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Parlour Games - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 24 / 1 / 2013

Parlour Games - Interview


Manchester-based singer-songwriter Vinny Peculiar and former Oasis guitarist Bonehead chat to John Clarkson about their new band Parlour Flames and forthcoming eponymous debut album

Parlour Flames is the new band of Manchester-based singer-songwriter Vinny Peculiar and former Oasis guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs. Peculiar, a former mental nurse, has recorded under his own name nine albums of semi-confessional alternative pop. Once described by ‘Uncut’ as the “Tony Hancock of pop”, Peculiar’s music combines biting social observation and character analysis with wry humour. His albums include his much acclaimed 2007 album, ‘The Fall and Rise of Vinny Peculiar', which also featured ex-Smiths members Mike Joyce (drums) and Craig Gannon (guitars/bass); 2009’s ‘Sometimes I Feel Like a King’ and 2011’s ‘Other People Like Me’. Since leaving Oasis in 1999, Bonehead has played with Mike Joyce and another former Smiths member, bassist Andy Rourke, in the Mancurian trio Moondog One. He spent eighteen months between 2010 and 2011 in another Manchester group the Vortex, and also for a while co-hosted with Terry Christian a radio show, ‘The Manchester Music Show’, on BBC Radio Manchester. Peculiar (whose real name is Alan Wilkes) and Bonehead first collaborated together when Bonehead played bass in Vinny’s band on a set of European dates in 2007. Bonehead subsequently also played guitar on the glam rock-influenced ‘Other People Like Me’. Parlour Flames’ eponymous debut album was recorded and produced by Peculiar and Bonehead in Bonehead’s home studio, and will come out on Cherry Red Records in May. An eclectic mainly 60’s-influenced record, ‘Parlour Flames' combines together elements of epic psychedelia, Simon and Garfunkel-style acoustic folk, gleeful Beatles-esque pop and shimmering Eastern sounds. Piano and keyboards, brass, flute and strings, alongside Peculiar and Bonehead’s guitars, all also enter the mix. Vinny Peculiar’s lyrics are as sharply witty and occasionally melancholic as ever. ‘Pop Music Football and Girls’, which Bonehead has described as Parlour Flames’ ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, is an anthemic tribute to teenage obsession. ‘Lonely Girls and Horses’ tells of an adolescent boy’s passion for a horse-obsessed, but lonely wallflower, and ‘Jump the Brook Ruth’ of a childhood prank gone horribly wrong. ‘Too Soon the Darkness’ is about the funeral of a fellow musician, and the hilarious ‘Never Heard of You’ captures the angst of a long time ago famous rock star turned away at the door of a club after the doorman fails to recognise him. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Vinny Peculiar and Bonehead about Parlour Flames. PB: Bonehead, you played the bass on a string of European dates with Vinny and then after that went on to play the guitars on his album, ‘Other People Like Me’. Is it true that you started out, however, as his manager? B: I had a brief spell as his manager, but he sacked me unfortunately. I wasn’t doing the job (Laughs). I got demoted to bass-playing duties as a punishment. It wasn’t so much that I was his manager or that I had any particular talent for management. I was just trying to generate a bit of press around him and the band that he had with him at the time. PB: How did you the pair of you meet? VP: It was through Mike Joyce. B: It was through Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke. They were playing bass and drums for Vinny in his band at the time. Mike introduced me to his music first of all. I really loved ‘The Fall and Rise of Vinny Peculiar’, the album that Mike played on with Vinny, and through that I first got to meet Vinny. PB: What is it that has drawn you to Vinny and to forming Parlour Flames with him? What was the appeal to you in particular of working with him? B: Initially it was that first introduction to him through Mike and hearing Vinny’s music. I had heard a couple of Vinny’s songs before that, but then Mike introduced me to ‘The Fall and Rise of Vinny Peculiar’. He brought it round one night to the house and I loved it. I loved the songs, but what I really loved and was drawn to were the lyrics. Lyrically it was the best thing that I had heard in a long time. That was the initial attraction, and then I met Vinny in person and we got on well. VP: We did the European dates. B: Yeah, we did the European dates and it just went from there. It was a gradual thing. We talked for a long time beforehand about recording something together, and so we decided to record a couple of tracks to just see how it went. Two tracks grew into three tracks, and then four and five, and before we knew it then we had an album. We didn’t plan it especially. PB: Vinny, what was the appeal to you of working with Bonehead? VP: I had got to know him as a friend and had a lot of respect for him as a musician. And not necessarily just for what he did in Oasis either. I found that there was a lot more to him than that when we did the European tour together, and that he brings lot more to the party than rhythm guitar. I think we have done quite an expansive record. There are a lot of elaborate arrangements on it. PB: Anyone expecting some kind of Oasis offshoot is going to be quite surprised. You have moved away from their trademark wall of sound guitars for a lot of it. Was that a conscious decision? B: There are some tracks that still have wall of sound guitars of them, but a lot of people have been listening to some of the stuff we put up on Soundcloud and they have been quite surprised that there are not more of them. We didn’t plan it that way. It was just the way it worked out in the studio. VP: On a couple of tracks we did turn up the Marshall up to eleven, but we have certainly not overdone it. What we did was right for each individual song. PB: How did you write the songs on the album? Did you each take specific parts or did it work in a more organic way? VP: It was all about collaboration. Bonehead had a whole template of drum loop and guitar ideas already pre-recorded, and for a number of the songs I threw in lyrical ideas and melodies into those templates. We messed around with them so songs like that grew organically. Other songs were a little more freeform as they were home demos of mine that I then brought into the studio, but even those we twisted them around and reinvented a bit. B: Some of the numbers Vinny brought in were already fully-formed songs with arrangements and parts when we began working on them, but when we began to record them we started to see different things. In some cases we added brass, strings and backing vocals. They developed and changed as we went along. PB: How much songwriting had you done since Oasis, Bonehead? B: I have always sat down in the studio and come up with ideas. This is the first time, however, that I have really consciously sat down and pressed a button and gone for a take as it were. For me this year has been a massive learning curve, both in terms of song writing and also as a producer. We have both had to sit down and say, “How does this machine work?” and “How does that one work?” V: In terms of production we did pretty much all of it. That is why it took us a few months longer than we anticipated to finish off the album. Neither of us had done anything like that before. PB: You have been working on this album for about a year, haven’t you? VP: Yes, on and off. We didn’t, however, do it every day. B: That is the possibly the drawback of working in your own home studio. You are not under a time restraint or budgeted for a certain amount, so that you only have so much time in the studio and that is all you can afford to pay for. It has been a great thing though being able to do it at our own pace. VP: It has been brilliant. I have always been used to recording in a time-limited way in the past. You run out of options especially vocally. You come away sometimes thinking, “I could have sung that better.” PB: Vinny, a lot of the songs on the album - ‘Too Soon the Darkness’, ‘Never Heard of You’, ‘Having a Band’, ‘ Get in the Van’ and ‘The End’ - are about the trials and tribulations of being a musician or in bands. Did you set out with the plan of writing a set of songs about musicians? VP: Not really. I pick up a lot of ideas for songs from the people that I surround myself with. Some of the ideas of those songs stemmed from discussions with various friends of mine who have been in bands. It wasn’t really pre-conceived though. The set of lyrics for this album and the ideas for them just seemed to bounce into the room. PB: ‘Too Soon the Darkness’ is about attending the funeral of a fellow musician. Did a real-life person inspire that? VP: Yeah, that was my uncle, who died about five years ago. He was a very important factor in my life, and that is quite an emotional song for me to even listen to sometimes. I am pleased with that one. It is quite a strident piece and I hope it has some emotional resonance. PB: Other songs on the album -‘Pop Music Football and Girls’, ‘Lonely Girls and Horses’ and ‘Jump the Brook Ruth’- are inspired by childhood and adolescence. Were those all based on events in your own youth or did you make them up? VP: They were all based on real events. I tend to elaborate or exaggerate a lot though in the name of art (Laughs). In ‘Jump the Brook Ruth’, the young protagonist in the song can only express himself by playing a prank on somebody he has an affection for. When you’re nine it is hard to express those things, and there is an autobiographical truth behind that one. PB: You worked as a mental health nurse for years and have recently left the profession. How much of that was just down to a weariness of working for the NHS in David Cameron’s Britain, and how much of that was down to wanting to spend more time working on your music? VP: It was a bit of both really. After a while, the NHS can grind you down, so I was pleased to take the opportunity recently where I can now devote more time to music. The whole situation within the NHS makes it not an inspiring place to work at the moment, and my hat goes off to people who are struggling to maintain a semblance of a health service, particularly in the mental health service. PB: The album is coming out on Cherry Red. Why did you decide to go through them rather than release it on your own label Shadbury and Duxbury as you have done with your previous releases, Vinny? VP: Cherry Red seemed interested and capable, and we like the set-up there, and they give us a reasonable amount of flexibility. B: It is nice to be on an independent label as well. VP: They are a genuinely independent label. You can have a genuine conversation with them about the way it should be marketed. B: It is not like being signed to BMG or Sony. You can ring the MD of the company, and say, “How are you fixed for next Tuesday for a meeting in town?”, and the MD will reply, “No problem. We will meet.” VP: He just did. B: He just did. It is nice to be working for a company that works on your level and with no nonsense. PB: Last question. You are playing some dates across Britain in February as a four-piece band and with a bassist and a drummer. What other plans do you have for the rest of the year and once the tour is over? Are you going to be doing more dates after that? B: The main thing is to get the album out. We have got a release date of the 20th May. It will be coming out on both CD and limited edition vinyl. That has to be the priority, and then we can plan a tour to coincide with that. VP: There will be a seven inch limited edition coloured single of 'Manchester Rain', one of the tracks from the album for National Record Day in April 20th, and we will release a digital only version of 'Pop Music Football and Girls' the week before the album comes out on the 13th May. B: We hope to take in a few festivals as well over the summer, and to do some gigs maybe in Europe and further afield. We will take it as goes, and see how well the album does. PB: Thank you.

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Parlour Games - Interview

Parlour Games - Interview

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