09 July 2007 (released)
09 July 2007
"I think technology should have just stopped about ten years ago!"
Music News meets Tom White...
Tom White is not, shall we say, on the cutting edge. He doesn't own an iPod and prefers to lug a rucksack of CDs around with him on tour. The vocalist for Brighton-based indie pop outfit Electric Soft Parade craves the fresh sea air of his hometown over London's choking smog, and confesses to feeling like a "sore thumb" next to other artists.
He also doesn’t have a very positive view of the music industry. Only 22, he's already nursing the kind of bitter resentment that would do Morrissey proud. Adorning the band’s MySpace page is a quotation from Hunter S. Thompson describing the business as "a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs".
"It's a funny quote, isn’t it? I agree with everything that it says."
The band’s disillusionment stems from the success of their 2002 debut 'Holes In The Wall', which won them that perennial poisoned chalice, a Mercury Music Prize nomination, and the attentions of industry giant BMG Music. The relationship appears to have been mutually unfulfilling, with lacklustre follow-up album 'The American Adventure' failing to recoup the label’s outlays.
"I think the people we were working with could have treated us better," White muses. "But BMG’s a faceless corporation, isn’t it? You can’t expect support on a personal level that we need as people. We’re that kind of band. We need people supporting what we do. You want to feel like the people working for you are your friends."
There is an endearing neediness about White that chimes with the yearning earnestness of the band’s songcraft. They would rather have a supportive hug than a large cheque. Which is just as well, since the days of record company largesse are long gone. The band are now with Oxford-based indie label Truck, and new album 'No Need To Be Downhearted' was made on a budget so small they were forced to sleep on the floor of the barn where they were recording.
But White is delighted with the result. "For me it's our best record yet." He’s right – from the disarmingly whistlable shuffle of latest single 'Misunderstanding' to the blistering electro-rock riffery of 'If That’s The Case Then I Don’t Know', it’s a triumph of melody and accessibility.
But White admits to feeling adrift among the current crop of indie bands. "I’ve never really felt musically part of any scene." It’s perhaps a measure of ESP’s isolation that they were the only musicians of their age group to take part in a charity tribute night for Billy Mackenzie, the mercurial frontman of cult '80s post-punk band The Associates, who committed suicide in 1997.
In a line-up largely comprised of Mackenzie’s contemporaries, including members of British Electric Foundation, Heaven 17 and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Electric Soft Parade performed a cover of Mackenzie’s solo torch song 'Blue It Is', which is the B-side to their new single.
"None of the young bands were up for doing it. I just wanted to show his family that he’s still having some kind of impact. I’ve only really known the Associates’ stuff for a year or two. Then I got into Billy Mackenzie’s solo stuff. I wanted to represent the young 'vanguard'."
Unfortunately, the older generation didn’t take too kindly to the intrusion of these impudent upstarts, and much backstage bitchiness ensued. "We turned up and just got shit off everyone. We were the only band who didn't know him when he was alive, so everyone was just like, 'I knew him more than you!'."
There is something haplessly tragicomic about a band who can’t seem to find acceptance anywhere, even when they are doing a good turn. White leans in ruefully and whispers an abject admission:
"We played Glastonbury this year and I just didn’t know anyone on the bill. It was bizarre."
But he bristles at the suggestion that he is out of touch. "Well, no, I'm in touch with the music I'm in touch with." (He’s eagerly awaiting the new Robert Wyatt album, if you must know.) "But I guess if you don't read the NME for six months you’re just out of the loop." He smiles. "I’m creating my own loop."
'No Need To Be Downhearted' is out now on Truck