Young Knives ornaments coming to Kendal Calling – interview

Posted on 20 June 2011
By Lara Cullen
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Young Knives’ third album Ornaments From The Silver Arcade is out and they’re touring the UK bringing their witty, fun and intelligent indie tunes to their loyal throng of fans.

We caught up with razor sharp frontman Henry Dartnall to talk upcoming festival appearances, why indie music needs an injection of fun, whizzing off one’s tits on Red Bull and Prince’s special erections.

Purple Revolver: It’s been a very busy year for you guys, you’ve got a new album and you’ve been doing lots of touring – how would you sum up 2011 so far?

Henry: “The album came out in April so about 12 weeks ago now, it’s still pretty new. 2011 has been nice. It’s been a good year. It’s a bit more relaxed now, we know who we are, we know who our friends are too, we’ve got a lot of good friends.”

Purple Revolver: What’s the response to the new album been like?

Henry: “Well my mum likes it. My dad likes some of it. Generally we think the response has been pretty good though. We’ve got some great reviews, we’ve got some fairly shit reviews too but you’ll always get that. We’re really happy with it and the people who’ve got it and come to the shows seem to like it.

“It’s hard sometimes to tell how far it’s reaching because people don’t buy your records any more, they listen to it on Spotify, then when you get to a venue and it’s all sold out it can be a surprise, but yeah it would be nice if they would just buy the records. We’re not headlining stadiums yet, the stadium tour hasn’t happened. To be honest, if we ever were on a stadium tour I’d be thinking we’d done something wrong, almost like to go there we’d have reduced our music to the lowest common denominator.

“You know to appeal to the masses, reducing our sound and what we are. But then you’d get a shitload of money for it so you could stop and go back to what you’re really about but you’d be expected to write even more mediocre stuff and by then you’re addicted to it and you know – it’s just a vicious circle or something like that. It’s not what we want.”

Purple Revolver: So would you view bands playing stadiums as having sold out?

Henry: “I don’t know if it’s selling out, it’s the wrong term because they probably like what they’re producing. They probably think it’s good and they’re happy with what they’re doing and that but I’d find it hard to write like that, that bland, I don’t know, Hollywood rock n roll type of music. I’ve tried at times, when I’m in my room by myself or whatever, but it doesn’t get me excited. Our stuff gets me excited and I like that and that’s why I do this. It’s what we’re about.”

Purple Revolver: There seems to be a shift in your sound, was that deliberate or did it just evolve through the recording process?

Henry: “It was deliberate. I think a lot of bands these days are getting really serious and it seems as though you’ve got to be serious to be credible. Like Radiohead and their subgenres. I’m not slagging off Radiohead, I like that stuff but we try to do something different, fill a different spot. There’s not much fun in music any more, some American bands still do it – Vampire Weekend I guess, MGMT but there don’t seem to be so many British bands having fun.

“It’s more bands like Glasvegas, Foals, The XX that are getting the attention. I’ve always liked things like Zappa, Beefheart, The Kinks – bands that are fun but still musically credible. I miss it and we wanted to inject some of that back. Bands like Roxy Music that are full but still cool and have hoards of fans even now.”

Purple Revolver: Do you approach festivals any differently to your own shows?

Henry: “Yes we do. Festivals are less self indulgent, it’s about entertaining the most amount of people that you can so you can’t just spend 20 minutes on guitar solos or lots of slow indulgent stuff. You’ve got to be much less subtle and slow but that’s what I like about it. Also the pressure is off a bit, people get stuck in and get dancing. It’s what it’s all about.”

Purple Revolver: What artists are you most excited about sharing a bill with this summer?

Henry: “Prince at Hop Farm. Definitely Prince at Hop Farm. He’s allowing us to walk through his specially erected tunnels (laughs). I suppose we’ll need to bend down a bit. Prince at Hop Farm though will be brilliant. There’s also a little festival we’re playing called LeeFest, it’s in a guy called Lee’s house so it’s called LeeFest – cool name isn’t it?”

Purple Revolver: Very cool

Henry: “British Sea Power and The Whip are at that too. We love them, that will be great.”

Purple Revolver: And you’re hitting the mainstage at Kendal Calling. We’re going to be covering it for the first time this year too and we’re pretty excited about it. Have you done that one before and how are you guys feeling about it?

Henry: “No we haven’t done it before but yeah I’m really looking forward to it too. We really are actually, it’s meant to be a quality festival. I think it’s in my top two of all the ones we’re doing with Hop Farm but Kendal Calling, that will be great.

“I want to go and see what it’s all about, I think it’s sort of a special one, there’s a lot of good feeling around it. Everyone I’ve spoken to always talks about how good it is, how the atmosphere is just amazing, it’s really well organised and it feels like it’ll be the kind of place where everyone’s welcome and there’s a really good party atmosphere. I think it’s going to be brilliant. Truck Festival’s another one that will be good, it’s like a homecoming for us. We’ve played Truck a lot and we love it.”

Purple Revolver: What about Summer Sundae, I suppose that’s sort of like a homecoming too with you originally being Leicester boys?

Henry: “Oh yes, our mums will come to that. That’ll be good. We like that festival.”

Purple Revolver: What’s your best festival war story, either as a punter or since you’ve been playing?

Henry: “It’s definitely been messier as a punter. I used to go and sell programmes at the festivals, like Reading and Leeds. It was pretty good and you could make a lot of money. We’d make 50p from each programme you sold and you get your tickets and backstage passes so once you sell a few hundred programmes you’ve a couple of hundred quid in your pocket.

“One year it was really hot and it was the first time I’d ever heard of Red Bull, didn’t know what it was. I remember they had all the girls in the car, like sexy-drugdealers in skimpy outfits handing out these free cans to everyone and I took like a crate of 40 cans I was dragging around the whole time. I thought it was just a normal new fizzy drink and didn’t know it had caffeine or any of the other stuff in it so it was really hot and I was just throwing it back. I was whizzing my tits off by the end of it. I felt great but I felt awful at the same time. It was pretty cool.

“I remember as well, we were walking up the road in the backstage area and looked up and there was this group of huge black American dudes walking towards us and shouting frantically, right at us. We didn’t have a clue what was going on, I was just a skinny little white british kid from a pretty rural area so didn’t know what to make of it, and I had drank all these Red Bulls so it was completely surreal. They just kept walking towards us, shouting, we didn’t know what we’d done so we passed them and parted a bit and then finally realized that behind us was another group of black dudes, just the same – massive guys with clocks for necklaces and stuff, doing the same thing.

“It was totally surreal and then we realised we’d just been caught up in the middle of Ice T with his band Bodycount meeting Public Enemy. It was a lot to take in for a young country lad! It was good though, it was around that time that music started to hit home with me and really change things. Bands like Blur, Pulp, Suede and then from the States – Frank Black, Pavement. It was amazing. It was also the start of the big beat stuff like the Chemical Brothers.

“We were at a festival in Manchester a few weeks back, Friends of Mine, and we were watching Yuck and it brought me back to that kind of time. It was cool, it felt like a festival in 1997 and all the good stuff with it. Sometimes festivals and things can seem a bit like hard work but moments like that bring it back.”

Purple Revolver: So do you normally stick around then and watch other bands, camp for the whole affair and have the full-on experience, or do you just tend to do the show and get out?

Henry: “It depends on the festival, we don’t really camp because we’ve got all the gear so it’s hard to secure it. A couple of years ago I managed to get to Glasto and scammed the van in. That was great, I had a load of t-shirts and managed to get a Merch pass so I parked the van up about 20 metres from the John Peel stage and me and my wife just slept in the van, knocked the seats back and had a great time at the festival. It was really wet and muddy and everyone was trekking back to their tent while we just stepped into the van two minutes from the back of the John Peel stage. I’m quite proud of that actually, people don’t really break into Glasto these days, it reminded me of the old days of people scaling the perimeter fence.”

Purple Revolver: Very rock n roll. On a different note, Purple Revolver is into predicting the future and believe artists have great vision. What do you think the future holds?

Henry: “It’s pretty hard to say. I think the future will be like, well like what it is now but more of it. That’s my bold prediction (laughs).”

Purple Revolver: We’re about to launch a 90s season on Purple Revolver and have pinpointed 1993 as a pivotal moment in the 90s nostalgia now hitting the UK – do you have any defining ’93 memories?

Henry: “1993? That’s hard, I don’t think I was particularly compus-mentus around that time. I think that was probably the year Pavement’s Slanted and Enchantment came out. Actually no, I think it came out in 1992 but ‘93 was when I started listening to it and that really got me into Alternative Rock and was a huge influence for me. I think that was probably the biggest thing that happened to me in 1993, even though it was released in 1992, it hit me hard in 1993.”

Purple Revolver: And finally… Do you think Phil Collins gets a bad rap?

Henry: “No. I don’t actually. And I don’t think he gives a shit if he does, he’s got tons of cash. People know him as a good drummer and that’s how most people rate him. And he’s god a shit load of money so I think he’s probably laughing at all the people who slag him off. Phil Collins is alright.”

Young Knives play the following UK festivals:

18th June – Cultureshock Festival, Harrogate
25th June – Green Templeton College Ball, Oxford
2nd July – Godiva Festival, Coventry
3rd July – Hop Farm Festival, Kent
22nd July – The Haunt, Brighton
23rd July – Truck Festival, Oxfordshire
30th July – Kendal Calling, Lake District
13th August – Leefest, Kent
14th August – Summer Sundae, Leicester
17th September – Ramsbottom Festival