Saturday, September 26, 2015

Being Part Of The Best Gang In Town: My Interview With Members Of The Loft

The internet is understandably all abuzz this week with the release of Cherry Red Records' monumentally important Creation Artifact: The Dawn of Creation Records 1983-1985 box set. As I tried to explain in this review, the box does a very good job at providing evidence of the reasons why the label secured such an important foothold in the worlds of what's now called indie rock. Of course, I don't think I ever heard that phrase very much back then.

What a lot of these bands were labelled almost immediately in the era covered by the tail-end of Creation Artificat was C86. Even if a band didn't actually appear on that influential tape, if they had a certain sound -- jangle-y guitars, usually -- then they got labelled a C86 band. It was certainly a better label than twee, I guess.

One band that was neither twee nor jangle rock, was The Loft. The Pete Astor-fronted band created some of the best singles on Creation Records in those early days of the label, as Creation Artifact illustrates pretty well.

So, to provide a bit more evidence of why The Loft were so important to the story of the rise of Creation Records, and a bit of background on what made their music so enjoyable, I offer up this brief interview with a few members of the band.

Glenn, kenixfan: At a certain point, The Loft were one of the more established bands on Creation Records. Was there a sense in those early days that The Loft were essentially defining the very sound of the label?

Andy Strickland: No I think all the bands and artists in the early days felt they were pretty much stand alone. Perhaps that changed a couple of years later with more of a label look and stance. I'm not sure there was a sound for the label in those days -- more a shared attitude -- that we were all brilliant! I think the Loft was much more influenced by NYC bands than other Creation bands were at that time.

Glenn, kenixfan: How much control did Alan McGee exert over the individual bands, including The Loft and the Weather Prophets?

Andy Strickland: Alan left the Loft alone completely really. He didn't manage us or advise us -- just encouraged us and let us play gigs at his club and then put a couple of singles out. He also didn't do anything to help stop us imploding. People were generally a bit wary of us I think as we appeared to have it all sewn up and to be heading for success. It was just the four of us -- no manager, no agent, no roadie -- just us.

Dave Goulding: Alan McGee had the chutzpah to whip up a press storm which generated enough money to make things happen, and the enthusiasm to make us believe we were a part of something special. The label was full of youngsters who shared equipment, musicians and taste. As far as I could see Alan exerted no direct control over any of the bands. He fomented an atmosphere of being part of the best gang in town and let us get on with it.

Glenn, kenixfan: How did The Loft break up and the Weather Prophets form?

Dave Goulding: I had briefly played music with Pete in an art college band and his girlfriend (Heidi Berry) was one of my best friends. I believe Pete only auditioned myself and Oisin (who was a friend of Dave’s) and we all clicked. Just like that.

Glenn, kenixfan: You've reformed The Loft. How does it feel to be playing these songs again? What's the audience response been like from people who may be too young to remember the band's music from the Eighties firsthand?

Andy Strickland: We play every few years now if people want us -- always the four original members. It's been an absolute joy. The songs really stand up and we either add a couple of new ones (we released "Model Village" on Static Caravan back in 2006) or we find things long forgotten on old cassettes and breathe life into them. We played in the US in May of this year for the first ever time and it was quite touching how happy people were to see us -- really. New York was a young crowd and they loved it. We are a damn good live band I think -- we make a good noise. It's always great fun to spend time and to play music together -- we didn't speak to each other for 25 years so have lots of catching up still to do and there's a definite chemistry between us when we play Pete's songs.

Glenn, kenixfan: What's next?

Andy Strickland: The Loft have a BBC 6 Music session on 24 September for Gideon Coe -- a great way to wrap up activity for the 30th year anniversary of "Up The Hill and Down the Slope" topping the indie chart. Then….who knows. Pete's got a new solo record in the offing and is doing lots of shows.

My many thanks to the guys in legends The Loft for agreeing to this interview and to the fine folks at Cherry Red Records for arranging.

Creation Artifact: The Dawn of Creation Records 1983-1985 is out now via Cherry Red Records.