Burning Astronomers Interview
When did you decide you wanted a career in music?
I suppose from the age of around 17/18. We were not really into music from our era (80’s pop etc), at least not until The Happy Mondays and The Stone roses turned up to save the world from Stock, Aitken and Waterman! So got into other older bands - The Beatles, The Stones, Talking Heads, Pink Floyd etc and just started writing songs ourselves, taking our influence from these self-contained groups who wrote their own stuff.
I bought a guitar and my sister had a cheap and knackered old cassette recorder that we always nicked from her, plus the garage where I lived was never used so we used to spend all our time in the cold and dusty garage with this crappy cassette player recording our songs! We were quite dedicated though and even though it was the most rudimentary set up, we used to experiment and try and make the recordings more interesting, like standing at the end of the garage with one of us up close and using lots of effects pedals. We wrote a couple of albums worth of music and self-released them, just making tape copies for our friends. They were pretty awful but we just enjoyed it so much that we’ve stuck with it ever since, I would never say we’ve had a “career” in music but we have been writing, recording and performing our songs now for best part of 30 years…and we have no intention of stopping .
Pick a song of yours and tell us the story of how it was written and what the song is about?.
If I may I’ll suggest two songs and let you decide which answer works best for your magazine. Reason I say this is the first song I’d pick is a track called Red Van.
Red Van is about my late brother, more specifically it is about his sudden death and the feelings of grief and loss in the immediate aftermath up to his funeral (cheery I know!). The title is because he was an artist and used to transport his works around various exhibitions using an old red post office van. He was my older brother by 4 years and was also a musician, songwriter and creative person. He also used to record music at home in the garage (the now famous garage!) and we’d often stay up and listen to him and the band. He was a massive influence on me in that sense as he was a true artist and really part of what we were trying to emulate was him and his approach to creative work.
He was a huge support during our early years and helped us with recordings and guidance. He died suddenly and with no prior warning of ill health in 2013. The song was actually a poem I wrote about 6 weeks after his death and the lyrics are an almost literal retelling of the night he died and my trip to the hospital to be told he’d gone, through the grief process of letting go, anger, loss and eventually a form of acceptance that he has gone.
It took a while to turn it into a song but I had this waltz style chord progression that I used for it and then it was probably about 6 months later before we recorded it as it was just too painful to even contemplate music for a while. Music evokes such intense memories and emotions and I think it was just too much to ask really so I wrote it and almost immediately just chucked it in a drawer and forgot about it.
Then about 6 months later we got together with my song writing partner’s brother to record it in Birmingham, England, and that is what you hear.
Although the subject matter is intensely sad, I actually found the process of writing the song and recording it a big help in dealing with the loss. Grief is such a frightening and intense emotion that we all go through at some point in our lives and I think the song resonates with others because of that collective experience that every human experiences. I think he’d have liked it too!
The other choice If the above answer is way too miserable a subject is a track called The Man On The Moon.
The Man On The Moon is about NASA, space and humanity’s step backwards. In around 2011 I remember reading a story in the papers about how NASA had decommissioned all their shuttles and at that point, they had no means of getting a human into space and were relying on commercial organisations, or Russia to get to space. I remember reading it and feeling a little sad that humanity had gone from putting a man on the moon to forty years later not being able to go into space on their own. The article resonated because it made the point that if you watched NASA’s history in reverse from 2011-1969 you’d be forgiven for thinking that everything was the wrong way round.
I remember we were both really pleased with the lyrics which talk about not seeing the man on the moon for sometime and feeling that this concept was in our lives, and had been there all our lives.
The song has always had a mellow/Pink Floyd feel too it and so when it came to recording, I came up with the guitar solo and we gave it a real prog rock feel which suited it so well and I suppose is part of our sound these days. We are really proud of the final recording as it just felt like we captured the heart of the song. I’m sure you know that as an artist you write and record loads of songs but often they don’t turn out how you imagine they would. Sometimes this is good but not always, but The Man on The Moon turned out exactly how it sounded in our heads so we were really happy.
You are in the Competition to win a year on the magazine front cover. Can you tell us why you should win and what you think makes you stand out from the other unsigned acts.
Well what can I say here, were not arrogant and so would never claim we’re better or more important or more worthy than other artists. The beautiful thing about music and all art for that matter is there is room for everyone. I believe though that our music has an original feel to it. We focus on lyrics and melody and always strive to be as original as we can. We never follow trends and have never tried to be ‘cool’ or the next big thing, or follow any particular style or genre. We just do what we do, and hope it all turns out alright
What was the 1st performance you did in front of people and what was your first gig you did and can tell you tell us about it?
That was a long time ago, at our local village hall. We had a close friend who at the time thought he was a bit of a promoter and so he put this show on and needed 3-4 bands to perform and he asked us and we said yes. At the time we had no idea how to ‘perform’ and so we turned up looking like a grunge version of Simon and Garfunkel, with our weird and melodic songs and just a guitar. I don’t think the audience had any idea what was going on, which is interesting because neither did we! We were so nervous I remember my legs shaking but after the gig a lot of people said they enjoyed what we did, despite it being a bit weird and so it encouraged us to carry on.
What does music mean to you?
Music to us is freedom, enjoyment and expression. For us it’s way of documenting our trip through this universe, it’s also just great fun writing and recording songs. There’s no rules so that is a really nice element as there’s rules for everything these days of course! Also having the ability to release independently and record at a high level just makes things even better.
Take us through a day when you are writing or recording?
We both have day jobs so we usually meet up on a Saturday after having some brekkie at some village café somewhere then we’ll get together and bring ideas together. We write alone and together and we often bring half finished ideas together and then piece them into a song. My song writing partner (Simon) is also a poet and often he’ll send me his poems and I’ll see if I can turn them into a song. The song Houses By Rivers is a good example of that. Other songs I may write most of the lyrics and the music and then we’ll work together to finish it off.
We are both really honest with each other and brutal when it comes to ideas and if one of us doesn’t like something then it gets dropped. It’s really good working together on songs because I think inside you want to come up with something good to share with the other person and so it galvanises us both to try harder and write the best songs we can.
A typical session would be 4-5 hours and we’d usually record the songs as we write them as we find that helps us and for any we don’t finish it means we can listen again to the ideas over the next week.
We’ve always got a ton of songs and ideas in progress and so we never run out of things to do. We’ve always packaged our songs into albums of work and so we work on groups of songs as an album or project. Our next album is going to be called EVEREST and when this COVID nightmare ends we’ll be straight back into the studio to finish the recordings that we started in Feb.
Can you tell me 3 things about yourself that people might not already know?
We’ve been writing songs together for 30 years but have been friends since the age of 5
Jimmy Lea (Slade) popped in to the studio when we recorded our first demo as a band. He loved our songs and we instantly thought that because of this, we’d made it! (note…we hadn’t)
Our 2nd album, recorded on cassette was stolen along with Simon’s car, it’s never been found and is now referred to as the great lost album
What would you like to achieve in the next year?
Well it’d be nice to be rid of this Coronavirus bullshit so we can finish our next album – EVEREST. Then we’ll just be promoting that and doing a few gigs here and there
If you had to write an advert to advertise your act and your music what would it say?
Writers and performers of original songs…
Nursery Rhymes with a twist of lemon on Spotify now!
If you could collaborate with any other band/singer or musician who would you choose and why?
I guess we’d say the Beatles purely because we try to follow their approach of being as original and inventive as possible and so we’d love to take our songs into the studio with late 60’s era Beatles and George Martin and see what came out, it’d be a lark!
If you had to change image,genre of music and just reinvent yourself, what would you do?
Well we haven’t’ really got an image so that’s easy to change I don’t think I’d want to do this really but if you’re insisting then obviously I’d be younger but I wouldn’t change our genre or style for the world.
If you could have written one song from history which would it have been and why?
Wow that’s a great one, there’s probably a million answers I’d give here if you left me long enough. I’m going to say I Am The Walrus. It’s such a crazy song, I have super fond memories of listening to it at family New Year parties in Liverpool many years ago.
My uncle Frank was in charge of the Bush record player that you stacked all the records on and they played one by one – it’s basically a prototype Spotify Playlist! I used to love watching it work but also when the records all finished, we’d flip them over and of course one of the records was Hello Goodbye by The Beatles and on the B side was this weird and crazy song I Am The Walrus. I remember endlessly listening to it again and again just amazed that humans had made this noise!
Can you give us a rundown of all the music related things you have been upto in the past couple of months and what we can expect for the future?
That’s tough right now as we’ve both been affected by Coronavirus and obviously not able to do gigs or record in a studio. We’ve been writing songs and I’ve been rehearsing the songs we’ve got and recording demos of them ready for when we can get back together. So now we’ve got a backlog and we’ll probably end up making a triple album when we are finally released from this madness!