Today we're kicking off our series of 2012 Indietracks interviews! Between now and the end of July we'll be chatting with as many of this year's line-up as possible. We're starting with The Birthday Kiss, a brand new band from Leeds featuring a couple of familiar faces; Ben from The Lodger and Sarah from The Research. Their single Choking was recently released as a free download, and they're currently working on their debut album. Here's our chat with Ben from the band...
Hi Ben, how did you come to form a band together?
We're a bit of an “indie supergroup” for want of a better phrase – we're made up of bits of West Yorkshire based groups The Research and The Lodger. Those two bands toured together quite a bit and friendships were born and ultimately this new band emerged from the ashes. I'm trying to make sure we sound like neither.
Please tell us a bit about Choking, your first single?
This song was borne out of my love of the arpeggiated synth bass line and the disco beat. The kind that appears in songs like I Feel Love by Donna Summer and Like A Motorway by Saint Etienne to name but two. I just looped the bassline and wrote a song over it. I wanted that inhuman and robotic feel alongside emotive and pure Karen Carpenter-like vocals. I also wanted to rip off Blondie. I did OK I think!
How is the album coming along, and what can we expect to hear when it arrives?
I have written several songs for the band so far, demos of which are on the Soundcloud, but I am currently unsure which ones will make the album. I'm hoping that the album will be finished by the end of the summer but I don't want to rush it. Musically at the minute I'm really inspired by repetitive electronic music like Italian Disco of the early 80s, early House and also Kraftwerk. I also love the clever pop songs of XTC, The Magnetic Fields and The Cure and I'm listening to a lot of Bach at bedtime, like Goldberg Variations.
You're self-producing your records, and you've previously produced several bands including Just Handshakes. Does your experience of producing records change the way you now approach the songwriting?
I think producing your own records changes everything, hopefully for the better. It gives songwriting some extra new layers and the possibilities become endless. Thankfully I've got friends who can be critical and tell me what's good and what's bad so I know where to draw the line. You have to know when to stop, when you've finished. Opening my studio and working with lots of ace bands such as Just Handshakes and also This Many Boyfriends has been great fun. I've recently started playing guitar for This Many Boyfriends live too, we just did a UK tour with The Cribs and Allo Darlin too.
Which do you enjoy most: writing and recording or playing live shows? Would you enjoy going out on another long tour again?
I enjoy all aspects of it really but I really do like writing and recording. They're both tied in together for me. As it's getting so cheap to make your own records I can have all the equipment I need at home to produce an album from scratch without worrying about spending £hundreds a day on studio time. It's ace. I do want The Birthday Kiss to do a proper tour when our album comes out though.
What became of The Lodger and The Research, and would you consider reviving them?
The Research broke up in late 2008 after two albums. No acrimony, it just came to a natural end really. With The Lodger I've put that on hold for a bit because I felt like I'd done three albums I was proud of but wanted to try something else with a different singer singing the songs instead of myself. So I nicked Sarah and so far so good.
Is The Birthday Kiss a natural continuation from those two previous bands, or a complete fresh start musically?
The Birthday Kiss is totally a fresh start for me. I really needed to reformat my creative brain and think of this as a new blank page. I hate talking about songwriting, makes you sound incredibly pretentious! But I did want to try something different. The Lodger was all about the music I'd loved as a teenager and in my early 20s like The Jam and Buzzcocks and the Housemartins, and while I still love those bands my tastes have changed a lot in the last few years. I think as you get older you become more open and patient with different styles of music. I do anyway, and I don't understand people who exclusively listen to what they liked as a teenager for the rest of their lives in some kind of weird nostalgic bubble. I want The Birthday Kiss to be able to do a northern soul style stomper one minute, a disco pop song the next and a punky garage song the next. I want it to be like all your favourites rolled into one.
The Lodger played at Indietracks in 2008. Do you have any happy memories from that weekend?
I have a stressful recollection of realising I'd forgotten the capo for my guitar mere moments before we went on so I had to run around the site asking people if they happen to be carrying a capo. Every single song by The Lodger uses one. Luckily I found a chap from Leeds called Owen. If you're reading Owen – thanks. All of the live band apart from Sarah went to the festival last year actually and camped. Had a great time! Favourite moment was Edwyn Collins' set I think.
You're apparently an obsessive of Sherlock Holmes and detective stories. Any thoughts on the recent Sherlock revival, and the Stephen Moffat and Guy Richie interpretations?
I've warmed to the BBC1 version, it is definitely good telly but my personal favourite is the ITV adaptation from the 1980s with Jeremy Brett. I also like the Basil Rathbone film versions from the 1930s, apart from the daft ones where is relocated to America in the Second World War and such nonsense. There's also a really good BBC Radio series from the 50s with John Gielgud playing Holmes. I basically like it when it's faithful to the original stories because they're faultless. The less said about Guy Richie the better. Hateful.
We're teaming up with Slumberland for this year's festival. Do you have any particular favourites from the Slumberland back catalogue?
There's a bunch of reprobates from Leeds you might have heard of called The Lodger – Slumberland released all three of our albums on 12” vinyl. Mike organised and drove us around the East Coast of America in 2007 while we did a tour too. We're good friends. It's the coolest label around isn't it really? Looking forward to hanging out with the Slumberland massive at this year's fest!
Thanks Ben, see you in July!