by Amy Guthrie
Another year, another round up of the ‘hottest new band’ predictions in every music, style and listings magazine around. I’ve never been great at maths me, but I’ve begun to notice a recurring equation, a little like this:
Retro haircuts + (Manchester influence _ Franz Ferdinand connection) + (Britpop) _ The Killers = Hot New Band Of 2005
When it came to Class of ‘05 the popular music press weren’t quite ready for
FleeingNewYork. But for this band, it’s not about the formula — it’s about the chemistry. Now don’t get me wrong here – I like band boys with shaggy haircuts and skinny ties as much as the next girl. But FleeingNewYork are not an image band. They don’t have a ‘look’ as such. What sets Emma (vocals/bass), Russell (vocals/guitar) and Matt (drums) apart from many other bands trying to push themselves to the forefront is their ability to feed off each other’s performances, creating a liveliness and raw energy that makes them so strong as a three piece. Combine this with catchy, slightly twisted dark-pop tunes that you just wanna jump around to, plus a healthy, ambitious DIY attitude, and it becomes clear why the likes of Radio 1 are starting to sit up and take notice.
It’s a grey, snowy, February afternoon, and the band are in a South London studio in the middle of what’s sounding like a successful mixing session. They’re currently working on their second single with the help of renowned producer Chris Kimsey, who has previously worked with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Killing Joke, Ash, and recently, Ludes. The last couple of days have been spent trying to capture the energy of their live performances — something that they think they have accomplished. “The simplest thing of just getting a band playing, and sounding good, is actually the hardest thing to do,” says Russell. “But we’ve done it — we played in the live room, me and Emma sang together on all the tracks looking at each other, Sonny and Cher style. So all that kind of stuff I think adds to it, rather than putting things down separately.”
Formed while still at college in their hometown of Southampton, the band were soon picked up by local label Stuckupmusic. Enlisting the help of producer Andy Hawkins and DIY superstore B&Q, they built a studio at the bottom of drummer Matt’s garden. It was, according to Russell, pretty cramped (“We were setting up the drumkit as we were building a wall, or putting soundproofing in”) but their DIY efforts paid off when debut single Hollywood Bowl and album AOK received some great reviews. It was while playing at a London gig that they first met Chris — “He was standing at the front, jiving away” recalls Emma. “We were like ‘ah, who’s this guy?’ And then he called us up and said ‘can I come down and see you guys rehearse?’” “All the other producers that came down sat down with us and were quite silent,” adds Russell, “and when Chris came down he danced to our whole rehearsal, so that was the clincher.”
FleeingNewYork have also recently caught the attention of Radio 1, who have invited them to record a live session at their Maida Vale studios and have been giving the band airplay on the Huw Stephens evening show, a step which the band are obviously excited about “AHH! It’s a childhood dream coming true… it’s a legendary place” grins Emma. “Yeah, we’re a bit rowdier in real life, so that’s going to be fun.” In keeping with their DIY outlook, the band like to have a hand in all aspects of their production, from the music itself to their promotion and artwork — just prior to my arrival they were in discussion about the new video and are keen to show me the cover design for their next single — it’s easy to get caught up in their excitement, the same spark that
translates the chemistry they create onstage.
“We spent the best part of last year just so unproductive and chatting to labels, and it didn’t amount to anything” says Matt “Nothing came out of it that was positive. It was more like ‘well, they want to sign you but they want to do this with you’ and we just thought, we can do that ourselves, and we get a say about how we go about our business.” Russell agrees “I think people like to have a band that is doing that, they don’t always want to be spoon-fed this band that have come out of nowhere.” So surprisingly (or not) it’s only their London audiences who don’t quite seem to have caught on yet, according to Matt “London’s fun to play but after a while there are so many people there that are waiting to criticise rather than just have a good time.” This sentiment
shared is by the others — “They have quite fixed ideas about what they want” claims Emma, with Russell adding “People aren’t so ‘too cool for school’ up north… and when we played Brighton, everyone was dancing on the bar so it was great. They shut the doors it was so crazy, it was a good atmosphere though. People let themselves go a bit rather than standing there going ‘oh I don’t know what to make of it’”.
So come on Londoners, take a cue from the rest of the nation for once, loosen those skinny ties and shake that shaggy hair. Cos Emma + Russell + Matt = an exciting new band worth watching out for. FleeingNewYork’s new single Up, Up, Up Up will be released in early May on Stuckup Music.