned at front of stage like a solitary scene from Oliver.

We knew Brandon could sing, but this show proves that there’s a bigger voice and a wider talent in the grip of a man intent on glamorising his hometown via pop, country, rock and beyond. Switching between heartfelt ballads and epic singalongs like Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts with ease, debut single Crossfire is full of fist shaking, stomping and swirls.

With the camp showman confidence of a 50 year old Morrissey, Brandon leaps around the stage for singalongs but stays fixed when getting emotional, though the arms still flail and punch in time to a cover of Bette Davis Eyes. Yes, Bette Davis Eyes – a 1974 song that is a regular cover in Vegas cabaret bars for retired couples. You’ve probably heard it on Magic FM or at a wedding. It sounds great but has floored the audience, expecting a snatch of Mr Brightside.

Back to the album tracks, Brandon is in safer territory, preaching to the converted with a selection of songs which are often chorus after chorus. Barely a sentence passes without upward intonation warning you about the arrival of the next one. It’s like ABBA birthing chorus triplets every minute. A bit of Killers arrived in the form of Day & Age album track Losing Touch which fits with the sound and Vegas narrative and we’re left with Brandon singing When You Were Young, with only the bearded keyboard player to help him out on acoustic guitar. With the rest of the band off stage, it sounds like a gospel prayer. But there’s no need for prayers. With Brandon’s solo debut eclipsing the last Killers album and the man proving he can deliver a solo performance to shock the house, everyone’s on a winning streak here.

Interview: Adam Ficek

14 Oct

The Babyshambles drummer talks about going solo, starting his own band and what it was like being in (and out) of Babyshambles.

Roses Kings Castles – how and why did you start the project?

It was a side project for Babyshambles really. Babyshambles were doing loads of touring and we weren’t really writing for the album. I wanted an outlet for my songs to be heard, really.

Obviously now it’s somewhat changed shape – it’s my main focus now the whole Babyshambles thing has crumbled.

Now it’s more of a primary project working at a much higher level which brings it’s own challenges like finding musicians and making sure the performance level is much higher. It’s challenging but you’ve just got to put your head down and get on with it.

What are your tips for any bands trying to get noticed or signed?

The first thing you’ve got to do is work. It’s no good assuming that music is an easy way out and a justification for being lazy. You’ve got to view it as if it’s a job.

All the high-level bands, there’s a small minority who have done it through the media but the majority of them have put in the hours. My three tips are: get up in the morning, know the right people and know your market, the people you want to sell your music to.

But it’s not that simple – labels, whatever their strengths – still want to spot you because you look ‘right’ though?

I know bands that have been signed before they’ve played a gig. They get signed by a music label who can mould them into what they think the future is going to be next year.

So they’ll pick some Pete Doherty style girl singing with a guitar and think, okay she’s young enough, let’s rebuild her and remodel her, give her an elecro tinge and throw a bit of glitter in her hair, stick her on some billboards and see what happens.

Have you had any bad experiences with RKC and getting signed?

Yeah, I’ve had some bad experiences. My stuff is very different to Babyshambles – I’m on acoustic guitar and I’ve been supported by heavy bands and it’s not been working. It’s the agents. I’d say 80% of the people in the music business couldn’t give a toss about the actual music, maybe 87%.

You’ve got to watch out because those people will instantly think ‘can we make money from this or not?’ and that’s what it’s about for them. I think that as a musician you have to protect your integrity and go in strong and say ‘no, I don’t want this support act’.

Being in Babyshambles – how was that?

It was an amazing experience and an experience that, from a very young age, I had geared up for. I was one of those naive kids that used to have indie band posters on my wall and read the NME. I just absorbed it all and I chased it – I dreamed of being in band.

When you get there, you realise that it’s not how you perceived it to be. It did tarnish my dream when you realise people can buy front covers of magazines and, unfortunately, the press. I’m a bit of a cynic and I read magazines and I can see through it.

So it must have been difficult to release your first RKC album then?

Yeah. When I released my first RKC record, I was really buzzing about it and thought it was a chance for someone without a major label to make a splash but you slowly realise if you’re on an independent label, it’s like you’re pissing in the wind.

If you haven’t got that financial weight to buy some good reviews or some adverts in places, then you can’t get out to the masses. The good thing is that you realise people can download albums for free and then decide if they want to buy the full thing or not so those magazines are of kind of irrelevant.

I know some of the good guys at the NME but it was only because of the Babyshambles connection… If I didn’t have that connection, I don’t know what I’d do. You have to find your own way in and I’m lucky enough to have that connection.

I used to think that if you wrote an amazing song that was produced well, you could get anywhere and it would open doors but that’s not the case unfortunately.

Where do you stand with Babyshambles at the moment – there’s been a lot of talk and they’ve put the drummer from Supergrass in your seat?

I’m not in Babyshambles at the moment. I’d like to elaborate on the reasons why but I can’t at the moment – it’s all getting a bit grown up so I can’t say too much about it. It’s a little bit messy on that front. It’s a real shame that I’m not in the band anymore. Maybe in a month, I can give you the full lowdown but it’s really hard for me – I’m in a bit of a tricky situation.

So what next?

My second album, which was finished last August, has taken a long time to come out but the label were waiting for the right time. I’m working on my fan base and playing gigs.

What’s the difference of being in your own band? Do you like being the leader?

The whole process of trying to keep a band together is a nightmare. It’s difficult being the leader, but I need that. In Babyshambles, we had a small say but now I know what I want – from the album artwork to the music – and it’s good to have control of what you want.

Now, I’m finding venues and chasing PA people and finding the right support – I don’t want some banging guitar band supporting me!

What do you think of the Libertines reforming for Reading and Leeds festivals?

All of them could do with the dough which is great. I know them all and they’re all genuinely nice guys. If they want the money, let them go and do it. But it’s about the money. I can’t say I would never do that because it’s a toss up between paying your mortgage or not and you look at it as work.

Has the internet told us that people in bands aren’t always loaded?

A normal musician now is earning as much as a professional labourer would – you’re not Sting with your four mansions. I think the internet has broken down those barriers. My income now is from DJing and doing remixes and stuff, RKC isn’t yet on the level where you make money. You just hope that from performing, you’re on the next bit of the ladder next year in terms of gigs.

What about iTunes and making money from downloads? Isn’t this the DIY revolution?

iTunes, I don’t even think about it because I know there’s nothing coming in. I never see any of it, Christ knows where that goes. It does annoy me a bit with sites like Spotify and mFlow – entrepreneurs are making good money but the musicians are getting shafted.

You can visit the official RKC site here, see Adam’s homepage here and he Tweets at @adamficek.

This interview originally appeared on studentbeans.com.

The Brits 2010/1996

22 Feb

The Brits 2010 really did take place this year, though most of the guests and hired talent made it seem distinctly 1996. First, there was Liam Gallagher, all mascara and middle-aged feather cut, sticking out his chest as if his slack jawed strut still meant anything to anyone outside of The Courteeners. Geri Halliwell then arrived, looking toned, orange and mentally ill – every family has an auntie like this. “Is Peter Kaye doing okayyy?” she rasped at the audience, begging them for approval so the host could regain his nerve and halt the streams of piss caused by his performance which was, on all levels, as funny as cancer of the bollock.

And just as you thought Geri’s aunty gibber couldn’t get any worse, Courtney Love turned up, grinning like a stoned cat. Why? We’re not sure, but she was in town and probably fancied going dogging with the one from Kasabian who looks like a chunky Eddie Izzard and spoon feeding Ellie Goulding some MDMA jelly. But it’s the Brits – so let’s not forget it’s as much about Tom Ford and Sam Fox as well as the people that create the music! What did poor Jay Z think? If he actually knew what Butlins was, he would have believed he was there, but Sam Fox would have been an ageing waitress and JLS would have been called Urban Thrillz and exposed their buttocks for peanuts. And we mean KP Nuts, not actual money.

The biggest unsolved mystery was the appearance of Cheryl Cole. The UK public has seen her mime that auto-tuned-Geordie song a billion times. She’s so ashamed, she wears giant shades and as many clothes as possible, exposing the only bits of flesh she’s happy with. For reference, this appears to be the 3 inch square patches either side of her belly button. The best bit was the house megamix interlude, which saw Cheryl look as awkward as the time she slapped that toilet attendant. Puckering her lips and shifting her shoulders like some aztec epileptic, Cheryl defined what the Brits has become. Usually a place for people who have sold some records to sell many more to Asda customers, The Brits is now advertising space for A-Z listers. For every Jay Z, there’s a Sugababe waiting to maximise exposure by indecently exposing herself or working her way into Robbie’s Range Rover.

Next time Mr Brits, how about making it all about the acts that matter, not the ones you blackmailed into attending, hmm?

ALBUM REVIEW: HUMBUG – ARCTIC MONKEYS

9 Aug

humbug cover

When the Arctic Monkeys play live, they do everything wrong. They’re shy, play their biggest hit as an opener and close on a slow moving, depressing track like 505. Faced with legions of cardigan wearing hipsters and laddish Britpop fans, they play Warren G or Public Enemy before taking to the stage with a drummer that is dressed exclusively by JD Sports. All of these things, combined with the impossible politeness of Alex Turner, go against any traditional template for rock success. But, against all odds, it works and for a band with the live power of Oasis and the kind of uniquely British lyrics unseen since The Smiths split, a new album is as exciting as any live event.

Humbug is an album that between skeletal bass and twisted, imaginary gloom manages to pull out anthem after anthem. Whether it’s the kind of spitting, brooding angst of Pretty Visitors or Cornerstone, a waltzy love song, all tracks have giant choruses and the required sing-along potential for the current tour circuit of arenas and festivals. More than before, vocals are pushed forward, perhaps after Turner found his softer voice by inventing The Last Shadow Puppets and becoming skilled in the ways of the croon. Or perhaps it’s because Queens of The Stone Age main man Josh Homme produced seven of the ten tracks on Humbug. Put against the wall beside the band, rock slab Homme looks every inch the greasy redneck biker who has come to steal the children and bury them in the desert. Instead, he’s helped the band add scale to their tales. This album wasn’t written in a lonely bar while casting imaginary characters in Sheffield soap opera songs and it shows.

Homme’s trademark heavy drone is everywhere and for every bass blowout, there’s the familiar jangle and rapid riff attack from Turner. On My Propeller, the song is driven down, constantly descending until the chorus drags the song out of depression and back to the kind of sunshine indie that you’d expect from Ash. It’s a weird mix and one that only works because the band are as open to new ideas as anyone. On paper it reads like Dave Grohl lending Morrissey a hand but on record, it makes perfect sense. Just as fellow Queens of The Stone age guitarist Dean Fertita joins The Dead Weather to release Horehound, similar traces of the Homme/Queens of The Stone Age influence can be found on those songs. A couple wouldn’t feel out of place on Humbug, which shows how diverse and versatile the Arctic Monkeys really are.

First single Crying Lighting is a star spangled psychedelic run through the strange subjects that Turner can transform into songs in minutes. Like the first album, songs are often narratives but narratives in the style of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas instead of traditional songs about Sheffield or ‘cuddles in the kitchen to get things of the ground’. Put that Mardy Bum lyric beside ‘make a mess lioness’ from Dangerous Animals and you’ll see swaggering, primal confidence replacing the embarrassed idea of fronting a rock band. This is the Arctic Monkeys album that demands a bigger stage and a giant band to fill it. Happily, that’s just what Turner and friends have become, without actually noticing it themselves.

Juliette Lewis and The New Romantiques: Live at Koko, Camden, May 15th

17 May

lewis

She’s been at this for 5 years, she happily tells the audience, thanking them for their support. Where other actors have dabbled, faded and fucked off when a big movie contract comes through, she’s never given up.

Even tonight, minus old band The Licks, she’s going full throttle as she arrives on stage just after midnight. “This is my new band, I needed to do something groovier” she announces months after using MySpace to inform fans that The Licks were “at the end of their run”. The new band is called The New Romantiques and their sound is heavier than anything from The Licks and, if we’re being honest, much more fun, original and adventurous. Writhing about, all big hair and determined hand gestures, she’s terrifying and every inch Iggy. The gurning, screaming and drums aren’t exactly a surprise and there’s nothing like ditching your old band and getting a new one in weeks to relight the fire. But when a full pint makes contact with her face, she’s off into the crowd to initiate the smackdown like a fully fledged WWE superstar, half panto, half crazed sinewy spider. Wherever you sit on the actress/artist side of the argument, the desire to make it to the rock A-List is clear and if you disagree, she’s simply going to stab you in the face. Less Karen O, more Courtney Love, she’s the hardest woman in American rock.

New songs from forthcoming album Terra Incognita are met with a good reception. The assorted mix of skinny jeaned scenesters and longtime fans dance to the basic, instantly accessible basslines despite the 2 hour indie disco just minutes before. Girls with studded headbands, cowboy boots and leather jackets rush to the front igniting the doubters. How do you convince someone that you’re a real rock star and not living out a rich kid fantasy? Get a major name producer on board (check) write your own album (check) and tour the shit out of it to silence the critics. Tonight, she manages it. Next stop is Brighton’s Great Escape festival. The Licks never got this kind of reception, not even in front of 85,000 drunk Foo Fighter fans at Hyde Park. Which is saying something.

5 Festival Hates…

12 May

 

1. TWATS IN HATS
JK might have started this trend but it can be traced back to The Levellers and indeed clowns. This should be a warning. Every year at every festival, IT consultants and drunken rugby-fucks go and buy a jester hat to prove their wackiness outside of their mundane workplace. These people are also the first to put on the paper crowns from crackers at Christmas and the last to leave your house party. They know of no fashions and think that by wearing novel head gear, they’ll stand a better chance of getting into the NME or The Guardian. Sadly, this only works for fit girls. Wear a silly hat and you’ll get exposed slated and laughed at on the internet. 
2. BIG BUMS
No, this isn’t a jibe at fat people but – BUT – it’s never nice seeing exposed, sunburned, unwashed ass when you’re eating a hot dog. I mean, there’s hygiene issues here, not to mention the occasional presence of hair or the stray slither of festival issue bog roll. Festivals are meant to be sun drenched free love paradises – not full of females who behave like Bob The Builder, look like Michelle McManus and believe that their 28 inch waist has remained static since leaving high school. 
3. MOBILE PHONE USAGE
A couple of camera snaps is fine because, like, we do that all the time. Ahem. We’re talking about recording songs and, worse still, calling a friend and shouting down the line before proudly raising the phone in the air like a sonic broad sword. Worse still, the man pictured is pumping The Feeling to someone as intelligent as him at the other end of the line. We imagine it’s his mum, the one waiting for him back at the tent.
4. QUEUES
Unavoidable of course, especially for the never-ending pits of poo that makes a standard chemical toilet seem like the ultimate bottom-related luxury. Worse still are the things that happen in queues. People talk about Keane, discuss their bowel movements, the plan of action for the day, who they shagged last night and talk loudly on mobile phones while gesturing to an invisible man, still partially high from their first joint of the day.
5. THE FOOD
Burger for breakfast, burger for lunch and burger for tea. By the end of the festival, it’s likely that your anus will be vomiting out meaty Frisbees like a fleshy yet rubber monster from a David Cronenberg flick. The only respite is Falafel or sweets, both of which have much the same effect on your bottom. Caffeine and beer doesn’t  help either. The solution? Cider, water, crisps and chocolate bars.
 
1. TWATS IN HATS
JK might have started this trend but it can be traced back to The Levellers and indeed clowns. This should be a warning. Every year at every festival, IT consultants and drunken rugby-fucks go and buy a jester hat to prove their wackiness outside of their mundane workplace. These people are also the first to put on the paper crowns from crackers at Christmas and the last to leave your house party. They know of no fashions and think that by wearing novel head gear, they’ll stand a better chance of getting into the NME or The Guardian. Sadly, this only works for fit girls. Wear a silly hat and you’ll get exposed slated and laughed at on the internet. 
2. BIG BUMS
No, this isn’t a jibe at fat people but – BUT – it’s never nice seeing exposed, sunburned, unwashed ass when you’re eating a hot dog. I mean, there’s hygiene issues here, not to mention the occasional presence of hair or the stray slither of festival issue bog roll. Festivals are meant to be sun drenched free love paradises – not full of females who behave like Bob The Builder, look like Michelle McManus and believe that their 28 inch waist has remained static since leaving high school. 
3. MOBILE PHONE USAGE
A couple of camera snaps is fine because, like, we do that all the time. Ahem. We’re talking about recording songs and, worse still, calling a friend and shouting down the line before proudly raising the phone in the air like a sonic broad sword. 
4. QUEUES
Unavoidable of course, especially for the never-ending pits of poo that makes a standard chemical toilet seem like the ultimate bottom-related luxury. Worse still are the things that happen in queues. People talk about Keane, discuss their bowel movements, the plan of action for the day, who they shagged last night and talk loudly on mobile phones while gesturing to an invisible man, still partially high from their first joint of the day.
5. THE FOOD
Burger for breakfast, burger for lunch and burger for tea. By the end of the festival, it’s likely that your anus will be vomiting out meaty Frisbees like a fleshy yet rubber monster from a David Cronenberg flick. The only respite is Falafel or sweets, both of which have much the same effect on your bottom. Caffeine and beer doesn’t  help either. The solution? Cider, water, crisps and chocolate bars.