The Long Blondes and the indie work ethic

The Long Blondes have an attitude which most young bands should study at school. Time Out charts the rise of the indie work ethic

  • Despite the fact their first single, ‘A Weekend Without Make Up’ only comes out this week, you may already be suspicious of the Long Blondes. And for good reason. Firstly, they’re from Sheffield, a faraway land where children get coal for Christmas. Secondly, despite the acres of press coverage and the cult following, they have laboured under the Sisyphean tag of ‘Britain’s hottest unsigned band’ for over a year now, which is a natural cause for concern. If history and Gay Dad have taught us anything, it’s that unsigned media darlings are always rubbish. But the Long Blondes are different. They’re very good. No, really. And now they’ve even got the record contract to prove it.

    ‘We want to write what we call classic pop songs,’ says Dorian Cox, guitarist and nominal spokesperson for the Long Blondes. ‘I mean the lineage from ’50s things like Elvis to Dusty Springfield to all the great ’70s disco, even through to things that aren’t very fashionable, like Stock Aitken and Waterman .’ To the casual listener, the LBs lineage would run from The Ronettes to Pulp, which is still pretty good going for a first single.

    Leading off with a pensive bassline and a Siouxsie Sioux-sings-Jarvis mope from vocalist Kate Jackson about the trials of creeping domesticity, it breaks into a cascading chorus with more than a hint of Blondie about it. The lyrics are sombre, if wittily observed, (‘I could be more than your landlady if you like’), but the overall effect is strangely uplifting.

    ‘We’ve always liked this idea of doing – it’s a bit cheesy saying this – a “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” kind of thing,’ says Cox, blushing audibly. ‘Rather than be the acoustic singer-songwriter obviously trying to write tragic lyrics, we think it’s more subversive to have a really good pop song, but the story behind it is… not particularly upbeat. It’s like, Dracula dresses up in a nice suit, he doesn’t walk around in a shroud.’

    That’s the closest the band come to a manifesto, and they’re not far off achieving it. But there’s also something Slits-y, in the jagged, cheeky way of thrusting genres together in a dark corner without making them shake hands first. Ably demonstrated on their previous self-assembly singles, in particular the icy ‘Giddy Stratospheres’ and the bolshy stomp of ‘Separated By Motorways’, this brazen approach caught the ear of Rough Trade, who tempted the band into bondage with promises of the much-prized ‘artistic freedom’.

    The video was directed, to Cox’s obvious glee, by Gina Birch, former bassist/ singer with the proto-post-punkers The Raincoats. ‘It’s the first time we’ve done anything with a label, so it’s nice to be able to say “Look, we need to do a video” and there’s someone who has so many contacts, and one of them’s Gina Birch.’In one early interview, when asked who they would like to produce their album, the Blondes replied, jokingly, Jarvis Cocker. Imagine their surprise when the Rough Trade bosses tactfully suggested that Jarvis might not be experienced enough for their first single. ‘We thought, God it was only a flippant comment!’ Instead, the label fixed them up with former Pulp bassist Steve Mackey, whose previous production credits include last year’s MIA album. ‘That warmed us to him – he hadn’t just gone down that well-worn indie rock route.’

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