Friday, 4 May 2012

Tours, hotels, CD frenzy, 90's celebrities and the lovely Steve Lamacq.

Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

   A warm welcome back to you all here on The Honest Music Blog, seems like forever ago that I was last here, bitching and moaning and generally having a good old rant about the more unsavoury side of our musical adventures. Well not anymore, because what a difference a week makes...

   Last week saw us depart for our Southern Tour. Now, the word 'tour' is used loosely, but it was more than one gig and we didn't come home in between, so if that's not a tour then I don't know what is. So we headed out with guitars and good intentions to Norwich to meet our good friend Steve Howlett and play a set at the lovely Grapevine@Bedfords. Last time we were in Norwich, it was very sunny, we went to a mustard shop and Ian Hislop gave Holly a fiver. This time it was raining, our 2012 vegetarian status renders mustard useless due to a lack of ham and Holly only spent money, on shoes. Having recently come back from Barcelona, we are now all about Tapas, and lo the biblical rain forced us into Norwich's finest Tapas Bar. Honestly, we were along way from Spain but the lady that ran it gave us a free umbrella, which was nice. Gigwise, all was well, we met some wonderfully kind people, sold a bunch of CD's, they had Estrella on draught and some epically comfy sofas. Steve and his wife Jan were kind enough to once again put us up, which is great because they are perhaps the only people we've ever met with a fully stocked bar in their living room - the sadness only came as we had to be up early to catch a train because I know from personal experience how good their black sambuca is.

  And so to our next day, which consisted of a rainy drive to Cambridge, a rainy walk through Cambridge and a rainy wait at the train station in Cambridge. We jumped on the train to London with fistfulls of CD's and bright ideas in our minds about strolling into the headquarters of major record labels, pushing Jessie J down the escalator and being offered suitcases full of money for doing jack shit. Firstly though, Spitalfield's Market is one of the few places in Britain where I'm able to get even mildly enthusiastic about clothes. I bought a hat and also high fived a man who looked alot like Wyclef Jean, which was worth the price of the train ticket alone. Now the thing about London is that it's very big and record labels try very hard to make their offices look as none descript as possible, mainly for the safety of Jessie J and to deter surly Northerners from wandering in and cluttering up the place with talk of deals and contracts. What I mean is, we couldn't find any. We stood outside the BBC building for a while, hoping to bump into someone influential, but people like that probably have some sort of secret tunnel so they don't have to talk to people like us. Holly swears she saw someone who once acted in Doctors, but I don't even know what that is. So we passed up the opportunity to visit Madam Tussauds (£30 each to see aload of elaborate candals), saw a man knocked of his motor bike, lying in the road while taxis swerved to get past him, went to Regents Park and ate The World's Biggest Pretzel and The World's Best Chocolate Brownie. We did see Frank Skinner in a health food shop, but genuinely couldn't think of anything we wanted to say to him. We fought our way through rush hour tube stations and caught the train back to Cambridge with all the bankers. A particular highlight was watching the man sitting opposite me repeatedly fall asleep and gradually slip further and further from his seat into the aisle, dropping his Kindle and dirtying his very expensive suit.
                                         London: worrying.
    So, onwards and downwards we went, this time to Essex and the quite wonderful High Barn. We'd heard only great things and the venue itself didn't disappoint. A huge 800 year old barn, converted into a totally acoustic music venue and recording studio, in the middle of fields full of sheep. And, the sun shone, which was a welcome change. Having arrived unfashionably early, we were told that one of the other acts wasn't going to turn up, so our set time would be increased to thirty minutes, which was good news for us as we rarely agree on which songs to drop for shorter sets. And so, with the place sold out and deathly silent, we took to the stage. Now, an unusual thing for us is our reaction to our sets is often at odds with the audience reaction. Sometimes, we leave the stage feeling particularly smug at playing to the absolute best of our abilites only to be greeted by some quite frankly luke warm reactions. Our set at High Barn worked the other way round. We played, in all honesty, poorly compared to our usual standards. So much so that I actually apologised to Holly after our last song, convinced we'd blown a great chance to win over a room full of people new to our music. Whether our quaint Northern banter won them over or whether our set wasn't actually as bad as we thought, we came off stage to be greeted by queues of people with beaming smiles and handfuls of money. We sold an obscene number of CD's, some people forgoing their sanity and buying the entire collection. Shrugging befuddledly, we sold even more as everyone was leaving. What a fantastic night. Maybe that is what is meant by the only way is Essex. Although probably not.
                                         Essex: warm and fuzzy.

   (It's Holly here now - this is such a long blog that we decided to do half each). After late night chips and experiencing the world's loudest snoring through the wall of our hotel room in that most cosmopolitan of locations, Peterborough, we headed off at 8am for the even more cosmopolitan Scarborough to play at a wedding. There's really little to be said about this wedding - apart from imagine every wedding that you have ever been to, and you are probably quite close to it. There was a very enthusiastic (and drunk) Tracy Chapman fan who reacted quite badly to the fact that we didn't know 'Fast Car'. There was also a dog called Patsy wearing a ribbon.

After the tour, we were forced on Monday to slide effortlessly from being proper musicians back into our respective day jobs. This can't have been good karmically, as no sooner had we returned to work than we were both struck down with colds (or as I like to call them, Girl Lurgy and Man Flu). No amount of mildly amusing names could have made them more fun. Colds are just crap.

However, what we did enjoy was the fact that one of the live videos we shot a few weeks back with the team at Ont' Sofa arrived happily on YouTube. If you haven't had a chance to see it, here it is:-

When we did a show in February with Liverpool Acoustic Live (another bunch of fantastic people there), we met the lovely singer songwriter Stephen Langstaff who was headlining. After watching our set in which we played this song, he told us that he knew the man behind White Town, and asked if we had a copy of our arrangement to send to him. When the video arrived, I sent Stephen the link and he promptly passed it to Mr White Town (real name Jyoti Mishra) and he has now watched the video, commented on it and re-posted it on his own Facebook page, to the tune of many likes and good comments from his fans! This is hugely brilliant news for us as we both completely love the song and it's so bloody excellent to know that the person behind it all approves of our version. What's more, we have found that Jyoti is a super-nice chap, and it's always good to know that having success doesn't make everyone act like a dick towards the normals like us.

AND to add more glee to the existing glee of the last week and a half, we found out this morning that our chum Steve Lamacq played our song 'The French One' on his BBC Radio 2 show yesterday evening! Given the fact that we are both still feeling pretty sorry for ourselves with our Glurgy and Man Flu, we were both fast asleep when the show went out live, however via the medium of the Internet we were told by a friend that we had been played on his late Thursday evening show. Bizarrely, it was during a programme entitled 'Rock College' - but hey, Chris is not complaining, and neither am I. Any time anyone plays us on the radio we are extremely grateful! Plus we were played amongst the good company of Richard Ashcroft and Radiohead, as well as super Yorkshire band In Fear Of Olive, who we have met and gigged with before. You've got a few days left to listen again to the show if you like, we're from about 42 mins in:-

Steve Lamacq's Rock College listen again

I always thought that Steve Lamacq was way too cool to play our music. But someone told me last year that he does open and play every CD that he gets sent (which I imagine is pretty much hundreds or thousands every week), and surely this is the sign of someone who is truly devoted to championing new music. For this we say a big THANK YOU to Mr Lamacq. Not just for us, but for all the other unsigned musicians out there who you've helped. To know that our song has been heard by potentially thousands of people listening to the show last night, well blimey that's just ace isn't it? And to cap it all, both our names are listed and spelt right on the programme information. Well done that man. Or his team.

So that brings us nicely to the end of this week's Honest Music Blog. Hope you have enjoyed reading about these excellent things - we're quite sure that there will be more tales of pitfalls for you to read and laugh at soon, but until then we're going to ride the wave of the good times until it breaks. Happy Bank Holiday Weekend everyone!

HT & CB xx

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