If the charmingly lazy acoustic folk that Manchester’s Alfie deliver has so far failed to warm you, then it would seem fairly dubious that you could be endeared to their cheeky vocalist, Lee Gorton. With the wayward cocky grin and swagger taken straight from his hometown favourite, Ian Brown, and the Charlatans’ Tim Burgess, Gorton is everything that was right about the mid nineties. Alfie however are not a Britpop resurrection, but the supposed Columbus’ of the infamous New Acoustic Movement that lasted all of a month inside the mind of a feeble NME hack.
Formed in Manchester by Gorton and college chum, guitarist Ian Smith, Alfie sought to produce the very best in instrumental music, but with the additional resource of vocals. More delicately balanced than particularly fresh, but what has become of it is impressive.
With three limited EP’s safely stored in 500 cagoule sporting kids’ shelves, the band released ‘If You Happy With You Need Do Nothing’ on Manchester’s favourite label Twisted Nerve, a compilation of the aforementioned EP’s with two additional tracks. The album received high acclaim, and having been part of the much-touted NME tour in January, Alfie were becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Upstairs in the dressing room of The Charlotte in Leicester, Gorton is upbeat, musing on the band’s appearance at Scotland’s T in the Park festival, “It was our first proper festival, and we loved it. We’d been going to them (festivals) for the past ten years and sneaking in, but we’d been waiting for this for a long time and it went really well.”
Indeed, an obvious rapport with the Scottish audience was developed and the reasonably rammed tent was lapping up the cheekiness of the confident Gorton. Perhaps surprising considering how little the band has been pushed?
“It’s bits of everything really that have helped the push, many of the kids on the NME tour were at their first ever gig, and we started being seen as a proper band. Nobody knew who we were, but it worked to our advantage.”
The tour in question incorporated the rising stars of the time JJ72, Nu-Metal yanks Amen and the now untouchable Starsailor. Alfie were quaint, acoustic percussionists with Gorton’s irrepressible banter. A tour with Coldplay has strengthened them, an ambitious video for latest single ‘Make No Bones’ has broadened them to the public eye, but the make or brake time for Alfie will be the new album, currently being recorded in a ‘cute’ village in Lincolnshire,
“We’re all excited about the album, we’ve never had a recording stint like this before and it has really made the difference. We didn’t worry ourselves, we didn’t need to.”
There’s no doubting that the previews heard live distinguish a much more forceful, more focussed sound than the folksy, whimsical predecessors. One could hardly call it a commercial decision, but it certainly needs less of a trained ear to appreciate the hidden intricacies.
“It’s stronger, but it’s still us. ‘Bends’ (Bends For 72 Miles, limited to a label compilation release) needed a good re-working and it’s all odds 'n' ends coming together. It’s a typical progression from first to second album.”
It also spells the end of an era with Twisted Nerve, the label that took them on but callously has thrown them by the wayside.
“They don’t treat us with respect, they aren’t prepared to put up any money for anything, which we didn’t know. sighs Gorton, wearily. We didn’t know money mattered. We should have realised, but they just don’t care.”
Surprising when you consider the streetwise opinions on Twisted Nerve nationwide. Here were a cool, trendy little indie label, coupled with an even cooler little indie band, ready to take on the world…Seemingly not…
“The video gave us the most exposure, Twisted Nerve gave us nothing. They always threatened to cancel the tour support just before we went away, leaving us in a shambles. They refuse to speak to us, yet when they do we are treated like kids, little boys that don’t know what they’re doing. We wanted decency, but got nothing. They’re not even run by Andy Votel or Damon Gough, just two amateur businessmen. It shocked us as much as anyone.”
It would seem Alfie have have been mistreated, having to go it alone, backed with Steve Harrison Management (home of the Charlatans) and their own dedication to what they’re doing. Many bands would have failed to overcome this kick in the teeth and would have sat down and died, for Alfie it has only served as one rung in the band’s confidence ladder,
“We’ve got stronger and stronger as a band because of it, and got more faith in each other. There’s a fight on and we’re more than up for it due to our faith.”
So, to the future. It certainly looks brighter when we consider the festival appearances and the forthcoming album…What next for Alfie?
“Keep on going, keep on truckin’. All we’ve ever wanted is to have a guitar each and be able to make the next album without starving. More fun and more fans.”
Nobody would deny Alfie their fun, and with a suitably convincing attitude to match they deserve the credibility they’re so dedicated to seeking. Don’t pass them up as merely Britpop hangers on, if this is your stance it is safe to say you’ve never heard a note.
Open your ears, relax and just, as Gorton would surely plead, have fun.