Friday, 29 July 2011

Come on Ova

We’re no strangers to a bit of hyperbole here at Mint Custard but when we called The Lovely Eggs’ Don’t Look at Me (I Don’t Like It) – an effervescent 3 minute rush of Kenickie, Sultans of Ping, Jilted John and Half-Man Half Biscuit - as best single of 2011 back in January we might have left ourselves open to accusations of being a bit premature.

Instead, the Eggs (husband and wife Holly Ross and David Blackwell) have gone on to affirm their place in our hearts with their second album Cob Dominos. Packed with more musical left-turns than you’d think possible in 37 minutes, it’s full of homespun wisdom, heartbreaking tales of unrequited love, cider, sausage rolls, crap jobs, first class swearing and the loveliest anthem to paranoia that will ever be written. It also contains recent single, Fuck It which might be just about the best answer for anyone trying to make sense of the madness that has been 2011 so far.

Keen to find out more about the band who give us a washing line smile, we had a chat with Holly earlier this week. Here’s what she had to say…

Hi Holly - thanks for joining us for a chat. Can we get you some tea and biscuits, or pop and cake? Cheese and Strongbow. All day, every day.

Congratulations on Cob Dominos – it’s one of our favourite albums of 2011. What’s the reaction been like so far? Thanks. The record seems to have gone down quite well we think. People have swallowed it whole. We've not got many copies left so we're re-releasing it on beautiful 12” vinyl. Oh yes we are. They will be limited edition and all hand numbered. Each one will come with a special certificate of authenticness and a letter from us. It's gonna be special. They will be available from September. People can get them direct from us but we've not worked that part out yet.

Don’t Look at Me (I Don’t Like It) is a bit special. Did some of the expressions in the lyrics [sausage roll thumbs, dog dirt eyes, car boot bones] come from people you know or are they all made up? Most of them are made up. But some are real or at least an elaboration on something real that was said. We suppose it's inspired by some of the stuff you hear everyday in Lancaster. We've got some cob expressions up here you know.

There’s that word again. Round our way a cob is a bread roll. What does cob mean in Lancaster and what - if anything - are cob dominos? Cob means funny or weird. A cob domino is someone who's a bit odd you would say. My mum calls us it all the time. She says we're a couple of cob dominos which is where the name came from.

Print an Imprint and Books, Ting! remind me of those bits in The Office where they show how boring 9-5 work can be by filming the photocopier sorting paper. Have you had terrible jobs over the years? Well David was a printer before he started working at Lancaster Musicians' Co-op so that's what that's all about. I've done loads of jobs. I've worked in a newsagent, at a meat shop (grim), at a chocolate shop, I’ve worked as a care assistant in a nursing home, as a tour guide at Lancaster Castle, as a bar maid, I worked as a local journalist, a writer for a travel company in Paris, a TV researcher and then a documentary producer/director and then in a book shop. The shittest one was the meat shop. I am a vegetarian. I thought I could handle it. I couldn't.

Watermelons features a backing army of kazoos to lovely effect. Did you have a room full of people all playing at the same time? No, just me and David. I think that was done before the digital kazoo was invented. David made it up from a kazoo and a pound shop microphone. It’s patent pending. He likes to call it the electric kazoo, but I prefer to call it the digital. Electricity is more than 100 years old. Nobody is phased by electricity any more. They take it for granted. In fact I think electricity has always been there. It comes from the sky I believe.

You’re both sporting magnificent fringes on the artwork for Cob Dominos. How do you feel about fringing on other things – jackets, boots, settees etc? There's nothing wrong with a nice bit of fringing on a settee or, say, a cushion. I don't think we have anything else fringed though. No, not like that...

The incomparable John Shuttleworth is your co-star in the video for Don’t Look At Me. Was that exciting or had your paths already crossed previously? We had met before when he performed in Lancaster. We both love Mike Leigh's Play for Today Nuts in May and just hit it off. He is a very nice man who likes eating sausage rolls. Was it exciting? Yes it was.

Watching Mr Shuttleworth’s original alter-ego Jilted John the other day it struck me that - besides great fringes - there were some musical similarities between you. Who else influences you? There are lots of things that influence us, writers and poets and relations and stuff that happens to you outside yer house. I suppose what a lot of the bands we like have in common is they don't give a shit and are just doing what they want. For us it is bands like The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Huggy Bear, Nirvana, Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, Jad Fair, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. They were all doing something different, making their own sound, which is I suppose what we are inspired by. We like to plough our own furrow. There are no rules in our band.

You released your last single on a bank holiday with the following message on Twitter: New single Fuck It comes out tomorrow. You can’t buy it cos all the shops are closed. You won’t hear it cos it can’t be played on the radio. You’re not in this for the money are you? No.

Is there any chance of seeing the Lovely Eggs in Australia at some point? We would love to. We just don't know any promoters over there yet. That would be amazing if we could pull that one off.

Do you have fans that bring you gifts or make you things? We've got some lovely fans who send us stuff. We've had two fountain pens through the post. We also had some sort of whale sponge and someone sent us a poem. We often get drawings. I always write back to everyone. I think that letters are just the best. Emails should be clunked out. If you want to write to us our address is The Lovely Eggs, c/o Lancaster Musicians' Co-op, Lancaster, Lancashire, England, UK, LA1 1XD

Mexico Can’t Make You Smile continues the Twin Peaks references from your Haunt Me Out EP. What chewing gum would you like to come back into style and did you get to Washington State (where Twin Peaks was filmed) on your American tour? Yes we did. We went to visit North Bend and visited all the locations. We had a very surreal and slightly frightening experience at the motel used in the film Fire Walk With Me. We’ll tell you about it if we ever see you. We are slightly obsessed by Twin Peaks. We better stop talking about it now. Chewing gum…? PK.

We got to go this year and did something similar. The Double R Diner is still there and they do some very lovely eggs themselves, as well as a top cherry pie. Good place to do a gig? Don't even tempt us

For more Lovely Eggs visit their MySpace page or follow Holly and David on Twitter via @TheLovelyEggs. That said, when was the last time you wrote someone a nice letter…?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Fright or Flight

The meal was served in plastic, containers wrapped in foil
A special pack contains salt, vinegar and oil
To add to my discomfort, lightning hits the deck.
Down the aisle they venture, pouring cups of tea
To gentlemen of business and ladies of the scene
They crave for the interior a
s lightning strikes again...
Gruff Rhys, Skylon - Candylion (2007)

Living 10,000 miles away from where I was born, I’ve spent a few hours of my life in aeroplanes. Distracted by the thrill of foreign travel, an endless supply of Hollywood blockbusters and free gin, I had always rather enjoyed criss-crossing the planet amongst the clouds. There was a certain level of surprise then, when I discovered during a recent jaunt around the world that I’ve developed a fear of flying.

For context, I have in the past flown a small plane, been in several helicopters, done a tandem freefall parachute jump, bungeed off a bridge and jumped off a mountain attached to a crazy Frenchman and a hang glider. All of these acts were undertaken with a bit of youthful zest and healthy sense of what-the-hell. And yet, during what could reasonably be called a successful circumnavigation of the globe (I didn’t die in a horrific fireball at 30,000 feet) every safe landing started to feel like an 11th hour reprieve from the President from some unseen firing squad.

That our journey (eight separate flights with their own individual take-offs, landings and please-pay-attention-sir safety demonstrations) was further coloured by two different volcanic ash clouds, a mid-flight tropical storm that added 8 hours to a 6 hour journey, four constant hours of North American turbulence and a drug-addled Irishman returning from Amsterdam is just extra detail. The rot had set in long before.

It’s probably no coincidence that my fear of flying has developed during a lull in overseas flights. Not having been overseas for almost four years, I had come to associate flying with Jetstar and Tiger Airways, two cheap and cheerless local carriers, the latter of which has now been grounded due to safety concerns. Their joyless no-frills approaches and up-and-down intercity flights had robbed me of any thrills that air travel might once have had. I would spend flights to Sydney mentally drafting dramatic news headlines and radio bulletins about our imminent crash and thinking about who will look after my dog.

Subsequently my levels of in-flight angst are now influenced by two important factors; the size of the plane and the staff-to-Muppet ratio.

It makes no sense that significantly increasing the size of the thing that shouldn’t be in the air in the first place somehow makes it less scary but there’s no denying the bigger the plane, the less is my terror. Take off is smoother, cabins and seats are roomier, TV screens are individualised, drinks are much freer. When planes are big I can adjust my optimism from the opening scene from the Lost pilot to ‘hey, maybe someone will hear that little whistle across the water before the sharks get me…’

As for staff, I used to think that friendly professionalism ranked highest on my list of cabin crew qualities. I now appreciate what I’m really looking for is a door bitch (male or female) who will come down like a prison warden on even the most minor acts of lawlessness. If someone is unbuckling their seatbelt when the light is on, using ‘electronic devices’ during take-off or turning on their mobile phone before we’ve reached the terminal I want them SLAPPED DOWN.

What I don’t want, Ryan Air, is a situation where a crazy walking stereotype of a mentalist is allowed to get on my plane when he has lost his boarding pass (probably used as a roach), who ignores you (the people in charge of all our safety, lest we forget) when you repeatedly tell him to turn his iPod off until YOU give up, who asks people around him “why have we just taken off and landed again?” before we have even reached the runway, and who gets up out of his seat the second the seatbelt sign goes off, leaving his shoes, bag and coat behind and is NEVER SEEN AGAIN FOR THE REST OF THE FLIGHT…

If that does happen, Ryan Air, I would like you to take control of the situation and make us all feel at ease. What I do not want you to do is try and sell me multi-packs of duty-free cigarettes and/or scratch card lottery tickets.

The other cabin crew quality that ranks above professionalism is calmness. Wings could literally be falling off, but if I can see the benign smile of a non-plussed air-steward I’ll always feel much better about the situation. I learned this when our flight from Dublin to New York was interrupted one hour from landing by news that every airport on the eastern seaboard of the US had been closed down due to violent storms.

After an hour looping around Nova Scotia we then headed north to Montreal because (and these are the reassuring words of the Captain) ‘we are running low on fuel’. Although convinced this was leading to the death that I’d been anticipating since leaving Melbourne, and slightly aggrieved that having planned our holiday for so long, we were going to die without even seeing New York, my terror was eased by watching the seemingly unconcerned Irish crew stop working, kick their shoes off and have a bitch about some of the passengers who were less gracious about our situation. I particularly enjoyed seeing one obnoxious passenger being torn a new anus by a small red head for switching on his mobile phone. You can be my wingman anytime, Maverick.

My panic may have been lessened by the crew’s apparent insouciance, but I still spent the rest of the flight wondering how a pilot planning for a 7 hour flight was able to fly a plane after 14 hours at the helm. All mitigating factors aside my presiding in-flight emotion is still uneasy panic rising to hopeless wreck. It may be safer to travel by plane than to catch a bus or whatever that statistic is, but give me the bus any day.

I’m not as bad as some. Such is my friend’s fear of aviation that she refers to planes as ‘flying coffins of death.’ She is incapable of setting foot on a plane unless she has rendered herself comatose with all manner of long lasting little white pills. Another friend has good reason to be afraid of flying after she was involved in a major incident which saw her flight plummet 20,000 feet (that’s almost four miles) for over five minutes. As a keen traveller she has had to literally force herself to get back on the horse using counselling, noise-cancelling headphones, more little white pills and whole heap of scientific and statistical reasoning to counter the fear.

Logic should suggest that if she can get back on a plane then I should stop fannying about, sit back and enjoy the drinks trolley. If only my brain was wired up that way. Instead, the fact that I know someone who has experienced exactly what I fear goes to show that it could happen anywhere, anytime.

For now I’m just grateful my secular prayers were answered. I’m home, back with my feet and all my other bits firmly on the ground and no plans to travel until my Grandma’s 80th birthday in February next year. If I set off now, walking non-stop I should have those 10,000 miles covered just in time.