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The Long Blondes
By Liam Ronan
2008 for the Long Blondes properly kicked off this month with the release of their new single, Century, in March and the release of their new album, Couples. Swine popped into a pub in Sheffield town to catch up with the band. We heard on the grapevine that they would be playing a secret gig at The Shakespeare. No-one can keep a secret from us Swine Magazine.
The new single seems to be an instant band classic. You can certainly understand it was eventually chosen to be the first single to be released from second album.
However, although it’s catchy Century certainly doesn’t sound like anything from their 2006 debut, Someone to Drive You Home. Is the electro/synth sound a new direction for the band or are The Long Blondes simply showing their true colours in this new album? Guitarist Dorian immediately corrects me,
“It’s electronic, not electro… It was one of the later ones to be finished actually… it was very instrumental, in fact it was one originally… We put the lyrics in at the end.”
Front woman Kate Jackson penned in the words to the music. She explains, “It was an unusual way of doing it. But it was an interesting way I thought… It definitely made it a different song… And it’s better for it I think.”
So why Couples? Is it a concept album?
“Yes, it’s a tribute to Jack and Vera Duckworth!” Grins Dorian,
“We were told in advance that Vera was dying and this album is a memento to that.”
So it’s an electronic tribute to Jack and Vera Duckworth? Dorian decides to promote the album to me further adding, “We used the keyboard 20% more than they did last album.”
The band then begin to ridicule Dorian’s seeming attempt to sell the album by offering 20% more keyboards for the same price as before. He quickly digresses,
“The first album was jangly indie but the new one is a bit darker.”
Dorian then explains why the albums seem to noticeably differ,
“We had a long time before starting and getting right the first one… It was more of a catch up album really, the idea was to get together all our best stuff and get it out, where as with this one we have had time to write specifically for it and it is all new material. Most of it was just written last year.”
Kate chips in, “Most of the work on the new album started when we came back from touring in May last year. 4 or 5 of the songs were ready this time last year.”
“By September there were 7 more” points out Dorian.
“This [September] is when we were dedicating more time to writing songs…But it wasn’t all fully finished by the time we were in studio which was good because unlike last time we had not already played the songs live and were open to new ideas,” concludes Kate.
So the new album is a lot more focussed and sharper than the first. The band have had the time to make in-studio changes to songs before their audience has become used to live version. The band’s new direction on the album has been harnessed by trendy Holloway DJ Erol Alkan, friend of the band. Erol has also worked on the new Mystery Jets album as well as famously re-working music by groups such as Interpol, Klaxons, Hot Chip and Franz Ferdinand. Most of the album was recorded in London.
“Erol was really involved in this [Couples]… It was as much him as it was us to be honest… he’s known us for a while now and has remixed some of our stuff for B-sides last year” admits Kate.
The band’s producer on Someone to Drive You Home was former Pulp bassist and band hero Steve Mackey but it seems that he was just there to help the band out in the studio, to get the best of the Long Blondes and compile it into an album. He certainly achieved what he had set out to do and helped propel the band to where they are now.
So after a none stop touring schedule that saw the Long Blondes travel most of the globe in 2006 and 2007, they began again last month in the UK and will travel to Europe from the end of April and then further afield at the start of summer.
I asked them how they were perceived by foreign audiences,
“Everywhere we went we got a good response,” answered Kate,
“It just seemed to be Ireland which didn’t get us I’d say!”
I then ask the globe-trotting Long Blondes whether they still live in their chosen home town, where they met through University. However, it seems as if only Reenie has decided to stay with a few of them now stationed in Leeds, Kate claiming she is “homeless” and Dorian living in a “storage unit.”
Despite the bands migration from the Steel City I ask them their views on the opening of the Sheffield Carling Academy,
“I don’t really like the idea of a Carling Academy in the city. It’s too commercial and they [Carling] don’t need another one,” moans Kate
“It’s hardly the best drink either,” sneers Dorian.
Kate then seems to tie her anti-commercial colours to the mast by letting me know that the band are due to play the Octagon in Sheffield soon. The fact that The Long Blondes are hear to play a secret gig in support of a friends band show that they maintain a strong un-commercial free spirit which many bands unfortunately do not possess.
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