Three and a half decades after they dramatically broke up, mid-song, on a London stage on the final night of a nationwide tour, The Loft continue to inspire, with interest in this influential four-piece seemingly perpetual and having just led to a new retrospective compilation.
Compiled and coordinated by the band, Ghost Trains & Country Lanes expands on previous collections featuring this cult mid-‘80s indie outfit, adding reunion recordings, a 2015 radio session, and several live recordings from Alan McGee’s seminal London venue The Living Room in 1984.
But as Danny Kelly, who goes way back with the band, ponders in his sleeve-notes for the new Cherry Red 30-track retrospective, ‘How can a band that, at its peak, released just two singles, be on to its third compilation album?’. He’s got a point, hasn’t he?
“Yeah, who’d have thought!”
That’s The Loft’s lead guitarist Andy Strickland, speaking to me from his home on the east coast of the Isle of Wight. You must be quite surprised, I venture, by the attention afforded this short-lived outfit over the years.
“I suppose surprised, but also really chuffed. Even between the catalogue of compilations … I’ve got mates down here who listen to a lot of (BBC) 6 Music, always winding me up, saying, ‘Bloody hell – I can’t get away from you! They were playing The Loft again last night!’. And because Gideon Coe and Marc Riley still play us, it seems to never go away.”
Quite right too.
“Yeah, and it’s interesting how it still sounds good. ‘Up the Hill and Down the Slope’ sounds magnificent on the radio, and we’ve definitely entered that legacy list. If someone puts together a best of indie from the mid-’80s, that’s got to be on it. And Cherry Red do a good job keeping us out there.
“It does get quite bizarre. Last year a guy put together a film about Scottish indie and wanted a video clip of us playing the Living Room (the London club run by Alan McGee, their only regular gig at the start). The obvious question was, ‘Do you know we’re not Scottish?’. But it turns out that’s the only footage anyone got of Alan’s venue.
“There was a very strange one a couple of years ago, an American TV series called Red Oaks, set in a (New Jersey) college town in the ‘80s. They had a student party and were playing ‘Why Does the Rain’. Our version, but I think sped up. I tracked it down. Something’s not right – it seems someone decided they needed to get to that chorus faster! And these things keep popping up all the time.”
The Loft were among the first crop of Creation Records bands, and arguably considered the most likely to break through, mega-success for Rough Trade’s The Smiths seeing guitar-based independent pop in vogue. And as Alan McGee’s Creation label turned heads, this London-based quartet offered a fresh, cool take on revered outfits like Lou Reed, Television, The Only Ones and The Modern Lovers.
However, after just two great singles, ‘Why Does the Rain’ and ‘Up the Hill and Down the Slope’ –which the band also got to perform live on BBC 2’s The Oxford Road Show – they were gone, half-way through performing the latter at Hammersmith Palais, supporting The Colourfield, members going on to form new bands The Weather Prophets, The Caretaker Race, and The Wishing Stones.
They left behind just seven studio tracks, a December ’84 BBC Radio 1 Janice Long session, and a track from a Creation LP documenting the scene’s roots in McGee’s club. But their legend endured, eventually prompting an early 2000s reunion, Andy joined by fellow originals Pete Astor (vocals, guitar, principal songwriter), Bill Prince (bass), and Dave Morgan (drums), putting on several well-received live shows, releasing a new single, and later a Gideon Coe session for BBC 6 Music.
And still those songs receive plenty of airplay, The Loft’s reputation as founding fathers of a new breed of mid-‘80s indie pop continuing, often cited as influential, the new compilation seen by Cherry Red see as the definite tribute, including 17 unreleased tracks over two compact discs.
Andy was planning a trip to Sherborne, Dorset when I called, ready to meet his bandmates in The Chesterfields for the first time since the first 2020 lockdown, his first proper trip away in 15 months, give or take a halfway meet-up and pint outside a pub on a cold day in Guildford with his London-based youngest son. Not as if he’s complaining, not long ago returning across the Solent, where this ‘island boy’ was born and bred. As he put it, ‘There are worse places to be locked down’.
Mention of Guildford led to a brief discussion about my hometown, Andy recalling occasional trips as a teenager to the Civic Hall to catch live music.
“One I remember best was when we piled into a mate’s car – I think we were all in the sixth form – and drove up to see Penetration. We got there while they were soundchecking – the back door was open – and wandered in, stood against the wall watching. At the end of the soundcheck, bass player Rob Blamire came over and started chatting. When he realised we’d come up from the Isle of Wight, he was amazed, inviting us to the pub, buying us all a pint.
“Funnily enough, I was listening to Moving Targets yesterday in the car. I just love Pauline Murray’s voice. And of course, us teenage boys were all slightly in love with her!”
Meanwhile, my brother and a few mates occasionally headed the other way, down the A3 to see bands play Portsmouth.
“That was our main call for gigs. Nobody played the Isle of Wight. We saw everyone there, early punk gigs like The Clash and The Undertones at the Locarno, The Cure at the Poly or Art College quite early on, Buzzcocks, Ramones, and Ian Dury at the Guildhall, and before that, Thin Lizzy and Be Bop Deluxe.”
Getting back to Ghost Trains & Country Lanes, I’m often impressed by Cherry Red’s sleeve-notes, and there’s something else here – a brilliant timeline of The Loft, suggesting someone made great diary notes at the time.
“Yeah, I’ve a battered old briefcase containing loads of bits of paper, set-lists, receipts, posters, up in my studio room. Pete and I talked about what we could put in the booklet, to make it different from the last compilation apart from the extra tracks. We wanted photos that hadn’t been used before, and when I looked into what we were doing in 1984/85, this massive document emerged, which needed rather a lot of editing. I sent it round to the guys, everyone going, ‘Blimey, I remember that!’”
Well, I’m impressed.
“We thought people of our generation would like sitting there reading it while listening to the CDs. I love that sort of thing. I’ve been having a Beatles solo blast lately, loving going through those booklets.”
Tell me more about Alan McGee and his Living Room venue, which I understand started at The Adams Arms in June ’83.
“We saw an advert for it, and were at that time called The Living Room, so that was complete coincidence. There is disagreement among us about whether we changed our name because Alan suggested we ought to as it was too confusing. My memory is that Alan said we could play, but we’d have to change our name. Pete’s memory is that Alan wasn’t bothered but we just decided we should do it. He probably didn’t care.
“I also remember being in our little squatty practise house when one of Bill’s sisters’ friends said, ‘You’re obviously going up in the world, why don’t you call yourself The Loft?’. I think we went to the first or second night of the Living Room, and we’d go every time it was on. There wasn’t anywhere else like that.”
Have you made contact in recent years with original drummer, Andy Nott (who went on holiday to ‘Asia’ in May ’83 and was never seen again)?
“No, Andy disappeared, and nobody’s ever heard from him. People I know who knew him before I did have never heard from him either. He was a fascinating bloke, but wasn’t as good a drummer as Dave Morgan.”
It was clearly meant to be.
“Yeah, and one of the things I love about being part of The Loft is there’s only ever been four of us. A nice little club to be part of.”
Andy played in bands on the Isle of Wight before moving to the capital to study at the Polytechnic of Central London, rebranded the University of Westminster in the early ‘90s. And that’s where he met Bill Prince.
“When I went to London in 1980, I was staying in a hall of residence in Bolsover Street, off Oxford Street, turned up on Sunday afternoon – day one – and the very first person I saw was Bill, walking up the stairs carrying a bass guitar. We quickly fell in, became good mates and thought it would be nice to do something and try to find others to play with.”
“We lived in the same house for a few years while at college and a bit after, and always kept in touch. Since The Loft have been back in touch, we’ve had an annual tradition where we at least meet up once a year before Christmas, going out for an Italian meal and having a few drinks. The only thing we don’t talk about is The Loft … which is typical Loft, to be honest! Most people would reminisce, plan and plot for the future. Not us. We seem to cover everything else except that.”
Andy studied media studies at the Poly.
“Now it’s seen as like the antichrist, a bit of a belittled subject, but then … well, the people on my course included Danny Kelly, who went on to became a very well-known journalist and broadcaster, Bill ended up running GQ, we had people who got jobs at the Beeb, and people who went into Fleet Street. At that time, it was a mix of journalism, TV and video stuff. Quite a few got decent jobs.
“And because we were just around the corner from Broadcasting House, we had the likes of John Peel come and talk to us a few times. One of the strands on the course was radio and radio editing. I remember Peel – first time he came in – saying, ‘I’m not here today to talk about The Fall sessions. If you want to talk about The Fall, we’ll go to the pub after. Leave it till then.’ Of course, we made sure we went to the pub after, and he talked about The Fall.
“We really liked The Fall, and a few months after The Loft split, doing a piece on The Fall for Record Mirror, I was on their tour bus going to Rotterdam. At one point, Mark said, ‘’Ere, you were in that band The Loft, weren’t you? We loved that ‘Why Does the Rain’. Why did you split up?’ I told him, and he said, ‘We were going to invite you to come on tour with us’. We’d have given our right arms to go on tour with The Fall in 1985, so that was a real kick in the guts. When I told Pete that 10 years later, he was pretty gutted as well.
“I’ve a mate down here, when we were teenagers he started buying all the punk and new wave stuff, and had all the singles. It was at his house that we first heard the first Buzzcocks album. He had all the early Fall stuff. We’d have parties round his where we’d be leaping about to ‘Fiery Jack’ and all that. Good times!
“And when I was at Record Mirror, we went to see the team do the ballet thing with Mark. I think that was at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith. In the bar after, Mark came out and asked what we thought … which you should never ask! We said we liked the music, and he said, ‘The trouble with you Londoners, I expect you go to the ballet every night!’ Erm, not exactly, Mark.”
Pete’s near-neighbour in Crouch End, Dave Morgan, was an important addition, his drumming making you the finished article. And not only for his playing, but also through knowing Alan McGee, I gather.
“Dave was playing The Communication Club, I think, before the Living Room, in the band 12 Cubic Feet, and knew Alan. I think Pete did most of the chatting with Alan though. He said, ‘I think Alan’s offered us a gig’. Me and Bill said, ‘What do you mean, you think he’s offered us a gig?’ He said, ‘I couldn’t quite understand everything he was saying’. We had to go back and ask!”
The first Loft appearance at the Living Room came in early December 1983, supporting The TV Personalities, the band quickly becoming support regulars, despite a fire regulations breach seeing the club night switch venues.
All these years on, Alan remains an infectious character, doesn’t he – fired up and inspirational.
“He is. His energy and enthusiasm and the bullshit he was able to generate back then was phenomenal! We haven’t got a bad word to say about him. We only ever had a handshake deal, about making records. We never signed anything. But as far as we were concerned and as he was concerned, that’s still the case now.”
Have you seen the dramatised biopic based on Alan’s adventures, Creation Stories?
“I have. I enjoyed it for what it was – a sort of Carry On Creation based on Alan’s book. Delighted that we featured in the sleeves montage. I thought some of the casting was hilarious – namely the Joe Foster character and the fat Noel. I wasn’t expecting it to be a document – that’s what Danny O’Connor’s Upside Down did so brilliantly.”
How about Middlesex Poly student Pete joining? Was it a meeting of minds or just something that sparked, realising you’d work well together?
“Bill and I went to this pub gig in Islington (the Pied Bull at The Angel), because we thought my old island drummer mate Razzle (Nick Dingley, who died in late 1984, aged just 24, after a car crash in California during Hanoi Rocks’ first US tour). Turned out he wasn’t, but Pete’s band, News of Birds, were supporting a band. We thought he definitely had something about him, looked good, and we liked that Lou Reed-like voice.
“We got chatting after, asked if he’d be interested in joining us. He said he was busy with college and wasn’t that bothered, but a couple of weeks later rang to say he would come round – his intention was to tell us he was too busy to do anything. But we started playing, then he played a couple of songs and we joined in. He got a bit hooked and realised we worked quite well together.
“That was it really. We gave ourselves a year to rehearse and see what happened. We would have been in our final year. We took it incredibly seriously, Pete had so many songs, and we worked a lot on arrangements. He’d come along each week with something. He’d start playing and we’d watch what he was doing.
“It’s kind of the same now on rare occasions we get together to rehearse. Pete will start playing, and off we go. It’s a really good fit – you can be in loads of bands and don’t quite have that synchronicity. Those four people who are in The Loft, something about it just works.”
Was that originally at the squat in Tufnell Park, North London?
“We were rehearsing there for a while. My mate Russell had a squat with a practise room in it. We started when we were still at college, using that every Sunday. Then when we left college, Bill and I moved into a tiny house in Leyton, East London, and had the front room to rehearse there. We had drums there too. The neighbours didn’t seem to care.”
At 16 I started to get up to London more regularly, seeing Eleven – featuring The Undertones’ Mickey Bradley and Damian O’Neill – at The Marquee, and REM and Ramones at The Lyceum, and by the following summer was catching early shows by That Petrol Emotion all over town, at the same sort of venues … but sadly missed out on The Loft.
“We played a gig not long before we were on The Oxford Road Show at the Ambulance Station on the Old Kent Road (March 2nd, 1985), a sort of squat, and I remember Damian (O’Neill) came up to me – I was really excited because I loved The Undertones – and said, ‘I hear you guys have been asked to do a TV thing. Good luck with that – I hope it goes well!’.
“There were very few places bands like us could play at that time. When I moved to London, I’d read the back of the Melody Maker and think, ‘There’s hundreds of these gigs – this will be great!’ But actually, most were still sewn up by little agents and promoters. When we started playing the Living Room it was really the only place we could get a gig. We didn’t know anybody else.”
This new compilation includes live recordings from early June ’84 at The Roebuck, Tottenham Court Road, where The Living Room moved next, the band supporting Microdisney, with Glasgow outfit The Jesus and Mary Chain bottom of the bill.
“We played there a few times. The Living Room was there for a few months in a first-floor room, on a corner about halfway down that road between Euston and Oxford Street. Don’t know what it’s called now, but it’s still a pub.
“I’m not sure it was actually the first time the Mary Chain played London, but it was their first proper – in very sort of inverted commas! – gig in London. I think they did something the night before. They were on first and after we did a soundcheck, these strange looking characters were standing around. We went back downstairs to get a pint. Danny Kelly was with us. He said, ‘Come and have a look at this’. It was just screaming feedback. I thought, ‘This is just going to wreck my ears. I can’t stay in this room’. I disappeared, but think Pete And Danny stayed.”
Even when they were headlining shortly after, the sets were famously short.
“Yeah, they weren’t on very long that night. I think they may have done 10 minutes.”
But no doubt they left an impression.
“Yeah. What a racket!”
Do you remember much about Microdisney that night?
“We played with them a few times. I love Microdisney and got on well with Sean (O’Hagan). We’d lend each other amps and gear sometimes. That combination of gruff, almost punk vocals and the music … we really loved playing with them. They did Pebble Mill once, at the time presented by Tom O’Connor, the comedian. He introduced them, saying, ‘Now it’s time for some great mates of mine, Microdisney!’. I was thinking, ‘You ain’t got a clue who they are!’.
Talking of support bands going on to bigger things, fast forward to late summer ’88 and a cracking Steve Lamacq live review in the NME of your follow-up band, The Caretaker Race being outshone one night at The Falcon in London by The Sundays, on their way to major success. Does this highlight a rather unlucky element for bands you featured with? And did Steve’s review present a fair reflection of that night?
“Oh definitely. Harriet (Wheeler) had such a fantastic voice, and the way they played live and on that first album … they were very sympathetic and quite sparse. It was really all about the voice. They completely blew us off that night. Absolutely.
“In terms of the Mary Chain, that was the only time we played with them. I wouldn’t say they blew us off that night. There were probably only about five to 10 people who actually saw them. But I do think if they hadn’t exploded like they did and taken up all Alan’s time, he might have – although he wasn’t managing us, nobody was managing The Loft – had a word with Pete and said, ‘You guys need to get over this little hiccup – don’t split the band up, stick with it’. But he was so busy with the fact that the Mary Chain had gone crazy. He didn’t really have time for anything else.”
So many bands who fell through the cracks around then. But maybe they’re the ones I love most. Underdog spirit, I suppose.
“Yeah, there is something rather glorious about having your five or 10 minutes, then disappearing.”
It also goes with the John Peel factor – I wonder how many musicians I’ve interviewed who said all they really wanted initially was to record a Peel session and make a couple of singles.
“Yeah, I went up to London because I wanted to get into a proper band. Then I wanted to make a single, then we had an 18-month period where it went a bit bonkers. But that ticked a lot of boxes. The only one that was a real shame – and we’ve all put our hand up and said we really wish we’d held it together long enough – was not making an album in 1985. It would have been a great one.”
I’m reticent to mention this, but I love The Weather Prophets’ Mayflower, but I’d understand totally if that’s an album you can’t bring yourself to listen to in the circumstances. Were you a little bitter about that?
“I was a bit. I was angry as it was a missed opportunity. We did so much work to get to that point. It just seemed a massive waste … I think Pete accepts that now. Also, I was a bit miffed they kept re-releasing ‘Why Does the Rain’, thinking, ‘That’s a bloody Loft song!’”
On to The Caretaker Race, the four-piece formed in 1986 by Andy, with a couple of singles on their Roustabout Records label before a deal with the Foundation label that led to three more 45s and the splendid Stephen Street-produced Hangover Square LP in 1990. Unfortunately, it was all over within a year though.
The Wikipedia entry, I point out ot Andy, picks up on the influence of The Go-Betweens. I hear that too, not least on the wondrous ‘Fire in the Hold’ and rather acerbic ‘Borrow My Car’, but The Loft’s Richard Hell cover, ‘Time’, on the new compilation, suggests that influence was there long before.
“We did love The Go-Betweens. Interestingly, until about five years ago, I’d never heard Richard Hell’s version of ‘Time’. Pete, one day in a rehearsal, played what he thought were the chords – in those days, you couldn’t just go on the internet to find out – and played it like it was a Pete Astor song. We then played around with it. We weren’t interested in copying it, as such.
“Then, during our tour with The Colourfield, we played Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, a Kitchenware/Creation Records night, and Robert (Forster) and Grant (McLennan) were there. A couple of weeks before, Bill bumped into them and they said, ‘We really love the sound of your new single, particularly the guitar sound on ‘Time’. What did you do to get it?’ And Bill said, ‘I dunno’. But that night they came to the gig, and as we started to play ‘Time’, I could see Robert – as he’s so tall – coming from the back, working his way slowly through the crowd. Just as we got to the guitar solo, he was standing right in front of me. I was so put off, I completely cocked the solo up!”
I recently interviewed Tim Keegan from Departure Lounge, who got to play with them and became friends. And it does seem that Robert occasionally asks for chords on songs he likes.
“Ah, that’s interesting! Bill and I went to see them when they first came over – just a three-piece – and played the Rock Garden, when the first album came out on Rough Trade. And it was brilliant. I remember thinking that’s amazing for three people, and the songs were really good. Yeah, we were always big fans. I did a gig with Pete at The Lexington (Islington), supporting Robert (November 2017). That was fun. There’s a clip of us online playing ‘Walker’.”
Ever get back the guitar you lost at your first gig, late November ’82 at the London Musicians’ Collective in Camden, presumed stolen?
“No, but about three or four years ago I bought a replica. It wasn’t anything particularly special, but it meant a lot to me – an Ibanez Deluxe ‘59er, black, like a Les Paul copy, one they called the ‘Lawsuit’ guitar as Ibanez got sued. They were too much like Les Pauls.
“I always say it got stolen at the first gig, but Pete says, ‘I think you were so pissed you left it on the pavement while we were stacking the van, and we drove off’. My Mum bought that guitar for my 18th birthday, so I was absolutely gutted. But I saw one on eBay and bought it for about £250, quite a bargain.”
The world and his wife have probably asked about that fateful last night of The Colourfield tour, when you split up on stage. Maybe instead I’ll ask about the opening night of that tour – The Loft supporting Terry Hall’s band for £100 a night – at Cornwall Coliseum, St Austell, on May 9th, 1985. That must have been a pinch-me moment, playing such a big auditorium.
“I just remember thinking, ‘This place is huge! What are we doing here? Backstage on the walls they had big black and white pictures of Status Quo and that. We were thinking, ‘We’ve stepped up a bit here!’. It was just the four of us. We didn’t have a manager, roadie or sound-man. We were on our own, driving ourselves around.”
Is that right you were fined four cans of beer for the temerity of playing an encore?
“Yeah, that was an interesting night. We’d only ever played the Living Room and a couple of colleges in London, like Thames Poly. That was the extent of our gigging. We’d never stood on a stage as big as that. We didn’t really know what to do. But we went down really well, got a really good reception. We went off after 25 minutes or whatever, they were clapping, and we thought, ‘Well, we’ll go back and do another one’.
“We went back on, played something else, and when we came off, Pete Hadfield, The Colourfield’s manager, was standing there. I don’t know if he was winding us up, but he said, ‘Who told you that you could do an encore?’. We said, ‘Well, nobody told us, but …’. He said, ‘Well, you don’t do that unless you’re told you can’. He came into our little dressing room, where we had eight small cans of Heineken – that was our rider. He picked up four, said, ‘That’ll teach you a lesson’.
“The other thing about that gig was that Bill’s parents ran a little cinema in Teignmouth, Devon, on the seafront, and we stayed with them the night before. When we got up in the morning, his Dad said, ‘I’ve got to run a new film through, check everything’s alright. If you want, you can have breakfast in the cinema and see the film’. So, there’s the four of us with tea and toast, in this lovely old cinema watching Raiders of the Lost Ark at eight in the morning, bleary-eyed.”
I suggested I wouldn’t ask, but any further thoughts all these years on regarding that last dramatic night of the tour?
“We’ve talked about it between ourselves and sort of cleared the air, as it were. When we got back together for the first compilation (2005), Pete very much put his hand up and said he behaved badly and really regretted it, and I think we’ve come to a consensus now. What we didn’t do is really talk to each other about what we were thinking and what was bothering us. We didn’t communicate.
“As Pete said, it’s the great English male disease. We didn’t talk to each other about things that were bothering us, and they just built up and blew up. If we could have sat down a month before and said, ‘I feel I’m not getting credit for this’, or, ‘You keep making decisions about that’ … If we’d had a manager, I think they’d have said, ‘You need to go sit in a room, shout at each other for an hour, get it out of your system, then think about the opportunity you’ve got here and just get on with it.”
I see it so many times with bands. To the outsider, it seems petty, and a little sad. It’s good that in your case you seem to have bridged that gap.
“Yeah, we hadn’t spoken to each other in 20 years. No contact at all. It was really good to get past that, but also really sad that we wasted all that time when we didn’t have anything to do with each other. We’re all very different people, we’ve all grown up a lot in different ways, and we’re now doing different things. But when we get together, we’re still that really close four and it’s really good.”
Did you finish your studies? Was that stint at Record Mirror your first job beyond that?
“Yeah, it was. Bill got his feet under the table at Sounds, having done work experience on a glossy pop magazine called Noise. That must have been the same publisher. Then he went from freelance work at Sounds, when we were still in this grotty little house in Leyton, and got sent to New York to interview the Ramones! I remember thinking, ‘This sounds fun. I go to gigs and play music and can write a bit – I think I’ll have a go at this. Really, I was just trying to copy Bill!
“Record Mirror were looking for someone. We went to a gig – might even have been The Go-Betweens, with Richard Jobson’s band The Armoury Show down in Victoria. I wrote a review, sent it to them, they rang and asked if I wanted to do a couple more. That’s how I got in. That would have been ’84, I think. I never went on the staff. That way – playing with bands – I could take off any time I needed. I stayed as a freelance for them until it closed in ’90 or ’91.”
From there, Andy switched to writing for football magazines for nearly a decade, then for Danny Kelly’s Football365 website for the 1998 World Cup, then dot music, running that editorially for a couple of years before it was sold ‘in the great dot.com boom’ to Yahoo Music. Around a year later, while based in Walthamstow, he started editing a local council magazine, then started in a similar capacity in communications for the NHS in Romford while living in Hackney … finally moving back to the Isle of Wight a year ago. And he feels he made the right move.
“Yeah, compared to the thought of having to spend this last year in that flat in Hackney, surrounded by families. Down here, we’re right on the coast. I can see the sea from here and can walk along the beach. It’s been pretty quiet. I’ve been doing lots of cycling, and writing for The Chesterfields, which kind of brings us up to date.”
Is this mostly a Zoom relationship with Chesterfields co-founder Simon Barber?
“It is a bit! We’re trying to write an album. The original plan was to have recorded one by now, get it out this year. That’s been scuppered, but Simon’s written around 10 songs, him, Helen (Stickland – different spelling, different name – on guitar) and Rob Parry (drums) able to get together, and Helen’s got access to a big barn for rehearsing. They’ve been videoing, sending on to me, and I’ve been writing parts for those songs, sending them back on WhatsApp.
“I’ve written half a dozen songs I think would suit a Chesterfields record, and they’re rehearsing them. This will be our first coming together, going through it all, with a studio booked in June to demo for the album. After that we’ll see where we’re at and what we want to do.
“It’s a lovely part of the world too, especially this time of year – it’s all so green. So that’ll be fun and interesting – we kind of know what we’re doing but haven’t actually been in the same room to do it!”
At the Continental in Preston in February 2017, I felt it was work in progress. But you seemed further along the right track at Night and Day Cafe in Manchester in September 2019, their set including a Strickland-led storming version of The Caretaker Race’s ‘Anywhere But Home’.
“Definitely. I think when you saw us at the Conti, Simon was still a bit reticent about whether he should be doing it or not. They started as Design play The Chesterfields. I said, ‘I think you should decide whether you’re going to do it or not, and don’t apologise for it.”
It’s a difficult situation (Chesterfields frontman Davey Goldsworthy killed in a hit and run accident in Ocford in 2003). Did you get to know Davey?
“A bit. I played with them a few times after The Loft. They got me in for a few gigs one summer when we played Glastonbury and stuff.”
Was that on the back of the wonderful Kettle LP?
“Yes, I knew them pretty well, and Simon and Davey put us on down in that part of the world. We played a gig with them supporting us. In fact, Davey ended up with Pete’s Telecaster. They did a swap. And what an absolute tragedy to lose him.”
Finally, when’s the next Loft happening? Because, let’s face it, you’ll need something on that fourth compilation when it comes out.
“Ha! Well, funnily enough, Pete’s said there won’t be a fourth compilation! And he’s probably right. We do still have three really good live gigs that have never emerged though, including Hammersmith Palais – obviously a bittersweet thing, but it might interest somebody one day.
“If we’d all been in London when this one came out, we’d have got together, done something to mark it. We started talking about something a little different, a bit special, but clearly that’s not going to happen. Pete’s now into his solo stuff in the next few months. In fact, I’m playing with him in July in Dalston at The Victoria. As for The Loft, I don’t know really, but watch this space!”
Ghost Trains & Country Lanes – Studio, Stage and Sessions 1984-2015, by The Loft, is available via Cherry Red in double-CD format, priced £11.99. For more details head to https://www.cherryred.co.uk/