There is a common misperception that history is doomed to repeat itself (writes Andy Wood). Nowhere is this more seen as a truism as in the world of popular music where bands continue to tread the boards long after the glory days have faded in the slipstream of a career defined years, possibly even decades before, regurgitating the ‘hits’ and perhaps daring to play a song or two off that difficult 17th album that not even the most diehard fans recall ever listening to more than once. However, there are a number of artists who have continued to create wonderful, vital music, soaring on to new heights and barely glancing into the rear mirror as they push on ahead.
Nightingales are most definitely one of the latter bands. While they have a great backstory – formed out of the ashes of the post-punk band The Prefects who played on The Clash’s White Riot tour, recorded some fine records and numerous John Peel Sessions (possibly only bettered in number by The Fall), gaining a cult following then disappearing from view. Yet, since properly reforming in 2004 the Nightingales have released an amazing and prolific body of work and gathered some of the best reviews of their careers and won over new fans.
Over the years, founder and only constant member Robert Lloyd has, at times, seemed to plough a lonely but committed furrow. As well as a Nightingale he also performed and released records as Robert Lloyd and The New Four Seasons and ran Vindaloo Records who unleashed Fuzzbox and Ted Chippington into the world. With a constant, stable line-up, Nightingales have pushed ahead and recorded, in my opinion, some of the best records in the last decade. In particular, I adore 2015’s Mind Over Matter with its lovely sound, melodies and moments of discordancy. The dynamics of the band and the combination of Lloyd and drummer Felicity Kitson’s vocals are wonderful and the whole album has a great energy and vitality to it throughout the dozen songs.
Lyrically, Robert Lloyd is a great writer (and there are several collections of his lyrics in publication). Nightingales songs tell witty, wry but sympathetic stories of life’s underdogs and the joys and travails of growing old and continuing to be meaningfully creative. The songs shift across a number of stylistic shifts and imaginative turns and still unmistakably sound like the Nightingales.
This year saw the release of an E.P. or mini-L.P. Becoming Not Becoming which continues in a similar vein to Mind Over Matter. The six songs cover a lot of ground and the video for ‘The Divorce Which Never Was’ sees Nightingales glamming it up in a slightly sinister fashion as the song starts off with quite a light, spacious feel before turning racous and darker.
Nightingales are out on the second part of a U.K. tour which sees them return to Scotland and also play their first ever gig in Dundee. Ahead of those dates Robert Lloyd kindly answered some questions.
You are just about to embark on another U.K. tour. How are things in the Nightingales?
“Tip top. We had a super busy year last year and like to keep busy. In a tough industry and not having any money behind us / pluggers / bookers / managers means we have to keep our name afloat via touring and having new releases. It’s how the operation works really… ”
Since reforming you have been incredibly prolific with a new record, Become Not Becoming, out in January. How has the response been to that record?
“As usual we have had very good reviews of the record and a certain amount of radio airplay on 6Music and some local stations plus the first pressing sold out more or less on pre-order. So we must be pleased with those reactions but as normal we have been ignored by the mainstream press, et al.”
Over the years Nightingales have had quite a fluctuating line-up but things seem pretty stable in terms of personnel in recent years. How did this current line-up come about and how has it affected the records and gigs?
“I met Andi our bassist in Germany – he is the house engineer at the Faust Studio where we were recording an album. Drummer Fliss was in a great band called Violet Violet that used to support the Nightingales regularly. I saw Jim playing guitar for Damo Suzuki. I liked all three of them so when vacancies came up in the group they seemed obvious choices.
“As the only Nightingale that has been in the group from the start I honestly think this current line-up is the best one there has been. All of the musicians are top notch, inventive and have sense of humour. We all get on well considering our ages and backgrounds and rehearsing, gigging and recording is more fun with this set up than at anytime previously.”
What skills and character traits should a potential Nightingale have?
“A Nightingale needs to have a sense of humour, be dedicated and be open minded.”
What inspired the song ‘Gales Doc’ on Mind Over Matter? I find it slyly hilarious. Was it an attempt to demystify the art of songwriting?
“It was a bit of a piss take really, part demystification, part jokey ‘expose’ and also a jibe at the modern day thing of telling people what just occurred and what will happen next instead of just getting on with things.”
How do you approach writing songs as Nightingales?
“As explained in “Gales Doc” we normally start with a few riffs and a drum pattern, I will write some lyrics and either fit them in to the music or else use a melody written for me by Fliss.
“Each band member has their own individual tastes and influences as well as us sharing certain loved groups and genres but the main thing is that we are not interested in creating a ‘sound’ but like to play around and use whatever tickles our fancy. We like to put together that action packed pieces and are not scared to patch things together as we see fit.”
Where do the Nightingales stand in the current music world?
“We do just what we want and do not really pay attention to other groups, have no desire to be part of a movement or in a clump of bands nor tied down to any generational thing.
If you could put together your ideal gig or festival (with no logistical limits) where would it be and who would you ask to join you?
One of our favourite venues in the world is the Kino in Ebensee, Austria. An Arts Space in the middle of the mountains. We have a wild time over there and it’s somewhere to be known. Our musical tastes vary throughout the band.. but we’re all lovers of The Troggs and to bring back the great Reg and the band would be a dream come true. Rob would probably try and get Sabrina for a ‘Boys Boys Boys’ duet too… why not!”
Which question would you most like to be asked?
“Which country has the longest coastline?”
And what would your reply be?
“We do a lot of quizzing the in the van.”
Anything else that you’d like to add?
“Looking forward to our first time in Dundee, Scotland has always been a highlight for us on tour. Hoping the reputation of crazy dancers, and fun had, continues…. ”
Here’s a couple of recent Nightingales songs. From the recent E.P.:
And from a few years back:
You can catch Nightingales throughout the first half of May at the following dates:
Monday 1 – Preston, Continental
Friday 5 – Glasgow, Stereo
Saturday 6 – Dundee, Beat Generator Live (with Blue Orchids and STOOR) – more details here
Sunday 7 – York, New York Club
Wednesday 10 – London, The Islington
Thursday 11 – Cardiff, Full Moon
Saturday 13 – Bethesda, Neuadd Ogwen.
For full details, updates and information go to https://thenightingales.org.uk/