When Dear Eskiimo set up base in on a farm in Leigh, a small town between Wigan and Manchester, they ended up kicking four rock bands out of the rehearsal rooms cos they'd had enough of bland as f**k rock n roll posturing. In-between growing their own vegetables and taking on Sainsburys they set about creating a fusion which would take in everything from Outkast to The Sound Of Music, filter it through a pop filter and include lyrics about wife beating, teenage girls eloping to Greece to get married and of course little men in traffic lights. Designer Magazine caught up with Britain's Best New Pop Band.
Q: You guys seem such individual characters, there's no archetypal band look where you've gone for a certain image. How did 3 such individual characters meet?
Jules: Katie was working in the studio and I was working next door on something else. She was in like a girl pop band with two other girls and she'd kinda grew out of it so she was looking for people to write with outside of what she was doing. We kept in touch and she came back down about a month later and we ended up spending about 3 days together writing. I was living in London at the time so when she came back to Leigh I worked on them a little bit more and sent the demos up to her. After working together about 3 or 4 times we decided we wanted to do something with it, but we needed to expand on it because with the two of us it sounded a little bit folky. A friend of a friend had seen Simon in another band and we poached him for the beats.
Simon: Three years ago I was completely underground and never used to listen to pop music. Now i'm checking out Radio 1 and I'm a proper pop head.
Katie: When we started off in my bedroom we aiming to be a little bit Portishead, but it didn't go that way. I'm obviously poppy, Jules is more indie and Simon's into his hip hop. I like a lot of folk vocalists like Joni Mitchell and Beth Gibbons. Just quirky girl vocals cos I'm not a diva. I've not got a massive voice so there's no point in trying to compete with that.
Q: And the actual look. It's very cartooney. Katie looks like a baby doll, Jules looks like he's just stepped out of Jackanory. Where does that come from?
Jules: It's all about the fusions. We're based on a farm, we rehearse in a barn. Katie was brought up on a farm so you've got cows and sheep in a field and horses in the paddock. We're fixing fences and helping out in the field...and we grow our own vegetables (laughs). If you think that we've got our rehearsals in a barn, there's fields everywhere and we're doing everything ourselves, so we thought we'd f**king grow our own vegetables and take on Sainsburys. I've even got a metal detector and go looking for gold in the afternoons.
But back to the fashion, we just don't fit in. We seriously don't. When I met Katie she'd done a lot of dancing and won loads of medals and stuff, she'd done everything. That doll thing is not just what she wears, it's just in her spirit and physique. On stage I wear a straw hat, a trilby sort of of thing, and I wear that round the farm. I don't think it's even fashion. Everyone's trying to be such a rock god in a rock band that that's becoming more contrived than a pop band. Give me Scissor Sisters over Snow Patrol any day.
Katie: We're so far away from the wine bar culture. It doesn't seem weird to dress how we are.
Jules: It's the same with all the pubs round where we rehearse. You don't know Leigh and you don't want to know Leigh. There used to be about four rock bands in the place where we rehearse and they've all fled since we got in there cos we won't have 'em in anymore. I've been in bands before and been to Switzerland and Holland and sat there drinking beer, everyone's acting really cool and losing weight and everyone's pretending to have a huge drugs problem. That's just not what this band's about. We are like cartoon character's. We come down the farm and there's f**king horses everywhere and Simon's bought this ghetto blaster from the 1980s down the market. It's like 'Simon, they went out 20 years ago' and then a week later he's sold it on Ebay for £300.
Q: I'm sensing there's a secret history of the Dear Eskiimo story
Jules: A few years before I met Katie I used to do all the sessions for various bands signed to majors. One of them was signed to Virgin, a band called Tomcat who were like a boy band does Madness sort of thing, and I was the writer and producer on that. They went on tour with Mel C and I ended up being the back-up guitarist on it. It was horrendous. The singer was going out with Mel C at the time and when the advance came in they just went mad. They ended up on loads of drugs and it ended as soon as it had took off really.
Q: So Dear Eskiimo are totally different to anything you've done previously. It's year zero I guess
Jules: A lot of people have been saying that what we do is left of centre. A lot of labels are really interested in what we're doing, but they're worried about how to market it. The majors say we're too left of centre and the indies say we're too pop. I think that's a combination of the three of us because we're all writing and we're all involved in the production. When you put my guitar playing, Simon's beats and Katie's melodies together everything gets chopped up. A lot of mixers want to de-weird us and push us more into the centre. But you don't want to be in the centre, you've got to be one end or the other. We prefer not being in the centre and that mixture and fusion of stuff.
Q: The thing is though when you came together with the indie, hip hop and musicals it was clear you wanted a pop sound
Jules: I mean what is pop? Pop at the moment is guitar based bands again and 5 years ago that used to be indie. Pop is what everyone's buying and what everyone's playing. From a label point of view and from reviews and people who are addressing what we're doing I can't sit here and say to you that everyone thinks we're a pop band. If that was true then all these major players that deal with pop would be going this is Pop, but when they listen to it they're going this is f**king weird. But the people that are weird, they think we're a really good pop band. Where we are is what we do and that's it. It's either going to crossover or it's not.
I'm a fan of all music, we all are really. I love the Frank Sinatra's, Motown, anything that touches you. It was all about records. Today everyone's going on about scenes and I don't believe that, it's all about a record. You get a great record and it could be Girls Aloud or it could be some obscure artist like Nick Cave or something and if the record's good the record's good. Taking influences wherever we want to take them cos the feelings good is where we're at. Some of our tracks we've got influences from shows. "Stand Up" and "Traffic Light" have got the weird time signatures and they all come from the "Singing In The Rain" element and construction.
Q: When we first saw you it was quirky pop bands like Space and Alisha's Attic that stood out for us.
Jules: Did you mention Outkast? Yeah. That's what we're talking about. When you get a track like the "Hey Ya" track all of thought it was just a great track. And we already had a song written and it was recorded in an early format. Simon came along with the claps and we've re-recorded and produced thinking about Outkast's "Hey Ya" track.
Q: Do you look up at producers like Andre 3000 and Brian Higgins (Girls Aloud etc.) or do you want to keep it all in-house?
Katie: We're doing it ourselves really. I somehow got talking to this guy who used to work for Sire Records and he discovered the Ramones, produced their first album and he's just done Pavarotti and Blondie's latest album. I'd like him to come and do a track with us especially as we're trying to get a bit of a musical sound.
Jules: We always want to start what we're doing ourselves. I think you have to keep a certain amount to yourself. Even though you say our stuff is quirky pop, if you listen to the album throughout then I think you will see there is a style in there, even if the style is that we're using loads of styles. We have to be in control of that because if you do work with producers at an early stage it's their thing you're doing and their sound you're using.
If you've got a four piece band (guitars, bass, drums and keyboards) there's only so much you can do with that on stage. Whereas today a lot of bands have their own rehearsal and recording facilities, there's so much diversity in new bands because they're able to actually record stuff on their systems in their own way. So therefore you're getting hundreds of producers evolving today. You take that away and you're back to a basic band and a big time producer doing his same thing all the time. That diversity is making every band sound different today.
All the tracks are written and recorded and we've got Mark Jones, who works with Peter Gabriel, to mix one of the tracks of 11 or 12 that are going to be on the album. And then we've got Chris Brown, who's worked with Massive Attack, to do a couple of tracks. We're happy with about seven of the tracks we've mixed so far, so it's just a few more tracks to finish off.
Katie: And all these people are working with us just because they really rate us as a band.
Dear Eskiimo - The Songs" 'Joe' is about one of the girls I used to be in the band with. She married one of the bouncers from the local pub. She went off to Greece to get married and she was only about 18." Katie
" Don't Wanna Feel is exactly about not being in the middle. Some of the lyrics say 'getting caught in the middle' or 'stop sitting on the fence' and that's exactly what this band is about - being slightly right or slightly left of centre. It's either gonna work or it isn't but that's gotta be better than doing all right" Jules
" 'Greatest DJ' is our disco track about being a cool DJ in small town and being almost like a saviour or preacher that comes to town with his decks. You always remember when a tune in your life which brings back the memory and the songs about the DJ playing that tune and seducing you" Jules
" 'Traffic Light' is my favourite song. As just a piece of writing it's a really good track. You might not know this, but it's about little men in traffic lights. Little dwarfy people who get paid a lot of money to synchronize the traffic lights. I used to think that every traffic light had little people in them" Jules
" 'Pretty' is about getting battered and the girlfriend / wife beating that goes on in Leigh because it's such a vicious town" Jules
Dear Eskiimo play Life Cafe on Friday 17th Sept as part of ITC
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