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Six By Seven Return to the Nottingham Stage

17 February 17 interview: Paul Klotschkow

In their early-noughties heyday, alt rockers Six By Seven toured Europe, played various festivals, chalked up five Peel Sessions, appeared on Later… with Jools Holland, and were invited by none other than David Bowie to perform at his curated Meltdown Festival. Following the 6 Music breakfast show playing Eat Junk Become Junk, and the resulting fan-led campaign to get it to Christmas number one in 2015, The Closer You Get lineup of the band are reforming for a couple of special shows in Nottingham and London. Chris Olley, Six By Seven’s leader since their inception in the mid-nineties, talks us through it all…

photo: Shaun Gordon

The original lineup of Six By Seven is back together to perform the second album, The Closer You Get, in full. Why now, and why that particular album?
Since Beggars are re-releasing The Closer You Get it seemed like a good idea to play that album. But we’re only doing it once, here on our home turf.

The Closer You Get is seen as a seminal British indie rock album of the era and is held up by many fans of the band as a particular favourite – when you were writing and recording it did you feel that you had something special on your hands?
Not really, no. In fact, when we delivered it, the label asked us to go back into the studio to do some more because they felt it wasn’t quite there. I agreed and we hastily did Eat Junk Become Junk, New Year and Another Love Song after the session was finished. I think those songs made the album much better.

Can you remember much about recording it in Nottingham?
I can remember everything, yeah. It was a brilliant time. We were all within walking distance of the studio and we just met up everyday to make music in a brilliant room with great people like John Leckie and Ric Peet. We had a fantastic time, we were very lucky to be doing what we did.

Looking back sixteen or seventeen years since the album’s recording and release, how do you feel about it?
Proud. It’s a great slab of rock and it talks about our lives at that time here in Nottingham and how we felt about what was happening around us. We wanted to make it here and I'm really glad we did. The Square Centre was a state of the art studio and I’m sad it’s gone. I’m not really into comparing albums – that’s not for me to do – but I think it’s become quite a special record for all those concerned. Ric and John and the studio gave it a really great sound. As did the band, of course. It still sounds very fresh.

There has been sporadic Six By Seven activity through the years with various lineups, but nothing stable for a while. Is it hard to get a band together and find the right musicians?
It’s hard to get a band together, make it successful and keep it going full stop.

Was it hard to persuade your former band members to rejoin for this upcoming run of shows?
Not really.

Who took the most persuading?
Me.

Regarding getting ready for these show, could you all remember the songs or has there been a process of you having to go back to the songs and re-learn them all again?
It’s like riding a bike.

When was the last time this lineup performed together on stage?
We were trying to work that one out ourselves and couldn’t. It would have been sometime before Glastonbury 2000.

You’re still constantly writing and releasing music, either as Six By Seven or under your own name via your music club, often direct to fans via the internet, as well as keeping a regular blog. Is it important for you to both keep creating and keeping a dialogue with your audience open?
Of course it’s important, it’s the fans that keep me going and Six By Seven fans are the best fans in the world.

You’ve run a few successful Kickstarter projects for album releases but the one for the original reunion show in London didn’t quite reach its target and was cancelled, which must have been disappointing. What do you put that down to, considering the sold-out Nottingham show and a second one in London lined up – there’s obviously an audience and fanbase out there…
It wasn’t disappointing at all, it was planned, the London Kickstarter show was a publicity stunt. I set the bar to £10,000 to get people talking and it worked – when we did the next one it sold out straight away, which in turn led to Rock City giving us the London show. I thought that was rather brilliant of them.

Looking back over what Six By Seven achieved – Peel Sessions, various festival shows, playing Bowie’s Meltdown festival, Jools Holland – what is your personal highlight?
All of the above. We thought we’d be happy if we got one Peel Session but we did five in the end, it doesn’t get much cooler than that. Playing on Jools Holland was fantastic. I remember him coming over to me afterwards and saying that he thought we were excellent and one of the most powerful sounding bands they’d had on the show. I told him I felt a bit intimidated by being surrounded by all these stars like Ronnie Spector and Blondie and Massive Attack. He just said, “This is where you belong now.” I thought that was a really nice thing to say. Bowie asking you to play is special, isn’t it? I had the chance to talk to him but I ran a mile, I just couldn’t do it. I don’t regret it, I wouldn’t have known what to say and would have made a complete tit of myself. I forget how many Glastonburys we’ve done but they were always special gigs too.

You have often included little nods and references to Nottingham in your work, as well as recorded here; is this link to your hometown important to you?
Yes. It’s where I live, it’s what has informed me for a long time and I love it here. Many local musicians complain about Nottingham but I don’t know why. It’s just a town. It’s your town, make something of it. It’s much better now than it used to be with all the smaller venues like Rescue Rooms and Bodega. In the old days we had to go over to Derby Warehouse to see the smaller, more interesting bands like Mercury Rev. You wouldn’t want to live in a town that doesn’t have a Rock City in it, would you?

Have you heard any bands or songs that may have been influenced by Six By Seven?
Loads. I’ve been told of many bands, either directly or indirectly, that they have been influenced by us. We tried to bridge a gap between Sonic Youth and pop music. Back then it was a weird thing to do. The Sonic Youth fan thought you were too commercial and the pop fan thought you were too left of field. We didn’t care. Now there’s Sigur Ros and Arcade Fire and all those other bands and it’s cool. We did it twenty years ago but unfortunately for us at the time people were more interested in superstar DJs like Fatboy Slim and The Chemical Brothers. It was hard back then to fill a room with people who got what we were trying to do.

The Closer You Get reissue and a Greatest Hits compilation are being released by Beggars Arkive, Friday 17 February.

Signing and in-store performance, Rough Trade, Wednesday 22 February. Performing The Closer You Get in full, The Maze, Saturday 4 March.

Six By Seven website

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