Sound-checks are notorious for being music’s equivalent to our rail system. Tonight, the irregularity and lateness accompanied with this is a fateful blessing, as it enables me to witness the playful lasses Z. Berg (Vocals/Guitar), Charlotte Froom (Bass/Vocals), Tennessee Thomas (Drums/ Vocals), whose personalities blend into The Like, cohesively strumming through snippets of their hanging, grunge skirting material concealed within their debut album ‘Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?’. Via these fourteen tracks they demonstrate an age-defying wisdom, worrisome tendencies and musical dexterity. They display compactness and a deep understanding of each other in preparation for their opening slot for the tempo building, Parisian dance rockers of Phoenix at the Manchester Academy Three venue. A surprise glimpse of the future appears when the mercurial, but personal Berg strides through a wistful and unknown new work (in progress?), containing the calming insight and poignancy of Beth Orton.
Their debut album is making waves with the more contemplative musos around. For ones so young, it such a personal and revealing offering that it must be hard to perform some of these numbers live?
“It is a personal record that is why I decided not to print the lyrics in the album sleeve. I am a very personal person, but I feel that there is enough of a detachment that makes it easier to perform the songs live.”
Proclaims Berg, as she naturally takes the lead and seems so at ease with the role, chilling in the spacious dressing room. Stand out number in their fledgling career has to be the hanging Placebo guitar containing ‘(So I’ll Sit Here) Waiting’, featuring a winding poetic strand that seems to permeate a few numbers on the album. Could it be a conscious direction?
“I’m not old enough to understand poetry. I can’t write it or fully understand it. It is the highest form of art work, every word has to count. That is why I am happy writing lyrics, they are meant to heard and not read.”
Hence the reason she chooses not to publish them, no doubt. Berg comes across as the heartbeat of the outfit whose lyrical power and spirited nature are infused into each well-built harmony laden offering. ‘You Bring Me Down’ coaxes aching out of the soul of this Los Angeles outfit and makes you ponder the dynamics of their song writing processes;
“We don’t jam ever. I (Berg) write the lyrics, melody and chorus and then we arrange it together.”
The bass has been dismissed as being a dying species in the past, but it is definitely given a kiss of life by the harmony producing deftness of Charlotte Froom. This topic evokes some light-hearted mystery espousing from the girls, as the bassist herself plays down the instrument’s role;
“There is going to be no bass at all on our next album.’
Berg quickly contradicts;
“Bass is my favourite instrument. It is certainly not going to die. Our bassist is dying at the moment, she is not well.”
The mysterious drummer, Tennessee makes her debut in the interview, as the discussion turns to the last gig that they witnessed and what they are like as spectators;
“The Mystery Jets was the last gig I saw. They were good, there is something about them. I always want to be playing when I am at a gig. It is natural, I guess. We have also seen Phoenix of course, we like them a lot.”
Berg, has had time to mull the matter over and speaks with maturity and objectivity;
“I’m pretty good at separating myself from the performance. That way I enjoy the show more.”
What about their live shows? The last time they played Manchester Academy Three they were headlining, but have recently supported Dinosaur Jnr and of course, Phoenix. The support slot seems to suit their snappy and compact way of putting on a show;
“We like playing short sets. We don’t like bands that play really long sets.”
It is impossible not to have sympathy for Miss. Froom’s stance when you have been shouted at and told off for nigh on three hours by Bob Dylan. Berg seeks to clarify the reason for their brevity extolling;
“We play for forty five minutes when headlining, but tonight it is a half an hour slot and that suits us. Plus we only have one album.”
I wonder which crowd has taken to them better, Dinosaur Jnr’s fans or the Phoenix lot?
“I don’t think we were loud enough for those watching Dinosaur Jnr.”
Was Froom’s candid summation of this step in their career path. It is striking that all three of these life pondering femmes have a great perspective upon their plight. They reach out to their fan base with humorous musings and observations through a regular fanzine;
“We just have fun, we love comedy, it adds personality to music and it’s important to have personality.”
Berg certainly possesses that and is becoming well known for her salacious crowd-bating at gigs, once refusing to play until someone in Manchester Academy Three “gets naked”. The leading lady moves on to put the music press in its place;
“There’s barely any good music journalism really.”
Given the life summarizing nature of their material, it is fitting to end with an enquiry into which of their songs sums up their mood right now? Tennessee rises to the task poetically;
“June Gloom, it has to be, as it’s nearly summertime and it’s not hot and sunny like in Los Angeles.”
With many bands fumbling behind the musical couch for the loose change of the football fan craze by reaching for that World Cup anthem, ‘June Gloom’ could easily take on the role as the realist’s anthem. The Like has certainly won the first round with ‘Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?’ and it should be a long and intriguing tournament.
Words: David Adair
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