I was given the chance to interview one of my favourite bands before their support slot at the Sundara Karma gig on Saturday 11th of February. The interview took place in a room in the back of Birmingham’s 02 Institute.
Interviewing Blaenavon has got to have been one of the most nerve racking things I’ve ever done. They are a band who’s music I’ve listened to everyday since I found them, anyway here are a few words I got out of them:
LIH: So, tonight’s the first night of your tour with Sundara Karma, how does it feel ?
Ben: Fucking great ! They’re like our best mates. The Night Cafe are like our best mates. We’ve only got like 4/5 shows but they’re all in really cool places and they’re all going to be huge, so it’s pretty awesome ! Very happy to be on board.
LIH: You’re also touring with The Night Cafe in March, aren’t you ?
Ben: They’re coming with us, on our ‘That’s Your Lot’ headline tour in March and April. Just love that band. Lovely guys. Pretty funny.
LIH: You supported Sundara on their Spring Tour last year, what are they like to tour with ?
Harris: Bloody funny guys. Gotten to know them quite well since.
Frank: They’ve started dressing a bit better since we’ve met them
( everyone bursts out in laughter)
Frank: So have we though.
Lauren: That’s such a random thing to say ! (laughing)
Frank: Yeah, I wanted to sound like a wanker. Put he sounds like a wanker. *in wanker-ish voice
LIH: Your debut album ‘That’s Your Lot’ is out 7th April via Transgressive, how does it feel to have finally finished it ?
Ben: It feels pretty fantastic. It’s been a long time coming and we’re incredibly proud of this album, it’s been like five years in the making.
Frank: That’s not that long.
Carly: That’s quite a long time.
Frank: sounds like a wanker.
LIH: Where did the idea for the album title come from ?
Ben: Um, well the title track is the last one on the album and it’s like a big massive breakup number and I just thought it made a lot of sense to kind of how long we’ve been building up to it. It’s like the final piece. Putting the record out, ‘That’s Your Lot’. I dunno, there’s a lot of stuff on there about destiny. That’s what the word ‘lot’ kinda means. Also I thought it was quite funny to put out a debut record that suggests that everything is over.
LIH: There’s a song on the tracklisting, ‘Prague ’99’. Is that the same version of ‘Prague’ or has it been re-recorded ? Why change the name ?
Ben: Oh yeah !
Frank: It’s the 99th version.
Harris: Take that how you will.
Ben: It’s spiced up heavily. It’s the track you know and love but mahoosive (M-A-H-O-O-S-I-V-E). *laughs
LIH: What were your main influences, musical or not when writing and recording ‘That’s Your Lot’ ?
Harris: I was getting a good nights rest when we were recording it so day-long album of songs that have been influenced by all of the things surrounding sleep, like what you dream about and what helps you get to sleep. Some kinda spooky sounds which made their way to the record of course !
Ben: I was listening to a shit ton of Ought when we were writing the final tracks of the record, some of them are from like 4/5 years ago. Then there’s more recent ones like ‘I Will Be The World’ and ‘That’s Your Lot’. Really inspired by those guys, a couple of writers made their way in, I was reading a lot of Hermann Hesse and that’s where a lot of themes of destiny and fate came in, which is kinda sweet.
Frank: Paul McCartney. A shit load of Paul McCartney.
LIH: What’s your favourite song to play live ?
Ben: I will be the world.
Harris: If things are going badly at that point, they usually take a turn. I mean they rarely ‘go badly’ but we smash out that song and then there’s a bit of change in the atmosphere. Even if we’re playing well.
Frank: Still the atmosphere changes.
Ben: Then we get to smash the living shit out of everything !
Carly: I’ve got your demo version of that and it’s amazing !
Frank: Oh you’ve got that ? No one has ever mentioned that before to us !
Harris: If you signed up for the mailing list you got that.
Ben: That was made on my computer with one acoustic guitar and garageband.
LIH: So, what was the first song that you guys ever wrote together as a band ?
Ben: Probably a song called ‘Denim Patches’. Yeah. Let’s not talk about the early days. The first song anyone will have heard is ‘Denim Patches’. We used to have a different name and it was just like a school band and it was a bit of fun, ya know. ‘Denim Patches’ came about, that’s when we started taking it a bit seriously.
Harris: You can hear it on the B-side to ‘Into The Night’, if it exists.
LIH: The band’s name, Blaenavon. We’ve heard numerous rumours about how the name was decided, apparently you saw the name on a t-shirt ?
Ben: That is the truth ! That’s the really boring truth. A friend gave me a massive bag of clothes when he was clearing out all his shit and one of them was a sick t-shirt that had a cow on it and said “head of the valleys” and the word Blaenavon on it. It’s a pretty word and we’ve been there, it’s a great town.
Harris: Great name for a great band ! Great songs.
LIH: Do you think there’s a possibility of you playing a gig in Blaenavon ?
Frank: We’re gunna do it, in the big pit with the Blaenavon Male Voice Choir.
Harris: We really want to do an album celebration party there when we can logistically it’s impractical right now but we’re trying to sort it out.
Ben: I’m gunna say yes, we’ll do it! It’s going to be sick !
Frank: The Male Voice Choir are already on board !
Harris: We re quite a divisive band amongst the town folk so not sure. A lot of them don’t seem to like the band being bigger than the town. We’ve been together six years so we feel like some of the heritage of Blaenavon has been maybe tarnaged by a kind of indie meddling.
Frank: They know they’ve had their time. The industrial revolution specifically !
LIH: Have you got a favourite city or town where you like to play ?
Ben: Manchester. Glasgow as well but mainly Manchester. It’s full of really safe, young people in Manchester who just wanna go for the music and have a nice time.
Harris : I think we’ll get some new favourites when we do more european shows over the next couple of weeks. We haven’t really toured Europe before.
LIH: So, if I’m right, you guys are from Liss in Hampshire,
Frank: I’m from Liss
Ben: We’re from Liphook which is the town next door to Liss. It’s bigger, better, faster. Bigger supermarket.
Harris: Better broadband.
Ben: Better tennis club, nicer people, prettier people and it’s a really important distinction! Dunno where Liss has crept in from.
Harris: Frank has been harassing our online history for the past six years, so nothing is true.
Frank: We are both from fairly sleepy towns with very little to do.
LIH: What’s the local music scene like down there then ?
Here’s an interview question that we rehearsed: Ben and Harris saved the local music scene in Liss.
*laughter. Ben had a sudden realisation of what happened.
Harris: We drove past this youth club called The Crossover, that Ben and I wanted to do the charity fundraiser for. Which we also insisted that we were payed £20 each for. I think it was because my dad was like “yeah you should start getting money for this boys” but in the end, six years later after this fateful gig, the building is still there and the local community is still thriving. People go to it, make their donuts and they play their music, they play their pool and it’s just a good place for young people.
Frank: It’s all thanks to Ben and Harris!
Ben: Yeah, we saved it. So you ask us how the music scene down there is, the answer is, we saved it.
Frank: Pretty big statement.
Harris: Love it!
LIH: What’s the craziest gig you’ve ever played ?
Ben: We played a place in Kings Cross called the Scala. Which was a humongous, buttery, headline show. (14th October last year).
Frank: The word ‘humongous’ was invented in honour of that gig.
Harris: And so was the word ‘buttery’.
Ben: That was invented in hour of Frank’s after party antics. That was crazy. We’d done so many support slots and that was our headline where it really came together. Stage dives, Rock n Roll
Harris: Smoke machines.
Carly: My favourite song by you is definitely ‘Just Desserts’
Ben: Aww, shit on that ! *Ben gives his middle fingers to both Harris and Frank.
Frank: A lot of people like that one actually, a surprising amount considering I had nothing to do with it !
Carly: How did it come about ? What’s the story behind it ?
Ben: This was an incredibly long time ago actually. I was feeling really romantically underwhelmed and I played the piano. I sat down and spilled my emotions over the keys and never thought anything would come of it, people liked it and we redid it. Now it’s on Spotify.
LIH: Are there any shout outs for new artists or bands that you’re really liking at the moment ?
Ben: A band called (On Drugs) put out an album yesterday (10th February). A manchester band, saxophone and keys. It’s actually the best thing that’s happened in a really long time.
LIH: What would your dream festival lineup look like ?
Ben: It would be Glastonbury and it would be Coldplay on the friday night, Coldplay on the saturday night..
*Frank raves about how shit Glastonbury was last year
Harris: Coldplay on the Sunday night and then Slayer supporting every other slot.
Frank: And when Coldplay play, they play all of the songs from ‘Parachutes’ at the same time. So their set is only the length of their longest song. We’re not playing. Can’t be bothered with that !
Ben: We’re the only people who are allowed to buy tickets as well. But you can watch it on T.V,
Harris: If you buy our special T.V subscription.
Ben: It’s only in 3D so you have to have those 3D glasses and the 3D television.
Frank: That special T.V subscription which is owned by us, is only available as a bundle for the preorder of our album
Ben: It’s the type of modern 3D where you feel it physically and Chris Martin can reach out and poke you in the eye !
Frank: It’s only 50p extra with the album.
The band absolutely smashed their slot at the gig and everyone had a wonderful time. We’d like to thank Ben, Harris and Frank for the chance to interview them and good luck with the album.
A few of us writers at Let It Happen will also be going to see them play in Bristol, 27th of March and we can’t wait. Their shows are packed with energy.
These lads are going to be huge, so I highly suggest you start listening to them now.
*All photos by Lauren McDermott.