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From now on all posts will be members-only, so join this up if you want to read the upcoming posts.
Who: These New Puritans, a quartet of art brats from Southend-on-Sea, England, that tore up the stage at SXSW, are currently making ears bleed and feet move throughout clubs in Europe and look forward to barnstorming America during their first U.S. tour in July.
Sounds Like: On their debut album Beat Pyramid, TNP smash the post-punk of Gang of Four into the dancefloor-ready anthems trademarked by their nu-raving peers Klaxons and Crystal Castles." People usually say we sit outside of any particular trend," singer/guitarist/computerist Jack Barnett tells Rock Daily.
• Joining Barnett in the band is bassist Thomas Hein, synth player Sophie Sleigh-Johnson and Jack's brother George on drums and other samples. "The band really formed a couple years ago, but you could say we formed since our birth," says Jack Barnett. "Because me and my twin brother have been making music together since we were children."
• The band's strangest live experience happened at a hometown show when the caterer brought a little too much of a certain item. "We once had cheese thrown at us. Expensive cheese as well, which I suppose is a measure of how much they hated us," Barnett says. "Gorgonzola flying at us."
• Before settling on the name These New Puritans, one of the monikers considered was the Ghost-deini, a reference to Ghostface Killah. The Wu-Tang Clan, RZA in particular, as a major influence, "That music is incredibly dense and still accessible." Barnett also cites Aphex Twins and the cartoon The Smurfs (we made him say it twice to confirm he wasn't saying "The Smiths") as major inspirations.
Hear It Now: These New Puritans' debut Beat Pyramid is available now. Click above to check out the video for the album's propulsive first single, "Elvis."
The history of brothers in bands is short but fairly fraught.
The Kinks's Ray and Dave Davies regularly had running battles on stage, while there was a limited edition vinyl single released of an argument between Oasis's Liam and Noel Gallagher called Wibbling Rivalry.
For Jack Barnett, frontman and guitarist for Southend's These New Puritans, having twin brother George behind him on the drums adds a certain edge to the band.
"The friction between us is quite good," he says. "It creates arguments and means we get better."
Both dreamt of making music and being in bands from a very young age.
"This is the outcome of ten years' work," says the 20-year-old. "I used to have a four-track recorder in my loft. From the age of nine I was recording on this half-broken four-track. Then George started playing drums on them.
"There are little sounds on the album from those recordings, things I made when I was about 12 or 13. I thought it would be a tribute to the music I was making when I was young."
The band itself, which also features Thomas Hein on bass and synthesiser player Sophie Sleigh-Johnson, came together about two years ago.
"We have always been making music and imagining bands," says Barnett. "We weren't seriously playing then.We didn't have any ambitions. We were just mucking around making music."
After playing a couple of "rubbish battle of the bands" These New Puritans were spotted at their first proper gig by Joe Daniel and Joe Margetts, the men behind the Angular Record Label.
"One of their bands were headlining and we were supporting," says Barnett.
"We didn't have enough amps so we had made our own out of an old stereo. It blew up so we had to stop, but they were trying to get us to keep playing. It was like our third gig!
"The next gig was with them and was our first in London."
After a slew of EPs and singles, starting with 2006's Now Pluvial, These New Puritans's debut album Beat Pyramid was released earlier this year.
It was followed by an impressive amount of touring, which including support slots with The Kills and Brighton's own Blood Red Shoes.
"The touring is going really well," says Barnett. "Touring with The Kills is really good. We're playing a few more dates with them and touring Europe too.
"We never really played live that much before. We used to spend most of our time recording."
This dedication to the recording craft continues, with Barnett hoping to release a follow-up album in January.
"We have got about five or six songs already," he says.
The band took their name from The Fall song New Puritan, leading to initial comparisons to Mark E Smith's band and Joy Division, not least because of Barnett's twitchy onstage persona and the dark, synth-heavy soundscapes produced on stage.
Things are changing though."It's so weird," says Barnett. "I saw an advert for a singer in a music shop window. In the influences, along with a load of bands I have mentioned in interviews, it said These New Puritans.
When Jack Barnett and his then teenage band mates in These New Puritans first caught our ear back in November of '06, there wasn't much to go on but a few cryptic podcasts and the ring of mangled synths. In the intervening months, the twitchy Brits have spanned all corners of their home isle, provided a stark soundtrack for the high fashion runway, released their debut album Beat Pyramid on the estimable Domino label, and conquered South by Southwest's dog-and-pony show clad in gladiator's steel. As his band now prepares to bring their own stomp-and-grumble review through the US on their first proper tour this June, we stole a few minutes of young Jack's valuable time. Our digitally transmitted discourse below...
Jeff Klingman: How long have you and your twin brother George been making music together?
Jack Barnett: Ages. Since we were really young. He played on my songs.
JK: Why do you think British brothers seem to form bands at a greater rate than Americans?
JB: I don't know -- it's weird -- it's the same as how Dutch brothers seem to become footballers - the De Boer Brothers, the Krol Brothers, the Mühren Brothers.
JK: Was SXSW your first trip to the US ever?
JK: Are you looking forward to playing proper gigs here after the big public relations orgy of Austin?
JB: Yeah. Austin was fun though. Different.
JK: I apologize in advance for this, but what's your favorite number, and what does it mean?
JB: Ha! I like 5, 7, 12, 15, 19, 25, 27, 29, 33, 333, 555, 1222, 1987 .... I don't know what they mean.
JK: Why did "Navigate, Navigate" work for you as a stand-alone piece, but not as a track on the album? Why parcels its bits up among other songs?
JB: Well, "Navigate, Navigate" was just a collection of musical themes that I'd been thinking up for a while and I like to re-use themes - obviously that's something that's been done in music for ever....classical music anyway. and also because I was writing the album at the same time as I was writing "Navigate..." for Hedi*, and they were just musical ideas that were close at hand at the time. So it's more that the ideas were running parallel for two different releases.
JK: Repetition of song fragments across multiple songs seems to be a theme on the album. Does the context of the individual songs change the meaning of the repeated bits? Or did you just intend it to be a refrain?
JB: It's a refrain - I'm planning to have refrains that span multiple albums as well.
JK: Do you consider your music as continuing the tradition of 70's post-punk groups to whom you're compared, or as a specific expression of the here and now?
JB: Erm, i think there was a bit of that when we first started, but Beat Pyramid drains that away from our music quite a lot. I think old punks try to claim every piece of post-1976 music as their own. Like on TV there's always stuff about how "the Velvet Underground invented everything" or "the Sex Pistols invented everything"... it's quite boring. Clearly Aphex Twin invented everything.
These New Puritans - "Swords of Truth"
JK: Are you more interested in rhythm than melody?
JB: Yes, most songs begin with the beats.
JK: I'd read that you've done a bit of production work for the London band Sunni-Geini. Do you see the role of a producer as completely distinct from that of a band?
JB: Yeah, I've been working with them - Mohammed Durayd and Marie Quest. they're more of a collective than a band.
I think TNPS' music is really production-based and is becoming so more and more. I always thought i'd be a producer, not a band-person. There are some brilliant producers in the Ivory Coast at the moment with whom we should collaborate.
JK: What can you tell me about the Experimental Circle Club?
JB: That's a club run by some of our friends including Ciaran O'Shea who's done artwork for Def-Jam and helped out with some of our early podcasts. They play noise and beats at their club which is in a hotel in Southend near the sea-side.
Jack Barnett @ the Experimental Circle Club
JK: Do you imagine your work with TNPS moving in a more improvisational direction?
JB: No. We're not really improvisers. It's got to be worked out.
JK: What do you like most about chain-mail?
photo by Lee Hopper
* Designer Hedi Slimane, who commissioned the band's music for the Dior Homme Show 2007.
Posted by Jeff Klingman at May 6, 2008 08:25 AM
Slightly old article, but what the hey...
To celebrate this impending free blowout we got The Teenagers and These New Puritans on the phone to find out about their time at uni and who would win if they all fought each other. We were meant to talk to Crystal Castles as well, but apparently they are robots who cannot talk on telephones.
DiS: Who would win in a battle to the death between Godzilla, King Kong and the Unitaur?
Dorian Teenagers: Godzilla, d’uh.
Jack These New Puritans: The Unitaur. He is unique.
Michael Teenagers: Unitaur. He never had a movie made about him so no one knows his weak points. Plus look at the size of his balls on the flyer.
Who would in a battle to death between Crystal Castles, These New Puritans and The Teenagers?
George These New Puritans: Us, we’re from Southend.
Quentin Teenagers: My money is on CC, Alice would be their secret weapon.
Michael Teenagers: Yeah, CC, their leather jackets would be like bulletproof vests.
There tend to be hierarchies in universities as in any societal structure. How do you see the hierarchy of the Unitaur panning out? Which band will be the jocks, who’s gonna be the geeks?
Quentin Teenagers: CC will be the rebels, TNP will be the smart, funny ones, we’ll just be the ones with no friends.
Jack These New Puritans: I don’t understand any of that American terminology.
Michael Teenagers: I would say that CC will be the cool rock kids, TNP will be the smart library kids, and we’ll be the evil, scheming, waiting for revenge kids
When you were at uni did you ever go 'on tour’? Like a tour of the coffee shops of Amsterdam perhaps?
Quentin Teenagers: I wanted to go to Amsterdam with three friends, driving form Paris. We ended up in Maastricht though ‘cause Amsterdam was way too far. We ended up sleeping in a hotel car park because everywhere was fully booked. It was in winter as well so the night was horrible. The whole trip was horrible actually. We drove back the next day.
Thomas These New Puritans: When we have some free time we would very much like to go to Berlin.
When I was at uni I survived on Heinz canned breakfasts. Pretty gross. How do you plan on surviving on during the Unitaur?
Dorian Teenagers: By sharing dressing rooms with 20 people and stealing their stuff.
Michael Teenagers: Just with a bunch of cigarettes and Red Bull.
Quentin Teenagers: Or Vodka and Red Bull, That would be okay.
Jack These New Puritans: I have no idea. We are quite filthy on tour: we all take it in turns to sleep with the keyboardist after a good show. But if it’s a bad show we force ourselves to have sex with the roadies. So sex.
They say that you get lucky more often at university than at any other point in your life but you guys are in bands. A band on a uni tour, the mind boggles... How many time do you predict you will be 'lucky'? Maybe you could have a sweepstake?
Michael Teenagers: Is this a question about sex? I feel it must be, because of the quotation marks.
Thomas These New Puritans: Many times, many many times over. We just can’t trust ourselves.
Dorian Teenagers: We always get lucky. We would win the sweepstake.
I used to lose my phone about once a week at uni. What is the worst method by which you have ever killed or lost your phone while on tour? M1 window toss? Toilet drop?
Quentin Teenagers: One of mine got smashed at a hardcore show once.
George Thesee New Puritans: No comment.
Dorian Teenagers: I have never lost my phone on tour. It is way too important to me, like a limb. It’s pretty shit, though. Maybe I should lose it so I get a new one.
Who is your favourite daytime TV presenter?
Michael Teenagers: I don’t watch daytime TV.
Dorian Teenagers: Alexa Chung.
Thomas These New Puritans: Damilola Taylor and Madeline McCann.
Deal or No Deal or Countdown?
Dorian Teenagers: I have no idea what you are talking about.
Sophie These New Puritans: No Deal. Or, then again, maybe Deal. They are both equally captivating.
The Sun or The Mirror?
Dorian Teenagers: We don’t really read papers, but let’s say The Sun. That is the one with the boobs right?
Sophie These New Puritans: The Sun, seeking counsel from Mystic Meg.
As a poor student occasionally it is necessary to explore alternative methods of mind enhancement, say homegrown weed or home-brewed beer. Any of you tried this?
Quentin Teenagers: Homemade beer? Who the fuck does that?
Dorian Teenagers: Homegrown weed oh yes; it served us well in our hometown. It takes The Teenagers back to our teenage years.
George These New Puritans: The cocktail of opium and cheap speed always goes down well in the TNPS camp.
Where did you all go to uni?
Dorian Teenagers: We studied in Paris. You might have heard of it?
Jack These New Puritans: I also went to Paris for a time instead of actually going to university.
What is the most inventive way you have ever used your phone?
Thomas These New Puritans: Calling the Pope for chess advice?
Michael Teenagers: Erm… As an alarm clock?
Dorian Teenagers: I took a picture under the skirt of a girl who was serving food in the train on our last tour. She looked like Scarlett Johansson. That was hot.
Britain's These New Puritans had its first taste of the U.S. in March at the South By Southwest music festival, the cacophonous meat market where 2,000 bands try to stand out from each other. Distinguishing the group wasn't difficult, though: First, frontman and guitarist-vocalist Jack Barnett performed in a chain-mail shirt, which he wears "for protection." (Keyboardist Sophie Sleigh-Johnson dressed like she just came from a job interview.) Second, of the myriad influences heard during SXSW, the likes of The Fall, PiL, and Big Black weren't terribly common. But listening to These New Puritans' heavily rhythmic, melodically sparse post-punk—full of fractured beats and melodies, and repetitious vocal fragments—the association was undeniable. The group's music, like Barnett's chain-mail outfit, is oblique by design. Beat Pyramid contains thoughtful examinations of numerology, esoteric literary references, and the sort of thudding abrasiveness that eschews hooks but remains engrossing.
Singer-guitarist Jack Barnett on why These New Puritans probably won't ever write a love song:
"Everyone's written songs about that. We like to take stuff that we're interested in and make it into something. Why not take something that's big and make it mean nothing? When people previously said that love songs are just an attempt at finding something universal that will sell to everyone, I didn't believe it. I thought it was just a cliché. Obviously I'm not talking about Stock, Aitken & Waterman—they're open about it. I mean 'authentic' artists. But anyway, love songs are amongst the best songs; I like some of them."
On whether people are dismissive of or interested by TNP's idea-heavy music:
"I think it's 50-50, actually, of people who just think it's ridiculous and rubbish, and people who think it's interesting. For us, it's more interesting to make music with stuff like that in it. I mean, it's dance music or pop music, but it's got something else, like a magic part."
On guitar music:
"I don't like guitar music; I don't listen to it, really… We're a band with guitars, not a 'guitar band.' I think it means we approach it in a slightly different way, because I don't think playing the guitar is a particularly 'cool' thing to do."
On the impact of technology on TNP's music:
"There are more ways of being a band. We want to be lots of different bands at the same time, so it helps us."
By Kyle Ryan
April 18th, 2008