MY last interview of the day…
is with Neuromantics as they tell me about their new single, Solaris, and how its amazing video came together; what the story behind their name is; what they have planned coming up – I ask if the guys each have a favourite album.
The band talk about their musical tastes and their favourite career memories so far; if we can see them on tour soon; how Neuromantics got together and found one another – they end the interview by selecting some great tracks.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey there! We are doing well, thanks. The week has been busy but fun. We’ve had a couple of rehearsals, played a show and have been promoting the release of our first single Solaris (off our upcoming debut album, Crimes of Passion).
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
We are Neuromantics; a four-piece Alternative-Rock band based in London made up of Daniel Pye (vocals/guitar), Andrew Gambell (guitar); Daniel ‘Dani’ Timóteo (bass/vocals) and Edgars Ozolins (drums).
Can I ask about the name, ‘Neuromantics’? I get impressions of big hair and Spandau Ballet! What is the origin of the name?
Andrew: The name comes from the William Gibson novel, Neuromancer. We played around with using ‘Neuromancers’, ‘The New Romancers’ etc. but ‘Neuromantics’ just seemed to have a certain ring to it.
As a side-note: for those of you familiar with the novel, we’d like to clarify that no one in the band is associated with hacking or artificial intelligence in a future society!
Daniel T: Interesting that you mention Spandau Ballet...
We recently played in Islington and I believe that’s where they formed. However, the New Romantic Pop culture movement of the '70s is a bit before our time. No one in the band has a quiff, mullet or wedge hairstyle! We did have a big list of potential names, though. There was some funky stuff there. We all seemed to like Neuromantics.
Solaris is your latest track. Is there a story behind the song?
Daniel P: There is indeed. I can confirm from the outset that it is not based on the 1972 Soviet science fiction film or the 2002 film with George Clooney…or the computer operating system that all share the same name. It’s also got nothing to do with the Power Rangers character.
Story-wise; this can be broken down musically and lyrically/thematically. From a musical perspective, I’d been busy at home writing a lot of songs and thinking what combination of these songs would work effectively on our first album. We’d discussed having a good balance between the up-tempo rocky songs and more mellow melodic tracks and needed a few pacier, heavier tracks in the repertoire. After a bit of playing around, the verse riff and chord progression came into being. We then collectively developed the song, building the layers and construct you hear in the final track. We think it’s quite high-energy and reflective of the sound we wanted to illustrate on the album.
I like to leave lyrics relatively open for interpretation to give the listener a chance to formulate their own unique connection to the song. However, on a personal level, the song examines themes of self-doubt; the challenges and fears associated with taking risks, finding who you really are and ultimately playing with the notion that life itself can be interpreted as a ‘show’ - and it really comes down to us as individuals as to how our unique show is going to be performed.
Who came up with the concept behind the video? Do you guys get involved with the storyboards and concepts?
Andrew: We were playing a gig at Soho and one of our friends came to watch the show. After the set, we were telling her of our plans to make a music video for the first single. Coincidentally, she works at a film company and gave us the details of one of her colleagues who had recently left to go freelance. He also happened to be a musician, so we thought this could potentially be a good fit.
By this stage, the band had narrowed down the first single to a selection of three tracks and had some music video ideas. We met with the filmmaker and sort of put him on the spot by showing him the songs and asking what initial thoughts sprang to mind. He reacted with a plethora of ideas and was keen on the project. He showed us some of his other work which was quite impressive, so we decided to go with him. He then went away and listened to the songs in further detail and came back with some specific concepts for the three shortlisted songs. We liked the Solaris idea and the whole band was onboard with Solaris being the first release.
Edgars: We reviewed the script/concept ideas and offered our input, particularly for the vignette scenes where the band members stumble across different people in the forest, which acts as this sort of alternate reality. However, we let Reece (the filmmaker) lead in terms of the direction of the video. He provided the storyboard and schedule in advance of the shoot but was quite adaptive during filming to capture shots/moments on the fly as they came to him.
We had some funny moments shooting the forest scenes. Unfortunately, we don’t have a blooper reel but it could be something worth developing. I think it just took us a bit of warming up to get into character! Reece would reinforce the fact that we have just woken up in tattered clothes; are in a forest with no recollection of how we got there and that there are random people out and about. You’d be a bit freaked out, right?
You guys hail from different parts of the world. How did you find one another?
Daniel P: Years ago, I was backpacking around Europe and ended up in Budapest along the way. I was in this big dorm room in a hostel and noticed a guy in the room with a guitar which proved to be a good catalyst to start a conversation. This person was Andrew and he also happened to be travelling around. We explored the city and became friends, although in the end he returned to London and I returned to Sydney. Unbeknownst to us at the time, this encounter would lay the initial foundation for the future Neuromantics.
A few years later, I was volunteering in a hostel in Latvia. Yes; I know hostels are a recurring theme here! Turns out one of the guys who worked there was big into music and we had a few jam sessions there which were good fun. This happened to be Ed.
Fast-forward another year and I was at a bit of a personal crossroad (no hostels were involved) and was flirting with the idea of moving to London. I reached out to Andrew and Ed and asked if they’d be keen to start a new band if I was in town. They were down. I moved over. We started playing but were missing a key ingredient. Some bass.
Daniel T: This is where I enter the story…
I moved over to London from Portugal and was waiting tables with Andrew. At work, he told me about a new band he was in and that they needed a bassist. I told him that I play bass - not too long after I came along to practice. I got along well with the guys and liked the sound. I always enjoy working on new music and given I’d previously played in a lot of Punk bands back in Portugal, the idea of being in a band of a different style was quite intriguing. Then Neuromantics as it is today was officially born!
Do you have shared music tastes? What was the sort of music you were raised on?
Andrew: ‘Yes’ and ‘no’. We all have an electric mix of musical interests which we try to filter into our music. I’ve been fortunate to play in bands and make music across a variety of genres including Pop, Indie; Post-Punk and Techno but would say I was raised to whatever was on the radio at the time.
Edgars: I was raised on Smokie as a child but moved on to more heavy stuff like Metal and Alt-Metal when I was younger and then kind of drifted towards more modern Rock like the Foo Fighters and some lyrically heavy Rap music like Spose and some Latvian rappers (I’m Latvian for the record).
Daniel P: My dad played guitar too, so I loved listening to bands like Led Zeppelin and other stuff from that time with him. I played a lot of Jazz when I was learning but then started to get into alternative and indie rock as well experimental rock such as Sigur Rós.
Daniel T: Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen and some of the '80s pop that was around. As I mentioned, I’ve played in a lot of Punk projects so I got into a lot of Punk bands from around the world. There might be too many to mention though.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
Edgars: We are currently unsigned, given Solaris marks our first release. Off the back of the single, we’re aiming to generate label interest and get signed. We’ve also got our first album mixed and mastered and ready for release, so we’d ideally like to release the album by the end of the year. We’ll keep gigging around London and, hopefully, be in a position to do a tour next year to support the album release; whether that be in the U.K.-only or also include some other locations in Europe. We’d love the opportunity to play in some new cities and countries. We are also working on a number of new songs which we are excited about. We are continuing to develop these further in preparation for album two.
Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Daniel P: Back in the day, I was in Slovenia and I was trying to hitch a ride to Ljubljana. I made a little sign on an A4 piece of paper and ten minutes later was lucky enough to find a ride. I got talking music with the gracious French driver and it turns out he was a guitarist/singer. We decided to play some tunes in the park back in town and were approached by a local guy asking if we wouldn’t mind jamming with his friend and hanging with their group. We agreed. We met the friend - this tall, physically-imposing guy with a long ponytail and beard.
Suddenly, he asks if we can play Stand by Me. I wasn’t expecting that. He had an amazing voice and the group was super-friendly. This sticks in mind because it really exemplified the fact that music can bring people together in a positive environment, despite any differences people may have.
Andrew: We all know gigging can be tough if there isn’t a crowd. Or even worse – no crowd. I remember playing a gig in a previous band where the only human in attendance besides the band was the sound engineer. He eventually left the room and we were left with one audience member: a three-legged dog. The show must go on, right? We finished the set. Hopefully, the dog enjoyed the show. Also, it did serve as a good opportunity to get some extra practice in with discounted drinks at the bar.
Daniel T: I have so many that it is hard to pick one. However, what comes to mind initially is Avante in 2013. Avante is a big cultural and music festival in Portugal that attracts hundreds of bands that are both local and international acts. I played there with one of my previous bands and there was a huge crowd with everyone singing along. The atmosphere was absolutely amazing. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to hopefully experience that with our band now.
Edgars: Back home in Latvia, I found myself busking at 4 A.M. and gradually people came over to see what was going on. All of a sudden, there were about fifty people jamming out and feeding me alcohol. It was a really fun night, from what I remember. A more recent memory was having our track played on the radio in the Netherlands last week. That was pretty cool.
Which one album means the most to each of you would you say (and why)?
Daniel T: A Wilhelm Scream - Career Suicide is always on my playlist for every occasion. I connect with the music.
Edgars: System of a Down - Hypnotize. It was the first C.D. that I ever bought.
Andrew: The Velvet Underground & Nico - Velvet Underground; because I never get bored of it.
Daniel P: No Name Face by Lifehouse. I relate a lot to the music and see similarities with our sound to some Lifehouse tracks.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Daniel P: We were all talking about Incubus recently so would elect to support them. They have made some amazing records; are actively touring worldwide and their shows seem to really go off. Although there have been a couple of line-up changes, it seems they have been pretty good at maintaining stability in that department which is something we’d like to emulate.
Rider for me would be Vegemite and butter on toast. As a kid, I’d smash that after school like there was no tomorrow. Over here, my work bought Vegemite for the team. The jar did not last long with me around…
Andrew: I’d take the box-set DVD of Sex and the City. Always good to have a bit of pre-show entertainment…
Daniel T: Reese’s Pieces. It’s this peanut butter candy and it is so good. It’s good for the band, too. Sometimes, I bring some snacks for everyone at rehearsal so we get a bit of extra energy.
Edgars: A fridge full of Monster energy drinks (sugar-free). Playing drums is a good workout.
Might we see some tour dates coming up? Where might we be able to catch you play?
Andrew: We are primarily playing around London at the moment as we focus on getting coverage of the single and work on preparing for release of the album. You can catch us at St. Moritz club in Soho on 6th October and at Hope and Anchor in Islington on 9th November. We expect to be playing a few more London shows this year. As mentioned earlier, we’d really like to do a tour following the release of the album that will take us to some new destinations. We’ll make sure to keep everyone posted about these developments.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Edgars: Design a realistic game plan and stick to it as much as possible. When we formed, Daniel said we’d have an album recorded after a year. At first, this might have appeared too ambitious as our first recording project but we set up a plan and timeline, got to work and got it done.
Daniel P: Follow your passions and don’t be afraid to take chances. It’s never too late to do what you love in life. Also, cherish the moments of creativity and fun with your bandmates. They are special.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Edgars: There are so many talented artists and bands around the world to choose from. I came across a local band called Crown Commons not too long ago and they have some cool stuff.
Do you all get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Daniel T: We all have full-time jobs too, but I wouldn’t define that as being chill-out time. We all have annual passes to Thorpe Park. They were running a deal promotion and we jumped on it. The Saw and Colossus roller coasters come highly recommended. Besides that, we all have our own outlets.
Daniel likes to play basketball and is a self-proclaimed table tennis pro; Andrew spends time painting (he has a big piece on display in his living-room); Edgars has been getting into cooking and is getting better at that and I enjoy going to concerts with friends and checking out the various arcade centres around London.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Daniel T: Silverchair – Untitled
Andrew: Death Grips – Up My Sleeves
Daniel P: Solkyri – Home
Edgars: Foo Fighters – My Hero