Wednesday, 30 May 2007

The Svengalis

(The definition of the word “svengali” is as follows: “A person who, with evil intent, tries to persuade another to do what is desired”) Melodic, catchy, summery and completely danceable; these are the Svengalis. They consist of Mart (Vocals, guitar), Saul (Bass, vocals), Jim (Drums) and Jonah (Keyboards, vocals). Their MySpace (linked at the bottom of the page) headline reads, “We shall hypnotise each and every one of you” and from the first play, they already have. “Sting in the Tale”, their debut single, is lyrically a sad tale of love and loss, but musically upbeat, energetic and extremely infectious. Though I myself have never seen them live, the live tracks they have available for download are fantastic, and many have said that they are one of the best live acts around. This band is going places: Steve Lamacq of Radio 1 loves them, they received almost nothing but good press for “Sting in the Tale” and they already have a large fan base - “the svengalians” - with whom they are very close. They are another awesome band from the London area, but with a sound of their own. Fantastically enough, The Svengalis said yes to an interview, despite my apprehensions that they were probably too big a band for this site. More impressively still, they apologized profusely for taking “ages” to reply; these guys are actually lovely. Due to circumstances at the time, only Mart and Saul were able to answer the questions. If you've read their MySpace, they have a long and amusing tale of how the band formed, involving signs on lampposts, and games of tennis and mutual loves of penguins. However, the real formation of the band, according to Mart, was a lot simpler: “I was drunk in a club in Islington and Saul surfed over my head” - so it was destiny really. The name “Svengalis” was, as Saul tells it, chosen for the band when they were flicking through a magazine and sticking their fingers on the page. One of the words was “Svengalis” and they all liked it. Saul justifies this method by telling me, “It’s what Hear’Say did”. Mart goes on to say that he was the Svengali for a girl band named “The Easy Tigers”, who were absolutely genius, but “too busy running around to record fine pop songs”. Main musical influences? Saul says, “Fidget house”, while Mart says, “New wave punk and 60’s pop. That’s Patti [Smith], Dylan, Beach Boys and Jonathan Richman.” At the moment, Mart’s favourite song is “’Free Money’ by Patti Smith”. Saul’s favourite song at the moment is “probably Bump (Switch Remix) [by Spank Rock].” However, as he says, “I haven’t listened to it in a while; that’s because I just haven’t got it, and when you haven’t got it you just cant listen to it…Unless someone else has it.” Fair enough. And their favourite song by themselves? “Every single song is amazing” says Saul, clearly in love with everything they do. Mart still loves “Runaway” best though. Together they arrange their ideal music festival; a 3 day affair with them opening. The other bands would basically be the ones mentioned earlier, and there would be lots of candy floss and gin for all. Speaking of gigs (well... Near enough) I ask which gig they’re most looking forward to playing this year. Saul is currently in Thailand (and much missed by Mart), so “probably the one when I get back because it would have been a longtime and therefore it would be a nice moment.” Mart too looks forward to “a triumphant return at Frog”. Now, when me and Moon-Moon first typed up questions, I made her type everything while I dictated ‘cause I’m really lazy/an evil dictator. To be particularly irritating I started saying things in a patronizingly slow way, so in retaliation Moon-Moon decided to type it out as though that was how the question was meant to be written - hence the question “Who. Is. Your. Muse?” as opposed to a nice normal “Who is your muse?”. So when Saul read that he obviously got a little confused and so we got some lovely answers for this question: “What the fuck does that mean?” to which Mart responds “Saul, you are dense”. Good stuff. In two years time, what will their situation be? Saul, without any doubt will be “famous”. And Mart admits he’ll be “less famous than Saul”; tough world. I was talking to my cousin up in London recently, telling him about all the London bands I had discovered giving a few examples - Cajun Dance Party, The Svengalis… It surprised me that he’d never heard of CDP, but he said that he had heard of, and indeed liked, the Svengalis. I asked them how it feels to be more recognized, more famous after telling them this anecdote. “Nice,” says Saul; short and to the point. “Yeah, it’s lovely,” agrees Mart, “Keep spreading the word you good people.”And adds in, as an afterthought, “Or even the bad ones… Spread the word too.” The band they’d hate to be likened to? “The Beatles because they’re shit!” jokes Saul. I think we can assume they don’t really mind who they’re likened to/ don’t want to be bitchy by saying a band they don’t like. The one you’ve been waiting for (or not) - if you were a fruit what fruit would you be and why? Mart opts for the strawberry (“juicy as”) while Saul goes for the less common lychee “because the seeds are smooth”. I know what he means oddly enough, and I really feel like some lychees now. Now the advice questions. Gather round, gather round and pay attention, young bands. The Svengalis’ advice to you is as follows: “Don’t do it”-encouraging words from Saul there. “Always bring spare strings and underpants to a gig”-Mart suggests, thinking ahead. And now their advice about life en general: “Life’s full of ups and downs, but you just have to keep at it, you know… (Someone not from the band told me not to write this but she seemed wise). Thailand is the land of laughs and smiles. Many say smile everyday and you’ll be happy (but you won’t some days).”- Saul, on life. I also gave them a random piece of trivia for the hell of it (Banana plants are the largest plants on earth without a woody stem. They are actually giant herbs of the same family as lilies, orchids and palms) and they added their own facts. I’m not sure who said what, so you diehard Svengalians can have some fun guessing: “You spend two weeks of your life waiting in traffic lights” and “One in every eight pounds is spent at Tescos in England.” The fact that they were willing to spend their time answering those questions shows just how in touch with their fan base they are, and what nice guys they are. Don’t just take my word for it though; I decided to find out what other people thought about the Svengalis. Cajun Dance Party’s Danny says: “Magnificent catchy honest retro pop. The best live band ever. The bass player is a genius; he probably has the right DNA....” (Danny is his younger brother) One Trick Band says: “The Svengalis are the sex of all that is sex. Beautiful melodies combined with orgasmic bass lines.” And Norway of The More Assured says: "The Svengalis sure are 4 lovely lads in a band!" (He claims he was running low on wit at the time) So, thank you very much to The Svengalis for the time and thanks to Danny, One Trick Band and Norway for their time also. If you haven’t already, you really should check out The Svengalis; you won’t be disappointed. Next up is, to quote One Trick Band, “The sex that is Lo-Fi Culture Scene”. Find The Svengalis at:


vicky said...

that was awesome
like all the rest of them
and it made me laugh :D

Casual Equality. said...

1.Runaway was a song by linkin park.
2.Bananas and lilies are not related in any way.
2.On the other hand,pineapples are apples grown on pine trees.
3.This interview was brilliant.

Anonymous said...

can u see me. i am a comment?

Anonymous said...

no wait it was meant to be like this:
can u see me? i am a comment.

bridget said...

your interviews are royal academy of dance, and i think vicky fancies you.

vicky said...

thanks bridget.
no i do not fancy tara
i fancy cb

Casual Equality. said...

Lol fancies you..

The Scot said...

Good interview..

Never would have suspected you were an evil dictator though. I am shocked.