You might have seen a live review in NME, heard them on London's XFM or just come along to one of their gigs when they toured the UK at the end of last year. All in all, the 4-piece British indie guitar band Medium 21 have been pretty busy since they first formed in 1999. The band, which originates from Northampton, consists of John Clough on vocals and guitars, Paul Thornton on drums, Craig Brown on guitars and keyboards and Drew Kent on guitars.

"Originally there was just me, Paul and Drew" John explains, sitting on the floor in the dressing room at the Dublin Castle in London and talking to Pennyblackmusic backstage after Medium 21's last gig of their recent tour.

"We were all at university in Northampton. We met there and played together for a year and then met this young man here," he says, pointing at Craig who is sitting next to him, "and that's when it all started going forward."

Medium 21 made their official debut on to the music scene in November 2000, when they released their first EP 'In Awe of Agriculture' on the small independent London record label Outafocus, which is run by Danny Corr. They followed this with a second EP, 'Riots on the Tyres', which came out, again on Outafocus, in May of 2001.

"We met Danny through Jamie, our manager." says Craig.

"Danny's cool because we were still finding ourselves as a band" continues Paul. "We were still quite new and Craig had just joined, so we thought that noone was going to even look at us. Danny stuck his neck out though, and said "Let's do something", and ended up doing two EPS with us, which was cool."

Danny has designed all the covers that Medium 21 have used on the sleeves of their records to date.

"We have come up with the ideas for the artwork in each case and how we want it to have it done and then Danny has put it all together" explains John.

This includes the cover for the 'Riots On the Tyres' EP, which has on it a picture of a car crash.

"All the songs on that EP are driving type songs" John continues, " and so we put a picture of a car crash on it. If you are going have a cover it's got to be something that makes people sit up and go "Oh, that's pretty cool!" And I think that's what we managed to do that with that record."

The latest Medium 21 release, a three track single 'Plans Aren't Enough', with artwork once again by Danny, came out on the Fierce Panda label in September,and, like its two predecessors, has both a CD and a 7" version .

"We only signed to do a single" says John, "and hope to do an album elsewhere next year. Danny has been very good for us to do the two EPs with, but, if we are to do the album, and to become better known, the album is going to have be with a bigger label and we are going have to go with somebody else."

The lyrics are always a very important ingredient in any good song.

"John writes all the lyrics" Paul explains. "Sometimes he will come along to practice and he will have a song and we will do some stuff with it. At other times we will be playing around and a song will just appear. We haven't got any set way of writing."

"A lot of our lyrics don't do much story telling" John says. "Story
telling might involve about 2 lines of a song. We don't generally write a whole thing. We used to really early on, but now each song is more a collection of different ideas. The songs are made up from lyrics which I write in a space of 6 months out of bits and odds."

" I'm too lazy to do a whole song. I get bored" he continues, laughing.

"The best time was when we were last in the studio." Paul recalls. "The last song on the 'Plans Aren't Enough' single, 'By My Side', basically arrived while we were in the studio. Just out of nowhere and our producer said: "That's great! Let's record it." So we did. We wrote it, recorded it, mixed it and finished it in about 6 hours. We, therefore,had this song but no lyrics and John just went over to the side and started writing them and about 10 minutes later he said: "I've done it!" Those are the quickest lyrics John's ever written."

"At other times though it's been 6 months and we still haven't got the lyrics for the songs" he laughs.

"We have these songs which we really like and have been doing in rehearsals for about 6 months but which we haven't got any lyrics for" John continues. " I keep saying :"I'll do it tomorrow. I'll do it tomorrow", but I'm so lazy I often don't . We then go in to the studio and we have played all the songs and our producer will go: "Right it's just vocals now.", and I'm thinking "Oh, shit!!!", so I often have to go out and try to write a lyric for it then and there. I've got better though lately."

"Yeah, he's getting better" adds Paul.

"I'm progressing" says John, says with great self-satisfaction and laugh .

Almost every band, however good their song-writing ability is, holds a few instrumental songs in their stock.

"We all love instrumental stuff like 'Little Sandys' reflects John (A track off their 'Riots On The Tyres' EP.) "We love that sort of stuff , but it puts pressure on us as a new band because we can't come on the stage doing 3 instrumental songs."

Medium 21's first national British tour at the end of last year went fairly well.

"It was fantastic." John says with an immense sense of pride in his voice. "There were only 2 or 3 bad gigs on that tour , and those weren't our fault. People were getting drunk at the bar and things like that , but the majority were so good. We got such good feedback from it. That was what kept us going in that time. I love playing to people and I love it when people come up and say "I love that song. I bought your CD and I really like it." That's a cool thing and that's the positive side of it . but you've got a negative side to it as well."

Like many other bands starting out, Medium 21 had to finance the tour themselves, but with almost no budget.

" Many bands do that." says Paul "They think: "Oh, cool! We will go on tour." And it is great to go out and play music every night, but you get to a stage in which you also see another side of it."

"Yeah" agrees John. "We started seeing that after 2 weeks. You are on a freezing cold bus, and you really want food, but no one's got any money."

" We had to sleep in our van which was a converted ambulance." Paul says, taking over the conversation. "And there was 4 of us plus our manager plus our driver so that was like 6 of us all sleeping in this van. We couldn't afford anything else."

Such is life in the music business, but now that have the band got through the toughest point in their career and have finished their tour , what will come next?

"We want to do the album." John says, answering my question. "We've done the tour for a month and half., and we have been everywhere. We had a great time but in sixmonths time people aren't going to go: "Oh, I like your band. I'll go and buy your CD."

"That's the way things are at the moment." agrees Paul.

"We just want to do the album and then to tour it "says John, concluding the interview.

It sounds great to me. Let's see what those 4 "mediums" do with their future in 2002.

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