I met up with the high flying Sheffield young guns Blue Lip Feel near their rehearsal room close to Plug nightclub I find a friendly set of musos who take their music very seriously but life less so if our chat was anything to go by. We decant to the Roebuck Tavern, a drinking rather than posing pub for a quiet chat but are joined by a thirty something guy, uninvited, with tourettes. The BLF lads show their maturity and compassion, rather than cracking the obvious jokes at his expense, they listen and discuss the charity he is collecting for and club together to make a donation.
Thankfully we eventually get chance to talk about their rise to prominence after a few personnel changes to maintain the commitment they need to give themselves the best chance of main stream success.
Getting down to the nitty gritty, present are drummer Sam the quietest member of the band by some way, bassist Will perhaps the chattiest, lead guitarist Conor and vocalist Oliver who also plays rhythm guitar.
Which winding musical path brought the Blue Lip Feel guys together in their present form?
Conor leads off “ me and Ol were in the band from being about 16, writing songs etc but we’ve had about 10 different drummers and guitarists since then cos they didn’t workout, mainly due to commitment problems” I tell Will he’d best keep on his toes, then Conor adds with a smile” then eventually we found these two.”
Oliver nods in agreement “ this is the first time we’ve been in a band where we are all on the same wavelength and all wanting the same thing, us four have been together since November 2011 and its going well.” Will assents “we’ve done pretty well in just over a year”.
They all believe the main driver is having commitment and feel they are at right age to concentrate on their first love, music. Will expands “there are lots of things I’d love to do but most don’t have an age cut off point on them whereas being in a band you have to have a go while you’re young”
Their influences are different but come together well in what Will tongue in cheek calls “our 70’s orientated sound” Oliver rises to the bait and counters “ we do get that a lot because we aren’t jangly jangly or synth and keyboard type stuff, it’s not thrash metal so it must be 70’s rock.“ Conor comes to the rescue “We are into that stuff but” then before he can add anything Will mischievously chips in “ well you were in a Bowie tribute band “ Conor looks outraged before smiling and admitting “ I did about 5 or 6 gigs with them, it did teach me not to always try to compete with the singer or keyboard as it was such a big band, that has helped me with the dynamics of this band, we all know when to throttle back a bit, whereas a lot of bands are all loud or all quiet.” Teasing session over.
How important is social media to a bands success?
Conor is first to reply “It is important but I honestly can’t stand twitter so I think we’re getting worse at (using) it cos it just does me head in, and there’s better ways of spending our time than on facebook. Bands don’t put posters up for gigs then wonder why no one has heard of them or they put up an event on facebook saying ’we’re playing at West St Live tomorrow come down’ but I think it will start to regress at some time and go back to word of mouth”.
Maybe wishful thinking but this band do work hard at communicating with fans though they feel a big negative towards further growing their fanbase in Sheffield is that it doesn’t have a music scene anymore, a bold statement but can they back it up ?
Will and Conor expand “ there are some good bands but they don’t seem to be looking out for each other, some band might say bad things about us then their fans don’t come to see us, that’s not just us having a moan that’s lots of bands. There are some good venues but they seem to be segregated whereas with the hardcore scene they all support each other, buy each others teeshirts and CD’s and tickets for each other’s gigs.”
Their creative process is group orientated, even if someone comes up with a main riff or the chorus they agree it wouldn’t sound as good without the rest of the song, so writing credits go to the entire band. Same goes for the lyrics; though Oliver writes most of them others chip in. They feel they have to be honest when someone writes something and others don’t like it, they obviously have a strong bond to enable this to work.
We discuss their Tramlines Festival experience including appearing on the main stage, and all the positive press they received, in particular in the Guardian and Q Magazine, Will says “that’s a big festival in a big city” Oiliver chips in “Yes we did extremely well, we were the only local band to play Bungalows and Bears that weekend too”.
Have they ridden the wave that their Tramlines sets created?
Will again “that was good but there are up and downs and we’re hoping for another up soon. We took a step back to write some new stuff which we have recorded and have done a video for one of them.”
How are out of town gigs going ?
Conor and Will again duet to enlighten “we keep going down to London to play gigs and know the bands down there aren’t better than us plus there’s more venues and better contacts in the audiences. We play Sheffield and its great, we get a crowd, not always the same people and we enjoy it, it’s great but we don’t get that much more out of it. With London we seem to get a better reception each time we go, they seem to like northern bands.” Oliver continues “we don’t charge for CD’s, I’m not bothered about making a couple of quid from them, we record 4 tracks at £250 a day per song ( at 2Fly with the much lauded Alan Smyth) , so £1000 plus the cost of 600 CD’s is about £500 so £1500 but with the amount of people we’ve given the CD’s to its worth it.”
They then turn to their enjoyment of working with the aforementioned Alan Smyth, who inspires them, Will enthuses “we hear people say Alan’s lost his enthusiasm then we go in and play a song and he says that’s great why don’t we do this and do that, like hitting a steel girder instead of a snare drum, wacky things but we spark off each other.”
We were sidetracked for a while by mention of the exceptional Mr Smyth and discuss Alan’s amazing track record with the likes of Pulp, Arctics, Reverend, Hawley etc, his own recent quirky musical compositions and the wonderful musical Crazy Art Golf he created for Sensoria.
Back to work, which local outfits do BLF like ?
Conor proposes “Seven Tors an all girl acoustic outfit who we randomly saw play a gig and they had a really good sound and we liked them that much we asked them to play a Leadmill gig with us “the others also enthuse but Conor clarifies “and its wasn’t just to share a dressing room with them” to smiles all round.
The guys also “like Low Duo, Hey Sholay who are incredible, Screaming Maldini are Ok and Cats For Peru but that’s about it” then they add fun band Seize The Chair, who I admit I had to look up.
Indie bands are noticeable by their absence; they all agree it’s not their thing.
BLF are managed by Ben Hartley, how did that come about? They laugh recalling Ben approaching them after a gig in the Green Room, Sheffield and saying he ‘really wanted to work with them’ then all celebrating 10 minutes later with Sambuca shots, “we got on with him so well” adds Conor “he’s a good organiser, his hearts really in it and he definitely has the gift of the gab. He called me up the other week and said ‘I’ve booked you a festival in Scotland at the weekend of your birthday. You’ll be skiing and snowboarding during the day and playing gigs round this ski village at night, you’ll stay in this hotel and it’s all paid for” how on earth he got us that we don’t know !
Moving on aside from the obvious Tramlines main stage spot what is the highlight of their year ?
Will “building all this stuff up in a short space of time is good to take note of, it gives us confidence moving forward. “ Oliver adds a warning “we can only do so much before we are one of those bands that’s been around for years”.
Where do BLF want to be in 12 month’s time ?
Will quickly offers “ regularly in magazines and people out of Sheffield knowing who we are, more acclaim nationally” Conor adds smiling “ this will seem hilarious if we are still in the same place in a year or twos time, people will remind us‘ you know that interview you did last year’ but it’s a realistic aim” .
Oliver explains “ we work hard and practise 5 days a week and if the bands that are breaking were a lot of better than us fair enough but they aren’t, it all about the marketing, it like magazines with the boy band thing, it implies they are good because magazines are covering them all the time”. Will agrees “ if Radio 1 played Metallica all the time people would love Metallica.”
Finally what question would they ask Blue Lip Feel that I haven’t asked ? Will offers “ why don’t you play surf pop and just follow the crowd instead of all your funny shirts and long hair, I couldn’t answer it though “ ?
Conor offers “ what do Blue Lip Feel add to Sheffield music “ ?
Maybe I can answer that, Blue Lip Feel are a top notch band whose recorded sound is pretty sensational and their stage show even tops that. Far from following the crowd they have found a highly melodic distinctive sound that, whilst recalling influences from time gone by, is still very fresh and one they can call their own.