Sunday, 22 July 2007

"The More Assured you are...the worse you become"

The More Assured are Al Your Pal (that’s right- he’s not just my pal, he’s your pal) who provides vocals and guitar. Then there’s Slinky Sunbeam the pink trouser wearing bassist who famously walked into Tescos in just his pants. There’s the lead guitarist Mattt with not one, not two, but 3 t’s at the end of his name. Finally, there’s the drummer Norway, whose parents, it would seem, have a strange obsession with Scandinavia. Together, they make one bloody fantastic band. There’s something about their sound which is very refreshing; not your average indie band (isn’t that a funny statement to make? “Average indie band”, when indie is supposed to mean “individual”. Or is it independent? I forget.). Upbeat and catchy, their jangly yet smooth guitar riffs are sure to have you up and dancing as you sing along to the memorable lyrics. Clean guitars playing well thought out melodies, rhythmic drums and a flawless voice rising above it all; from listening to their music you can tell they’re playing purely for the love of playing and making music. Their songs lyrically, can vary wildly, from the tale of unrequited love (unless I’m entirely misinterpreting a song) “I Want your Despair”, the strange “Ain’t It Strange” (yes, I lack originality when it comes to adjectives), to the stranger “I Want To Be A Sex Offender”. All are hideously catchy, especially "All In Your Head", which is debatably one of their best songs yet. Al and Slinky very kindly answered my questions, so without further ado, here’s the interview: To start things off, I asked Al who is our pal about the band formation- how and why did it happen? “I came back to London to form the band two years ago and after auditioning some strange characters, this lot fell right into my lap! I met Slinky in a basement in Brixton in April 2005 when I fell through the pavement after some dodgy road works; he was clearing out a pub cellar underneath! The solicitor for the opposing side when it came to Court was this straggly ginger-ish fellow called Josh and we all just got chatting about music and hit it off. His brother Steve [the secret of Norway’s real name has been revealed!] told us all he could play drums and that were it; the band was formed.” An explanation of the band name comes next; why The More Assured? “The more assured you are that you are cool, or good at music or a nice person… the worse you become. It’s a reminder to keep your head on the ground.” That’s quite a nice deep band name there really, and I think it’s fair to say that they have kept things down to earth. So what are their main musical influences? “The Police (force, not the band), my troublesome Father and birdsong. I take all the sounds they make and throw them out from my mouth in a different order.” I think this is a special Al technique, and should possibly not be tried by bands at home. Next I ask who writes the songs, and who or what their muse is for writing? “I write the songs,” says Al, “And Muse are rubbish!” a clever way of avoiding giving away who or what his muse for writing really is. The boys have played a fair few fantastic gigs in their time, including an All Ages gig at Nambucca where 950 people turned up, causing the riot police to be called, playing a short set at the O2 Wireless Festival and a sold out headlining gig at Kings College. Which has been their favorite gig so far? “It’s hard to say ‘cause so many have been good. It’s a toss-up between headlining a sold-out Kings College and playing a small Hungarian venue where we found loaded guns in our apartment.” For those of you interested, videos can be found on YouTube of them discovering the guns, and later of Al drunkenly chasing a distraught Slinky around the apartment with them. So, what gig are they most looking forward to playing this year? “Ibiza Rocks! We are playing twice, with the Fratellis!” Sounds like it should be really fun.The band is very close with their fan base, asking them to give them challenges to see if they can fulfill them. What’s the wildest challenge they’ve ever had to face? “Probably escape from wild boars on the island of Corsica. They chased us down a cliff in the dark because we had strawberry tarts. That was all we could find to eat on the island by the time we got there!” Wilder still, I don’t think he’s joking. Recently, the band featured in such fine newspapers as “The London Paper” and “The Daily Star”, for a stint involving a sign, some tins of beans and Hugh Grant’s house; “cheeky fans tried to cheer him up by leaving a shrine of baked beans at his London home. The tins refer to this week’s [April 29th, 2007] incident when the Notting Hill actor was accused of kicking a paparazzo and hurling a tub of baked beans at him.” Yes, the cheeky fans were they, and despite the clear effort and wit they put into the whole thing, Hugh didn’t seem to appreciate it and was quoted as saying “I don't know who 'The More Assured' are but I liken their brain to Einstein's - dead since 1955.” I asked Al what he had to say in retaliation to these harsh words from Hugh, and also how on earth they came up with the plan. “Hugh is a bit of a cheeky boy isn’t he? We came up with the idea on the spot because we suddenly realised where he lived so we were just trying to lighten up the situation. He didn’t take it very well but that’s grumpy old posh blokes for you!” In two years time, where will The More Assured be? “We will have finished and released our album, have hit the pop charts and be sailing in the Mediterranean with Rupert Murdoch attached to a string at the back of the boat.” Whatever floats your boat; no pun intended. It’s sad because I’ve already told that joke once this week… The boys have a strange obsession with sharks and kites, debating over the pros and cons of both, and even asking fans to come to their gigs dressed as either a shark or a kite. I ask Al to explain; why sharks and kites? “If you don’t like Sharks, you will like Kites. They are fundamental opposites, but they can both kill you in nasty ways. They can be combined and aroused. They’re just great.” Right then…Moving swiftly on. Each band member has their own unique dress sense, and I decide to use this as grounds for a tacky magazine kind of question: Have their ever been any complete clothing disasters which he now looks back on in horror? “Yes, I have no idea what to dress myself in. Slinky shouts at me about it. And he’s wearing pink leg-warmers!” They’re pretty damn awesome leg-warmers too! More and more people are starting know the name “The More Assured” and listen to their music, so how do they feel being more famous? At first he laughs, “I’m not sure how famous we are, but it’s not as strange as you might think. I have been shouted at in the street a few times and gently accosted on the tube. Because I haven’t said anything stupid in an interview yet people don’t really hate me much, and if they do they are too small to beat me up.” He then uses the opportunity to besmirch his clean reputation; “I want to change that now. Boxers over the age of 18 are shit.” Shocking words from Al there! Continuing the theme of the new, bitchier Al, I ask which bands he’d hate to be likened to. “The Libertines, Razorlight [the media has a thing about comparing London bands with these two, especially the former] in fact anybody really… if likened means ‘sounds like’ that would be quite annoying, especially if they thought the songs were really similar.” Next, I ask him to arrange his ideal music festival: “Music Festivals are a bit of a myth aren’t they? I mean do they really happen and do people really like them? I think they need to stop using tents, it’s not a camping holiday it’s a gig. I think people only go because they like camping. I had to fight two people last time I went to Reading and eat Beans with a combat knife, and the time I went to Leeds before that they destroyed everything with fires, helicopters and riot police. But if we forget that…Kid Harpoon, The Clash, XTC and not the Velvet Underground. Oh I don’t know.” And now for the one you’ve all been waiting for, say it with me if you know the words: If you were a fruit, what would you be and why? “A pineapple so nobody can eat me without a knife or big teeth.” So it’s all about survival instincts really. So, when people see or hear The More Assured, what does Al want them to be feeling? “Furious excitement and a need to dance!” and it’s there alright. We’ve come to the advice section, and he’s pretty enthusiastic so you’d better be writing this down. Al’s advice to bands just starting out: “Keep at it, unless you are rubbish. If something is wrong, change it right away, don’t wait in the band, change it change it!” And about life in general? “Whatever you are doing, do more! Not Tomorrow, today! Be good to people, its better than being a shit.” He’s a clever guy, is Al. Next, I got a couple of questions with the lovely Slinky, to whom I wish a very happy birthday! If you go onto YouTube there are a crazy amount of More Assured related items, as Al and Slinky seem to be obsessed with posting their amusing anecdotes up. The videos are often very embarrassing, but what’s the most embarrassing one? “The most embarrassing thing was deleted almost immediately off of YouTube by the moderator. I can't say too much about it until the court case is over, but it contained a cardboard cut-out of Ainsley Harriott and a cattle prod.” I think it’s probably for the best that the public didn’t see that one… Back in 2005, before the band had formed, did Slinky think that any of this would be possible? “Back in 2005 I had a dog named Tax. I would open the door and income Tax.” In their live acts he bestows the audience with gifts, and even signs their shoes! What started the gift giving? “One day Al really damaged my feelings by making me mop up some water I spilt onto his keyboard. So at the next gig I gave away his drivers license and passport. The crowd seemed really keen for it, so at the next show I gave away his bank details and a chair his grandad made for him in the 70's. The present giving has split over into everyday life now. I was convinced into giving a woman on the tube the t-shirt I was wearing, thereby forcing me to walk home semi-nude in the height of autumn.” It’s one of those “is he joking?!” moments, and I’m really not sure if he is or not! What is Slinky’s favourite song by the band? “My favourite song of ours is 'Zones' because it sounds like Norway is playing the drums naked.“ A strange statement- does he know something about the recording of the song which the public haven’t been told? Did Norway record the song “Zones” (an infectious song, with a march-like beat) in the nude?! And finally, the meaning of life according to The More Assured is as follows: “Shall I write prick on the penguin’s chest?" - Slinky Sunbeam Have wiser words ever been spoken? I think those 8 words pretty much capture the meaning of life right there. And so, to show my thanks to the boys, I asked other bands a question too; what is it about The More Assured? “Slinky and Alex from The More Assured have been filling in as mummy for a while now. They do everything for us, from fighting off dragons, to sorting out dates; they do so much that none of us can read or write, due to lack of exposure to the real world. They often tell us stories about when they were little, and when I say little I mean it in the literal sense. Growing up Alex had a rare disease known as dwarfism and was assaulted by his teachers for this, Slinky also spent most of his child hood being mistaken for a gnome in his granny's garden. Ten years in therapy have made them the people that they now are. They are in a band called The More Assured which would probably make your great aunt Gerty dizzy if she heard it because she doesn’t like loud noises and men, but if she did, she'd love them! Sometimes when I am feeling particularly philosophical I think about how different my and all of our lives would be if we hadn’t met Slinky, Alex and all of The More Assured. This thought is a dark and horrid one that I push to the back of my brain and then swiftly go on to telephone one of them, just to make sure that they are actually real” –Pull In Emergency ( ) “I love The More Assured. There is no better band to play impromptu gigs with on battered acoustics and tin cans in the middle of several hundred teenagers and riot vans. Legends each and every one of them” – Mart Svengali ( ) “If The More Assured were a book, they would be Harry Potter, because Al is like Dumbledore (i.e. has a long beard and is wise), Slinky is like Ron (i.e. Ginger), Norway is like Hermione (i.e. Clever, and female) and Matt is like Harry (i.e. his goal in life is to kill Voldemort and to run off into the woods with Ginny Weasley and Cho Chang)” – Lo-Fi Culture Scene ( ) “What it is, is that they are not a scene band, they don't have a gimmick, they're just writing some of the best melodic pop songs about at the moment! And you won't meet a nicer bunch of kittens!”- CityLights ( ) And that’s the cheesy ending section over, and I think it’s clear that everyone loves The More Assured to bits. Thank you to all the bands who contributed and a special thanks to Jacob Perlmutter ( ) who let me use some of his amazing photos of the band. And obviously, thank you to Al, Slinky and the rest of the band! Give them a listen, they won’t disappoint: Next up, the rather fantastical Los Campesinos!


The Scot said...

Another great interview.

Glad you mentioned the whole indie paradox thing again. It bears repeating.

Charlotte said...

Nice one Tara
Going to listen to them right now..
Loved the "Grumpy old posh blokes" bit!

Trio of Oi! said...

Al Your so called pal use to be in our band the Trio of Oi!, but we had to sack him coz he just wasnt hardcore enough, absolute gimp.