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Dixie Ernill chats to Calum Lynn, the singer with Newcastle indie pop band Brilliant Mind, who will be playing the Pennyblackmusic Bands' Night at Gullivers in Manchester, about his band's decision to release their debut single on cassette and recent appearance on Fierce Panda EP, 'Zip It Up'
Calum Lynn, front man of Newcastle's soon to be huge Brilliant Mind updates us prior to their gig at the Pennyblackmusic Bands' Night at Gullivers in Manchester on November 19th.
PB: Your wonderful 'Leave Your Friends Behind' track was included on the Fierce Panda 'Zip It Up' EP that featured up and coming indie-pop bands such as the Heartbreaks and the Crookes. How did your inclusion come about?
CL: Well to be honest, our appearance on that EP was entirely down to the fact that one of our friends is the cousin of Simon, who runs Fierce Panda. He asked her if she knew of any decent bands for the EP they were doing, and she suggested us. I feel quite guilty that the only reason we were included on that EP was due to an (admittedly tenuous) connection… Though to be honest, at a time when most British pop music is provided by privileged Elliot School graduates, Peaches Geldof-dating public schoolboys and daughters of Baronets, I don't exactly lose sleep over it.
PB: Fierce Panda have released the Crookes debut LP since 'Zip It Up'. Is there a possibility that they may release some of your records going forward?
CL: No, I don't think so. We haven't really spoken to anyone at Fierce Panda since the launch gig for the EP in February 2010, although according to one of the Heartbreaks they were quite into our stuff. So who knows? But at the moment we're just self-releasing our music.
PB: Your debut single 'Our Osprey' was released as a limited edition cassette rather than CD or vinyl. Cassette singles have pretty much died off, so what was the thinking behind it?
CL: Releasing the single on cassette was really an attempt to create something that someone would actually want to own, which in my opinion is almost as important as creating good music. We couldn't afford vinyl, and CDs are simply used in order to copy the music onto a computer, and then forgotten about, so cassette was a good compromise. There's definitely an aesthetic thing there too- I used to go to Alt Vinyl record shop in Newcastle, and see all these noise artists releasing beautiful tapes with handmade packaging (for example http://www.flickr.com/photos/cullenstalin/563938587/), which is what made cassette seem like an exciting format to me. So it wasn't really a twee or indie-pop aesthetic that inspired it.
Also, I've used tapes for years and years, in order to listen to my records on the go, and then after I learned to drive a few years ago, in the car too. I like taping vinyl, leaving a 20 second gap between each side, being forced to listen to an album all the way through- it's the best way to listen to music - in my opinion. I know there are plenty of people who hate cassettes for being unpractical, archaic, of low audio quality, only used by vacuous retro obsessed hipsters etc., but I don't really care about them.
PB: Musically, there is very much an indie-pop vibe going on. Who are your musical heroes/influences and which current bands do you admire?
CL: Yeah, we're definitely an indie pop band at heart, or at least up to a point. Belle & Sebastian are a very big (and very obvious) influence on our music.Josef our guitarist and I both really love Orange Juice (seeing Edwyn Collins perform with Teenage Fanclub at Bowlie 2 was pretty incredible), and Felt are also an important influence, especially Martin Duffy's organ playing. None of us are, however, really into C86 type stuff… I've got come Creation comps that are fun, but that's as far as it goes.
I'm a huge Elvis Costello fan, and lyrically he's definitely my biggest influence: bitter, funny, sad, fast paced wordplay - all you could really ask for in pop lyricism. Also Big Star, Pulp, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Velvet Underground, Sufjan Stevens - all artists that at least two of us are into and from whom we have drawn inspiration. I also love various power pop bands (Raspberries, 20-20, Shoes, the Cars if they count, all the Yellow Pills comps) - I see 'Our Osprey' especially as being a continuation of the shamelessly melodic, slightly tongue in cheek songs that those bands produced.
This year I've really enjoyed the latest Bill Callahan and Mountain Goats records, along with the Okkervil River and Antlers LPs. I've been a bit worried, however, about getting stuck in a rut of only listening to lyrical music, so I've tried to move away from that a bit -our bassist James and I have been listening to a lot of How To Dress Well, and I've been getting into quite a few Tri Angle records artists, as well as the amazing new Sun Araw LP, Emeralds, and Mark McGuire's solo stuff. I know that James has been listening to lots of Elliot Smith and Cat Power of late. And in terms of Newcastle bands, I've been listening to lots of O'Messy Life and Baskin's Wish, and also Blood Oranges from Leeds.
Back to the indie pop thing - I kind of think that we're in a difficult position, because people who are into general ATP/Pitchfork type music dismiss us as being too twee, not innovative enough, not noisy enough, too retro, too British etc, yet for people who are really into indie pop/attend Indietracks etc, we're too direct, too aggressive, not twee enough. And as we also have no desire to chase some sort of daytime radio, NME indie band ideal, we don't really seem to fit anywhere.
PB: You are playing at the Pennyblackmusicgig in Manchester 19th November. Will this be your first gig in Manchester and do you have anything special planned for the show? Rumour has it your new single may be available then.
CL: Well, we did actually play a gig at the Ruby Lounge last year, but it was for some magazine launch and felt more like a corporate event, so this will be our first proper gig in Manchester! We're really looking forward to it. Haha, I feel as if I should say something like "Every Brilliant Mind gig is special!". But yeah, maybe we'll do something slightly special for the gig, I'll try and convince the band to play 'Our Osprey', because we never really play that one these days.
Our EP will probably be finished by then, but nowhere near released, sadly. We've been recording and re-recording it for over a year, but it's finally being mixed, which is a relief! We're probably looking at a January release now, and it'll be on cassette again, but I want to be a bit more ambitious with the packaging this time, so we'll have to see how long that takes to get together. I left it far too late with the 'Our Osprey' single, and ended up getting the posters printed on the day that the single launch took place, and putting the packages together during sound check!
PB: Any other plans in terms of gigs/releases?
CL: Yeah, after our last EP 'Blyth', we're going to re-record 'Leave Your Friends Behind' to release as a proper single. We want that out as soon as possible really, especially since we've wasted so much time on this EP.
After that we're planning a single/EP type thing, which will be three songs ('Victim of Association' and two others) linked by instrumentals, so it'll play as one 15 minute piece of music. If we get it right it should be pretty good! And that release would signal the end of Brilliant Mind phase 1, which is essentially all the songs I wrote when I was on the dole. And then we've got a new set of songs which we've just started work on…
PB: Thank you.