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27 March 2006

a life full of surprises

Current listening: various - heartworn highways ost

"the further away i get from you
the harder it gets for everyone else
the happier i am when i’m with you
the harder it gets when i am alone”

still in america. sitting in my hotel room in the holiday inn in minneapolis. we haven’t got a show until tomorrow night so i’m just doing some interviews tonight. and i thought that perhaps it had been too long since i last wrote a weblog and that we’d been to quite a few places and quite a few things had happened since we’d been in washington so i should really write a new one. we worked out today that at the end of this tour we will have been to twenty two different states in america. funny how things turn out. i’m sure i mentioned at the beginning of last year that i didn’t want to play live that much. oh well.

we played two shows in new york last week. at the webster hall. i went shopping during the day. this country’s total commitment to consumerism is quite admirable in a funny way. i went in to the legendary Other music and bought a couple of cds. the first album by Neutral Milk Hotel and Horn Of Plenty by Grizzly Bear, which i’d been looking for for ages in england but never found. then i went to another shop where i bought the Freaks and Geeks dvd box set. at last. and some Seinfeld dvds. and the soundtrack from Heartworn Highways. which i think comes out in the uk in a couple of months time. which is so fantastic. i just sit at the front of bus imagining i’m David Allan Coe.

then after the two new york shows we flew down to austin in texas to play three shows at sxsw. a bit of trouble at the airport. we got there and found out that continental airlines who we were flying with had oversold our flight. and that thirteen people didn’t have seats on the plane. two of those people were alistair, our drummer, and simon, our manager. they were offered seats for a plane on saturday. but that wasn’t really much use, because we weren’t even going to be in texas on saturday. in the end, the rest of us had to fly down to austin without them while they got on a plane to dallas, where they were told they would be able to get on another plane to austin. on our plane i was surrounded by people from the music industry who are probably very important but whose names i can’t remember now. sorry, i know i should try harder to network, but it’s just not in my nature. so, eight of us are on a plane to sxsw, expecting to meet alistair and simon at the other end. however, when we arrived in austin we got a phone call from simon and alistair telling us that there was no plane to austin. so they would have to rent a car and drive from dallas to austin. they were told by the pilot of their plane that it would take about four hours to drive it. so they figured that it was worth a go. we were due on stage for the first show at saengerrunde hall at about eight thirty. and when they rang us it was about half past three, so it was kind of looking like we might not have a drummer for that show. we waited all afternoon for them. did an interview with the telegraph while we were there. ate some burgers and funny green chips. not crisps. french fries. soundchecked without a drummer. worried a bit. and then as if by magic, at eight o clock they both turned up. with fantastic stories of their three hour road trip across texas. i think they ended up having a much more exciting journey to sxsw than we did on our boring plane.

after all that, the show wasn’t that great. i don’t know, maybe some people enjoyed it, but i didn’t see them. the whole thing reminded me somehow of gigs that i used to play in village halls when i was thirteen. we all felt very disheartened and kind of wished we’d never gone to sxsw. editors were headlining that night and we got to see them. and we met them afterwards as well. they are very nice human beings, and i thought they were fantastic that night. they gave us some good advice too. drop the slow songs for sxsw. people just talk through them.

then we got back to the hotel, and ordered some buffalo wings and sat by the swimming pool for a couple of hours, because i was waiting up to ring england. and i ended up going to sleep at about five o clock in the morning. on the floor.

the next morning we woke up and got a bus into town. we met a band on the bus called The Village Green from portland in oregon. very nice human beings too. then we made our way to the insound barbecue at club deville where we were playing at three o clock. we had a drummer and everything with us this time. no problems at all. and we were on the same bill as Love Is All and Pink Mountain Tops and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. i got to see Love Is All. really excited to be playing after them. love their album. and then we played our set. much better than the night before. a really great crowd. and we dropped the slow ones. it seemed to work better. Pink Mountain Tops were on after us. they were brilliant too. and then we met Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. lovely human beings again. unfortunately we couldn’t stay around to see their set because we had to go and soundcheck at the next venue. really disappointing, but hopefully we’ll get to see them some other time.

after the show at club deville we went four hundred yards down the road to play our third sxsw show at the elysium. things were looking good for us until six o clock, when somehow we managed to lose adam chetwood, our banjo player. i’m still not really sure where he went, but his weblog sheds a little more light on the matter. his weblog can be found at www.adamchetwood.com. if ever there was proof needed that adam chetwood is the sweetest guitarist in rock n roll then it can be found here on his weblog. so while the rest of us went off to do interviews or eat dinner, adam was wandering merrily around austin, thinking we were on stage at twenty to eleven. unfortunately, we were onstage at ten o clock. once we’d got back to the venue at nine we were all starting to worry a bit about where adam was. sxsw security put out a call for him, and we woke up his girlfriend in england. but no one had seen or heard anything from him for nearly four hours. i genuinely assumed him to be dead. i was checking the alleyway behind the venue to see if he’d been beaten up. then just when we were about to cancel the whole show, he turned up strolling absentmindedly down red river street. blissfully unaware that we all thought he had been murdered. five minutes before we had to go on. so in the end, we played the show. and i think it was probably one of our best ever. i guess it must have had something to do with the relief. i’m so glad that adam chetwood is still alive.

after all that, we flew out of austin at four o clock the next morning. when we were leaving the hotel, most of the other guests were just checking in. we slept all the way to boston. and by the time we'd landed i'd lost most of my hearing. and i still haven't really got it back properly.

since then, we’ve been to montreal, toronto, cleveland, detroit, and chicago. and now we’re in minneapolis. funny. i still don’t know how we ended up playing in america. i am always surprised by life.

there’s an interview with us in rolling stone magazine this month. and apparently, on a completely different note, the twenty first world pooh sticks championship was held today at the day’s lock on the river thames at little whittenham. entrants came from all over the world to take part. and the winning team came from the czech republic. more than two thousand people turned up for it. next year i’m entering a team. i need to win it.

also, last week someone sent out a message from our myspace page asking people if they wanted to be our friends. we didn't know anything about it and we still don't know who sent it. we’re very embarrassed about it going out. it's not the sort of thing we would ever do. it looks desperate and needy. but we've changed the password and hopefully it won't happen again. big apologies to anyone that received it.

anyway, i’m going to try and get to sleep now. i'm going to need to be well rested if we’re going to break america.


13 March 2006

the summer of a dormouse

Current listening: The Research – Breaking Up

sunday night. i’m sitting in my hotel room in a holiday inn in hummelstown in Pennsylvania. there isn’t much to do here. we got here too late to visit the chocolate factory in hershey, and the fun park was closed. so we went to pizza hut instead. not quite as exciting. too much pizza. nothing in america is small. then we went to a gas station and i found a copy of elle girl magazine which has got a piece about us in. choosing some of our favourite songs. funny to come all the way to america and find us in a magazine. when we were in new york we found us on the cover of cmj magazine this month too. very weird going into a newsagents and seeing our goofy faces staring back at us.

we've played three shows in america so far. one in boston. one in new york. and one at at cornell university in ithica. really enjoyed them all. a big thank you to everyone who came along to see us. i hope you had fun. america is very big. it makes me feel very small. driving along i can't imagine how it feels to live in a country so large. i think i would feel completely lost if i lived here. it's so different to the little village that we come from. i like it in america though. it just takes some getting used to that's all. the show in ithica was really good. when we first turned up at the university i thought we were going to have a spinal tap at the air force base moment, but so many people turned up to see us, and knew the words to the songs, that it was really heartwarming. boston and new york were really enjoyable too. more like the shows that we're used to doing in england. we did encores every night. we don't ever expect to get encores, so we never hold any songs back for them, and always end up having to play one of our songs again. i guess we could save a song for an encore, but it seems kind of presumptuous if we do that.

we didn't have a show tonight, so we're just all sitting about twiddling our thumbs. we went shopping for a bit this morning. i bought a copy of broken flowers on dvd. it's not out in england yet. i love jim jarmusch films. i always got the same sense of america from his films that i get now that i'm actually here. the sense that the landscape is so much bigger than the people that exist in it. i love the way that jun and mitsuko in mystery train always seem to just be passing through shots while the landscape remains after they've gone. mystery train is one of my favourite jim jarmusch films. especially the section with jun and mitsuko in. i took the title from my last weblog from that bit of the film. and then there's all that stuff with the japanese plum. fantastic.

tomorrow we're playing in washington. i think we've got about a four hour drive to get there so i'm going to go to sleep now. if i can.


09 March 2006

far from yokohama

Current listening: Mogwai –Mr Beast

“i’m happy, i’m happy, i’m happy, and i’ll punch the man who says i’m not”

we have finished our uk tour and now we’re in america. we arrived yesterday. it’s six o clock in the morning and i’m in a motel in cambridge, massachusetts. we play our first show in america tonight in boston at the great scott. i am quite tired but surprisingly awake. i miss my girlfriend and i can’t get back to sleep. i was going to write a weblog about the uk tour and about going to america but it probably wouldn’t have been that interesting and besides, ivor cutler has died. aged eighty three. and that's very sad. so i will write about him instead.

along with patrik fitzgerald, ivor cutler was my big hero when i was fourteen. although i think i first heard ivor cutler when i was twelve. i was listening to john peel. and he played the song ‘The Shapely Balloon’ on his show. as always i was waiting over the tape recorder to record anything that sounded interesting. when i was twelve i spent every weeknight the same way, sitting in my room listening to radio one and taping my favourite songs. then every couple of weeks once the tape was full i had to make a cover for my new compilation. i remember being very happy. i’ve never felt like i wasted my early teenage years. ivor cutler appeared on my first ever radio compilation. i played the song over and over. and then that weekend i went out and bought as many of his albums as i could find and afford. the first one i found was Gruts, and it’s still my favourite ivor cutler album. what i liked most about ivor cutler i think was his attention to detail. in his songs and stories and poems, it was the minutiae of life, the little tiny incidental things, that he found magic in. and at twelve years old, his deadpan mournful voice and his eccentric way of looking at the world appealed perfectly to me.

i didn’t know that much about him until recently. not until i watched the film Looking For Truth With A Pin. i knew that he lived in parliament hill fields in north london and that as long as you took a spoon with you then you could visit him. because he gave directions to his house on the Prince Ivor album. and i’d read somewhere that he once trained as a navigator in the royal air force, but was dismissed for being too absent minded.

"oh, the clouds were beautiful that day, so i spent some time looking at them. it didn't escape their attention. i'd already written home saying i was going to be Sergeant Cutler too. dismissed for dreaminess."

but that was about all i knew. and that was enough. then i watched the film. which was fantastic. and i learnt a lot more. but i won’t include too many biographical details here. the film is there for everyone to watch. all i wanted to say was that ivor cutler meant a lot to me when i was growing up. and that he still does. and i am sad that he is dead.

"when i do die i shall be glad to get away from loud pop music and motor cars, but i shall miss - insofar as when one is dead one can miss anything - the beautiful kindnesses of those people to whom courtesy comes naturally. unfortunately there are fewer of those people than of the other kind who deal with their problems in a very anti-social way."

all the quotes in this weblog are from ivor cutler. from newspapers cuttings or songs. to end with i will type out the words to the song ‘Beautiful Cosmos’ because it is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written.

you are the centre of your little world and i am of mine
now and again we meet for tea, we're two of a kind

this is our universe, cups of tea

we have a beautiful cosmos, you and me
we have a beautiful cosmos

what do we talk of whenever we meet? nothing at all
you sit with a sandwich,
i look at a roll

sometimes i open my mouth, then shut it

we have a beautiful cosmos, you and me
we have a beautiful cosmos

you are the centre of your little world and i am of mine

we have a beautiful cosmos, you and me
we have a beautiful cosmos