TOM WEAVER (TW): I guess that was a happy accident really. Lenny and I have known each other for years, we used to play in a band together when we were a lot younger. Fun times, that were eventually brought to an abrupt end when our singer decided to run off with the guitarist’s girlfriend. Not exactly the best thing for a harmonious band atmosphere. Lenny didn’t hang around picking over the bones of our dead project and within a few weeks was whisked off on a world tour – from that moment on the world of session drumming took off for him. Me on the other hand, well anyone that’s been in bands knows the story – the almost made it one. I played in a couple of bands that “almost” got signed. The final nail in the coffin for my music career was playing a dodgy pub in Camden where there were more people on stage than there were in the audience – and we were a duo! At that point it was time to hang up the bass and follow a more lucrative path.
Lenny and I kept in touch working together on stuff. It was June 2019 when we were doing a writing session at a studio in Cornwall. We basically stumbled across Memphis singing in a local pub when we were recording. He suddenly got up and started rattling out soul classics on an old piano in the corner of the bar. Dave, the owner of the studio we were in, gave us some of his back story… Born in LA ended up in London via Detroit and New York. His uncle was apparently a tape op at the original Motown studios in LA, and Memphis was rumoured to have sung on some of the great soul records of the 60s and 70s – but he was never credited as he was too young. He’d been part of the New York soul scene in the 80s, no-one quite knew what had happened after that. It was alleged he’d followed his heart to London and that things never really quite worked there, but around 15-20 years ago he’d just arrived in the village. He kept himself pretty much to himself but just every so often would put on a show at the pub without any warning. Lenny got talking to him at the end, we had few drinks and the next day he turned up at the studio… the rest, as they say is history.
Oh, the band name though… Memphis started the band in the 90s. And even when he left the band itself kept going for quite a few more years as a soul covers band. There have been a number of different people treading the boards in the role of Memphis, but clearly none living up to the man himself.
LENNY BONETTI (LB): Tom & I had been working together on various projects for years. Writing for people, recording sessions etc. We were never really interested in the whole band thing until we met Memphis. He is so fascinating, as a person, and so intriguing as a musician, the more time we spent with him the more we wanted to be in a band with him. So we are…I’m not sure he knows we are but me and Tom are sticking with it. That’s probably why we can never get him to do interviews!
Introduce us all to the members and your musical history?
Singer: Memphis Stone, well I’ve explained a bit about Memphis above. Born in LA sometime around the late 50s early 60s – he’s very cagey about exactly when. We know he sang in church as a kid and got his first break through his uncle. He tells stories about singing with all sorts of big names in the 70s and into the early 80s. But things never quite took off for him and he wound up in London in the late 80s having followed the girl of his dreams, before inexplicably disappearing from music in the early 2000s.
Drummer, co-writer, Lenny Bonetti: Lenny is probably the most naturally gifted musician out of all of us. You name it he plays it. But the drums are his main thing. He’s pretty modest and would kill me if I named names, but he played with A LOT of really big names – some of them don’t even know they played with him, the perks of being in the right studio at the right time and knowing the engineers really well. The best thing to do with Lenny is take him out and ply him with a few beers and then sit back and enjoy his stories. Most of which are unrepeatable, especially in print.
Bass player, co-writer: Tom Weaver, that’s me. Pretty much the baby of the bunch, in terms of musical experience at least. I’m that classic almost kind of musician. Plenty of people I’ve played with or known have gone on to do big stuff, just not me. Maybe this is finally my big break.
How positive are you feeling now restrictions are loosening?
TW: Well that was the sound of June 21 flying passed. To be honest, I’ll believe it when I see it. But I’m really looking forward to my first live gig – watching as well as playing.
How has 2020 effected your mental health?
TW: It’s been tough. Personally, I’ve not been badly effected as I’ve kept working but watching so many around me struggle has been really hard. I have so many friends in the entertainment and hospitality industries that have been devastated. It’s hard to watch that and not be affected. But people’s resilience is amazing. Lenny was out on tour when things first kicked off and his diary emptied almost overnight, but stuff has been coming in as people shifted to creating remotely. Thank god for technology, I don’t know how we’d have coped without it. But I know people out there that have had a really hard time – something like 1 in 5 people have suffered from depression as a direct result of the pandemic; loss of income and isolation. The real impact of this is something we still have to see. I’m pretty sure the trauma of this is going to go on for a long time for a lot of people.
LB: Tricky. Losing the live thing took a bit of adjustment. It was OK for a few months, evenings spent with my wife and kids, and Line of Duty and Chardonnay (that’s not my kids’ names, by the way). Luckily for us we never stopped writing, remotely, which was a life saver
How much are you looking forward to playing live?
TW: Being a band born in the studio, it’s going to be amazing to get the opportunity to get out and play our songs live!
LB: As I said to someone last week: next time we all get on a tour bus there probably won’t be as much moaning about people’s personal hygiene as usual – we will all just be so grateful to be there.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
TW: Categorically, no. Which gives rise to some really heated exchanges with some friends. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t keep a critical eye on what’s going on around me. There’s a huge amount of disinformation out there, on all sides. My biggest hate is people hitting the share button on social sites without fact checking what they’re reading!
LB: Only the 5G one… Tom and I just don’t talk about that ☺
If your fans could remember one thing about you what would it be?
TW: If they go away singing one of our choruses then I’m happy!
LB: Yeah, I tend to agree with Tom… The song they can’t stop humming which makes them smile
What useless party trick /talent do you have/?
TW: I can do a mean impression of a baby pig, Memphis is the only person I know who can wake up looking fresh as a daisy after a heavy might (useful talent).
LB: … I can brush my teeth for 10 minutes
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
TW: I’ll leave that one to Lenny…
LB: I was drumming for someone quite famous once on a live TV show. At the end of the badly mimed track he decided to jump over my kit and land on me. He knocked me backwards and I blacked out for a few seconds. When I came round the band had gone and all eyes were back on Ulrika Johnson. I had to sneak off, stage left.
What was the worst experience on stage?
TW: And I’ll leave to Lenny too…
LB: I was drumming with a band in Poland, with an orchestra behind us. Amazing experience. I had those clear perspex panels around my drums as anyone in an orchestra gets the hump if you tap a snare drum…anyway, amazing show, but as we went back on for an encore I forgot about the perspex and, as I clapped the crowd, walked smack straight into the Side of it… Nearly broke my nose.
Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about?
TW: Memphis used to hang out with legendary Motown producer Frank Wilson, Lenny used to work for a pet crematorium ferrying around dead animals.
LB: Tom can bite his own toenails, and Memphis can tell you a fascinating fact from a Tuesday in 1969, but then forget to put sugar in your coffee, which you’ve only reminded him 35 seconds earlier.
If you had to describe your band to an alien how would you describe them?
TW: 3 guys and a bunch of instruments doing what they really love!
LB: The past, the current and the future
Which one of the band is the most unpredictable and why?
TW: Lenny – he can just vanish for no reason. Particularly on a night’s drinking.
LB: That would be Memphis… Where do I start? It’s great that Memphis doesn’t do interviews, means we can say anything about him!
Which one of the band is the biggest nightmare? (Just a bit of fun)
LB: Tom. He supports Man City and has become accustomed to winning, but not learnt how to lose yet.
TW: I’d agree I’m the biggest nightmare but not because of that… When I started supporting them we were in Division 2 so that’s hardly fair. I think it’s more about the fact I like my creature comforts. So I’m going to be hell touring with. Don’t get me started on Lenny and football though!
You have one phone call and you have been locked up for a crime you didn’t commit? Which member would you call first?
TW: None. I’d call a lawyer!
LB: Neither. I would ring my mate Richard who is a lawyer.
What advice would you give someone going into the music industry?
TW: Work hard, practice hard and never lose the love for what you do.
Right now, what’s pissing you of the most? (Cant say the virus ☺
TW: Trying to get people to download our current single. It’s for charity come on guys ☺
LB: That and constantly people moving the goalposts every 5 minutes… who could that possibly be?
Tell us about a time when you had a proper reyt laugh while you were all together?
LB: Well we decided to play cricket on top of a hill when we were recording in Cornwall. Memphis was fielding so every time I whacked the ball he would disappear down the hill and then suddenly reappear, still looking cool as chips. This process went on for quite a while as I’m quite good at cricket. Let’s just say the novelty wore off for poor Memphis, bless him.
Tell me about your new single and the charity element to it and how it came about?
LB: It’s a summer celebration of all things summery… and it’s for charity, which must mean we are going to Heaven.
TW: Allow me to elaborate a bit more… It’s a celebration of being in a field with thousands of other people and sharing the amazing experience of live music, an ode to better times and the return of music festivals.
So many of us have so many great memories from festivals and that’s what we wanted to capture in this song. At the same time, we know that thousands of technicians, engineers and production crews have been without work for over a year and can’t see their financial worries and anxieties ending any time soon. This is an industry that’s close to our hearts and we’re determined to try and do something to help people whose struggles will continue – today, tomorrow and for months to come.
I’d known of Make It Blue for a while – they were the people behind the #lightitblue campaign at the beginning of the pandemic where buildings etc were lit up blue to help raise awareness of the role of the NHS, but I also had friends that were connected to them. Essentially, Make it Blue is a CIC and it’s mission now is to raise money for mental health charities specifically within the live events industry (so basically everything from festivals to conferences). Their mission and the sentiments behind our song seemed a perfect for what we wanted to do, so a friend of mine hooked me up with Sarah who heads up their external communications and we just took it from there. So all proceeds from our ingle will be going to them!
How was the recording process given the various restrictions the UK has been under of late?
LB: We record remotely, then via zoom, then together. Then press repeat and do it all over again. It’s never dull.
TW: Writing the new songs was a huge test of will power as pretty much everything was recorded and produced remotely throughout various lockdowns, with the band scattered around the country. Fortunately, Lenny was able to connect us with a mate of his (another drummer) – Steve “Smiley” Barnard (The Alarm, Archive, Joe Strummer, Robbie Williams) – and we were able to manage the whole process remotely through his studio, Sunshine Corner Studios in Fleet. It was all about emailing tracks to each other and then having Smiley pull everything together in his studio. Madness in some respects but great fun. And, again, thank god for the technology!
What are your plans for the year ahead
LB: Well a lot of it depends on that bozo in number 10. When he works out how to tie his shoe laces and comb his hair he might let us know what we can do next… Don’t get me started
TW: No, really don’t get him started! We were going to release an album but I think it’ll be an EP and then more singles – seems to be the way these days! There’s going to be at least one celeb guest appearance on one single, and a whole bunch more stuff for charity! And maybe the odd gig if we’re lucky.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
TW: Just go and download the tune, you’ll be helping people out and it’s a great track – even if we say so ourselves!
LB: Remember life is precious. Be nice to people, be nice to yourself, buy our album, don’t buy The Sun