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Brakes - Interview

  by Sarah Maybank

published: 28 / 9 / 2007

Brakes - Interview


Sarah Maybank speaks to Brakes' frontman Eamaon Boland about the fiery political nature of his band, his love of touring and the group's plans for its soon-to-be recorded third album

"There’s not actually a dance called the Spring Chicken, even though we mention it in the song. But if there was, you’d flap your elbows around and stick your chin in and out a bit like this…" It’s like being set up for a blind date with Che Guevara and finding Jim Carrey brandishing a carnation under the train station clock. Assigned to grill Brakes’ politically conscious front-meister Eamon Hamilton, Pennyblackmusic is expecting the raw, passionate force of nature you see raging about on stage. Pennyblackmusic is most definitely NOT expecting raucous humour topped off with novelty dance skills. Still, when you’re cloistered in a tiny dressing room that looks like a probation office, and someone’s pestering you with questions when you could be face down in that case of San Miguel in the corner, you’ve got to laugh, haven’t you? And, it turns out, Eamon does plenty of that. Like the scheming bit on the side that ends up usurping the wife, Brakes greedily demands endless time and affection and Electric Soft Parade's Tom and Alex White, who formed the band, shamelessly enticed Eamon Hamilton away from British Sea Power with it for good. The fun began in 2002 when Tom (guitar) and Alex (drums) drunkenly befriended vocalist Eamon after a solo acoustic gig in a Brighton bar. Backs were slapped, plans hatched and local musician/studio owner Marc Beatty recruited on bass. The band's recorded-on-a-shoestring 2005 debut album, 'Give Blood', set out their stall with its tri-polar mix of country punk howlers, sweet ballads and cool Johnny Cash and Jesus And Mary Chain covers. Oh, and its nine-second micro-polemic 'Cheney', which "enthusiastically" encourages the US vice president to stop "being such a dick." Last November, their follow-up, 'The Beatific Visions', thrilled everyone from the critics to the Killers (who offered them a string of support dates). They've spent 2007 with a gigging schedule that should see them in hospital, rehab, or at least a pretty bad mood - and they're still up for more. So let's see what you've got to say for yourself, Eamon: PB : We loved your promo for 'Pineapple Or Porcupine' [blood-soaked horror short in which Eamon is stalked by a homicidal pineapple and ends up chopping off his own hand]. And we expected it to clean up atthe MTV Video Music Awards recently… EH : [Cackles with laughter] We are gutted! We were sure we’d be on the shortlist. Actually, that one took quite a long time to make for us; it took two days. We just couldn’t get the story together. We ate the pineapple in the end. It got put down. We chopped its head off. How do we get the ideas for videos? We just sit around in the tour van trying to make each other laugh. PB: When you’re not wrestling pineapples, you’re pretty political, but do you think anybody cares? We are the celebrity-obsessed 'Heat' generation, after all. Most people would rather spend their time queueing to be on 'The X Factor' than lobbying their MP… EH : We’re living in quite a political world and the last album reflected that. It’s impossible to have lived through the past five years without an opinion. But I think popular culture’s being used to distract people and there doesn’t seem to be much resistance to that from bands. I don’t know whether it’s because people don’t want to be reminded of what a fucked-up, screwed-up world we live in. PB : We’ve sniffed out a Brakes conspiracy theory, by the way. On You Tube, the comments section for ‘Cheney’has been disabled so you can’t post your thoughts about the clip. EH : Yeah, I didn’t know about that until a few days ago. I’ll look into it. Maybe it was Cheney himself that did it; maybe he’s got it in for us. When we toured America everyone loved that song, though; they were screaming for it. Sometimes we’d play it three or four times a night. The majority of Americans we met hated him; we didn’t meet one American who liked their representatives. PB: Despite your clear and obvious persecution by the higher echelons of US government, your American dates seemed as much 'National Lampoon’s Vacation' as political rally... EH : Yeah, we tried to do an American tour in the cheapest possible way so drove from San Diego to New York in this massive Winnebago. But we got lost in it… We broke down… We even drove it into a tree. It was a special tree, a memorial tree. Luckily the people who owned the record shop we were playing in told us, “We always hated that tree anyway.” PB : What other opportunities has international touring afforded you ? EH : Seeing the differences between the fans. The Dutch are strange. They just stand and nod. The Italians dance pretty well. The Americans move backward and forward moving their arms. The British mosh. The Germans dance and mosh at the same time. I’d be interested to see what the Brazilians and Japanese do… PB : Don’t you get sick of constant gigging? Isn’t there a point on the road where you phone the Samaritans and start talking about your all-consuming yearning for a sofa, a TV and a PlayStation ? EH : Actually, I looked at my calendar recently and thought, “Fuck me, we’ve done a lot of gigs.” But we’re not fed up with it, not at all. We all love playing live, playing music. It’s still great fun seeing the reaction every night. Live, it seems to be getting better and better; the audience reaction is getting more and more intense. Saying that, we’re desperate to get some new songs into the set. They’re [not written but] they’re bubbling under, cooking away. We might try to get a few together to include in the October tour. PB : Talking about songs, critics fell over themselves to give big love to 'The Beatific Visions'. Has all the praise turned you into divas ? What sort of J.Lo demands have you started making ? EH : We were quite pleased with the reviews, but we can’t be divas because we haven’t sold many records [glances at pack of supermarket value sausage rolls on table in front of him]. Our stomachs still jump when rent day comes up. We’re just getting by day to day. PB : Jarvis Cocker was right, then: poor isn’t cool ? EH : It’s not in any way pleasurable to be financially desperate. But saying that, we’re doing what we love. I keep getting reminded of that by people who have jobs [Laughs]. I’ve managed to pay my rent for the past three and a half years by playing music and that’s a pleasure. PB : How would stratospheric levels of Arctic Monkeys-style success have affected you? EH : Actually, we were chatting with their tour manager about this recently. They turn up at festivals and he’s going to the organisers, “Come on, you haven’t told us what stage we’re on… what time we’re on…”[because it’s assumed they already know they’ll be headlining on the main stage]. What do you do after that? There’s nowhere to go. In any band’s head they’re still in the little back room they started out in. To reach that [level] when you’re quite young would be quite… I don’t know… I couldn’t predict how they’d feel. PB : What have you got planned for after the tour? EH : We’re going to be demo-ing in a barn in Oxfordshire. That’ll be the first time we’ve done that. The first time we made an album, we had enough money to do it in a week. The second time, we had two and a half weeks in Nashville, so we worked on the songs a little bit more. I’d really like to record it at Ardent in Memphis or Muscle Shoals. Somewhere with history. Rick Rubin’s at the top of our list of producers [Laughs at entertaining such a ludicrously expensive notion]. I love the sound of his records. We heard he doesn’t do much – just tells an engineer what to do, but I don’t care. He’s like Damien Hirst isn’the? He’s the one with the concept. [Looks a bit ill] Actually, one of my friends has just got a job with Damien Hirst, injecting stuff into dead cows. [A record company bloke walks in to usher Eamon off for a meeting.] PB : One last question, we’d like to know your personal thoughts about the American Brakes,who insisted they had the name first and forced you tochange your name to Brakes Brakes Brakes when you’re playing in the US. EH : Wankers! They actually tried to sue us. They issued us a cease and desist just after we’d recorded 'Cease and Desist', funnily enough. How would I have dealt with them? We’d stand in a line, both bands, and stare for a while. Then we’d get a beatbox in the middle, or a CD player. We can’t predict a winner – things can U-turn - but I’d bet on us winning. PB : Tom’s a big bloke… EH : Yeah! Ha ha! PB : Thank you.

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Brakes - Interview

Brakes - Interview

Brakes - Interview

Brakes - Interview

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