SOURCING their membership from the U.K…
the U.S. and France – there is something cosmopolitan and exotic about Late TV. The London-based sextet talks to me about their new smash, Citizen, and what the story behind it is. The band fuse Jazz-Funk, Art-Rock and cinematic sounds; each band member brings something unique and stunning to the music – the effect is simply amazing. Guitarist, Lyricist and Singer Luke Novak charts the history of the band and what the future holds.
I ask about their formation and what gigs they have coming; whether they mix trashy cultures and late-night T.V. evocations into their music – and how they separate themselves from the competition.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Pretty sweet. We had a rehearsal last night…
We did a jam that lasted for ten minutes - that never stopped being fun. Now, we’ve got to carve a song out of it which, in a six-man-band, is like being a cross between a sculptor and hostage negotiator…it’s like…“I’ll give you eight bars of solo each and a helicopter to the airport..if you let me sing all over that cool bit.”
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Luke J. Novak I am the Guitarist, Lyricist and Singer for the band, Late TV.
The rest of the group is: Richard ‘The Showman’ Bowman on Drums; Ryan Szanyi on Bass; Martin Coxall on Synth and Keys; Evesham Nicholas on Saxophone - and Mathew Halsall on Trumpet.
Citizen is your new song. What led to the song’s creation and what kind of themes does it address?
Lyrically, the protagonist is trying to turn a negative experience into a positive one by shifting perspective. It seemed that, towards the end of the 20th century (and start of this one), culturally, we were promised a lot of action from Western society - and it turned out to be a somewhat cynical cheque that we couldn’t cash. I was chewing on that thought and, on reflection, felt it wasn’t necessarily just ‘The Man’ getting in the way: it was the mentality of our fellow citizens - like, “How dare you try to be yourself!”
The song is kicking against that attitude. I’m sure we’ve all come up against it at some time or another especially if you live, or have lived, in a small town or provincial area.
The song has a Lynchian, dark vibe. Was it an easy track to put together and which artists/types of music inspired the track?
Most of our stuff comes from one member bringing in a loose idea.
We, then, collectively kick the sh*t out that idea until it tells us what we want to know – and, if it doesn’t spill the beans, we leave it out the back in the alley for the rats. Citizen happened just like that. I already had the lyrics and was singing them to a tune but then Martin - our keyboard player - was getting on my back about it sounding too wistful - as it was in a major key. He came out with this slinky Acid-Jazz groove; shifted it all into minor and the whole thing clicked into this deep, dark vibe.
Our bass player, Ryan, stuck some cheeky Funk-Disco slaps: the horns came up with a killer hook and our drummer, ‘The Showman’, just balanced all those different elements like spinning plates. In the middle of the song, there’s a kinda French-House-style breakdown - it’s, basically, there to deliberately wind people up! Like… “Now; what the hell are they doing?!”.
The music, much like the song, is turning the situation around. So, in reference to Lynch influence…I think that’s what he does with his work. He takes familiar and awkward feelings and re-frames them as exotic entertainment. That’s what I hope Citizen achieves.
The video looks like it was cool to shoot. Whose idea was the concept and do you think it does justice to the song’s lyrics/themes?
A friend of mine filmed out of the window every time he went on a train journey for a year...
He originally edited it to the beats of a Techno track. He showed it to me and I thought it was perfect! You get such a cross-section of life when you look out of a train window. All these fleeting places and people. It’s like hitting fast-forward on an old video. We layered the footage with us playing the song.
It's pretty lo-fi but I really like it.
Will there be any more material next year? What are you all working on right now?
We’ve got a ton of songs that I’d love to record. However, the next single and video is ready to go. It’s called Losin’ It. I’m not sure yet when we are putting it out...but stay tuned.
How did you all get together? When was the moment you decided to form Late TV?
I’ve known Richard, our drummer, all my life: we played in school bands together and came to London together. I met Evesham when we were both playing sax in an orchestra. Mathew (on trumpet) was our ex-bass player’s, sister’s boyfriend. After that; it goes international.
Ryan, on bass, is from Chicago. He stumbled across us while looking to buy an upright bass. Martin, on synth, is from Paris. I don’t really know why he moved to London - other than, maybe, a deep, subliminal urge to find me and argue about chord changes.
The band is called Late TV because we like to think of ourselves as the house band on a late-night chat show - for people who can’t sleep.
It seems B-films, late-night T.V. and trashy shows are part of the sound/ethos? What bonds you guys in terms of passion and cultural tastes?
I suppose we all grew up on a certain brand of trashy Western culture - even though we are from different places, geographically. I wore a white suit at a gig once and Martin said something like: “Hey, Nash Bridges; where’s the Barracuda parked!?”. I thought, ‘F*ck you!… but, actually, this guy gets it’. What I like about T.V. and B-movies is the over-the-top sentiments and the garish intensity. I enjoy how T.V. soaps and cinema boil down all this humanity into a little tasty slice.
I’d like to think we attempt that, musically...
How would you define your music - and what stands you out from the competition?
We're a true band - in that everything is formed as a collective.
I don’t see the point of having one overriding writer in a group - you might as well make programmed music, in that case. We've got that vibey-ness of a live band – but, at shows, we join all our songs together like a D.J. set.
We want to take you on a trip the way that a good D.J. does.
It seems, in a way, your music comforts that who struggle to find any normality and live on the periphery – the outsiders and innovators. Do you think that lack of conventionality is what makes the music so special?
We're simultaneously highbrow and lowbrow. We are mutant junk-dwellers in the postmodern wastelands of Pop; collecting shards of fragmented culture and building a shelter out of it - and everyone's invited to come and hang out in that shelter.
I am struggling to compare your music to anyone else but aware you all must be fans of other artists. Who are the musicians you all cherish and listen to?
Hmm…. let me see…
…as a group, we enjoy a pretty broad spectrum…
Vulfpeck, The Souljazz Orchestra; The Budos Band, The Meters; Sam and Dave, Herbie Hancock; Sons of Kemet, The Stepkids; Phoenix, Thundercat; Michael Jackson, Weather Report (especially with Jaco Pastorius - Ryan); Tom Waits, Jamiroquai; Rage Against the Machine, Brass Construction; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Average White Band, Crazy P….loads of stuff.
Personally, I’m into the 1980s Post-Punk stuff, such as The Lounge Lizards. I love the band Morphine - who were a minimalist sax/drums/bass trio. I am also influenced a lot by singer-songwriters such as Bill Callahan, Tom Waits; Nick Cave and Cass McCombs. I always loved Jarvis Cocker – specifically, it’s his irony and way of looking at the world that really stuck with me growing up.
I like musicians that build their own universe - rather than bend to this one.
Are there going to be more tour dates before 2018? What are your plans for Christmas?
We've got the Citizen launch gig on Saturday, 21st October - and we'll be arranging something else in London for late-November/early-December.
Then, we'll be back in the New Year with Losin' It.
IMAGE CREDIT: Angry Che
Are there any new artists you suggest we check out?
This year, collectively, we’ve enjoyed the aforementioned Vulfpeck.
We like Thundercat's Drunk album... I’d say, if you're ever in London on a Friday night; check if the Sarah Tandy Trio is playing at Servant Jazz Quarters. She does it every few weeks and blows me away every time...
Other than that; everyone needs to go and listen to Folk singer Natalie Bouloudis' E.P., Dead Sea Scripts.
If you each had to select the album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?
Luke: Nighthawks at the Diner by Tom Waits.
I got this after hearing his late-1990s stuff - but I preffered the sleeve on this one. It’s part-lounge, part-performance poetry - and part-stand-up comedy. It was written and recorded like a studio album; however, they set up a bar in the studio and brought in an audience to make it a true performance. It’s a total one-off.
Ryan: Friday Afternoon in the Universe by Medeski, Martin and Wood
Because it spans so many different areas of Jazz: from Groove to Free-Jazz, to Melodic.
Evesham: Sleepify by Vulfpeck
Because someone had to make a joke suggestion - and this album hilariously ripped-off Spotify! They made twenty-grand from five minutes of silence by asking their fans to play the silent tracks on loop while they were asleep.
Martin: Rage Against the Machine by Rage Against the Machine
Because of the best use of cowbell during an intro, ever.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Play live at every opportunity and don’t be afraid.
The more you show your face in public, the more you get used to it…and the more fun it gets. Just remember: if it goes well, it’s fun: if it goes wrong, it's funny.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Luke: Morphine - Buena (from the Cure for Pain album)
Martin: Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name
Evesham: The Souljazz Orchestra – Dog Eat Dog
Ryan: Medeski, Martin and Wood – Chubb Sub
Matthew: Angelo Badalamenti - Audrey’s Dance (from the Twin Peaks soundtrack)
Richard ‘The Showman’ Bowman: 18 with a Bullet – Pete Wingfield
Follow Late TV