Tuesday, 14 February 2006

The Early Years

“The Early Years” are one of the hottest properties in London. Championed by the likes of Radio One’s Steve Lemacq and Huw Stephens, XFM’s John Kennedy and winners of the prestigious and much coveted Single of the Week award in The Beaver, they seem destined for greatness. Since forming less than two years ago they’ve recorded at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, Death In Vegas’ Contino Rooms and even received that sure stamp of success, crazed emails from a psycho fan clearly a couple of discs short of a box set.

On the eve of their debut British tour they talked exclusively to The Beaver about making records on the road less travelled:

Kevin: How did the band first come together?

Roger: It all started when I got Dave to perform a solo set as support for a punk band that I was in at the time. I was really impressed with his psychedelic guitar work and decided that that sort of sound was what I really wanted to be doing as well. The punk band split shortly after and I joined forces with Dave.

Phil: I was still in the process of moving down to London at the time, but Dave, who I knew from Blackpool, got in touch and we had our first rehearsal in April of 2004.

Dave: Phil just nailed that krautrock beat, which allowed me and Roger to experiment with our sound over the top of it.

Kevin: How did the first gig as “The Early Years” go?

Phil: Our first gig was just a month later, at Pleasure Unit in Bethnal Green. I’d say we had about 15% of our material prepared, and the rest of the show was improvised.

Roger: We were still kind of finding our feet as a band, but as our rehearsals improved we booked more and more gigs.

Dave: We decided to play one gig a month for a year, and then see where we were by the end of it. At the time London was full of bands trying to sound like the Libertines, so we were doing something different. We made music for ourselves, stuff that we’d like. We had nothing to lose so we didn’t give a shit whether it was what we thought people wanted, just what we thought sounded good.

Roger: As we started to find our sound through gigging, we decided to record a couple of demos.

Dave: I mailed them off and of course totally forgotten I’d done it. Then a week later an email appeared in my inbox telling me that we were going to be on John Kennedy’s XFM show. He apparently loved our first demo, “Things”, and kept on playing it.

Phil: Then Huw Stephens on Radio One played our second demo, “All Ones And Zeros”, which became our first single.

Dave: The DJs just ping-ponged off each other. Huw Stevens passed the track on to Steve Lemacq, who subsequently invited us to do a session at Maida Vale.

Roger: Of course, when John Kennedy heard about this he felt like he was going to miss out, so offered us an XFM session at the same time.

Dave: We ended up recording them one night after another!

Kevin: Was this the point when labels started getting interested?

Roger: Yeah, a couple of labels were interested. But when ‘Beggar’s’ got involved we knew they were the label for us, for a start some of my favourite bands have been on this label!

Kevin: You recorded your first single with Tim Holmes, of ‘Death in Vegas’. How was that?

Phil: It was a fantastic experience. “The Contino Sessions” is one of my all-time favourite albums, so to actually record at The Contino Rooms was incredible.

Roger: They have all sorts of rare equipment there. They could open a museum with their synthesisers alone!

Kevin: Were you worried that with such a big name producer involved you would sacrifice artistic control and end up with a ‘Death In Vegas’ record rather than an ‘Early Years’ record?

Roger: No, not at all.

Phil: The anticipation was a little nerve wracking, because you realise that you’re going to be working with someone who you’re a big fan of. But by the second day we went in it was like popping round to see a mate.

Dave: Tim was fantastic to work with. We were relaxed as soon as we started jamming and chatting about music, and while he got very involved with the single it was always a collaborative process. The tracks we came out with are very much our own, although there’s maybe a little nod to Death in Vegas on “I Heard Voices”.

Kevin: “I Heard Voices” creates an incredible soundscape, did you use sampling to create that?

Dave: No, the whole thing was recorded live in one take; the trick was playing the live vocals through the effects pedals.

Kevin: Is it more difficult for you to re-create your sound live, compared to say a garage rock band?

Phil: Our live sound is definitely different to how we sound on record.

Roger: Our gigs are a lot rawer.

Phil: The problem is we’d need twenty people to recreate the sound of our record live. We only have three pairs of hands!

Dave: Yeah, we’re actually looking for another member to join us live. Another pair of hands would help us recreate that rich sound that people have come to associate with our records.

Roger: The live show is definitively a lot more punk!

Kevin: What’s your favourite live memory?

Phil: Our most memorable show was probably at a festival we played at in Hertfordshire. “Do Me Bad Things” were headlining, but when their set finished the organisers had arranged for a load of fireworks to announce our show on the “secret stage”.

Dave: Everyone thought the night was over, then they were like “what’s that noise?”

Roger: It was about 3.30 in the morning by this point, so we were all completely wasted. We started playing as the fireworks ended.

Phil: I’ll never forget watching hundreds of people coming down this path from the main stage to see us.

Kevin: How about in London?

Phil: Most of our gigs to date have been here in London. We’ve played everywhere from 93 Feet East to ULU.

Roger: Yeah, ULU was a great gig. One of the biggest audiences we’ve ever played to and a lot of people hearing us for the first time.

Dave: We got a really good reaction. I think we won them over.

Kevin: Has it ever all gone horribly wrong?

Roger: When we played Upstairs at the Garage, everything that could go wrong did. Phil was away anyway so it was just me and Dave playing an acoustic set. My amp pedal broke at the beginning of the show and from then on things just got progressively worse. I just left Dave to it in the end.

Dave: We were gutted when we came offstage, but we still got some really good feedback. It just goes to show that your perception on stage is very different to how the audience perceive you. As we’ve got more and more live experience under our belt, we’ve got better and better so we’ve raised our own expectations as to how we should be sounding. Each show is better than the last. That’s the key.

Kevin: Looking forward to touring?

Phil: Definitely. It’s going to be a step up, at the moment we’ve mostly been playing in venues that we already know well, whether as fans or performers. The tour is going to put us in unknown environments which will be a challenge.

Roger: The singles had a brilliant reaction and we get emails and feedback from all over the country, so it’ll be great to meet those fans.

Dave: Also it’s a chance to play our music to people who haven’t heard much of it before, if at all. It’ll get a much more pure reaction.

Kevin: The London shows are at the beginning of the tour, right?

Phil: Yeah, we play the Barfly with Calla tonight (14th) and the Tatty Bogle Club on Friday (17th). We’re really looking forward to it.

Kevin: So am I! See you then!

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