THE ELUSIVE SEARCH FOR DEFINITION
Hi. Confused of Surrey here. Or a member of a band still searching for a definition of its music. I can hear the chortles of incredulity from here… “What, an album, an EP, new songs in the process of being written and NOW you’re asking yourself what category you fit into?” Yes, I see how it might play. To be honest this head-scratching has been going on for a long time, ever since we started playing our own songs. When we were playing rock, blues and indie covers it was easy and obvious. Even the EP was pretty unequivocal. Or was it? “Somewhere in the Desert”… What is it? Folk, Americana, or some hybrid? https://open.spotify.com/album/7dvwiWR5V4Zfwl0p3WFJT2?highlight=spotify:track:6ShP7ixIK5wT9N6aGcQK9d
You see what I mean? In its purest form, according to Razz, it doesn’t actually matter. We are Lavender Hill, we play our own brand of music, end of… However, this works until the outside world pokes its head through the door. One evening in the rehearsal studio, Lukas, our new keyboard player who was looking for gigs in and around London, asked the question for a totally legitimate reason. Promoters want to know how you define yourself so they can find the appropriate venue and event to offer you a gig. If you sound like Take That they don’t want to put you onstage at a death metal show. Well, I guess they could do it for comedy value, or if they didn’t mind the band’s body parts being thrown around the venue. It’s easier now we have a current album. The promoter can listen to it and make their own choice, but even that isn’t simple. Do they listen to the entire album, or a single track at random? The answer is, it depends if they have the time or the inclination. They might select a song at random, decide they don’t like it and toss the CD notwithstanding the possibility they might listen to another song and really like it.
It may be an understatement to say the album is quite diverse. Here’s a link if you haven’t heard it already – https://ditto.fm/lavender-hill . When you’re asked who you sound like, and this happens a lot by bloggers, promoters, pluggers, reviewers…well, it’s difficult. It should be great to declare loud and clear how original your music is, so original it doesn’t fit in any category. It doesn’t help. Try telling a rock journalist you sound like a certain band and they will have an immediate pre-conception of what you should sound like. Then they listen to a track and say we don’t sound anything like said act. I’m going to wade into dangerous territory here and say a couple of correspondents have described us as early Pink Floyd. Thanks, very flattered, Floyd a big influence, always admired the band etc. Then someone else says we sound like something else. On the face of it there isn’t even an issue. Guitar power chords over a driving rhythm section, drums and bass right up at the front of the mix. That’s a rock band, pure and simple.
Further confusion arose when we were selected for the Ditto Music ‘Indie Hitlist’ playlist on Spotify. Here it is – https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3Kg4EKpK8OtkhDvIOVm5cc Really exciting to be in the company of some superb artists. So now we’re an indie band? And listening to the playlist there is a musical spectrum as broad as the Sahara Desert. I don’t have a problem with that, and certainly, depending whether you accept the definition of an unsigned act playing outside mainstream genres, which was how the term was created in the 1970s, we are most definitely an indie band. But I had a conversation with Razz about it, and he was pretty unequivocal that we don’t conform to the expectation most listeners associate with the term “indie”. So now we’re back to square one.
My fault, I guess. If every song had been like ‘Dancing in Silence’, we would be neatly labelled, packaged. Job Done. So instead we dive into ‘Apocalypse’, bass-driven, almost a dance track if it weren’t for the rock chorus. Then two songs, ‘Electra’ and ‘The Fire’ which are very definitely verging on soft rock. Just when you’re nodding in confirmation, track 5, ‘Favourite Son’ smashes you in the head like you’re standing next to the cabs at a 1974 Deep Purple concert. And on we go, careering around like an out-of-control musical dodgem car at a fairground, picking up elements of swamp rock in ‘Chainsaw’, the gentle folk of ‘Lavender Hill’, and ending with a jazz-influenced ‘Temptation’ and the metal of ‘What Did You Do?’ I’m exhausted thinking of all the influences and genres in this album and I wrote most of the tracks!
It doesn’t really explain what I would call eclectic and others would call a hodge-podge of styles. We have every reason to thank our producer Tom Hughes for finding a uniformity through all the tracks on the album. The songs might be incredibly different but the way we play them is pretty much the same apart from ‘Lavender Hill’ and I’d argue we’re allowed one outlier.
And we’re not trading new ground. There are loads of great, well-known acts and bands who change genres and styles on the same album. Prince, David Bowie, Queen just off the top of my head. The difference between them and us is they are so well-known they define themselves. And it isn’t as if the music business has changed. Even in the 1960s you were either a hippie band, a rock and roller, or a pop star. One of the reasons Bowie didn’t break earlier was no-one could work him out. Who would dare to call Prince a funk artist once they heard ‘1999’ or ‘Little Red Corvette’? We’re still struggling to be allowed to reach that point and until…if…we do, we have to accept this need to pigeon-hole, to fit us neatly into a sub-genre. We’re still looking. I found one called neo-rock. No? What about Art Rock, Math Rock….Sunshine pop. So what do you think? Perhaps we can create one especially for us. Any ideas? Surrey Rock? London Rock. Or perhaps just Lavender Hill Rocks!