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Cody - Interview

  by Julia Willis

published: 11 / 6 / 2002

Cody - Interview


With their second album 'Distance Learning' just out, keyboard based group Cody are perhaps the most unorthodox group on the Shinkensen label. Members Joe Boulter and Chris Tighe speak to Julia Willis about the band's five year history

I’m late again… and stressed. Really. Really. Stressed. The photographer and I are sniping at one another…"I told you we should have taken the train" ‘Yeah, well, I thought it’d be a good idea to drive okay ?" … And so an hour and a half late, we’ve met Oxford’s one-way system and Joe, one half of Cody, is placating me with coffee and Jaffa Cakes at his house, opposite an incongruous looking Convent. No, really… Today I'm only meeting two of the members of Cody. Steve Jefferis and John Johnson live in Glasgow and Italy respectively so I'm in the rather more accessible Oxford to meet the other two.Joe Boulter and Chris Tighe are intelligent, well spoken and genuinely funny guys. They hardly blinked when twenty minutes into the interview I scream "Shit! Oh God, I mean, darn, I didn’t press record… sorry, can you remember what you just said?" Cringe. I had been bemoaning music critics’ penchant for reviewing bands by perpetually comparing and contrasting them to others. In Cody’s case, unable to pigeonhole the band has led to the citing of some strange influences JB : If they said we sounded like people we were trying to sound like, or we thought we sounded like, then we’d be a bit more understanding. Some say we sound like New Order, I don’t get that. I don’t own any New Order records and never have… CT : It’s Steve and I that like New Order. The only reason they say that is because we’ve got a couple of guitars at the end of 'August Song' that go ‘ching ching ching ching’ really loudly. JB : They do that? Chris had mentioned he and Joe don’t always agree on their influences… JB : Okay , let’s name some people we really do think we sound like then… CT : Can we avoid mentioning Stereolab and Tortoise? We’ve been dogged by that. We don’t consciously try to sound like them. JB : Well sometimes we do sound like that… CT : The thing is, when I hear Joe and John’s songs, I can’t actually tell what they’re influenced by… JB : Well as we go on, we’re getting more and more comfortable working as a group. When we first started John and I had already written songs but more and more what we’re trying to do is collaborate. Everyone puts stuff in and what you come out with in the end is something that nobody had imagined it would sound like. CT : I remember John complaining about the fact that we’d turn 'August Song' into this slow piece when he’d originally thought of it as a fast jangly pop song. JB : But on the other hand that’s probably the most successful song on the first album. CT : Well, there we get into our chequered history of hype… Hype ? My ears prick up… CT : Well this was about a year after we’d started. In 1997 Radio One’s Sound City week was in Oxford. Obviously Oxford was big then with the whole Radiohead thing and the local label Shifty Disco started getting a lot of press. We put a single out on Shifty Disco, which was not particularly representative of what we did. I remember Steve Lamacq’s column in Music Week mentioning we were one of "Oxford’s most significant new bands" just on the strength of this one song. We’d only done two gigs before that and were never a thrilling live band… there are two people playing keyboards, two people playing guitars and lots of pedals in a semicircle at our feet so there’s not really much option for jumping around the stage. JB : I think personality wise we range from introverted to shy, we don’t have any members who are into jumping about… CT : The problem with Sound City was it was very much about live music. Our massed hordes of Radio One’s producers and major A&R men who’d come to see "Oxford’s most significant new band" were confronted with four blokes looking miserable in a line. The outcome of the whole fiasco was that we got really hyped for about a month, had a single that everyone liked and was completely unrepresentative of what we were really about, and as soon as people heard the rest of the album and saw our live show they stayed away in droves… JB : That was our early flirtation with success. CT : The interesting thing is the moment of our greatest success probably caused us to have a complete rethink about what we were doing which is when we got the 303. JB : We got a bank loan to get it! CT : We managed to convince the bank we were going to be a famous pop band , so we needed to buy a sequencer. JB : That may not be quite what I said… CT : I think he gave them the Steve Lamacq review and said "Look, we’re Oxford’s most significant new band ", I’m not completely convinced by their self-lacerating style. It doesn’t seem to do their music justice. Both their albums, 'Stillpoint Primer 'and 'Distance Learning 'are really rather good. Having listened to both albums myself I found it hard to discern where Cody fit in. They seemed neither one genre or another… JB : I don’t want to use the S word again, but in my hypothetical music collection we’d be near Stereolab in that we have songs, and have influences outside of strummy pop music. We have a whole gamut of influences. We’re kind of thoughtful in our approach to music and I don’t want to say "experimental" but we try lots of things out… but I wouldn’t know where you would find Stereolab… We’re always classed as indie-pop because we’re on Shinkansen and their Sarah connection. We sing in English accents in a soft way and, therefore ,we must be twee indie-pop, but we’re not. We’re not (a sardonic grin creeps across his face..) RAWK! either… CT : I think it’s easier to tell you what we aren’t! Whenever you look for us we’re either Rock and Pop or Indie. I’d like us to be pop without the rock, although I guess if you say 'pop’ people will think we sound like Steps.. JB : We don’t consciously think of ourselves as sounding like anyone now whereas when you first start off you do. You need some kind of direction to start with. It’s just that it’s the fault of the rest of the music industry for not sounding more like us. People should say "Oh, they sound a bit like Cody". I suppose at the moment we’re less part of a genre than ever really… CT: We’re definitely more out of step with what is currently ‘cool’ Joe and Chris both allege their name comes from the character in the soap, 'Neighbours' and their website does corroborate their story, although they both try to give me more rock n roll versions of where their name came from as well . I am more interested in the titles of their albums, 'Stillpoint Primer' and 'Distance Learning' ,both of which have scholastic connotations and the discernable musical progression between the two. JB : The name 'Stillpoint Primer' might sound pretentious but what I like about listening to music is that although music’s a very linear thing, it constantly moving forward. You can get to moments where you’re completely in the music and everything’s still. You’re not conscious of any sort of motion. It was our first album so, it’s like a Primer, you’re just learning. 'Distance Learning' was John’s idea and that’s really a continuation of the primer approach. We’re still learning and we are very much at a distance. CT : This main difference is in the working method behind each of the albums. When we were doing 'Stillpoint Primer' all the songs had been worked out with all four of us sitting in a room together, although we don’t jam. JB : We’re not good enough to jam. CT: We get stuck after the first eight bars of a twelve bar. JB : Yeah. Cody don’t jam! CT: Before 'Stillpoint Primer' was released, Steve got a placement up in Glasgow doing I think Clinical Psychology JB: John moved to Italy because he was studying Italian Poetry. So the second album was recorded in completely disparate places? CT : Yeah. We’ve not been in the same room at the same time since before 'Stillpoint Primer' came out, which was Oct 2000. JB : It’s better not to be though. Does that add a different dynamic to the music? CT : Well it does mean that you get more time to think about things. If I play one of Joe’s demos and initially I don’t like it, with time, it grows on me or I can come up with something else , rather than just have an argument about it. The main difference was we were doing most of our communication via email which means you don’t have arguments JB : We did to start with ! CT : Yeah but I didn’t send an email saying "I hate you bastards, I’m leaving !" We did our first three singles in the studio but everything else we’ve recorded in our houses ourselves and it’s all far, far better than the stuff we’ve done in studios. There’s not that time constraint. You can easily go back and change things. JB : The other thing is that everyone gets to play different instruments. When we first started, everyone played guitar, so we all decided to do different things for the sake of the band. This time round we all play guitar and keyboards on at least one track and most of us have bits of drums and bass we do on different tracks. CT : I still refuse to sing. JB : Despite encouragement and threats! I think we just feel more comfortable doing whatever we feel like. From a musical point of view, the rhythms are more interesting and so are the sounds we use. Steve’s doing a bit more on the rhythm side with the funny sounds and the squelches. He’s into doing all that… CT : Steve’s really into glich-techno. JB : I think it’s got a more relaxed feel and more acoustic instruments as well. It’s got a wider variety of instruments and is better produced because we know how to use the production software on the computer (Looks meaningfully at Chris) CT : Hmm.. speak for yourself. JB : Yes (head tilted towards Chris), Chris has yet to learn this. He has it on his computer so he’s going to get taught. CT : (Looking at his feet and in a mocking tone) But I’m scared of it… JB : It is one of the more boring aspects of doing it yourself. We know how to get the best out of the sounds though in the environment we record in. The influences and style of the music, has it changed? Not really. I just think we’re doing it better and in a more relaxed comfortable way. The ingredients are pretty much the same. I listened to the two albums back to back a few months ago and thought the songs are just as good. I think on 'Stillpoint Primer 'only 'August Song' came out as good as it could have done, whereas I think on 'Distance Learning' almost all of them came out as good as I think they could be.. Chris will probably disagree with me! CT : The way we do the music now is more song friendly I suppose. It’s much more organic than before but still got more in the way of electronics. JB : Yeah, organic electronics ! (Getting excited…) No! pastoral electronics. CT : Yeah! Folktronica! That is actually a genre you know apparently… JB : We’re writing the third album at the moment. It’s more song-based. I think we’re more comfortable blending sounds. CT : Actually – we’re gonna start doing Latin Hiphop! No! Bossa nova… JB : Yeah, write that down, we’re gonna go Bossa nova… As they begin to argue about the direction the band are going to take for the third album, I wonder how Cody would deal with fame. Despite jokes about introverted personalities and courting an air of mystery, they defy genre and please themselves, more RAWK you might think than today’s user-friendly nu-(insert ‘rock’ word of choice)… JB : It seems to me that people who get very famous always end up being slightly odd and ridiculous, no matter how cutting edge and significant they were when they started. People like Mick Jagger and Sting were very cool when they started but now they’re a bit strange and embarrassing. it’s probably best not to get too famous… CT :I’d settle for acknowledgement and a smear of cool, page 20 of the NME, that sort of thing. If we prod the trendy music scene enough, it’ll eventually have to take notice. In an infinite universe, everything will be cool sooner or later, even us…

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Cody - Interview

Cody - Interview

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