It has been a rollercoaster couple of years for the Strange Death of Liberal England. Formed in Portsmouth during 2005 by singer/guitarist Adam Woolway the group have gone from strength to strength ever since. Their single ‘A Day Another Day’ has featured prominently on Radio 1, being played by Zane Lowe amongst others, and tours with Of Montreal and the Manic Street Preachers have cemented their position as one of Britain’s hottest up and coming bands. Having signed to Fantastic Plastic records who released their debut album 'Forward March' in July, the group are presently touring the length and breadth of the country before some exciting festival dates later in the summer.

Pennyblackmusic caught up with Woolway and his compatriots, Andrew Wright and Andrew Summerly, before they took to the stage at London’s Metro Club.


PB : I just saw some of your press shots and they look fantastic. Who is it that does your photography?

Andrew Wright : The Bandini one, set in the street in London, is Jo Dilworth.

Adam Woolway : If not her then my dad actually. He generally does the live shots. He comes to a lot of the gigs. He is a bit of a devout follower and pours all his time and money into it!

PB : So do you think John Fanté (writer of 'The Bandini Quartet') has been a direct influence on the band?

Andrew Summerly : In that we all like reading, I got into Fanté through Bukowski like a lot of people. But it was more specifically that character, Arturo Bandini, who was tied in with the spirit of the song, so that is why he was used for ‘A Day Another Day’.

A Woolway : If you take the ethics of the beat generation and break it down, going against the norms of the time, they still have their own ambitions and focus but not necessarily on the trodden path and ‘A Day Another Day’ seemed to have that spirit, as well as a number of songs on the new record that seem to have that theme within it. It is all about asserting yourself, establishing something, but doing it in your own way.

The beat generation, if you look at it, they seemed become famous almost by accident. They were just doing their own thing. They weren’t adhering to classic American literary rules or the rules of English literature. It was about breaking down structure and the basics, punctuation for example. You could read a Bukowski story and not see any capital letters!

PB : ‘Pulp’ for example? That has little structure.

A Woolway : Yeah that is one. It’s about the attitude. Not necessarily treading routes that have already been followed.

PB : Perhaps this is why you are becoming more successful now even though you are totally different to a lot of stuff that is out there at the moment?

A Woolway : Yeah, I hope so! It might just be because we are all really beautiful people! But no, I hope it is because people can see something like that in us. We do get a lot of lazy comparisons to bands that are around at the moment, some of which are flattering and some are lazy.

Every review we ever read mentions Arcade Fire, but, if you put one of our songs next to one of theirs, then I think they are similar in certain ways that we might share influences, but they are not the same!

A Wright : Yeah, it is a lazy comparison, but sometimes it can be quite handy. If you look at the state of mainstream music, especially the stuff that is in NME, and the only thing people know that is even that little bit different is Arcade Fire, so I guess that is probably why we get that.

A Woolway : On the other hand if you put on ‘God Damn Broke and Broken Hearted’, from the album, and it’s like come on? Does it really sound like Arcade Fire ? I mean, we love them. They are a great band, but it is just lazy hack journalism. When you pour your heart and soul into something and then people just write that.

PB : The other ones I got from your record were Hope of the States and British Sea Power.

A. Woolway : Yeah they come up. Not as much as they should though! Great bands. We really don’t mind. Every time it happens it seems to be a band we are all into and it’s flattering; just when it is done in a lazy, cynical way.

AS : People need their references points so it makes sense.

A Woolway : It’s just when your reference points are used as a criticism you kind of start questioning it. I mean how valid is that?

PB : Do you think these comparisons have assisted you?

A Woolway : Oh totally, yeah. Like we say reference points can be handy and they help people get into new music.

PB : It could go the other way as well though, there is so much appalling music out there at present which your group is different from, all that post-Libertines tripe, perhaps not fitting that scene has damaged you?

AS : Perhaps. One guy gave us a really bad write-up in the NME for our last single this week. He was the champion of that Northern, lager, Arctic Monkeys scene and he didn’t like us. But I think there are enough people out there to get what we are doing and don’t listen to advice like that.

A Woolway : In this age of the internet everyone has an opinion now, a soap box. On one had that is the greatest thing ever to happen, in a democratic sense. A power like that could bring down governments! But applied to small bands and our own little lives it’s different. Everybody has a voice and at one stage I was thinking twice as hard about everything we did because somebody somewhere would find something to criticize on their blog. But after a while you realize you can’t please everybody so just ---- them! A lot of people don’t have their own opinions.

PB : During your stage performance you hold signs up for the song titles. Is that a deliberate attempt to differentiate yourselves? Is that a gimmick is it part of a wider philosophy?

A Woolway : I don’t know. It just sort of came about! It is about not spoiling the atmosphere, breaking the mystery of the music. My voice sounds horrible enough when I sing, let alone when I speak!

A Wright : None of us are really massive front men who want to stand at the middle of stage.

AS : Too many people just dedicate songs to their girlfriends and tell really rubbish jokes. A lot of the time you can’t even make out what they are saying. We would rather create a feeling with a song. You don’t want to shatter it afterwards by putting in this human element.

A Woolway : It’s the guy who gets up to go to the toilet when you watch a film. It reminds you that you are not in the world of the film; you’re just in the cinema. It breaks the spell.

PB : Have you read the book you’re named after?

AS: I have. Well, quite a lot of it. Not cover to cover, but a lot of it at university. I did a history degree, so it was part of that.

PB : Did you all meet at university then?

AS: No. Myself and Adam both went to university, but different ones. The other three just live in Portsmouth, our home town. That is where we met. Me and Adam just got the band together when we finished university. We had been playing together for a while, just idly.

A Woolway: We just found ourselves without a direction and asking ourselves what we could do. We never really thought anything would come of it but you still need somewhere to focus and put your energy into. Music seemed to be a good choice for that.

PB : So, Adam, how did it come about that you were going to sing?

A. Woolway : Well I asked everybody else and nobody else wanted to. If I remember correctly that is how it happened. We wanted to be more of an instrumental band initially but that almost met a dead end eventually. But in a round about way we are now more instrumental but with singing! Instrumental in the way we now have something to say as well. We found we couldn’t express ourselves fully with just music.

PB : Godspeed You! Black Emperor use their liner notes to get their message across. How about that?

A Woolway : Well there is always an exception and I think Godspeed might be it on this occasion. But even now they have become a Silver Mt. Zion, a very vocal lead band. I just had some words and had never sung before, so I just did it to see what would come out.

PB : Well it seemed to work because it now seems to be one of the defining features of the band.

A Woolway: Yeah. Crazy isn’t it? Especially on this tour. We have been going to cities and meeting old friends who we haven’t seen for years and they are totally taken by surprise. None of them knew I was the signer in a band!

PB : How did the tour go with Of Montreal and the Manics? They were once my favorite band, when I was a bit younger.

AS: Yeah both really cool. Five dates with Of Montreal and three with the Manics. Really cool people.

A Woolway : We were split because Andy really really loves the Manic Street Preachers. I remember when he heard the news, his face! Couldn’t believe it! Whereas I, on the other hand, never used to like them when I was younger. But then I saw them live for two hours, and realized I knew all the songs

AS : They are fantastically nice people as well. No ego about them, none of that rock star stuff. Nicky Wire was the most charming man in the world. Ignore the things he has said. He is just the most amazing person to speak to.

PB : Yeah, great guy and a great band. Okay, finally, how far do you think ‘Forward March’ is a reflection of the band to date? Are you eager to record again?

AS : We kind of see it as a record of what we have done so far. We have already started writing new stuff; it seems like a reflection of our history.

A Woolway : I do love it, but we recorded it five months ago. I think when you are quite a young band, new to the scene, things move very quickly and five months down the line you are ready to go again.

A Wright : A lot of those songs were written as an unsigned band, or only just signed, and passionate about different things. Angry and happy at different things. Touring all the time, and with record label backing. Whereas now things are different, the passions we have come from different sources.

PB : You're on Fantastic Plastic. Will they let you do another album?

A Woolway : Hope so! I got a jazz trilogy planned!

PB : Thank you.















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