Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ten Questions With iLiKETRAiNS

A quick iLiKETRAiNS tutorial:

1) They are the best new UK band, no contest.
2) Progress Reform was one of the three best albums last year - and it's "only" an EP (out in the US on 4/23, according to their site).
3) Their new single, Spencer Perceval, is the best song of 2007 and I can't see anything topping it.

And now I have a chance to learn more about the boys from Leeds? Yes please!

I asked iLiKETRAiNS bass guitarist Alistair Bowis for some insight, and here's what he had to say:

1) Do the historical subjects about which you write interest each of you personally, or is it that the stories are interesting and compelling enough to warrant setting to music?

Both, I would say. The characters we write about have some incredible stories that can't help but fascinate; hence the obituaries section on our website where we are adding accounts of their lives, so people can share in what we have discovered when writing these songs. And drama and tragedy that fills them lend themselves quite naturally to a musical setting.

2) Can you envision a time in the future when writing songs about people and events from history won't interest you as a band?

Well, it is impossible to say what we will be doing in the years to come. There are so many stories out there that we could carry on more or less indefinitely, although we do have plans to progress the idea somehow, to keep moving forwards. What these plans specifically are, is yet to be decided, but we are all excited to discover where we will be going next.

3) What albums have the band been listening to lately?

Currently enjoying albums by Devastations, Beirut, Blonde Redhead, Joanna Newsome and This Et Al, among many others.

4) Given your recent American debut at SXSW, does success in the US (radio play, substantial sales and tours) matter to the band?

It depends really on the meaning of "success". As long as we can come over and play, and the audience enjoy the show, then we are happy. Of course, anything more than that would be fantastic, but one step at a time! Our SXSW show went very well, better than we could have expected really for our first time in America, but it will be interesting to see how well we are received on a more substantial tour.

5) Some of your songs have been labeled "murder ballads" by reviewers - Nick Cave gets mentioned a lot in the reviews - is "murder ballads" too simplistic a reference? Does it miss the point?

A few of our earlier songs were written after listening to a lot of Nick Cave, and could be reasonably described as "murder ballads" if you will. Songs like Stainless Steel and Before the Curtains Close are fictional tales of murder, but since then we have moved on from that. There is still an air of tragedy around them, but for the most part the stories are a little less sinister for that description. So now we are getting tagged as "history rock" or "library rock" which is closer to the mark.

6) How's the writing/recording for the debut full-length progressing?

It's going well. We have finally completed all of the songs for the album, and we are very happy with them. Half of it is recorded already, and we are going back into the studio from next week to finish off the remainder

7) One well-known example of what's now called "library rock" is Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, by Gordon Lightfoot. Are you familiar with the song? Do you like it? Did it influence the band in any way?

No, I don't know it. We will have to look out for it. Always happy for new recommendations! There wasn't really anyone who inspired us to write about historical figures. We just wrote one, and then realised that there were so many more songworthy stories to be uncovered, and it makes songwriting more than just a creative process - we get to discover all of these fascinating characters at the same time.

8) Can you share any of the possible subjects for songs on the forthcoming full-length album?

I don't want to give too much away, but along with Spencer Perceval - the only British Prime Minister to be sucessfully assassinated - we cover military disasters, 17th century catastophes, yacht race intrigue, faked death and more.

9) The Spencer Perceval single is a tremendous idea - two songs, two characters from the same historical event, each participant gets their own song. How did the idea for the single come about?

We have done a similar thing before. Our first single, Before the Curtains Close consists of two parts, the second being a sequel to the first which serves to further explain the story. And the Terra Nova single (about the failed antarctic expedition of Captain Scott) is backed with a song about a member of the Norwegian team who were competing with Scott and won the race to the Pole, but this member was thrown off the team shortly before the start due to a dispute with the team leader Roald Amundsen. It makes the single a bit more complete as a body of work in its own right, when the two sides have some connection - a bit more satisfying I think. We have some ideas of what we will do for the next one too, but you will have to wait and see.

10) As a relatively new band, is it ever possible to tour and perform too much? Will you be one of those bands who does 200+ nights on the road in a given year?

I can't really imagine being tired of touring right now. It's always great to have an audience to play to. But you do always have to be careful about not playing the same places over and over again. There are plenty of places for us still to go though. I don't know about 200+ nights in a year, we need time to write new songs and do the gardening. But we'll see...

(John Byrne)


Band photo at top by Joe Dilworth

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