Thursday, 16 July 2009

I'll Drink To That - Video

I have finally managed to work out how to extract video from a camcorder, and have uploaded to youtube this live rendition of I'll Drink To That. It's from the Sensual Earthly Women gig at St Mary's Church in Stoke Newington that we played some time in March. Hear all those reflections! Enjoy


Friday, 10 July 2009

The Future of Pop

I have had the great fortune to be in close enough proximity to observe the progression of an extraordinary talent. His name is Lemond, also known as, Alex Reece. We both hail from the same nowhere borough just outside of the naval island city of Portsmouth.

I was in a dreadful college band when I was sixteen and we used to murder some of the indie bilge around at that time. Quite how we made it sound worse than the original is beyond me. The bass player in this band was also in Alex's band, Tarantella, and introduced us once at one of their gigs at the multiple fire ravaged Contented Pig.
Alex was wearing a Seafood T-Shirt, a band I'd not heard of, and wore glasses and was proud of the fact. Strange and vaguely exotic concepts for me at the time, how provincial! I would write about all of this in short gig reviews that I would post on the Wedgewood Rooms email group. I'm sure this made the older majority of the group either groan with boredom or guffaw uncontrollably at the computer screen.

Somehow, though I can't remember the exact details, Alex and I struck up a friendship. I remember a particular night where we'd both played on the same bill. Tarantella had a song called Shark Vs Bone, with the band shouting that for the chorus, then Alex lifting a trumpet up and blowing off a flurry of notes. I was in silent awe. The room was throbbing with people, there were drunken youths passed out in speaker cones lying in puddles of piss and beer. Ah, those heady nights upstairs in the Horseshoe (RIP. Now flats).

We'd play the open mic nights at The Priory on Victoria Road (RIP. Now flats) on Monday nights, with plenty of out of tune odd balls and 50s throw backs. I'd sing these atrocious self indulgent songs of mine laden with strained falsetto, as I'd just discovered Jeff Buckley and was about to embark on a 5 year obsession with the man. Alex would mumble quirky self-conscious tunes that just about only I enjoyed.

I saw brilliance in that man then, though justifying it is impossible. We were both terrible musicians, singers, and songwriters. More importantly, my tastes then were despicable. How could one possibly have faith in the opinion of a seventeen year old amateur of everything? And yet, thankfully, my tastes have flourished and broadened as has Alex's song writing, the two possibly in correlation.

We both moved to London for university and to make bands. Alex hid behind guitars and keys for indie pop outfit, Mike TV, rarely singing, clearly embarrassed about his voice. Though out of tune and constantly cracking in those days, there was a timbre and depth to it that demanded attention. It received it eventually, when the bloated Mike TV devolved into separate projects.

From that point on, Alex concentrated on his own songs as a solo artist. He played me demos recorded on zip tapes from those old Boss 8 tracks in his New Cross rooms. I was constantly ecstatic to hear them, and secretly insanely jealous. There were so many ideas in one song, so many weird chords I'd never heard, obscure one liners that begged intrigue. I'm sure they were all too long in those days, but the seeds were there, clarity was descending.

We both left university and London as we started, in musical terms, nowhere. I headed off to Australia to study Audio Engineering for a year, Alex to Glasgow. He holed himself up in the roof of an old Queen's Park tenement with a PC and cracked copies of Logic. I think there was some effort to produce himself, nothing more, spending months and months on the same songs.

However, by the time I came back to the motherland, things were gaining pace. His songs were now shorter and snappier. All those esoteric signatures that were once the focus, were now cleverly woven into fabric of this new sound. It was a mixture of Zoot Woman and Phoenix but with Paddy McAloon singing. Deep woah Elvis thrusts perfectly punctuated with orgasmic Patti Smith shrieks. Lemond was born.

Did I envisage any of this when I was sweet sixteen in the corner by the fruit machine? No, it was beyond my comprehension then and probably Alex's too. What I was hearing and drooling over, was the product of years of hard graft, the forging of a voice and a unique production.

A few more years in Glasgow producing more tracks and redoing old ones, found him at the end of his tether but at the top of his game. What would be the fate of him, all that hard work and no one to recognise it. I'd take the train up to see him and in the midst of the Hall and Oates YouTube clip marathon he proceeded to put me through, there was an awful sadness. A recognition that he was just another man thrashing away in his bedroom that no one would ever hear.

Thank the heavens above someone was listening. After some MP3s that had been slung around and played at Run Hide Survive parties, the songs finally made their way to a management company, and proceeded to blow their balls off. Since this happy occurrence, Lemond has been making new demos at Sarm studios for legendary producer Trevor Horn, and developing what is looking to be a long and fruitful pop career.

Lemond is a shining example to any musician, and I would point to him if any toothless young musician asked me for advice. There is nothing more pleasurable and rewarding than listening to music, and listening to as much of it from wildly different genres is just as important as practicing your instrument, if not more in the case of songwriters.

Because Lemond has followed this path, he now embodies all that is great about pop music. Dripping with sex, a production that winds you with incredible efficiency, and a lyric so sharp it'll ruthlessly disembowel you on the dance floor, there is nothing quite left for the listener to desire.

Listen to this man's work of brilliance and revel as I do in his grand ascent to stardom.