Friday, 2 December 2011

CORELLI Interview

Secret Admirer had the pleasure of interviewing Marcus Hutton and Tommy Greaves, the writing duo behind the band Corelli in Tommy’s car.

As well as finishing songs together, they are very good at finishing each other's sentences.

Secret Admirer took our good friend Nick Doyle (Flaming Fields) along for the ride.
Get it? Ride.
Before we got down to talking about the band however, an important discussion about car air fresheners was taking place. Tommy had to express his love for his dangling smiley car freshener before we could go any further.

Tommy Greaves: It’s the boy this is, the boy rides up front, always.

Shotgun, he calls shotgun.

Tommy: Yeah, he’s mid-ship. It’s the ultimate place.

Right, when did the band start?

Tommy: Originally, long long ago, it started with me, me and Harris and Smalley. But in the way we are now, we used to rehearse and I used to sing. And Marc joined…well we looked for a singer and Smiley used to play football with him. And well, you are probably best at saying this bit to be honest.

Marcus Hutton: Yeah, well, I met Luke, socially. And I was into music, obviously but I’d never like, literally contemplated being in a band. I just kind of got influences, I’d never sung before.

Really? Wow.

Marcus: Never even done like a karaoke appearance. Never even imagined myself doing that and we just…I know it sounds like a lad thing to say but we kind of just went to the pub one night. Just had a few drinks and walked back to my house and I was just like, singing merrily on the way home. And he was like ‘oh you should come and sing with our band’. I was like ‘nah, you’re alright, you’re alright’. He pestered me for a couple of days and I realised he was actually serious. Because he asked me when he was sober. I was like ‘errr, nah’. Then he was like ‘we’ve got a practice this Friday, come and see what you can do’. I remember I think it was like a nice summer’s evening and I thought no, I’m not going to go. Up until ten minutes before hand when I was like ‘nah, I’m gonna do it’. Just, you know, to see if I can. Then I went there and I kind of didn’t feel comfortable still.

Tommy: I remember when you first pulled up and I walked up and I was like…it’s that, kind of like them weird meetings. I was like ‘you alright, I’m Tom’ and he was like ‘I’m Mark’. And we just shook hands.

Marcus: I think the fact that I had a van as well.

Tommy: Yeah.

Marcus: That sealed the fact that I was going to be in the band.

Tommy: It’s weird like, after the first rehearsals at Neon, it still didn’t feel totally gelled. Do you know what I mean? It still didn’t feel like ‘oh that’s definitely happening’. And I phoned you up and I was like we need to see if we write well. I want to write, I want somebody who I can write with. Because I was doing all the writing at the time, we went up by The Chaser near us. If you know The Chaser, it’s a big massive forest near us.

Marcus: It’s a national park.

Tommy: It’s like a huge forest. We just drove towards Cannock in Stratford. We just parked there…

Marcus: It’s where all the doggers go. It’s like the dogging capital of Great Britain.

Tommy: (Laughs) Then we just walked, for probably about a mile until we found this tree. Just had an acoustic guitar, a pad and a pen. Sat there and just wrote like, three or four songs, just that was it then. We just knew.

Marcus: We hadn’t sealed the natural friendship by then either.

Tommy: I think that was it then.

Marcus: I think as soon as we did that, it was meant to be. It kinda sounds a bit cheesy but I think that’s how the best things probably happen though.

Tommy: The most long-winded ever response.

Marcus: Is it alright talking naturally about it all?

It’s fine. Do you go there a lot to write?

Tommy: We haven’t since. That’s the weird thing, like, you just…it was that one time.

Marcus: We landed our own rehearsal space; we kind of just locked ourselves away in there.

Tommy: That became our new one.

You could always put pictures of trees up.

Marcus: (Laughs) Yeah! That’s become like Corelli central now.

Tommy: We’ve wrote in some weird places.

Why did you choose the name Corelli for the band?

Marcus: We won’t talk about past incarnations of the band, purely since we’ve been Corelli…we were after a name. We were already together, we’d got our songs written and we kinda just wanted one word. We didn’t want ‘The…’. Sounds a bit capitalist but we kind of wanted a brand.

Well it’s more memorable isn’t it? One word.

Marcus: To be honest, I’m not going to try and say that it was really…what word sums us up? I just kind of…at the time I was reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. And the story kind of evoked a thing in me where I thought like, because where we are coming from, there is not a lot going on. And it’s kind of a bit bleak, people are a bit bleak. Not Birmingham, we are a Birmingham band but where we live…where we sleep basically. That’s what we class it as.

Tommy: But at the time, we wasn’t a Birmingham band, we was a Cannock band.

Marcus: No we weren’t, yeah.

Tommy: We gave ourselves that name because it was like we were in a stop gap. We were in an area where you just felt like nothing was happening. It kind of summed up the fact that, with the book it’s kind of like he’s going to war. I know that going to war and living in a shit hole aren’t really the same thing but it’s like he’s going to war…

Marcus: Despite everything going on around him…

Tommy: He’s still got music. We’ve had shitty jobs and rubbish social lives we still had like…

Marcus: It’s like an escape basically.

Tommy: It’s our music.

Marcus: We like escaping.

Tommy: Then we got into Birmingham and it kind of cemented us really.

Does it benefit you as a band being based in Birmingham?

Marcus: Definitely.

Tommy: Definitely yeah.

Marcus: Well I don’t think it’s even a conscious decision, we are, whether we like it or not.

Are there any other bands in Birmingham that you like playing gigs with?

Tommy: Loads yeah.

Marcus: Before we like the sound of a band or what they are doing, first and foremost we just make good friends.

Tommy: We’re just all friends, we all go on the same nights out. It’s like Troumaca and Swim Deep.

Marcus: Peace.

Tommy: Silver Souvenirs and Guile.

Marcus: The Arcadian Kicks, which is kind of…they are good friends first and foremost. And then you see your friends play on stage and you’re like ‘actually you’re really good’. There’s something kind of going on, even though we are not doing exactly the same thing. Which I think is brilliant, I think it’s better in terms of a scene because…

Tommy: Well Tom, you know Tom? He’s a good friend.

Yeah, he goes to our Uni.

Marcus: He goes to Uni? 

Yeah, he's on our course.

I know he goes to Uni but he goes to Uni?


Tommy: We’ve been working with Gavin…Gavin Monaghan. He’s done like, Kings Of Leon, Editors…whatever else. We got that through Simon Bailey and Tom came into the studio with us and was just chilling with us. It feels like people aren’t just your mates on nights out, they’re you’re friends. I know it’s saying the same thing that I’ve read a lot of other bands have said, but it’s like even though all the bands aren’t doing the same thing…there isn’t like a math rock scene, punk rock scene, there isn’t a grunge pop, there isn’t an indie…swag. (Laughs)

Marcus: I think that is quite indicative of Birmingham as well. Even if you look through the past, the multiculturalism, the diversity of people…I think it’s indicative of Birmingham really. I think that is something to be proud of.

With your songs do you feel like you have found your sound at the moment? Or are you still trying to find your sound?

Marcus: I think we’ve maybe…found it…maybe…

Tommy: We’ve got a batch of songs, we’ve got a sound, I wouldn’t say perfected but we’ve got to a point where we are like yeah that’s what we want to sound like. And then we write a whole other batch of songs and they are like a new thing we want to do.

Marcus: There is obviously elements in music and style that we are heavily into and then someone might bring an album out tomorrow that blows us away and we are like, you can’t help that coming through.
Tommy: And it always sounds like us.
Marcus: It’s like Arcade Fire, not comparing ourselves to Arcade Fire in any extent of the imagination but it kind of like…Arcade Fire do it and The Fall. They kind of take all these influences in and no matter what they do, it always sounds like them.

Marcus: Tom has got a very distinctive style…

Tommy: Of playing, and your singing obviously. I think it’s some of the most driving characteristics of the band. I’d say but I’m saying that as a guitarist. I don’t know…It’s more of the listener’s opinion I suppose.
Marcus: So I think whatever we do, it’s going to have that Corelli…

Tommy: Initially, we are the writers. We write everything and it’ll manifest itself into a song with all the rest of them. We always have an idea that we sort of want to go with. Else it wouldn’t happen to be honest.

Marcus: In terms of sound, although there is going to be lots of influences, the next song might sound completely different to the one before in terms of like, you know. Sometimes the guitars might be really drone-y, and then the next song they might be really bright. We want to keep people guessing I suppose. And not get stuck in a rut, move with…

Tommy: Move with the music.

Marcus: I think that is important to the longevity of a band, to not get caught up too much in a particular sound.

Tommy: I suppose that’s another thing that’s really important to us as a band now. We didn’t want a name where people go…you say your name, it’s like…The Monotones, oh ok they are like a Mod sort of band. Say like, oh we are The Rascals and it’s like an indie band. We wanted a name where it’s like, Corelli, ‘oh well what are they doing?’ Do you know what I mean? ‘I don’t actually know what that could possibly be.’ I don’t want to be a band where your name ties you down to something. Do you know what I mean? I’d hate that. Because Corelli, it’s an inventive name, it’s imaginative…there’s no borders, there’s no boundaries. That’s what I want really.

What’s the best gig you have played so far, do you think? Or your favourite one you have played?

Tommy: Zombie Prom was really good, it’s first birthday. We love Zombie Prom anyway, so…

Do you play there a lot?

Marcus: We’ve played there twice.

Tommy: We DJ there regularly.

Marcus: We’ve kind of attached ourselves to that as not our club night but…the other bands as well. Like Swim Deep, Silver Souvenirs…

Tommy: Troumaca. Peace.

Marcus: Peace, obviously. You know they are gonna be there, you know they are going to be at the Adam and Eve after. You know they are going to be at Face. So I think we’ve all kind of attached ourselves to that as our kind of club night without it being a band’s club night. Which is another spontaneous thing which has kind of happened. I think that’s how the best things happen. Spontaneously.

Have you played any gigs outside of Birmingham? How did they go?

Tommy: Hit and miss.

Marcus: We’ve only been officially going with how we are now, for a year. Under a year really. 2011 has been our ‘here we are…’.

Tommy: Coventry we always get a good…

Marcus: Yeah we played Coventry a couple of months ago. And we always go down well down there. We go down better to a student crowd, when I say student crowd it kind of…like the younger student crowd. Without sounding like One Direction…

Tommy: Just people who like music. I don’t know…

Marcus: Again, like, we play a gig like tonight and I’d say it was a more mature demographic. And to be honest, I actually enjoyed that a lot more because I just felt like people were actually listening to what I was saying. Or what Tom was playing or the beat, it actually felt like people were…

Tommy: Interested and cared.

Marcus: Not being too judgemental.

Tommy: There was obvious mistakes but…they don’t judge too high.

Marcus: And I got a lot of satisfaction from that but we played in London on Saturday at 93 Feet East.

Tommy: We had a brilliant weekend but we didn’t have a brilliant gig. I think there was issues with our playing…I don’t know, we didn’t play too badly it’s just you feel like you are playing to a different crowd. Like in Birmingham you have more of a…

Marcus: I think we were just really eager to present ourselves the best we could.

Tommy: It kind of felt like because we were in London, it was like: ‘oh the man’s watching’. Do you know what I mean?

Marcus: I think now we’ve got that monkey off our back, next time we go, hopefully before the beginning of next year.

Tommy: It would be great to play some shows with some other bands round here. Sort of bring a bit of Birmingham…

Marcus: Take Birmingham round to London a little bit. I think people go to gigs more in London to be honest.

Tommy: In our phase of me and you playing together, we’ve had three gigs in London. One of our best ever gigs, one of our worst ever gigs and that one was sort of like…

Marcus: We supported Post War Years.

Tommy: And White Rose Movement.

Marcus: In Brixton.

Tommy: It was a White Lies DJ set.

Marcus: Yeah, and we played really well without patting yourself on the back too much. We were really happy with that.

Tommy: We took a lot of people down with us.

Marcus: We got a really good reception. So we’re not alien to it, we are just trying to get…

Tommy: This new thing going, Corelli.

That’s cool, have you got any gigs coming up in the future?

Tommy: We’re playing with The Arcadian Kicks on the 14th, get the flyers out.

Their single launch isn’t it?

Marcus: Yeah you obviously know about it.

Tommy: I need to grab the flyer anyway.

Marcus: It’s on the 14th. We’re playing there, it’s going to be downstairs in the basement. And I think it’s only like, a hundred capacity down there. And I think…

Tommy: Tom said if there isn’t people standing on the stairs, he’s hanging his guitar up.

Marcus: I think it’s going to be absolutely packed out. Hopefully we can be on top form for it. And make it a really good night because I’d like to play well for those guys as well because I heard their new single. That single, and I just think it’s absolutely immense. They deserve to do well really because they are a really hard working band. And it’s something that we could learn a lot from. Not that we don’t work hard but they’ve been around a while.

Tommy: We supported them in Walsall, like, years ago when we was in other bands and stuff. So we know how long they have been going, doing the same…not the same thing but doing the same line up and same sound. They are trying to get that same, they have perfected it haven’t they? Whereas we keep trying something different, trying something different. We are trying to find the winning formula. Because Tom is, I’d say the main writer …

Marcus: Maybe we should get two girls.

Tommy: Yeah, get two girls.

So, in terms of your songs and recordings, have you got any plans to release them?

Marcus: We are recording at…well we played two new songs tonight. “Shoulders” and…

Tommy: “It’s Ok To Cry”

Marcus: We are literally going to start recording those two songs this weekend, with the guy who did the Peace demos. And they are really good, have you heard them?

Yeah, I’ve heard them and I saw Peace at The Adam and Eve, they smashed it.

Marcus: Yeah, a lot of people have been impressed with those. We are going to go record with Dom. And he’s hopefully going to pick our sound up for those. I think once we’ve got those in the can, I think we’d like to get a single out early part of next year, maybe February. We’ve got a video planned as well. We just need some money first.

Tommy: The video is brilliant. Really good, like really good. (Laughs)

You’ve planned it out already?

Tommy: Yeah.

Marcus: We just need some money to fund it then it’s ready to go. It’s a budget video, obviously. But we still need that budget because we are all poor.

Have you sent your work to any at all labels yet?

Marcus: As we’ve said before, I think we are still a bit…we don’t want to throw anything out there that we think is not representative…although we feel like we’ve found a sound, we’re still crafting.

Tommy: I think we are getting there, the new stuff we are writing now is more representative, it’s more mature I suppose.

Marcus: It’s more of a mix of everything we’ve ever done.

Tommy: Rather than thinking of something and trying to replicate it. It’s easy to listen to a CD and go ‘love that, let’s replicate it a little bit’. You need to go ‘ok, what are we? What do we want to do?’. We like this, we like that, the other, let’s sort of pull it together.

Marcus: Yeah, I think those two songs are an incorporation of everything. Everything we’ve done really, so we may send those off.

Do you have any labels in mind at all?

Marcus: I think there is…you’ve always got dream labels that you want to sign with but I’m not really that…
Tommy: Arrogant to think they’d be interested. I suppose.

Marcus: I think as people as well, we are quite…

Tommy: We’re not blowing our own trumpets.

Marcus: We’re not shy obviously but we’re kind of…

Nick Doyle: Down to earth.

Marcus: Yeah. I think it would favour us more if we were more cock-sure. And made sure that people told other people we were the best band ever. Which most people do, but I don’t think that’s in our nature.

It’s my job to do that.

Tommy: Yeah. (Laughs)

Marcus: We kind of just let people make their own minds up.

Nick’s phone goes off with a buzz, which in turn signals the end of the interview.

Thanks for that guys, thanks for taking the time out.

Tommy: Thanks for coming.

Live photographs by Jack Parker