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Interviewed: Anxieteam

16 Sep

Anxieteam release their double A-side single Let’s Eat Soya/Lonely In The Digital World is out on 20 September on Hello Thor Records

Interviewed for

Anxieteam is Jim Avignon and Jon Burgerman, both internationally renowned artists in their own rights, who decided last year to put down the pens and paintbrushes for a bit and team up to start making some music. What resulted was a musical style all their own – blippy, beepy pop full of ukulele strumming and Burgerman’s unique, dead-pan vocals – that both reflects their respective artistic styles and works as an extension of it, as can be seen in their wonderfully interactive and engaging audio/visual live shows…

Care to introduce yourselves?
Jon: My name’s Jon Burgerman, I draw pictures and colour them in, and more recently I’m in a band with my friend Jim. I play ukulele on some of the songs, mumble a bit and shuffle around the stage and get in the way. And I live in Nottingham.
Jim: I’m Jim Avignon, I’m the other half of the band, I’m also an artists, more of an old school painter than a doodler like Jon. I do the arrangements and the electronic stuff in Anxieteam.

So how did Anxieteam come about?
Jim: I used to be a one man band [Neoangin], but after doing that for ten years I though it was a bit lonely on stage so I asked Jon if he’d like to make a band.
Jon: The first time we met was a joint exhibition we did in Brooklyn at the beginning of last year. We spent a week painting together, I’d do a bit of the canvas, then Jim would do a bit more, and so on. It felt very intuitive, and I think the way we work in the band is a reflection of that.

Jon, did you play much music before last year?
Jon: No not really at all, I’m the complete opposite of Jim who’s a very seasoned musician and has been playing gigs for years.
Jim: In the beginning I asked him to record his voice to see if it would work, and everyone liked the way it sounded, then I had an old ukulele at home so I convinced him to try it because ukulele is the one instrument everyone can learn, and it ended up working out really well.

How would you describe your music?
Jon: Kind of electronic, lo-fi, very melodic – Jim really crafts the melodies. And I hope the lyrics are interesting and conjure up nice imagery in your mind.
Jim: I think the special think about our music is that it gives people a lighthearted feeling, it kind of cheers them up.

So how do your songs come together?
Jim: Well I’m the one who does the arrangements, Jon writes the song lyrics and chords, then I take the chords, rearrange them and come up with something completely different! I think that a good song can’t be destroyed, say if another band covers it, because the composition is so beautiful in itself. I really try to do that in our songs, simple compositions, simple melodies. We’re not perfect musicians, but I try to be perfect in the composition itself.

Where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics? They can range from wanting to be a cat to munching on soya…
Jon: They’re reflections on our modern day lives, but from a very particular viewpoint. I write about things that I know about and what I experience. Like being part of this generation, being very connected to things but at the same time feeling very disconnected. It’s always from little domestic things though.
Jim: Explaining the big, through the small.

How does your art influence your music?
Jon: It’s an extension of our art, I think, just in a different medium.
Jim: We always have a backdrop to our shows, combining art with music. One thing about comparing art and music for me is that when I do art there’s a lot of thinking involved before I start painting, with music it’s the opposite, I just play around until I find something I like. Personally, I prefer making music – art for me is more like a job, but music is more surprising.
Jon: I think the way Jim approach music is the way I approach art, and the way I tackle songwriting is the same as him with art, I spend a lot of time thinking about it. Somewhere in there though there’s a yin and yang that makes us work – if we were similar we might step on each other’s toes.

Tell us the stories behind the songs on your single…
Jon: Let’s Eat Soya is a bit of a seedy love song, between two people finding a common ground in their culinary preference. It doesn’t take itself too seriously as you’ll hear in the analogies in the verses.
Jim: Lonely In The Digital World is more about, say, having a thousand Facebook friends and not knowing any of them, and Jon came up with the story about the invincible video game character making his way through a game, and how lonely it must be.
Jon: You know, you can go to all these amazing worlds and places to connect to, but if you’re not doing that with some other human input then it’s very lonely.

Is it really as fun as it looks performing together?
Jon: For me it’s still a huge novelty, I feel almost like I don’t deserve it because I haven’t grafted for years working my way up. But I really enjoy it, even though it makes me feel sick beforehand. But there are moments when it clicks and it feels really joyous.
Jim: We try not to let it become a job, we’d hate to be one of those bands that repeats the same shows all year. It has to be as exciting for us as it is for the audience, so we don’t know what’s going on all the time and we can react to the crowd. Plus, I want to dance when I hear our music so I do!

Jim, what do you make of our fair city?
Jim: Well Jon has been working hard to show me all the touristic highlights! But I’ve been here before many years ago. I got lost in the one way system somehow, and there was a camper van behind me following me the whole time. Then suddenly he started flashing at me to stop, and I was thinking are these gangsters, undercover police? Then the guy says “you looks a bit lost, can I help you out?” So my only real personal moment with Nottingham was very nice.

So how did you get involved with Hello Thor?
Jim: We decided to start looking for a label when we finished recording, but then three days later Jon went back to Nottingham and called me saying he’d got one already. At the beginning of July we had no idea where we were going with the music, and less that six weeks later we have a single out! We’re very happy to be on the label.
Jon: It was through Pete from Fists who’s a friend of mine, so I knew the label and I’d been to their gigs. It’s been really painless, we couldn’t hope to work with nicer people.

Any plans for a full length release?
Jon: We’ve certainly got enough material, we’re still working on new songs and we’ve got lots that we’re already happy with.
Jim: I’d like to concentrate on how we want the album to look and sound, so it’s not just a collection of singles but something a bit different. But at the moment I could see other songs of ours being released as singles, I’d like that. I love the single format with the picture discs, when the label sent us a picture of them with the records I felt so proud.

Any other news you want to tell us?
Jim: We’re going to have a nice, beautiful website soon – Mr Burgerman has been slaving for many nights on it.
Jon: Well, not just me! We’ve been working with some web developers called The Neon Hive, it should be live in the next few weeks

Where can people get hold of the single?
Jon: From, mainly, and our gigs. You might find it in a few record stores too.

Any last words?
Jon: Listen to the radio! We’ve been really lucky to be on Radio 1 and XFM, and we’re going to be on 6Music next week. And there’s only 500 copies of the single, and I think Jim wants to buy about 100 to send to all his friends, so get in quick.


Interview: Maniere des Bohemiens

2 Jul

Maniere des Bohemiens released their debut EP in June 2010

Interviewed for

Maniere des Bohemiens have been causing quite a stir in the city over the past few months, with their unique gypsy-jazz inspired sounds rattling the walls regularly at Nottingham Contemporary, Fade, and a whole host of other venues. Their gigs have been described as ‘the perfect place to rave with your granddad’, they’re guaranteed to get your feet moving, and they’re usually making it all up as they go. They’ve also just released a spanking new EP, so LeftLion popped down for a beer by the river and a chat with violinist Rob and bassist Mark.

Hi guys, what have you been up to this weekend?

Rob: We’ve had a busy one, we played for the Great Nottinghamshire Bike Ride on Sunday. we were invited down by Dean Jackson from the BBC to entertain the cyclists as they rode past. Lots of fun, I can’t really think of anything better to do with a Sunday morning. We also played at a pub in Lincholnshire, and we played at one of our favourite venues too, The Hand and Heart.
Mark: That one was great, it was our first gig with Matt back, he just got back from India, so it was nice to have the band back to its full outfit. And with three guitars, well that’s always going to be a plus.

Who are we missing? There’s a few more of you in the band…

R: We’re missing my brother Roger, who’s our rhythm guitarist, Matt’s brother Jonny who plays accordian, Elliot our lead guitarist, and Matt who plays rhythm/lead guitar.

How would you describe Maniere des Bohemiens for those who haven’t heard you?

M: Well we go for a gypsy jazz vibe, mixing 1930s French music that was popularised by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, with a lot of Romany music, Eastern European stuff. Rob, Roger and I all have Eastern European roots so it’s nice to be able to pay homage to that.

What’s the best gig you’ve played recently?

R: Well all three this weekend were fantastic, but when we played at The Social for Homemade Cafe’s 5th birthday, that was our first gig there since the Hockley Hustle which was when everything started taking off, so that was great.
M: The atmosphere’s great at the Social, at the Hockley Hustle we had people swinging from the rafters and dancing on tables, it was proper gypsy debauchery.

So what can people expect from your gigs?

M: High energy. I think the reason we enjoy such a nice following is because our music appeals to pretty much everyone. I think we got described once as ‘the perfect place to rave with your granddad’! It’s great though, we can go out to a different crowd every night and get people tapping their toes and dancing.

Tell us about Nottingham Contemporary’s Cafe Bar, you’ve got a residency there haven’t you?

R: Yeah, for us it’s a place where we can try out new ideas to a crowd that really appreciates that kind of music, the audience is always really good. We feel like there’s a bit of prestige getting to play somewhere like that.
M: Especially since we’re the only band with a monthly residency at the moment, we’re really lucky.

And you also host a jam night at Fade.

R: Yeah, it’s on the first Monday of the month, from half 8 ’til about 11. Anyone who wants to come down and have a go at playing some gypsy jazz, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, everyone’s welcome. If people want chord sheets beforehand so they can practice they can email on Myspace..
M: We’ve had some great instruments play with us, we had a tuba a while back! Not sure there are that many gypsy jazz tubas out there.

It seems quite important to you guys to get involved in the city’s music community and get people involved in what you’re doing…

R: Most definitely, we do want to get well known in Nottingham and I think it’s the best way to do it, to really get involved. We’re looking to do collaborations and all sorts; we just really, really love playing music and as well as playing as a band, things like the jam night are our favourite way of doing that.
M: I mean, the way we got started playing music was jamming at parties so it’s always had a social element to it for us. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed playing any other type of music as much as this, just because it’s got such a sociable attitude behind it.

What other Notts bands are you into, and have you got any collaborations planned?

R: Well I should really mention I play violin in Captain Dangerous, so I divide my time between the two bands. Other bands I’ve been working with are the Idolins, and Lisa de’Ville, and me and Mark will soon be working with Andy Wright [AKA We Show Up On RadaR]. We’re hoping to do a bit with Motormouf at the Riverside Festival coming up.
M: I need to return a favour as well, there’s a really talented singer/songwriter who’s done a lot of pushing for us called Sam Bennet, who’s part of a project called Navajo Youth, and he also plays with Sharp Knees.

Almost everything you play is improvised; is it difficult to pull off, did it take a while for you all to get in sync?

M: Well improvisation is an art, there have been thousands of people before us that we can learn from. As we got more comfortable as a band we can kind of predict what everyone’s going to do, and it’s amazing just having that free license to play whatever the hell you want and put your own touches on a song. It’s great to get everyone in the band improvising, because it means that every time we go out on stage it’s a different show, the audience can always get something new from it.
R: That’s what keeps us on our toes really, and what makes us really enjoy every gig because we’re not turning up each time and playing the same stuff we’re just making it up as we go along. It’s making music in its purest form, I think, it’s so much fun.

You jam on a lot of jazz standards and traditional tunes, any plans to write some of your own material?

R: I’m really starting to take it seriously now, I’m definitely going to write some original music. Obviously it’ll still be full of improvised stuff, but the tops and tails of the songs will be our own. Probably leaning towards doing some more European-influenced gypsy music, Romany Stuff.
M: The sort of thing that we tend to play at the end of a set, dance-y music. It’s kind of a wedding based tradition, that sort of music, the sort that you play later on when your gran’s pissed and everyone’s dancing!

I’ve recently got my hands on your new EP, which is sounding great. Tell us about the process that went into making that record, any stories from the studio?

R: If we’d been there a bit longer we might have a few more stories, we were only there for five hours! We recorded at Paper Stone Studios with Sam Brown, and personally it was the best experience in a studio that I’ve ever had.
M: Apart from that dodgy kebab we had half way through.. It was just really relaxed, we did the whole thing live, all sat in the same room where we could see eachother. I think he really captured the live element that’s so important to us, I hope that comes across in the recordings.

It does indeed. So any other releases planned after this one?

R: Yes we’re hoping to get an album out by the end of September.

So where can people get their hands on your records then?

R: The album, hopefully, will be available in most record shops if the distribution goes to plan. Everything else is on iTunes, or you can get in touch on Myspace, or just come and see us play and try before you buy!

Any upcoming gigs we should know about?

R: Yes, we’re supporting Quantic at Rescue Rooms on 8th July , we’ve got our regular slot at Notts Contemporary on 10th July and the Hand and Heart on 27th July. And we’re playing the Influx Waterfront Festival on 31st July down at The Canal House, that should be great, there’s fifty other bands playing all day. And then we’re doing the Riverside Festival on 7th August from 5:00-6:30, and we’re hoping to do some collaborations for that one.

Any last words for LeftLion readers?

M: Anyone who plays an instrument, come down to the jam night at Fade, first Monday of the month!