‘Playful, powerful, pulsating pop’: An Interview with Childhood (7/10/2014)

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I caught up with Leo and Jonny from the South London based four-piece Childhood. The band is steadily rising to stardom, after a victorious summer of festivals and their recent album release. We discussed Johnny Marr, Japan, adjectives, and their debut album ‘Lacuna’.

How’s the tour been going so far?
Both: It’s been very good
Leo [guitar]: We’ve only done two days so far, we had a day off yesterday, so it kind of feels like we’re starting tonight. But it’s been good so far, good crowds, good vibes.

It’s quite a short tour though, isn’t it?
Leo: Yeah, it is. It’s basically a little practice one off into the Johnny Marr tour which obviously is the big thing. It’s nice to go and headline shows because you actually hopefully get your own fans down, which is always a nice thing.

You excited to support Johnny Marr?
Leo: Yeah, it’s crazy really. I haven’t really… I don’t really know how to comprehend it. We’re all big fans of Johnny Marr as a human being, so being around him in itself is going to be really cool!

What can we expect from your live shows?
Leo: A bit more… chaotic.
Jonny [drums]: Yeah, organised chaos.
Leo: People might describe the recordings as quite meandering and dreamy.
Jonny: Live is a lot louder.
Leo: Yeah, it’s a lot louder and a lot more energetic than people would expect from the record.

So more Palma Violets than Swim Deep really?
Leo: Yeah, yeah, I wouldn’t say we sound anything like Swim Deep, but its there in spirit.

Do you get nervous before you go out on stage anymore?
Jonny: I think I might be quite nervous for the Brixton Academy date.
Leo: Yeah.
Jonny: Not really nervous but kind of excited. Just excited and anxious to get on.
Leo: If I’m honest if I’m really hungover then I do get nervous.
Jonny: That’s just the shaking.

That’s like ‘Can I play my music?’
Leo: Yeah that’s it.
[laughs]

Can you sum your sound in a few words?
Jonny: What was the question?
Leo: Can we sum up our sound in a few words?
Jonny: Oh...
Leo: What kind of words? Like descriptive words?

Adjectives
Leo: Adjectives…. It’s racing… racing… it’s kind of…
Jonny: It’s kind of pulsating.
Leo: Pulsating.
Jonny: Pulsating, pumping… playful.
Leo: Pulsating, pumping, playful… another P, do we want another P?
Jonny: Pop.. Pop…
Leo: Pop…

Playful, powerful, pulsating pop, ok? That’s the headline for the interview [all laugh]So your debut album ‘Lacuna’ was released earlier this year. Tell us a little about it?
Leo: Yeah, basically its a collection of songs that we feel are the best ones we have created over the past three and a half, four years. Recorded it with Dan Carey, brilliant man, bit of a mad scientist in the studio, which is great because he definitely put his own spin on a lot of our ideas. It was a really great experience, and we’d definitely like to work with him again on the second album.

So there’s definitely going to be a second album in the future?
Jonny: We’ll definitely write it.
Leo: Whether it sees the light of day is another story.

What is your favourite track to perform live?
Leo: It changes.. At the moment, it’s… What’s yours?
Jonny: Mine is ‘Pay For Call’, one of the album tracks.
Leo: Actually yeah, I agree!
Jonny: It’s quite fun, I mean they’re all good. With ‘Pay For Call’ we initially found it quite difficult to play live, before we recorded it on the album. It used to sound slightly different and we never really knew how to… not play it live… but physically how to make it sound right. I think when we recorded it we kind of learnt how to play it a bit better.

Haha, fair enough! What kind of process do you go through to write the music?
Leo: It’s a mixture really. A lot of the songs are Ben by himself, or songs that I’ve written part of and given to Ben to fully form. ‘As I Am’ is a kind of group effort with everyone chipping in. Mainly Jonny actually, deciding to make the drums more shit.
Jonny: It’s a weird old demo though.
Leo: I never want to listen to that again! It’s a weird mix, but hopefully with the next album I think we’ll all kind of be going off separately and doing our own thing and then bringing it together and trying to get a kind of cohesive sound.
Jonny: We don’t really go into rehearsals for hours.
Leo: We’re not a jam band. I fucking hate jamming so…
Jonny: Just playing a few chords for hours is pointless, you don’t go anywhere.

How was summer for you? You played at Reading & Leeds, Ibiza Rocks, Latitude. How was that?
Leo: It was very hectic, it was good. We were busy the whole time, not only did we do UK festivals but we also got to go to Japan and places in Europe. It was great, everything had it’s own interesting corners. A lot of mates of ours were playing the same circuits as us so it was a big lolapolooza really.

[shuffle for lighter for another band member]

Leo: Yeah, it was great.

What’s your favourite place you visited this year? Obviously Japan is epic
Leo: Definitely Japan, yeah.

I was there just before you, otherwise I would’ve been there at Tower Records! Where did you go?
Leo: Just Tokyo.
Jonny: And Osaka.
Leo: And Osaka, we played a festival there.

How was the reception over there?
Leo: It was surprising because they went really nuts. We did a signing, an album signing, in Tower Records and there was a queue of 100 people, taking photos, getting us to sign things, like shaking and nervous. It’s very sweet. It was very nice and humble.

It must be crazy having international fans?
Leo: It was, it was like I don’t even know the lyrics, how do these people who don’t even speak our language know them?

That’s the amazing thing about fame. What do you guys think about the whole Spotify debate? Do you agree with it? Do you use it?
Jonny: I haven’t got it.
Leo: I haven’t got it either, I just think I just need to get money. I just think they [artists]should get more money. I don’t know enough about it.
Jonny: I know I haven’t noticed any real income from it. But then we don’t get many plays through it, but if you’re a big band then you’d make more money.
Leo: I kind of think that we should get some money for that, and if people aren’t paying for our album…
Jonny: I think if you don’t know all the facts it’s quite hard to say. I know and I’ve heard that it’s 0.4p per play or something. I’ve heard recently a guy, I can’t remember who, put out how much they’d made off Spotify, it was loads. I don’t know what ours is like.

Do you see your sound changing? And for the future of Childhood do you want to change your sound?
Jonny: We’ll still write pop songs
Leo: Yeah, at the core we’ll still write melodic pop songs, but being in the studio with Dan Carey has shown us the avenues we could go down and we would like to explore, because there is so much more to explore sonically.

Awesome! Do you have any advice for student bands, seeing as we’re a student magazine?
Leo: Student bands… I guess I was in a student band, Childhood was a student band. I’m trying to think about the advice I would give myself now. It would probably be to get out and do the band. That’s a terrible thing to say. Maybe just keep at it, and always remember it will be so much easier to pursue it… I think its a good thing to be in a band in university, it allows time for you to work out your sound before you put anything out to public. Go out and study but also write songs. Once you’re out there that’s when you can start properly.

Ok, you get interviewed on a regular basis, what is the most common or annoying question you’ve asked?
Jonny: Straight away we always get compared to The Stone Roses, and I think I’ve listened to one Stone Roses song.
Leo: It’s ‘Why are you called Childhood?’. A lot of people ask that and when you hear it a thousand times it can get irritating.

What’s the best and worst thing about being in a band?
Jonny: Hanging out with your band all the time.

Awh, how cute [all laughs]
Jonny: Sitting in a van. I think the worst thing is actually sitting in the van.
Leo: That can be the worst thing. The best thing is being in a great show with a great band.
Jonny: I think if I wasn’t in the band I wouldn’t have many ways to be creative, it’s good to have a creative source where you can let loose and do whatever you want really.
Leo: You can, we do whatever we want.
[all laughs]

Awesome, one last question. Do you think an online presence is essential for a band these days?
Leo: I can’t think of many bands that don’t have an online presence.
Jonny: That’s how I find out about most bands.
Leo: If there were loads of bands without an online presence no one would know about them. People only know about Parquet Courts because they don’t have an online presence.

That’s their quirky aspect to their band.
Leo: Yeah, definitely.
Jonny: I don’t know another band that don’t do Facebook.

Superfood didn’t use to…
Jonny: But then you get it… I just think why would you want to hold back, I mean people want to know about you. It’s much easier and I don’t think it’s that sinister to have it.

Our culture is kind of surrounded by it now…
Jonny: Yeah exactly, it’s hard to escape.

Awesome, thank you very much!
Jonny: And you!

Good luck tonight!

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Head of Events for The Edge magazine. Keen concert goer and angry feminist. Shared recycled oxygen on a 12 hour flight with Foals.

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