News & Insights 12 January 2008

We keep Tony in a box.

Monday 7 January, 2.45pm (LYs Studio, Secret Location, Oxfordshire):
We’ve been hard at work recording demos of some new songs since late afternoon on 2nd January 2008. It occurs to me that our last studio session was with Hugh Padgham in his climate-controlled, state-of-the-art, sound-proofed, sensitively-lit, top-of-the-range recording suite in central London. Today, on the other hand, we are huddled together in an abandoned school music department, hugging Danny The Sound Guy for heat, trying to stave off the onset of frostbite for long enough to finish the guitar overdubs on new song England. For the record, this room is not heated during the school holidays. I am wearing two jumpers and three scarves. My breath is actually visible. This cannot be good.

Tony tells me that he’s currently reading a book about Earnest Shackleton’s historic expedition to the South Pole in 1915, during which the arctic explorer and his intrepid team were forced off their ship (which had been entirely crushed by rock-hard ice sheets) into a tiny lifeboat, upon which they sailed for two weeks across 1600km of the world’s most freezing ocean to reach dry land. Their beards had frozen solid in minutes. Shackleton and his boys, Tony assures me, had it easy. They wouldn’t have survived 10 minutes in here. I think this is what people mean when they say you have to suffer for your art.

Anyhow, over the last week we have laid down draft versions of four new songs – England, The Enemy, Sarah and an as yet unnamed 2-minute pop number with a kind of Kinks/Beatles feel. You might not hear Sarah played at many gigs – it’s a fairly intense ballad and would demand a double bass and a grand piano for maximum impact (our roadies only get thruppence an hour and they have refused to hump a Steinway around the club circuit until they get a pay rise). England ought to be making a regular appearance in the set though, and in fact you’ll hear it at the Water Rats on the 12th. We’ve also recorded a new arrangement of the song Brother from our 2005 album Mission Creep.

Incidentally, the location of our studio hide-out shall remain secret because we don’t want to be mobbed by the NME. They can be relentless, you know, the paparazzi.

Saturday 12 January, 9.30pm (Water Rats, King’s Cross, London):
Tonight we are playing our debut show at the infamous Water Rats in King’s Cross. We turn up at the venue at around 9.30pm and there’s an enormous queue on the street outside. We find some LYs regulars waiting to be admitted and they tell us that no one’s being allowed in – the place is apparently rammed already. We wish them luck and take the only possible course of action, which is to barge through the assembled masses waving our wristbands around trying not to get into any fights.

Inside, the place is heaving. It’s a sell-out crowd. We work our way through to the performance room and sneak backstage. It’s hotter than hell in here. Plus the backstage area is the size of a small toilet (in fact, from the look of the place it probably once was a small toilet) and it’s packed with seven bands’ worth of gear. Just in case you were under the illusion that we spend our backstage time bathing in scented jacuzzis and nibbling caviar off the wings of talking swans, well, we don’t. This evening, for example, I’m spending it with my face in the stage manager’s armpit, trying to work out where I put my piano. I begin to wonder where Tony is – we’re on in 5 minutes…

The band before us finish their set and George and I take to the stage to set up our gear. Still no Tony. Another five minutes pass, our instruments are in place and we are due to start. Just on cue, our flustered-looking drummer bursts through the stage door, looking a bit freaked out. “It took me FIFTEEN MINUTES to get in here! There’s still about 50 people outside!”. One day, I find myself thinking, we will be choppered onstage like Shirley Bassey at Glastonbury Festival. Still, for the moment I guess this is part of the fun. Besides, it’s very much Tony’s style to turn up to gigs at the absolute last minute, to the extent that fans have recently begun asking us whether we keep him in a box all week long and don’t let him out until show-time. The answer is yes, yes we do. We keep Tony in a box. He lives in a box.

It’s turns out to be a really great gig – we open with Beat Alive and She’s The One, and at the point in the set at which we usually play Miles Away we debut new song England, which gets a good reception. The heat is stifling and the room is filled to capacity. Sweat drips from the walls. We move through our pop numbers, Banana Republic and Emily, into set-closer The Last Night. The sound-system in the venue is excellent and George’s swirling guitar loops at the end of the set are sounding pretty epic.

Next show – Wednesday night at the Rock Garden. We’re starting a mid-week residency there for all you city types who fancy a couple of drinks and a sweet dose of keyboard-led pop-rock after work. See you there! 

Chris Lightyear
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