If you’re passing through Lancaster late at night, wondering where that glorious racket’s coming from, it could be Holly Ross (vocals/guitar, ex-Angelica) and David Blackwell working on new songs at their place, while their four-year-old lad sleeps through.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a mighty fine noise, arguably a psych-indie, kraut-rock take on The White Stripes, with the humour of John Cooper-Clarke and Sultans of Ping FC, and the punk spirit of Buzzcocks and The Fall.
And while it clearly says LA on their postcode, that’s not the closest they get to a US link, the band not so long ago enjoying a holiday in upstate New York working with Flaming Lips/Mercury Rev producer David Fridmann, who helped them out with their fifth album, This is Eggland, due on February 23rd.
I saw The Lovely Eggs headline unlikely Salford setting St Phillip’s Church at Sounds from the Other City last April. That was some night, and once seen, they can’t be unseen. In fact, it’ll take me a long time to forget the image of an adoring scarf-waving congregation singing along to irreverent crowd-pleasers like Fuck It and People are Twats. It’s fair to say The Lovely Eggs put plenty of red wine and grapefruit beer smiles on faces that evening.
If you’re yet to discover this special pairing, you can catch them live next month. And by way of back-catalogue catch-up in the meantime, you could do far worse than start online with wondrous band ‘oldies’ like Don’t Look at Me (I Don’t Like It) – think of The Clash’s Janie Jones covered by Jilted John; and Graham Fellows’ alter-ego John Shuttleworth (with sausage roll thumb) has a cameo in the video – plus Allergies – melodic psychedelia with a nod to Girls at Our Best maybe; its producer, Gruff Rhys, of Super Furry Animals fame, appearing in the promo – and the similarly quirky I Just Want Someone to Fall In Love With.
This tour comes on the heels of a ‘rammed and raucous’ autumn jaunt, the band keen to spread the word about their new record, Holly reckoning, “It’s pretty relentless. It kind of sounds like a chip shop on fire. We still write about everyday life and the stuff that goes on in our world, it’s just the new album is more fierce, and really tells it like it is.”
While they made their debut in New York City in 2006 and made an impression at 2010’s SXSW in Houston, Texas, home’s ‘always been Lancaster’ for Holly, who previously led John Peel favourites Angelica. Isn’t there a Morecambe link too?
Holly: “Oh yeah, David’s from Morecambe.”
You met across the big divide, right?
David: “That’s right … across the river.”
Holly: “We bought the houses of Morecambe and Lancaster together.”
Bringing an end to the War of the Red Roses, no doubt. In fact, us based in such parts will spot a few shots over Morecambe Bay from their publicity shots and promo videos.
Yet they’re more than willing to travel, and when I saw them adding a little irreverence to the proceedings at St Phillip’s Church, they told the audience they were enjoying a rare night away from their little ‘un.
David: “Ah, we travelled down to that gig on our own, and normally he comes with us. We take someone along to look after him while we play. But that night we got to have a night out, someone driving us back after.”
Their son’s now four and at ‘big school’. Is that right that he can sleep through all that crashing around (no offence intended) when you’re playing and recording at home?
Holly: “Pretty much, when we were recording the new album, we’d bring it home at night, work on it. Basically, from birth, we trained him to sleep through everything. He was born to be a child of a drummer and guitar player. We taught him, ‘This is the level of noise you’re going to have to put up with’. He doesn’t know any different, and sleeps through most things.”
Dare I ask if there are Lovely Eggboxes on your house walls – a little sound protection for the neighbours?
Holly: “We live next door to students, so they give it to us, and we give it good back.”
Now This is Eggland is lined up for wider consumption, via Egg Records, at the remaining record shops of North Lancashire and beyond.
Holly: “It’s coming out globally! In America, in record shops, in Europe … everywhere.”
I kind of realised that. I was just trying to retain a bit of ‘local’ flavour. On vinyl as well?
Holly: “We’ve never not vinyl’d!”
David: “We love the vinyl. We’ve got a big record collection.”
So is This is Eggland your declaration of independence from austere Brexit Britain?
Holly: “Pretty much.”
A call for an ‘Eggsit’ from all that Little England mentality?
Holly: “We pretty much feel like cosmonauts who’ve landed on an alien planet, and the insanity of life on this planet is crazy. So we’ve made our own alternative reality, and everyone’s welcome to join in. That’s the only way the world’s going to change, if people start to say, ‘This is enough of insane living. I’m not going to keep jumping on the bandwagon and do what other people do … it’s fucking insane!
“When we first had our baby, most people were like, ‘That’s it for the band, you can’t tour anymore.’ But why can’t we? That’s insane, all these rules. If it’s down to the health or well-being of the kid, fair enough, but it’s nothing to do with that.
“People get a takeaway on a Saturday night, sit in front of the telly and watch The X-Factor. Is that what you should do? We’re of the mindset, ‘Fuck all that. Make your own planet. We’ve made one. Come and live on it!”
And your new songs are described as ‘heavier and more in-your-face’ than anything before.
David: “Yeah, not necessarily intentionally, that’s just what came out when we were writing the album.”
For me, there’s definitely a Fall vibe to most recent single, I Shouldn’t Have Said That. Is that – with its video, as usual, directed by Casey Redmond – indicative of where you’re at?
Holly: “I don’t know. There are quite a few songs that sound different to that, but yeah, I think that’s a good representation of where we’re going.”
The video for I Shouldn’t Have Said That, like the record itself, was recorded at Lancaster Music Co-Op, the long-running, non-profit-making recording studio and rehearsal rooms where the pair met and where David works.
David: “I’ve worked there for years, and that’s where we started writing and recording. It’s a kind of DIY place, pretty low-fi, a small studio. And it’s worked for us, writing and recording our own albums there, with total control over everything, putting the records out ourselves. But with this one we got Dave Fridmann on board.”
Indeed – a big-name producer, with lots of admired records under his belt. Was there any release in particular that made you think of him?
David: “I guess the main thing was The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips (1999), but a lot of his stuff brings a modern sort of edge to psychedelic stuff really. We’re big fans of that. It’s a long story how he got involved, but it’s something totally new to us to work with somebody else. We’ve never done anything like that. We’ve recorded and produced everything ourselves.”
Holly: “I don’t think we’d heard of anyone else we wanted to work with. Sometimes you hear a record, and it’s just a record, and we’d think, ’We’ll just keep doing what we’ve always done.’ ut after hearing the stuff he’s done, it made us think, ‘This is cool! I wish we could do that. Let’s get him!’”
Initially it was more of a correspondence course, the pair sending over their demos, with working progress back and forth between Tarbox Road, Buffalo, and Lodge Street, Lancaster before they flew over to help mix it.
Holly: “The whole way it came about was a bit of a joke really – a dare between me and David to find a contact for his studio. Producers like Dave Fridmann generally don’t put their contact details online … not for bands like us, contacting him and asking him to produce our record.
“We managed after a bit of detective work to find a phone number for the studio and I left a message on their answerphone after getting two wrong numbers – getting through to a garage and a Chinese takeaway. But one year later he replied.
“We actually wanted him to produce our last album, This is Our Nowhere. He was so late replying that by the time he got back the album was out the following week. So he said, ‘Let’s do the next one.’”
Was this album pretty much fully-formed when you got to the stage where you got him involved?
Holly: “We started writing as soon as we knew he was up for doing it, wanting to just crack on with it. We wrote it as one big thing really. All the songs were kind of inter-related and were all written within a couple of months, in one big batch.”
Does that make it a concept album?
Holly: “I think it’s a bit of a concept album. Like I say, it’s all about our life really, and how we choose to live it.”
Fridmann’s past credits also include work with (deep breath) Weezer, Keane, The Vaccines, 10,000 Maniacs, Mogwai, Ed Harcourt, The Delgados, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Cribs, MGMT and Tame Impala. And I was rather partial, I tell them, to Neil Finn’s Dizzy Heights and his son, Liam Finn’s The Nihilist.
David: “He’s done a lot of stuff really.”
Holly: “What we liked about Dave and why we wanted to work with him, is that he’s not afraid to experiment. David read up on him and the way he records, using tape recorders and so on. A lot of producers would say, ‘Oh my God, the quality – we can’t use old tape recorders,’ but we really liked the way he was prepared to experiment and break through boundaries. That’s what we’re about. All we’ve got is old gear and trying things out, seeing what works.”
David: “It kind of fits in with our mindset, and how we work. It’s not about following any rules, it’s about what we like and what sounds right for us. So it seemed the right thing to do.”
Sometimes, I suggest, it’s all about getting back to your roots, stripping back to see what really works for you.
David: “Yeah, that’s all good. Limiting yourself is a good way to work sometimes, anything that you get something new out of is good.”
As I mentioned before, the band’s links with New York go way back, holding their very first shows in NYC in 2006. Why there and not in North Lancs?
David: “We did maybe four or five in a week when we first started. That was our dream place to play.”
Was that in case you split up within a year, thinking you’d best get some careers highs in straight away?
David: “Yeah, rather than thinking about playing at home, which is what you kind of do when you’re forming a band, we thought we’d do something totally different.”
Holly: “Again, rather than doing what everyone else does, without questioning it, we questioned why it had to be done like that. Why can’t you fly out to New York? Why can’t you just send out your music to venues over there, see if they like you and book you? That’s what we’d prefer to do, rather than being like sheep, taking the route everyone else does.”
And you ended up going out there this time as well, with your lad in tow.
David: “We went out to mix it, yeah. We thought it was important to spend some time in the studio and feel part of that. And that was great.”
You’re out on the road to promote the new LP next month, starting on home ground at Lancaster’s Yorkshire House. Is that a regular stop-off?
Holly: “That’s like the venue in Lancaster where bands play. We’ve played it lots in the past. We have one annual hometown gig a year, and it’s usually there. And that’s already sold out, actually.”
For those in the North West who’ve left it too late to get to the opener, there’s also Manchester’s Band on the Wall on February 17th closing this 10-date tour, which also takes in London’s legendary 100 Club on the 16th, with support from recent writewyattuk interviewee Phill Jupitus and friend of the band, in his guise as Porky The Poet. But again, you’d best get in quick, as the band have a loyal travelling fan-base.
Holly: “We’re always surprised by the amount of people who come out to see us, considering we’re a DIY band, doing it all ourselves really. It’s been really humbling seeing all these people come and get behind us, and say, ‘Do you know what? We think that too!’”
As long as you don’t expect a fake encore. Because they’re not into that idea, and they’ll happily tell you why not.
The Yorkshire House also hosted Angelica’s final gig in 2002, the cult Lancaster four-piece having formed at school and going on to make a name for themselves on the indie circuit, making a mini-album, a full album and four singles, becoming BBC Radio 1 evening show regulars with Steve Lamacq and recording a session for John Peel. But what was David up to before The Lovely Eggs?
David: “I played guitar in a psych-rock band called Three Dimensional Tanx (actually, I thought he said ‘The Greedy Tanks’. It took me a while to find out the real name, as in 3D Tanx, and I think I prefer the one I made up), but when me and Holly decided to form a band we didn’t want two guitarists, so I said, ‘I’ll play drums then’. We didn’t really want a drum machine. I’d never played drums before, but …”
Was there a bit of a model there with pairings like The White Stripes and Salford’s own, The Ting Tings?
David: “Not really, it’s just that we didn’t really want to get a lot of people involved, because we wanted to travel, and it’s so much easier to make decisions when there’s two of you. This way, we don’t have to ask others what we can do. And we wanted it to be loud, with real drums, so that was the form it took. We just did it, not thinking too much about it.”
What do you make of that ‘surreal husband and wife duo’ label? Or is that of your own doing?
Holly: “That’s not of our doing! It’s all true though – we are pretty surreal, we are husband and wife … and we are a musical duo, so …”
Three-thirds right then. Is the description ‘Northern psychedelic punks’ better?
Holly: “Well, we are from the North, over time it’s got more psychedelic, and I think the spirit of us is definitely punk rock. It’s not 1977 punk, music-wise, but we’ve never defined punk by music but as an attitude, and I think a lot of punk music has got an attitude. So that’s pretty accurate too.”
My own introductory description of you was Buzzcocks and The Fall meet Hole, with a nod to the Sultans of Ping FC. Was I close?
Holly: “Erm … I don’t think Hole really, because I can’t really scream like Courtney Love.”
You’re too melodic for that, maybe.
Holly: “A bit … I don’t know.”
David: “People see different things. There’s lots of influences there, but we don’t really wear them on our sleeves. It’s whatever comes out. It’s just what we do. We don’t try to sound like anything in particular.”
You’ve had great support along the way from the likes of Steve Lamacq, and also John Peel in Holly’s Angelica days.
Holly: “John Peel was a massive supporter of Angelica, but it’s been Marc Riley with The Lovely Eggs. He really championed us, him and Jon Kennedy on XFM and people like Gideon Coe and Chris Hawkins. Before we even had a record out, Marc Riley played our stuff on his show, and that was just from us sending him a CDR in the post.”
And now it’s 11 years coming up since the Fried Egg CD, and nine years this summer since debut LP, If You Were Fruit. Time flies, eh?
Holly: “Oh my God … wow!”
David: “I guess so. We’ve put out quite a lot of stuff really. This is our fifth album, and it’s passed fairly quickly.”
And are you still in touch with Gruff Rhys and that man with the sausage roll thumb, also known as John Shuttleworth?
Holly: “We are. We’re still in touch with them and still send the odd text and email, stuff like that. And it’s always nice to meet when they come up to Lancaster or play locally.”
The Lovely Eggs’ February tour, with support on all dates from Phill Jupitus, in his guise as Porky The Poet, visits The Yorkshire House, Lancaster (Thu 8); The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (Fri 9); The Cluny, Newcastle (Sat 10); The Mash House, Edinburgh (Sun 11); Stereo, Glasgow (Mon 12); The Adelphi, Hull (Tue 13); Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff (Wed 14); The Cellar, Oxford (Thu 15); The 100 Club, London (Fri 16), and Band on the Wall, Manchester (Sat 17).
Meanwhile, the new LP’s lead single, I Shouldn’t Have Said That, is out now in both digital and vinyl 7″ format. For more on the band and how to get hold of This is Eggland and the back-catalogue, head to their official website. You can also keep in touch via Facebook and Twitter.
With thanks to North Lancashire-based photographer Darren Andrews for the use of his images (all those marked and maybe even more).