News & Insights 2 October 2012

Piano-led bands of the world… unite!

The LYs busking in the early days. Note former bassist Tom Mansfield on the right, who later mysteriously disappeared shortly before Tony premiered his new eco-friendly, organic drum-skins. You do the math.Those original geek-chic piano rockers Ben Folds Five have reformed and released a new album.

This is exciting news for me, and if you haven’t heard of Ben Folds Five but you’re a fan of The Lightyears then it’s probably rather exciting news for you too – because it means I’m introducing you to a band you’re really going to like (try this track to start you off – “Philosophy” from their eponymous debut album, live on Jools Holland).

I’d been playing piano for nearly ten years when I was introduced to Ben Folds Five by our school-days drummer Alan Oldfield (the first in our worryingly long line of herbivore drummers). At that point, everything changed. Suddenly playing the piano wasn’t about respectfully tinkling the ivories and staring wanly off into the distance anymore – it was about kicking the living shit out of it. I started bouncing around and smashing the keys with my fists and, at gigs, developed a habit of leaping onto my piano from a great height at moments of musical climax.

For a long time I basically just wanted The Lightyears to be Ben Folds Five. This is generally how being in a band works – kids get into music, learn an instrument and then assemble a group of their mates in an attempt to exactly replicate their favourite bands. In truth, Ben Folds Five were one of the few influences that we agreed on in the early days (Tony’s long-time love of Cream didn’t mix so well with mine and George’s Bon Jovi obsession), which is probably why we ended up sounding a bit like them.

Anyhow, I was kicking around the internet the other day and discovered this rare and untouched live recording from an early Lightyears gig at the 12 Bar Club, circa 2004. The 12 Bar Club features prominently in my Lightyears novel, Mockstars, and was a favourite haunt of ours for some years. This track, “Don’t Do It At The Hollywood”, particularly struck me because it’s clear I was very much caught in the clutches of my ‘wishing I was Ben Folds’ stage. It’s pretty scrappy but a lot of fun, and features former LYs member Tom Mansfield on the bass guitar.

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