Fingers crossed! 😀
Hoping to get it officially verified today – it’s at:
It’s July the 1st and my new single, How I Love You, is available for download on iTunes, streaming on Spotify and a host of other places.
Please check it out!
Happy hottest day in England everrrrrr!
Here’s the video for my NEW SINGLE I’m Giving Up which stars my awesome friend Mary Macken Allen!
Nat and I caught the 9am train to London. We knew we had a lot to pack in but we had the freedom that the only timetabled event was the gig we were doing for the marvellous Hangover Lounge peeps on Sunday.
After a lucky early check-in at the hotel, we headed to the London Dungeon experience. I was a bit worried about this as I heard it was gruesome. And it was but on the right side of traumatising. Loads of laughs and the actors all did sterling jobs marshalling us around the ghastly exhibits. The bit that was the most grim was the Whitechapel / Ripper bit, I would advise you to skip that bit as it features actual pictures of the victims. I found it hard going. The best bit was definitely the Drop: a ride that drops you straight down as if you’re being hanged. My experience was made bit more painful because you’re clamped into your seat by a metal bar which, for some reason, features a big chunk *exactly* where male genitalia ride. As the actress checked we were in, she thumped down on the bar and my balls were pummelled, Bond-style. Still worth it but if I go on again, I might have my knackers cut off first, save some agony.
Then we went on to the London Aquarium Sealife Centre, just next to the London Eye. And wow – it was gorgeous. Fish, crustaceans, molluscs, the whole panoply of swimmy, creepy, crawly marine life was on show. Obviously, the sharks and turtles were the best critters… until we entered a frozen area and came face-to-face with some penguins!
YEP! PENGUINS! They were such inquisitive little souls, coming up to the glass to inspect us before flashing off back underwater. I loved seeing them but it did make me think of the scene in ‘Happy Feet’ where he’s going barmy in the enclosure.
We had a bit of time left over so we headed on to the British Museum. I really, really wanted to show Nat the Reading Room: the last time we tried in 2010, they said it was shut for refurb until 2012. So, we chanced it. Nope, still shut, probably till 2014. Awww, maaaan! Never mind, you can’t ever get bored at the British Museum, the fabulous artefacts it houses reach out and poke at you, forcing you to consider the epehmeral nature of your existence. I got a bit freaked out at some of the Greek carvings, tiny statues over 2,000 years old and yet looking like they were made yesterday. Who carved it? For what reason? How did they live, love and die? And will I leave behind anything that someone will be looking at in the year 4012? Unlikely.
For dinner, we went wandering in Soho. It’s one of my fave areas of London, I spent a lot of time there when I was in my early twenties and it feels like home in lots of ways. When I’m there, that’s when I’m most likely to wish I lived in London, the atmosphere is so amiable, particularly on warm, sunny evenings like Saturday. We found a good Indian restaurant, scoffed and then made our way to…
THE PHOENIX THEATRE FOR BLOOD BROTHERS! Yep, this is probably what we’d both most been looking forward to. Willy Russell’s tale of separated twins is more than just a pondering on the old nature vs. nurture debate, it connects at a hugely emotional level. Some of my favourite bits where when the twins were young, the way the actors acted childhood innocence was flawless. Just the joy of being eight, where days are endless and all that matters is your mates and who can make the best machine gun noise. There were some heartbreaking moments, not just the end-point which we see at the beginning. I was very touched by the dissolving relationship between Mickey and his wife and how it’s mirrored by his estrangement from his blood brother. When he’s lonely and beaten down and doesn’t know where to turn, it really got to me and I admit I cried. And the songs! They dovetailed with the story perfectly, unlike some musicals where they seem wedged in as an afterthought. I was totally lost in the play, I kept forgetting I was watching live humans a few tens of feet away from me. It’s a testament to the power of the show that it almost made me forget how tiny the seat was that I was crammed in, I probably looked very peculiar to the people behind me as I was shuffling around, trying to massage the cramps out of my legs. Anyway, what a show! We were grinning as we headed back to Soho for some late lattes before heading back to the hotel.
Sunday, we got up bright and early and then hit Oxford Street. We didn’t do a marathon session as the gig was looming but it’s always fun being on that street for me, I love the bustle, the fashions, watching other shoppers. Surely Oxford Street is one of the best places in the world for people watching?
Finally, the actual reason we’d come to London: playing The Hangover Lounge at The Lexington. This, like all HL shows was totally acoustic, no mics or PA or anything. Which I love ~ there’s so much less faffing about than normal gigs.
Before us were the wonderful Making Marks, a Norwegian foursome whose songs are catchy, pithy and bright as buttons. I was actually watching them thinking it was a bit unfair, me having to follow this amazing act. I did ask John HL if I could play before them but he politely refused me!
Then we played. It’s only the second gig Nat’s done with White Town (and second ever, also) and she sang wonderfully. I was a bit all over the shop because I wanted to do new songs. So, Nat had to hold up the lyrics for one newie, ‘I’m In Love With You,’ as I can’t even remember my own lyrics. I had an amazing time playing and the audience was so friendly and warm, singing along and putting up with my often incongruous inter-song banter. We had such fun that I really can’t wait to do it again. It’s an honour to play!
And one of the bestest parts of the gig was the surprise appearance of my friend Laura Mac! She’d got back from South Korea and wanted to keep it secret so she just turned up. She’s the star of this video, bless her. ♥
We’d asked John HL what sightseeing we should do and he recommended the cable car from the Excel Centre to the O2 Arena which neither of us even knew about. But it sounded great so we headed over. (Note: if you’re going to do this from central London, get a water taxi or a tube, not a cab like we did, you might save twenty-two quid.)
Well, it was fabulous. We were lucky it was a gorgeous day and as we boarded our car and headed up, the views were stunning. It felt quite surreal to be dangling over the Thames, seeing the Excel retreat behind us and the O2 loom larger ahead. If you get the chance to go on it, take it.
Next was the Horrendous Fear part of the weekend. On the way over, we’d spotted a whirly tower spinny thing, one of these:
I have a terrible fear of heights. It’s ridiculous and totally out-of-control. I don’t even like standing on step-ladders. So, when Nat started squeaking about the ride, my first instinct was to run off or perhaps feign an attack of beri-beri, anything to get out of going on this mad looking gizmo. But then I thought, fuck it. I was terrified out of my wits so that showed I needed to do it. We sat in the bucket seats and I was dismayed to learn the buckle wouldn’t do up between my legs because of my porkiness. The bloke operating it said I’d be fine with just the saftey belt. My immdeiate thought was that I would just slide out and why did they have the restraining bar and buckle if they were superfluous? The machine spun up, we rose into the air and then started spinning. I kept my eyes shut a lot, all I could hear was Nat whooping as she waved her arms in the air and took selfies on her iPhone. I didn’t take any pics as my hands were gripped like superglue around the chains (I had imprints after for a while). I was almost getting used to it when the wind picked up and started twisting the seat all over the place. It was at this precise moment I wished I hadn’t been such a fan of the Final Destination films. I very nearly pooped myself.
BUT I DID IT. FUCK YOU, FEAR!
After I’d stopped sobbing, we caught a water taxi back to Embankment. This was the final outing of the weekend and we couldn’t have picked a better coda. The sun was setting over the Thames as we sped along the river, the riverside sights of London laid out before us. It was beautiful to see the city skyline painted with the golds and oranges of the sun retiring for the day.
Then we grabbed our bags from the hotel and caught the train home. We got back to Derby around 22.15. We crammed a lot into 37 hours.
What a perfect weekend! 😀
(Click here to see the pics from the weekend!)
Last weekend (or the one before, depending how you count) was Indietracks 2012!
Again, I had a fucking amazing time and saw some amazing bands like ORCA TEAM, The Vaselines, The Monochrome Set and… well, too many to remember. It remains the best British music festival for the atmosphere, the people, the sheer FUN of the whole shebang!
I also had the privilege of playing on the the train on Saturday the 7th. And, for the first time in some years, White Town wasn’t just me: I was joined by Miss Natalie Alice Barratt:
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have seen a gazillion pics of my mate Nat but you might not know that she sang backing vocals on my current album, Monopole. She sings on the chorus of this track:
I felt it was high time for a baptism of fire so I asked her to sing *the day before the gig.* And, bless her, she did! It can’t have been an easy first gig because the train carriage was rammed. I was thinking, ‘ooh, what if there’s only three of us in there?’ But, in the event, it was heaving and a beautiful, friendly gig! Definitely an amazing atmosphere, the crowd were all the loveliest of lovely people which is, of course, only natural for Indietracks! You can get a sense of their friendliness in this vid, taken by Chris Gillies:
I’ve played so many great gigs this year, Athens, Thessaloniki, New York and then on this little steam train, chuntering through the rainstorms of an English summer. It was a tiny magical moment. The audience was sooo quiet, luckily enough as it was only me, Nat and my guitar, no PA! And the crowd loved the new songs as well as the one big hit, which always charms and disarms me.
If you were in the audience on that terribly humid train, thank you for coming along and being so wonderful! 😀
Head over to the linky above to hear my contribution to this fabulous Olympic-inspired comp. And thanks to John for having my track on there, it’s an honour, sir!
On the 18th May, I flew out to New York to play NYC Popfest, accompanied by my soundman Robbie and his girlfriend, Rach.
I’ve never been to New York before. I have been to the US, very briefly: in 1997, I flew over to Los Angeles to talk to some publishers. I was only there for three days and the jet lag was horrendous. I remember falling asleep while some lovely guy from Maverick was trying to entice me to join Madonna’s company.
So, different coast, new city.
From the moment we left JFK and caught the cab to Brooklyn, where we were staying, I was struck by both how alien and how familiar everything looked and felt. Every Briton, hell, every European has grown up with New York. It’s the lead character in so many of our films, TV shows, comics and pop songs. We may never have set foot in it but we’re simultaneously native New Yorkers.
The first night, when Rob and Rach had gone to their place, I decided to start my stay in style and went to the KFC a couple of blocks from where I was staying on 4th Avenue. As soon as I spoke, the three girls working there were so amazingly friendly, asking me where I was from, why I was over. GodDAMN but New Yorkers love English accents. This was repeated throughout my stay – I didn’t have even one negative experience in terms of unfriendliness.
Yet, the stereotype of New Yorkers that I’ve seen so many times is that they’re tough and hard and surly and fuhgeddabadit. Not true. We were tourists, we ambled round Brooklyn and Manhattan, being annoying, taking pics, rubbernecking. Not once did we receive anything apart from the friendliest, warmest treatment. Even the crazy people in the subway stations were nice! If Americans think New Yorkers are hard and unfriendly, they should spend a day in London on Oxford Street where people will knock you over and think nothing of mugging you as they walk over your prone form. Easily, easily in terms of relaxed friendliness, New York 1, London 0.
Saturday the 19th was all about aforesaid rubbernecking. We went to Central Park, Robbie and Rach went rowing, I tried not to fall in love with every cute girl sunbathing. Then on to THE SHOPS. Oh yes, judge me for my vapid consumerism but I love shops and shopping. We went to the Apple Shop and I was a bit underwhelmed. Apart from these two pretty girls:
There wasn’t that much there. I mean, I can buy Apple shit here. There weren’t any special or marvellous items, it was all just stock.
Then we went to FAO Schwarz because we wanted to see the piano that Tom Hanks dances on in ‘Big.’ But we got sidelined by FAO Schweetz, the best sweetshop I have ever been in ever. SO MANY STUPID SWEETIES. I spent $81 on sweets. Yep.
Then we rounded the day off with a two hour bus tour. As the bus rose on the Manhattan bridge, we looked to our right and there was New York laid out, twinkling and glittering and lovely and warm. We could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance, a tiny cheerleader rah-ing it up for her city, pompom in hand. It was a magical moment.
The next day was NYC Popfest 2012, and I’ll do a separate post about that, just too much to fit in here. And the day after that was a bonus gig! Wooohoo!
But, back to the touristing. We came, we saw, we ate, we felt a bit ill, we ate a bit more. Whether it was the sublime pizzas in Grimaldis or the meat overload of Katz Deli, we overdid it. But it was all good.
The memory I’ll have of New York is of walking through Brooklyn at around 4.30am, in the rain, mainly along 4th Avenue. I felt completely, utterly safe and at home. I could have walked those streets forever. Back home, I feel homesick for NY. There’s not many cities that give me that feeling.
New York, a set on Flickr.
Please, if you’ve never been: GO. You have to experience it, TV and films are not enough. Get to NY, NY and fall in love like I did.
Long Division Festival 2/6/12, Wakefield, a set on Flickr.
On Saturday, I played Long Division Festival in Wakefield. I had a great day, it’s one of the best-organised events I’ve ever played. I even got a goodie bag of Lush stuff! :-O
Have a squint at some of the pics and thank you if you came to watch me play! 😀
Around an hour ago, I put the kettle on after returning from a gigging trip to Greece.
Rich (my soundman) and I left for Greece last Friday. I can’t believe it’s not even been a week. We’ve packed in so much into the last five days. It feels like I’ve been away years.
Tonight, this minute, I feel completely energised and alive. The last five days have changed me, they have displaced ruts of behaviour with an impatient shove, replacing them with new experiences and new friendships. It’s 2.13am as I’m typing this but I’m still on Greek time so it’s actually 4.13am and, to be honest, I’m fucked. So… bear with me.
The major reason I went to Greece was to play two gigs. I was invited by Le Page to play with them and I was flattered that they asked me. Le Page is Antonis and Terpsichori, two lovely people I’d met at that strange attractor for lovely people, Indietracks Festival. The fact that I’d get to gig with them was a big part of why I accepted because I love their music.
They met us at Athens airport at 2am and we immediately started rambling on. And we never really stopped. Most nights, we just chatted till 4 or 5am.
Saturday was sight-seeing time and we couldn’t have had better guides than Terps and Tony. We wandered around Athens which is currently this strange mix of ancient classical architecture, modern capitalist uniformity and layers of anti-government and anarchist graffiti. The juxtaposition of these elements is often jarring but always energising: this is a city that is obviously in turmoil, as is the rest of Greece due to the vagaries of capitalism and the uniform corruption of politicians.
As we walked and coffeed and caked, Terps and Tony told us about the protests in Athens, the anger of ordinary citizens at the massive fuck-up their government is making of everything and how these same people were often caught up in repressive police violence. In Greece, the role of the police force in protecting capitalism and its state is nakedly, shamelessly obvious.
On Sunday the 25th, I played at Tiki Bar, Athens with Le Page. The show went beautifully, the audience were friendly and funny, singing and clapping and dancing along to songs. And not just ‘Your Woman!’ People also came and had a natter afterwards (yaaay!). I love when that happens post-gig. That night, after the gig, we all went back to Terps’ apartment and we never actually stopped chatting at all, we talked through till when we had to catch the train. We were all just too wired and happy after the gig.
We mostly dozed on the five hour train up to Thessaloniki. When we arrived, the difference between the two cities was palpable. Whereas Athens feels on the edge, alive and scrappily defiant, Thessaloniki seems more isolated from the current unrest. It also feels far more prosperous. I kept asking how you could compare the two cities: was it Glasgow versus London, Manchester versus London or Gothenburg versus Stockholm? The answer I got more than once was that it was more like Barcelona versus Madrid which I have to agree with.
That night, the 26th, we played at CooBar. Again, the gig went hugely well. The audience all seemed into both the bands, shouting and singing and I even had song requests from the very first White Town album, which kind of amazed me. Unfortunately, I tried to play a cover of Felt’s ‘Bitter End’ and I fucking murdered it. Lawrence, I apologise and hang my head in shame.
After the gig, we hung out in the bar and had competitions to see who could walk most convincingly like a boy (girls only) and vice versa. I now realise I simply cannot sashay, I just haven’t got the pelvis for it. Terps and her friend Chrysanthi looked so cute when they were trying to walk like tough blokes, I think my heart did pop a little bit. But as well as being silly, I had intense conversations about postmodernism, the nature of human intelligence (the old Penrose versus Turing again) and the best way our future AI overlords could wipe us human scum off the planet. Another perfect night mixing music, politics, singing and no-holds barred chats.
Tuesday, we trained it back to Athens. We’d booked a carriage and so we were free to play music (on my doody iPod amp) and talk shit. And, believe me, much music was exchanged and much shit discussed. Some surprise revelations about who enjoys fucking monkeys shocked and impressed us all. You would *never* suspect!
That night, Terps, Tony, Rich and I spent hours wandering round Athens after a particularly tasty load of Goody burgers. We ended up sat in a park that was entirely constructed by the local community in Εξάρχεια. Apparently, the land was earmarked for yet another car park (there are many car parks in Athens, sprouting up in the empty spaces left when buildings are demolished). Instead, the local people fought the authorities and made a park that is both useful and full of fun. Of course, the police regularly hassle people using the park. *sigh*
Back to the apartment and more chat. We covered transitions of meaning over time in language, the sociolinguistics of gender in Greece versus the UK, indiepop and, of course, love. Always love.
Yesterday, we had a final lunch outing with Tony and Terps before we all headed to the airport. Even then, the time flew by because we continued to just talk and talk and talk over coffee and treats. So often, I feel like I’m boring people when I’m talking to them because, basically, I’m a massive geek and fascinated by pretty much everything. So I love to talk about Hugh Everett or Robert Mapplethorpe or the etymology of the word ‘quim.’ As I’m rambling, I’ll see the person I’m talking to begin to look bored and their attention wander. Inevitably, that will make me feel intensely lonely.
That feeling never happened once in the past few days. I ranted and raved, I had chats, discussions and out-and-out arguments. But through it all, the people I met engaged with me. As my music is basically me, I include the gigs in this: I felt a real sense of dialogue when I played. That is sadly rare.
Today, I’m missing Tony, Terps and all the other lovely people that I met over there. I do love Derby but sometimes I feel so isolated here because that I can’t talk about what fascinates me. But, being more positive, 2012 is my year of pushing myself as hard as I can, of taking risks (which is why I went to Athens in the first place) and already it’s brought me this marvellous experience and people I would be proud to call my friends. If I’ve had such a fantastic time by taking a risk, this simply means I have to take more risks and be braver. After all, wonder is worth pursuing.
The interactions I’ve had in the last few days, the things I’ve seen and the stories I’ve heard have made me re-consider so much of my life. I really am a different person now, I simply have to try and work out who that person is.
Thank you Terpsichore, thank you Antonis and thank you Greece!