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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 LeftLion.co.uk

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 hellothor.com, 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.

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Live review: Hello Thor’s Christmoustache Party

12 Dec

We Show Up On RadaR, Fists and Hot Horizons played at Hello Thor’s Christmoustache Party at The Chameleon on Saturday 12 December 2009

Reviewed for LeftLion.co.uk

“Welcome to Thor’s Cave… Tonight it’s decorated with baubles and fairy lights”.

After a greeting and introduction from one of Thor’s mustachioed minions, Andy Wright (AKA We Show Up On RadaR) took to the Chameleon’s floor. Andy’s sets are always a lovely mellow treat full of music to dream to, and he kicked off the ‘tache-tastic proceedings with subdued, blissful tones. Christening the evening with his latest single Mountain Top (a single, we were informed by Thor, that was picked by ArtRocker as one of the top 100 singles of the year, and it comes on pink vinyl too!), he immediately instilled the room with his inimitable sense of quiet English whimsy and charm.

Apart from a flourished discarding of his impressive novelty ‘tache halfway through the song, he lulled the audience effortlessly into a quiet and calm appreciative state. He followed with his single’s B-side Spider On a Thread, it’s lilting chorus borrowed from the classic Que Sera Sera and a gorgeously sparse arrangement of barely-plucked guitar strings and tentative, heartfelt vocals delivering a beautiful few minutes of vaguely tragic yet inherently uplifting folk. Finishing off a short but wonderful was a cover of Blue Christmas, a perfectly fitting melancholic ode to the season from one of Nottingham’s finest and most unique folkeys.

Next came about as extreme a change of pace as you could find, in the form of chaotic rockers Fists. Sounding something like what I’d imagine Pixies would sound like if they started making music today, they were unpredictable, brazen, hilarious and quite honestly bat-shit insane, in the very best possible way. Starting off with smile-inducing rockabilly with distorted vocals, acoustic guitar complimented by crunching, thundering electric guitar and bass with some synths chucked in to make sure they had no hope of sounding ordinary, they see-sawed between intentionally discordant messes and jaunty, melodic tunes. Filling the gaps between each song with great-humoured banter, including a discussion of which band members could take each other in a fight, they were constantly engaging and about as far from mundane as a band could get.

As the evening drew on I felt the pull of the last tram home looming, so unfortunately I had to miss what I expect was an equally excellent set from Hot Horizons, but nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed my evening in Thor’s Cave.