THE FANZINE THAT FEATURES SMALL AND UNSIGNED BANDS
Friday, February 26, 2010
INTERVIEW WITH LUXURY STRANGER
Bands don’t like to be pigeonholed, that’s nothing new and for some reason quite understandable but the big problem is that small bands needs to be pigeonholed. I mean, everyone knows how REM sounds like so that needs no introduction but if you’re trying to cause a commotion about some new bands then pigeonholing are the sole bullets you have to convince an audience. If I tell you Luxury Stranger are good, would you care? But if I tell you that these Brits sound as exciting as once The Cure or The Chameleons were, what are you doing then? And if Luxury Stranger will be known in ten years time (always possible, never say never!) no one has to use these bands as Luxury Stranger will then be known as Luxury Stranger. Just before the band goes on tour with Levinhurst (the newest outfit from ex-Curemember Lol Tolhurst), frontman Simon York was so kind to do an in depth interview with our zine. Many thanks to you, Simon, for this great talk! And apart from that we share something : our fave album of all time!!!
HELLO, PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELVES AND HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC THEN?
Hello there, I am Simon York – I’m the vocalist/frontman and guitarist in Luxury Stranger. With me in the band is Chris Ruscoe on bass guitar and Paul Sycamore on drums. Luxury Stranger’s music can be described in many ways, depending on one’s own listening references. But generally the words ‘dark’, ‘emotional’, ‘sexual’, ‘powerful’ and ‘fresh’ turn up in most people’s description of Luxury Stranger.
IT’S CLEAR THAT IF YOU HEAR LUXURY STRANGER’S MUSIC, YOU START THINKING OF 80’S WAVEBANDS LIKE THE CHAMELEONS, PSYCHEDELIC FURS OR THE CURE, NOT?
I guess there are some ‘sonic links’ to those bands – one of which we’d never actually listened to until one of our fans made reference... But we’re not trying to be or replicate the work of any of the bands people link us to. We have influences, some of which hardly ever seem to be picked up on funnily enough (for example Depeche Mode, David Bowie, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Joy Division and many more), and we’re doing our own thing. Maybe sub-consciously we’re taking what influenced us on to the next step that we and our fans wanted to hear. For example, if Simon Gallup hadn’t left the Cure after Pornography or if Bowie and Pop had stayed in Berlin a little longer with Eno or if Ian Curtis hadn’t died and the remainder of Joy Division hadn’t turned into New Order – what would have the next album been like?... We’re not just influenced by music and it’s nice that just every once in a while, someone picks up on that.
I CAN’T SAY I’M A BIG FAN, BUT HAVING THAT SAID I’M RATHER THANKFUL THAT THERE ARE BANDS AROUND LIKE INTERPOL OR EDITORS WHO WOKE UP THE WORLD BY SAYING THAT THE 80’S WERE MORE THAN KYLIE MINOGUE...
(Laughs) Yes, I agree – although there was also much more to the late 70s/early 80s than Joy Division... and I think some people seem to forget that. Manchester was more than just a couple of bands who managed to make a mark in the mainstream. The same goes for in London and other parts on the UK. You mentioned the Cure earlier – when people refer to us and the Cure in the same sentence, they tend to think about ‘Love Cats’ or ‘Friday I’m in Love’. What I’m personally influenced by if and when it comes to the Cure is the first four albums from 79 – 82, after that I’m not particularly interested.
WHAT I ALSO MEANT WITH THE QUESTION ABOVE IS THAT I THINK THAT DUE TO THE SUCCESS OF BANDS LIKE EDITORS, THERE IS A MARKET FOR LUXURY STRANGER. I MEAN IF YOU WOULD COME UP WITH THAT MUSIC TEN YEARS AGO, PEOPLE WOULDN’T EVEN NOTICED YOU IF YOU WERE PERFORMING IN THE TUBESTATION…
Ah the irony... sorry, private joke. To be honest I was doing an early/immature form of Luxury Stranger’s music ten years or more ago. In fact it does make me chuckle when people say “Simon, your vocal style is similar to that of the guy from the Editors” especially since I’ve been in this game a lot longer than he has... and I probably have a much wider range than him anyway. But there’s no need to go into that... I would also say that Luxury Stranger would be noticed, no matter what time frame it was set in. Luxury Stranger seems to turn heads and keep eyes of audiences drawn centre to the stage. It does annoy me when people find the need to compare – and I once said this to Mick Mercer – people seem to have the need to compare, especially in the UK, and I think this makes them feel it’s safe or okay to like a new band because they can put them in the REM box or the Cure envelope or on the Editors shelf and so on... I don’t think people realise that new bands are trying to make their own mark, yes they have influences but they’re not tribute bands. For example – there were more people than Robert Smith in the 80s with spiked hair... (laughs) besides, if say I went completely bald would a new listener/viewer of Luxury Stranger accuse me of trying to rip off Michael Stipe or Billy Corgan? I sometimes wonder if the classic painters had a time of it – “Oh Raphael, your work is so similar to that of Leonardo and Michelangelo”. Well, there’s only so much one can do with paint and a brush. (smiles)
READING YOUR BIOGS, YOU’RE NOT NEWIES IN THE MUSICSCENE…WHAT DO YOU THINK FROM IT….IS IT BETTER NOW (MY SPACE, NO RECORDSELLING BUT DOWNLOADS) THEN TEN YEARS AGO?
Personally I prefer ‘good old’ – going to a record shop and buying a record or CD, taking it home on the bus feeling the excitement and frustration being stuck in traffic, running up stairs to one’s bedroom and listening to the said bought album while looking at the artwork and reading the lyrics and then playing your guitar to it trying to work out the best track.
I believe there is less passion about music and those that create music nowadays. Oscar Wilde once said, "Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation." I think this is still the case today. People are too concerned with aesthetics and what their friends think and do. It used to be a case where someone would like a band or solo performer because they were doing something that stuck out or was jusy different to everything going around the circuit at that time. That’s why Punk worked at the time it broke out... people felt the need to rebel. Now, few people wish to rebel or just stand out because it’s seen as too weird to stand out. People find themselves bullied or worse due to them making a choice and doing something slightly different at a given time period... and, in my opinion, that is what could kill certain forms of music and art unless people continue to discover what their friends aren’t listening to and continue to support the stuff that’s making a noise that isn’t manufactured and pushed upon people in the ‘socially acceptable’ way.
There doesn’t seem to be any soul in the industry anymore and I don’t think there many people seeing meaning behind music and that could be why many people are stunned when they see one of our live shows – the power and passion put into each performance whether there are 3, 30 or 300 people in the room... it is always immense. I believe there will be less ‘this is our song’ type scenarios from young lovers in the next 10 or so years... or more likely more people will own the same song due to the way things are pushed on to them by media and peers. Imagine how boring live will be then...
Music should NOT be free – this is not my opinion, it is fact – a hell of a lot of work, time and money goes into creating, rehearsing and performing music (and all forms of art for that matter)... next you’ll tell me that there’s going to be free brain surgery and people emptying our trash for free... (laughs). It is a basic human right to eat food and drink water but we don’t get any of that for free – we buy food from markets or seeds to grow food and we pay water rates – so why should what is seen as a ‘luxury’ be deemed as free-of-charge?
I ALWAYS SAY IT’S GREAT NOW THAT PEOPLE CAN DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES RATHER THAN LIKING WHAT’S BEEN DESCRIBED IN MUSICMAGS, BUT IT FEELS LIKE PEOPLE ARE DROWNING IN THE SEA OF UNSIGNED AND SMALL BANDS TOO, NOT?
There are too many bands – the majority of them are rubbish and wasting the time of themselves, the promoters, the venues and punters... That’s why the industry has gone to the dogs in the UK because there’s been a spate of rubbish bands that have wasted the time of promoters etc and that’s why hardly any bands tend to get paid now in the UK. I remember when you could play a show in a bar and get either 10% of the bar takings or be paid at least £100 for playing a show. But now the rubbish has made it so nobody goes to see live bands as much, it’s made it much more difficult to be a professional musician. I’ve seen a few unsigned bands that just look like they don’t really want to be in a band, they just want to be ‘cool’ or have a nice girlfriend and see the band as a way of achieving that...
THE BAND’S NAME LUXURY STRANGER…..A SPECIAL MEANING OR JUST NICE SOUNDING?
Everything I do has meaning... (winks) The band’s name has two meanings: 1) A stranger who is luxurious – This kind of links to my interest in the ‘man about town’ or the Jack the Ripper/Morriaty character... the ‘Dickensian Mod’. 2) A luxury that is stranger than others – Around the time I was working on material for the first album I was further-exploring a lot of fetish ideas and ideals... and I liked that it could be reflected into the identity or moniker of my band.
HOW STUPID IT MAY SOUND, WHAT ARE YOUR MOMENTS OF “FAME” YET AND WHAT ARE THE GOALS IN THE FUTURE?
Moments of fame... depends on one’s point of view really. I always think the best things so far are playing to a massive crowd at the Y Not festival in UK and playing to a packed out venue in Dresden with Die Art. We also have the Levinhurst shows in early March... the Wave Goth Treffen festival in May... I think to be fair, every moment that Luxury Stranger achieves something – be it positive or negative – it’s a ‘moment of fame’, it’s part of our story and I would say that our future goal is to continue that story and follow the path with great success...
LAST QUESTIONS ARE QUESTIONS I ALWAYS ASK, I CALL IT THE TRADITIONAL ORIGINAL SIN-QUESTIONS… WHAT’S YOUR FAVE RECORD OF ALL TIME AND WHY?
Grrr... I hate questions like that as I have so many favourite records. Can’t I have a ‘top 10 desert island discs’? I could say the Cure’s Faith or Pornography or Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration or Ultra, The Stone Roses’ eponymous album or Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’... Oh well. I would say ‘Low’ by David Bowie. It’s one album that has influenced me in all aspects of my music, be it ambient, orchestral or rock/post-punk and it all started when my Dad played that album on Sundays at dinner times when I was a child – in fact, not too long after the album came out... it’s moisturiser – seriously (winks).
WITH WHO WOULDN’T YOU MIND BEING STUCK IN AN ELEVATOR FOR 8 HOURS AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO THEN?
I wouldn’t want to be with any of my ‘musical idols’ as I think I’d be disappointed. There is a girl on our Myspace friends list... but then that would be naughty. Maybe an Elevator Engineer – he could take eight hours to fix a simple task, therefore getting paid over-time and having a nice conversation with me while showing me how to fix an elevator should I find myself in a similar situation. Then afterwards I’d buy him a beer or two...
DO YOU WANT TO SAY SOMETHING SPECIAL TO OUR READERS?