Formed just last year, how did the band come together?
The band was formed, conceptually at least, around 6 months before the full line up started rehearsing. The idea was to form a band with a strict set of parameters ie. one single guitar and bass sound, minimal equipment etc, perhaps as a rejection of the trend for overcompensation with effects and electronics in current music, but also as a statement of quality over quantity. We try to project tasteful minimalism and high intensity, not to be confused with brash simplicity. Songs were written, rehearsal were undertaken and everything from then on has fallen into place almost effortlessly. The highest demand on us as musicians is probably physically, it's very physical music to perform.
How would you describe your sound for us listeners?
Our sound has various influences, many of which are not musical at all. We have a huge interest in subculture; various cultural and sartorial influences from these bleed into the band and are very important. Musically, our sound borrows from the simplicity and intensity of punk, but also from the relentless, pounding rhythm of mid 1970s disco and funk. Although one influence may be more audible than the other, it takes that juxtaposition to create our sound. We've nicknamed it, for want of a better phrase, "Obtuse Punk", but hopefully people can decide for themselves.
Now you have a single ready, what are your next recording plans?
We'd like to have an E.P ready for June/July, perhaps earlier. We have quite a few songs in waiting, and we record/mix/produce everything ourselves, so that aspect isn't difficult it's more to do with time, which we don't have enough of!
Why did you choose rock n’ roll for a career .... presumably there are still day jobs?
I'm not sure if we did choose rock 'n' roll as a career, we don't really see ourselves as either rock 'n' roll or this as a career. It's more so something which is almost bordering on a lifestyle choice. You're right about day jobs, unfortunately in this day and age music doesn't pay. There's only one reason to do something like this, and that's for the desire to want to project and perform what you want to play and say. Of course we want to reach a wide audience, but only an audience that is really listening. We're not here to win favour.
What could your audience expect from a live show by the band and how do you hope they feel after the gig?
I think they can expect a intense, relentless and anxiety inducing show. We give everything, anything, we can to the shows and I think that comes across. I'm hoping that audiences leave the shows feeling the way we do; elated but physically and mentally exhausted.
What was the first album you brought and where from?
Tough one... It probably would have been a Blur album, the self-titled one. They really were the most exciting and experimental pop band around when I was growing up.
If you could tour with any current band or artist, who would that be and why?
Another tough question... we tend to work in isolation, so we can fully concentrate on what we are doing. Therefore, we don't see/hear many current acts. However, there are a few bands that we currently enjoy, such as Revenue, Casual Sect, Those Unfortunates and ES. And maybe a handful of others. Those groups are playing with us for our single launches, they seem to fit and they're all really exciting to watch.
What one piece of advice could you offer to people just thinking about forming a band?
If you're not doing it for yourself, forget it. If you want to earn money or have a life career, go and work in a bank or get a steady job and work hard. Or anything else. This country does not support artists anymore, so the only real reason to spend all your free time and money in a small, sweaty rehearsal room with a bunch of other people you'll row with about over nothing is for the love of what you do.
Thursday 16th March: The Lock Tavern - London
Saturday 25th March: Deptford Vinyl instore - London
Thursday 13th April: The Phoenix, Coventry
Friday 2nd June: Sticky Mike's Frog Bar - Brighton
Friday 30th June: Some Weird Sin, Nambucca - London(w/Thee MVP’s)
Paul Goodwin grew up in London and moved to Cambridge when he started University. He remains there today making websites and music.
His 2009 album, Scars, was followed up by a mini album, Trinkets and Offcuts, in 2011. A 5-track EP, Live in the Reception Classroom of Bourn Church of England Primary School, came out in 2012.
Now with a two year old son, Paul has returned to the recording studio for The Northern Lights In The Neon Tube. We had a chat prior to the release of the album.
You have a new album coming out in September, with an interesting name. What does it refer to?
t's a line from one of the songs. The light in my kitchen is always slightly glowing and flickering even when it's turned off. I don't know if all neon lights do that.
Some of the songs sound deeply emotional... tell us about the stories behind some of them..if it’s not too personal!
Most of the songs are about getting older and the little surrenders that it involves. "Heat Death" is about finding it harder to be impressed by things, and realising that you're not going to do everything you wanted to, and that's probably ok. Shelf Life" is about realising that life is long and things that seem important now may not always seem like that. "Muscle Memory" is about running into someone who you dreaded ever seeing again and realising that actually it's fine. Lots of realising.
Your personal life has changed a lot since the first album, including the birth of your son. How has this affected your writing?
It's affected my writing by turning it from what was at best a trickle to just the occasional drip. Also when you're more settled the songs have to be less overtly about yourself. Mostly because there's less drama, but also because you care more about not upsetting people than you used to. I've been trying to put little bits of things that I'm feeling into different settings. I'm still undecided as to how well it works.
There’s great instrumentation on many of the songs... I think you play all the instruments
Thank you! I played everything apart from drums and the little bit of pedal steel. I've had violins and cellos on my other records but I don't really know any string players any more and I've gone off those sounds anyway. I think because the kind of thing I'm listening to is getting louder and less grown up as I get quieter and more grown up for some reason. Also I have a really good keyboard these days.
Is there a meticulous process of putting the CD together? You are quoted as saying ‘It took me a month to get the gaps between the songs right’.
Well, editing and mixing can be a pretty endless and maddening task, especially if it's your own stuff and you have a very clear idea of how you want it to sound. For some reason I'd rather spend 16 hours editing a part than 3 minutes playing it again. I didn't drive myself as crazy with this one as I did with Scars, but I have a lot less time these days. It didn't really take a month to get the gaps right - it took me a month to find the half hour or so I needed to get the gaps right. It's not like I was sitting there listening to slightly different amounts of silence for weeks on end.
Glad to hear that! Are you are playing any live dates to support it?
I have a full band show at The Portland Arms in Cambridge on 17th October, but it's already going to have to be a while after the album gets released. Finding places to play gets harder and harder. Some musicians span genres and fit in anywhere they go, or at least sit nicely in a particular one. I more fall down the gaps between them.
Paul Goodwin : The Northern Lights In The Neon Tube is released on 16th September, 2016
How is life in Salt Lake City treating you today?
Rebecca: Well, I am actually in London right now, for work, but London is treating me great! ☺
New album done and dusted, tour planned, exciting times ahead for the band?
Levi: I personally am very excited for our future. We have already done some amazing things, but what we have in the works is even better.
Rebecca: It does feel like we have some exciting things coming up. A US and European tour, and some surprises in the works. I’m very glad the album is done and ready to be released. It has been done, for us, for six months now, so it almost feels old to us now. ☺
'For This We Fought the Battle of Ages' is the album title .... Was it that difficult to complete the project?
Rebecca: Hahaha. Actually .... yes. The process of putting the album together fits the album title perfectly. We all went through a lot, individually, over the last year before the album was recorded. I also had really bad bouts of writing block; that’s why it took almost a year to write the basic songs. The writing block was worse than the last album, or maybe we’ve become more picky, I don’t know. Once the basic songs were done and I presented them to the band with initial structures, then the process of rewriting, rearranging, polishing transitions, and final structuring began.
What was the ambition of the band entering the studio this time around and how did studio time differ for this album as against your other albums?
Rebecca: Well, everything with this album seemed more arduous than the last album, except the recording itself and the mixing. That only took three weeks, because we were all much more prepared than with More Constant than the Gods. I think More Constant took two to three months to record and mix. That’s why we labored so much more to be prepared this time; so we would use our time more efficiently and just knock out the album quickly.
Andy was the producer of For This We Fought the Battle of Ages, and I think he did a fantastic job. He is a local producer as his full-time job, and has recorded several hundred local and regional albums. He is very talented, very patient and very good at what he does.
How did the current lineup of the band come together?
Rebecca: Sarah and I started out SubRosa together in 2005, and went through many lineup changes. Then Sarah went to Europe in 2008 for eight months, and Kim came on board as her fill-in. By the time Sarah came back, though, we realized you can never get too much of a good thing, and Kim stayed in the band with Sarah. Andy joined in 2012, about a year after No Help came out, and Levi joined about a year and a half after that, at the beginning of 2014.
What would you like the audience to experience at your live shows and how do you hope to attract new listeners?
Rebecca: We would like listeners to feel like they are going on a journey with us. We want to stab people in the hearts and leave them flayed and revealed.
I am not sure how to “attract new listeners” except by just playing to the best of our ability and giving our performances everything we have every night. Just by making people feel something as powerfully as we can. Beyond that, I don’t think we should need to try to apply pressure to get people to listen.
How is the music scene in America for Post Rock / Doom bands at present and how do you think audiences differ in Europe as compared to the States?
Rebecca: I think a big renaissance in underground metal in general, across all subgenres, is going on right now, in both the US and Europe. I think underground experimental/ambient black metal and blackened doom are especially going through some exciting times.
There is a lot of diversity within the doom scenes on both sides of the ocean, and it’s hard for me to say how they differ. But metal audiences in general are bigger in Europe. Metal is much more embraced, respected and appreciated as an art form in Europe, from a mainstream perspective. Metal is still a misunderstood and maligned movement in the US, I think.
Very big metal bands are accepted in the US mainstream, but if you ask the average person on the street in America if metal is a big movement in the United States, they would say no. If you asked them what is a current metal band that is making waves, they would have no idea (with the exception, maybe, of Tool).
In Europe, I get the sense that you could ask someone on the street the same question and they would say that metal is a very big, very established movement in Europe, and could name several metal fests and maybe even a band or two who is respected, like Ulver, Enslaved, or Emperor. Not in the US. ☺
If you could choose to tour with any other current band, who would that be and why?
Levi: Old Man Gloom. I love their music and their live show.
Rebecca: Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Thou and Corrupted are all very high up on the list. They are all just musicians I deeply admire and am in awe of. They all have integrity towards their craft and are true artists.
What were the records you listened to growing up, and through college and do they still get played today?
Levi: Growing up I listened to a lot of Metallica and later on bands like Tool and Deftones. By the time I graduated high school, I was more into post-metal like ISIS and Cult of Luna. I rarely listen to Metallica and Tool, but still listen to a lot of post-metal.
Rebecca: I started out pretty cool listening to Guns N’ Roses and Metallica in middle school, but then I veered into a no-man’s land of definitely uncool music territory until about age 16. Then I got back on track with the better bands of the grunge era. I still listen to and appreciate those bands on occasion. Probably my biggest influence was a sludge metal/rock band called Red Bennies, from Utah, who I first heard when I was 20. I still listen to old Red Bennies every three or four months or so.
One piece of advice for anyone starting out in this crazy business today?
Rebecca: I know it might seem clichéd to say, but you must be true to yourself and your music vision. The trappings of getting bigger or more well-known might seem alluring in the moment, but none of it matters in the end. What really matters is the craft itself, connecting with other people through music, and the joy and privilege of being able to play a role in creating something that never existed before you and will never exist after you.
The band will tour the globe extensively in support of the new album; Europe/UK dates below:
September 22 Berlin, Germany @ Urban Spree
September 23 Wroclaw, Poland @ Asymmetry Festival
September 24 Prague, Czech Republic @ Modra Vopice
September 25 Wien, Austria @ Viper Room
September 26 München, Germany @ Feierwerk
September 28 Milano, Italy @ Lo-Fi
September 29 Bologna, Italy @ Freak Out
October 1 Nijmegen, Netherlands @ Merleyn
October 3 Hamburg, Germany @ Hafenklang
October 5 Oslo, Norway @ Bla
October 9 Koln, Germany @ Underground
October 10 Paris, France @ Espace B
October 11 London @ Underworld
October 12 Birmingham @ Rainbow
October 13 Manchester @ Rebellion
Rebecca Vernon: Guitar + Vocals
Sarah Pendleton: Electric violin + Vocals
Kim Pack: Electric violin + Vocals
Levi Hanna: Bass
Andy Patterson: Drums
You have a massive tour underway; do you enjoy life on the road or the recording studio more?
Yes it's the biggest tour yet and I love being on the road as were entertaining the masses and hopefully more converts to KHB. I don't think I can compare being on the road to the studio as they are different experiences, studio is a painstaking process, far more intense than performing live plus I'm not a fan of the vocal booth, I'm a born performer, I lose myself in the moment, everything is more strategic I think when recording.
You have a fantastic voice, when did you discover that singing was going to be your job as well?
I had always sang from a young age, from being propped up on the bar in pubs to make booze money for my dad to entertaining his friends at house parties. My gran was a soprano and she tried her best to encourage my talent but I came from a very poor area of Belfast growing up, and of course there were more important things to spend money on in my fathers eyes.
What music did you listen to as you were growing up, and do you still draw influence from those artists?
I never got what my friends listened too, as a kid I learned to harmonize to The Eagles but as I got into my teens I went with peer pressure in public but was searching out cassette tapes of powerhouse singers like Etta James, Aretha and Janis. My gran gave me a tape of Etta James singing St Louis Blues and that was the moment I started singing into the mirror with a hair brush.
How did the band come together, is it a long standing outfit?
My guitarist Nick has been with me over 4 years now, things have changed as they do when you explore talent but I never expected what has happened to me so it was hard to find band members who could commit to the demand. 2015 I was lucky enough to add 3 more members who can give me the next 3 years commitment and that opens so many more doors.
As a band you have an eye catching dress sense ... whose idea was that?
All mine haha, it was a risk to colour code everything and it took awhile to have set in stone and a risk as it could become clown like if not done right and I wanted our brand to represent the music which is colourful and fun yet serious as a lot of my songs are about my life. The music has been organic with my new line up, we all connect in a way I have never experienced so they trust my ideas and hopefully it has worked, the fans seem to like it. It also took me awhile to be comfortable in my own image, when so much is expected of you it can cloud what you want for yourself but in the end I went with what I am comfortable in. I love putting on a show, I'm quirky and a little bit manic so it's the natural thing to have a cool image for us all.
Do you ever think that you would like to be doing something more 9-5 and if so, in another life, what could that have been?
God no way, I did for 20 years, I could never go back to 9-5 I love being free to be creative. In another life I would probably be a burlesque dancer or something risque, I hate to be boring. The world needs crazy people to take them out of their own 9-5 lives so that's my destiny to give them moments of freedom away from that.
Ryan Adams covered Taylor’s Swift’s 1989 ... What complete album would you like to cover?
Oh Lordy that's truly a tough one, though for some reason reading your question The Staple Singers, Freedom Highway popped into my head, its an album I constantly had playing when the kids were growing up. I'm such a fan of gospel and I adore Mavis Staples and just that vocal power in pure harmony gives me goosebumps. Now I want to go and record the album so thanks for that reminder lol. Oh FREE & Bad Company oh now my creative juices are flowing haha.
New album 'Feelin Good’, how did the recording process differ form previous records?
Completely different, I had recorded a few eps before my debut album Get Ready and looking back I was totally out of my depth, it bankrupt me thats how fresh I was and I had get a grip very fast on its release. Mid album I had band members drop out, couldnt commit, didnt see my vision, just lots of reasons really. With Feelin' Good we knew exactly what we wanted to do as a band, we had gigged most of the songs so had experiemented on what worked on stage. It differs too because we have created our own sound, its not just a collection of songs, its a journey we wanted to take our fans through and not just once, we wanted them to play it over and over again and hear something different each time.
Is there a dream studio or place you would like to record in or, a place you would really like to play live?
Oh my I would love to record at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, although the studio has moved, the original building I think still does recordings on Jackson Highway, what a dream that would be, I think I would just sit and cry at the history in the walls and floors. Even just to belt out Cher's "Stop children, whats that sound, everybody look whats goin down" would give me shivers lol even if the album was classed a failure she covered some amazing songs on that album.
Finally, that one great tip for someone staring out in the music industry today please?
BIG GIRL PANTIES worn at all times and a thick skin needed. If you are young then always explore all avenues they will be stepping stones of the artist you become. Never EVER think your music is BETTER than anyone elses and stay humble even when the compliments come. BE THANKFUL"!
Sat 4th June, Ardrossan Music Experience, Ayshire
Thurs 9th June, Danny Boy Blues & Jazz Festival, Limavady
Fri 10th June, John Peel Centre, Stowmarket
Sat 11th June, Coolham Village Hall, Near Horsham
Sun 12th June, Devizes Festival, Devizes
Tues 14th June, Tuesday Blues, 100 Club, London
Wed 15th June, Vonnies Club, Charlton Kings
Thurs 16th June, Hanger Farm Arts Centre, Southampton
Fri 17th June, The Met, Arbertillery
Sat 18th June, Westcoast Bar, Margate, Kent
Mon 20th June, The Haven Club, Oxford
Thurs 23rd June, The Murderers Club, Norwich
Tues 28th June, Bottleneck Blues Club, Rochester
Wed 29th June, Worthing Pier's Southern Pavilion, Worthing
Thurs 30th June, The Convent, Stroud (with live steam)
Sat 2nd July, Church Stretton Blues & Roots Festival, Shropshire
Sat 9th July Fuse Festival, Lichfield (1pm slot)
Sat 9th July Sisters of Blues & Soul Festival, Todmorden
It’s been 4 years since your debut album, and finally Palomino lands. Where have you been ?!
Its been annoying and we shouldn’t have spent so much time away, but a lot of it was out of our hands. Finance was an issue, we lost our management, the label weren’t committing, and we wanted to experiment with stuff so we took longer.
You have your own studio ?
Yeah, Sam owns part of one, so we get cheap rates !
How long did the whole process of writing and recording Palomino take ?
Maybe 2 years in total. We started writing then loads of stuff happened, so we went a bit off piste. I think Palomino has more twists and turns than the debut album. We experimented in new sounds and weird interludes, and having longer away benefited us in being able to do that.
So Jonathan Wilson produced the album..
Actually, he mixed the album after we asked him. He only took 2 weeks and mixed from live. Basically he takes 2 versions of each song, then old school mixes live. We weren’t actually present for the mixing process - that costs more money, so we just sent him the tapes.
Were you looking for the same mood from the first album ?
We wanted to expand and get deeper - we’re genuinely fun people but its sometimes easier to write intense deep songs. There was no plan, but we wanted to experiment and go more into space.
You are signed up to Loose. Was this a conscious decision ?
They took a punt with us on the first album, and it went really well, then they heard the stuff we were putting dow for Palomino and decided they wanted to get involved again. Its always an album by album basis. It’s good for both sides really, but Loose are really supportive of us.
What do you particularly want out of this business ?
For me it changes regularly. When I first saw Father John Misty, I thought I want to be like him. If we can get paid enough to not work, that would be great, but traveling the world with your best mates is pretty cool.. We travel the world doing music, and making music and thats a legacy someone can’t take away.
What’s next for Treetop Flyers ?
We want to record a lot sooner this time, and try and record in a different way. You have the ability to record yourself and at home, outside of the studio environment, and this is a quicker process. We may try and mix it up and evolve the sound again for the next album.
I thought Treetop Flyers were a folk-rock band until I heard Palomino.
That’s what we were aiming for. There’s a lot more to us than that. It’s louder, more groovy, soulful even. We may go even more off piste for the next record.
What’s your view on touring ? Love it or hate it ?
Generally like it. It can be stressful and long but if you have a really good gig that energy sails through for the next couple of days. Its always different and you learn from it. By the end of the tour you are that tight, you don’t want to stop. I suppose that’s why we do it.
Congratulations on the wonderful Palomino. Please tell me its not going to be 4 years until the next album ?
Definitely not, its too long. It’s all about momentum, and we want to keep it going.
Photo of Reid Morrison by Tim Hughes