The Official Secrets Act are a London-based quartet consisting of Thomas Burke on vocals and guitar, drummer Alexander Mackenzie, bassist Lawrence Diamond and newest recruit Michael Evans, who dabbles with synths, guitar, harmonium, additional vocals and drums. Musically, the band take a whole host of influences such as Bowie, Television and 80's synth pop to create a refreshing sound that's both modern and retro in a good way.

They have already built up an impressive CV of plaudits ranging from Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens at Radio 1 to John Kennedy at XFM and Steve Lamacq at 6 Music and on the back of some impressive singles enjoyed favourable press from 'The Guardian', 'NME', 'The Clash' and 'Artrocker'.

Now following some great live shows supporting the likes of Art Brut, Dirty Pretty Things and Gang Of Four and the release of a stunning debut album, 'Understanding Electricity', Lawrence Diamond opens up the file on his band.


PB : I’ve read conflicting reports that the band was formed in Manchester and Leeds. What is the real story behind the band’s formation ?

LD : Both... Three of us met in Leeds and formed an early version of the Official Secrets Act but it wasn't until we met Mike, found a squat in Manchester and quit our jobs that Official Secrets Act as a serious four piece really started. That was summer 2007. Some folks don't believe that we squatted... because we don't smoke crack. But that wasn't the point. The point was to play and listen to music all day everyday, and to escape from disillusioned, over educated tedium.

I think our nomadic origins are important for us. We are two Southerners and two Scots now based in London. We don’t think of our music in terms of a scene that we are part of. We are our own scene and our horizons are as broad as possible. Since we've started touring Europe we've realised that the people we represent are the ambitious and disillusioned looking for some escapism. They are spread far and wide, wider than a particular scene in east or west London.

PB : Is being in the band now a full time occupation ?

LD : Yes. We've had two days off in the last two months. There's no point being in a band if you want a quiet life. It's work, play and religion rolled into one.

PB : Who are your musical heroes and influences?

LD : David Bowie. Roxy Music. JS Bach. Jacques Brel. Scott Walker.

PB : Your debut LP has recently dropped with some promising reviews. Your record label, One Little Indian, seem to be promoting it quite well (a full page advert was in the 'NME' the other week and HMV highlighted it in the same issue), but how are sales going ?

LD : We've been on tour since the release and the response we're getting from fans online and in person is incredible. Last night we were supporting the Rakes at a gig in Portsmouth and the power cut out on stage during 'The Girl from the BBC'. The whole room picked it up and sang along until our amps came back on. I was talking to a 16 year old kid after the show who said that 'So Tomorrow' had made him think about ambition and what he wanted to do with his future.

One Little Indian are incredibly supportive and we're really enjoying working with them. We don't know about advertising budgets and sales figures. We're usually asleep during the working day. But we know for sure that the album is having a genuine impact on people.

PB : Despite remaining in your live set, how come your debut single, 'Snakes and Ladders', was left off the LP ?

LD : It’s only just come back into the live set, with a new arrangement. We were playing around in sound check and came up with the acoustic guitar/synth idea we've been using. Perhaps we'll record it again. Just for you.

PB : I have been fortunate enough to catch you live in Manchester last month and thoroughly enjoyed your performance. You certainly seem at home playing live. Are there any nerves ?

LD : Yes, of course. In general the more nervous we are the better we play. But for us playing live is all about celebration. We celebrate all the work, angst, anxiety, frustration, scepticism, disappointment and anger that goes into our song writing. If you have any of that inside you come celebrate with us.

PB : You had striking blue make-up at that show – what’s the inspiration?

LD : People have pointed out it bears a resemblance to Michael Stipe's make up, and I'm a massive fan of REM, but I've always been a Peter Buck fan more than a Stipe fan. (It's the REM fans equivalent of Stones or the Beatles). I just think it was a reaction to all these meat and veg - having a pint down the pub kind of bands. There is just so much you can do when you’re in a band, so many things you can explore with your sounds and your looks and what you express to people and how you express it, and that should really go beyond kappa tops and 10 pints. Bands like Suede, Blondie, the New York Dolls, they were exciting, they were pretty and they had the best tunes.

PB : On your limited 'The Garden Sessions' CD you cover Talking Heads’ Road To Nowhere'. Are you fans of them ?

LD : Yes. We love the whole of that New York CBGBs scene. We love the fact that it championed IDEAS as well as style and sound. Since 9/11 a load of academics have been saying that New York is the place where locations and ideologies first became the same thing. David Byrne wrote whole albums about that 30 years ago. He was obsessed with it. Did you see the building he turned into a musical instrument ?

PB : What are the band’s plans over the next few months ?

LD : We are currently on tour with the Rakes. Then we'll tour Europe with Art Brut, followed by some headline dates of our own in Germany and Holland. After that a summer full of festivals (Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Belladrum... and many more) And we're busy writing... You'll be hearing more from us soon.

PB : Let’s hope so ! Thank you.











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