Sunday, 8 March 2009

Loz Bridge and the Box Social - Welcome To The Beautiful South

We recently introduced Loz Bridge in our New Waves At Breaking More Waves feature. Now it’s time to meet the man himself.

Hello, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your band and the music you make.

Hello, I’m Loz Bridge and I front Portsmouth-based band Loz Bridge and the Box Social. We’ve come up with a style loosely termed Dark Americana which encompasses old time blues and jazz elements brought up to date. We sing about witches by the fax machine, breaking china and drinking cider, and the many awful things that go on down by the river. We’ve just released our first EP “Witches” and we’re currently trying to spread the word all over the south coast scene.

As a musician what do you think the best and worst things about coming from Portsmouth are?

I couldn’t tell you I’m afraid, coz I don’t – I was born and raised in Preston, and (after a 3 year stint in Amsterdam) moved to Portsmouth in 2003. I can tell you what the best thing is about coming to Portsmouth, is that I’ve made some amazing friends here, some of the best I’ve had. All that bullshit they spin you up North about how people aren’t friendly down south should be ignored. I found the accent incomprehensible when I first arrived though. “Rynd the rynd-a-biyt”? what’s “Rynd the rynd-a-biyt?” I’m into it now though, I’ve started doing my shopping at “Asdas” and all women have become “hon”.

If I had a weekend to kill in Portsmouth where would you recommend I go, and what should I avoid?

Despite what people will tell you, there is a thriving music scene in Portsmouth, and you should definitely head to The Cellars, The Wedge, The Drift (upstairs, never downstairs), and now that they’ve installed a new PA Little Johnny Russells to check it out. You should definitely eat at The Agora (Greek and Turkish), the Kum Pan (Thai), Rosies or Lemon Soul. If you want to see a film try and bypass the tyranny of Vue and nip round the corner to the No.6 independent cinema in the Historic Dockyard. Anywhere on Albert Road should guarantee you a good night, but whatever you do stay well clear of Guildhall Walk. Unless you want your face glassed off that is, in which case knock yourself out…

To be provocative for a moment, one of Breaking More Waves criticisms of the Portsmouth music scene is that there is too much back slapping with not enough constructive criticism. This can lead to artists becoming inward looking in a ‘big fish in a small pond’ kind of way. We think it has something to do with the geographic nature of Portsmouth – it’s almost an island. It possibly explains why so few bands from Portsmouth achieve any commercial success nationally. Would you agree or disagree, and explain what you think about this criticism.

Hmmm, this is a tricky one…

Let’s say you’re right and what Portsmouth needs is more constructive criticism, from where is this criticism going to come? I once read a piece of advice by a record company big shot to struggling young bands that said no-one in the business will ever tell you to your face that you suck, just in case you do make it huge and they become the one idiot who didn’t believe in you. I think that holds true for most elements of the local scene, but it’s established critics like this blog that do have an obligation to be impartial about the material they’re reviewing. I’d argue however that the main point of these critiques is not to educate but to entertain. And let’s be honest for a moment - as an artist the only real reason I expose myself to criticism is in the hope of receiving some positive criticism. I’m not genuinely interested in a constructive analysis of my latest EP, I want a sweet sound bite from a recognised name that I can slap all over my website to generate more interest. If the EP is slated then I’m not going to change my whole style to fit in with his or her comments, I’ll do my best to ignore them and carry on as before and I’d advise any self-respecting artist to do the same! Which raises another interesting point – who’s advice is right, and why should I listen to your opinion? Surely it’s the obligation of any artist to follow his own judgement, and conduct himself and his work according to his own values. I wonder how many times the artists we all now hold in high regard for their individuality had to endure and ignore the opinions of those around them who were all too keen to offer their ‘constructive criticisms’?

I’d argue that if as an artist you don’t possess the ability to judge your own work objectively then you don’t have what it takes to make it in the competitive market. It’s not the plaudits or slatings of your peers that define you, it’s whether what the product you produce is what people want to hear. If you want some criticism then ask yourself this question: do people come to your gigs? Surely that’s the only bottom line that really counts. If not then you’re doing something wrong, and by that token the only critics with a truly meaningful voice are the ticket-buying public.

Now, if you’re the band arguing that you’re not getting your big break because you live on a peninsular…move! Sorry, but I just don’t think that excuse cuts it when there’s local bands like Tremain regularly transporting their fanbase to London and back to secure gigs like their recent show in the O2 Indigo2! Bjork made it global and she’s from Iceland - you don’t find a more desolate rock than that. It doesn’t even have trees for God’s sake!

If you set your own limitations at the edges of your hometown then that’s as far as you’ll ever get, and that’s as true in Preston as it is in Portsmouth…or Iceland.

Some really good points there Loz, and at some point in the future Breaking More Waves may well discuss the value of criticism, as we believe it does have value, both in the sense of professional journalism and amateur music blogs and fanzines. But for now let’s move on. What is ‘the box social’?

A ‘Box Social’ means different things depending on which country you find yourself in. In America I believe it’s fundraiser where they auction off lunchboxes. In Canada I think it’s like a big car boot sale, but my favourite usage is from Victorian Britain. It was deemed inappropriate at this time for young people of opposite sexes to mix together unattended, so the responsible parents would throw parties in their houses called Box Socials where the kids could mingle and the love would flourish…

In my world it comprises Andrew Foster: genius intuitive guitarist and some-time banjo fiddler (and singer/songwriter in his own right), Andy Booth: double bass wrangler and ladies-man, and Matt E: man-mountain and simply the best drummer I’ve ever known.

We hate the word ‘influences’ as it infers ‘who do you like to copy’ which is not always true. So instead, tell me about five albums that you love, irrespective of if they are influences on your band or not.

Alice, by Tom Waits
I’m obsessed by anything and everything that Tom Waits produces, but I think this is the album I come back to most often. It was described by Waits as an album of ‘fairy tales for grownups’ and that encapsulates everything I love about it. Magical and innocent, terrifying and monstrous.

The Bends, by Radiohead
For all of the disconnected, Radiohead offer a horribly disconnected friend to be weird with. I’ve found that the images from this album (the machine that can’t communicate, the fake plastic trees, the gunboat in a sea of fear) are the ones that most articulately define the feelings of alienation, so it’s the album you come to when you feel the most alienated. And that’s a pretty special thing.

Want One, by Rufus Wainwright
There’s moments that come along once in while where you hear something genuinely new, things you didn’t know existed in the world until that moment. That’s how I felt when I saw a clip of Rufus Wainwright performing ‘Vibrate’ from Want One on some late night review program back in 2003, and was hooked. His mix of the classical and the contemporary and some truly awe-inspiring song-writing is something incomparable. He’s one of those guys that makes you wonder why you’re bothering to try since you’ll never say it as clearly or as cleverly as him. Incidentally, seeing Rufus live performing songs from Want One and Want Two was one of my favourite gigs ever.

Without You I’m Nothing, by Placebo
There’s just no-one in the world who can do what these guys do as well as they can do it, and there’s something incredibly appealing about that. When Molko sings the chorus line from the title track “Without you, I’m nothing”, you really feel it – that’s something you can’t fake.

On How Life Is, by Macy Gray
Maybe it was just that this album arrive at a point in my life where I started to write music that I’ve got such affection for it. Or maybe it’s just the groove. This sits in the category for me of a perfect album, there’s no waste, no fat, nothing I’d loose to improve it. It’s ten perfect tracks, a killer voice, amazing feel – and if you ever doubt Macy’s songwriting abilities just listen to ‘Still’ and tell me she can’t write a good tune.

How do you approach playing live, and do you enjoy the live experience?

Playing live for us is like cooking Chinese food; it takes us a month’s worth of serious preparation to play for half an hour. And I’m happy with that - I’d far rather spend a month producing half an hour of really honed material than go out gigging three times a week playing stuff I don’t really care about. I basically want every show we do to be worth the ticket price. Everybody has bad nights and that’ll never change, but if we fuck up because we haven’t rehearsed enough then that’s our fault and there’s no excuse for charging people money to see that show. Also, I have trouble persuading people to come and see me support a band that I wouldn’t want to see myself so I now try to wait for shows that I have a genuine emotional investment in, then I can get enthusiastic when I’m trying to sell it to people.

What are your plans for the band this year?

Well after my rant earlier about setting your own limitations I think my priority has got to be getting out and about gigging outside of Portsmouth!

And finally, as this article is called ‘Welcome to the Beautiful South’, what is your favourite Beautiful South song?

Rotterdam, for a particular reason. As Chris Rock said, “Whatever music was playing when you started having sex, you’re going to love that music for the rest of your life.” So…

The Witches EP by Loz Bridge and the Box Social is out now, and you can read more about it here.

2 comments:

Matt Merritt said...

Nicely done sir, a very good little interview!

Robin said...

Thanks. Plenty more interviews this week with UK south coast artists