UNSIGNED bands can be, by and large, a rather mixed bag.
In regards the very finest, you always wonder why they have not been snapped up – the average and poor, you hope, improve their game before labels come a-calling. AFFAIRS (another band who feel the need to uppercase their name) are in no short supply of talent, strong tunes and confidence. I talk to frontman James about the band’s formation and how it all began. He discusses the new single, Life of Leisure, and what it is like being picked up by national radio stations – plays from BBC Radio 6 Music’s Chris Hawkins and BBC Radio 2’s Janice Long among them. The boys are preparing for a busy summer so I ask James about future plans and where they are touring. He gives me an insight into AFFAIRS’ songwriting process and whether there are any more songs/E.P.s arriving this year. James talks about Manchester (their base) and how important it is – the band play Manchester’s The Castle on 1st April – and the artists he recommends for big things.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello. Good, cheers. It’s been pretty busy, to be honest. Got a few live shows coming up so been busy in the studio getting pumped for that!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
AFFAIRS is Liam (guitar/backing vox), Dan (guitar/synth); Jack (bass), Michael (drums) and James (vocals). We’re based in Manchester and make ethereal Doom-Pop that some say is pleasing to the ear.
How did you guys all come together in the first place? When did it all begin?
We used to make up all kinds of daft stories about how we met. For ages, we told people it was on a coach trip to Whipsnade Zoo – which a few people actually believed!
The truth is we all met at Hull University – Dan and Jack were in the same halls and started jamming together. Dan knew Liam already and they then recruited Michael and myself. We always all had similar music tastes so it just worked really and we’ve been together ever since. Always been proud to be associated with the Hull scene and buzzing that it’s now being recognised with the City of Culture celebrations.
Life of Leisure is your latest single. What can you tell us about it and its creation?
Life of Leisure started off as a very different song. We had the chorus already but with totally different lyrics with different verses, riffs – the lot. We rewrote it a few times but always kept that chorus melody. We decided on a still very raw version as a single and went to record with a very beautiful man called James Kenosha in his very beautiful studio in Fraisthorpe. Whilst there, we rewrote bits again – while taking romantic strolls along the beach.
You boys have played on a lot of different radio stations and been backed by Janice Long, Radio X and Amazing Radio. What has been your fondest memory and is it a bit mad with all that attention coming in?
We’re obviously chuffed with any backing we receive: it’s always nice to know other people dig your stuff. It’s difficult to nail down a particular fondest memory as there have been quite a few now. One that stands out is having one of our earlier tunes get played on Tom Robinson’s ‘6 Music show – it was the first time we’d ever been played on national radio and I can remember us all crowding around the radio in Dan’s room in Hull; sharing some beers and thinking ‘we’ve done it’. Good times.
What would you say is the secret behind your success? Maybe something AFFAIRS offers that nobody else does?
I don’t think we have a secret formula as such. We’re all close friends and our line-up has stayed the same since we started, so I think we just all understand each other well and how each other works, both musically and as mates.
That, and we’re bloody musical geniuses. That also helps.
You spent three weeks on the C-List of Amazing Radio. Did that give you confidence and how important was that backing to you chaps?
Again, it’s always awesome to get any kind of support or backing in that sense. We’ve always had a very strong belief in what we’re doing as a band and when someone in the industry shares that belief and gives you a bit of airplay, it vindicates that belief. Definitely spurs you on to keep working and keep plugging away.
I know ‘6 Music have picked up on your music and love it. How important is the station and have you found a different kind of fan being drawn to your music – now that you have that ‘6 Music patronage?
We’ve all been big fans of ‘6 Music for years now so I think it still feels a bit special whenever we’re played on there. I wouldn’t say we’ve necessarily had a ‘different’ kind of fan being drawn to us. Our music has always maintained certain almost retro elements to it, meaning our fanbase has always been quite diverse.
Stained Gold is your previous E.P. How have you developed as a band since then and can we see any new material this year?
Stained Gold was a massive learning curve for us. Working with Ed Buller taught us so much about the creative process and how we structure our songs. I think we’ve all become more mature as musicians since then and I think the new material we’re working on really reflects that. Expect to see more of AFFAIRS coming your way in this year!
AFFAIRS are based in Manchester. How important is the city to your creative process? What does Manchester mean to you five?
Growing up, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been influenced at some point by the plethora of great Manchester bands we’ve seen over the years. It might sound cliché to some, but hearing The Smiths for the first time as a teenager changed the way I thought about music.
Living here and being involved with such an amazing music scene – that still churns out great band after great band – is inspiring.
The rich musical heritage of the place really does have an influence on what we do.
I know you just played The Finsbury (18th). How exciting was it to be back and can we see you perform anywhere else this year?
We’ve always loved playing London shows and The Finsbury is definitely one of our favourite venues, so big love to the Born Music guys for having us down. After that, we’ve got a hometown show in Manchester at The Castle on 1st April which is going to be huge.
Being in a band must be an eventful and memorable experience. Who is the biggest character in AFFAIRS? That one person that causes a bit of mischief or turns up a bit late?
Being an egotistical frontman, I’m always going to say I’m the biggest character!
To be honest, though, I think we’re all big characters in different ways and that’s what makes the band work.
I would recommend checking us out at one of our live shows and deciding that for yourself.
Which album has meant the most to each of you?
It’s difficult to choose just the one album that means the most to me as I have connections to different albums for different reasons. Dan and Liam (both guitar) are behind most of the music we write and I think it’s fair to say that Foals’ Total Life Forever is one album that’s had a massive influence on them both as guitarists and songwriters.
Who are the new acts we should keep our ears tuned to?
Have you any advice for songwriters coming through at the moment?
If you believe in it, do it.
Chances are someone else will believe in it, too.
Finally, and for being good sports, you can each select any song you like and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Cheers! Our five are:
Tennis – Modern Woman
The Hubbards – Cold Cut
Big Balloon – Dutch Uncles
Dantevilles – Graffiti
Low Island – Holding It Down