The Chapman Family interview
Posted by Guest Writer on Fri, 18 Mar 2011.
Before their gig at Lock 42 on Saturday, The Chapman Family, excluding Pop, joined me for a walk along the canal. We found a quiet spot and decided to conduct an interview. We were soon all frozen, so it wasn’t long before we gave up and went back to the venue, but here’s The Chapman Family on the new album, call centres and cults…
What's the story behind the title 'Burn Your Town’?
Kingsley: We wanted something that would stand out when you're going through albums at HMV. Rather than calling it 'The Chapman Family Is Not A Cult' or a name of a song off the album, that would've been just a bit boring. We wanted a statement of intent as well. I'm not saying that people should go around burning their towns, because there are enough towns on fire at the minute so...
Where did the cover art come from?
Kingsley: We went to a few people to help us out to see what we could get. We wanted something that would be different to other things that are standing there on the rack. So eventually we just went through a whole catalogue of images by photographers and artists and found this one by a girl called Dawn Woolley from Wales. Everyone looked at it; management, band members and various other record company people and we all picked the same one without telling each other.
How long has it taken to produce the album?
Phil: If you include the song writing, quite a while. But recording took a couple of months really.
Paul: We've been working on for quite some time. We could’ve released an album a couple of years ago, but it wouldn’t be our best work. Our tracks and our sound have evolved. So it's been a couple of years in the making.
Did you ever change your mind about which tracks you wanted on the album while you were making it?
Kingsley: I suppose when we had a little bit of a wave of hype in 2009 when we supported La Roux and we did an awful lot of festivals in the UK and Europe, it would've been easy to ride that wave of hype and rush to record an album and get it out. But it would've just been a really rushed half hearted effort. We just wanted to take our time. We've never been fashionable. Even the hype stage that we had was only very brief and very fleeting. It wouldn’t have made any difference. If we'd have released an album back in 2009, we wouldn’t be gigging now I don’t think. There are so many debut albums that I see in other hyped bands where when you listen to them, you can hear the marketing machine going 'there’s your single, just fill the rest of it with 8 tracks of s***.’
Paul: At the time, some of the earlier songs might not have fitted into this album. It's moulded in time and things have grown naturally into something that flows.
Kingsley: We wanted to make a complete thing. You don’t get to release your debut album more than once, so we wanted to make sure that what we did was something to be proud of. Something where we could go in HMV and have a little gothy tear coming from our little gothy eyes.
Is there one or more tracks that you’re particularly proud of?
Phil: I’m very proud of 1000 lies.
Paul: yeah I’m very proud of all the tracks but when we recorded it and put it together we wanted it to be a flowing thing, so rather than be 10 tracks, it is one album.
Kingsley: We didn’t really want it to have certain songs that stand out and we hope if people listen to it, they don’t go through and go 'that's my favourite; I’m going to download that on itunes.’
Paul: When we put it together, we did it in a way that it’s an album to be actually listened to.
Kingsley: We wanted it to makes sense as something that you could sit down and listen to for 35 minutes or something as opposed to picking and choosing.
Paul: There’s something nice about 'back in the day' I suppose when people used to buy albums on vinyl, put them on a record player and sit in a darkened room and listen to it... even if its Pink Floyd for 3 hours! There’s something nice about that.
Kingsley: We have released it on itunes of course though!
How's your music evolved since you first started playing together?
Kingsley: I’ve learnt how to play. You see all sorts of weird comments that say ' they didn’t used to sound like that; why are they releasing this album? They’re just trying to jump on some sort of bandwagon.' but for starters there isn’t any bandwagon that sounds like us and we've never tried to jump on anything, its not like were trying to do f***ing Mumford and Sons. But as far as evolving sound and stuff its just development. There’s nothing more boring than playing the same songs over and over again in the same way. It’s for our own amusement to improve and change. What's that thing where you’re at work and you have self assessment?
Paul: An appraisal?
Kingsley: Yeah it’s like when I worked at a call centre we had to do an appraisal there and it was like 'what do you want to do?' and I was like 'I just want to do my job and work in a call centre' it was all 'no no no you’ve got to have ambition, you’ve got to want to be a team leader or manager' and I got really bored and quit my job so maybe I should’ve tried to go on some sort of appraisal arc. I could've been a team leader!
Paul: I don’t think we sat down and said we must sound like this or in 6 months time we need to sound like this. Things just developed naturally.
Phil: You get to know each other better and better and you get to know each others strengths and you play to that really.
Kingsley: Pop turned up with a bass and a box of pedals and his mate taught him where to put his fingers for the songs the week before. So in relation to the question 'why did it take so long?', it was because we were waiting for pop to learn how to play the bass. We were all classically trained!... In the call centre. We were already at our zenith!
When writing, which comes first, the music or the lyrics?
Kingsley: It’s a whole mess. I don’t think people should have any set way of doing it like I’ve wrote some amazing words, write me a song for that'.
Paul: Somebody will turn up with a riff and you start playing it.
Kingsley: I now work in an art gallery and I sit there and tell people 'no' when they reach to touch the paintings. People ask me what my job is and I say I work in an art gallery and they’re like 'get you, that’s a posh job'. But its not, it’s just a council job and I sit there in a black t-shirt telling people not to touch works of art. What was the question? Yeah you shouldn't have a set plan, just get on with it.
Phil: Every time you think you’ve cracked it, the next songs different.
Who would you say are your main musical influences?
Kingsley: David Bowie.
Paul: A mish-mash of lots of…
Phil: Everything. Just listen to as much music as you can.
Paul: It’s not just music, it’s things that happen around you.
Kingsley: You can be influenced by bad music as well. The reason why we started is because me and Paul used to go and watch really…
Paul: What we consider to be p**s-poor bands.
Kingsley: It just got really boring so we decided to, in our own way, do something about it. So I was influenced by bands that wanted to sound like The Libertines!
What was the most memorable gig you’ve ever been to?
Kingsley & Paul: Motley Crue!
Kingsley: We saw Motley Crue at Manchester Arena, which was pretty life changing! But back to the earlier question, we watched a lot of sub-par Libertines; bands from Scotland and the North West, trying to sound Cockney. I get bad reviews for singing in my own accent. I watched This Morning the other day and Jamie Bell from Billy Elliot was on it and his accent is somewhere between Billingham and Los Angeles! Somewhere in the mid-Atlantic.
Paul: We went to school with a relation of Jamie bell.
Kingsley: There you go! We’re all inbred in Teesside!
One final question: Is The Chapman Family a cult?
Paul: Of course we’re not a cult.
Kingsley: even though we put it on t-shirts and badges.
Paul: Yeah you can all wear the same t-shirts and listen to the same music and wear the same bags, which is not cult-like in any way shape or form!
Kingsley: The only reason that I did that was for Myspace. At the time Myspace was a mystery world to me, and everyone was telling me to put the new demo on Myspace. So I did but it asked me for a ‘tagline’ and I didn’t know what a tagline was. I’m not a newspaper editor! To me a tagline is a statement, so I just put ‘is not a cult’ and thought it sounded quite cool. And then I started painting it all over t-shirts and various bits of merchandise and it stuck.
So there you have it! Massive thanks to The Chapman Family, a genuinely lovely band of Northerners.
- Interview by Hannah Lockwood