Electric Soft Parade
Holly Barnes 24/12/2006
The Electric Soft Parade recently embarked on a mini-tour to keep themselves limber before the release of their next album "No Need To Be Downhearted" slated for an April release on Truck. In Birmingham , the band played a bloody great gig, leaning heavily on recent Truck Records EP The Human Body. We managed to catch up with them in the belly of the Carling Academy ; while his brother Tom, bassist Matt and legendary ex-Dodgy drummer Priesty packed up the gear, we put up our feet with Alex White.
“Hope you don't mind if I roll up a joint?”.
Not at all, I'd expect nothing less. (Then we get down to business, while I try to silence the voice in my head that's shouting “Oh my god, it's Alex White! From ESP!”. I manage to keep the gushing down to a minimum and we talk about the current tour.)
There's an acoustic gig elsewhere on the tour, that sounds unusual for you?
“Yeah, that's probably because we couldn't a proper one”.
So it wasn't a special thing?
“Well that's what it turns into, I guess, but we just play our set and get on with it. But it's kinda cool coz we tend to talk bollocks anyway between songs and just mess about on stage and try to be stand-up comedians. There might be a band waiting to come on and we're just having a laugh. Most of the labels and managers we've ever had have tried to curtail all that kind of behaviour. Y'know, talking shit between songs. But the fact it's different from town to town is important. Every show is different, it's not some rehearsed thing. Those people tonight got the Birmingham show coz that's where it fucking was, it's not the same as the Cardiff show or whatever”.
There weren't that many people here tonight- the gig was severely under-promoted in our eyes.
“Yeah, adverts in NME are expensive. I don't know how much they cost, but I'd imagine around 2-3 grand for a small ad. That's like 14 times the budget of our fucking album. It's just like there's no money and that's the way we roll. We don't have money and we just do it ourselves and that's the vibe. The NME don't help bands out in that way, y'know, the price is the price. But there wasn't even that much promotion on this gig and there's still a bunch of people coming out. That, to me, it just cool”.
You recently split from BMG and moved to Truck Records. Is it more liberating to be on Truck?
“100%. The [Human Body] EP was the first time we made a record and delivered it and it came out. Y'know, like, literally, here's the album and that's exactly what came out. Y'know what I mean?”. Debut album Holes In The Wall was more what the label wanted, but “That one [ America n Adventure] that's our album. The other one was heavily dictated a lot of it, how it looked, the band image was so taken out of our hands”
It sounds like there's a family vibe to Truck.
“Yeah, y'know Goldrush basically run the label. They were on Virgin and they had the whole major label experience that we had. Just the bullshit of it, being dropped. Loads of money being chucked at you one mont h and the next you've got nothing. They just made the best of it, got themselves a studio. You become self-sufficient and you realise that if you work with people who are like that, like Robyn [Bennett, of Goldrush], you don't have to kick them up the arse to get it done, they just do it”.
And how's work on the new album going? Didn't you stay on after Truck Festival this summer to record it?
“Yeah, it's finished, being mastered. We recorded it in a barn on the farm Truck Festival is held on (in Steventon, Oxford shire). We put ProTools in a barn and ripped-out minibus seats. The new album was literally just me and Tom engineering it ourselves and using ProTools”.
What else have you been up to?
“I've just made another album in the meantime with Actress Hands. They're like my children, not that I created them or anything, but I love 'em. We've known each other for years. Eamon (from Brakes, Alex's other band, also ex-British Sea Power) was in a band with Matt [Eaton], the singer from Actress Hands, called Brighter Lunch, which is how we all met, playing around Brighton around '98."
I saw ESP play in London a few years ago, with Actress Hands supporting. Clearlake were the other support act for that gig.
“Clearlake used to be a band called Not Bit Of Wood. They had a song called Ice Cream Man (Sings): Spare a thought for the ice cream man”.
This may be a stupid question, but I know Simon Pegg (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead) plays guitar- he played on a Coldplay b-side; is he any relation to Jason Pegg, the lead singer of Clearlake?
“No, he's no relation. Although if you want a funny story about Simon Pegg: we were playing Dingwalls (Camden) years ago and we went to the Oxford Arms round the corner, we were just sat in there and Simon Pegg was sat at the next table. We went to speak to him and he looked up and said “Electric Soft Parade!”. You know who we are, and he's like totally, and pulls out a ticket for our gig”.
Are you guys fans of comedy generally?
“Yeah, definitely. Y'know, Matt from Actress Hands doesn't like The Office. I don't get it. We watched the Christmas specials last night actually. The end of the episode is the darkest thing ever. Extras is great as well. Daniel Radcliffe was in Extras the other night- this condom ends up in Dame Diana Rigg's face. You can imagine them writing it, y'know. 'And then we can have the condom flicking in her face'. Yeah!”.
In terms of music, who have been your influences?
“Big Star, Mission of Burma - Obliterati and ONoffON, Royal Trux, RTX. Y'know the way bands break up but then get back together and it's almost the same name. Royal Trux were then RTX. (picks up a CD from the sofa) This record's called Transmaniacon. Ridiculous riffs on guitar, and seriously auto-tuned vocals with ranting over the top of it. It makes you sick after about 10 minutes. But, everything that sounds like the Libertines- if people appreciate it then just fucking give up. What's the obsession with new music? We like to listen to Nina Simone, 50s jazz, all that stuff. Ben Folds Five are great too”.
Ben Folds? What are your favourite songs?
“Ah, The Last Polka, the whole of the Rockin' the Suburbs album, Where's Summer B?, the whole first album, Sports and Wine- it should have been on the America n Psycho album, Uncle Walter. When Brakes are touring and I'm sound checking drums at gig, I always automatically sound check with the drum fill from Uncle Walter. Ben Folds Five is just, like, college rock, but really funny”.
And with that, the Dictaphone runs out and the rest of the band join us.
The other highlights of meeting The Electric Soft Parade:
Alex as if we didn't know, is prodigiously talented. He has perfect pitch, passed Grade 8 piano, Grade 5 theory, and for all these talents only achieved a D at A Level Music. What better indictment of Music in schools?
> Alex: “When we started, I was young, I felt like I should get on with doing something with my life."
> Matt: “I know the Feeling. No really, I know the keyboardist, he's a lovely lovely guy (stamping foot onto floor aggressively).
>Alex: (impersonating The Feeling): “Most of our music is about sucking Satan's cock”.
>Tom: “We're thinking of setting up a band called Banter- just us and Richard Hawley on stage”.
>Matt: “I'm a gigolo”.
And with that, it was time for us to run desperately to the car park before it was locked up for the night and we were stranded in Birmingham. What an evening: treated to some truly incredible music and spent some time in the company of the four lovely guys of The Electric Soft Parade. Thanks to the band, fellow ESP-worshipper Simon Reid and friendly randomer Nick Oughton who bought me a seagull-baiting badge.