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Blank Cheque - Featured Artists

Introduce yourselves and tell us what you’ve been up to recently?
We’re Tom and Josh Phillips and we make up the band Blank Cheque. We play quite a unique genre with an acoustic Guitar and a Sax with plenty of vocals in amongst it all. We’re busy playing local pubs and bars in and around Manchester including open mic nights, charity events, and any other events we can get in on. We recently won the teenage open mic competition at the Headlander festival which won us a live music video, free studio time and other prizes. All of this has been squeezed between GCSE exams that have recently finished. Currently preparing for our second gig through Designer Magazine at the dry bar on the 27th July.

And how did you get together?
Well we originally met in our Mother’s womb with us being twins. We’ve studied our respective instruments (Guitar and Sax) from an early age. One day a few years back we decided to try and put a tune together and realised the fun in performing as a duo. It’s always very easy to practice because we live under the same roof. There’s also a certain musical chemistry between the 2 of us with the twin connection. The band name actually came about when we were mulling over completely ridiculous, inappropriate band names and our drunken neighbour got up at his garden party and said “These guys go by the name of Blank Cheque, because they’re still unsigned” and I guess it’s just stuck ever since.

Who are your biggest influences?
In terms of influences, we were both hooked on the film “The Blues Brothers” practically from birth. In our desperation to be just like Blue Lou Marini and Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy we pushed ourselves to pick up the instruments. I personally (Tom) found Eric Clapton as a huge inspiration once I’d found my way around the fret board. This influence is always shown whenever I play a solo, forever breaking into a trademark Clapton lick. Josh has had a huge influence from Jazz music with the saxophone. Influences have to be Charlie Parker and Michael Brecker. Josh’s Jazz influence has pushed my playing style to some extent as I love to throw in the odd 7 or flat 5 chord here and there to change the sound. Singing influences would be anyone who can pass a note through their vocal chords because the voice is such a widely used instrument there are influences to be found all over the place. Collective influences are most definitely the Arctic Monkeys for their creative inventive lyrics, and Ed Sheeran for his ability to command huge audiences with just a voice and a guitar.

Which is the one song you wish you wrote and why?
This would have to be a strange one taking into consideration the genre of music we play. It’s gotta be Louis Jordan’s “Caldonia” purely because it’s such an infectious tune. If you could play it as he did on the record the whole audience would be dancing away no doubt about it! Most people won’t have heard of this track so check it out! (If your foot isn’t tapping by the end of the track you’re not human!)

Here at Designer Magazine we’re all about supporting the scene.. Which are your favourite local bands and why should we check them out?
We’re also well into supporting the scene ourselves. Before we even signed up to the Designer Magazine list we were going to the dry bar showcases checking out the local talent, and we continue to do this. It’s a great opportunity to listen to new, raw music. A personal favourite would be Small Green Invasion. Not just great friends, great musicians and their gigs seem to be getting better and better each time! Would strongly advise that everyone should check them out. Another would have to be a band I saw at the Academy 3 a month or so back through a friend’s band. They go by the name of “Skinny Roller”. Really enjoyed their live set and fell in love with their sound cloud. Give them a listening too.

What’s your biggest promo tips you can give to other local bands? How do you push your band forward?
SUPPORT THE SCENE! If you support other band’s they’ll feel obliged to do the same thing which will create a better atmosphere and expand your audience. A massively important tip we could give would be to keep in regular contact with your fans via social media sites, or emails. Talking to a fan directly will make them feel a part of everything and give them a larger incentive to come to your gigs. A final piece of advice would be posters. We’ve found these particularly effective as we play a lot of pubs and clubs. Plenty of bands don’t bother with posters, but we’d say it’s a massively effective promotional tool. They’re great at creating word of mouth. There could be a chat around a table and they see a poster of yours on the wall. This can make you the topic of discussion. It helps reach those people that you don’t know on a personal level.

What’s the best gig you’ve ever played to date and why?
It would be very easy to say our biggest venue gig which is dry bar. That’s well up there because of the atmosphere and a successful performance, however there’s one that takes it for me. That’s the Hair and Hounds. It’s a little pub out near Marple (serves some incredible food if you’re after a meal out!). We were given the whole night to play music, so we invited a few friends down and played some music. We had the whole audience captivated and silenced for over 2 hours. Plenty of people who originally came for an evening meal ended up staying the whole night. We had a great time and played a near perfect set.

Where do you go for pre gig food and where do you go post gig clubs in Manchester?
Being teenagers, it’s a struggle getting into any clubs post gig so we tend to retire to the Phillips residence for a private party that includes many rounds of cheese on toast! Pre gig food has to be some greasy chips to keep you fuelled for the evening.

What do you like most about Manchester?
There’s a few bad sights around the City (notably the women who wear tight clothes that they fall out of, which we actually wrote a song about) however it’s all made better by the music scene. We really enjoy popping into places just to check out the live music on show. We can all put up with a few bingo wings for the great music on offer can’t we!

Best gig you’ve been to of all time?
This may well cause a stir here because I know there’s a lot of readers that are anti-mainstream, rock/ indie fans. However it must be said, we’ve never been more richly entertained than Bruno Mars at the Apollo. He was just the complete showman and he along with the band were all over the stage for a solid hour and a half. The unfortunate thing with mainstream music is that the artists tend to be groomed by the label to target a certain market, and this has a knock on effect of a loss of overall brilliance which was once there. It’s a massive shame because he’s changed a lot in the new album and he’ll never be the same as he was for the first album but he truly was incredible then!

What one book would you say all of your fans should read and why?
If you’re looking for an inspirational book as a musician, look no further than “Les Paul - In His Own Words”. The guy invented the solid bodied guitar! He also made massive studio inventions such as multi-tracking that many musicians use every day. All this on top of being an insane Jazz guitarist. His life has had so many crazy wonderful moments he’s just an all round legend!

Favourite movie or TV show of all time?
As earlier mentioned, we grew up on the film “The Blues Brothers” and that was the start of music for us so surely it has to be that! Although the Commitments is a close second!

Which football team do you support?
We’re both massive City fans which will please some, and turn others against us! However I’m sure we’ll gain the respect of all City fans when we say that we sat through every home game at the ground in that horrifying season that ended in David James playing as a lone striker! Favourite player must be Kiki Musampa for the worst volley I’ve ever seen that somehow beat Liverpool in 2004/05.

And Finally we’re all about the live sweaty gigs - final chance to say why we should check you out live?
If you’re after an entertaining night, comedy moments, with what I’d like to call great music (but I’ll let you be the judge of that!) come down to a Blank Cheque gig. After searching high and low across the web we’ve yet to come across another act that loops a sax 4 times in harmony so I guess its kind of a once in a life time experience! Come along, check us out, and let us know what you think!

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