Aye, Aye, Cap'n!
- Captain Soul »
If of course, geography had been more gracious to Captain Soul, they’d be more likely sipping margaritas mid-siesta and resting their laurels in the Laurel Canyon. Stuck now as they are in a climate more suited to morose mumblings, they nevertheless seem set on a determined endeavour to turn the sunshine up and tint your tannoys with their jangly pocket symphonies. Spreading the word means the usual route of junket press, tour slogging and a spot on Talk Sport... hang on, I’m sorry but since when has Talk Sport been a hotbed of indie eclecticism? As Adam Howorth explains, “I’ve no idea why we’re doing it, but apparently they want us to do a couple of songs and do an interview. They just have a bit where they give everyone a break from sport, I guess.” In his bid to soundtrack the sunshine with new long-player ‘Jetstream Lovers’, the Captain Soul helmsman is keen to make hay whilst... well you can guess the rest. “There was a degree of trying to put it out when there wasn’t a lot else going on, but also we wanted to put it just before the summer, so the singles would be out during the summer.”
With a Mercury-nominated album from The Thrills, the timing could hardly seem more ripe for a return for Captain Soul’s take on Californian classicism, not that they thought so during its recording and as he recalls more than a hint of paranoia swept the band as to whether a public lapping up The Strokes et al would take to their return at all kindly. “It’s always difficult because I’m sure every band you talk to thinks they’ve made the best album ever. I don’t think it’s the best album ever, but we’re really, really excited about how it came out. We didn’t know how people would react to it because we put together a really west coast sounding record when everybody was playing garage punk. It was a bit of a worry because we thought it’s either going to get ignored or it’s going to get completely slagged to death because its unfashionable.” With a raft of rapturous reviews thus far, it seems they needn’t have worried.
Not prone to naval contemplation in the studio, their debut album ‘Beat Your Crazy Head Against The Sky’ is almost an ode to the beauty of banging out your tunes with barely an afterthought, its follow-up was a little more laboured, but Adam, despite his Beach Boys appreciation is not one to doodle endlessly in the studio. “With the previous one, we tried to record it as quickly as possible, it only cost about £800 the first record and it was virtually recorded live, we just wanted to reproduce the live energy. The band’s much edgier live than we are on record. With the second one, it was a case of wanting to take our time a bit more, the songwriting was better, and the arrangements were better. We recorded and mixed the whole thing in three weeks which for us was quite a long time.” The recordings also saw an auxiliary addition to their firm quartet of friends to bolster their arrangements. “We brought in Julian Wilson from Grand Drive to play the Hammond on this record, purely because we don’t have a keyboard player and he’s our mate from years ago.” Now if they could only get him to show up at the gigs. “He keeps telling us he is coming but he never f**king turns up!”
An errant organist may ruffle the feathers of a lesser man, but the history of Captain Soul is a somewhat checkered one and living by his wits is seemingly all part of the pact you cut to survive showbiz. “The previous band I was in was signed to Sire Records in America and we were locked in to a contract for three years and never got to release a record. We run out of money, so I accidentally fell into journalism.” When he says he fell into journalism, boy does he mean it. “I blagged a couple of tickets for a Glen Campbell show and in order to do it, I pretended I was a journalist. His people then rang up and said ‘do you want to interview him?’ and because I wanted to meet him, I said yes and it kind of got out of control from there. I thought it’d be really embarrassing if this doesn’t appear anywhere and so I persuaded a website to take it. I needed to earn a living, so I thought if I can’t earn a living playing music, the second best thing must be writing about it.”
Awash with cautionary tales about how things can get ugly in the A&R industry, Adam must be that rarest of all species, a musician turned journalist, all of which was never his original intention. In fact, his first encounters with business makers and shakers seemed to promise great things for him way back in the nineties. “The band was called Hoover Dam. We signed a development deal with London Music and we put out a single which got good reviews in the NME and got played on Radio 1. There was an A&R scrum and everybody was keen to sign us and we had a dozen labels come to see us up in rehearsal. We did a gig at the Monarch and Seymour Stein, who signed The Ramones and Madonna, he flew over from Paris to see us and he offered us a deal.” Fans of Joseph Heller’s book ‘Catch 22’ may well enjoy his explanation next of the logic of Seymour Stein and his strategies, once he signed them, on the development of his acquisition. “The problem was he runs an American record label and at the time they didn’t have a UK outlet for any of their acts and because we’re a UK band, he said he wasn’t going to release us in the States until we put out a record here first.” Yes and you guessed it, they couldn’t release that record in the UK because Sire didn’t put out records in the band’s home country, all of which left a band who’d had chequebooks being waived in their faces from all directions very much high and dry.
Even though they could count Glen Campbell as a close, personal friend, Hoover Dam were pretty much ready to burst. A titian tousled saviour was thankfully though waiting in the wings. “It was just a nightmare, it just went on and on and on. The record industry is so slow moving, or the major labels are anyway and in the end, we threatened to sue for restraint of trade. In the end, they had to let us go, which was great so we took all our masters with us and then Alan picked us up at the Poptones.” Back those years ago when Hoover Dam were treading the Camden boards, Creation Records were the first label hankering for their signatures. Unfortunately, now there was one minor problem. Not only were Adam and his band-mates without a home, so was their new master. “I’ve always wanted to work with McGee because I absolutely love the Creation roster. I wanted to sign to Creation, to be honest and I was trying to get him to sign us, but he wouldn’t because unbeknown to me he was at the point of closing the label down. Then he invited me out to lunch, we had a chat. He said ‘go and record your album for a thousand quid and I’ll give you Joe Foster (Co-founder of Poptones) to produce it for free and if I like it, I’ll stick it out’ and he did and then he signed us.” With Captain Soul one of the few players from the Poptones’ promotion squad who’re still happily making records, it seems they now have every reason to blast out a sunny tune, or two. You can put those margaritas on ice.