NME Awards Tour 2011. I briefly infiltrated their weird and wonderful world at Bournemouth’s O2 Academy to talk ‘Bizarre ‘n’ B’, sand sculptures and Dave Grohl.
How has the NME Awards Tour been going so far?
Jeremy Pritchard (bass, vocals): We’re on the homeward stretch now.
Jonathan Higgs (vocals, keyboards): It’s been really good. As far as I know, they’ve all been sold out. Except for maybe tonight actually. But it probably will be later, it’s very cold so people will come here for shelter. But it’s been amazing. There have been big venues and big crowds. They’ve been up-for-it young crowds as well so they keep you on your toes. You’ve got to keep them happy.
JP: All the bands are learning from each other as well. Nobody is really doing the same thing as everybody else, everybody occupies their own area.
Have you had much chance for any fun and games with the other bands on the tour?
JP: We have played pool with most of them. We went out with Magnetic Man a couple of times. Jon was out with The Vaccines last night. We’re only ever within 40 yards of each other at any one point. We all travel in convoy.
JH: The buses are all in a line so we sleep right next to each other as well.
JP: You can’t help but exchange information in such close quarters.
Any gossip to share then?
JP: Erm well… all of The Vaccines are women it turns out. Nah not really.
JH: We can’t really think of any.
JP: Because there isn’t any.
You guys are from all over the UK - Manchester, Newcastle and Kent - so where do you consider to be home?
JP: Well the band is from Manchester and then we’re all kind of spread around the country in terms of origin. But we met there and formed there and we live there now.
JH: It’s definitely home for the band, I don’t know if its home for each of us individually. But certainly it’s our musical base.
JP: It’s home for everyone except for Alex (Robertshaw – guitar) I suppose. Alex lives in London and the rest of us are in Manchester.
Where is your favourite place to play out of the three?
JH: Manchester probably. Kent is sadly bereft of any good venues.
JP: We have played my little home town venue a few times now and that’s been great but playing in Manchester is really good for us now. When you play in London there is an inevitable sort of media spotlight. And when your label’s there and your management’s there and everyone is going ‘this is gonna be good’, even if it is good then its slightly tainted.
JH: Newcastle is sort of up and down. It hasn’t really got that many great venues. It needs some better ones.
JP: It needs some good midsized venues and a stronger musical allegiance
JH: It needs a football-music crossover at some point
The band is notoriously hard to pin to any particular genre. So if you could invent a new genre to label yourselves with, what would you call it?
JH: We’ve come up with a couple before. We’ve had ‘Bizarre ‘n’ B’ and ‘Haunted House’.
JP: ‘Haunted House’ is particularly irrelevant.
JH: ‘Bizarre ‘n’ B’ is the best we’ve come up with. The funniest anyway.
JP: It’s not very accurate, like any tags really. People see us as an indie band and that’s fine. We call ourselves a pop band in the broadest possible sense because we’re somewhere in the cannon of popular music of the last 60 years I think.
JH: We’re in there somewhere.
What are your main influences as a band?
JP: There’s all the sort of ‘heart bands’ that you’ll never let go of from your teenage years, like The Beatles.
JH: ‘Heart bands’?
JP: That didn’t come out very well did it?
JH: Bands you love?
JP: Bands you love! Exactly. In an irrational way. Which is a good thing I think. Like Radiohead for all of us. And Michael Jackson and stuff that comes from before a time that you understood what music was or how it was made. It has a sort of magic to it.
JH: Magic music.
JP: Exaclty. So there is all those and then there is lots of other artists that we listened too whilst we were growing up. Post-rock and post-hardcore stuff, math-rock and then all the American R’n’B stuff and jazz and hip hop. We like music!
JH: But at the end of the day, it’s probably Radiohead that we’re always coming back to.
JP: And The Beatles as well.
You write and choreograph your own music videos. Where do you get your inspiration from?
JH: Well we always start with the song. We listen to it and think, visually, what would it need? What could you bring to it that’s not there, or how could you accentuate something that is there. But we’ve actually been lucky with the first two or three videos. For one of them there was certainly a very strong visual idea within the song already so it was just a question of trying to make that happen on the page. The other ones, it just really depends on what it needs. The Schoolin’ video wasn’t quite ready for the public.
JP: HA! This is a good one. We spent quite a lot of money on blowing up a sand sculpture on a beach somewhere around here actually, while we were touring in Europe.
JH: It was a sculpture of a big mammoth in the sand and we blew it up with dynamite. But they only blew its head off because they didn’t put enough dynamite in it.
JP: So they had to build it again and then blew it up more successfully. But then the results were actually incredibly boring. And I’ve never seen the video.
JH: Yea we had to make an animation for that as quickly as we could which was a bit of a close one.
JP: A guy called Nicolas made this really amazing animation for it, which is good because we quite often end up at certain places by accident and we would never normally have commissioned an animator to animate abstract images for a video. But because we ended up in the awkward corner we got a video that we would never normally have commissioned or tried to make ourselves. We’re glad to have our hand forced occasionally, all be it in an expensive way.
You were shortlisted for the BBC Sound of 2010 last year. Do you think it has helped to get your music noticed?
JH: Absolutely. We noticed it the most when we went abroad. Certainly to Europe and even further afield. We didn’t expect that. We didn’t get that with any other accolade. People might know some of our songs but they all know about the BBC list, which is amazing really. It just shows you how far it spreads and really gets your name out there. People respect the BBC a lot and so they see this list every year and track down the people on it, which is great.
JP: We couldn’t believe the clout it holds when you go abroad. We treat it with a bit of healthy cynicism in England. Sort of pretend that you’re not really please about it but then we went abroad and everyone wanted to talk about it.
The Brit Awards took place recently, have you got any favourite British acts out there at the moment?
JP: In the Brit world, not a great deal. It’s not what we involve ourselves with. But we like Take That and we like Muse a bit. We like a lot of pop music but I think it’s unlikely that we’ll ever be welcomed into that world. That’s the true unit shifting pop stars area, and we’re not like that. We’re not good looking enough. Take That are very handsome.
You are nominated for Best New Band at the NME Awards, are you excited for the ceremony?
JP: No, because we’re not going to win. We’re gonna go along and not win. Just drink the free booze and have a nice time and see some people we know and meet some people we don’t know yet. It’s a night out.
Anyone in particular that you’re looking forward to meeting?
JP: Dave Grohl maybe? I think he might be on the list of people that you can’t meet because it would just ruin it. We have a list of people that we really want to meet and a list of people that we really want to meet but can’t. And I think Dave Grohl might be on it.
You played Reading & Leeds Festival last year, have you got any more festivals lined up for this year?
JP: They’re starting to come through now but we can’t really say anything about it yet.
JH: But we will be playing lots and lots of festivals in the sunshine across Europe and the UK.
And have you got any other plans for 2011?
JH: We’re going to Europe almost immediately and then we’re working on new material. And we’re probably going to do some surprise things later in the year that we’re not allowed to say. But our focus is on new material.
JP: …and more touring and festivals. So we’re going to be doing both of those things at once. Which is always a challenge.