Life after lockdowns – talking The Lovely Eggs with Holly Ross

Eggy Pop: The Lovely Eggs’ David Blackwell and Holly Ross, dealing with whatever life throws at them

Just as The Lovely Eggs were set to release landmark sixth album, I Am Moron, in early 2020, came national realisation that we were headed for a pandemic.

The Lancaster-based psychedelic punk duo – Holly Ross (voice/guitar) and David Blackwell (drums) – ploughed on all the same, the LP coming out to critical acclaim, declared ‘album of the day’ by BBC 6 Music, ‘album of the month’ by Classic Rock, ‘a triumph’ by The Sunday Times, ‘much cleverer than it would have you believe’ by The Telegraph, ‘an act of fine calibration of noise and sweetness’ by Q, and ‘packed with observations of modern culture and the utter madness of the current world’ by the Sunday Mirror

While they quickly topped the indie chart, plans to tour the record far and wide were well and truly scuppered. At first, those shows were rescheduled for two months later, but Holly was soon forced to cross those dates out and come up with more, that schedule changing five more times after that, most recently last week.

All these months on, they’re yet to play I Am Moron live. But every cloud and all that, the band having made a new fan along the way in Iggy Pop, regularly playing The Lovely Eggs on his BBC 6 Music show. And now the band are releasing a collaboration with the Godfather of Punk, their new single, ‘I, Moron’.

Released on July 9th via their Egg Records label, I’d venture to say that until you’ve heard Iggy say the word ‘moron’ over and over on top of the track, you haven’t lived. And he’s clearly on the same wavelength. In fact, as Holly put it, “He just got it. We are all morons. In a world of moronic things. In a world of moronic ideas. You are moron. I am moron. We are moron.”

As I told Holly when she picked up the phone, I’ve been thrilling to the sound of the new single since first hearing an advance copy, and – let’s face it – you can’t beat a bit of Iggy and the Eggs in your ears. Incidentally though, where exactly had I got through to her that morning?

“Well, we’re in our secret studio at the moment, up to no good as usual.”

Is this because of ongoing problems I’ve read about regarding the pair’s established Lancaster Musicians’ Co-Operative premises in her home city?

“Yeah, we’re part of the Music Co-Op and usually practise there, but unfortunately the council has been extremely slow in doing repairs to the building, which they promised us three years ago.”

Last time we spoke – in early 2018 (with a link here) – you were already talking about that. Are you no further advanced?

“Yeah, it’s a bit insane really, and we’re still trying to get that through, and still haven’t got a long-term lease on the building, which again they promised us. So basically, we had to move out as the building is so grotty. We shut down during Covid, and couldn’t reopen again because it’s in such a bad state.

“But me and David started digging and we’ve got our own secret bunker now, which we operate from. That’s our HQ, where we hatch all our evil plans.”

Is it located somewhere deep beneath the River Lune?

“I couldn’t possibly tell you … or I’d have to kill you, I’m afraid. But it’s a mad psychedelic place … just as we like it.”

Last time we spoke, you were talking about your own ‘alternative reality’. I imagine that’s served you well, the way things have gone ever since.

“It kind of has, but I think you need something to brush up against – you need normal life to be going on to create your own alternative to normal life. And if normal life isn’t going on, it is a bit weird. It’s a bit weird for us, and I think everyone’s kind of realised how much they need other people.

“We were going on about moving to Mars, shit like that, and how we don’t give a shit about anyone – ‘Let’s just move off this planet, it’s absolutely fucked!’. But actually, this is a bit mad, not being able to see people. And we don’t like it.”

If you’re familiar with the past works of The Lovely Eggs – and let’s face it, you ought to be by now – there’s no way you could have read that last sentence without hearing Holly’s delivery. In fact, it was the fantastic ‘Don’t Look at Me (I Don’t Like It)’, with John Shuttleworth guesting on the promo video, that first made me sit up and take notice. And somehow it’s been a decade since that came out now.

Anyway, I get what you mean, Holly. There you both are in Lancaster, your ‘Twin Peaks of Northern England’, always having craved the chance to at least share your experiences with the like-minded in pubs, clubs and music venues. But that’s can’t quite happen on the scale we’ve become accustomed to … yet. Has this past year put a strain on you in ways you might not have expected it would?

“Well, I think one of the important things at the core of The Lovely Eggs’ ethos is just riding with whatever shit is thrown at you. And we’re quite used to surfing that wave. Whatever it’s been in the past – whether our van’s broken down and we can’t make a gig, we’re stranded or whatever happens, good or bad – we just ride that wave. That’s what we choose to do.

“We haven’t been able to gig for over a year, and at first it was pretty shocking when we had to cancel our tour. We never cancel gigs – if we say we’ll do it, we will. We’ll not let you down. But once we got used to the idea it’s not going to happen, we realised we just had to go with it, and that’s what we’ve done.

“We’ve just been up to no good doing other stuff these last 12 months … like making a single with Iggy Pop. Stuff like that.”

There’s a smile on her face as she adds that, I can tell. But we’ll get on to that pinch-me collaboration in a bit. First, I gather a fair bit of lockdown time was also spent making ‘claymation’ models, leading to the splendid DIY promo video for LP opener, ‘Long Stem Carnations’ (inspired by the space programme aiming to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars, drawing parallels between that mission and the band’s own isolation and what they call ‘a funeral march for society’s outcasts and freaks … an existential voyage in cosmic form’). 

“Well, I think it’s always good in hindsight to say that was great, but at the time … It’s hard, because we’re doing everything ourselves. So to embark on making a stop-frame animation video which in our heads is gonna look like Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ video, but the actual end-result is a very twisted, warped, tongue-in-cheek version of that … But it’s always good fun. It’s the process, innit!”

Well, some people made a big deal about learning how to make banana bread during lockdowns, so I think you win hands down there, making claymation promo videos instead.

“Yeah, we didn’t do anything as banal as that! We just kind of got our head into art and making stuff. And for The Lovely Eggs, it’s never just purely the music anyway. We always take great pride in getting the art right. All our album covers are thought out, and it represents how we want it to look.  It’s the same with music videos and our merchandise – t-shirts and everything – is all thought out from an art perspective. So it’s great for us to be able to concentrate on that side of the band.”

Casey Raymond comes into that, the new single the latest to include his artwork – featuring a three-headed Iggy/Eggy beast, with an initial pressing of 1,000 yellow vinyl 7”s.

“That’s it, yeah. He’s our little mate. He’s our collaborator and partner-in-crime.”

Do you tend to think, ‘That’s it – he’s nailed it; that’s what we were thinking of!’?

“He never disappoints us. It’s never exactly what we’ve got in our heads, but it’s never exactly what he’s got in his head either! That’s the beauty and magic of the creative process – it is what it is. But we’re definitely on the same wavelength as him. And it’s great working with like-minded people.”

Holly and David have their young son to think about as well. Did this last 18 months involve a little home schooling between recording sessions and juggling everything else?

“Yeah, we had to do the whole home-schooling thing. But you just have to get on with it. Again, we’re quite flexible, quite adaptable. That’s how we’ve evolved as a band. We’ve had to be. Two piss-head partygoers, literally driven by punk rock touring, seeing the world and meeting new people, then having a baby? You’ve got to be extremely flexible – adaptable to any situation.

“That’s what happened with us in lockdown, and that’s what’s happened with us in home-schooling. It can be frustrating when you think. ‘We should be filming a music video today,’ but you can’t, because you’ve got to teach maths. You just suck it up and get on with it.”

As for their collaboration with stalwart punk rock idol and esteemed latter-day broadcaster Iggy Pop, when the single comes out, it should be heading straight to No.1 … at least in an ideal world. And for me it’s a song that seems to sum up the spirit of Kraftwerk, Devo, Can, and The Stooges, all in barely three minutes. You must be doing something right.

“Oh, great! All great bands that we love, so that’s nice to hear.”

As for the B-side …. and that’s the term I’ll use …

“Well, it’s true! It is a B-side. It’s on the B-side of our record. We actually release records outside of Record Store Day!”

Quite right too. And you’ve always been about vinyl, haven’t you?

“We have!”

Well, I was inspired to go back to Iggy’s seminal 1977 LP The Idiot after hearing their take on ‘Dum Dum Boys’, from an album I understand David had on cassette, one of the first records he got really into and then, in recent periods of lockdown restrictions and the like, again struck a chord, ‘kind of missing the old days and the old gang we used to hang out with’.

Regarding their version, if a track was ever ripe for a dancefloor hit mashed up with Tubeway Army’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’, there it is. It’s just a shame the clubs aren’t open yet.

“I know, but they’re going to be soon, yeah?”

Speaking of the passage of time, I bet it seems a lifetime ago that this LP came out, let alone the previous one.

“It does! And we don’t quite feel ready to move on yet with the whole creative process. We’re kind of ready-ish to write and record a new album, in September, but feel this one’s not over until we’ve played it live. That’s why I was on a mission yesterday to re-book a whole tour – for the seventh time – in less than 24 hours.”

Am I right in thinking the sold-out Gorilla show in Manchester on July 23rd, set to be the ninth date of the tour, will now be the first, following the four-week Government delay to their so-called ‘Freedom Day’ plans?

“It will be, yeah! We were just unlucky we were the wrong side of that date.”

But first, we have the new single. Remind me how it all came about with Iggy. He’s been playing The Lovely Eggs for some time, hasn’t he?

“Yeah, quite a while, which we’re still astounded by, and very much thrilled by. He’s a big hero of ours and of everyone for what he represents with his punk rock, couldn’t-give-a-fuck attitude, and the fact he’s still doing it in his 70s. He’s just inspirational.

“So yeah, for him to agree to work with us … we’re very grounded and very normal, we live up in Lancaster still … you know, it just feels a bit surreal to work with someone who has this rock star stature. But to collaborate with him is great.”

I was going to say – and you’ve just used the word – ‘surreal’ seems to pop up a lot in Lovely Eggs interviews, including our last one. But Iggy’s support of the band and ultimate collaboration must have provided a real shock factor moment.

“Yeah. You kind of struggle to think of other people or weird things that could happen or top it. I’m struggling to think of a scenario that would. Having said that, we’re always up for weird situations and will always throw ourselves at the mercy of odd things, weird stuff and surreal situations. So it’s not over for us yet – we’re totally willing to do more surreal, odd stuff with people. It is pretty mind-blowing though!”

These last few years, watching news programme, I keep hearing ‘unprecedented’ being used. But ‘surreal’ remains the right term for your world. And hopefully surrealism will help pull us through.

“Yeah, it’s really important to us, surrealism, because the world is so … it’s almost that the real normal world is madder, more odd, more ridiculous than ours could ever be!

“If you take that seriously or follow that, that’s quite frightening. So we prefer to live in our own mad world, where things are a bit odd and weird, because we find that the real world is far more weird!”

You mentioned new songs set to be recorded in September. While you were making claymation promo videos, the prolific Paul Weller probably wrote another three albums. I’m guessing you’ve got new songs and riffs ready to go though.

“Well no, we haven’t! Paul Weller probably has the luxury of not having to look after his kids or home-school his kids, doesn’t have to make his own music videos, and doesn’t have to do his own tour booking. Not that I’m complaining about any of that – we love that element of independence we’ve got.

“What we’ve done though is block time off in September to start thinking about a new album writing process. But at the moment, in The Lovely Eggs’ world, it’s very chaotic, very much about fighting fires. We booked a UK summer tour yesterday, we’ve got the new single to concentrate on, and we’ve been sending out hundreds of t-shirts from our website.

“Basically, we can only concentrate on the matter in hand! We will be writing new songs, but that won’t be until autumn. We’ll carry on fighting fires!”

Do you think Dave Fridmann will be involved next time (the last two LPs recorded by The Lovely Eggs in Lancaster but mixed by Dave at Tarbox Road Studios, New York)?

“Oh yeah, I think he’s a kind of friend for life now.”

Well, if it works, why change?

“Yeah, and we really enjoy working with him.”

Meanwhile, the LP’s ‘You Can Go Now’ seems to be your latest anthem – one of several great singalongs the band have created, almost a ‘Reasons to No Longer Be Miserable’. Is there anyone or anything since the release you’d like to add to that list, after so long cooped up inside the Eggbox?

“I always leave that to the Eggheads out there. I feel like we laid it down and we’ll pass the baton over to them to do that now. But sure, there’s stuff all the time that crops up.”

And what’s The Lovely Eggs’ recipe for surviving the pandemic and moving into new territory?

“Ooh, gosh! Surviving the pandemic? I think just creating your own world, trying to be as happy and content in that world as you can be. And don’t look outside to what other people are doing, just try and be thankful for what you’ve got and what you can do.”

The Lovely Eggs are set to play live – pandemic surges dependent – in the late summer and again from spring, starting with a sell-out at Gorilla, Manchester (Fri, July 23), then newly-rearranged shows at The Brudenell, Leeds (Sat, July 24); the O2 Academy, Sheffield (Thu, July 29); The Garage, London (sold out, Fri, July 30), and SWX, Bristol (venue upgrade, original tickets valid, Sat, July 31).

Further rearranged shows follow in August at The Bullingdon, Oxford (Sun 1); The Joiners, Southampton (venue change, original tickets valid, sold out, Mon 2); Concorde 2, Brighton (venue change, original tickets valid, Tue 3); Metronome, Nottingham (Wed 4); and District, Liverpool (venue change, original tickets valid, Thu 5).

Then, in 2022, there’s: Thu Apr 7 Castle and Falcon, Birmingham (sold out); Fri Apr 8, Heaven, London; Mon Apr 11 Junction 2, Cambridge; Sat Apr 16, The Brudenell, Leeds (sold out); Thu May 26 The Cluny, Newcastle; Fri May 27 Stereo, Glasgow; Sat May 28 The Mash House, Edinburgh (sold out); Sun May 29 The Crescent, York; Mon May 30 Sub Rooms, Stroud; Tue May 31 Clwb Ivor Bach, Cardiff; Wed Jun 1 Face Bar, Reading; Fri Jun 3 02 Ritz, Manchester.

For more details you can find the band online via their website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/writewyattuk/ and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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