Incendiary go on a jolly with the Long Blondes (part one)

"It’s like we’ve purposefully made a difficult second album and I don’t hear any top ten smashes on there at all. It’s a way of setting our stall out. This album’s job is to point towards the third album. "


Incendiary go on a jolly with the Long Blondes


“Can you pick them up from the airport?”….


Once guitarist Dorian and singer Kate Jackson - looking remarkably perky for two people who have been barraged with questions about their splendid new LP Couples – have been collected from Schiphol; its time for the hotel and the pub. Dorian reveals that all this running around Europe promoting Couples has been done on an empty stomach and little sleep. But that’s life in the music business these days, and Incendiary are interested to see how this most down to earth of bands are coping. Being sociable types Dorian and Kate have agreed to meet up for a beer or two; and instead of doing an interview per se, we’ve just decided to let the tape recorder roll and see what happens. Hopefully this will appeal to their adventurous, slightly cussed natures.


Once settled with a beer, (Miss Jackson spits out hers because it tastes of liquid sausage, an advantage I’d have thought), and once the appearance of Patrick Moore on an early John Shuttleworth radio programme has been debated and put to rest, it’s time for the cassette player to be turned on.


Here comes the serious bit (when minds were relatively fresh and the blood was still circulating)


IN: I’m going to be cheeky. You will doubtless be asked lots of questions about the new LP. Or the ‘state’ of the Long Blondes themselves. With that in mind I’m going to ask you what sort of journalistic question is it you feel you should be answering at the moment?


D: One of the things that I think, and it’s not just a trait of the British press, but it is a bit part of their remit, is the whole "pigeon hole" thing, which to be fair, every band comes up against. Which, I’m assuming is one reason why bands like British Sea Power have cut down on the onstage foliage, or the Mystery Jets’ dad has stopped touring with them: to avoid lazy press stereotyping. It suits some bands to do be stereotyped because it gives them a reason to exist. Mentioning no names but most of the bands that are about at the moment really…  If you are trying to progress and have a career (in inverted commas) and make some form of meaningful art, it’s something you’ve got to avoid. You’ve got to try to create the freedom to move on.And in terms of stuff we want to move away from… well there’s “is it important what clothes you wear onstage?”


K: "What is it like to be a girl in a band"? I never want to be asked that question again.


D: "What’s it like coming from Sheffield"? "What music do you like from Sheffield"? Just anything away from the standard journalistic fare to be frank… Why not talk about books, or what we’re listening to?


IN: I suppose, looking at it as a journalist, you would turn to the idea that The Long Blondes have a reputation for trading in empathy. The songs on the first LP dealt with various emotional issues and I suppose you will be thought of as a band who addressed these issues and it got you (especially Kate) a certain poppy, “big sister” image. And the new LP shows that you’re not really like that are you? Do you feel that every night you go out and play those early songs that there’s a split between what you project on stage and what you maybe want to do…


K: I see young girls who are empathising with the lyrics and talking about us in a certain way, but maybe don’t realise that it’s me playing a character. The response we get highlights the fact to us that we are acting out an idea; the characters that we create onstage are separate from what we are like in our real lives.


IN: Are you comfortable with that?


K: Yeah I’m much more comfortable with that than if it was the other way around. Definitely.


IN: You say that and that’s fine, and yet your new LP is so different in feel to the first, it's a very brave step - what with the regimented way things are these days in music. So there must be more to this than just acting out a (maybe more extreme) part... I sense there is sort of grey area you are trying to define…


D: Well I don’t think it’s a grey area; it’s more a case of not trying to be pigeonholed. Of course we’re not an empathetic band in the way that… lets go right down the list and pick the Others… who swap their phone numbers with fans and all that kind of camaraderie thing.


K: We’re the opposite of that!


D: Yeah, and even Sea Power have empathetic side, but they do it in a very good way. But we come from a different well-spring, we draw parallels with the old style rock stars like Bowie and Roxy Music; we like to build a kind of a wall between the band and the audience. You say that the lyrics are full of a kind of empathy and I accept that but I think it’s just one facet of the Long Blondes, and obviously there are influences that drive these lyrical ideas; the influence of Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker comes through on virtually all the lyrics on the first album. But we’re equally ready to follow on lyrical ideas that Roxy and Bowie would throw up.


K: I think there’s already a start towards that.


D: Yeah, lyric-wise I would say that the Pulp-style kitchen sink narratives do come more naturally to me at present, but it’s something that I want to move completely away from that by the next album. I think the lyrics on Century are a great pointer to where we’re heading; slightly more abstract, good pop art. That’s why we want to release that song first, and yes it’s a cliché, but we want to promote the idea of expecting the unexpected with the Long Blondes.


IN: With Couples maybe you are trying to recreate something that doesn’t exist anymore… and I’d be surprised if you got away with it (Speaking for myself I think it’s great, otherwise why do these creative things?) With Couples are you trying to create a bit of artistic breathing space, regardless of whether it annoys some people?


D: Exactly. I think we’re quite fortunate in a band like we’ve got to make a second album that’s not, you know… It’s like we’ve purposefully made a difficult second album and I don’t hear any top ten smashes on there at all. It’s a way of setting our stall out. This album’s job is to point towards the third album.


K: I don’t really see the first album as representative of what we’re about or what we’re looking to achieve; partly because of the production on it and partly because the collection of the songs is very much representative of it’s time. I mean we always talk about influences but I definitely don’t see these influences being reflected on the first LP. Some people have might overly judged us as an NME type band or whatever, well they will hopefully hear the new LP and realise that we’re not like that at all.


IN: Don’t you get annoyed by the fact that you always get judged by people who seem content to make no effort to actually engage with you? It’s like the Morrissey interview with Tim Jonze; whatever the backstage machinations were with that interview, the overriding feeling for me was that there’s a huge gap between interviewer and interviewee, which certainly wasn’t the case twenty or even ten years ago. It’s as if people don’t care about music anymore, to the extent of trying to understand it and learn about it. In terms of the Long Blondes, is the reason that you set out to make difficult LPs a proof that you are not part of this new musical landscape?


D: I think to a certain extent we wilfully do that.


K: The thing is we do it and then we moan about the fact that we’re not getting played on the radio! (Laughs)


D: This is the thing. You have got to set your sights on a more long term thing. When the first LP came out we were aware from the advice we were “proffered” that it was the Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand that were leading the pack. Nowadays, we’re talking about being on a level with the Pigeon Detectives and we don’t want to be associated with that sort of competition at all. I know we always said we wanted to be a pop band. But people’s definition idea of pop is so wide. We see ourselves as an academic pop band, but to the average man on the street (and you know what Sid Vicious said about them), the Pigeon Detectives is indie.


K: So God only knows what they think about us. I mean recently our record was on Round Table and who was it? The guy from the Specials? Neville Staples…


D: Yeah! He said it was young person’s music. This is from one of the most radical pop bands ever, and twenty years down the line he’s dismissing it. It’s quite depressing isn’t it?


IN: Talking of young people’s music, I used to do the quiz with my granda and his mates in Gateshead Working Mens’ clubs, and I was tolerated to cover the Young People’s Music questions.


D: Emma’s mum; her partner is from Gateshead; his local is underneath a multi-storey in the centre of Gateshead. I went in there one time and it was like... oh God; I was told to tone it down a bit clothes-wise before I went in. But even so I was stared at as soon as I went in. It was the weirdest pub in the world, in that there were no real windows to speak of added to the fact that the horse racing is on the telly, it’s completely smoky, but with the Best of the Pet Shop Boys at deafening volume, and I can vouch it wasn’t an ironical gesture on anyone’s behalf. Of course I was classed as a student… When we sat with the Don of the pub, we were alright. It was then we just got bought loads of drinks, but it was only Carling; really harsh rocket fuel. And you can’t leave the pub.


IN: You can’t just have just the one can you? I’d better ask you something about your LP. I’m really happy that I can hear the early Cocteau Twins and Fourth Drawer Down-era Associates in there. This Gothic pop! It’s like a lost world.


D: To be honest with you the Cocteau Twins aren’t a massive influence, but I certainly think their influences are things that we also dig into. There is some kind of British vibe that’s very futuristic but has a very pronounced pastoral element too. What we were trying to do was harness the melodies from these traditions. The melody on Century which, perversely enough was inspired by listening to English folk... It’s an integrated thing that we can’t really help. It seeps through. I don’t want to sound imperialist or little Englander about it; it’s just one of those things. In a good way. Century is the most electronic we’ve been. The only guitar we’ve got on there is a kind of John McGeogh howl.

Click here for part two where three old gits discuss heritage...