If your brand new musical project has started with a song about insecurity, hypocrisy, and the thin skin of artists, you might not think to call upon Trigger Happy TV's Dom Joly to star in the video as a mime artist. However, a chance meeting on Radio 4 and a shared love of the same bands led to The Leisure Society's Christian Hardy doing precisely that for his new band's video.
Alongside bass player Jon Cox and drummer Sebastian Hankins, Pop Crisis, Hardy's new band, have recorded 3 EPs set for release through 2017 - 'Tell Me I'm Wonderful' being the first single. Having convinced Joly to feature, they hit upon the idea of mime, and came up with "a pretty beautiful take on masculinity and the masks we wear in society."
DiS spent a very convivial hour down the pub with the duo, who talked about getting to know each other, their appreciation of Blur, and celeb-spotting in toilets.
DiS: So, how did you guys meet?
Dom Joly: It was a crazy night back in '89. No, we met in the most middle-class way in the world. We were on Loose Ends, which is Radio 4's most poncy middle-class show, but it always has great music, doesn't it? I can't remember what I was talking about, some rubbish, and they were playing live...The Leisure Society. And I just thought: “I absolutely love that song.” It was ‘Last Of The November Snow’.
Christian Hardy: Are you taking the piss?
CH: It's called ‘Last Of The Melting Snow’.
DJ: Yep, well I'm terrible with names, it's your fucking song...what's my third book called? Anyway, the moment I heard it I thought: "If I do another Trigger Happy I'm putting that in”. And actually, weirdly, I did do another Trigger Happy, but I didn't use that song, I used ‘We Were Wasted’. But I loved the band straight away, so that's how we met
CH: I think it was the first time we'd been on that show, we hadn't done much media at all, that was our first single.
DJ: Was that your first single?
CH: Yeah, it wasn’t just you there, Stephen Fry was on.
DJ: Always the weirdest mix.
CH: Jo Brand...and they have a very 70s buffet lunch in the pub afterwards. Sausage rolls and cold pizzas.
DJ: But it's weird because there is always the oddest mix of people. It's one of the last remaining places where people play live and they've got quite good taste in music, well quite good. We had Seth McFarlane last time I was on. He was doing his orchestral stuff at The Albert Hall…and we all ended up in the pub. I love the show for that. It’s where I meet all my musical contacts.
CH: For a band, it’s a bit weird. For twenty-five minutes you’re listening to this round table discussion, everyone has five minutes but the band are sitting there leaning in, listening to all these interesting people, but also shitting yourself because at one point it’s going to cut to you and they’re going to say: “And now The Leisure Society” and you have three minutes to do your recording.
DJ: Well you didn’t fuck it up. It was really good.
CH: Well, thanks man. But yes, that’s how I first met Dom.
DJ: I’ve, embarrassingly, used two bands for that show. Dry The River, do you know Dry The River?
DJ: I love them as well, I just go there to A&E up and coming bands.
DJ: A&R. Sorry, I’m a bit hungover today. A&E is actually a little more appropriate.
Dom, you’re in the video for the new Pop Crisis video, how did that come around?
DJ: Well, we kept in touch after that, I think we swapped Twitter didn’t we? And we bumped into each other at Paddington once. And then you’d send me your albums, which I would love every time, so I was in it for the free albums really.
CH: And we were getting free source credibility…such as it is.
DJ: And then we put you on the new Trigger and it was one of the songs that people really loved straight away. And I love doing that. I’m more interested in the music than the comedy in Trigger and I felt that song worked really well and everyone was like: “Oh fuck who’s that” and Shazaming it. And it almost feels like I wrote it, I have a little bit of ownership of it. Then recently you contacted us and said: “I’ve got an idea, I want to do a video” and you didn’t really know we were doing videos, did you? Anyway you go through it.
CH: So I was starting Pop Crisis. We decided to share ‘Tell Me I’m Wonderful’ as the first track, which is a bit more of an understated track, a bit more thoughtful. I didn’t want to come on too hot and heavy. And a friend of mine Julian listened to the lyrics and had an idea that the video should be about social media and that desperate need for ‘likes’.
CH: Right. As soon as you post a picture or a desperately witty tweet, that longing, the need we all get from that red notification button. I didn't write the song with that in mind, but I liked the angle. And I thought “I don’t want to be in this but I bet Dom could do it really well…because he got famous with a big phone” But he was actually on the radio talking about mobile phones and nomophobia. So I tweeted him. Aptly enough.
DJ: And I’ve actually made two pop videos. One for Pop Crisis and one for Rizzle Kicks, both times triggered by being on Radio 4, I’m not sure what that’s saying. We’ve just set up a company, it’s for comedy, but me and Matt who do it, we kind of love music more than comedy really. We want to make pop videos, it’s sort of a lost art, there’s no money in it anymore and it just doesn’t seem so exciting. We just love bands, being connected to music. So the idea of making videos…we sort of do it out of love. You sent me the track and Matt and I listened to it and we both kind of immediately thought we both had panic attacks without telling each other, so that was sort of a bonding moment, but we also thought the whole thing was about insecurity and need for affirmation online, so when we met you we thought: “Fuck we’ve probably misunderstood this whole song.” But actually, it turned out Christian is in the club as well. So we all just had a bit of a therapy session. So that’s really what the song is about. But jumping from that to me being a mime I’m not quite sure….there’s some great artistic statement there.
CH: It wasn’t the idea I had in mind but I’ve learned that musicians should know their creative limitations. If a good director is enthused about an idea, I say let them run with it.
DJ: For me, it was difficult because it’s the first thing I’ve ever done artistically where I haven’t tried to get a laugh. And the temptation, when you’re dressed as the mime, trying to look sad to a lovely song, is to do a bit of a gurn, so that was tough to avoid. There was some unexpected poignancy. I’m going to name my next band Unexpected Poignancy.
Had you guys discussed music a lot? Was there a lot of crossover in terms of what you like?
CH: I think so. I said to Dom, without trying to age him, that I got into Gordon Lightfoot when I was younger, thanks to him, and that song ‘If You Could Read My Mind’. That’s a beautiful song and was used in Trigger Happy. And Grandaddy…
DJ: I actually just found out the bassist has died. I did a video for them when they were on tour, and I’ve literally just been told he’s died of a stroke. 41. Terrible. But, no, we haven’t discussed music loads. I mean I’m an ex Goth so I just like everything in Dm…the saddest of all keys. I really like sad indie music, and from what you make, certainly the Pop Crisis stuff, there’s certainly some pathos and melancholy in our shared musical tastes.
Were you part of any sub culture when you were younger, Christian?
CH: I was in the Blur camp. I was a teenager in the 90s, I was very defensive of Damon Albarn and the art of songwriting and harmony. And I was quite anti-Oasis, whereas now I can see the charm of Oasis, I quite like them. I was a big Blur acolyte basically.
DJ: I’m totally with you. I think people didn’t understand you had this great songwriter in Noel Gallagher and this sort of thug singing it, and that’s what makes it interesting; it gives Liam’s thuggishness a bit of soul. But I was totally Blur. I think Damon Albarn is one of the greatest English songwriters. The melancholy he puts into a song like ‘Country House’, I just think is amazing.
CH: I stood next to him at the urinals at the Ivor Novello awards and I really wanted to say: “Hey man, when I was a teenager your band were everything to me” but we both had our penises in our hands...it just didn’t seem like the moment.
DJ: I had the same thing. I was at a thing and I was peeing next to Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd and I just love Pink Floyd. And again, we both had our penises out but I wanted to tell him how important Pink Floyd were to me. And he was just looking at me thinking: “Why is this bloke staring at my trousers” and I just left. And I was at Alex James’ in the Cotswolds, Graham Coxon was there, and the drummer was there…
CH Dave Rowntree.
CH: You’re no fan.
DJ: And I thought, we’re just an Albarn away from a Blur reunion. That’s all I could think about. But meanwhile, apparently something was happening with David Cameron, something political, but all I was caring about was Blur. I love Blur.
DIS: There could be a TV show in that. A James Corden fronted...
DJ: At The Urinal With? Pissing with?
CH: Or instead of talking you just awkwardly ignore each other for six minutes, or however long it takes...
DJ: Yes. Or to the link with your song, we call it ‘Stage Fright’. ‘Stage Fright’ with Damon Albarn.
CH: We’re making ideas happen, it works.
DJ: Showbiz factory.
How long did the video take?
DJ: It was done in a day.
CH: I wasn’t really involved.
DJ: He was the laziest man ever. I love the fact he doesn’t have an ego. He’s got enough insecurity not to be in his own video, we had to force him to be in the video, we ended up re-shooting one little bit to include him. But no, we shot the whole thing in one day, or one-half day. Because a) there’s no money and b) I think all videos should be made like that really. Everything else is sort of wank. We did it round here and the rest on Hampstead Heath. And then it took a long time editing with everyone putting their ore in and deciding which mime expression looked better, but all that doesn’t really matter. I loved it. I’m proud of it, I think it’s really good.
CH: You should be. It made my girlfriend cry.
DJ: It made me wife cry, but for a different reason.
You said before that it’s unusual doing something that doesn’t make people laugh. Is that something you want to explore more in the future? DJ: It’s weird for me. I grew up loving music, I was in a band, but I had no musical talent. And I do Trigger, which I love, and it happens to be something I’m really good at – but actually, what I really like, I like poignancy. If I were left alone, Trigger would just be lots and lots of sad music with weird rabbits. There wouldn’t be many laughs in it really. Perhaps a bit self-indulgent. But that would be the dream video I would have made if I were twenty-one and in a band, a goth band. Just me saying: “Ohhh I’m so unhappy,” but with a hint of irony in it. But no; I won’t be doing any more mime work. But we will be doing a series of concept videos all involving mime, with a different person doing the mime every time. And we want to link them.
CH: I’m happy to indulge this. I’ve always wanted to do that, link a series of music videos together with an ongoing narrative and a theme. I wanted to do it with The Leisure Society as well but it never really worked out. Getting directors to commit to three videos…
DJ: Whereas, we’re really not busy so…And also, it’s a great way to get cameos in. We’re throwing around ideas at the moment, going through my address book. Brit Ekland, Joanna Lumley, and James Nesbit are our targets for the next three.
CH: What I like is the mime representing the schizophrenic version of the songwriter. My band call it Pop Chris’s because they’ve decided it’s all these different versions of me. I’m a bit of a schizophrenic songwriter, it all veers around a bit. I like the idea I won’t be in any of the videos but all these talented people will be representing all my different ego states.
Will you have a little appearance in each one?
DJ: Oh you have to!
Were there any creative differences in the making of the video?
DJ: Well not really. I mean, he wasn’t there. But he did cruise up in a Porsche at the end of the day, a day where we’d all been working for free. Not before zooming off again with a topless woman. So it was all very rock’n’roll.
CH: That’s not true.
DJ: No, that’s not true. There were no arguments at all, we were just excited to make it. We were in symbiosis.
CH: It could have gone very wrong I think. You initially told me this very specific idea about stage fright and anxiety and wanting to run away. And I just thought: “Oh fuck that’s perfect”. I totally trusted them.
Pop Crisis' 3 EPs will be released later this year.
Photo Credit: Flore Damiant