Lemuria interview

"You were convinced he was descended from Scottish kings."

When I stumbled over Lemuria - via a simple aside on a messageboard - it could've only been serendipity. Here's a band that somehow magic-up a sense of utter giddiness. And how hard is that to do? How often do you happen across a band that just makes you wanna run around like a kid? They're fucking great.

The band themselves suggest The Lemonheads as an influence - and their CD slots in nicely next to "Car Button Cloth" on our shelves - but you can hear other elements too: Belly, "Clarity"-era Jimmy Eat World and the articulate rhythms of the Dischord label. It's not a unique formula for sure, but taking something familiar and re-imagining it with a breathless urgency is a rare treat these days.

We spoke to Alex (drums & vocals), Jason (bass & vocals) and Sheena (guitar and vocals) before September's matinee show at Newcastle's Star & Shadow Cinema.

So is this your first time to Europe as a band?

Jason: Yeah ... and as individuals too. We're European virgins!

Sheena: I think we all had expectations about how things would be different, but even just the way we've been treated compared to touring in the States has been great.

Alex: People have been much more hospitable. There's always food and there's coffee for when we wake up. When we tour in the States that happens once in a while but not every day.

You seem to be busy for the time you're here. Are you getting any days off?

Alex: We had one day when it was just to get over the border into the UK 'cos we didn't know if we were going to have trouble. There's nine of us on the tour including The Ringers and we've heard horror stories about people being strip searched and everything ...

I looked on your website at your archive of previous gigs and you don't seem averse to living out of a van ...

Alex: Yeah! We're on tour a lot. It's one of the reasons we do the band. It's an excuse to travel. You go to a different city every day and show people your art. At this point in the States we have friends in all different places that we can visit.

Jason: The more we do it, the better it gets. We meet more people, become better friends.

Alex: You create a little community of friends in every town.

So you still see touring as a worthwhile pursuit?

All: Definitely!

I guess we're luckier here in that bands still see the UK as a good place to come and play. Sometimes slightly bigger bands go to somewhere like Italy and play one show and that's it. Or they play the festivals. They don't seem to spend the month or six weeks in Europe like they used to.

Jason: That never made sense to me. The bands get bigger but their drives get longer! You'd think as the audiences grew they'd be able to hit more towns and it would be less exhausting.

I saw from your schedule that you're booked for The Fest when you get back to the USA. Have you played there before?

Sheena: We played last year and we're playing with The Ringers this time.

For people who don't know about The Fest, could you describe it?

Alex: It's in Gainesville, Florida. There's 170 or 180 bands at about ten different venues over three days. When you've got 180 bands there are already a lot of people, but folks from all over make the trip.

Sheena: Even since we've been here, people have been saying they're going.

Alex: It's organised by the people at the record label No Idea. They spearheaded it. So a lot of bands in that scene/genre play.

It certainly seems to be something where people think 'One day I will get there ...'

Alex: It's like a Mecca! What's nice is that they always get a couple of bands to pretty much re-unite just for that show. This year Small Brown Bike, Naked Raygun, Seaweed are all playing.

Sheena: It's good to have big and small bands from all over. There's even international bands who fly in.

There's nothing really comparable here. People organise all-dayers but the larger events tend to be retro-events with 70s and 80s bands. I don't know if there's not the audience or just not the bands...

Sheena: The Fest is out of the ordinary. Most day-long festivals maybe have 30 bands and that's still insane, but this is becoming so big and Gainesville is just a small town. I don't even know if it's a city ...

Alex: It's a just a small town with a college. But No Idea happens to be run out of there and they set up in their home town.

Sheena: The whole streets are taken over by the punk kids. Everywhere you look. It's a wild weekend.

Alex: The frustrating thing is that there's so many good bands that you just can't see all the bands you want to see. When they post the schedule you have to make a plan of what venue you're going to be at, at what time.

You have a full-length album coming out soon on Asian Man Records. How did that happen?

Alex: Yeah ... hopefully December or January. I run a record label called Art of the Underground and Asian Man emailed me about trading records and I noticed a lot of the records they wanted were the Lemuria records. So I said 'If you want, I'll send over the new Lemuria album' because we'd finished recording it by then. They came back and said they'd love to do the album. Turns out they're just the coolest label.

Is it all new material? You have quite a back catalogue already.

Alex: We recorded 14 new tracks. We took out a couple to use as compilation tracks for when they come along. So 12 new songs. Everything else we've recorded apart from our demo and our split 7" with The Ergs just got put on a CD by Yo-Yo Records from Germany. Jan, who runs Yo-Yo actually set up this tour for us and is driving us around Europe.

With regards your label, you still seem interested in putting out vinyl. Is that still an important part of what you do?

Alex: I put out more vinyl than I do CDs. I run a singles series where every month I put out a new single from a different band every month. Thats like the main thing I do.

As a band, you've grown up with the Internet. One one hand you've got all the positive things like the ability to reach listeners and communicate with people, then you have to deal with downloading ...

Jason: I think all of us toured in bands where we still set up tours by phone.

Sheena: The Internet has been so helpful. We would've never been able to get hold of Jan without it and there are certain things that would've never happened otherwise.

Jason: As for the downloading, I think for smaller bands it helps a lot because people who wouldn't be likely to pay money to check out a record can hear us. I would rather that people get the songs for free and then come and check out our shows and have fun, rather than have a bunch of CDs cluttering up my house and no-one buying them.

What kind of things are you hoping to see before you have to go home?

Sheena: I want to see all the obvious things in Paris like the Eiffel Tower.

Alex: I'd like to go to the Louvre but I don't know if there'll be time.

Jason: I'm a nerd for a lot of Britpop so when we were in Manchester I wanted to check out a lot of places but it was pouring with rain. It was fun just driving around.

Sheena: Jan has been really good. He'll stop if he thinks we should see something. So today we saw Hadrian's Wall and yesterday we got to climb a mountain.

Alex: And we went into a scary cave!

Sheena: It's kinda hard with a show every day to see as much as you would like.

You were in Glasgow yesterday.

Sheena: It was awesome.

Alex: Yeah, it was downstairs at a bar. It's a really nice town.

Was British music something you grew up on?

Alex: Yeah, stuff like The Clash, The Jam - stuff like that.

Jason: The Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division. It's my bread and butter!

How have you found the food?

Sheena: Delicious!

Jason: Definitely different, but still very good!

Alex: We did bring our own hot sauce just in case.

Sheena: I've always been told that British food is really bland. American food is salty and spiced up to the point where you can barely taste what it actually is, so we brought our hot sauce!

Alex: You can actually taste things here. In the US, you order fries and they come with a ridiculous amount of salt on them already.

Jason: I do miss tacos. I eat a lot of tacos and they're not very prevalent here!

Alex: There's also a lot of candy in the States made with gelatine and we don't eat it because we're vegetarians, but the same candy is OK over here. So we've been eating Skittles a lot.

I know some stuff has different names in the US ...

Alex: It's not just candy. I went into a bookstore in Glasgow and the books have different covers. One of my favourite authors is Joyce Carol Oates and in the UK one title is called "Mother Missing Here" and in the US it's "Missing Mom". And I was like "Oh, a new book!"

What about drinks? I've read other bands complain that there's not the same choice over here. It's like Coke or Pepsi and that's it.

Alex: We've been drinking a lot of water! It's much healthier to drink sodas over here. In the US they use corn syrup, which a processed thing and here they use cane sugar. I don't know much about it really but you can taste the difference.

When we were in New York last year, we were thrilled by the pint bottles of Coke that cost about the same as what we pay for smaller bottles.

Alex: I just bought this thing at the bar [holds up miserable glass of cola] and I was like "Oh, alright ..."

Jason: And not as much iced tea! When you go to a convenience store in the US there's like five or six brands of ice tea.

Sheena: There's this brand called Arizona that make tall cans that sell for a dollar. We live on those. Not having it here is a little strange.

It'll taste so much sweeter when you go home.

Sheena: We miss it so much!

You're about a third of the way through the tour. Still holding up?

Sheena: Yeah. We just got off a tour with The Ergs and we were able to make enough money to buy the plane tickets. So no matter what happens, even if we lose a little money, this is the experience we all wanted. We're not able to do Italy or Spain ...

Alex: Or Eastern Europe. Maybe next time we'll come over and do some other places.

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