Hello, what have you been up to today?
Ian: I’ve been cycling around the Forest of Dean with my ladymate Janine. We opted for the genteel family route after seeing a casualty of the hardcore scramble route – he had a purple arm and a nasty gash to the elbow. I was wearing my new coat and didn’t want to damage it in a fall.
Sam: Almost nothing at all and glorious it has been.
Jack: I have however just finished assaulting my neighbours with the sounds of Cameo. Sorry neighbours.
How did Injured Birds get together?
I: Sam and I used to jam for hours on end when we were whippersnappers. Then he moved to London where he started writing and performing songs. I heard his stuff when he came back to Nottingham and knew that I wanted in. I’ve always regarded him as one of the best songwriters (and probably the best lyricist) on the Nottingham scene. We found Jack Benjamin through our record label Denizen. He’s a rare find in that he’s screamingly talented and insanely hard working. As Sam’s said before, Jack has more bands than hands, which says everything you need to know about his ambition. He makes such a valuable musical contribution and does most of the bandmin (that’s band administration). Sam and I both had our eyes on David Keye for a long time before Sam bumped into him by chance. We’d seen him playing keys with a McDonald at the Loft on Mansfield Road and assumed he was the eldest McDonald brother. Like Jack he’s become central to our sound. There are tracks on the album that David just ‘makes’. He’s an A1 tinkler.
J: When these guys went into the studio I was actually a temp at Denizen doing odd jobs. I happened to play the label guys 8mm Orchestra and Pete Fletcher must have suggested me to these guys! Before I knew it I was learning the tracks a week before we went to record the album...
What’s the difference between Sam Kirk the solo artist and Injured Birds?
I: I enjoy the Sam Kirk gigs more. I get to drink and there’s less faffing. Drumming is very faffy.
S: There is no real separation for me it’s just different ways of presenting the same thing. If the songs don’t stand up stripped down to their bones then they’re probably flawed in some terminal way. I adore this band but playing solo forces me to strengthen my performance and my writing. I plan to test out most of the next record on my own, use the audience like a half-cut focus group. I should also say that it’s lonelier but I do get to keep all the money. Ian has been considering performing Injured Birds drum solos for precisely this reason.
Lyrically, where does the inspiration come from?
S: I generally scribble a lot of incoherent nonsense in notebooks without any real forethought. All stolen from conversations, experiences and Radio 4 (to which I am dangerously addicted), I feed on all of that like a sort of middle-class vampire and then piece it together slowly in my lair. I like a narrative, even if it’s slight as a thread, I have tried to put a traceable story in all of the songs and gags, there are a few gags in there too.
What are you hoping to achieve with Injured Birds?
I: This is my golden ticket out of wage slavery. The second album simply has to go global so I no longer have to sit in a grey room gawping at an illuminated slab whilst prodding a jumbled-up alphabet.
S: Me and Ian used to play a lot as a duo to white men over 50 with beards. We made an unwritten band manifesto that we wished to play to substantially larger quantities of ethnically diverse women from 18 – 45 who were both clean-shaven and willing to dance. I would not say we are quite there yet but by Christ we’re close.
Can you tell me a bit about your debut album, Silver Birches?
I: Pete Fletcher of Denizen Recordings was a big fan of Sam’s solo stuff. He’d always wanted to record an album with Sam but it took about 4 years for this to finally happen, by that time I was involved. Once David and Jack were on board, we did some woodshedding for about 3 months before recording to work out parts and generally gel as a band. We recorded the album in a week at Electric Mayhem in town. It was such a good experience – a creative bubble that was just lovely to be in. It’s a very fresh record. Jack and David obviously had to come up with parts for everything, but I also had to come up with drum parts on the day for several tracks. It all just slotted into place. We all muck in with instrumentation. David pulled out an awesome marimba take, Jack’s on glockenspiel at several points, and I’m on a can of dry peas inside a Turkish drum on Seaside Towns.
J: One of my favourite moments recording the album was when me and Pete were tracking the bass on a track called Beautiful To Me. After already recording a bass guitar with so much fuzz on a lovely ukulele driven pop song, we had the brilliant idea of me recording a synth on that sounds like it belongs on a Neu! track. I felt that was me adding some of my weird 8mm influences on a lovely record.
How do the final compositions come together once you’ve written the basics of a song?
S: I only really come in with chords melody and lyrics, often only one of the above. I don’t even think about the arrangements. The whole thing is pretty democratic everyone writes or improvises their parts and we stitch the whole thing together in rehearsal. I find megalomania pretty tiring and I trust them all. I love hearing the tiny seed of a song utterly mutate when you give it over to really talented musicians, I’m very lucky in that respect.
Why should we buy the album?
S: My daughter needs shoes and so do I. Shiny new shoes.
J: Because the album art looks like it’s a posh book. Get it out in public and other people will think you are really smart.
The album is coming out on Notingham-based Denizen Recordings. What does a label like that bring to the table?
I: Contacts. That’s been the biggest boon of working with a label. They can get us radio play and reviews in national press which I’m sure we’d have struggled with.
S: I am an astonishingly lazy man, I need a label to hound and pursue me like a fox or I will fester. They have built a team of incredibly hard working people like Jody Rothera our super-booker, Hannah Gould and Kristi Genovese our press and promo wizards who compensate for my extreme sloth and dithering.
What have been your favourite shows to play in Nottingham?
I: I think we nailed it when we supported Garrison at Nottingham Contemporary. We played in the bar to a super friendly audience and we really hit our stride.
S: I also loved playing the Rescue Rooms supporting Captain Dangerous at their album launch. But I have to give it to Rob Gibson at Hotel Deux he has never stopped booking us and treats every gig with the same level of enthusiasm and energy, he’s a sweetheart.
J: I’m going to go with the Damn You! Christmas Covers Party two years ago. Even though we didn’t play our own music we played some interesting cuts from the past.
How has the local music scene changed since you first started performing and making music?
I: I think it’s got a lot more interesting in terms of musical flavours. I played in Grain briefly and I only really remember them, Old Basford, and a handful of others. All great bands in their own way, but the breadth and depth of the scene just wasn’t as good as it is now. I think it’s also become more collegiate and supportive – there’s a nicely tribal sense of helping each other out. I just hope that some of the recent breakthroughs can take a few of their Nottingham brethren with them into the big league.
S: There are so many wonderful bands, I vacillate between being filled with excitement and riven by insane jealousy. I hear people saying “the Nottingham scene” without irony, for me that is ludicrously exciting. It’s like being a very genteel gang member.
I understand that you are launching the album at Branch Out...
I: We wanted to launch it in Nottingham among friends and family. I’m excited to finally see the CD. Physical proof that the last two years have: A) happened but also B) have been worth the occasional hiccup and wobble.
S: Yes there will be actual shiny real CD’s to buy, I’m not too sure how you “launch” something, but I’m going to Google it and make sure I don’t embarrass myself.
Who else playing Branch Out do you think we should check out?
I: Will Jeffery and Cecille Grey are genuinely in my top 5 of local acts. I was working out my top 5 in anticipation that you’d ask that question, but it just so happens that they’re playing the Malt Cross with us on 28th October for Branch Out.
S: The irritating thing about Branch Out is that they have made it physically impossible for me to see everyone I want to see, if they had booked at least a couple of crap bands I could have planned my day without stress. I second Ian’s choices and add Captain Dangerous, Joe Danks, Harleighblu, Hhymn, Kagoule, Grey Hairs...In fact sod it, just run around the venues at random like toddlers full of sweets, there will be something fantastic wherever you stop.
What do you like to do on a night out in Nottingham?
I: Perhaps disappointingly, I’m either at a pub quiz, at a pub quaffing real ale with a gaggle of chums (what’s the collective term for a group of men? I’d venture ‘pissing contest’) or staying in with my girlfriend. She’s a crafty one, in the literal sense. Most recently I made bunting for our summer house. Which I believe makes me quite middle class.
S: I am nearly 30 and I have both a beard and a child, generally a night out in Nottingham is a combination of confusion and regret.
Any final words for the LeftLion readers?
J: Although we are both grown men with beards and are of a mixed Caribbean decent... me and Sam Kirk are not related. I’m sorry to disappoint you.
Injured Birds play the Malt Cross as part of the Branch Out Festival on Sunday 29 October 2012.
Their debut album Silver Birches is released on 5 November 2012 on Denizen Recordings.