22-20s: Floating in the Middle

The songs on U.K.’s 22-20s self-titled debut—released to a blizzard of publicity in their homeland last September, and due Stateside April 19—are explosive affairs, showcasing a deadly serious young band hell-bent on making music as angry, sexy, and blues-drenched as the Rolling Stones did on their debut. No stranger to these shores—they toured America last year with Jet and Kings of Leon—the band was first shuttled here to meet label bigwigs during the major label feeding frenzy that followed the recording of their much-buzzed about homemade four track demo. Sounds fun, right? Not so, says bassist Glen Bartup, who considers the experience “a load of bullshit, really, because we were desperate to go away and write more songs. Instead, we came [to America] and did quite a few four-men-sitting-in-the-back-of-a-room gigs.”

It wasn’t all bullshit, though. “Going to New York was great. I grew up in a small village, so it was quite different from that. There’s so many people, you can sort of float in the middle of it all.”

What’s your live show like?

It depends on how much we’re drinking, really. It can be brilliant or it can be shit. We’ve been touring a lot recently, though, so it’s pretty well oiled at the moment.

You were signed partly on the strength of a four-track demo. Does the full-length share any similarly primitive recording techniques?

We never had a big issue about making it lo-fi, or making it sound like it was made in the ’60s. We were more interested in capturing the energy of the track. [Producer] Brendan Lynch [Primal Scream, Paul Weller] knew our reference points—he had a lot of great old Motown and blues records—but at the same time we wanted to make something fresh. We didn’t see a point in making a pastiche of stuff that had already gone before. We didn’t even care if it was digital or tape or what, we just went by what we liked from what we heard coming out of the speakers.

What kind of reference points were you starting from?

When we first heard Dylan’s Live in 66, we knew that was the way we wanted [our record]—to make it kind of dark and scary without just being loud and forceful all the time. It had a bit more of a swagger to it, but it wasn’t a masculine swagger; it could be fairly effeminate, but still pretty intense.

When you’re caught in the middle of major-label feeding frenzy, how do you keep your ego in check?

We went the other way, really. When we were writing and recording the demo, we’d finally felt like we were on the cusp of grasping what we wanted to be, and that’s when everything sort of exploded. We sank into ourselves for a bit, sort of stuck our heads in the sand, getting drunk before gigs and not writing any songs for six months. So it wasn’t really a problem, keeping your ego in check. We just wanted to dig ourselves a little hole to sit in for a couple weeks and try to recreate what it was like when we were unknown and miserable.

Brian McClelland is the Live Music Editor for PlaybackSTL.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply