INTERVIEW: Kate Jackson & The Wrong Moves | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Perhaps best known as lead singer of mid-00’s indie belles The Long Blondes, or these days for her work as an artist, Kate Jackson has just released a solo album eight years in the making. The ironically-titled British Road Movies – more on that later – was produced by Bernard Butler, and encompasses a wider range of sonic influences than The Long Blondes’ razor-sharp indie pop, taking in a little of everything, from electronica to country and soul.

“Bernard and I would go in at about two o’clock every day to write.” She explains about the process. “If you haven’t been writing with someone non-stop, it can be a bit cold and awkward; if instead of throwing ideas around for years, you’re just…here to write a song. Like going on a date, except at the end you’re expected to produce something!” The connection came, almost inevitably through music. “Bernard runs, so he’d play me stuff he’d been running to. We were in a studio called West Heath, Edwyn Collins’ studio, and I’d be walking from Stoke Newington, which is quite far away – so what we were listening to on our iPods would inform the day’s session.” Jackson’s contribution included, as she recalls, “All the stuff you’d expect – Pulp, Pet Shop Boys…but other things like Neil Young and Led Zeppelin, which I love but [Long Blondes mastermind] Dorian hates!”

Remembering her first encounter with Bernard Butler at a Rough Trade aftershow for The 1990s, Jackson jokes “We got on really well – I told him I loved Suede but only when he was in them, so he loved me! Pretty much as soon as The Long Blondes split, I went to Geoff and Jeanette at Rough Trade and said ‘I want to carry on, I want to record new stuff’ and suggested Bernard for the album, never thinking he’d say yes, but he did!”

It seems that the album has been in the pipeline for a long time, albeit with a few artistic side tracks. “I didn’t do it non-stop; we started it in 2008, but we both had other commitments, money runs out, you think ‘that’s it’. I ended up in Italy, I spent four years in Rome working as an artist and developing a painting style. I came back in 2014 with no intention of making music again but I started listening to the demos and writing again, and it weirdly coincided with Bernard also working on the songs…the universe aligned! Then we had to do it.”

I also paint a lot of motorway flyovers, I think they’re a real feature of a common British landscape – I think they’re rather beautiful

Nowadays, Jackson is finding a balance between art and music. Currently working on several commissions including a portrait of the iconic British Sugar factory in Bury St Edmunds, Jackson entitles her current series of works Abstract Brutalism: “I paint a lot of Brutalist structures like the Barbican and the Trellick Tower, then abstract them a bit, taking the geometry, the shapes and the colours. I also paint a lot of motorway flyovers, I think they’re a real feature of a common British landscape – I think they’re rather beautiful.”

Motorways run threadlike through Jackson’s musical narrative, connecting the land and those who travel them on an intangible level beyond the literal. But the motif was not always intentional.

“I didn’t set out to write that way. But there was a time when I didn’t listen to those songs for two, three years, then when I listened to the demos and started thinking about album titles I noticed there was this common thread of home, belonging, escape, journey and return, but also of British roads and motorways. It only existed on my laptop and Bernard’s so it was kind of funny to call it British Road Movies, because they don’t really exist. Americans have that expanse, we don’t really have that.”

Back on the road herself, Jackson and her band The Wrong Moves are traversing a different musical landscape to the scene which birthed The Long Blondes. “Back when The Long Blondes were last a going concern, the only social media we had was MySpace. Now there’s so much…you almost have to spend more time doing that than anything else. I’ve sort of come to terms with it, [in the past] I believed that if you were a pop star – not that I’m a pop star – you had to retain some degree of mystery. Back when we started, there wasn’t much money, now there’s NO money! You don’t see a lot of five piece bands being signed – there are a lot of solo artists, duos and trios, but no bigger bands. I think that’s not a musical trend, it’s a financial one; record labels haven’t got the money.”

Jackson brings her band to Newcastle’s Think Tank on Saturday 3rd September. “We’ve done eight or nine dates already. I’d forgotten what it was like, but I’m determined to enjoy it this time. We did it so much last time, after a while you just feel like you’re on a treadmill. Because my band now mostly have day jobs, like a lot of people now, we can’t tour in the traditional sense. We just do long weekends, which I like – you get a taste for it, you go back to your normal job, then get a taste for it again, it’s great, and I’ve got a lot of commissions to do at the minute, so I can paint on my days off, it’s worked out really well for me.”

Kate Jackson & The Wrong Moves play Think Tank, Newcastle on Saturday 3rd September.


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