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Robberie - Interview

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 30 / 9 / 2016

Robberie - Interview


Sheffield three-piece Robberie speak to Malcolm Carter about their debut album,‘Beneath Your City: As You Dream’, and original blend of indie-pop

There have already been some exceptional debut albums released this year but one that really stands out is by a trio from Sheffield who go by the name of Robberie. There’s a sense of humour running through many of their songs, not laugh out loud humour more a recognisable, grinning at your own shortcomings type of humour. It’s a very British thing. Robberie make music that while melodically strong will also lyrically resonate with all those who hear it. It is simply perfect pop music doing what it should do, touching and detailing our lives. Basically an acoustic trio (two girls/one boy) who incorporate glockenspiel, melodica and keyboards into their songs, ‘Beneath Your City: As You Dream’ opens with ‘Journeyman’ tracing the (mis)fortunes of a budding footballer. As with many of their songs Robberie combine insightful lyrics with upbeat tunes which give their songs instant appeal. The addition of unusual instruments like the melodica on ‘Journeyman’ just adds to the appeal while lead vocalist Val has the perfect indie-pop voice making the already realistic lyrics even more believable. ‘My Story’ which follows highlights the harmonies the band are capable of and again tells a tale that almost everyone can relate to; taking stock of your life and those we call friends, despite the sing-along chorus there’s a sense of sadness that seeps through into the lyrics; a melancholy air hangs over much of this album even though there is also this sense of fun. It’s just another part of what makes Robberie so appealing. ‘Everyone’s a Geek’ sounds like the music has been lifted from an old arcade game and not for the last time memories of the best of Sarah Records' output springs to mind. The cute melody coupled with Val’s quintessential indie vocals render the song irresistible. Again while the lyrics are not overtly humourous they can’t fail to raise a smile. It’s like Robberie have injected new life into an almost forgotten form of music. While Val’s vocals are a big part of the overall Robberie sound, when Nik and Robin join in the results are almost staggering. The three musicians obviously gel well together musically, and while they’re not going to change the world with their music it would be a duller and less interesting place without bands of this calibre. ‘In the Next Town (Same Old Radio)’ isn’t just a set of clever lyrics that set to another memorable melody. It’s the reason we spend so much of our time and hard-earned on this thing called music. With a killer chorus and with brilliant vocal performances from all three-band members, it’s also the reason why Robberie should be applauded for keeping music fun and real. There are songs here that are truly inspiring. Just the music to ‘Tomorrow’ will brighten the darkest of days and the vocal arrangement on this song is nothing less than brilliant, the song, no matter how you interpret the lyrics, just gives off a good-to–be-alive feeling. Stunning. There’s so much here we can all relate to, from making mixtapes on ‘The T-Shirt Song’ to being the one standing with their back to the wall watching everyone else have fun on ‘This Dancefloor Needs Me’. There’s someone’s whole life mapped out on this album and it could easily be mine or yours. Although each and every song is clothed in a tune that will be spinning around your head long after the album has finished, ‘Seven Hills’ should be singled out for special mention. It is a simply gorgeous tune and brilliant vocal performance from the girls, a love song to a city has never sounded so beautiful yet so sad. There are some albums that you just know are going to stay the course, albums that for whatever reason touch you and that become a part of your life. It’s always more difficult to explain why certain albums mean so much while other great albums just become another album on the shelf. ‘Beneath Your City As You Dream’ is a perfect pop album, intelligent lyrics, catchy tunes, three artists who share the same musical vision and who, when their voices come together, can brighten the darkest of days. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but Robberie, probably without even realising, have just produced a gem of an album. Robberie have a website at www.robberie.com but so impressed were we with their album we wanted to know more about the band than we could find on their site. Robin kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his group and also the album. PB: How long have you been making music as Robberie and how did you all meet? R: We’ve been playing since 2010 when I moved back up from London and wanted to play music again. I’d been introduced to Val through our mutual London friend Kate, who said she could sing, so we got together to play and try to write a few songs. Val’s friend Nik joined in early 2011. I had an idea in my head that it’d be cool to look like the Human League (two girls, one boy), so Nik got involved before we even decided what instrument she could learn and play! Unfortunately, we’d decided our band name by then, so couldn’t incorporate her name in ‘Robberie’... PB: What inspired you to make music together? K: I think Sheffield indiepop band Monkey Swallows the Universe were a big inspiration. I got really into them after the release of their first album and saw them every time they came to London. I remember thinking that they looked like they were enjoying it so much - it basically looked like a group of good friends having fun as the first priority and then being in a band second - so I thought, maybe I could do that with some friends. Plus, I’d been writing a few songs anyway so it was good timing from that point of view. I think moving back to Sheffield was maybe the other push I needed to actually do something about it and form the band. PB: Can you give details of which instruments each member of the band plays on the album? R; In the main, I play acoustic guitar, Nik plays acoustic bass and Val plays glockenspiel and tambourine. But we then have some songs where Val and Nik also play melodica and keyboard. Val is the main singer, with Nik and I doing backing vocals. PB: We have no details of songwriting credits on our copy of ‘Beneath Your City; As You Dream’. Are the songs collaborations between all three members of the band? R: Pretty much all of the songs are written by me apart from 'Academical', which Val provided the source lyrics for and I helped turn into a full song. But usually I come up with the idea, a basic melody and chords, and then Nik and Val will help flesh it out and work out the nice harmonies. PB: You write astute lyrics that immediately resonate with the listener. They are often tinged with sadness yet more often than not also raise a knowing smile. Are they autobiographical or do you just have a keen ear and eye for picking up on what is going on around you? R: Quite a lot of the songs are autobiographical or based on my own experiences - for example 'My Story', 'The T-Shirt Song', 'This Dancefloor Needs me' and 'Seven Hills' - although some aren’t and instead just grew from an idea. 'Journeyman' is about a fictional footballer, although it really explores the ideas of aspiration and achievement and how people measure success in life. 'In The Next Town' (Same Old Radio) was inspired by one day at work in London where we took turns to listen online to each of our hometown commercial radio stations, and soon realised that actually they all sounded exactly the same. And the words for 'The Broad and Narrow Way' are written from the point of someone trying to reconcile their sexuality and faith. PB: The melodies you hang your lyrics on are instantly catchy and pretty, even when at odds with the lyrics; which comes first for you as songwriters, the lyrics or melody? R: We seem to have a few songs that come across as light-hearted but are really about something much bigger, which wasn’t intentional but maybe that is our style. I’m a big Pet Shop Boys fan and although musically we’re obviously quite different, I do love the mix of melancholy, euphoria and humour that they combine, so maybe that has found its way into our music too. Most songs start life as a chord sequence, riff or melody line and then grow from there. Once a theme or idea for a song has been established, I’ll then write some words. I have a book where I write down a nice chord sequence or phrase that I think might be good to use in a song. PB: Where was the album recorded? Again details are sketchy so can you give us some information as to who helped out with the production/recording of the album, if any outside help was used? R: We recorded the album over a long period - the first sessions were January 2013! We did two sessions at 2Fly in Sheffield with Alan Smyth which we were really pleased with - he has a knack for adding the right amount of polish but also keeping some of the rawness that suits our style. The problem we found with taking so long over recording the album is that by the end of the process, our original songs had then developed further and were sometimes played or sung differently. 'Seven Hills' - possibly the song we’re best known for - was a case in point. The 2013 version was good but too fast. We tried slowing it down using software but couldn’t get it to sound right, so ended up recording a new version with a great guy called Jon Chapman. The tempo on this was much more stately, and is the one found on the album and single. Maybe we’ll put out the more hurried version as a curiosity one day. PB: Acoustic indie pop is how your music has been described and if we’re going to label it then that’s a fair assessment, but there’s this sense of fun, one of a band knowing that they’ve created something fresh yet timeless, a sound that while not totally unfamiliar still sounds like nothing else around at the moment. Are you happy with the sound you’ve captured? R: Thank you for describing our album like that! We do have fun in the band and were friends before we started making music together so if the record captures that then I’m thrilled. I’m also really glad it sounds fresh: like many debut albums, it collects together most of our songs so far, old and new. We were so glad to finally properly put it out and yes we’re pleased with the sound - Alan and Jon both captured a warmth and also a bit of a live feel which suited our (sometimes ramshackle!) style. PB: There have been some brilliant albums released so far this year yet a trio with a minimum of instruments has created one of the most inspiring, amusing yet affecting albums of the year. It really was a ‘stop what you’re doing and listen’ moment when hearing the album the first time. Surely you have had a positive response to the album so far? R: Thank you. Yes, we’ve lots of great feedback and lovely comments, in particular after the few times Steve Lamacq has played us on his BBC 6 Music show. Hearing our songs on the radio really was so thrilling - and then when your phone starts going mad with messages, alerts and emails with people saying such kind things it is the icing on the cake. PB: You’ve done gigs promoting the album, have you been happy with the reception your live gigs have received? Any future gigs lined up? R: Yes, we had a really special time at our launch gigs in Sheffield and then have played London and Nottingham too in the last few weeks, as well as a couple of festivals. Playing Indietracks again was wonderful, we relaxed into our set quickly, the crowd were lovely and we didn’t make too many mistakes. We’re just in the process of trying to plan some more shows between now and Christmas, so if you’d like to put us on in your town then please let us know. PB: What’s next for Robberie? Given that tracks from the album have received radio play and knowing that there’s an audience for your music, are there plans for future recordings? As our album is five years in the making, I think we’ll concentrate on promoting that as a priority. We’ve got plans for another video for one of the songs on the record which we may do as a digital single. One new song of ours was too late for the album. It’s another bittersweet number called 'More Fun Than Me' about how rubbish you can feel after seeing how perfect everyone else’s life is on Facebook. People really respond well when we play it live - they find it funny and we usually have the whole room singing by the end - so we would love to get that recorded. But I think it will be a few more years before we have another album’s worth of material ready to put out, so don’t hold your breath! R: Thank you.

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Robberie - Interview

Robberie - Interview

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