Corby instrumental post-punk types Family Of Noise have a mini-LP/EP entitled II out now. New Boots spoke at length to the trio – Jim Holland [guitar], Andy Holland [bass] and Darren Starmer [drums] – about the bands history and the EP release.
How/why/what/when did you guys get together?
Andy: We need to turn the clock right back to 1992 to get to the genesis of the band, when myself and James Brennan (original drummer) had been playing together in another band: The Gift. After a couple of months, however, the band split, but we continued jamming together, honing some ideas I had been dabbling with myself. Having put together the rhythm parts of a few tunes, there was only one person in mind to play guitar and that was my brother and James’ ex-band mate (in Obscurity), Jim Holland. So in mid-1993 Family Of Noise (named after the Adam and the Ants song from their debut album Dirk Wears White Sox) were formed. Over the next few years we played a relatively small number of [mainly local] gigs and without officially splitting up, played our last gig in the summer of 1996.
Leap forward to the late noughties and the itch to play again nagged at me. By this time though James had moved out of the country, so the tub-thumping duties were offered to a good pal, Darren Starmer, who duly accepted.
Darren: In a heartbeat!
Andy: For a couple of years after, we jammed the original FON tunes now and then, but no real plans were ever put in place to actually play live again.
Jim: Don’t forget the time we considered doing covers.
Darren: god forbid…
Andy: We were at a memorial for a friend who had passed away in late 2012 when it was suggested (in an alcohol induced reverie, no doubt) that we should be playing again, so we made the decision there and then that it was time to get back in the rehearsal room and set our sights on playing live.
Darren: Give or take a month or two.
Andy: Yeah, it’s safe to say that we got off to a slow start, but something suddenly clicked and we were all buying new gear and chomping at the bit to play again.
Jim: Our first gig was at a friend’s birthday party in April 2013. The rest as they say, is history.
How would you describe your sound?
Darren: psychedelic post-punk
Andy: That translates as a strong rhythm section with the guitar snaking through its guts with phasers set to stunning 😉
Jim: We do get a lot of references to psychedelic bands, mainly due (we believe) to the use of phaser. But it’s great that different people hear different things in our sound.
Andy: That’s one of the benefits of being instrumental; people listen to the music instead of singing along with the front man’s musings.
Who are your musical touchstones?
Jim: Those stalwarts of the post-punk era: Bauhaus, Killing Joke, New Model Army, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Southern Death Cult, Theatre of Hate and The Stranglers, to name but a few.
Andy: If anyone says to us that they can hear the influence of those bands in our sound, we accept it with a big smile. We don’t mind that our influences are clearly worn on our sleeves.
Darren: I came from a more metal background, so it often made me chuckle when they would dissect a tune, explaining the inspiration for each section. For me the local scene and just wanting to play was a major influence.
Andy: And me chanting ‘more toms and more flams’ I hope that’s an influence..?
What prompted the decision to bypass vocals when you began? Was that a common or unusual scenario at that time?
Andy: It was never our intention to be instrumental. In fact, at our first ever gig (in Channel 2 in Corby in ’93) we had a mannequin at the front of the stage with a ‘Situation Vacant’ sign around its neck. We did try out with a couple of singers too (Darren being one of them), but things didn’t work out and as we had played the tunes instrumentally for so long, we decided to go with it, full time.
Darren: I got in eventually.
Jim: I don’t remember there being any instrumental bands on the scene back then. With only a couple now for that matter. Locally anyway.
Andy: It certainly seems to be an unusual and uncommon scenario today, given the number of times we are told we need a singer, but suffice to say, since the reformation, vocals have never been a consideration.
Tell us everything about the ‘II’ release.
Andy: The product of a Rose of the Shires endeavour, having been recorded and mixed in various locations within Corby and Kettering and the CDs printed and duplicated by local company [Demomaster.co.uk]. Engineered by local musician and long mover, Lee Freer, it was a long time in the making because we were attacking it as and when we were all free at weekends, but we feel the wait was worth it. For the moment it’s only available on CD, with the first 50 being numbered and including an extra track, written and recorded specifically for the release.
Darren: With all 50 copies having now been all been sold!
Andy: Indeed, we’re really chuffed about that. Although at seven tracks long on the standard release, it could be argued that this constitutes a mini album, we’ve continued with the EP moniker. Purely for consistency more than anything really. We’ve tried to order the tracks to mimic one of our gig set lists, so hopefully, those that have seen us live get a feel of being there when they listen and those that haven’t are encouraged to change that fact as quickly as possible. We plan to make it available to download directly from our website at some point, with Spotify and iTunes and the like a little way off again.
What are your live shows like?
Darren: Sweaty and loud!
Andy: We’re in that weird position now where because we have a healthy collection of tunes under our belts and on average only 35 minutes to play, it becomes a bit of a head-scratcher putting a set list together for a gig. We have some staples that are generally always included, but we like to mix things up to keep it fresh for ourselves as well as the good folk coming to see us.
Jim: Especially the opener. Sometimes we like to ease the crowd (and ourselves) into a gig and start with a track with a moderate tempo, then on other occasions, just light the touch paper and go.
Darren: Sometimes starting a little too fast that I’m praying for that slow(er) track to come round in the set.
Andy: With our recent and future summer gigs, we’ve been including as many of the tracks that appear on the EP that time will permit. Where possible we try to use a projected video backdrop, so that what we are playing becomes a soundtrack to all kinds of weird and wonderful imagery. But when that’s not available we rely on Jim to keep the audience entranced with his impish twists and turns as he grinds out each tune.
Do you feel part of a wider scene in Corby and Northamptonshire? Any favourite bands/venues to play with?
Andy: Ask any band from this town what their favourite venue is/was and I’m sure 99% of them will say the Zombie Hut. It was a proper venue and the chaps running it were always committed to giving you the band and the audience the best gig possible. Sadly, that’s all gone now, but Chris at the White Hart in Corby is doing his darnedest to give the town a great little venue again and certainly succeeding.
Darren: We’re forever grateful for any venue and/or promoter asking us to play, or accepting our request to play, so they all become favourites for different reasons.
Jim: We’ve played a few times with the likes of Thee Telepaths, The Bophins and Veins – all local to Northamptonshire and always a pleasure to play with.
Andy: Both as punters to watch them and as a band, as we know we won’t get any nonsense with things like big egos, or tedious interminable soundchecking. A great bunch of chaps.
What has been your favourite band moment of the past year?
Darren: Scotland, playing with Lizzie and the Banshees & The Media Whores last September.
Andy: Indeed! The month had started with a Scottish flavour having played our 100th gig as support to Edinburgh’s finest: The Filthy Tongues – which was great enough, to say the least. However it continued when we were invited to play with Siouxsie and the Banshees tribute band, Lizzie and the Banshees in their hometown of Bathgate at the end of the month too. On the lead up to the gig we were chatting to the aforementioned Media Whores’ manager, lamenting the fact that we had missed the opportunity to play alongside them in June at a great little independent Punk festival in Lancaster: Punk ‘n’ Disorderly, so he asked that if they put a gig on, would we be interested in supporting them?
Jim: Needless to say the answer was yes.
Andy: So flash forward to the end of the month, we played our support to LATB at the Dreadnought in Bathgate, which was a belter, both for us as punters and a band! A cracking little venue, great crowd and a most entertaining evening. Incredibly hung over the next morning, we made the trek to Bridge of Allan. Now what we weren’t fully aware of until a couple of days before the gig was that we were going to be the opening band for the night’s proceedings and that we were to be on stage at 7:30 in the evening. Having been witness to opening acts going on an hour / an hour and a half later than that and seeing the venue fill up during their set, but with most of the audience missing it, we had visions of us playing to the bar staff only. However, by 7:15 the venue was teaming with an audience who really made every minute of the 15 hours we spent in a car that weekend worthwhile.
Darren: As much as we enjoyed the night before in Bathgate, it had to be said that most of the crowd there were on a nostalgia trip, eager to relive the sights and sounds of Siouxsie, but with the Bridge of Allan gig what we had was an amazing crowd of people supporting live, original music, and all from 7:30 in the evening!
Jim: Even after the gig too, it was easier to count those who didn’t come up to us to say how much they enjoyed the set.
Andy: The lore of Scottish crowds being the best was certainly enforced that night.
What was the last album you bought/streamed?
Darren: Belly Dove
Jim: Love and Rockets Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven
Andy: A Perfect Circle Eat The Elephant
What is your burning desire for the band to do in the future? What plans do you have?
Andy: Ultimately it’s all about playing live for us, so the desire is for those gig opportunities to keep coming in.
Darren: Bigger venues with bigger bands would be the icing on the cake.
Andy: And maybe someone on board to be dealing with that side of things, so we can be left to concentrate on writing more.
Darren: Hey, maybe even a tour.
Jim: I think a tour would break us.
Darren: Maybe a tour split over a series of weekends, over a series of months. Our old bones could cope with that.
Andy: We have a fairly busy summer of gigs with us making a racket at some local festivals, among them – Steelfest in Corby on the 23rd of June, where we’ll be in the Alt Corner Tent and Tannerfest in Loddington on the weekend of the 6th / 7th of July where we’ll be headlining the Wildfire Stage on the Saturday night. July sees us play the Sixfields Rock Festival in Northampton on the 22nd and then a return to Lancaster for this year’s Punk ‘n’ Disorderly, which is now in its 7th year on the 28th.
Jim: We also have another eight tracks recorded at Pennington Street Studios, which we’ll be going back to very soon to mix down for another EP release for later in the year, or early next.