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Metronome Sessions

Interview: Late of The Pier

7 October 08 interview: Jared Wilson
photos: David Blenkey

"When you don’t really know how to play an instrument, in some ways, you end up being more creative or at least experimental"

Electroclash upstarts Late Of The Pier are one of the most exciting bands in the UK right now and it all began from their base in Castle Donnington, Notts. Their debut album Fantasy Black Channel was produced by Klaxons and Kylie collaborator Errol Alkan and they already look set to be one of the buzz musical acts of the next year. We put some questions to lead singer Sam Eastgate about this plucky nu rave four piece…

How’s your day today?
Well I’ve just woken up and so far I’ve been opening my eyes, scratching my head and yawning. I did look out the window and thankfully it’s very sunny in Nottingham today. That’s about it so far really

So you guys all grew up together in Notts?
Yeah that’s right. We went to the same primary school and hung out together from an early age. Then we started going out to nights in the city like Liars Club, when it was at The Social. There was a huge buzz of art students at that time and really colourful scene. We turned up as 15-16 year olds and hustled our way in and found out about music. Everything that was happening in 2004 just came straight out, hit us on our head and made us wake up and the four of us knew what we wanted do from there on. So we formed this band.

Your sound is quite experimental. How does your music usually come together?
We wrote our first few songs as we were learning to play our instruments, which we did without any proper tuition. We messed about and experimented to see what we could do differently to other people, so there’d be a lot of weird time signatures and strange chords. When you don’t really know how to play an instrument, in some ways, you end up being more creative or at least experimental and so we were hearing a lot of stuff that was going on. There was this electro-clash scene as it was known at the time, but is nowadays called nu rave. There were hundreds of bands doing those sounds mixing electronic and punk and various other kinds of noise. Even now when we make music it’s very influenced by that kind of early excitement and we try to relive that excitement and create that mood with our music.

So how old are you guys now?
We’re all 21 apart from Sam Potter, who is 22. We all had a joint birthday party recently to celebrate.

I bet that was a fun night…
Yeah. When we signed our record deal we got carried away and asked Parlophone if they would sort us a house so we could all live together and make music. To our surprise they said yes and it was there that we had a big party involving lots of people camping outside. We had a fancy dress theme and all in all that was a real laugh. We don’t really have many days off at the moment, with the constant touring, so when we do we grasp the opportunity to be really silly.

So where did the band name come from?
When we decided to form the band it was a phrase that was kicking about. It was written on one of the demos and was meant to be the name of the demo rather than the band, but these things just happen sometimes and get lost in history. It’s the same with most of the track titles no one can really remember when they come from. The more you say the name the more it seems to have some ring to it and sounds more and more official. It’s the same with all names I was thinking about the name Bloc Party the other day. When a band becomes famous no matter what name they have it becomes official and a real sounding name. But most of the time when you really think about it its just random words put together.

Erol Alkan produced the album didn’t he? What’s it been like working with him?
We knew of Errol Alkan from when we he used to play at Liars Club. He was putting things together like Aphex Twin with Abba, which we’d never heard done before yet made perfect sense at two in the morning. I couldn’t believe how good Windowlicker was to dance to its probably one of the best tunes there is, yet most DJs wouldn’t touch that. A year or two later he approached us and said he’d like to record stuff with us and we were flabbergasted as he had a celebrity status in our minds. But as soon as you start talking to him you’re completely on the same level. Even when his fans meet him, he seems much closer to them than a lot of famous musicians. He embraced the fact we had so many different ideas and understood straight away what we were doing. We were just really lucky really to be on that same wavelength all the way through recording and it worked brilliantly.

How did it feel to sign to Parlophone, having been on smaller labels before that?
It just felt right really. We were being ‘courted’ by a few labels, which is quite a gross term when you think about it. Basically a lot of them took us for squid dinners and while it was happening we just tried to stay ourselves as much as possible. So it was really easy to tell if they understood us and if they liked us for what we were as a band. We did a few funny things to mess with them as well, like one time we met Atlantic records we painted lines all over ourselves. That was to just confuse the record label and they really didn’t understand it.
We didn’t have any ambition to be this in your face big band straight away. We just want to make music and they were clear that they didn’t want to rush us, saying the first album didn’t have to sell, taking the pressure off. They just wanted us to make music and put a huge blank canvas in front of us and said paint. I think we got the best deal and it makes us try harder so it’s a good relationship.

You’ve been compared to people like Gary Numan, Brian Eno, Frank Zappa and Klaxons. How do you feel about those comparisons?
I don’t know I mean we have so many comparisons now one example is our first single was compared to like 240 different artists and from then on I think we realised just because people will say you sound like this or that it’s just a tip of the iceberg for them and they might soon give up because we do change our sound so much I don’t think it’s our point to try and confuse people we just didn’t feel there’s a need to stick to one particular theme there are some great albums that have a distinct sound and flow to them but when we make music its always the case of this sounds like nothing we’ve done before we never really agree with people when they compare us and even people we do respect but we just let them carry on with those pigeonholes. People can realise for themselves

What was the last book you read?
I got a collection of short stories by Roald Dahl for my birthday. It’s really good as they’re the stories he wrote before he did children’s books and they’re aimed more at adults with some quite twisted stuff in there. It’s a good insight into his work, a bit like listening to a band’s early demos.

What was the last thing that made you laugh?
My girlfriend has bought all these strange exercise tools that are basically big stretchy bits of elastic. We did different sorts of exercises with them and I caught sight of us doing it in the mirror. We looked like a four legged four armed beast, it could be really good for a music video.

What was the last thing that made you cry?
I can’t remember the last time I cried. I’m obviously not one of those sensitive guys. I was quite close to tears when we turned up to play a gig in Oxford a couple of months ago and the sampler we use completely wiped itself and we had to get up on stage and tell the crowd we couldn’t play. Without our sampler all we are is guitar bass drums vocals. We had to remake the samples in a rush as we had to play Brighton the next day and it took nine hours. Now we make sure we back up things again and again and again. I spoke to Dev from Testicicles about his Lightspeed Champion project and he said he lost about three albums worth of material by not backing up. Technology can never be trusted.

What’s your favourite pub in Nottingham?
I like the Bell Inn where a lot of my friends work. But I’m not really a pub kind of guy. I usually go to The Social for a night out.

What’s your favourite Nottingham venue?
It used to be The Social but they don’t put the Liars Club on anymore. I used to like downstairs at Cabaret (now Escucha) but that’s probably because I was so excited when we last played there two years ago

You seemed to get bigger outside of Nottingham than you did here...
All the Nottingham bands we talked to would always say it will be really hard to get a good reception in London, compared to here, but we always found the opposite. We learned our craft in Nottingham but whenever we played gigs here people would be a bit confused. Then when all the Liars Club crew and the art students moved out in about 2004 I think a lot of them moved down to London and it sort of became our second home. But now we can come back to Nottingham with our heads held high because we have crafted our sound. When we come back here people think we’re this band who have come from nowhere, which I guess is kind of cool.

Is there anything else you want to say to our readers?
Go out and buy some records because the musicians are starving and they need your money. No that’s not true, they’re getting money from their live shows so don’t worry. Go to iTunes and listen to some new music. Happy hunting...

Fantasy Black Channel is out on Parlophone now.

Late of The Pier website

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