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

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With the increasing competition for listeners’ ears, you’d think the least a band could do would be to make sure their name is pronounceable. Tchotchke (‘chotch-kee’) are more concerned with producing lovely off-kilter indie than having a sensible moniker. “It means ‘a small object that is decorative rather than strictly functional; a trinket’.” Says band lynchpin Leon Tighe. “Everyone collects keepsakes to remind themselves of their holidays, the best gig they went to or memories of a loved one. That’s what I like about the name.”

As the guitarist and keyboard player of much-loved shoegaze indie rockers Blackflower, Leon’s no stranger to the region’s music scene, but with the launch of Tchotchke’s debut EP, Lost & Found, he feels ready to take centre stage. “I’ve never actually felt like I’ve been able to put my stamp on anything. I’ve always put off singing because I’ve never been comfortable with my voice. There are so many singers that don’t have a Celine Dion voice – Lou Reed, Wayne Coyne, Neil Young – and I’m not interested in vocal operatics, I wanted to give it a go.”

I don’t want to paint myself into a genre corner and it’s always good to try new things

It’s Leon’s soft, introspective vocal style that makes Tchotchke’s sound all his own. There are elements of Blackflower’s shoegazey style, particularly in the breezy By Heart, with its delightful chorus and a melody that makes you want to sway gently, staring into the distance; but then there’s the twinkly synth and sprawling guitar howl of EP opener 50,000 Miles, where Leon’s soft vocals take a backseat to the nagging guitar lines. Turn Yourself Around’s fuzzy rush of guitar and the epic Blue Monday’s gentle strains of languorous percussion mean that Lost & Found is an eclectic affair, and that may have something to do with the vast array of music he finds inspiration in. “The music I’ve been listening to recently includes R. Stevie Moore – the legend of home recording – Beck and Harry Nielson. They don’t tie themselves down to a specific style of music, which is liberating. I don’t want to paint myself into a genre corner and it’s always good to try new things.”

Leon admits to keeping his options open lyrically too. “A lot of them tend to be about relationships. There’s also the odd political reference but I’m happy to sing anything as long as there’s a strong melody. It’s not a conscious thing but often themes of isolation and memory seem to come up.”

It seems Leon’s enjoying a burst of creativity right now, with another EP’s worth of material ready to go in a couple of months. “I read a lot of people say that you need to write as much as possible to get the best songs. It’s like running the tap and clean water will come out after a while. I’ve been enjoying the whole process of making music, now that I’ve broken the duck’s back, so to speak. I think it’s good to approach it as a job and work hard in producing something, even if you’re not in the zone and no matter what you come up with, it’s a good feeling to know that you’ve produced something for yourself. It keeps you positive in other aspects of your life and can help you cope with a bad day.”

Tchotchke release Lost & Found EP on 5th September. The band play The Cluny 2, Newcastle as part of the Oxjam Takeover on Sunday 16th October.


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