More from the pen of Johnny Foreigner’s singing guitarist Alexei, as the indie-rock trio he fronts so very well plough through April’s ups and downs.
Catch the band on tour now, under the DiS banner (whoop), alongside The Lionheart Brothers and The Mae Shi – full tour preview here, and dates below.
Cavern Club in Exeter. No jokes apart from us being late as usual. Exeter is always drunky fun – some guy heckles, I heckle back and he gets thrown out. Ahaha, I win. Some crazy girl attaches herself to us and drinks all my gin. Unimpressed faces all round. We stay at my friends Ash and Annie’s house, and I swap guitars with Ash and fall asleep on the floor. In the morning we try and set a trap on the beach for (tour manager) Lea, whilst he goes off in search of bits for our van, Maddy. A big hole with a beach mat over it, took us an hour, but he sees thru our ruse easily…
Envy in Portsmouth. Worst gig venue ever, an R ‘n’ B club with the stage as a thin strip above the bar. Meaning: all we can see is some nice boys having a fight on the dancefloor, unless we go all the way to the edge where the crowd is a mix of people craning their heads to see the stage and people queuing for drinks, spilling them and having some more fights. We arrive and the support band is already setting their stuff up; the promoter pretends he forgot we were supposed to go on last but we’re beyond caring. We have to stick around and watch the other band, I forget the name but they were awful. And they ate our rider pizza which was the only hot food we had all day. Goodnight Portsmouth. High point tho – we inherit a disco ball which, when hung in van and combined with a set of £5 mini lasers from BP, makes Maddy instantly cooler.
Louisiana, Bristol. The best sound you’ll ever hear, says the soundman. And he’s probably right: the sound is immense on and off stage. The dressing room is also super lush and well stocked, and the owner cooks us a feast. Then we do an interview with a pointy-shoed tool so twattish that (drummer) Junior walks out. And about five people show up. I overhear the promoter grumbling about “hype bands who don’t bring any people in” and feel guilty. The soundman really likes us and gives us his card. Rest of band go back to Birmingham so our van can be fixed; I stay at a friend’s and get slow drunk on gin.
Radar Club, Cardiff. Wake to phone call – van is fucked, gig to be cancelled, you = stranded. Spend the day enjoying being stranded whilst band organise car-driver-backline and such; take evening train to Cardiff then spend three hours trying to find Radar. Helpfully, the venue is called The Club With No Name, so I think half the people I ask for directions think I’m taking the piss. Band come find me, turn up, have enough time to get drunk (ten mins), play gig, go home, sleeeeeeep. Messed up arrangements with promoter means half our fee is swallowed up by agency fees which somewhat fucks our cash flow up a bit. “We should just buy some bread and cheese” is starting to become my catchphrase.
Manchester Academy 3, supporting The Subways. We do a photo shoot for the NME in the Academy 7 or something – they insist on making us do crazy backwards aerobics for two hours (then use the traditional Band Standing Up shot) so we’re broken for soundcheck. We were morally torn about the Subways tour – they’ve never written a song we’ve ever loved but we’re essentially the same kind of band. We go down amazingly well, get lost in the maze of the Academy, sign posters and ticket stubs and feel like a proper touring band again.
Peterborough Met Lounge, all-time greatest rider ever! Gin, beer, pasta, chocolate, dips, snackables, we feel well looked after. The support band is an all-girl punk band, I totally crush on the bass player, and she gives me some filters but doesn’t stick around to watch us.
Brighton Concorde2, supporting The Subways, who abandon soundcheck to ask us how our gig yesterday was, confirming our thoughts that they’re probably thee nicest band in the world. We always love coming to Brighton: the gig is sold out, I take my camcorder onstage at the start and that gets cheers in itself. The gig is well fun (tho Kerrang! review it and call us pointless, meh..), we come offstage and try not to swear in front of The Subways’ soundguy’s little girl. People keep asking for photos with us, it’s bizarre. I think they think we’re more famous than we actually are.
Southampton Brook, supporting The Subways. Another sold-out show, the support is a proper ‘50s/skiffle band with a celebrity bass player. I forget who tho, but he’s off telly. (Actually, it's Mark Kermode - celebrated film critic and all round radio guru; DiS listens to the Radio 5 film podcast every week - Ed) We sell loads of merch but have to dash home because Junior has family problems. We scav some weed and drive home with our disco ball and a comedy green fug coming out of the windows. Maddy is not sounding healthy…
London ULU, supporting The Subways. We now have two kinds of t-shirt, yay. End of tour party is over by 12. We still don’t l-o-v-e The Subways but if yr a lil kid taking yr first steps into rock music you could do loads worse. I’ve never seen a band rock out in soundcheck like they do; whatever yr opinions on how credible they are, they’re certainly in this business for the morally right reasons. And Dave Grohl would resurrect the dead to write a hook like ‘Kalifornia’.
London Koko, Club NME. Uh-oh big time! We supported Idlewild here last year and it took us two songs before we got the courage to open our eyes. The disco ball totally puts Maddy’s to shame. Bar for nicest rider is raised considerably – fine meats and cheese! Bombay Sapphire! Wow! We play really late, the crowd is awesome and dancey. We get our first crowd surfer: he gets to the pit and the security dispose of him in one solid practised ballet. We get back to the dressing room and various hangers on from our label group have demolished the rider. No gin, no beer, no meat. I know this is part of the industry but this really pisses me off. I go home and have to shop exclusively own brand and reduced shelf and when we do get some fine foods some poxy cunts we’ve known for all of half an hour demolish it even tho they blatantly earn more than we do and have stocked freezers waiting when they go home which is like, EVERY NIGHT. Sour taste in mouth which I relieve by going out with my friend to some club and then to hers where we get stoned and I realise Fallow is actually the best Weakerthans album.
The Crypt, Hastings. We arrive well early – we’re playing an indie night club, and as we’re the only band on we get to rehearse for a few hours. We get a new song, ultimate joy, reminds us why we started band in first place. We set up thee best merch stand ever. Then, predictably, about five people turn up. The promoters are nice people but Hastings seems, um, culturally dead? Like, the few indie boys we managed to temporarily distract were dressed like The Hives, and the girls were indie in that they probably got the Snow Patrol album. The one with that song on it. I come up with a new game: at the end of the set, close eyes and move as far forward as mic lead allows. I get to The Hives and they seem pretty pissed off by it. We sell nothing. On the way home Maddy dies tragically; we pull into a service station and try to sleep, the four of us and our friend Henning. ‘Not A Career High’ is becoming our new catchphrase.
Birmingham Rainbow, Hott Date All-dayer. Firstly, please open a new tab here – Sunset Cinema Club are our friends’ band, they’re one of my favourite bands in the whole world and if they don’t get some recognition soon I’m going to end myself. Anyway, day starts with Lea coaxing Maddy to the nearest Halfords and fixing up the Flux Capacitor; we drive home, get dropped off for showers and clean clothes and play a well drunky set for the closest Birmingham gets for a London audience. Half folded impress-me arms and half our friends... was a traditional homecoming. Mirror Mirror play before us and destroy, Sunset Cinema Club play before them and get largely ignored, proving in my head that Birmingham is mostly full of twats. Lea takes the day off to get deservedly drunk and we forfeit an encore to go and sleep in proper beds.
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Glasgow King Tuts, supporting ¡Forward Russia!. I love King Tuts because they feed us proper and Gemma and Fiona bring us chocolate-based snacks. We have our own soundman for a bit, we stole him off Los Campesions!. His name is T, and he makes us sound amazing. We go down kinda average but we enjoy it shitloads ‘cause the sound was so awesome. He puts us up for this leg as well, and he even drives Maddy so Lea can drink booze.
Drummonds Bar, Aberdeen, supporting ¡Forward Russia!. Katie Russia shows us how to fold t-shirts in an effective manner, Junior is spellbound by convenient folds and coloured tape. The gig is pretty empty, giant football clash apparently. We go down well tho, sell some shirts and make some new friends, and get the “help yrself to our rider speech” from the Russians. Yay strawberries!
Fat Sam’s, Dundee, supporting ¡Forward Russia!. We lose T for the night as his friend calls in a favour involving sourcing American power supplies from several different Scottish cities that aren’t Dundee. The perils of free labour. The sound’s a bit poor and we’re even poorer, a ha. Spend £5. We have to drive thru the night to make the next day’s show in Camden and, because we’re terminally unlucky, Maddy shorts out the Flux Capacitor as soon as Lea turns the key. Panic! Stranded in Scotland, no money and getting later and later. Final solution involves Rob Russia pretending to be in our band so we can use his AA insurance to call a man out. Cue grateful band bonding, “so you smoke weed too?”, yayerrrrrrrr.
Camden Crawl, Bullet Bar, DiS night. Night driving, silent running to preserve the Flux Capacitor. We break down again at 4am on some scary moor lands, it’s so quiet, (bassist) Kelly’s convinced axe murdering muties hide in the bushes. Lea and Junior fix up Maddy in the rain. Arrive in Camden just in time for soundcheck, whereupon sleep deprived me commits the grievous sin of locking the keys in the van. Lea calls the RAC, then throws a snare stand thru the window. Thus freeing the keys but meaning we have to sit in a draughty van whilst Sky Larkin rock the fuck out. The gig more than makes up for everything: we have moshing and people collapsing on stage. Loads of our friends show up, everyone knows about our shit day and the atmosphere is superbbbbbb. We meet our street team, they’re lovely. Mike DiS gives us Maltesers and plays more George Pringle megamix. We’re too skint to buy dinner, we sleep in Junior’s friend’s basement with a chorus of grumbly stomachs. (See our In Photos special - Ed)
Camden Crawl, Enterprise, Rough Trade night. We feel slightly better for having the chance to sleep and wash. We weigh our street team down with so many beers they have trouble walking to the venue. The capacity of the enterprise has been halved because LC! broke the floor the day before. I leave before doors for a fag and have to fight my way back to the stage. It’s another fun show and after we do an interview in the van and get drunk and then we drive home and sleep properly.
My diary says we had days off but I cannot remember what I did with them. Probably sat and played Glory Days 2 on my DS. Best game ever, serious. Lea fixed up Maddy good tho, brand new Flux Capacitor. Katie Russia sorts us out to play another show with them in Bristol but we can’t afford the petrol. Gashhhhhhhhhh.
Sumo, Leicester. Someone’s dancing dad is the highlight of the night, ties one of those shows. Get a good gin, get drunk easily. Find Jesus H Foxx are playing the day after so we tag the dressing room in their favour. Bwahaha.
Drive Maddy to Amsterdam without any major breakdowns, yayyyyyyyy. Get into a nice cycle of café, steakhouse, Frisbee, sleep. Amsterdam is lovely but crossing six-lane roads is hard enough when we’re unstoned. Which is, like, the first hour. We’re playing the second day festival at The Paradiso where all the bands are English, we somehow manage to get ourselves on our own guestlist for the first day and realise that, Blood Red Shoes aside, we don’t actually like any of the bands playing. So we go to a café instead, yayers.
London Calling, Amsterdam… shitwelostourpassportsshitwelostourpassports is the general tone of the day. Amsterdam = passport theft capital of galaxy; us = quite forgetful at the best of times. Epic epic fail fail. The venue staff are lovely but all their help regarding exposition is useless. A few more days, is the general median best guess of how much longer we’ll have to stay in Amsterdam. In the middle of this we play a gig which is fucking unbelievably good, we get crowd surfing and stage diving and people singing our songs with Dutch accents, “schofacorre I likshed youbettershh”, it’s like a half hour of indie-rock bliss worthy of passport loss. Then we get off stage and sit feeling absolutely fucked and small whilst Joe Lean and Pete and The Rascals run round acting like pissed Englishmen abroad. I phone the British Embassy as the ultimate last resort and some elderly man tells us to have a groovy night and he’ll help extract us in the morning. Yay, Embassy.
Cancel Manchester Russia gig in favour of attempting to get home. Drive back across Europe, fill in a million forms, have several interviews, wreck our phone bills, finally get in sight of the ferry and the last hurdle: French customs… who laugh in our ignorant anglais faces and start stripping our van. Day is actually saved by a copy of Kerrang! with our pictures in. Photo ID, ahahaaaaaaaa! Get home to Birmingham, realise that we have flights booked to Ireland that we can’t use so we have to book even more stupid travel, feel v v v stupid, phone up Embassy to confirm safe passage to the homeland and sleep.
Leeds Cockpit supporting ¡Forward Russia!. Arrive to much piss taking from Russians and crew. Soundcheck is awful, there’s mad feedback that the soundman pretends he cant hear, jesbus… Pay more money we can ill afford on train and ferry to Belfast. Tis a day’s travel for me and Junior, instead of a 40-minute flight. Gashburger. Day saved by Cats And Cats And Cats. They play this new song, ‘If I Had An Atlas’, and it’s like thee best song I’ve heard all year. We play good but the sound still smells bad. Home coming show for the Russians, we go out drinky with them and various real-life music industry types who tell me loads of fun gossip about bands that YOU love. One of them even pays for my taxi to our beds. Thanks Anna!
Nottingham Rescue Rooms, supporting the Russians. We get to rehearse in Leeds in the day, this place called Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus. Our room is called The Doldrums and it’s very dark. Noisy new song = hangoverheadache. Gig is average, a bit of a comedown from last night’s full-room show. I’m never sure about Nottingham audiences. They’re a bit London, innit. Lea buys us all dinner and we eat at a table, which is pretty civilised for us. Say goodbye to Russians, more good friends made we won’t see ‘til point x… Katie promises to knit me a DS case, yayyersss; Lea breaks the disco ball chain, noooooooooooooo.
Day off. Only, it’s not for me because I have to do phone interviews and written interviews and passport stuff. Busy busy... the NME phoned our label earlier in the week to say they’d be running our Radar piece, and even tho I don’t buy it and don’t believe in its ideals et cetera I go buy it like I lived in Moseley and it’s the start of the century and King Adora are hanging round. And we’re not in it. I could have spent that money on chicken pasties. (They’re in this week’s edition – Ed) On my third trip into town in the rain carrying bag of clothes and backpack and giant 1989 laptop case I bump into my friend Alan what I used to be in a band with and he asks me what I’ve been up to the past few months and all I can think of is watching some mad boy crowd-surfing when we played at The Paradiso with a drunk idiot smile on his face and absolutely no idea where he was going to land. I think I’m getting deep.
Next month, maybe some stuff’ll happen. Likely! I call some pointy-shoed cunts in Manchester “pointy-shoed cunts”, and one of them asks me if my hair is a “short back and can’t see”, and we’ll get to the passport office to find out we can rush thru our passports and fly to Ireland… yayyyyyyyyyyyyy… bye.
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See JoFo - whose Waited Up 'Til It Was Light LP is released in June; Track by Track article coming to DiS next week - on tour now, DiS dates as follows:
7 York Fibbers
8 Aberdeen Moshulu
9 Glasgow Barfly
10 Liverpool Barfly
12 Birmingham Barfly
13 London Kings College with DiS DJs
All the above shows are with The Mae Shi and The Lionheart Brothers. More dates and music and stuff on MySpace. A single, 'Salt, Pepa and Spinderella' is released soon.
Wide photographs: Amy Brammall