Everyone’s favourite alternative country punk combo has taken to the road to try out new material for their third album ‘Touchdown’ which is released on Brighton’s Fat Cat records in April.
SoundsXP’s Paul Duffy turned up unannounced at Sheffield Fuzz Club and gate-crashed the evening meal of bassist Marc Beatty and guitarist Thomas White to discuss the tour, the new material, the credit crunch, and early evening quiz shows.
SXP: Good evening, so you’re starting to tour new Brakes material from Touchdown, what can you tell us about it?
Thomas: How’s it going? Yeah, we’re only a few shows in after having quite along break since 2006 when we played about 150 gigs. It’s quite difficult to remain positive after a silly amount of shows in one year. We’ve not been out to Europe or anything, so we’ve got 5 or 6 shows now, followed by a full tour in April, the albums out, then some festivals so it’s going to be a busy year.
Marc: We’ve got lots going on between now and April. In effect we’ll finish this tour, then having a bit of time off and then getting on with the next tour.
SXP:: What’s the album about then?
Marc: You’d really need to ask Eamon that, although I can read my own feelings into it, it’s not necessarily what it means.
SXP: You have got a single out soon?
Marc: Yes, yes, thanks for pointing that out. It’s called Hey Hey! And it was supposed to be out to coincide with this tour, but we’ve put it back, so it’s coming out on March 2nd, we may even do some more shows around that time. The albums out 20 April, and then out to Europe.
SXP: The album’s called Touchdown, Eamon’s recently married an American girl, can we expect more American influences from now on, if indeed Touchdown is American Football related?
Thomas: I think it was really Marc’s idea to use that term.
Marc: Where we recording the 2nd album The Beatific Visions in the studio in Oxfordshire there was a jigsaw puzzle there of a live action American Football scene, I remember when I completed I said it would be great if the album was called Touchdown. With the cover possibly being Eamon scoring the touchdown and all of us around him. But that idea kind of got lost. Apart from that the songs aren’t really America influenced.
Thomas: (to Marc) it’s really strange, do you remember that the first album was meant to be called The Beatific Visions, and exactly the same thing happened. So we’ve already probably mentioned then next album title along the way somewhere.
SXP: You gave it a working title of Thunk, which worked. But can I put a marker for the next album being called ‘Fresh Ideas’ as there are plenty of lorries around with ‘Brakes’ – ‘Fresh Ideas’ on them already?
Marc/Thomas: both laugh
Thomas: Yeah, but there’s a law suit in there somewhere
Marc: I have previously had that idea too
SXP: Having mentioned America, now that George and Dick have gone, are you going to be short on political influences from now on?
Thomas: Well, we’re certainly not going to be playing Pick up the Phone anymore
Marc: and everyone has been asking us if we’re still going to be playing Cheney. In fact instead of being ‘stop being such a dick’ its now just ‘goodbye’, which will only work for the honeymoon period and then we’ll be into Obama I suppose, pulling his administration apart, or something like that.
SXP: Have you found anything yet?
Thomas: In fact. Do you know Marlena Shaw? She’s a 60’s soul singer. I went to see her recently and she was fantastic, a lady from New Jersey with an amazing fucking voice. She went off on these monologues during her set and them she suddenly starting singing ‘Obama, No drama’ and pretty much improvised a whole spiel about Barak Obama and it was great. We’ll get Obama in there somehow man, even if it’s positive. It would be good to do a positive political song soon with our slant on it of course. With Eamon living in America a lot of the time, we’re beginning to understand the way new citizens are processed all the time, so that may be what new songs could be about. I think American people are a lot cleverer than the rest of the world gives them credit for and they are aware that people are really attacking their government, and that’s what our songs are about.
SXP: Coming back to England, and particularly Tom. Given you have numerous bands on the go…
Thomas: (interrupting) Oh I don’t want to talk about that now, let’s get back on to Brakes
SXP: Ok, any credit crunch tips?
Thomas: That is so seriously a pressing subject. As a musician I guess its no good just carrying on as before. Alex has been busy working in advertising, to just keep going to release a new record. All of a sudden Brakes is ticking over again which is great, but as soon as you sop working again you see it all dry up. I end up falling into working on music for others which helps but it is difficult. Have I answered your question?
SXP: Yes certainly. Marc, you’re living north of the border, are you making plenty of soups and stews?
Marc: I always try to live a cost effective lifestyle anyway, I’m disheartened that we live in a culture where most people don’t. I don’t own a credit card, because they’re evil. I was at a service station the other day and you know how you’re always getting approached and this guy asked me ‘Excuse me sir, are you over 25? Do you have a credit card?
Thomas: Yeah, and if you have one, they’ll give you another one. In Debenhams before Christmas I bought someone something and they tried to get me to have a store card on the basis you get something like 20% off on that day if you sign up. So I said fair enough, yes as long as I don’t incur any extra charges, I’ll pay it all off when the invoice comes. The girl said yes that’s fine, then unscrolled this list of terms and conditions with tiny type. A few weeks later I get this pin number come thro saying I’ve requested a Debenhams Credit Card with a limit of £2,000! Obviously it was somewhere in that small print, so I paid it off and cut up the card. It was inviting people to get into trouble and in a really aggressive manner. At the time I had this really abstract conversation at the till, I was offering the cash, but she was saying she’d already put it through and I would be ok to ignore everything when the paperwork turned up. It was so creepy, she did it in such a dead-pan, glazed way. So they haven’t given up on aggressively handing out credit cards, so folks who’re struggling would think ‘great, here’s 2 grand, without checking out how much the interest rate is. I’ve never had a credit card in my life, so I assume I could have told them that I could have £10,000 credit – it’s fucking mad! I found it quite abhorrent to be honest.
So that’s a couple of examples of how things have changed but the aggression hasn’t gone away.
SXP: Blimey! Back to Brakes. Eamons been spotted in a silver suit on this tour, what’s behind that?
Marc: We wanted to have a running theme for this album and you’ll see when the album comes out, the artwork lyrics allude to space travel and stuff like that. So Eamon thought it would be more interesting to bring that to the live show by wearing a space suit we bought. We’ve already lost the helmet mind, in Manchester last night. It might’ve been kicked into a corner or something. It was only something like $40, so we’ll get another one soon. We should put it out on the website if anyone’s going to America to pick us one up. We’re not re-branding Brakes tho
Thomas: No no, in terms of the set we’re still playing loads of old stuff and we’re just slipping the odd new one in. We’re basically sticking to the same set all tour otherwise, with a bit more thought going into the start and finsh.
Marc: A bit more stagecraft!
SXP: I always think you’ve been a very focal band
Thomas: vocal…oh focal
SXP: Do you Twitter?
Marc: What does that mean? We have no idea what you’re talking about!
SXP: Marc, in your blogs you often allude to early evening quiz shows with Deal or no Deal and Eggheads getting a particular mention. If you were on Eggheads what would be each of your specialist subjects?
Marc: It’s a good question – I think I would do Film and TV, Eamon would do Geography, Al would do Science and History
Thomas: I’d do Nature
Marc: There is no nature, so you could do music. We’re missing one member here though aren’t we.
SXP: Well that’s where I come in, I’d do sports. Would you be willing for me to contact the BBC to get us on?
Marc: That’s interesting, as they’ve never had a band on so far to my knowledge. Maybe, but I don’t know, we’ll get back to you on that one
Thomas: I’d be useless unless I got music.
SXP: Surely you’re all really well educated?
Thomas: No, we haven’t even got A levels.
SXP: On that bombshell I'll let you go, thanks very much
Brakes news can be found on their offical site including full details of their April headline tour and news of the album’s release can be found at their label Fat Cat Records