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Lovejoy - Interview

  by Chris Jones

published: 16 / 9 / 2006

Lovejoy - Interview


Indiepop act Lovejoy, the project of Brighton-based singer-songwriter Richard Preece,has just released a new EP, 'England Made me'. Chris Jones speaks to him about it and its recording

Richard Preece has been releasing songs under the Lovejoy moniker for over six years and during that time has established himself as one of indiepop’s finer practitioners. The roots of his sound can be traced back to the late 80’s / early 90’s – think Creation, Sarah, Factory, etc – and it’s no surprise that he has found a comfortable home in the Matinee records camp. And while his influences may be quite apparent at times – he has covered Biff Bang Pow, the June Brides and the Smiths – his is no rehash nonsense like so much of the latest wave of post-punk bands out there. No, Lovejoy easily stands on his own showing that familiar can still mean new, thrilling and damn good! PB : Pennyblackmusic last caught up with you back in 2003 and since then you have released another full length album, 2005's ‘Everybody Hates...’, which built very nicely upon the Lovejoy sound developed over the first two albums, 2000's 'Songs in the Keys of Lovejoy' and 2002's 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire ?' That album was quite well received, showing that apparently not everybody hates Lovejoy. How did you feel about the response to that album? RP : All in all I was fairly pleased…I suppose after the excellent response to ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ I was hoping to gain more recognition, not necessarily in terms of sales, but in terms of respect as a songwriter, lyricist and musician. As is often the case though, some reviewers didn’t really ‘"get" where I was coming from and saw the album as some sort of hate letter to the world or as the incoherent and angry ramblings of a disaffected thirtysomething let loose in a recording studio – see the American All Music Guide review for an example – I think they kind of liked it but didn’t get the subtleties of my writing. I think I learned that you have to be rather careful with album titles as some people do take you quite literally. PB : Did you approach recording that album any differently than your previous albums? RP : The main difference was that Keith Girdler who has been my main partner in crime in Lovejoy (along with Ally Board and more Paul Stewart), was unable to participate in the recording process, although he did still have an aesthetic and spiritual input. This meant the late nights at the studio were rather lonely at times, but Julian Tardo, the album's producer, and I were very focused in getting the album’s consistent sound. I also wanted to make it feel like a complete set of songs and I stand by that as the album’s achievement – it’s certainly the best album I’ve recorded and I’m really pleased with Julian’s production on it. The other point is that I approach any new project with the thought that it must be better than the last and that it must try to avoid repetition– I know that is difficult when aiming for a consistent and recognisable sound, but it’s a challenge that needs to be there to really stretch oneself in the song writing and recording process. PB : I really enjoyed that album and I found that it always made me long for a drink and a cigarette. Could listening to Lovejoy be bad for one's health ? Is this lounge-set lifestyle something that you fancy? And if so, what would they serve at the Lovejoy Lounge? RP : I’m glad you liked it! I like the fact that Lovejoy invokes images of that (glamorous but obviously unhealthy) life style but I’m not sure about how popular the ‘Lovejoy Lounge’ would be. I’ve been battling with the tyranny of nicotine addiction for some years now, so of course there would have to be a smoking area…occasionally. And a range of vodka or gin based cocktails, fine wines and beers. Bitter, if you believe some of my reviews! PB : Last time Pennyblackmusic chatted with you, you mentioned that you would like to get a band together and play live a bit more. Has that happened over the past few years? RP : I have been very privileged in receiving several invitations to play live – I do still aim to play live more, but not with a band – unfortunately time constraints and pressure of work mean that band rehearsal are impossible to consider. So it’s just been me and my acoustic guitar…But I have been kindly invited to play shows in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Spain in the last couple of years, which have been a lot of fun. I haven’t been able to commit to anything yet this year, but I’m always open to offers. PB : You've played shows in the UK and in Europe. Have you played any shows in the US before? If not, any plans to do that? RP : I’d love to play in the States – unfortunately it’s less viable financially for promoters as the cost of flights makes short tours or one off gigs prohibitive for less well known bands. PB : Do you have much opportunity to meet up with Keith Girdler and Paul Stewart outside of when you are recording songs? And do you feel nervous working with people that you looked up to before? RP : I see a lot of Keith – he’s my best friend… although I’ll admit I used to be in awe of both him and Paul when we first began playing music together, which was for the first Beaumont album, 'This is Beaumont'(Beaumont was one of Keith Girdler's previous bands with Paul Stewart and was formed before Lovejoy. Richard Preece was also latterly a member-Ed) I’ll always remember visiting Paul’s house one day in Reading, and he and Keith were playing through some songs together before Blueboy had finished (Keith and Paul's group prior to Beaumont-Ed) and I was sitting there in disbelief at my luck! These days Paul does Beaumont separately from Keith and I have less contact with him, which is a shame, but his records still sound amazing to me. And yes, of course I was nervous picking up a guitar in front of him at first, but I did eventually manage to get over it. Being in the presence of musicians or artists that one admires is always a daunting experience for me. PB : I know you have a family of your own and a "real" job. How has it been balancing all of those things with Lovejoy? RP : It’s a nightmare! I have a very busy work life and I often work late into evenings and weekends, so when I get to record it’s often late on a Friday night, when I’m tired and ready for bed. As my children grow up there’s less and less time to concentrate on music, but I still need a creative release for my sanity, so I do make a point of picking the guitar up once the kids are asleep…sometimes I fall asleep strumming the guitar to myself. PB : Do your children know that dad is an international indiepop star? And do you plan to teach them how to play any instruments? RP : My children know I’ve made some records but they don’t really know what that’s about…Actually I’ll just ask them both [ BRIEF CHAT WITH CHILDREN] I said to them "Did you know I’m an international indiepop star?" and my little boy said "YES!" So I said – do you know what that is and he said "NO!" So I guess that’s a no…their mum teaches music to young children and she’s the one that can really get them going. They like to jump around while I play songs on the guitar though, and my little boy made me join a band with him which he called the Starfish! PB : In an another interview you mentioned that you felt politics and saying something meaningful seemed to be lacking in current pop music. Were you referring mainly to Top 40 radio pop or pop music in general? RP : Its music that comes into my life – mostly pop, some dance, some more mainstream bands – I think it’s that thing about being intelligent, witty, artistic and political in a challenging and stylistic way. I know a lot of bands I hear would be ‘of the left’ but there’s no provocation or real voice that has any convincing style as well…it’s probably because I don’t listen to enough music these days to know what is really there. I just want to be inspired in the way I once was. Can you remember the thrill of seeing the Sex Pistols on 'Top of The Pops ' ? Or the Smiths? PB : Are there any current bands that you find yourself listening to a fair bit or who you feel share a similar aesthetic? One person/band that puts me in a similar mood is Goldstoned. Have you heard any of his albums? RP : I know the name, but haven’t heard any records – I’d certainly be interested to hear them. Of the newer bands I’ve recently listened to, I like Camera Obscura’s new record ,'Let's Get Out of This Country'. I’m still enjoying a lot of Swedish and Scandinavian pop – I really liked an album by Unknown Joe that I got in Norway as well as a band I saw there called Love Dance…I’ve been getting into some Club 8 but to be honest I don’t listen to too much new indiepop these days…Oh I think I get compared to Harper Lee quite a lot, who are also from Brighton and on Matinee and which aesthetically is fine by me. PB : I would suppose the climate in the UK now is at least as tense (if not more so) as it is in the USA due to the War on Terror. Has that affected you or your music? RJ : It’s not affected my music really – it affects my view on a lot of things to do with the role the USA and British Governments have played in changing the way we are viewed by the rest of the world…'Made in England' expresses some of my feelings of embarrassment and disaffection as an English person, although it is not something I’ve consciously written about. Lovejoy has always been about expressing my thoughts and feelings including my contradictions as a human being… On a personal note, I can’t help but be affected by the hysteria at times – it shames me to say it but I haven’t thought about taking my kids for days out in London since last July. PB : Your relationship with Matinee Records seems to be going quite well, who have put out all the Lovejoy albums and most of your singles to date, and you have just released through them a new EP 'England Made Me'. There is a fair bit of stylistic variation between the songs on the EP. How did the songs come about? RJ :I’m really pleased with the way this EP turned out and yes Matinee have indulged me many times over the last seven years or so, which makes me feel very, very happy. The variation in styles is a result of different influences affecting my song writing and production ideas. 'Brightness Falls', the lead track is very Lovejoy, very New Order influenced and my attempt at a more upbeat sound than some of the ‘Everybody Hates’ songs. 'Are You Analogue Or Digital' is a Kraftwerk / Human League / Durutti Column influenced song based on an old electro rhythm pattern I wanted to use. 'In The Rain' appeared on a June Brides tribute record last year, but seemed to fit in so well stylistically as a bridge between the guitar based and electronic based elements of recent Lovejoy records that I wanted to include it here and' Made In England' was going to be my Bitter Sweet Symphony – an epic track with bells and knobs and choirs on – I just didn’t factor in my recording budget when planning the production – I could have spent so much money recording that song but in the end it just wasn’t possible …it’s ironic really as the song I’m least satisfied with is the song that seems to be getting most positive reviews! That said, I’m proud of each of the songs for different reasons and as I said, as an EP I think I’ve achieved the objective of making each new Lovejoy release better than the last. PB : I've very much enjoyed the previous cover songs you have done and really enjoyed the June Brides cover on this EP. What made you decide to cover this song? RJ : Basically, being a fan of the band, it was nice to be approached by a new label about a year ago, Yes Boy Ice Cream, who wanted to do a tribute album. 'Still Unravished' – They got a few quite well known bands on board – Jasmine Minks, the Television Personalities, the Tyde, Jeffrey Lewis and The Manic Street Preachers…so it seemed like a good project to get involved in. I’ve always been open to cover versions – I know some bands aren’t – for me it’s about interpreting a well loved song in a way that is flattering to the original as well as adding something of oneself to the performance – I couldn’t and wouldn’t set out to ‘better’ very good songs, just put a different slant on them. PB : There are a fair bit of electronics on the EP. ‘...Millionaire?’ had a few songs that ventured that way, but probably not quite as far. Is that something you want to explore more on future songs? RP : I’ve always wanted to be open minded about style and content – I’m an indie kid at heart, but I love other music too, so it seems natural to me to show an influence of St Etienne or Air or DJ Shadow or Felt or Blueboy or whoever I’m into. I suppose the 7” I did for Unpopular records was a good example of that – One side, 'Someone to Share My Life With' had acousic guitars. The other, 'Strike a Pose', had electro beats and synths.. In the future I’m into playing more electric guitars like on ‘Sid Vicious from ‘Everybody Hates Lovejoy’ and also looking more at acoustic pieces like ‘Too Cold To Snow’ from the Snowdrops ‘Sleepydust EP’ (The Snowdrops is Richard Preece's other occasional group and also features Keith Girdler and the Pines' Pam Berry-Ed). I suppose I don’t want to keep making the same record over and over but there are particular styles or sounds I want to develop further. PB : And speaking of future songs, is the EP a teaser for an upcoming album or wholly its own thing? RP : I’d love to say there’s another album on the way, but I’m taking it a bit easy right now – I’ve recorded three albums and five singles and EPs as well as songs for various compilations over the last six or seven years, all in my spare time, so I don’t know what’s next at the moment. I’m writing some new songs, maybe Matinee will want to do something else with Lovejoy, but if it came to it and ‘Made In England’ was the last Lovejoy single, I’d be proud to have it as my swansong! Basically though, I’m trying to have a break and weigh up what the future possibilities might include. If push came to shove I’d say that I would like to do another record, I just haven’t worked out what it might look or sound like yet. PB : Anything else about what you are up to that you want to let us know? RP : I think I can tell you I’m working on something new with Keris from Harper Lee but it’s very early days and I probably shouldn’t say too much… PB : Thanks! And best of luck on future projects!

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Interview with Richard Preece (2003)
Lovejoy - Interview with Richard Preece
Lovejoy’s second album 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?' was one of the best releases of last year on the busy indiepop label, Matinee. Frontman Richard Preece talks to Ben Howarth about the band's history and the new album


England Made Me (2006)
Melancholic, but perfect new EP from Lovejoy, the moniker of Brighton-based indiepop musician Richard Preece, which includes a cover of the June Brides' 'In the Rain'
Everybody Hates Lovejoy (2005)
Strike A Pose (2004)
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? (2002)
Plays Biff Bang Pow (2002)

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