Long Blondes Sheffield Grapes 27/7/04

Since Johannes Guttenberg first got the printing press rolling way back in 1450 there has been an ever increasing tendency amongst us writer types to start trends, set bandwagons rolling and just generally chase the Zeitgeist. That’s all well and good; after all, when a truly promising and exciting thing comes along it is a necessity that the masses are informed of its particular merits as a means of enabling cultural progress.

However, it must be said that there is a danger in this process. That danger arises when we writer types start off bandwagons that ultimately fail to live up to their initial auspice, thus creating an eventual backlash resulting in unfertilised chicken foetuses being deposited firmly on our once smug mugs. The world of music journalism is cluttered with such faux pas. Milli Vannilli, Terrence Trent Darby… Menswe@r, Gay Dad, Terris… er… Hearsay (ahem, cough), One True Voice (ahem, splutter). We are forever having ‘THE NEXT BIG THING’ forced down our tracheas in the musical equivalent of an Involuntary Deep Throat Blow Job. Most recently we were told that the likes of Razorlight and Franz Ferdinand were going to ‘Change the UK music scene’ (like in that shitty song by Helen Love that disses Britpop heroes the Bluetones and the Longpigs amongst others- Helen who? Silly Cow slagging Sacred Cows. That’s who!), but we’re all still waiting.

It’s an easy trap to fall into: Hack goes to see cool ‘undiscovered’ Band after listening to a demo of theirs; Hack totally loves Band and, like, totally digs what they see and hear. Hack wants to wax lyrical about Band in order to break them (“you read it here first kids”). The hype builds up; Music Lover takes notice and purchases Band’s first couple of promising singles which subsequently gain universal acclaim. But ( and there’s nearly always a ‘but’), Band then release an album which falls someway short of the initial mega-expectations thus leaving Hack and Music Lover alike to move on and look for THE NEXT ‘NEXT BIG THING’ and so on and so on… With this particular danger firmly in my mind, I shall attempt to remain objective whilst elaborating on and analysing the virtues of the Long Blondes:

The Long Blondes are a 5 piece rock/pop act consisting of 3 girls and 2 guys. Their song ‘Autonomy Boy’, a Girlie Garage masterpiece fusing the pop chic of Debbie Harry’s Blondie with the lackadaisical uber cool of Tom Verlaine’s Television, features on the ultra hip ‘Rip Up Your Labels’ compilation from Angular Records (fast becoming the new Fierce Panda in terms of cult indie prestige).

They are neither Long nor Blonde. Lead guitarist and chief songsmith Dorian (a nice polite young studenty fella who, upon clocking, I couldn’t stop thinking looked a teensy bit like a young Scott Walker) has sort of mousy brown hair and whilst not being diminutive is hardly a giant. Drummer Screech (named after the resident geek in the “so shite it’s good” American teen show ‘Saved by the Bell’) has cool curly brown locks and again isn’t all that ‘long’ at 5 feet something. Bassist Reenie is a tres petite et stylish Femme avec short brown locks. Rhythm Guitar/ Casio Keyboard/Stylophone curator Emma is a sultry, raven haired beauty who one suspects will have legions of male groupies stumbling in her wake. And then there’s frontwoman Kate, a girl who much like her most obvious influence, Debbie Harry, manages to spectacularly combine feminine mystique with cool as fuck rock presence (and, once again, she has brown hair and ain’t that tall). Maybe the Brunette Belles would have been a better band name.

When I finally managed to sit down with them for the interview half an hour late (it was me that was late not them. The interviewer making the band wait, kinda rock n’ roll in reverse) what immediately struck me was how down to earth and relaxed all five of them were. No pretence or melodrama just modesty and friendliness. They jovially accepted my shit excuse for being late (‘me mother took ages to cook me tea’ or whatever such lie I spued) and did their utmost to ease my usual pre-interview nerves. They really were a nice bunch of chaps and this transpired in their responses to the questions I asked:

GodIsInTheTV: It says on your website (www.thelongblondes.co.uk) that “The Long Blondes are five young dandies who used to see each other around town. One day, by chance, we met and we fell in love”. What’s the real story behind how you all met?

Emma: The real story’s kind of boring really; we met in the Sheffield University Library.

Screech: No it’s not boring! We’re on a mission to make libraries cool again!

Dorian: Libraries are the new rock and roll!

GodIsInTheTV: Who or what is an ‘Autonomy Boy’?

Kate: You better let Dorian answer that, he wrote it!

Dorian: To be perfectly honest it doesn’t mean anything. It just fitted in with the song. We like our stuff to be taken at surface value rather than be semantically analysed. If you wanna read something into it though, then that’s cool.

GodIsInTheTV: On your website you say what your influences are not (Dylan, Stones Hendrix, Beatles etc) but no what your actual influences are. What are each of your favourite bands?

Emma: The Smiths, The Sweet and The Jesus and Mary Chain

Reenie: Belle and Sebastian, ELO and the Eagles

Dorian: Abba and the Fall

Screech: Scott Walker, the Slits and Captain Beaky (and his band).

Kate: The Smiths, the Fall and Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood.

GodIsInTheTV: From an insider’s point of view what’s the Angular scene like?

Kate: I wouldn’t necessarily call it a ‘scene’; it’s more like just a collection of like minded young bands making the music they want to make.

Screech: We all get on really well in general, particularly ourselves and the Violets, our support act this evening. They stay round our place and we stay round theirs. We’re very close.

Reenie: There is sometimes some jealousy from outsiders though. People sometimes think you have to be from New Cross to be involved. You don’t. We’re based in Sheffield so are living proof of that fact. Joe, who runs the label is in the Violets and his business partner, the other Joe, is in a band that featured on the first compilation prior to the one we’re on.

Kate: We are our own band as well as being on the label. We don’t have a contract and are free to pursue other avenues, for example our new single is being released by the Sheffield Phonographic Corporation.

Dorian: I like to think that freedom is a big thing for us. We don’t have a manger or an agent cos we don’t need one. We can do it all ourselves.

GodIsInTheTV: There’s a lot of what I call ‘Girlie Garage’ on the Rip Off Your Labels comp (yourselves, Violets, Swear, Lovers of Today) but you all seem to have your own peculiar identities. What do you think makes you so original and what do you plan to do to maintain that originality?

Dorian: As a band we’re free from convention. When we started out none of us knew how to play our instruments, we just learnt from scratch. When we did our first gig in Leeds a good while ago now to be fair we weren’t that good. But we’ve practicised a lot since. We play together and how it sounds is how it sounds.

Screech: We’re happy with our limitations. Less is more. For example Emma can’t really sing -*Cue polite smile from the lady in question which Screech notices* Well, you can’t! – But her backing vocals just work. They really work.

Dorian: Yeah, and I can’t do guitar solos- so I don’t.

Emma: we’re not innovating or pushing boundaries, we’re just having fun.

GodIsInTheTV: If you could eliminate one band each from the face of the planet who would you chose?

Reenie: Selfish Cunt

GodIsInTheTV: Oh yeh, them wankers who chucked horseshit on Pete Doherty! That could’ve killed him he’s so ill!

Reenie: Yeah them, they more than live up to their name and I like Pete!

Dorian: Radiohead

Reenie: Don’t say Radiohead! I like them!

Dorian: Radiohead!

Emma: Coldplay

Kate: Keane

Screech: The Long Blondes!

GodIsInTheTV: Where do you see yourselves in a year’s time?

Cue random, excited, melee of shouting from all of them:

Dead like Pete [Doherty]!

Under a van!

Still in the library!

Art Teacher!

Riding a backy on somebody else’s bike!

GodIsInTheTV: You say in the Song Autonomy Boy that you “Like a Man in Uniform”, which out of these 5 choices is your favourite ‘Man in Uniform’?

a) Traffic Warden

b) Prison Officer

c) David Hassellhoff in his Baywatch Trunks

d) Catering Assistant for a multi-national fast food conglomerate

e) Nazi

All: Nazi!*

Screech: Emma’s studied Nazi Chic!

Emma: I have not!

Reenie: You’ve gotta admit though, they had style!

And on that chilling note we discontinued!

As for the actual gig, I’m gonna be completely honest and say that I didn’t make any notes so I can’t write a detailed review. This however was not my fault, it was theirs. They were so fookin’ captivating that they made me forget to do my job! From memory though, I can tell you that “Autonomy Boy” sounds even better live than it does on the Rip Up Your Labels comp (some mean fete). The songs on their new 7 inch release, “New Idols” and the eponymous “Long Blonde”, sounded better still. And the highlight of the night was without doubt their duet with the gregarious Mark Wainwright (from support band the Motherfuckers) on a song about the Cambridgeshire town Peterborough, imaginatively named “Peterborough” (which sounded kinda like Olivia Newton John/John Travolta doing a Dirty New Wave epic). There was also plenty of smiling on the go- You could tell that they were really enjoying themselves which is exactly what you want to see from a band- and some seriously supermodelesque pouting from the girls which was tres sexy indeed. Needless to say, I’m smitten.

Let’s be careful though, don’t wanna get too carried away and tread on dangerous journalistic terrain by over-hyping them. Must be realistic: The Long Blondes won’t “change the UK music scene” (in the words of that schmuk Helen Whasserface), they won’t innovate in a masturbatory manner a la Radiohead or Pink Floyd (pretentious posh twats that they are) and, with their lack of an obsession for deep and meaningful lyrics and their disconcerting penchant for Nazism*, they most definitely won’t write the song ‘that makes Israel and Palestine get along’ (as Angular labelmates Art Brut tell us they intend to do). However, they will provide you with fantastic entertainment, they will (probably, possibly, maybe) write a memorable rock/pop classic or three along the way and you will fall in love with them. No Danger.

* The Long Blondes are not Nazis, they were only joking. Fascism: Don’t do it kids!

New Idols/ Long Blonde 7” Vinyl release available from Sheffield Phonographic Corporation (http://www.theespc.com). ‘Rip off your Labels’ compilation available from Angular Records (www.angularrecords.co.uk) or from Amazon.co.uk. (Interview by Jared O'Mara)

More info: Angular Records

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