When Badly Drawn Boy made an appearance in Manchester a couple of weeks ago, he was reported to have made some less than pleasant comments regarding former labelmates, Alfie. Tony Naylor called it a “sour note” and mused that it was unseemly to hear Damon Gough vent his spleen “over some business wrangle which would be better kept private”. You haven’t heard the half of it mate.
A few weeks ago, DiS met up with said Mancunian folk troubadours, Alfie, as they completed the last of a quick-fire five date tour of the UK to support their first proper album, ‘A Word In Your Ear’. Front man Lee Gorton, an outspoken and forthright young man who happens to look like every Manc music icon of the last 15 years rolled into one, was at pain to explain the difficult 18 months gestation period they had on their inaugural, and now departed, Twisted Nerve label. It wasn’t meant to be so: I had turned up wanting to chat to them about their new LP; a swoonsome set of gentle and lazy tunes that were a distinct and thoughtful improvement than the collection to be found on their last major release, singles collection ‘If You Are Happy With, You Need Do Nothing’. Unfortunately, other issues got in the way, culminating with Gorton accusing DiS of prying into affairs that were unimportant and had nothing to do with them, which is strange thing to say, especially when you are more than willing to speak about them with the slightest of prompting. So, lean back and read about the World According to Alfie...
Alfie on Touring under Twisted Nerve:
How do you feel about promoting an album for a label you have left?
Its fine, if anything, we’d love to have done more than five dates, more television appearances, but Twisted Nerve isn’t that kind of machine. It would have been nice to have done 14 dates, played some more smaller places like the Northampton Roadmenders, which we did. The amount of time people on the Alfie Message Board have said why don’t you come here or there or wherever? People assume it because you can’t be arsed, but the truth is, there is no money. You don’t make any money unless you are playing the bigger gigs like the (Manchester) Apollo.
Alfie on recording under Twisted Nerve
Some of the tunes on ‘A Word In Your Ear’ have already appeared in different guises. Do you find the songwriting process laborious?
We’ve got plenty of tunes knocking about, its just a case of how much studio time we’ve got. It’s hard if someone’s going to put you in a studio for a really restricted amount of time. Everything we have ever recorded has had to come out on a record in the past, because again, its down to budgets, it’s a matter of fact. There’s more pressure on being on a small label with no money and time constraints; every [song] you do, you have got to get a result out of, that’s more pressure than being on a big label with lots of money and studio time. We had to record some of the songs that we already had because of that. We’ve been wanting to put out these songs for ages, but we haven’t been able to get into a studio quick enough, so by the time we’ve come round to this album some songs have been around for ages. It’s not an ideal situation.
Alfie on adversity Under Twisted Nerve
I don’t regret anything really, I’m dead proud of the way both albums came out, but you have to look at it in the way that both are results of the circumstances they were made in and the things that are going on at the time – if certain things are happening in certain places, then the albums will reflect them.
I think we have done dead well. Because they are the not the sort of label who will come up to you and say ‘listen lads, you’ve got to get us a single, you’ve got to get us an album together’ If you didn’t got to them and say ‘We’ve got to make an album’, it wouldn’t happen, look at the other bands [Mum and Dad, Sirconical etc], they’ve not got albums out, they’ve not got two albums out in 18 months, and we have. Because they’ve not fought for it like we have, and we’ve gone in there and virtually done it ourselves.
Alfie on Twisted Nerve generally
In the last DiS interview, you offered the opinion that Twisted Nerve was run by two old guys that wanted to make a bit of cash...
Well the good news is that they have been sacked, so don’t worry about that, but it wasn’t a lie. It goes against the image of the label. Andy Votel and Damon Gough are victims of circumstances as much as anyone else, Andy spread himself too thin and Damon was very busy and they just got the wrong people involved who didn’t do a good job. I don’t want to complain constantly about it, but there’s stuff you don’t need to know about what went on.
Alfie on things that aren’t Twisted Nerve
We don’t need everyone in the world to love us, but it would be nice for everyone to hear us and make their own minds up. Super Furries are the benchmark I think, but it does make you question,’Why do we play the same places as Elbow, like the Ritz in Manchester, but they have sold so many more albums than us?’ It seems that we are only big in Manchester.
Alfie talking about Twisted Nerve again
We have had so many ideas for doing a few bits and bobs and the answer is always ‘No’ There just isn’t any money. We wanted to do Alfie lego. The video for ‘Bones’ was made for £25. We’ve never done a proper video with them. The people who were telling us ‘no’ weren’t nice people either. And that’s where you get a problem. We’re not arsed with selling more records, we just want to make Alfie lego.
I came to ask them about their album, honest!