The Long Blondes
Will Metcalfe 14/05/2008
Dorian Cox is a tall man, gangly almost and as you might expect his handshake isn't exactly a bone cruncher. You've probably heard his bands last effort Someone to Drive You Home, or more likely the gleeful indie racket 'Once & Never Again' in one of those indie disco places. The Long Blondes are back with their latest effort “Couples” and it's not quite what some people might have expected, gone is the window for Pulp comparisons, though shots at Blondie still remain. “I see it as more a progression, I don't wanna disown what we did on the first record but it's very much of it's time, we don't really write songs like that anymore. Or certainly not musically.”
When you listen to “Couples” there is certainly a sense of a band indulging, a band at play and whilst it may lack the immediacy of their debut, endurance proves it t obe a thoroughly rewarding listen. But despite the fact they've chose krautrock over Britpop this time round, the major talking point in the media is undoubtedly the accompanying press release claiming to be inspired by the great couples of the 20th century; Sonny and Cher, Richard & Judy, the Two Ronnies…“it was a bit tongue in cheek, I wrote it 'cos we basically realised that that's what people do and we thought if they're gonna do that we may as well make it interesting.”
I must say at this stage I was surprised by the fact Dorian seemed quite grounded, as a chap with a penchant for cynicism I was in awe of the matter of fact way in which the Long Blondes seemed to regard the music business. “I always wanted to be a music writer before I even thought of being in a band” he tells me, after studying Media at Sheffield's Hallam university things didn't really head that way contrary to what people may have read. The band got together through the inevitable, a small city with a smaller music scene, not through Fresher's Boutique and certainly not through Sheffield University's world beating Offbeat club night- “We did all go to Offbeat and stuff and Kate did work in a clothes shop but I think us meeting there was just kind of a white lie really.” At this point Dorian exerts something between a snigger and a laugh, something that punctuates the interview, he's enjoying it-or at least that's what I assume.
White lies it seems are another way the band entertain themselves on the road, in interviews, in between running the website, My Space and Facebook pages of course. In the early days of the band you could phone Dorian, or in my case text him to find out about new releases and ask for cheeky email interviews. This, he says, is something he misses; especially in the run of the mill world of the mainstream music press. “It's usually smaller things like yourselves and fanzines where you get the more interesting questions. When you do the bigger publications you get the same things”. Flattery works wonders you know, finally by this point my fears of it going all Black Kids were vanquished.
The laziness of journalists is something legendary misanthrope Mark E Smith has been rambling about in the extracts from his forthcoming autobiography, 'Renegade' his description ringing surprisingly true of the editorial or at the least the part about not being able to handle your drink, thankfully not so much the 'asking the same questions year in year out', or at least I'd hope not. This amuses Mr. Cox no end, and he tells me about one of his mates who interviewed Mark E in Amsterdam of all places, initially guarded but a nice guy after a few beers by all accounts. “I think he is quite a cantankerous person anyway, the amount of time he's been in the industry I can see it, each time you do a new record you do get new interviewers coming through and asking the same stuff all the time” sentiments echoed by Cox himself there I think.
There is without doubt a quality to the band that seems outdated, the fashion, the music and the sentiments that they embellish themselves with, they all seem long abandoned by wider society yet this romantic element to their image is one that is often outshone by the perceived fashion element of the band. Talking about the artwork of the latest artwork Kate Jackson, the band seductive front woman follows the band line in being inspired by the likes of the Two Ronnies but also Abba videos and the 'concrete austerity of the Barbican'. This, Dorian assures me is not tongue in cheek. “No, it wasn't tongue in cheek. One of the things you do, and I'm sure most people do this, youtube is probably the best website in the world ever and we always pick a band for a day and just look at all the videos. There's something really innocent about Abba videos… really kinda funny, futuristic but old fashioned at the same time and that's how we see our music on this album.”
This description is acute, when you hear tracks like 'Round the Hairpin' for the first time the driving bass, and whirring synths genuinely do conjure up a sense of false nostalgia, inspired by the likes of Saint Etienne. The dialogue that starts the tracks was almost an exact rip from early heroes like Saint Etienne and Manic Street Preachers, both bands who managed to perfect the art of sampling obscure audio clips, only rather than lines from Orwell and the voices of pimps the Long Blondes are offering Terry Wogan and once again the Two Ronnies. “I've got this old 60s tape player and me and Kate were recording an acoustic b-side and I wound the tape back to see what was on it before and I pressed play. The first thing that came up was this really kinda weird sixties orchestral music then Terry Wogan talking. We even got a mention on his show the other day.”
This comes with a bizarre sense of pride, granted it's not everyday you get mentioned on the cheeky old Irish man's flagship breakfast show but the joy is perhaps a little odd but at the same time not unexpected. The Long Blondes seem to epitomise what is great about the particularly British brand of song writing, I would say kitchen sink but that's a little over used and not as extensive as one may hope. Talk turns away from Wogan and towards the stigma that surrounds a second album, something I'm told that didn't really affect the band, the pressure was around the first record.
Yet despite the somewhat depreciative view the band take towards the first record (“immediately satisfying but it hasn't got much longevity”) it seems that for some "Someone to Drive You Home" meant a lot. “We met this fan in Liverpool the other day; he'd got some of the lyrics tattooed on his arm. I didn't know what to do, I was so happy; it really meant a lot 'cos essentially I'd designed his tattoo. The only other ones I'd seen had been Joy Division or Smiths lyrics, something quite profound.” This probably says something quite profound about Dorian's ability as a songwriter, though the lyrics may seem somewhat female centric the Long Blondes affect both men and women, girls and boys…you get the picture.
Time by this point was running short, leaving me a few quick questions. So, what kinds of question get on the collective nerves of the Long Blondes? “You've stayed away from the old 'are clothes important' question; we still get that, it pisses me off. I don't mind, part of pop is dressing up and stuff and we did milk it a bit to start with but now we dress down, we don't do anything like we used to. Bands like CSS, the Gossip, the Horrors lots of times we just go one wearing jeans and a t-shirt… I also get a bit bored with the classic, for want of a better term whacky student kinda thing 'if you had to be a piece of cheese what would you be' them questions are good for bands like busted but we're too cynical to get involved with people like that.” At this point I tell Dorian he's just discovered my next question, he laughs. I laugh. Wonderful.
Oh, and in case anyone wondered his favourite Smiths song, or his song of the day at least was 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now', a fine choice.