INTERVIEW: Childhood

17 Feb

Childhood are a London/Nottingham based band who have recently become a four piece with the addition of a (hopefully) permanent drummer, Chris Brent. Consisting of the afore-mentioned Chris, plus Leo Dobson, Ben Romans-Hopcraft and Daniel Salamons, Childhood rock unashamedly ’80s sounding indie. Currently supporting Real Estate and gathering hype from none other than NME, I revisited the Bowery’s now-familiar disabled toilet after their set to have a chat about Billy Bragg, Steely Dan and a whole lot of methadone.

So how did your set go?

The set was awesome, it was great. We played here once before and the sound guy kind of was a bit weird in terms of the fact that he didn’t really listen to what I was saying. And I’m a really bossy person, so I hated it. But no, but in terms of the people that were doing the sound for us today, which I think is the guy from Arctic Monkeys – Andy Nicholson as well – but he bought the PA, they’ve got a new PA here which is fucking amazing and it’s a really good sound here, it’s a really good venue. And it’s free!

The crowd were alright – quite muted but I’d say we played the best we ever played. It’s basically because we’ve got this guy, Chris Brent, our new drummer.

How new is ‘new’?

He’s fresh out of the packaging! Straight from the jazz scene in London, man, we’re just reppin’ the new kind of thing. He’s played with us a few times before, but basically we had a situation where we’ve been playing with various different drummers. We’re currently at university and so we know a lot of drummers who are at university and they come down and play with us, but Chris is the most solid. The most solid of guys! It was a really great gig.

So is Chris a permanent addition?

Yeah. Let’s hope so. Can we get that on tape? Can we get a yes from Chris on tape?

Chris: For now… yeah.

Ohhhh fuck!

Chris adds: If we start getting paid.

We don’t get paid. Probably shouldn’t say that, but no one gets paid. This is the first gig where we’re actually making profit; ten pounds. So that means that Chris is staying, then, we’ve established that now.

So overall, your set went well?

Yeah, really well, I’d say it was brilliant. We like Sheffield. Last time we played here –

Was it the 322?

Yeah. A complete nightmare. Leo broke a string and didn’t know what to do because he doesn’t really play guitar very well. And then it was tits up from there! Basically what happened was that he got too drunk last time we played in this venue so he kind of had a complete ‘mare on stage and didn’t know what to do with breaking his strings, and he had a panic attack.

Leo protests: I didn’t have a panic attack!

You panicked! It was a big panic and that’s probably why we thought it was good, because last time we played it was so shit. Anyway, this time we played a new track. We don’t have a name for it yet, because it’s brand spanking new, but we played it for all of the people that were there to listen. We’re demoing it soon, so it could be up.

It’s not going to be released, but we’re going to have a release with the song Blue Velvet on one A-side and a double A-side of Just Floating on the other side. That’s going to be exclusively on vinyl, released in Easter, and we’re recording it with Rodaidh McDonald. He’s a fucking amazing producer who did the XX album.

We’re going to do that and then we’re planning on doing an EP release in the summer. So we’ll have the Easter single and then the EP in summer and then hopefully become fucking superstars.

What made you decide to release on vinyl?

We don’t want to deal with lawyers! Well, we kind of do. We’re at university still, so we’re doing it with The Great Pop Supplement, which is the best indie label in the country. They do loads of reissues and really cool artwork, and they do generally independent releases which is means you don’t have to commit yourself to getting fucked over by a label. They’re good guys. So it’s really good for us at the moment because we’re at university, and so we want to be able to release things on a quite casual level.

Will it just be on vinyl then?

We’re going to make a video, and we’re going to do it on vinyl and we’ll probably do a limited edition CD. The guy who did our Just Floating video, Jem Talbot, is a new independent filmmaker and we may be working with him in the future. He’s a fucking amazing guy, especially with the camera in his hand.

But as I say, we’re releasing casually because we’re finishing up uni – we started this band just making songs on the internet, on a little laptop, and we accidentally fell into a band without knowing what was going on. Now we’re actually in a band, but before we never were – we just did some music on the internet and then something happened. It’s good because we can release things quite casually at the moment, without committing to loads of people, so it’s cool.

We’re going to finish uni in a couple of months and that’s when it’s going to kick off, everything’s going to be really cool. Mainly because we don’t have to do anymore essays, forget the band!

Is this your ‘after uni’ plan then?

Yeah, just purely being in the band. We’ve just been doing gigs and we want to play gigs and become good at playing lots of gigs and making songs. That’s all we want to do.

So how big of a factor has the internet been on the band?

I was thinking about this the other day. It’s like the internet was the catalyst – like an enzyme! Basically, we made demos and put them on MySpace – because MySpace was cool back in the day. So we did that and we were hanging out – Ben met Leo in first year and we were taking ridiculous amounts of methadone drugs…

Leo: Call them hallucinogenic, it sounds better.

No, we’ll be honest about this, we were taking really debase drugs, sitting around and imagining being on the internet. Then we put ourselves on the internet and got a lot of attention from doing that. The interesting thing is that one of the first times we saw Real Estate, about two years ago –

You’re supporting them on one of your tour dates, right?

We are, we are. It’s at the Deaf Institute [in Manchester] on Friday. But yeah, we went to see Real Estate and we spoke to Tom, the guitarist, and said, ‘You know what, we’re going to make a band called Childhood,’ and this was before we’d even written songs together. And now we’re supporting Real Estate, so that’s quite cool. Quite funny.

But as I say, we were just basically being stupid and hanging out and making songs, and we put them on MySpace as a complete joke. Well, it wasn’t a joke, but it we didn’t really know what was going on – we just wanted to do it so we could get bragging rights and say, ‘Yeah, we’ve got songs on MySpace.’ That was what we wanted to achieve, but then we got attention from people and they were asking us to play gigs and we were like, ‘Oh shit, we don’t even have a band!’

So we met some guys, like this guy here, Daniel, and he played bass for us.

Daniel: I must have asked them about six times whether they had a bassist.

He kept on texting Ben, who kept telling him when he was really drunk that we were going to play gigs together, but Daniel didn’t take it as drunk conversation.

Daniel: I’ll tell the story, I’ll do the story. Can I do this?

Yeah, go for it.

Well, I met him at my mate’s house and – Ben, I don’t know what you were on, but you were enjoying yourself. Probably on methadone! And you were just talking about Steely Dan, and I was like ‘Fuck, I like Steely Dan.’ But that’s how I met him. I mean, nothing’s wrong with them but I was like, ‘Don’t even tell me you like Steely Dan, it’s not even cool!’ That’s how I met him, and then I just kind of kept track of him – he’s easy to track, he’s a tall guy. I kept asking if he wanted a bass player, and that’s how I joined.

And now we have this boy Chris Brent on drums.

So how were you persuaded to join?

By methadone!

Chris: They stuffed it down me and then that was it. The rest is history.

He’s loving it. No, we don’t do drugs as a band. Methadone went out the window and we stopped and we just started… revising.

Daniel: That’s just a basic lie, are we doing that line?

It’s all over! We’re all about gigs and bands and shit.

So how do you feel about all the buzz that you’ve got? Especially now with NME.

Oh yeah, that’s crazy! As a sixteen year old, if I was to think that I’d just be jamming in the pages of NME a few years later, I would’ve had a nervous breakdown. But it’s so good to be getting respect from magazines that other people read.

I think that the NME are cool. I think that they used to be like, really good when I was younger and then they had this weird period and then they got a bit cooler. Maybe I just think that because we’ve been in there. And that kind of reveals that I think I’m really cool, which is completely not… But I think the NME are cool. I just think that anyone that wants to say that we’re a good band and they enjoy our stuff is brilliant. It’s so important that I don’t really care who it is, you know what I mean?

The other day I got an email from some guy, like some 45-year-old guy from Hong Kong who has a blog, and he was saying how much he loves Childhood. He compared us to a band that I’d never heard of before but I heard them after that and I realised they were great. It’s good to hear from people who you would not normally think would be listening to your music.

That’s the best thing about being in a band, I think. When you get people like NME coming up to you it’s brilliant, because it’s obviously publicity for your band that’s what you want when yo have a band, but I think the best thing is when you get people that don’t seem like anything and they just genuinely appreciate what you do. That’s the most rewarding part about it.

And that’s the internet, that’s what the internet does.

Allows you to reach people all over the world?

Yes, man! And it’s cool. It’s good, it’s good.

So you think the internet is a positive thing?

The internet is a positive thing in a way, and it’s a bad thing. Because personally, I think Leo spends too much time on the internet. But that’s the only way it can be a bad thing, apart from that, it’s great! It’s good for bands, it’s really good for bands.

Ben: I think – you know the internet weighs ten grams, did you know that?

That’s ridiculous. I don’t even believe you.

Ben: But it’s a thing, though. Accept it.

I think that what’s happening in music now is that anybody can go out and demo or record at home and it sounds fucking great, but it’s about the live shows now and that’s what makes a band. You need to back up your demos with live shows, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Because originally we had demos, but we didn’t really have a band. So we kind of made a band but essentially, we weren’t really like a band then, but now we are because we’ve been playing more than we’ve been recording demos. At the beginning we were never really playing, do you know what I mean? So now it kind of has an equal balance between both of those two elements of being in a band. It’s cool.

So you don’t feel like you’re more of a live band?

Now we feel like we’re equally a live band and a band that can record. But initially we were just recording in my room, we never had a concept of playing live, and now it’s an equal kind of thing – and that’s why I’d think the internet may be bad, because you can put songs up there without the classic sense of playing in a band.

Bands usually play live before they make recordings but now because of the technology and all that shit, you can create this façade that you’re some amazing band and essentially you’ve just got an electronic drum machine playing. Saying that, it’s still good that we did that because we like doing things on our own. Even though we’re working with a producer at the moment, he gives us a lot of licence to do things the way we want to do it. And that’s kind of what we’ve always been doing, so it’s good.

Would you ever consider signing to a major label? At the moment you seem to have a very DIY aesthetic.

Not now, because the only band I know that have managed to stabilise themselves from a major is Bombay Bicycle Club, really. We want to get someone who, if they want to record us and put our records out, will do it right in terms of respecting the fact that we want to be a band that make many albums and many EPs and singles and whatever. And so I think it’s important that we’re on a label that have a lot of bands that we’re into, as well. I think that’s definitely very important.

So what would you count as your influences?

Ben: Me and Leo write the songs. I love jazz music, firstly. I wanna say that. He doesn’t like jazz. I love everything. Also indie music, I love the fucking Cocteau Twins, I love The Smiths, Johnny Marr is my idol. Everything, man.

More recent bands, like – I’d say Deerhunter. Not necessarily influence, but a band that I appreciate as well. They’re a contemporary band that we all love. It’s cool though, because we all have different things… You know, Pavement, Yo la Tengo are obviously a great band and are always going to be a great band. Yo la Tengo are amazing.

There’s so many epic bands! Kings of Leon, fourth album. Fucking Bon Jovi, Whitesnake – it’s 80s and 90s guitar bands. Yeah, that’s pretty much it, that’s what we think. And of course, methadone.

Why did you choose to call yourselves Childhood?

Basically, Ben was drunk and said to Leo, ‘Hey, I want to be in a band called Childhood!’ and Leo was like, ‘So do I!’ So Ben was like, ‘Okay, we should be in a band together,’ and Leo said, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’ And then we made demos.

It’s a good name, and it relates to our tunes, because our tunes are quite nostalgic. I don’t know what to talk about in terms of the current day, because all I can see is politics which is fucking dry and I just don’t relate to. I don’t relate to people talking about economics and all I know about my life is what’s happened before me, so that’s where I get my influence in terms of lyrics.

I could talk about something that was happening now and I could talk about what’s being said on BBC News, but I just talk about things which have happened to me. I talk about real shit… man.

I’ve got nothing against Billy Bragg or people who make political songs – I mean, Billy Bragg turned up for the Nottingham occupation. I don’t take anything away from anyone that talks about that stuff, but I just feel like personally I want to talk about things that I actually know about, and that essentially what I like and what I relate to are things from my own personal experience.

In fiction writing, one of the rules is ‘write what you know.’

Yeah, why wouldn’t you? That’s a good quality, I think. It’s the most legit quality, and the most authentic quality.

So would you ever do a concept album?

If it was concept because of people perceiving it as a concept, then it would be a concept if they said it was. But I try to write in terms of what I’m feeling and if by chance that is turned into a concept then it would probably get slated for it, because they’re quite heavy.

Daniel: We ain’t gonna write A Grand Don’t Come For Free anytime soon though, are we?

Leo: Is that a concept album?

Daniel: It is a concept album! He loses his grand, he finds his grand in empty cans, it’s quite simple.

Leo: That’s just two things happening.

Daniel: No, but then he’s betting and he’s gambling and he loses his girl and he finds his girl, it’s – no, he finds a new girl – I fucking cried at Empty Cans, I ain’t even having this.

Basically, we don’t have a grand for free, so we will never write an album anywhere near that kind of stature, economically, but we will start talking about things that we relate to, like getting paid £10 to play a gig, that’s what we relate to. We don’t have a grand for free.


3 Responses to “INTERVIEW: Childhood”

  1. James October 26, 2012 at 9:58 AM #

    Hi, just come across this interview when searching for the band. Really quality interview. Why did you decide to choose Childhood? I mean, did you anticipate that they would come across as very interesting interviewees? Also really good follow up questions.

    • aceafer October 26, 2012 at 11:09 AM #

      Hi, thanks for the comment! As far as I remember, they were playing a free gig at The Bowery in Sheffield, which is where I was based at the time. I was already a fan of the band so I thought it’d be nice to have a chat with them and they were up for it as well. Definitely wasn’t sure how interesting they’d be so it was a pleasant surprise! Glad you liked the interview.

  2. jean November 25, 2014 at 12:17 AM #

    cool interview thank you!

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