“The misfits’ mistfits”, The Nightingales are a post-punk/alternative band who were formed in 1979 after the demise of the punk band The Prefects. Known as the darlings of Peel Sessions, The Nightingales played more sessions than any other band aside from The Fall and Half Man Half Biscuit. Facing many lineup changes the band split-up in the mid-80s to be reformed in 2006 by band leader Robert Lloyd. The current lineup features Lloyd, bassist Andreas Schmid, ex-Violet Violet drummer Fliss Kitson, and guitarist James “Bo” Smith. Their latest album, ‘Become Not Becoming’ was released in January to the delight of their fans.
A pleasure to hear from you here at Last Day Deaf. Could you give our readers a bit of a back-story on your most recent LP, ‘Become Not Becoming’?
Rob: An American chap based in Hungary (John Henderson) booked us a couple of shows in Vienna and Budapest. When we met him it turned out he had his own record label (Tiny Global Productions) and he was keen to release some new The Nightingales material. We usually release a new album every twelve months or so and I see these records as rough diaries of the previous year but leading up to our meeting with John we had had to replace our previous guitarist and find and rehearse a new one (James Smith) so our song writing was kinda behind ‘schedule’ and at the time we only had six new songs completed but as we had not released a disc for a year we decided to record that current material and release a mini album and then return to the studio for another full length album when we had the next ‘diary’ ready.
‘Become Not Becoming’, was released earlier this year via Tiny Global Productions. What has the reaction been like to it thus far?
Rob: As usual we have had very good reviews of the record and a certain amount of radio airplay on 6Music and some local stations plus the first pressing sold out more or less on pre-order so we must be pleased with those reactions but as normal we have been ignored by the mainstream press, et al.
Let’s talk about some of the tracks off the album: ‘The Divorce That Never Was‘. What’s the story behind it?
Rob: It was kinda inspired by a couple I know who seem incapable of parting even though in principle they appear to want to and have separated several times but once I started writing it I went off on a bit of a tangent and got in to the idea of what is the use of love, why bother and so on and so forth.
The fifth track ‘Booze And Broads And Beauty’ is so sonically diverse, how did this song come about? Did you start off with the lyrics first? Melody, instrumentation next?
Fliss: Like most of our songs, we come up with various parts separately and then try and fit them all into one song…. somehow. With Booze, we wanted to counteract a real muddy, sleazy part with a more complex rhythm.
I love the outro to ‘B-Side At Best’, what inspired the sound?
Fliss: This was one of the first tracks our new guitarist, Jim (Bo), wrote. I was going through a load of his demos from years back and picking riffs I liked and the start of ‘B-side At Best’ was one of those. I like to think the outro is inspired from The B52’s .. I came up with the melodies and me and Rob singing back and fourth seems to work quite well.
Your music video for the track ‘The Divorce That Never Was’ was directed by Nick Small and is a parody/tribute of glam rock absurdity. What was the creative process for the video like?
Fliss: We don’t take ourselves seriously and wanted to have some fun with it. It was a conscious thought to make this video all about the boys. I took the spotlight in our last video and a new video, which is still to come out… plus, there’s no way I could have pulled off those foil shirts. Ouf! Our songs have the theme of glam rock running through them and it’s a kind of homage, if you will.
As a band you easily meld genres, going back and forth between sounds, sometimes in the midst of one song. What sorts of different music inspires you all?
Rob: Well each band member has their own individual tastes and influences as well as us sharing certain loved groups and genres. The main thing is we are not interested in creating a ‘sound’ but like to play around and use whatever tickles our fancy. If you think of something like ‘Virginia Plain‘ by Roxy Music it has various parts – all of which are good and none of which outstay their welcome – yet it is a standard two minutes and thirty seconds pop song. We dig that action packed approach and are not scared to patch things together as we see fit.
Which artists or songs (other than your own, of course) have caught your interest lately?
Fliss: I have been to some brilliant gigs recently- stand out ones were Honeyblood and Moonlandingz. There’s a great band in Birmingham called The Nature Centre – pop hits galore.
The Nightingales have gone through many phases and lineup changes, but since your return in 2006 after a 20 year hiatus (with even still more lineup changes) you’ve been as active as ever. How is this time around different?
Rob: As the only Nightingale that has been in the group from the start I honestly think this current line-up is the best one there has been. All three of the musicians are top notch, inventive and have sense of humour. We all get on well considering our ages and backgrounds and rehearsing, gigging and recording is more fun with this set up than at anytime previously. But it must be said that the economics of running an uncommercial band are now harsher than in ‘the old days’.
As a massive Clash fan, I just have to ask. What was like opening for them on their White Riot tour in 1977 whilst you were still a part of The Prefects?
Rob: Playing at The Rainbow got us seen by John Peel which definitely helped my (cough, splutter) career and the other dates we did on that tour were fun enough – it got us out of Brum, we made mates with The Slits and Subway Sect, etc – but I do not think it did much to promote The Prefects in real terms and unlike you I am not a fan of The Clash and in fact found them quite a disagreeable bunch.
Do you see a rise in the punk ethos in combination with the rise of nationalism that we’re now seeing in countries like the UK and the US?
Rob: Um, punk ethos… I see blokes working in banks with spiky hair-dos and fashion following girls in torn jeans but do not see a direct link to nationalism, it’s all just simple, sheep-like behaviour I reckon.
Punk has always been more so an underground genre but has straddled the line of mainstream with bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Dead Kennedys, etc, who’ve become not only synonymous with punk but also an era, right? When a genre is more so underground but is in its essence spreading a message and the frustrations had with the world, how do bands like yours prevent it from becoming an echo chamber? How do you gather a new audience?
Rob: We do not really pay attention to other bands and have no desire to be part of a movement nor tied down to any generation. As regards a new audience… I am not the brightest of fellas so I can’t think of anything better than plugging away with our records and gigs.
You’ll be performing at the New Continental in Preston on May 1st along with artists such as May Day Special, Blue Orchirds, The Train Set, and Blyth Power. What do concert-goers have to look forward to seeing you live?
Rob: We have done a few shows with the Blue Orchids recently and I can tell you that they are well worth seeing/hearing. As for The Nightingales… we will play a non stop hour of – yet to be fully decided – stuff from our last few records and upcoming ones plus a cover of a Giorgio Moroder b-side. Unless we contrive to cock it up we will be ace – we usually are, ask those that have seen us at the Conti before.
What’s the future looking like for The Nightingales? What do you have up the pipeline?
Fliss: We’re in the process of writing another album right now. We have a few different ideas up our sleeves… including a collaboration single with a tip top musician, which we can’t reveal yet. We like to be on the road as often as we can top, it keeps our name afloat and hopefully gaining some more fans along on the way.
Photo credits: John Sayer (1st one), Stephan Koloszar (2nd one)