Friday, May 05, 2017

Interview :: Sugarmen

"Crowd one was at Austin. It was manic looking up at trees as we did it."

Little Indie's Jane Davies goes drinking with Liverpool's sweet high-flying dudes, Sugarmen.

The rendezvous time came and went for my meeting with the four Sugarmen and there was still no sign of them. Luckily for me, one of their music associates was on hand and able to summon them up, or rather point me in the direction of a watering-hole in a nearby street. Feeling like a school teacher on a trip, marching kids out of a sweet shop, we managed to relocate to a quiet coffee shop that also sold beer.

Hello Sugarmen, who have we got here?

Sam: Me, Sam McVann on drums, Chay Heney, guitar, vocals, Luke Fenlon, guitar, vocals and Tom Shields, bass.

'Sugarmen' is rather an unusual name, how did you come up with it?

Sam: It’s from Sixto Rodriguez and also the Sugar Train in Liverpool which is connected with America.

We are coming up to festival season, what’s on your list for the band this year?

Luke: Camden Rocks, Sound City and Liverpool International Music Festival.

There's a great line-up at Camden Rocks. Are you looking forward to a crawl around North London’s musical mecca?

Chay: Yes, it’s a bit like Mathew Street isn’t it? I’ve been to the Roundhouse for a gig, and I know there is a rehearsal room called Rehearsal Rehearsal with the famous print of the Clash on the wall.
Luke: There’s the Dublin Castle. I played there with A Man and His Dog.
Sam: We like to go to London.
Luke: You like going anywhere!
Sam: It’s got a great market!

The banter is quick fire and good humoured with several of the lads speaking at once and at times it’s difficult for even me, a fellow Scouse speaker to keep up with then. 

What do you plan on doing before and after your Rocks slot - and can we join you for a pint!

Luke: Yeah, of course.
Sam: Yeah, we’ve got no mates (laughing), you might as well. We will be sat on a park bench or in Wetherspoons.

We'll keep a look-out for you! What makes a good festival, do you think?

Sam: Free beer and good bands.
Tom: A beach venue, not a grass one.
Chay: A great venue. The view at Festival Number Six, at Portmeirion, was spectacular.

Have you had any festival disasters yet?

Chay: Well  our van broke down in Stoke en route to Bristol for the Dot to Dot Festival once. We were six hours late.

You've obviously been playing a variety of smaller venues but what would your dream headlining venue be?

All: The Hollywood Bowl Red Rocks Colorado.
Chay: And Liverpool Olympia.

And who would be your dream band to support at your dream venue - from any artists, dead or alive?

After much discussion, and after eliminating the band Dead or Alive, they whittle it down to David Bowie, Velvet Underground and Modern Lovers.

You've been championed by This Feeling promoters  - who definitely know a good band when they hear one. How did they come by the Sugarmen?

Chay: They asked us four years ago at the same time they noticed The Vryll Society’s previous band.
Luke: Can I say we would like to thank Mikey Jonns for all the support over the years, we are very grateful.

Have you ever been able to order your own rider for a gig?

Sam: It’s only happened once, at Hyde Park. We got what we asked for and more. We got a kitchen full of free food, beers and spirits and the biggest Winnebago going. Usually we get what we are given, and it’s usually dead shit.

What do you do after a hometown gig?

Tom: I go home.
Luke: The Grapes behind the Bombed-Out church on Roscoe St. Chay goes home. Sam stays out or two days at least.
Luke: I do what Sam does.
Tom: Sometimes I go home, sometimes I join the others.
Luke: I go out - unless my girlfriend tells me not to!

Have you done anything particularly mad as part of an audience?

Luke: Crowd surfing at Thee Oh Sees in Liverpool and Austin. The best one was the crowd surfing at Austin. It was manic looking up at trees as we did it.

I take it you all have or have had, gainful employment outside of music. What is the weirdest job you have ever done?

Sam: Fixing air conditioning systems in Dubai. Working in 40 degree heat without air conditioning. [Apparently. it was while working here that he would also fit in jam time with David Bowie's drummer Woody Woodmansey.]
Tom: I used to work in an industrial lighting wholesalers, but I now work for a food delivery company and in a tea room making cakes. They got me in to wash the dishes and I somehow ended up making cakes. I make excellent chocolate cupcakes.
Luke: A fast food restaurant, I have worked in the same one as Sam, but not at the same time.
Chay: I worked in a clothes store chain. I just didn’t enjoy it, folding shirts a thousand times. I only worked there a month.

'Sold', your first single from your debut album, is out shortly?

Chay: Yeah, out on 19 May. There will be an album later in the year.
Luke: There will be two singles, one will lead on to an album. We have had two Radio One plays already for 'Sold' and two views on YouTube!

And after that?

Chay: We have already recorded more songs and we have hundreds on our phones.
Luke: Yeah, we have got about 15 album’s worth. It’s all just a question of money, that’s the problem.

As we ponder on the lack of money in the music industry, the cafe starts to shut down and pints are duly downed. The boys don’t mind, there are plenty of more pubs now to frequent on the way to the gig. It’s a Bank Holiday, the pubs are booming, just like the local music scene.

Live dates

05 Southampton Joiners
27 Liverpool Sound City

03 Camden Rocks

20-23 Liverpool International Music Festival

Find out more about Sugarmen here: FACEBOOK

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