Rockfeedback Article From September 2002
The defining moment of spending forty minutes with The Music must be its mid-point; up to now, they have provided clear, concise answers on all topics in hand. But there seems to be something slightly missing.
What do you feel people should be speaking with you more about, in regards to your work?
Singer and occasional guitarist Rob Harvey shuffles in his seat, before looking straight into space. ‘Well,’ he mumbles slightly reservedly, having been put on the spot. ‘The music.’
It seems such a basic retort, but its delivery is provided with much pathos. Ever since these four characters first stumbled into light with their inaugural single-release, the limited-edition 7” of ‘Take The Long Road & Walk It’, their world has changed. Deemed a classic by many press-publications, radio-stations and record-company A&R alike, what followed was a host of labels chasing the group for them to put pen-to-paper to sign up for a glorious future, whilst gigs became attended by curious scene-followers that soon made the convergence into ‘obsessed fan’, transfixed by performances that soon heralded the group major supporting-shows with New Order, The Vines, Doves and The Charlatans. Oh, and some lot called Oasis.
They’ve along the way signed up with Smashing Pumpkins/Verve backers, Hut Recordings, been overseas, recorded their debut-album with producer Jim Abiss (of Bjork/DJ Shadow fame) and released a couple of rather incredible EPs, ‘You Might As Well Try To F**k Me’ and ‘The People’ (the latter earning the potential to have been a top-20 hit, had it been chart-eligible).
Notably, however, where it’s kicked off more recently is with the re-release of their first ever, debut-single. Launching into the charts at a stealthy 14, it’s not bad for a group whose churning dynamics for experimental, hypnotic, entrancing instrumentals and wailing, emotive vocals hasn’t been seen in quite a formula for nigh-on 40 years. If ever. Consequentially, such success already has attracted a number of press-outfits to misrepresent the band and their main areas of interest – and the foursome seem intent on setting the record straight about their cause.
Today, however, the band are justified in not feeling too triumphant. It’s barely 11O’Clock, and – already – there are four interviews lined up, the first of which proves to be this one. Seated comfortably within a top-floor, chill-out room in Virgin’s offices, all four members are noticeably affected by the time-zone: guitarist Adam Nutter is continually scratching various limbs in an endeavour to arouse some activity within his exhausted body; drummer Phil Jordon seats himself on a business-exec chair and curls his hands around his front to resemble some kind of twisted Bond-villain; Harvey himself lights continuous cigarettes; and bassist Stuart Coleman remains silent throughout the entire, ensuing proceeding, only making occasional utterances in agreement with his fellow band-mates or laughing at jokes. The energy-levels are, understandably, similar to those experienced on a rousing episode of ‘Countdown’.
‘That hasn’t been a conscious decision,’ comments Nutter, in regards to the notion that the band hasn’t conducted many UK interviews to date. ‘It’s just that we’ve gotta give time to other places, too. We’re not just concerned about this f**king island – our interests lay elsewhere.’
‘It’s a strange thing, the media,’ notes Rob. ‘(Journalists) seem like they’re trying to find something within what we’re doing: they won’t do a true interview, or let things happen naturally. They’re just trying to set things up, and it does my head in. Whenever you see someone trying to set things up, you just say, ‘We’re not gonna go there, it’s best to avoid that.’ People slowly stumble up on to religion, and drugs…’
Yes, the alleged, excessive drug-habits of The Music have been well-documented.
‘Yeah, definitely,’ continues Adam. ‘People are taking things far too far. We just smoke weed at the end of the day; it’s not like we do…’
‘Crack,’ Phil amusingly interjects.
‘Yeah, precisely,’ grins the guitarist. ‘When people ask about these sorts of things, I now just say, ‘It’s got nothing to do with our music – it’s a personal choice.’
Quite rightly, too, for when the musical-product is as sensational as that of The Music’s, anything else surrounding the enterprise seems almost trivial in comparison. Evidence of this, incidentally, lies within their stunning, self-titled album. Full of the daring heights and unexpected turns that form the underbelly of music originally produced by the greats, from the turgid, get-down energy of ‘Disco’ or ‘The Truth Is No Words’ to the slower, intensely sensitive melancholy of ‘Turn Out The Light’ or hippie trip-out of ‘Too High’, the overall effect is dazzling, and forms one of 2002’s must-hear listens. Still, however, it seems that there’s no pleasing everybody.
Rob sighs. ‘People question us or look at us strangely because we don’t write easy-going song-songs; whatever happens, it’s just about having a good vibe and having a good time – and that’s what we’re more about than anything else. Some people have said that what we’ve done so far is a bad album because there are ‘no songs’ on it…’
Adam further confirms this. ‘Some people have said things like that – not necessarily that it’s bad, but it’s just filled with what sounds like jamming. At the end of the day, though, it’s about the vibe, isn’t it? It’s about the sound. The atmosphere of it all. That’s the whole point of it. Nineteen and twenty-year-olds – and this is our debut-album.’
And what about the unusual choice of producer, working with someone that’s deemed more electronically-minded as opposed to live instruments-based?
‘We didn’t just want to work with a straightforward rock-producer,’ explains Adam. ‘That’s not what we’re about – and we’re not a rock band, particularly: there are rock-elements in it, sure, but there are a lot of other elements, and we needed a producer who was gonna highlight those.’
Phil muses on the matter. ‘I think there was little point bringing in a specific rock-producer, because we can look at our music anyway and see it in the same way as a rock-producer would… Jim brought something different to it that we may not have been able to pick up on as much.’
Does it collectively form the debut-record you wanted to make, initially?
‘It’s more than that,’ Nutter proudly states, without a hint of pretension. ‘It’s better than how I certainly thought it would turn out. Jim was more of a director than anything – he didn’t really do anything musically, he just said, ‘Do you think we should do something with that?’ And we’d just go, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ and then we’d move on. It was a very simple process.’
Less simple, presumably would be actually working out the composition’s arrangements, with each track’s multi-tiered guitars and intricate samples complemented vividly by Jordan’s military-esque control on percussion and Coleman’s stand-still, firm bass-lines. So, do the stages of song-writing prove indifferent and more difficult to the act’s relaxed recording-method and strategies?
Adam sniggers at such a thought. ‘We just plug in and play.’
'There is no formula,’ backs up Rob, who illustrates, ‘we just all whack around a bit, and he might hit a cymbal at the same time he hits a bass-note and we’re all like, ‘Yeah…’
But what is it that makes the whole invention so impacting?
‘The grooves,’ Adam replies, dead certain. ‘They just suck you in. The essence of dance-music is that you get a beat going, people get into it, keep it going, and then more and more people get into it.’
Would you class what you’re doing as dance-music, though?
‘No…’ He pauses, unsure of how to pigeon-hole themselves. ‘Actually – yeah, it is. I think the rhythm-section has got a lot of that element to it.’
On the lyrical-theme and singing, however, there seems to be a very loose sense of how things should be put together…
‘It just starts off with a melody usually and words that don’t make sense,’ smiles Rob. ‘Then, all of a sudden, I’ll say a sentence that makes sense and it’s like, ‘Alright – got it!’ I do sit down and write stuff all the time, but I never really use it.’
Despite the surprising lack of structure, it still must evidently hit upon a winning-formula, and an open-mindedness that perhaps shrouds the four-piece’s contemporaries in an uncreative, monotonous cloud of dust, such artists’ unwillingness to mess around with their abilities and try out new things restricting their impact. Resultantly, this is why some of the bold, out-of-this-world legends don’t exist anymore… Music has become formulaic, complacent... How does the band see such a view?
Adam nods in agreement. ‘Yeah, I think that’s the problem with it all nowadays. Good music, in a sense, isn’t seen as commercial, but if it was commercial, then, well, ‘Top of the Pops’ wouldn’t be so shit, would it?’
‘It’s all about being safe as well, isn’t it,’ clarifies the vocalist. ‘People are just happy being safe and making a few quid – but there can’t be much excitement in that… Yeah, there’s excitement in being able to buy a f**king Porsche after making a cheesy record, but I’d rather gain excitement by standing on-stage to 2,000 people and not knowing what I’m going to do next, rather than doing something that I don’t really enjoy and worry about what I’m gonna do with the money afterwards.’
It’s such wide-eyed, youthful optimism and idealism that proves most refreshing with this unit. There’s little room for political agenda and, instead, are gentle thoughts on the world around and a keenness to try and unravel the power of the recorded art they specialise within.
But let’s first uncover the mystery of another issue. In the band’s latest video, Nutter is seen donning a T-shirt proclaiming ‘The North’ – obviously, the region of the UK the band originates from (Leeds, specifically). What was the motivation behind such a move?
Adam sniggers again. ‘I wear those T-shirts just for a laugh – and to wind people up.’
The topic soon enters a whole new doorway.
‘The south seems quite confusing to us,’ adds Rob, observantly. ‘The thing with the north is that you know what you’re getting: even if someone’s trying to con you,’ he laughs, ‘at least you know they’re trying to con you!’
So is there a north-south divide in Britain; do you feel a part of the northern wave of guitar-acts, or are you a band of the universe, so to speak: independent and producing material on your own terms?
There is a momentary silence in which the band gathers their thoughts. ‘I’d say we’re a band of the universe,’ carefully treads Adam, ‘to put it that way.’
‘I think there is a divide in people in England, but not with us,’ states Phil, meanwhile. ‘We don’t think about it, though we’re sure there are people who probably think, ‘Southern wankers,’ and southerners who think, ‘Northern c**ts’ about others.’
So do you think that The Music would have sounded differently if you had been raised anywhere else?
Rob looks at it philosophically. ‘Even with people like The Beatles, you can tell that they’re Scousers, and – for every single person – wherever they’re from, their home affects what they’re doing... We’ve always said that you can’t always choose where you’re from – you just have to live there.’
And, already unveiled numerous times, their born and bred, native Leeds isn’t somewhere the lads have a defiant affinity towards. Was their band’s formation a ticket out of the major-town?
‘To a certain extent, yeah, it was,’ announces Adam. ‘But we didn’t think about it like that at the time: we just wanted to play music. Then, eventually, it dawned on us that there was an opportunity in it all for us to get out there.’
And the whole project itself arose from each of your own personal boredoms with things around you? ‘Yeah, kinda,’ he proceeds. ‘A lot of our mates have now got shitty jobs or are just going to university, and – university – well, I wouldn’t cope with that if it were me… I couldn’t cope with school let alone that; I can’t be arsed – I don’t have time for it.’
Why’s that – what do you see as the problems with education?
Adam pouts just thinking on the subject. ‘Nothing enthuses you – you can’t get interested in anything… It’s just mundane.’
‘Yeah,’ opens up Rob. ‘You’re just told what to do, as opposed to be allowed to find anything out for yourself.’
‘… At least with university,’ Adam reasons, ‘I suppose, there’s a certain amount of things you can discover alone. But I was always day-dreaming, me, when I was in class: just thinking about music.’
Rob provides the finest objection. ‘I find that educating myself is better than learning things formally; picking up things through making mistakes is better than someone saying, ‘Now, this is how it is.’ The thing is that they bring you up on five years with boring, old text-books and then they say, ‘Right – do it all yourself.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, I don’t know how to!’ Instead of bringing you into it slowly, I just didn’t have a f**king clue when it came to them saying, ‘Right – do some research on this.’
Typically, when teenagers show their discontent for such a matter, the usual assumption is that they’re just moaning because they got in trouble after missing a course-work deadline and are simply showing childish signs of self-protection… But not so in these guys’ cases, where their apparent reservations on the educational-system inspired them to create and form an entity of their own. Something that years spent within schooling wouldn’t have achieved.
Thus, having skipped a few years off the beaten track – where even most musicians disappear for a few years in order to finish their qualifications – The Music are ahead of the game, barely in their twenties, and hungry to conjure efforts that they’re internally proud of. Yet the fact remains – they are young people. Are there ever any thoughts on how surreal everything around them has become?
‘Yeah,’ confesses Adam. ‘You get somewhere and just think, ‘F**king hell, what am I doing here, like?!’ But do you personally feel as if you’ve deserved all the attention you have received?
‘I don’t know; whether we deserve it or not is something that’s never really come into my head: it’s happening – so let’s just let it happen, know what I mean?’
Rob: ‘When we went for our first trip to Japan, that was the first time we’d had a proper, full-on promo-schedule, and we were like, ‘What’s this all for?’ And, then, the second time we went back, you realise what it’s for, because it seems like everyone knows about you – and it’s weird... It’s different to just playing together, because you see it as enjoyment, and nothing else.’
And so when you’re on-stage following a day of busy tasks, do you feel free of all the hassles and tribulations of the industry?
Adam: ‘Pretty much, yeah. The day before a gig, all you’re doing is building up to it, and once you’re on-stage, you’re like, ‘Yeah – we’re doing it now,’ then, when it’s finished, you can just forget about everything, and chill out.’
On those live-performances, The Music have in the past gained accolade for generating an implausibly euphoric, pulsating, and devastatingly overpowering concert-experience, where the end of each show heralds a painful come-down to the trials of reality, the necessity for another fix only catered for when the band are next in town. However, just what are the core nutrients that form the basis for such an impressive evening’s viewing?
‘The sound does it,’ states Nutter, his response especially noteworthy when considering their apparent onstage power and charismatic allure is not even mentioned.
‘I think, when we go on-stage,’ ponders Rob, ‘I don’t personally feel like we’re letting anybody in… I’m just doing it because it feels good to me… It just must be the sound itself that brings people in. I have started to think about it more recently, but – before – I never used to think about the audience out there.’
If you had a chance for people to check you out live or on record for the first time – what’d be the best way?
Without hesitation, Adam makes his feelings known. ‘Live. Then recorded. I think most bands are better live than they are when recorded; some bands aren’t, but – for me – it’s all about the live feel. Music’s better live and loud; if it’s on a hi-fi really loud, it’s still not quite the same thing.’
Rob is slightly more observant, highlighting the pitfalls of pop-acts in mainstream prevalence. ‘It’s changed a lot though recently, because of the lack of people able to actually play well live. With the popularity of music at the moment, there’s a lot of it that’s cheese, and not a lot of people seem to tour anymore; I think that’s quite disappointing, because it means that everyone’s got a lot of CD’s at home, but you can’t tell if it’s them performing it or not… You see their faces on TV and video, but you don’t even check to see if the face matches the voice, you know what I mean?
‘When you see music live, however, there is no barrier: what you see is what you get.’
As a live-act, how do you reckon you’ve progressed over the past twelve months?
‘I think it’s through an ability to link with the audience more,’ feels Adam.
Rob becomes similarly analytical. ‘Confidence-wise, if you had looked at us all now a year ago, there’d have been just good potential there, but – now – we’re all freaking out on-stage, and don’t give a f**k what anyone thinks.’
With so much passion exerted into the shows, do you find it tiring?
‘Touring is very draining,’ uncovers Adam, ‘because it’s really unnatural with the hours that you’re sleeping: everything just gets thrown out, and you’re in limbo for however long you’re due to be on the road.’
Word has ostensibly spread on what they have to offer on the live-field, too. With an upcoming UK tour fully sold out – even seeing them set to perform at a packed London Astoria – before there’s been a chance for the LP to even chart yet, new dates have been confirmed due to rapturous demand for the start of 2003 – amidst locations including Brixton’s cavernous Academy and other nationwide venues of similar 3,000-5,000 capacities... Such a rapid extension of popularity hasn’t been existent for years. So, do they believe that they’re competing with others in the mainstream, on the same turf?
Adam doesn’t want to race ahead too quickly. ‘It feels like we’re starting to get there, but what they’re doing is different to us – it’s like comparing music and entertainment.’
‘Yeah, it can’t come too near it,’ Harvey defines. ‘But doing things such as the New Order/Oasis/Charlatans gigs prepares you for everything; the people that go to the shows are there simply to see the New Order’s and that, because they’ve been around for years and know how to do it… And that’s a really hard thing to do: if you’re able to go on-stage to 2,000 people who don’t really know you, aren’t that bothered, but then start to move a bit… It just gets really exciting to think there’s gonna be 2,000 people coming up wanting to see just you.’
For now, such a figure seems of a remarkable quantity for the act – but, if current predictions are set to carry through, then attendance-figures are set to soar in the upcoming years of their development. But when they see other musicians from the past that, quite frankly, milk it and overstay their welcomes (‘Paul McCartney,’ exclaims Rob to this – whilst Adam prefers to highlight ‘That f**king Ringo Starr’), do they feel the urge to maintain credibility as they progress?
‘Only a credibility that’s from within ourselves,’ Nutter assuredly summarises. ‘We’ll stop when we think we’re finished – not when anyone else says we are.’
Rob firmly concurs, ‘Yeah, and – anyway – sometimes, you come off-stage and you think, ‘F**k me – I can’t be doing this when I’m 40, me: I’ll be f**king dead…’ It’s tough enough when you’re 19, especially after a whole tour.’
‘I don’t want to do it forever anyway,’ Adam further outlines, visibly daunted at the prospect. ‘F**k no.’
‘We want to keep everything as a focus on the band,’ Harvey elucidates. ‘We just try and keep things going so we’re happy. We’re all on the same level and want to have fun doing what we’re doing, making good music… It’s pretty basic stuff, really.’
‘I just don’t think there’s a big enough focal point on bands, you know,’ Nutter bats back. ‘Some people just focus in on Rob, because he’s the singer – but it’s not what we’re all about, and people might get the wrong impression. We are a 'band' as such, and we all do our own, different bits.’
‘I don’t really give a f**k about that whole aspect of it,’ Rob speaks up. ‘I just want to make music. If someone’s sad enough to put just my face on a front-cover of a magazine, then they can do it for all I care.’
Adam still toils with this, seeming desperate for the truth to be known. ‘I just don’t like people to get the wrong impression about this band,’ he wrestles. ‘We want them to know what’s really going on…’
And, ten years along the line, how would you prefer to see things moving?
Rob finds humour in the question, pointing to oldest member Phil’s stomach and declaring, ‘You’ll be getting the bulge first! Oh my God – it’ll be like you’re pregnant!’
‘Yeah,’ races an excited Nutter, ‘and we’ll be well taking the piss out of you for that!’
Phil beams. ‘Yeah, 30th birthday – per-jung: there it’ll be…’ Stuart wriggles at the thought.
Returning to the final idea at hand, Adam concludes, ‘I don’t know about ten years… We struggle to see ourselves tomorrow, let alone anything else.’
Well, lads – please allow us to make a prophecy: that you’ll be as important a group then as you currently are now. And, following strenuous years of high-profile touring and recording, it won’t be just Phil that has the bulge... Unlucky, fellas – but superstardom has its price.