Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Darren Hayman's 'Indie Fan's Guide to Trains' (or 'Train Enthusiast’s guide to Indie Music’)

Former Hefner frontman Darren Hayman, who played Indietracks in 2007 and 2008, has produced this handy guide for spotting both indiepop bands and steam trains at the festival... and, through the genius of his mighty pen, managed to combine the two!

The Indietracks Festival takes place this July but its heart is in the late 80s. When we say ‘indie music’ we don’t mean the modern kind. When we say ‘indie music’ we mean Prittstick and Kafka, we mean wool knit and horn rimmed, we mean Xerox and Fender.

This music is a refuge. A musty school hall, unlocked in the school holidays for the gentle and erudite. This music has undergone an unlikely revival recently. In a terabyte world people crave something a little more 8 bit.

Indietracks is a celebration of this much overlooked music that takes place at the Midland Railway in Derbyshire; a heritage railway site full of beautifully preserved steam and diesel locomotives. Fuzzy, brown guitar bands nestle alongside beautiful, wobbly, old trains full of real ale and smiles. It’s a friendly affair with the floppy fringes mixing easily with the older, balder railway enthusiasts. In the same way as the indie fans are seeking a time and place in music that never quite existed, so too are the train nuts revelling in a fantasy locomotive world where perfect pistons thrust and puff all day, all along the line.

I should know; I adore guitars and trains. I know my Telecaster 1970s Custom from my Brush Type 4 Diesel. Indietracks is the ellipsoid in my venn diagram.

Train nuts and indie fans can find a British Shangri-La at the Midland Railway this July, but should you feel hesitant about approaching a member of the opposite tribe, let me be your guide.

Here are four bands and four trains to start you all off.

The A1 Tornado = The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

The A1 Tornado is a dream come true for heritage train enthusiasts. The original A1 steam trains were gallant, heroic workhorses but by 1966 none existed. Every last A1 had been scrapped and the train world had a dodo. Then the impossible happened, a large group of devotees and investors endeavoured to build an A1 Steam engine from scratch from completely new parts.

The A1 Tornado is modern but retro, box-fresh and old school. She is a time machine.

Similarly, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart do something elegant, familiar and out of time but with sexy, new components. They are Bristol 1987 seen through the prism of New York 2010. People thought this music could never be remade again, not with new carefully made parts. Nothing dies forever.

Pains of Being Pure at Heart headline Indietracks this year.

The Diesel Multiple Unit = Amelia Fletcher/Talulah Gosh/Heavenly/Tender Trap

The only thing more beautiful in this world that a green liveried Diesel Multiple Unit train is my dog. The first generation of DMUs were introduced in the 1950s, some were still in service in 2010. Their genius was in their simplicity, and despite many paint jobs and overhauls their appeal was always the same: simple, romantic, bus-like carriages that shuttled you to faded seaside towns. The only trains I know purposefully designed so you can see out of the front, over the driver’s shoulder. Stuart Mackay, the founder of Indietracks, has a day job restoring these beautiful ornaments. A class 127 DMU will be working at the festival, take some time to fall in love.

Amelia has also changed her livery a few times but her talent has always been heartfelt, streamlined and robust. Pick any of the twenty bands she has been in over the past twenty years and you will always find tunes that earworm through your brain till you collapse, breathless and ecstatic.

Amelia’s band Tender Trap played at Indietracks in 2009.

Class 02 Shunter = David Tattersall / The Wave Pictures

Taking a walk around the sidings at Swanwick station at Indietracks you’ll find a Class 02 Diesel Shunter. We, who find our kicks in strange places, see beauty where others see ugliness. The Class 02 is strong, square and brutish and needs it’s lovers to look a bit longer. The shunter train never seeks the glory - it ploughs its own furrow.

The Wave Pictures haven’t been smoothed at the edges either. This band has spiky bits that make them harder to swallow. Bruised and fazed, they write songs that demand unflinching devotion from those that stay to listen. They’re not afraid of hard graft either; just listen to those guitar solos.

David Tattersall plays at Indietracks 2010

BR Standard Class 5MT = Ballboy

A Class 5MT or ‘Black Five’ is your baseline as a train lover. It’s the Fender Stratocaster, the Ford Cortina, the perennial from which all others must be judged. These beautiful, steam driven, monsters pulled freight and passengers all over Britain through the 50s and 60s.

Gordon McIntyre’s Ballboy are probably, rightly tired of being referred to as a Peel band in short Festival bios but they are that curious thing, a band beloved of Peel who do nothing more shocking than write, peculiar, beguiling original songs. When you’re sitting in your wood panelled carriage, being pulled along by your ‘Black Five’ and looking out over the Midland countryside, you need Ballboy on your iPod. Or your portable danset record player.

Ballboy play Indietracks this year.

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