Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Interview With Victor Talking Machine

I'd say that I could narrow down the list of my favorite new bands -- at least new to me -- in 2012 to 4 bands: Standard Fare, Citizens!, Childhood, and Victor Talking Machine.

The London -- Hackney -- lads have been generating some buzz lately and I was thrilled when I was offered a chance to interview the guys recently.

So here's me chatting with Victor Talking Machine!

Kenixfan: Even though you can Google the meaning of the term, tell me how you came up with the band name?

Ricky: An old friend who used to spend way too much time on Wikipedia came up with it as a name and it just stuck with us for years until we finally got a full band of our own and were able to use it. I've personally never been good with coming up with names. I can only think of jokey ones like Vampire Tampon, or my first band ever which was called Spunk Bravo. But realising MTV is VTM backwards was the icing on the cake for us.

Stephen: Victor Talking Machines are those old vinyl players with gramophones, by the way.

Kenixfan: Can you give us a bit of background on the band members and where they come from -- influences and that?

Ricky: I come from Essex but didn't meet Ste until university in London. There weren't many guitarists at our halls so naturally we ended up hanging out together, sharing albums and getting excited about bands like Death From Above 1979 and Queens Of The Stone Age. When we started jamming together it was for a band years ago but we found that we were the only two on the same page; there were too many pilots or cooks or whatever and the songs just sounded like a jingly-jangly, muso mess. 

A friend of ours started dating this cool drummer and he came to see us play. He said his name was George and he grew up in South London. I think he must have liked the way we stumbled around on stage because when we asked him if he wanted to join he said yes! He's a better musician than both of us put together you see, but a modest one too which is lovely.

Stephen: I come from Warrington, a satellite town up north. I wrote with a few different people before Ricky, but things only started to make sense when we started fronting the band together. We've just got a very good understanding of one another musically and personally, which makes the whole writing process effortless.

I met Matt our bass player through an old friend from Warrington [and] we hit it off straight away. We were missing a bass player at the time and I’d seen him switching from bass to guitar in his old band Chapter Sweetheart -- the boy had skills! So I asked him if he wanted in and the rest is history really.

Kenixfan: What have been some of your successes so far?

Ricky: That's an odd question really because our upcoming EP (November) is only our second release so everything still feels pretty fresh. The first single we released got us in NME and we were mentioned in The Guardian too so we were all pretty psyched about that -- wasn't expecting it at all so we are very grateful. But when we did our first recording together earlier this year there was a cool vibe, everything felt natural, and even though me and Ste had been playing together for a while, it felt like we finally had our sound! Songwriting has been a fun breeze since then.

Stephen: Playing with Comanechi felt pretty good, we’d been wanting to play a show with them for ages!

Kenixfan: Does it bother you when reviewers and writers name-check other bands when describing your sound?  When I've done it, it's been meant as a compliment -- anyone that sounds even a tiny bit like Ride and The Telescopes is doing something right.

Ricky: It's weird because sometimes band names get pinned on us and we are like: "Who?" Most of the time reviewers get it spot on though, and just list all of our favourite childhood bands, so to be compared with the likes of Ride or The Telescopes is amazing.

Stephen: I think a name-check is inevitable, really. I personally take it as a compliment. Most of the best bands wear their influences on their sleeves.

Kenixfan: Play the downright amazing and very Telescopes-like "Sarah Laughs" below...

Kenixfan: What are your recording plans for the future? 

Stephen: We’ll hopefully be in the studio to record a couple of new tracks before Christmas -- we’re aiming to get another single out early 2013.

Kenixfan: Do you consider yourselves part of a "scene" or style?  Who would you say are your musical peers?

Ricky: We got called "goth-gaze" once which was very confusing. It was a long article about new upcoming music genres and they just wanted to lump a bunch of East London bands together for whatever reason. In London, you end up getting on with people who have similar musical tastes. We rehearse in the same studio as Fanzine, Yuck, and Comanechi so its inevitable that we're gonna make friends, but the term "scene" seems unfriendly and pretentious to us. We are all just mates making music in the same area, I guess.

Upcoming Victor Talking Machine gig for those of you in the London area...

Kenixfan: Would you say that you guys have a different sound in the studio than live?

Ricky: Not really. A good gig for us is one where we can hear the levels all nice on stage and it feels right, but we play what we play on the recordings, except we give it some and get into the songs and fall about quite a bit in the process. Occasionally we get carried away on stage too, and that's fun -- but it wouldn't feel right to alienate the audience.

Kenixfan: You've toured quite a bit.  How has that time on the road shaped the VTM sound?

Ricky: Well, we write stuff at home together a lot, mostly when we have run out of money and can't afford to go out (which is always) so the sound is more defined by our general mood together in the flat. To look at it a bit closer though, I guess our sound comes from the enthusiasm we get playing around with new instruments and effects or chords, and passing around records that we like. We live above a fast food chicken shop too and the food there makes us feel dirty and happy at the same time. Our sound is just like that really.

Kenixfan: When will a full length record be available?

Stephen: Next year would be a great time, I like the idea of releasing something in the spring -- new life and all that! But we still have a lot more live shows we wanna do first. That's why we have this EP as a little taster for your ears.

An enormous "Thank you" to the guys in Victor Talking Machine for taking the time to answer my questions.

Look for a new EP from these guys soon and keep track of their activities and upcoming gigs on their Facebook page:

Official video for "Had Enough" from Victor Talking Machine...