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SAD FILMS

RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW MANCHESTER BAND SAD FILMS

Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.

What made you decide that music is a thing for you?

I think music decided that to be honest, not me. I don’t recall it ever being a conscious decision. You know in the film Alien when they stumble upon those eggs and then before you know it, John Hurt’s got something waiting to burst out of his chest at breakfast? It was like that pretty much but instead of alien eggs I must have stumbled upon one of those toy xylophones and that was it. Music chose me as a host from a very young age and now it’s a symbiotic relationship that both enriches me and devours me from the inside out.  

If I had to pick a conscious moment, it was when a lot of my friends went to Uni after college, and I didn’t go until a lot later. I had a job in a factory at the time and spent a lot of spare time at home on my own because I couldn’t drive. I bought a second-hand guitar and a couple of TAB books and that was it. I used to get home from work and spend hours playing songs until I got told to turn it off. 

Introduce us you / all to the members and your musical history?

Well, with sad films it is just me from a writing point of view. I wanted to pursue something as a solo artist because I wanted to own the visioning from an artistic point of view. That doesn’t mean I want to do everything myself, but it allows me the luxury of keeping the horse on course and riding to the finish line so to speak. I suppose it’s kind of like a writer/director of a film where they have the story and other people help bring it to life. I am big fan of people like Father John Misty too who do a great job of creating a world and bringing people into it. 

In terms of musical history, I have been in bands before and that was a great learning experience, but I never managed to fully realise what was there in my head and get it out as something fully formed until I owned the freedom and loneliness of working on my own. When that particular lightbulb went off in my head, I knew I had something that I wanted to run with. 

Practically it’s a two-stage process; I write everything at home in my little studio, record the demos and then I send it to a trusted group of collaborators who make up my live band. Because of the hectic nature of most people’s lives nowadays there’s quite a few people involved in helping me play live so I don’t burden any one person really or expect everyone to be permanent members.

It’s become a collective whereby I have several people who can play the instruments and whenever a gig is suggested, I can see who’s up for playing a show and we go from there. Tom Favell (guitar) and Ali Massey (drums) are the ones who have been involved from pretty much the beginning though. I have known Tom for about 10 years and he’s probably the best guitarist I know which means I can do my frontman thing safe in the knowledge he’s going to really elevate the guitar parts.  

What was life like for you before music?

Before playing an instrument, I was always a listener. Music was always on in the house. I enjoyed music but above that was lots of films and TV. I must have watched thousands of films and shows as a kid. The escapism of cinema is such a fond memory of my childhood. I remember my parents taking me to a McDonald’s in Salford once and I think it was my birthday because I remember they made a bit of a fuss about telling me that my Grandparents had taped Terminator 2 off Sky, and I could watch it on the condition I didn’t repeat the swearing. I must have only been about 7 or 8.

Now, from the outside, I understand why people might be a bit worried about an 8-year-old watching that sort of stuff, but I love my parents for doing that. They trusted me implicitly to respect their conditions and I was rewarded with being exposed to a very rich world of culture, from a very young age.

I used to love when it got to Friday because that was when I got to go to the video shop after school and pick 2 or 3 tapes for the weekend. Film has been a source of inspiration ever since. The lighting, the colouring, the dialogue, everything about it. I am still obsessed with the artform to this day, and it informs a lot of my writing as a musician and how I perform onstage.

SAD FILMS

What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?

Nothing specific that I can remember. Almost definitely it was music from film and TV before anything else, theme tunes and soundtracks things like that, so I think there’s something there about images and music together that obviously made an impact. As a child too, I guess there’s a point whereby, you’re not yet fully self-aware but you’re incredibly impressionable when it comes to sensory input; sounds, images and that.

I think that’s where my ears began to develop or get used to the appeal of clear and sharp melodies. It sounds a bit silly written down now, but I think subconsciously, I gleaned a lot from how music can resonate and stir up emotions inside you, even if that is only thirty seconds of mutant turtles who know martial arts, ghost busting New Yorkers or perma-tanned wrestlers. From a writing point of view, I am the same age as Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys so that first record of theirs was incredibly important to me and really kept my interest in playing guitar.

Where do you feel you currently sit within the music industry?

If I were employing the theory of evolution as an example, in that all species are related and gradually change over time, then I would say I am currently a single cell organism with an unexplainable will to multiply out of the ooze.

From that I am either destined to blossom into a beautiful bird in the image of David Bowie, soaring high, wings iridescent inflight or I am condemned to the fate of the sloth; one with the face of Lewis Capaldi, happily hugging the tree of comfort that is just 12 second loops of TikTok friendly piano ballads. Either way I intend to fight for survival, make the music I want to make and just enjoy the process whatever the outcome.

What’s the biggest thing you have learned from someone else in the industry? 

The one and only Roy Molloy, Alex Cameron’s saxophonic superpower from Sydney, gave me a great piece of advice once. He has a brilliant radio show on Blast Radio called The Illegal Radio Drivetime Power Hour and I wrote into it once to discuss navigating the industry and stuff.

His reply included advice along the lines of, “don’t worry about the industry, focus on making stuff, remember you’re the artist; you’re a gladiator swinging the blade, not the person cleaning up lion shit.” I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him a few times and as well as being a genuinely great guy, he encourages and supports loads of new music and his occasional insight into the industry is always honest, reassuring and often hilarious. 

Tell us Two truths and a lie about you?

I was a Manchester United Champions League mascot; Norris from Coronation Street once told me and my mate to fuck off and I am currently working on opening my own restaurant; a high concept eatery whereby every meal on the menu is served on toast. Naturally, it’s called Toast. 

If you could wish for one thing to aid your career, what would it be?

I had to re-join Twitter again recently to claim my music social account and the rampant algorithm recommended me the @anon_opin account. It’s a page where people can post anonymous opinions. Someone tweeted that because of how depressing it is to make a living as a new musician, that it should be compulsory for big established acts to cover a new artist they like to give them a leg up. I only read that yesterday, but it made me laugh and I liked it, so I am just waiting for The National to do me a solid now and cover one of mine. I played a National themed gig once in Didsbury, so they owe me one. 

Do you ever worry about people taking things the wrong way or cancel culture? Discuss….

That’s quite the question to unpack! Unfortunately, I feel the term cancel culture has become a dog whistle for paranoid arseholes to double down and complain the world is against them despite ignoring the fact they are either very privileged to begin with and/or have behaved reprehensibly and don’t want to take responsibility.

There’s also a flipside to that coin where people can deliberately cheapen serious issues for internet engagement. Overall, it’s a very small minority in those extremes but they are the ones that get magnified by these algorithms because social media companies rely on divisive engagement for revenue. It’s like a magnet with two very strong opposites that just resist any form of cooperation in the middle, which leads me onto my next point. 

Whilst it’s not my responsibility to be concerned about people taking things the wrong way, I can certainly make sure that I try my best to think before I speak and pump the brakes before opening my mouth. Unfortunately, and especially online, modern communication channels have curated this quickfire binary system whereby things have to be expressed in explicit terms immediately, right/wrong, yes/no, which is why a lot of people get themselves into trouble. 

When it comes to my music, I think there’s an important thing to mention here; I take my art very seriously, but it helps to keep a sense of humour too. After all, I am very aware that a lot of what it means to be an artist these days is a very humbling, bordering on humiliating, experience. In terms of audiences, you can take my music any way you want.

Obviously, I want you to enjoy it and have it enrich your life in some way but if not, there’s plenty of other songs out there. It’s not like I am making inaccessible music. At this early stage of my career, I am very occupied with putting my head down and trying to write good, catchy pop songs that I can be proud of singing a million times. I think the idea of cold, harsh indifference bothers me more than someone taking something the wrong way. At least then you’ve registered some reaction. 

Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories? If not, why not?

I don’t think conspiracy theories exist at the level people think they do. Have you seen the people running the country? You’re telling me they can hide UFOs? What I do subscribe to though is the idea that conspiracy theories exist on a very micro level.

Take coffee shops for example. I am absolutely adamant that the glass counters that house the baked goods are slightly magnified so that things like muffins and whatnot look slightly bigger than they actually are, therefore giving the impression that they’re more value for money. I will believe that until the end of time. 

What was the worst experience on stage? 

I wouldn’t ever describe them as ‘worst’ because I got to play a lot of cool gigs with my friends back in the early days of being in my first band and I love them all very much, but there were points during that time where I personally felt really awkward as a performer. It’s funny because when I first started playing guitar, I just wanted to be onstage playing guitar.

You know, the typical legs shoulder length apart and really going for it. However, when I got the chance to perform as a singer/guitarist, something about it really didn’t sit right with me. I just couldn’t enjoy it and what’s the point of doing this if you can’t enjoy it right?

I got in a headspace where I felt like I was in a limbo between focusing on my playing and having to be a performer too. I love the songs we wrote and performed at that time, but I was definitely too self-conscious and that was causing me to second guess myself. With the sad films live shows I focus on solely singing the songs and owning that was a big thing for me. It’s like I am facing those old demons and tackling it head on.

That also presents new challenges too, for example it’s taken me a long time to get comfortable in the gaps between songs, but now I relish those moments. The prospect of looking down the barrel of an audience is a treat now and I feel at home up there. 

What makes you stand out as a band/artist?

Now I would say I am really happy with my lyrics, and I am really enjoying playing with words and concepts at the moment. I have worked hard on hammering them into shape and not settling for the first words my brain attaches to the melody.

I think that shows in the songs but also, with playing live, I have enjoyed meeting people afterwards and hearing what they have to say about music in general and how they may have interpreted my songs is something I didn’t really anticipate when I set out doing this.

The conversations can really vary and the good thing about it is that it can give you some food for thought and the odd spark of something you’ve never thought of. I think that’s cool especially as you can spend a lot of time in your own head. 

I hear you have a new music, what can you tell us about it.

Not only new music but my first ever single. The first musical meal on the pass. It’s called ‘Plugged In’ and started off as an acoustic instrumental track initially. I really liked it as it was but couldn’t really find a vocal melody for it. One day I was tuning up an electric guitar and played the riff on it through an overdrive pedal and we were off and running with the beginnings of this final studio version. 

Once the boulder was rolling down the hill and picking up momentum so to speak, the lyrics came quite easy. When doing the demo at home, I recorded them almost like a stream of consciousness and I enjoyed being a bit shouty and brash. That’s when I started to think of the song from the perspective of something out of control. What you’re listening to is main character syndrome as a rock song essentially, an untamed inner monologue of an unchecked ego.  

Like most of us, I consume a lot of current affairs from my phone, and to me, seeing how people interact online is becoming increasingly akin to walking into a bar fight halfway through. Instead of conquering the stars, it seems our current technological zenith mostly consists of granting people from my council estate the ability to argue in real-time with a stranger in Venezuela about why the wrong millionaire is playing Batman.

I liked playing with the idea of fully occupying what it means to have a serious lack of self-awareness and trying to essentially synthesise a comment section into a character of sorts. It’s become a live favourite at gigs too and I love performing it, so it was a natural choice for me to use this song to introduce the world to this first impression of sad films.

What was the recording process like?

I have spent all my life in Manchester, so I made a conscious decision to get out and record elsewhere to actually make it an occasion of sorts. Sometimes the city you live, work, socialise in can feel suffocating so if I was to focus fully on putting a marker down with these first sessions then it had to be elsewhere. 

So I chose to do these first couple of singles at Bam Bam Studios with Harry Jordan from the band Eades who was based in Leeds at the time. He’s now upgraded his studio and relocated it down south so I am really looking forward to seeing the new studio next year and getting more songs in the can. 

I really enjoyed the actual recording. It was a great experience immersing myself in the recording process and in an environment where I could feel safe as an artist. Harry is a wonderful producer and has really helped me believe in myself more.

A lot of my journey so far has been getting drunk on a cocktail of delirious positivity, self-doubt, and procrastination so to actually commit to getting something done was incredibly liberating and I came out of it not only with finished music but a fully formed idea of what I wanted to do as an artist.  

As a solo artist too, I wanted to test myself as a collaborator rather than a dictator when it came to the songs. Yes, I have a vision of what I want the songs to be, but I absolutely loved being open to ideas and trying new things when it came to instrumentation and arrangement. It’s something I want to run with on further recording sessions. 

What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?

Conviction and commitment in what I want to create as an artist. A lot of the songs I write are not about me. Allowing myself to escape into songs via characters or occupying other perspectives is a real rich source of inspiration to me and I have learned to embrace that instead of worrying about what the response may be from someone who knows me as a person and not a writer or performer. 

I have struggled a lot in the past with owning the idea of being an artist too. I have always been creative, and I can only speak about my experience here, but I think there’s something about being a working-class person that can cause you to be conditioned to stop dreaming almost or doubt your instincts when it comes to pursuing culture you’re attracted to.

I am sure it’s the same in a lot of places but reflecting on it now, especially during my formative years, it felt to me that there was a lot of forced assimilation going on when it came to culture where I grew up. 

It’s only been the last couple of years where I have managed to reconcile my own internal desire to take myself deadly seriously as an artist with the external environment around me. I am lucky that I have had that realisation manifest around me via some very encouraging and supportive people in my life but make no mistake, it has taken a long time of baby steps. 

Would you change anything now it’s finished?

Absolutely nothing to be honest. One thing I was adamant about from the outset of becoming sad films was that I wouldn’t dwell on releases once they were out. From my point of view, at the time I recorded these first songs I gave it my all, invested in making the best sounding songs I could and stayed true to what I want to do as a songwriter.

Someone told me the other day it doesn’t sound like a debut single as well, so I’ll take that all day long. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

I am due to record some more songs in January so 2024 is starting off nice and busy. Plus, keep your eyes peeled on the social media horizon for a little glimpse of what could be my first headline show happening next year too. It may be a mirage, maybe not but best to pack fresh water and sensible shoes just in case. 

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