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Interview with Richard Preece
Anyone who reads Pennyblackmusic on a regular basis will know that Matinee records is a very, very popular label with the site. Last year was an especially good year for Matinee, and it put out a string of great releases.
One of the best of all was Lovejoy’s 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?' It’s far from a straightforward indie pop record, combining acoustic folk music with electro pop and old-school indie. It’s a graceful, intelligent album and comes highly recommended.
As one of the most established acts on the label, its weird that Pennyblackmusic has never spoken to Lovejoy before now, but its nice to put that right. I spoke to Brighton based main man, Richard Preece, about the band’s history, its latest album and the music scene as a whole.
As well as 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire ?', Lovejoy has also released another album, 'Songs in the Keys of Lovejoy' (2000), and three 7" singles, 'A Taste of the High Life', 'A Christmas Wish' (both also 2000) and 'Lovejoy Plays Biff Bang Pow' (2001). Richard, incidentally, is also a member of the Snowdrops, which also features Pam Berry from the Pines. Their debut "Double A sided" single, 'Mad World/Don't Buy Anything' is about to come out on Matinee.
PB: Firstly, how did Lovejoy form and when?
RP: Probably in about 1997 or 1998. I’d been in a band called the Spinning Wheels in 1991, and we’d put out a record. We were strung along for a while and eventually I knocked it all on the head. Gradually I started writing songs again, and then I met up with Keith Girdler, who was in Blueboy and was also based in Brighton. He was really encouraging and suggested that I go into the studio that Blueboy worked on and record 2 or 3 songs. Then we started mailing them out to labels.
PB: So how did you get in contact with Matinee ?
RP: I knew of Jimmy Tassos's Roundabout mail order service (Jimmy Tassos is Matinee's owner-Ed) and we knew that he’d started a label from that so that was one we sent stuff to. We got quite a lot of interest from labels, but Matinee was quite a young label, which meant that it was enthusiastic, but it already seemed well known in indie circles. Jimmy was very encouraging, and we ended up doing the "Songs in the Key of Lovejoy' with him.
PB: Do you feel you have a lot in common with the other bands on the label?
RP: Yeah, I guess so. It’s a label that’s grown up quite quickly. When we started it was clear that Jimmy was working with the Windmills quite a lot, and he started working with Sportique and the Lucksmiths, but there have also been some one offs. It’s difficult to compare yourself to any of those bands but its clear that there are common themes in styles and influences. Some of the bands go back to the 80's and were big influences on me when I was younger, like the Razorcutsand Sportique.
PB: Have you played any of the Matinee gigs?
RP: Yeah, although it’s just been me playing acoustically. I did last year’s Summer Splash gig with the Windmills, the Would Be Goods and the Pipas. I felt it was the right thing to do to put in a bit of effort and do some promotion. None of us are very good at self-promotion; I know Keris Howard from Harper Lee would agree with me there. So its nice to play the Matinee gigs every time Jimmy comes over to England.
PB: Do you play many other concerts ?
RP: Very few. I’d love to get a band together. Now that I’m getting recognition through Matinee it seems like a good time, but I’ve played in bands before and I know how hard it is to keep a band together and practice, and its more than I can handle right now. I am going to Spain, just on my own playing acoustic, with Harper Lee and The Trembling Blue Stars. The guy who distributes Matinee releases over there has set it up, and he seem quite keen for us to go back later in the year as well, so that should be really good.
PB: Do you ever find yourself conscious of fitting in to a Matinee image ?
RP: I know what you’re saying, but I don’t think so. With each release I’m trying to do something that hasn’t already been done on the label. It can be hard, but I want to improve with each release and I don’t want to go over covered ground. You want what you’ve done to stand out.
Matinee is the kind of label which is known as much as the bands on its roster are known individually. The bands all have similar influences. I don’t think, therefore, that’s a band thing. With a lot of my favourite labels like Factory, Creation, Elle or Subway it was about picking up a record, seeing a label and knowing it will be good.
PB: I agree, when I want an indie record, I’ll usually just go for the latest thing on Matinee, because I know I’ll like it.
RP: I think the good thing about Matinee is that it’s knowingly an indie pop label. Some of the items don’t really fall into that category though-Sportique especially, and Pipas as well. When I heard their album, 'A Cat Escaped' I thought it was fantastic, and a real step forward for Jimmy and the label as well. I think that ups the ante a little for all the other bands on the label.
PB: I felt the same when I heard the title track on 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire ?'. I thought that it was a real progression for the label.
RP: Well, we’d mucked around with synths before, on the B-Side to the ‘Christmas Wish’ single, and I was listening to things like Air, Bent and the Gentle People, so I made it more synth led. I can’t deny my indie influences. I wanted to do something more with it as well, and the remix of the song later in the album adds another dimension to it also. I hope with Lovejoy that when people buy a record they don’t know what they’re going to get. It could be punky, or acoustic based, but hopefully the songwriting will come through.
PB: I think that works, and that with the new album it's nice, because there is a massive progression, but also you manage to maintain the link with earlier material.
RP: I was really nervous when I was doing it. I couldn’t really play it to anybody and I had a hard time recording it, I just had to fit in an evening here and there and it was hard to see how it would fit together. I was trying to do different things and I was working with a new engineer. I was really surprised by the reaction, I was half expecting Jimmy to hate it but he really likes it, and luckily it seems that all the reviews, even if not completely glowing are all really positive.I halso ad a really nice e-mail from Pam Berry of the Pines saying how much she liked one of the songs, and that was one of the songs that I thought people might really pan. It’s been a genuine surprise.
PB: It must be quite encouraging as well.
RP: That I’ve taken a big risk but it's worked out has encouraged me. I know now that on later releases I can afford to just do what I want to do, and people will still be prepared to listen to it.
PB: Do you find the bands that you’re listening to important to the sound you make?
RP: Sometimes. I don’t listen to as many new bands as I do listen to a lot of older records for better or worse. I was given the reissue of Dexy’s Midnight Runners and I’ve been listening to that since Christmas, and sometimes I’ll think I’d love to have a horn section sound like that, or I’ll hear something on a Saint Etienne record that I love, but usually people don’t pick up on it once its been through the recording process. The influences are there but they’re not that obvious.
PB: I’d agree, there are times on the new album where you can say, maybe you’ve picked that up from somewhere, but it never sounds like such or such a band, which is good.
RP: Apart from when you’re doing a cover, and you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve and saying I love this record. Sometimes I think, why am I wasting time doing a cover, but then I’ll go back to the Jam and the Style Council and they write so many brilliant songs, but they also do a lot of covers. It’s paying tribute to the records you love.
PB: Which is what you did with the 'Biff Bang Pow' covers single?
RP: Yeah, and for better or worse, those are the records I still listen to a lot now. It may make you sound like a Luddite living in the 90's, but I find it hard to find records now that top that.
PB: It has been said that you’ll never top the feel of records that you heard when you’re 14 or 15.
RP: Yeah, I think that’s just a result of the time of your life that you’re at, and the time you have to listen to records. Nowadays it’s harder to find the time. Maybe there are great records out there, but it’s harder to find them. But then you have the internet and the global market. get sent CDs sometimes, and I’ll get a band from Sweden,. I would have never heard of them otherwise, but it’s hard unless you know where to look.
PB: Yeah, with the internet you can get exposure but it’s only ever to a limited audience.
RP: I think that’s true with what we do. I get e-mails from all over the world but on my own backyard, in Britain, nobody has heard of you. I think in a way it's good. It's incredible that people in the Philippines or Japan can pick up on your music. It would be nice that people knew me more around Britain, but actually I don’t have the time or the band to do the whole rock ‘n’ roll thing. Hopefully Jimmy can, therefore, sell enough records around the world to keep the label going, and then I don’t have to do much promotion!
PB: I think, nowadays, music isn’t a career, but that makes the music better because most bands do it for the love of it.
RP: Yeah, there are so many bands able to record music, but very few people can make money from it now. It's like a folk music scene.They can make contact with people with similar interests, and follow the scene on the internet, but its never going to reach most of the people. I can’t imagine people thinking along the lines of massive promotion. It's about making the best record you can, and hopefully selling it, but not jumping through the kind of hoops mainstream bands do to sell it.
PB : Thank you
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