INTERVIEW: Calf | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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You might not have heard of Calf, the relatively new indie/rock/whatever band from the rapidly-emerging Little Buildings collective, but there’s a good chance that you’ve bumped into one of its members at some point, due to all of them having a long history as part of the North East music scene.

Guitarist John Gill explains his musical history: “I’ve been around the block a few times, first in Sunderland, playing for the band which turned into The Golden Virgins, with Neil Bassett [now of Hyde & Beast fame]. I left, they got signed, which I tried not to take too personally!”

Singer and guitarist Dan Rose takes up the story: “I’ve been playing with [rhythm section] Ben [Thornley] and Danny [Ward] for at least ten years, they were in The Dans with Jess Roberts, then we were all in The Fantastic Car together, which was this borderline comedy electro-jazz band – we actually played Edinburgh Fringe because of the comedy aspect. I met John in our shared workspace – I’m a furniture maker and John makes guitars [in fact he’s the well-regarded JXG Guitars] and we bonded over a shared interest in wood! So John came in, I switched to guitar, Ben to bass, and Calf was born.”

“When people ask me what sort of stuff it is, I say in the early 90s it used to be called indie rock”

The band are about to release their debut EP, Nineteen Ninety Fear. “Calf has been going for about four years, but about a year ago we decided to write a load of new songs and this EP is the result.” Dan says. “Nineteen Ninety Fear was actually written about a week before we went into the studio and we didn’t intend on recording it but it’s become the lead song on the record. We did it at Neil Bassett’s studio, he’s a genius producer and he’s worked wonders with it.”

“When people ask me what sort of stuff it is, I say in the early 90s it used to be called indie rock.” John adds. “We’ve been peddling the same shite for years, and eventually the world catches up!”

Which is perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but even a casual listen to Nineteen Ninety Fear will reveal that hidden in its three minutes of guitar pop is a great lost Britpop band – think Echobelly fronted by a man with a sense of the subtly absurd – Vic Reeves, perhaps.  Simultaneously, there’s a distinct grunge influence – in Try, the line between the archness of Britpop and the slacker aspects of what was going on in the US at the same time is blurred by great wads of noisy guitar and a driving rhythm that’s got Thurston Moore written all over it. The sub-two-minute We All Wear Cloaks nods back to the joke-funk of The Fantastic Car with its surrealist themes and unconventional time signatures.

As the evening wore on, our discussion turned to other blokey topics – the relative merits of the Newcastle and Sunderland music scenes, how to fix a buzzy guitar nut and who makes the best whisky (Benromach, basically, although John likes his Irish). The latter is an apt metaphorical summary – as a band with a history deeply intertwined within the local scene, perhaps Calf are an appropriate distillation of what the sound of Newcastle in 2015 really is.

Calf launch Nineteen Ninety Fear on Friday 31st July at The Mining Institute, Newcastle, they also play Little Buildings, Newcastle on Friday 21st August.

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