“I had to record in a guitar booth, and I had one headphone on, and the other one off, just like in the pictures of live aid!”
Such was a slice of conversation I overheard on the train the other day.
“Yeah, I’ve told the guys. Our stuff is being touted round LA at the moment, but if we don’t get loads of interest then I’m going to stick with financial regulation.”
Financial regulator or rock star? The pinstriped commuter in question was so rock ‘n’ roll he’d apparently given up all but three days of his paid holiday for the recording. So it goes.
It’s hard to know where the Gin Riots are on their career arc at the moment – they’re not signed, neither are they damned by furious record company attention. In July they were featured on MySpace alongside Lethal Bizzle and Justice but they were unable to make good on the publicity because of a rocky relationship with their ex-drummer. I sensed this represented a bit of a false start for the band. More recently they played a gig in Venice where they were surprised to discover they had wide spread recognition, and they are about to feature in another MySpace “Unsigned Heroes” promotion, including a gig at Shoreditch’s Cargo. Having left the starting blocks for proper this time there is much more to come – including a video with a “very famous cult American director” – and a tour of the UK and Europe.
As my eavesdropping on the train had highlighted, there is no shortage of bands out there with nothing new to say. I was psychically aware of the editorial crutch I would later come to rely on, so I asked the band what distinguished them from Mr. Train.
Guy (Singer): The band started off organising nights called Gin Palace –it was in a really cool venue called the Ivy House in Peckham, it looks like a 1940’s Berlin cabaret theatre, with lamps on the tables and velvet curtains. The idea was to recreate a cabaret thing, and it really worked but in the end it became too much effort. We played dressed in the style of the time [of the gin riots, which the band are named after. Since you ask, they took place in London in 1743, and protested a rise in Gin duties.] I love the whole gin riots motif, there are some really cool prints by Hogarth which we use for artwork, sailors coming home, wives dropping babes…”
TTI: Was the band formed around the Gin Palace parties?
Tim (Bass): We did think we would like to do it for every gig, but in the end its just too much to organise. We get a lot of gig offers at the moment and feed back from labels has all been to gig more. I’m not going to be wearing braces every time I go on stage!
Guy: I still wear my braces and undershirts, no trousers though…
TTI: I know that you (Guy) have written poetry, and that you pay a lot of attention to your lyrics, is that a part of your “thing”?
Guy: Until recently I tried to keep my poetry and lyrics separate, but I’m not worried about that any more. I’m really weary of wankiness – so many bands that try with their lyrics just make them contrived. For me it’s more about the “London Life” I lead and the sounds of the words. It’s all about using every day language, not contriving it to fit with the rhyme or rhythm.
Jack(Drummer): That’s what so good about the Arctic Monkeys, they are able to tell a story and use normal language.
Guy: We are also really interested in vocal melody, too few indie bands think about that. We often write our songs either by having Tim come up with a bass line, or I will come in with a vocal melody.
TTI: What do you think about the “scene” at the moment?
Guy: There’s a lot of “run on of the mill” indie out there. The people I meet from bands are so often, well, of the same ilk.
Jack: When I was up north, and I think this is the case down here too, most of the people in bands are there because of the status they can have from being in a band. They dress very well, but they just don’t have anything to back it up with.
Guy: We played a gig the other day in the Pool Bar in Shoreditch, and the band before us were ridiculous, they all looked like indie action men. And they were shit. Its people trying to be performers without any real charisma.
TTI: I’m very interested in the whole MySpace thing, I know it’s been done to death in the press, but I can’t help but be amazed by how its panned out for you.
Guy: Yeah, we’ve got a Europe wide fan base through MySpace, as we discovered in Venice. And the whole MySpace unsigned heroes thing, which is great exposure.
TTI: I worry that it kind of dissipates the scene, so that there is never a local “thing” going on. Have you noticed that?
Jack: That’s true to a certain extent, but there are still gigs going
on that you only find out about if you know certain people, or are into
a certain band.
Guy: I think that your passion for the music will always come through.
The Gin Riots know they need to offer more than good music to make it, and their 18th century riot aesthetic and soon-to-come foray into the world of film add that extra dimension. I mentioned to the band that The Klaxons seemed to have done a good job of making themselves “more than a band”, but they didn’t identify. Which is a shame, because after the fluorescence of new rave I think it’s about time for the trendy kids to don britches and braces, stop washing and start sporting a chronic suppurating boil.
interview by Jimmy Tidey
Further reading: The Gin Riots (MySpace)