“Pure Genius – the assembly of iron and wood because temples must be made. And the avoidance of all that whiny, sexless bullshit passing for rebellion at the moment”.
That’s how Todd Eckhart, producer of the Joy Division film ‘Control’ described the music of the band Exit Calm. Everyone’s favourite bassist Mani summed them up rather less succinctly but no less accurately calling their efforts “Proper Fuckin Music”. Both happen to be right, Mani highlights the simplicity, Exit Calm are four guys from South Yorkshire having a jam and playing the music hard, loud and bloody well. Eckhart though highlights why Exit Calm should be no flash in the pan in an area of music which is so quickly promoted, celebrated and then tossed aside when the next fad in skinny jeans and pointy shoes arrives.
Exit Calm are so much more than that, guitarist Rob Marshall performs ‘epic’ wonders – ‘Epic’ is a word so often used in reviews but in this case, rightly so. Ably joined by Simon Lindley on bass and Scott Pemberton on drums they create a canvas onto which Nicky the lead singer layers astounding vocals and lyrics. This sounds awesome on CD, iPod or whatever format you listen to your music on but put this mix into a live setting and you get an unforgettable experience that leaves you wanting more - so much so that one fan, Pedro from Catalonia flew over for a midweek gig in deepest darkest Barnsley!
Exit Calm started when three members of Barnsley band Lycra Sleep left to find a powerful frontmen to add their already highly talented collective. Nicky Smith, who had been in a couple of bands in Leeds and tried the singer song writer role in London, joined the fray and together they became Exit Calm.
That was three years ago, in that time the quartet have grown and matured with every session and every gig. The process reached a logical conclusion on May 17th when their self-titled debut album was released. Whilst Exit Calm have a dedicated fanbase, the new album is a chance for the band to make their statement and surely in so doing start to get credit they so richly deserve.
We caught up with bassist Simon Lindley...
Where does the name come from?
It comes from a book I was flicking through called 'Silent Rebels' – it’s not a direct quote or reference from it. It was just two words in a sentence about chaos, which sounds a lot more dramatic than it is.
You’ve been going for three years, many bands burst onto the scene and disappear in that time, why so patient and what makes you different from the rest?
We've all spent time in bands before and like most things in music, you learn what not to do. When we formed this band we were totally out of step with what was going on cos our guitars weren't strapped around our chins and Nicky didn't sing gibberish about predicting riots.
My desire to just be in a band and see what happens left me when I was about 23 - we do it now cos we wanna do it right. You feel let down by so much music that comes out and it leaves you jaded. What makes us different to others is we know why we do what we do...not many other bands have a fuckin clue.
“Pure Genius – the assembly of iron and wood because temples must be made. And he avoidance of all that whiny, sexless bullshit passing for rebellion.”
How do you create the ‘epic’ sound? What’s the process?
It comes naturally to us when we write. The stuff that connects us is all big sounding stuff. Rob's got a massive sound for one guitar, he's the most instinctive player I’ve ever heard, and its not just banging loads of effects on everything, it’s about layers. Also we play with a lot of dynamics, drops and builds and some of Nicky’s melodies are pretty mighty. Plus its organic, it all comes from us so we dictate exactly what we do.
Customary Verve question – What do you think of the comparisons?
Never heard one. Just kidding. I take it as a compliment, why wouldn't you? They're one of the most forward thinking and important bands of recent times, and definitely an influence. They're also a band which wouldn't exist if you took one member out, which is why we probably get the comparison as well. It’s about scope. Making euphoric music with a minimal approach. But we don't sit in our rehearsal room on our knees gushing at 'the sun, the sea' or anything. That comparison is the only negative we ever get from people - never 'they're shit' or 'they can't play' - just 'they’re a bit Vervey’
Yorkshire born and bred? Would you agree that Exit Calm’s output is typically Northern?
I'd say so yeah, obviously we're from near Sheffield and that’s famed for its synthy stuff so not in that way at all. Probably not intentionally but there’s a wide sound and a feel that runs through many Northern bands. From the Roses & Mondays to Doves & Elbow. Even to bands like The Rain Band & I Am Kloot. Northern bands understand drums. It’s like we do the psychedelics but it’s with beats, width and deep grooves... and without having to wear fancy dress.
You mentioned a few Manchester bands there, any other influences?
Obviously Factory is a big influence, although most people who say that now just mean Joy Division. Rob's big into Durriti Column. One of the first things Nicky and me talked about was Twisted Nerve and the Grand Central label that had A.I.M and Rae & Christian. Also bands like the Longcut, Rain Band who've come and gone sadly. Then there’s The Chameleons, obviously Doves, Elbow, Roses. I remember going to a big beat night in about 1999 somewhere in the Northern Quarter and the DJ played some Monkey Mafia tune, which I’d never heard outside my house, that was pretty inspiring for me.
Is there a Lancashire/Yorkshire divide in Music?
I wouldn't say so, but I’m from Barnsley, not Leeds or Sheffield so maybe I don't get it like the cities do. I think the two places are miles apart in styles anyway; Lancashire’s always had the more everyman, big sounding bands and heavier dance side. Yorkshire's had more of an indie side and synth background. If we're talking cities it’s more of a stylistic divide sometimes than regional maybe, you lot like it grand - they like it with eyeliner on.
Why should people come and see you?
Playing live is what gets you in a band, or it should do. It’s what we're about definitely, its forms you. Its not coincidence that most bands wanna capture their live sound when they record. There’s no frills or gimmicks with us, hopefully that’s what makes it special. This massive sound coming from four people. That’s something the internet can't beat, the honesty of it. The reason people should some and see us is that we give a fuck.
You recorded the album in London, how was it?
It was good. Gets a bit intense sometimes but luckily our producer Paddy Byrne is a great man manager and he got the best out of us performance wise. We were in the centre of Hoxton for a month which was interesting. We'd been waiting so long to get in and get it down so we were flying from the first takes - seven songs done in three days.
"We were totally out of step with what was going on cos our guitars weren't strapped around our chins and Nicky didn't sing gibberish about predicting riots."
You said in a previous interview that you had “No shit songs” which many fans would agree with, but how did you go about narrowing stuff down for an album particularly as you had three years of material?
There’s always the ones that pick themselves. The ones that took some deciding like the ones we’ve released previously, 2 of which haven't made the album. We approached it as a two-side thing - as if it was vinyl, also not like a traditional band album. For us this album has as much in common feel wise with a DJ Shadow or Talk Talk record. For us it’s about making something that’s vital and stands up on its own, not just our 10 or 11 best recorded songs.
If you had to pick three Exit Calm songs to best sum you up what would they be?
'Forgiveness', 'We're On Our Own' and 'Serenity'.
You've had support slots with a number of bands, how do you find putting the shift in? Any stories?
We've loved every support tour – they’ve all been with great bands. The Bunnymen, The Music, The Sunshine Underground. Luckily we've been received well by others crowds. It’s always good cos it’s like a nice battle.
We did 14 dates with The Sunshine Underground all over Britain. We had a day off in Dundee in between so we cut loose a bit, think they were a bit worried cos their tour manager told em we were 'drinking like we wanted to die', but that image of us is mostly down to our soundman - who's a fuckin nutter. Rob Harvey from The Music is marvelous at kick ups as well.
Are you football fans?
Yeah. The others not so much nowadays, music took over after school I think. We've got Barnsley, Hull and Middlesbrough in our band.
I still go and try and get to Barnsley matches when I can, I’ve been a few times this season. I didn't go at all in the promotion season weirdly. I was a season ticket holder at Oakwell from nine till 16.
The fans on your forum seem to spend a lot of time debating what trainers and clothes to wear to an Exit Calm gig. Why do you think you guys appeal to this type of person?
Good taste. Specifics in good taste as well. Clothes and music are always hand in hand. Not so much nowadays on the whole, but it used to be how you pick out your own sort. I think it still applies to some of our gigs.
How important is how you look to Exit Calm?
Not greatly cos of the band. I'd be the same if I didn't play an instrument. Clothes and music - Its just what you get interested in when you're young and carries on and hopefully matures as you get older. But yeah, I can't get the lads who look like cornettos in skinny jeans. I'm not into this 'looking wrecked' thing, ripped t-shirts and vests. Makes em look ill. What’s the point? I remember not buying singles when I was 16 if a band looked shit. Hardly any bands would exist now if every youth had those principles.
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