Interview by EDF
How will people look back on the year 2000 and not bring up the subject of the fuel shortage that happened in mid September that had motorists in a panic to find petrol? Even artists have the same problem. Take ANDY CHILDS from ELEVATOR SUITE for example. He was one of the luck ones. Why? The next time there is a fuel shortage, go to Plymouth, you might find some petrol. Andy did and that’s where I interviewed him, just leaving the petrol station with mobile phone in hand.
The new album is different to what most bands are doing at the moment. The single BACKAROUND sounded a little bit like Kula Shaker, the rest of the album is so different.
You cannot make a judgment of us from just that one single. The tracks are all so different on the album.
One of the standout tracks is AIRHEAD, there are some dark tones to the track.
Sixteen is a bit like that. People find that one interesting as well.
There is a hint of the James Taylor Quartet in your music.
Our music reminds people of a lot of bands like Stereo MC’s, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and the Doves but nothing sticking. When you set out to make an album that is as diverse as it is, it’s the manner that we make music, that’s what we ended up with.
So it wasn’t like a big plan you had on how you were going to sound?
No, not at all. I think at the moment it’s working against us as people cannot put us in a box. It’s dance but it’s not dance enough for the dance floor, its rock but its not. It’s somewhere in the middle of everything. We have been to France where they’ve called our music original. We never set out to do anything challenging. We’ll challenge ourselves in the studio. There was never an intention to say lets do this.
It’s easier for a band to go into the studio with one type of sound and record 10 or 12 tracks and that’s it.
We sat in the studio and used whatever we had and sampled things, loop them and build grooves over them. It depends on what we found in terms of sampling and records in the studio and that’s the type of thing we ended up with. It came down to whatever the mood was when we were working. What we don’t want to do is to formulise something and get tied and clichéd about it.
How does your music come across at a live setting?
Very, very exciting, very vibey. We are young as a live band. It’s all quite exciting at the moment, nothing’s jaded. We’re feeling our way a bit, in at the deep end. Because each song was built around samples but using real musicians to improvise over the music to make it, it translates really well into the live set. We use samples but to a limited degree we don’t use an ADAT or anything or a click. It’s all very real, very exciting. I’m really quite excited about the live shows.
How many extra musicians have you drafted in for the live shows?
For the live shows we’ve kept it simple, bass player, drummer and keyboard player. Steve plays guitar anyway, Robert sings and according to the NME I’m a denim-clad tambourine playing vibes master. That’s my title. I’ll keep it until something better comes along.
On AIRHEAD, you’ve put in a CD skipping sound effect?
We are not up our arses experimental but if we hear something we like then we’ll go with it. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. The important thing is that we had fun and I think that comes across in the music. It was produced on a little PC by three people who love just making music which is important rather than the stuff you hear in the charts performed by people but not necessary created by them.
With the increase of home studios plus the equipment and programmes which you can purchase for your PC, it seems almost as good as anything that you can do in a big recording studio. The only thing you need a good recording studio for is to mix the track down at the end – do you agree?
That’s what we did for our album. We mixed it down in a big studio. It all comes down to good ideas. Any form of creativity, it does not matter how much money you throw at something, if there isn’t a good idea there in the first place then it’s not going to work. We used the technology to sample and sequencing but on the whole we have relied on the classic way of working.
You’ve tried to keep a live element to what you were recording?
I think because we were writing songs, Steve comes from a classical background and Paul and I coming from similar background but from different angles, we made something that feels right. Pop music in the 60’s with the Beatles, the Doors and the Rolling Stones up to Britney Spears to Craig David, what we have produced is more akin to back then but still contemporary.
As far as where the general state of the music scene is at right now, do you reckon people might be getting a bit tired of all the manufactured pop acts that are being constantly thrown at us?
It seems that everyone I talk to is sick of Britney Spears and all that soulless pap they call pop. It’s tedious. At the end of the day it’s down to the record companies. They just want a quick return. Fewer and fewer record companies are willing to spend the time to allow the artist to develop. They just want the next big thing whether it is the girl band thing or the boy band thing, over and over again. There’s so many of them now. They are not concentrating on real music and real bands and what’s coming through, very little.
I’m sick of seeing people who are in a privileged position doing what most people would love to do and they seem to be so miserable with it. I think just sod that. I want to make music and enjoy it. People like Britney Spears are fine but there is just too much of it. It’s down to people to search out good music. Some of it’s not coming through. Everything seems to be deemed to be successful by what chart position you’re at.
Some of it also comes down to radio stations being pigeon-holed into what they’re going to play.
All the regional stations are controlled by a larger syndicated arm. They are told what to play. When BACKAROUND was released, if certain radio stations had given it the nod, it’s the difference between success and failure. It’s not a bad record, it’s just not enough people got to hear it. That would have been down to two people. If someone had said ‘Okay, do it’, it would have been saturated over regional radio across the country. If people don’t play it you’re fighting a losing battle if you’re trying to get chart success. I’ve got a feeling we will be more successful in Europe before we are here, just from the general response we have had to the album over there.
How were you received in France?
We had a review in their equivalent of Q magazine, which said the album was almost perfect. You cannot ask for better than that.
It is an impressive album.
There are certain tracks that jump out at you straight away, MAN IN A TOWEL and BACKAROUND especially. After a few listens your allegiance will change to what tracks you prefer. It’s definitely an album that will grow on you.
I have listened to the album when it was chucking it down with rain and it was perfect for that kind of weather.
It’s definitely a mood LP. It takes you on a journey.
It takes you to the end of the 60’s without forcing you back, it lulls you back.
There is a lot of influence in there from that. We’ve taken a lot of influences from lots of decades. The dance thing, house, soul, the Beatles. You can hear it with the harmonies. We have sampled from the Italian Job and The Thomas Crown Affair. There are lots of reference points but we are definitely not retro. You can’t move forward without looking back. That’s how we feel.
I saw the video for Backaround and it was a bit bizarre. Did you have a good time making it?
No, not really. The only one we enjoyed making was for MAN IN A TOWEL. It was a bit quirky and we had roles to play. I particularly hate BACKAROUND, because you’re just watching yourself thinking ‘Get Off’! When it came to making that video, we were just moaning about it. We just want to end up with something to be proud of, musically and visually and the video is nothing to be proud of. For MAN IN A TOWEL we smashed up a Jag. It’s a great thing to watch. It gets a reaction. The other one got no reaction.
When you tried second time round to give the music business another go and when it came to recording the album, at what point did you realize that it was going to work?
When we finished the first song, which was MAN IN A TOWEL. We bullied some record companies on the phone, got some appointments and went to London and got an amazing response from Island, Universal and Sony. Travelling back from London, we were convinced it was going to happen. From that moment onwards we just kept working, set ourselves a deadline to go back with three new tunes, which we did, and got a great reaction. We just kept going back and forth for nine months. Obviously you come back thinking something’s going to happen and it doesn’t. You get deflated but you take something positive out of it and come Monday we’re working again, making calls. We have an enormous amount of self-belief. We chased it. We carried that confidence into the appointments with record companies. We made logos on mugs and we had agendas. We approached it quite ruthlessly in terms of wanting to get there. We would turn up at record companies with a blueprint for success. We outlined our plans as to what we wanted to achieve in twelve months – a list of single releases. We were very naive but it showed a willingness and an appetite. We had a look that made it easy for people to concentrate on the music. We never sent anything. We took it up personally. We believed in the importance of building relationships with people, meet and greet. We knew we would not get signed with one song but the point was we would meet people who would remember us because we delivered it personally, a face to the name. It worked.
Did you have a publishing deal before you were signed?
No, we don’t have a publishing deal. We are waiting for the right offer.
One last question, why call the album BAREFOOT AND SHITFACED?
It was a working title. I like it because it has a little bit of rock and roll there, even though we are not rock and roll. It’s got a bit of edge to it. It might cause problems but hopefully not. You just don’t know.
So what are ELEVATOR SUITE like live? They are a mix of the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Sly Stone and others and are a lot louder than the album would suggest. Singer Robert could easily be a spitting image of Jimmy Savile. The extra musicians drafted in compliments the established trio. While most of the songs vary in style, you get a feeling from the London crowd at least, that they were losing the audience’s attention. It could be that they were upstaged by the support band ‘Cousteau’? At least Elevator Suite ended the night with an impromptu spur of the moment jazz rendition of the theme from Grange Hill.