|Easyworld interview | Middlesbrough Town Hall | May 2003|
The dressing room couldn’t be any sparser. Two tired looking sofas furnish what is, in effect, a box room in a far and forgotten corner of Middlesbrough Town Hall. Sweet smelling smoke from a ‘tobacco’ of questionable legality is wafting in through the open door of the next room, where various members of Oceansize relax after their set in the crypt below. The atmosphere is far-removed from the excitable crowd filling the streets of the town outside, where the annual Middlesbrough Music Live festival is in full party mode. On the sofa a man, unshaven but comely, sits upright and awkward with a comfort-blanket jumper wrapped around his waist, his thumbs twiddling. He is Dav Ford, one third of Easyworld. Drummer Glenn Hooper perches on the arm of the sofa, and next to him is seated Jo Taylor, the band’s bassist. Easyworld are possibly one of Britain’s best-kept secrets, and tonight will be their first gig since the recording of their new album.
“The album will never be finished. As Lenny Kravitz once said ‘It ain’t over ‘til it’s over’, and who are we to argue with Leonard?”
Dav is known for his eloquent parlance and charming turn of phrase, and has an amusing habit of quoting from songs you’d be forgiven for thinking trite. His songs, however, are anything but trite. He tackles well-worn subjects with a new vigour, and the listener would be hard-pressed to find a cliché in any of his lyrics.
“I don’t know why, but I like writing sad songs. As Elton John once said: ‘when all hope is gone, why don’t you tune in and turn them on?’”
“Well, they say so much, don’t they?” adds Jo with a knowing smile. But Dav is serious...
“Sad songs about loneliness and heartbreak are things I just like to write about because everyone understands, even if they’ve not actually been there. In addition to that I think it’s always a challenge as a writer to, with any kind of originality, tackle subjects that have been tackled a million times before. There’s a hundred millions clichés you can throw in about such things, and trying to avoid those while writing something that is honest and at the same time accessible is quite a challenge.”
In perhaps one of the more irksome examples of coincidence, the album sessions started as the conflict in Iraq broke out, and came to a provisional end at around the same time as the war. Spontaneous acts of Neil Young-ism aside; did the vacillating global paranoia permeate the album in any way?
“The album was very much set against the back-drop of the political world-events of the time,” recalls Dav. “Watching it all on the 24 hour news channel; it was a very strange thing to be away from, in a house in the country making a record, while on the other side of the world there was a war.”
Jo agrees: “It was like watching Tank-Cam.”
“Watching the results coming in was like a football match. And the way that the coverage presented it was more like an Olympic event than people going and killing lots of other people. Everyone had an opinion on whether it was a good idea to do it in the first place, and in some ways it seems the album got mildly sidetracked or even high-jacked by the fact that that went on. So in addition to the sadness, loneliness and heartbreak there is some vitriol and phlegm.”
Your online diary is testament to your disapproval. You obviously have strong opinions, and seem to know what you’re talking about...
“No, that’s the thing, I don’t know what I’m talking about at all. I actually got into a bit of trouble for that. It’s one of those things you do late at night, after a long day in the studio. Sleep deprivation and vitriol were fuelling my writing. I know what my opinions are and I know what I think about these things but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m right and it definitely doesn’t mean everyone should get behind me and rally to the cause. But a lot of the sentiment I was spouting out then is in the songs as well. There’s no point being an artist and having opinions about things if all your songs are about lilies and daisies and buttercups, and then on your website you’re talking about war and George W ‘The Bastard’ Bush. If you’re going to be politically minded as an artist then it should show up in your work rather than just on your website.”
Kill The Last Romantic will be Easyworld’s second full album, or third if you count the collection of demos and bedroom-recorded songs that is 2001’s ...Better Ways To Self Destruct. Their last album, This Is Where I Stand was released in June of 2002 (on, incidentally, the same day they played the last Middlesbrough Music Live), to an already significant fan base. The record went from the soaring (Demons and Junkies & Whores) to the all-out power-pop (Try Not To Think and Bleach). What can we expect from the new album?
“It sounds like a thousand angels crying,” Dav reports.
“Yeah, but this time they’re sobbing quietly instead of shrieking. Broadly, I guess, it’s sort of slower. Less rock and a bit more...”
“Beautiful sad,” offers Jo.
“That’s a bit close to Beautiful South,” retorts Dav. “It’s not very Beautiful South at all. If there is anything that it isn’t then it isn’t Beautiful South.”
“It’s not Primal Scream…”
“And it’s not Phil Collins. And it’s certainly not Boris Becker. I think it’s different to This Is Where I Stand, and at the moment I’m liking it more.”
A case of That Was Where I Stood?
“I think [the new album] has much more of a unified, singular mission. The songs are better written, played and recorded. It just shows the advancement of Easyworld as a group.
Did it come together easily?
“Well, a lot of bands don’t work like this, but we write the songs before we go into the studio. A lot of the material was written over the six months before we started it. It’s definitely a studio album. It’s not a collection of live recordings, and a lot of the songs we have been playing live don’t sound like they do. And that’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, particularly with us being a three-piece. We have aspirations beyond what you can do with six hands and six feet at the same time. Obviously, live we can’t have guitars and keyboards at the same time because there’s no one to play them, whereas on record it was definitely something we wanted to do – having texturing and layering of keyboards and having a more sonically interesting and full-sounding album rather than just turning the guitar up very loud. That has served us well for many years, but there are other ways of getting your point across that are more appropriate. I think we’re probably going to be going down a route where our live shows and our recordings are definitely going to be distinctively different from each other but hopefully at the same time people will be able to see that it is all coming from the same place.”
Does the lack of much media attention, despite your dedicated and growing army of followers, annoy you?
“It doesn’t annoy, it’s just one of those things. It annoys us in the same way that a stinging nettle would annoy you. It itches for a bit but you don’t let it get in the way of your every day affairs. I think it’s a shame for everyone, for the fans, that they’re not getting behind us, because British music is kind of suffering by either being a little brother to the American scene or desperately scrabbling round looking for a new scene, and consequently there are so many bands trying so desperately to be part of a scene that no one’s actually thinking ‘let’s write some good songs and let’s play them well and record them well’. Before that happens they try so hard to get their marketing right or their angle right or to get their trousers and their jacket to match that song writing is so far down on the list of priorities. If that’s the kind of thing that the music press wants to write about then we’re perfectly happy for them to do that. It’s unfortunate but it’s not going to deter us from our simple objective."
Do you think that attitude is likely to change soon?
“I don’t know and I don’t care to be honest. All you can do is what you do, and if you go around with one eye on what your band is doing, one eye on what everyone else is doing, another eye on what the press is doing and another eye on what the radio is doing then you haven’t got enough eyes. Consequently you take your eye off what you are doing and you end up chasing some imaginary Holy Grail that is getting dragged further away from you. Then you find you’ve gone so far off following the Holy Grail that you can’t even remember where the hell you were in the first place. It’s something that is very easy to get caught up in, and I don’t know if we try hard not to but it’s certainly not something we’re going to start doing anytime soon.”
The music-loving people of Middlesbrough were asked, via an online vote, which bands they would like to see at this year’s festival. When asked, Dav, Jo and Glenn say they are ‘unaware’ of any allegations of vote rigging after they were booked two years running. Dav is particularly amused...
“See, you jump in a pond and look what happens.”
And with that, Easyworld return to the pub for their pre-gig drink. The pond that is the current musical landscape is a large one, but Easyworld are certainly making waves.
Huge thanks to Dav, Jo and Glenn and to Doug, Jo and DJ. Easyworld split in 2004, but visit www.DavidFord.mu for more on Dav's subsequent solo work.
© Record Overplayed, 2002-2019.