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

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Their performances will serve to confirm their excellence when we are far enough distanced from the 1980s to look at the period rationally and other, infinitely better known, bands stand revealed as charlatans”. The words of the late, great John Peel in his praise of Birmingham cult heroes The Nightingales during the band’s most prolific period, and he was certainly onto something; they are one of very few bands who can say they’re still pushing the envelope three decades on. It’s not all been plain sailing though, much like Peel’s more widely revered favourites The Fall, The Nightingales’ legacy is often overshadowed by continuous line-up changes (21 to be precise) and record label spats.

With the return of ex-Prefects (Birmingham’s first punk band) frontman Robert Lloyd to the microphone in 2004 after an 18-year hiatus, the band now resemble a more stable unit. “This line up is the strongest yet!” Says drummer Fliss Kitson (formerly of Violet Violet). With a tightly-knit team assembled and the backing of a label – who are, Kitson explains, “fully invested in the band, not the sales” – they’re more active than they’ve ever been. Primed to release ninth album Perish the Thought on 5th October and head out on an UK/European tour, they are enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

Joining the ranks in 2010, Kitson has been crucial part of The Nightingales’ second coming, and for her, the decision to join was an inevitable one. “We used to support them on their tours, so they saw that we had the same attitude and creativity they did. From the get go I was encouraged to express myself, not follow footsteps of what previous drummers had played. We all click musically and there are no boundaries to what styles to play. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”

We have no interest in pleasing others. We are not a nostalgia band, we colour outside the lines, no style of music is verboten and we are very aware that it’s commercial suicide

The lack of musical boundaries Kitson enjoys so much has also meant that The Nightingales’ sound is notoriously hard to pin down. Previous album No Love Lost was a ramshackle mix of distorted guitars and deadpan punk rock, infamously opening with the lines “I was as dry as a dead girl’s cunt in the desert”. Things are sounding equally as exigent on Perish the Thought, which has put the band in the proverbial spotlight once again. But no matter how close it looms, The Nightingales refusal to be lured by the vacuous trappings of fame or fortune prevails. “We have no interest in pleasing others. We are not a nostalgia band, we colour outside the lines, no style of music is verboten and we are very aware that it’s commercial suicide. If people don’t get that then we’re not for them. There’s plenty of post-punk, one-chord combos out there.”

The Nightingales have always stood firm in their desire to be their own entity; they’ve nurtured a rich, underground institution, signalled by an eclectic palette of sounds and driven by Lloyd’s sharp, witty observational songwriting. “We have something to say. Robert has always been the lyric writer and has his own following. The way his mind works and words unravel amazes me. Tackling hot topics with wit whilst being straight down the line is a rare combination. It probably explains why we have so many fans who are comedians.”

One of those fans is alternative stalwart Stewart Lee, who will be providing support with an 80s stand-up routine on some UK dates. The band will be stopping at Gateshead’s Central Bar on Friday 28th September and Kitson is looking forward to returning to the region. “We bloody love the North East!! It took us a few years for us to get the word out, but the last few times we’ve played have been packed out. I’m just looking forward to playing the new record live! I’m so proud of this one, it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”



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