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Groovy Uncle - Interview

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 15 / 1 / 2014

Groovy Uncle - Interview


Malcolm Carter talks to Glenn Prangnell, the front man with 60's-influenced Medway-based act Groovy Uncle's recently released third album, ‘One Vowel Away from the Truth'

I wouldn’t suggest for a second that Glenn Prangnell doesn’t take the music he makes with his Groovy Uncle project very seriously. For a start he’s bigger than me, but more importantly the blood, sweat and tears that he so obviously puts into his music comes through in every song. But, while the music is played with passion and feeling, there is a sense of fun looming over everything bearing the Uncle Groovy name. The Hanna-Barbera inspired artwork which graces the cover of the latest Uncle Groovy CD, ‘One Vowel Away from the Truth’ is worth the price of the album alone. The caricatures of the band members are brilliant, and, although the band look and dress the way you’d expect them to given their 60’s obsession you can just tell that, apart from the music, it’s all done with tongue planted firmly in cheek. A peek at a couple of their videos confirms this; try ‘Count On Me’ by Groovy Uncle or Suzi Chunk’s ‘Look Back and Laugh’. Also Glenn Prangnell’s lyrics, which have always been a fair cut above the rest, have been injected with a larger shot of wit than usual on the latest Groovy Uncle album. With two albums already released under the Groovy Uncle name, the debut ‘Play Something We Know’ and last year’s ‘One Vowel away from The Truth’, a single also under the same banner and major involvement in Suzi Chunk’s wonderful ‘Girl from the Neck Down’ album, Prangnell is certainly making waves with his 60’s-influenced beat combo. For many of us ‘Play Something We Know!’ was the first time we’d heard of Glenn Prangnell, but the talented musician had been making his mark on the Medway scene for some time it appears. With support for Prangnell coming not just from the music magazines but also from none other than Stevie Van Zandt via his Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show, it seems that 2014 could be the year that Glenn Prangnell’s music reaches an even wider audience. Prangnell and his fellow Groovies certainly deserve success; any music fan with even the slightest interest in the music of any of the beat groups from the 1960’s will be blown away by any of the albums we’ve mentioned. Prangnell kindly took time out from working on the next Uncle Groovy album to answer a few questions we recently put to him. PB: There are now three albums, including Suzi Chunk’s ‘Girl from the Neck Down’, all featuring Groovy Uncle. Were you involved in any other bands before Groovy Uncle? GP: Yes. My first band the Offbeats was formed in the early 80's, and we released one album on vinyl called ‘In Rhythm, Off Beat’. Then came the Kravin' A's, and we released one vinyl album on Billy Childish's Hangman record label called ‘Krave On!’ in 1991 (the CD version was released in the USA by Get Hip in 1996). Screaming Apple in Germany also put out an EP called ‘Pushin' and A Shovin'’ on vinyl in '93, but by then we had split up. I joined a covers band called Johnny and the Bandits which, morphed into an originals band called Goodchilde. We put out two albums - ‘Elizabeth's Talking Straight into My Head’ (a vinyl self-release in 1993) and ‘Straight out of the Fridge’ (A French label Larsen put this out on CD in 1995) - and a vinyl single ‘Sarapeutic’/’Chips with Everything’ in 1996. Goodchilde finished in 1998 and I retired from music. Or so I thought... PB: Apart from the infectious melodies that abound in your music, the lyrics on ‘One Vowel Away from the Truth’ are both smart and, at times, amusing. When did you start writing songs? This latest batch bears the mark of someone who has been writing for years. GP: I started writing songs in 1982, and I've always been a big fan of the art. It took me years to accept being called a songwriter- I didn't write songs, I made them up! It was only fairly recently I thought to myself I've written enough songs of a certain standard now to comfortably accept being called a songwriter. PB: Is Groovy Uncle more of a collective or will the line-up that played on ‘One Vowel…’ be permanent? GP: Groovy Uncle has always been a project rather than a band and I often refer to it as the Groovy Uncle Project. I've even made some promo videos for other bands/artists as Groovy Uncle Productions. The line-up is ever changing and is dependent upon the availability/suitability of musicians. Mole Lambert, for example, has played drums on most (though not all) of the tracks from the first record back in 2010. He's rock solid and understands the kind of songs I write. He's played some really fine bass on a few tracks too. Bruce Brand is often on lead guitar on the songs and solos that only he could come up with (‘Ordinary Day’ and ‘I Know Where the Sun Shines’ are good examples). Equally, Ben Jones was the perfect choice for lead guitar duties on ‘No Stone Unturned’, and his contribution is key to the haunting quality of that track. I'm lucky to have such great musicians eager to record with me! PB: How did working with Suzi Chunk come about? How did you meet and discover her music? GP: I first met with Suzi back in 2007 via MySpace. This was before I'd released anything as Groovy Uncle, and I was just uploading a few demos. Suzi was one of the first musicians I hooked up with, so I checked her profile which had some recordings of her singing with a great funk band called Omega66 and I was instantly knocked out by her voice. I thought she sounded like a funky Dusty Springfield - an effortlessly great voice. So, I searched for some of her records only to discover there weren't any - not one release as Suzi Chunk! I was astonished at this, and made a promise to myself that one day we'd make a record together. We became friends, but at that point I didn't have anything to offer her because I wasn't even making records myself. It was early in 2011 (just after the release of the Groovy Uncle debut album ‘Play Something We Know!’) when I finally asked her if she'd like to join the band. PB: The band name initially made me check out Groovy Uncle, and it fits the music you make perfectly somehow. How did you decide on that name for the band? GP: When I first began doing solo stuff I wanted to use my own name, but hardly anyone can spell, pronounce or remember it, so I thought it had to be an imaginary band name, something quirky. Around that time I had read an article about some glitzy music awards party at which David Bowie had appeared. The journalist wrote that Bowie started "prancing around like a groovy uncle at a family disco." That's where I got the name. PB: ‘Play Something We Know!’ was only released on vinyl and download. The latest collection is download and CD only. Any plans for a vinyl version? This music should be on vinyl, and as for the sleeve there’s a space on my wall already for that to be displayed. GP: I totally agree with you. The latest album should be on vinyl. All records should be on vinyl. It is still the best format, in my opinion. ‘One Vowel...’ is, however, a self- release and is financed by me, and frankly I just didn't have the means to go down the vinyl route this time. PB: Does the band play many gigs? I know you played The Hipsville Weekender at Bisley Pavilion, Surrey in May 2013. Not being in the country then I missed the gig but imagine you would go down a storm at such an event. How did that go? GP: We're not really a gigging band, and there are a number of reasons for this. One is availability of musicians. They all play in other bands and have various commitments. Another reason is geography. We're all located at different places around the country, so it takes time and money just to get us all together in one room at the same time. Lastly, the gigs we do get offered are usually poorly paid and in some cases there is no money at all! This combined with the other factors means playing live is rarely possible. Hipsville was a great weekend, and I hope they do more. Couldn't hear a damn thing on stage though. PB: There are traces of so many bands from the 60’s that show up in your music. Which bands from that period do you admire the most? GP: Obviously the Beatles and the Kinks loom large, but I'm also a massive fan of the Bonzo Dogs, Harry Nilsson, Dusty, Jimi Hendrix and Nick Drake. A lot of my songwriting influences go right back to Hoagy Carmichael, Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne, Cole Porter. I love all those clever, witty lyrics and all that internal rhyming. There is so much I like and am influenced by really. PB: There have been whispers that Groovy Uncle are again working with Suzi Chunk on some new songs. Is that true? GP: Yes, there are new projects on the horizon. PB: Your previous records were issued on State Records, but ‘One Vowel…’ is on Trouserphonic. Is that your own label and, if so, why did you take that option? GP: Halfway through recording ‘One Vowel...’ State Records told me they wouldn't be releasing it on their label. Fortunately I was in a position whereby I could put it out myself albeit on CD and download rather than vinyl. So, Trouserphonic was born. PB: Given that the classic sounds of the 60’s play such an important part of your music, it would be interesting to know which albums you have been listening to over the last year. GP: I never seem to get enough time to listen to music properly as I'm usually working on my own stuff. I am, however, currently enjoying working my way through the Harry Nilsson RCA boxed set and the Beatles ‘On Air-Live at the BBC Vol. 2’ (on vinyl of course!). I have been listening a lot to the Smoke Fairies, Zervas and Pepper, Sixto Rodriguez, Tame Impala and Temples. PB: Are there any plans yet for a follow-up to ‘One Vowel…’? What are your musical plans for 2014? GP: There will be another album but before that I'll be working on an EP to be released on Trouserphonic, so there is plenty to look forward to in 2014. PB: Thank you.

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One Vowel Away From the Truth/Life's a Gift (2020)
Groovy Uncle - One Vowel Away From the Truth/Life's a Gift
Malcolm Carter reflects on the reissue of two of 60's pop-influenced Medway-based band Groovy Uncle’s finest albums on extremely limited vinyl.


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