Monthly Archives: March 2013

Dancin’ on the Night Train

I decided to release the video I threw together for ‘Silent Shrove (Dancin’ on the Night Train)’ a few months ago. Please do share it around if you like it!

The song is based on a tune that The Dapper Swindler and I came up with for a Silent Movie we made last year. The story it tells is completely true. The video combines elements of the story and the movie with footage of my last few weeks in London, which the song is also about, really.

That’s why it’s the leading track on Last Days in the Capital, a 4-song record which, I politely remind you, can be purchased for a miserable £2. The download includes this video as well as a whole bunch of other stuff!

Lit Hop Invasion!

It’s a great pleasure to announce two new shows in May – I’ll be supporting MC Lars on his Lit Hop invasion tour of the UK. I couldn’t commit to join the whole tour, but I’m playing the last two dates and I hope you can make it to them!

May 24th – The Soundhouse, Leicester
May 28th – Surya, London

More details on the shows page! Those of you who don’t know MC Lars, he’s a fantastic hip hop artist and literature graduate who I toured with back in 2009 and who I’ve been doing some recording work with this year. He’s a real talent, and if you like my music you’ll definitely like his, too. Check him out, and come to our shows!

I’ve been away with Sam Taplin in the wilds of Shropshire again. Less video madness this time, but I can tell you that it was an extremely stressful time in the course of which we had absolutely no fun whatsoever:

2013-03-20 15.06.11_sm

A slightly larger update (and some more show dates) coming soon!

Unwillingness to Dance

So it used to be that whenever I finished writing a song, I posted the lyrics on this blog. This was mostly a valedictory exercise – I find writing lyrics an extremely frustrating process that frequently leads to genuine nausea, and the feeling of emerging from that state is a good one – and it’s also true that typing the final draft out is a good way of beginning the memorisation process. But of course the main reason I did it was the assumption that you’d be interested. I’ve come to doubt that now, since encountering lyrics divorced from the music from which they were written definitely makes you see them in a different light – and not necessarily a good one – and this effect is doubled if you’ve never heard the music before. It’s a very abstract point of first contact to have with a song.

So I slowly stopped doing it. But if we’re honest, there’s another reason I stopped, which is that posting lyrics is a little bit over-sincere, a tiny bit more intimate than I usually like to be about the creative process, and it really is putting my work up in front of you unmitigated, without the ability (which I have in concerts) to disavow it, joke about it, put it down a little bit, imply to you that I don’t take it totally seriously, distract you from it with a tune. It’s therefore appropriate to post the lyrics to this new song, because it represents a return to a self-scrutinising Jeff-Lewisian singer-songwriter sincerity which I’ve been inadvertently tiptoeing away from for the last few years. Irony is all very well (and not absent from this tune), but the classic job of the singer-songwriter, to mount a bleeding heart for all to see, is not one I should entirely abnegate, I’ve come to feel. So here are the lyrics to ‘Unwillingness to Dance’.

It’s a dance song about my reluctance to dance, and it’s slightly poppier than my other material (it has more poppies in it). It’s the result of a lot of thinking about music and sincerity I’ve been doing lately thanks to my girlfriend’s obsession with One Direction (an excellent article about this is here). It’s also a genuine attempt to explore a really central part of my own personality which I hardly ever talk about or directly engage with. For both of these reasons – writing pop is hard, by the way – this song terrifies the shit out of me, and posting the lyrics is even more terrifying and entirely the right thing to do next. I hope you’ll hear the song soon, and meanwhile, here are the words:

It was the way that the dancefloor moved –
It was slightly out of sync, stuffed with amateurs
with nothing to prove, with nothing to prove,
They already knew
That the shapes that they made wouldn’t take top grades
But the marks didn’t matter, it was friendship
that was on display, and the confidence it gave
Came off them in waves.
And in every awful twist
Was a shared joy that I missed:
A language made of things I couldn’t say.

You get grabbed by the hand by a bridesmaid
Standing at the edge, pearls and smiles
so you’re giving it a try, she tells you “Don’t be shy,
See, you can dance just fine”.
And the groom and the bride tear the floor apart
All surrounded by sincerity and all the people
close to their hearts, all sharing a spark
And meaningful remarks.
In the centre of the groove
I couldn’t feel further removed.
It’s not that I’m shy or proud,
Just always outside when in crowds-

Feeling awkward and reserved and I could never go headfirst
Into a disco and just drift, no, I could never get immersed;
I’d be thinking all along that all my lack of nonchalence
Will be in vain if I can’t rearrange it as a stupid song-
Or maybe we’re all feigning and the others feel the same, and
It’s just that I’m not as good at faking, life’s a bluffer’s game-

And all this second guess when we’ll never know who’s thinking what,
When I’d forsake a first guess for a minute with my thoughts turned off:

To let my body slide unconsciously across the shiny floor,
To dance like it’s going out of fashion,
and not care at all, and not care at all.

It’s not my way, but I wish it was.
Sixty seconds sway, just a minute off.

Three for Three

I’ve new lyrics to share with you, perhaps tomorrow – but in the meantime it’s time to complete the trio of stupid videos I made whilst dallying in Shropshire a short while back. In this one, released last but recorded first, I attempt to pass the time in Shrewsbury. Sam Taplin IS in it, ladies, but it’s a cameo… you’ll need to hang in there!

In the Shadow of the Long Mynd

According to wikipedia, the geology of the Long Mynd dates back to the Precambrian era, “and during that time would have been 60° south of the equator, the same latitude as the Falkland Islands. Shropshire would have been at the very edge of a large continent near the sea, which was being buckled by tectonic activity, causing volcanoes to form”. Some time after all that, Sam Taplin and I bounced around over the top of it all, making videos. Isn’t the world strange?

Albums I’ve bought lately

I never do this any more – just sit back and write a blog entry of a morning – but I’ve had sufficient prompting to do so in the form of this TED talk from Amanda Palmer. It starts out looking like it’s going to be a bit of a hippy-dippy I-love-people-and-everything-is-magical fiesta of the kind which often accompanies independent music, and which I both totally believe in and usually find quite grating. Palmer saves the day by working these instinctive principles into an extremely persuasive and well-articulated business model. It’s totally logical and totally sincere. I find it very inspiring, which I understand is the intended effect of a TED talk.

Rather than talk for hours about how I feel about this as an independent musician with 211 fans instead of 25,000 (I’d like to thank Facebook for keeping track of those numbers for me), I thought instead that I’d just Palmer’s video to segue into a mention of a handful of independent artists I’ve been listening to recently. If you have time to check them out, they all both need and deserve your attention and, dare I say it, money? Do have a listen!

Abie’s Miracle Tonic

I have to start with a Brummie. This one I encountered just before Christmas supporting Misty’s Big Adventure. She has an old-timey vibe mixed with a serious blues voice. Disappointingly few recordings are online, but there’s stuff out there. Sometimes, she plays with a guy from the Destroyers who has serious washboard skills – and there’s not enough people you can say that about. She’s also one of the happy few – alongside Tryo and Terry Taylor – to have done good work with the mouth trumpet.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

So as usual, I’m late to the party. But these guys, who are sensations thanks to the single “Thrift Store” and utterly lovable thanks to the way they performed the single “Thrift Store” on Ellen, are really taking my cake just at the moment. I put the video for “Wing$” above because you’ve probably seen “Thrift Store” but you need to get an impression of the range and power that these guys have at their fingertips. I don’t normally say things like “the production on that album is amazing” but the production on that album is amazing. Amazing musicianship and lyrics and righteously independent.

Ditte Elly

Ditte is going to be very famous one day, and this is your opportunity to say that you were in at the beginning! She’s come out of the Catweazle Club but is currently active up in the Nottingham [edit: by ‘Nottingham’ I obviously mean ‘Newcastle’, they both begin with ‘N’, you can see why I’d make that mistake] area, and she has that most enviable skill in a musician, the ability to make a room full of uninterested people shut up and listen. This particular song I’ve been in love with for a few months now, and it gets better each time.

The Ballina Whalers

This a capella trio sing sea shanties from back in the day, transposing them to the hushed concert hall environment of their East London scene. Going to one of their shows is a cross between a history lecture and a wild drinking party, and their knowledge of and respect for the tradition they’re singing in is what makes them special. It’s like Master and Commander, but without Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany doing string duets (you might reasonably say: so what’s the point?).