‘Every time we get drunk together a new totally silly and OTT idea for the gig comes up so we shall just have to see what sticks.’ – Jo Bevan
John Clay a.k.a Clark Kent cornered Desperate Journalist ahead of their gig at London’s Scala. Chat about their follow up album ‘Grow UP’ led to confessions of fav songs, focussed song writing and a guitarists undying wish to fly above mere mortals as a supreme being.
Caz Hellbent (Drums)
Were you at all intimidated by doing another album? Were you tempted to run away, change your name and deny your past achievements?
No I never felt that way. I’ve never felt any pressure to do or achieve anything. It was exciting to work on new songs and write and record the new album as one thing. The first album kind of happened as we’d written enough songs and thought it was time to release one. Grow Up was thought of as an album. As soon as we started working on the songs, I knew it was going to sound great and I was looking forward to finishing the whole thing and get it heard.
How do you feel about one of the main characteristics of ‘Hollow’ being the drums?
I don’t think the drums on ‘Hollow’ are more important than anything else… They are however a bit different from what I usually do. Very repetitive and ‘gothy’. We took time to get them to sound the way they do, and Jonny (who engineered and mixed the album) was amazing: we overdubbed some of the normal drums with some that we recorded in a stairwell to get that extra reverb. It was fun and I love the result. The idea was to sound a bit like an 80s drum machine but with a natural feel, and I think we managed that.
Would you ever consider doing a lead vocal on one of the tracks, and has anyone else?
No I don’t think I ever will. I think Jo’s voice is essential to the sound of band. When I was younger I remember always hating when bands had songs where the lead singer didn’t sing, so I don’t want to put people through that!
What’s your fav track off the album and why?
My favourite track has been ‘Be Kind’ since the day I heard the demo. It was one that Rob hadn’t sent us because he didn’t really like it. We heard it by accident when we were round his, and I fell in love with it. It has that tension between sadness/nostalgia/despair, and anger/yearning/hope which makes all my favourite songs. As soon as I heard it I knew it had to be a single. It also has what I think is one of our best music videos: Jason Weidner did an amazing job at capturing that tension, I can’t watch it without getting the shivers!
Simon Drowner (Bass)
What was the biggest challenge you had in recording the album?
The biggest challenge in recording the album was probably just getting everything done in time. We had about 16 songs to record, all of them needed to be up to scratch. We spent 7 days recording and 5 days mixing in the end, which I think is really good going. There’s probably a garage punk band reading this and thinking “dude, we could do 16 songs a *day*” but listen, Rob had a lot of guitars to overdub!
Do you have a song off Grow Up that you love now but could see yourself hating later?
I do love all the songs off the album, I don’t imagine I’ll ever hate any of them. But if I ever did hate one, ‘Radiating’ would be the easiest because I’m not on it.
What do you have planned for Scala on Thurs? Any crazy stage ideas?
At Scala you can expect to hear a lot of the new album, and some old favourites. We don’t have any crazy stage ideas, no Kiss style theatrics. It’ll just be us as usual, bigger, better … and naked, obviously.
‘Lacking in Your Love’ has the best baseline you’ve ever written. Not a question really, just a statement.
Thanks! It’s very simple, like most of my basslines to be fair. Less is more, I’d rather lock in with the drums and get it right than try and fit something flowery in, and if you like it I must be doing something right!
Robert Ormond Hardy (Guitar)
‘Resolution’ is probably the most poppy tune you’ve ever done. Do you think there’s a danger you’ll get bored of performing it, and is there a coping mechanism to stave that feeling away?
Yes there probably is, particularly for me as I do get bored quickly. On the other hand there’s a whole verse where I don’t play anything and can drink instead so maybe it will be fine. No mechanism as such but generally speaking it takes quite a lot to get bored of playing our songs bar an odd few – also whenever I express boredom with playing a particular song again Simon just tells me to shut up
Do you ever compare albums, and on a personal level, were you trying to outdo any fretwork between then and now?
I compare albums on the level that I wanted this to be a step up/step forward from the last one but apart from that no not really. I think if anything I tried to rein myself in on this one more than the first and allow other instruments more space as the first album is quite guitar dominated really. I’m not really interested in ‘fretwork’ and am more focussed on doing my best to serve the song. Occasionally I forget and attempt to show off but that’s my motivation at least.
You certainly left a lot of space on tracks like Hollow, or the bass driven ‘Lacking in Your Love’. Especially for the drums. Were there notable obstacles in coming up with the album? How did you traverse them?
I guess the biggest obstacle was coming up with so many songs at once and trying to maintain quality. Was really the first time I’d written so much over a relatively short space of time as the first album was more a collection of songs that we’d just recorded as we went along. That was literally just keeping on going at it and forcing myself to keep writing but ended up being ok really as was a pretty productive period in the end. The other obstacle was simply getting everything recorded and mixed in the time we had available – particularly given all the bloody guitar overdubs. There are even drum overdubs on this one. Everything had to be quite meticulously planned in advance to maximise use of time which I think may have slightly irritated the others at times …
You record with a fella called Keith Top of Pops off Old Compton Street. What’s the vibe like, and how much does he contribute to the structure of the tunes, if at all?
The vibe is a curious mix of very stressy but generally pretty smooth – we all are pretty dead set on how we want things to go and sound and can get frustrated when something isn’t going right. We don’t really ever argue as such but it can be a little tense at times – usually my fault to be fair …
Keith doesn’t contribute to structures or anything like that. This album had been entirely mapped out and demoed at my flat before recording it properly so 90% of it was all agreed and arranged before we ever set foot in the studio. There are a couple of bits that were spontaneous in the studio e.g. the second guitar solo coming in at the end of all over. Keith mostly contributes a sense of calm, beer and of course the studio itself!
And where would music be without beer? To wrap things up, how’re you feeling about playing Scala? Any surprises in store? Will you be running about the stage like a madman? How do you feel about bigger venues?
Pretty nervous about Scala to be honest as it’s the biggest venue we will have headlined and desperately hoping there are enough people there for it not to be embarrassing!
Might be some pyrotechnics and some wire work I think. Hoping I can ascend from the stage like some kind of messiah figure but we shall see.
I’m less keen on bigger venues in general but Scala is a great venue. It’s kind of the upper limit of my ideal sized venue but it’s a tease off between the energy of a small room and the kind of sound quality you are able to get in larger places I guess.
Can I quote you on the messiah ascendance spiel?
Haha. Sure although I am joking!
There are no jokes with the underground press! This desperate Journalist believes all!
Jo Bevan (Vocals)
‘Hollow’ sounds like something right out of early 80’s U.K guitar led pop music, and yet it sounds so utterly modern. Do you ever think about the correlation of your music and the U.K’s current socio political mood?
Thanks for such a compliment! I don’t really think about how our music is affected by the political climate as it’s all so personal. However obviously the general feeling of living in a dismal country which is rapidly becoming more and more dismal does bleed through.
I’m not as familiar with the lyrics of your current album as I’d like to be. Is there any chance you’ve made a comment on the U.K’s turmoil, or does your pencil snap into under the weight of rage?
Sadly not. At the moment I’m only really equipped to write about people (the lowest form of conversation) or my own inner turmoil. It’s very difficult to write a decent political song without sounding trite or really, really sixth-form.
If you were on an island (bear with me, don’t yawn) and you could only take three songs from this album, what would they be, and why?
‘Purple’, because it has a lushness and space about it that means it works well when it’s late or I’m lonely. ‘Oh Nina’, because it’s musically probably the most unusual track on there, and ‘Lacking In Your Love’ because I adore playing it live and it would entertain me in my exile with memories of past glories.
‘Lacking In Your Love’ has the best bassline on the L.P. Serious baby-making music … just don’t concentrate on the words, otherwise coital bliss will probably cease. A slight tangent now: If I were to pay you a two figure sum, would Desperate Journalist cover ‘Young Men’ By Suede. I am open to negotiation … upped by several pence.
We are a deeply erotic band. I haven’t actually heard that Suede song! Rob says as he hasn’t got a flanger, we can’t cover it, which has made me keen to try. Having looked it up I do like the lyrics – almost parodically Britpop-observational but then subtlety is overrated anyway. Go on then, tenner.
Ha! You guys! I’ll find Rob the flanger. Tell him I’m deadly serious. Check out Sci Fi Lullabies, a collection of B sides including the aforementioned track. Anyway, you guys sound more rocky now. A conscious maneuverer, or did Rob lock you all out of the studio?
(Rob: Yes I did. They just tend to get in the way anyway so I thought best if I just play everything and because I’m so big and masculine I tend to hit everything really hard – hence the rock).
The running time is longer than the previous compendium. Again, is this a decision made beforehand? I don’t think of you as a jamming band, but perhaps you might want to enlighten this Desperate Journalist Jo?
We don’t ever jam, every song is always constructed in a very considered way and parts that don’t absolutely need to be included are chiselled off. This album does have a few longer songs on it as we wanted to try out some different textures and musical space.
Listening to the last album (right now) I think you’ve slowed down and have become more introspective in Grow Up. so, just as rocky, but more considered and less punky. Looking forward to your gig at Scala? Any surprises in store?
Thank you! I think that’s a fair assessment. A bit less bratty. We are ridiculously excited about the Scala. I’ve bought a suitably ridiculous party dress. Every time we get drunk together a new totally silly and OTT idea for the gig comes up so we shall just have to see what sticks.
Care to share some of the front runners? Any giant sized versions of the band popping up billboard size? Do it Jo. You know you need to.
I believe Rob has told you of his plans for messianic ascendance! The rest will have to remain a secret.
Miss Bevan, you are a dream interview. Until the next time x
[Click here to watch the video for latest single ‘Be Kind’, a fine addition to the latest playlist Clark Kents Rock And Roll Revue]
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