We have a soft spot for Dirtblonde. We like the cut of their jib, and the way they hang, if not their haircuts (it’s ok, we suggested a photo session, and Ivan refused, citing a bad hair month). Still, when did haircuts matter in music? Oh… er, moving on…
So when everything went quiet on the dirtblonde front we got a little worried. Sure, we could live without their propulsive, reverb-soaked rock’n’roll, but God it’d be a pretty dull existence.
Imagine, then, our delight, when Ivan and Lula dropped by SevenStreets HQ to say ‘Call off the search, we’re alive and well and, save for a trip to the barbers, ready to rock.’ They didn’t actually say that. This is what they said…
SevenStreets: So, where have you been? You didn’t call, you didn’t write…
Ivan: We’ve been here in Liverpool, haha. Sulking, and feeling depressed about not being able to play live, because Lula broke her leg and we lost over £1000 worth of gear when we lost our amps to the fire at Korova on Hope Street. I felt quite hopeless sometimes, like quitting this whole thing altogether.
SS: It’s always difficult laying low in the music world – what’s changed, do you think, in your absence?
Ivan: If anything, we sound more relevant than ever, since there’s been a resurgence of noisy, lo-fi rock’n’roll. We used to be the right band at the wrong place in the wrong time…now at least we’re in the right time!
Lula: If anything there seem to be more good band nights in Liverpool – definitely more interesting stuff going on and more promoters who want to book us it seems. That’s definitely a good thing.
What have you been listening to?
Ivan: Black Lips, Black Angels and Deerhunter, who made my favourite album of 2010, Halcyon Digest. Also, old blues and jazz records, the usual. Recently I bought the debut album of a local band, El Toro, who are ace.
Lula: Elvis, PJ Harvey’s new album, Lykke Li, The Duke Spirit, The Runaways. Plus I have to listen to Patti Smith as much as possible to remind me what singing in a band is all about in case I get too jaded.
SS: Has the Dirtblonde manifesto changed over the past year?
Ivan: Not really. We’re still the same. I think the best music is born out of frustration, anger, despair. We started making music because we were bored and wanted some excitement in our lives. We still feel the same. Even more so, after one year without playing live. Our manifesto is to kick against boredom and against the bullshit of the music scene in the UK.
Lula: I’d say: ‘Rock’n’roll is a bloodsport’ but I’ve stolen that from Kim Fowley.
SS: You had great SXSW buzz, and things were moving for you – how do you hope to recapture that momentum?
Ivan: Well, we’re not really a ‘buzz band’- don’t care about that stuff. But we’ve had some buzz before and things went calm, then we did something like SXSW and got some more buzz again. No big deal. Whenever we think nothing exciting will ever happen to us again, something cool usually happens.
Things are a bit harder for us, because we’re alone, and do it all by ourselves. For instance, whereas other Liverpool bands went to SXSW under the Sound City umbrella, we didn’t receive any help from them. But we still managed to get great exposure and even a guest DJ slot at a magazine VIP party, so we had a great time! Whatever buzz there is about us, it’s always because people love our music, not because of hype or influential managers. That’s why we don’t really care about ‘buzz’, ‘momentum’ or things like that… Our music will always keep us going. Shit bands die on their feet as soon as the buzz about them dies out.
SS: You talk about your scuzzy new-wave inspired cousins over in Brooklyn – Wavves et al – do you think you share more of a bloodline with stuff over there than in the city?
Ivan: I do. American bands know how to really rock. They’ve got more balls and attitude. They don’t worry too much about playing too well or over-producing their records. Musically, we come from blues, garage rock, Velvet Underground, Stooges, the CBGB’s scene in the 70s…American influences, basically. We got nothing in common with the ‘typical’ Liverpool sound. Even though there’s a wider variety of bands in Liverpool now, there’s still a lot of concern about musicianship, about being ‘proper’.
I think it’s a British thing rather than just Liverpool. The way we play is freer, more careless and raw. You see that same attitude in blues records, in 60s garage bands, and in newer bands like Black Lips or Wavves…but you don’t see so much of that here. If you’re from LIPA, you’ll probably think it’s wrong to be careless and raw, haha!
Lula: We love Liverpool bands such as Echo & The Bunnymen, but we just don’t seem to share anything in common with them. We’ve started from scratch, in our own little bubble. Geography doesn’t really come into it.
Ivan: The La’s, Boo Radleys, The Coral…there’s lots of classic local bands we like, but we never felt any musical connection to them.
SS: What’s right with Liverpool right now?
Ivan: Everything that’s touched by that independent, non-corporative spirit, that’s very common here and we see everywhere from club nights such as Chew Disco, Free Rock’n’Roll and Psycho Motel; venues like Don’t Drop the Dumbells and Mello Mello; cafes like Onion, Keiths and Green Days; and even websites such as Artinliverpool.com and SevenStreets.
Lula: I love the spirit, independence and character of Liverpool.
SS: What’s wrong with Liverpool right now?
Ivan: The whole economic recession is taking its toll, and things are bound to get worse. I don’t think a big city can survive just from The Beatles, shopping malls and hotels…there’s a lot of abandoned property in the city centre that could be cultural centres, cinemas or whatever, but which are just dead spaces right now. It’s a shame places like the A Foundation and the Conservation Centre have closed…who knows what’s next!
Lula: I think in terms of the music scene in Liverpool, people are still more accepting of four guys in a band playing guitars and drums than they are of a slightly more unconventional line-up like ours. In the past it has been easier for us to get gigs in New York than in Liverpool!
SS: Complete this sentence….2011 will be the year that…
Christina Aguilera covers ‘Pretty’ by Dirtblonde. (We can dream…)