The Burt Bacharak Fight Club interview
Just occasionally you stumble over something that sounds a little bit different. A break from the norm. So it is with The Burt Bacharak Fight Club.
Indie may currently be mainstream but the BBFC understand that to be interesting, indie pop needs to be quirky, wired and colourful. They do so by blending the best moments from the likes of The Rezillos, The Teardrop Explodes and Guided By Voices into memorable bite-sized chunks. If CD Times was curating a new version of the NME's seminal C86 compilation, the BBFC would surely secure the lead track.
We talked with the BBFC's Bob Tarbuck at the beginning of February.
Prior to The Burt Bacharak Fight Club, most of the current band played together as NutronStars. What provoked the decision to change the format and name to the BBFC?
The BBFC thing came to me in a dream and I thought it was such a good name I couldn't just let it go to waste. After doing NutronStars for 4-5 years - which was mainly me doing everything on the PC with a drum machine - I'd just had enough. We were getting really good reviews from fanzines but we weren't really getting much further so to push it to another level it needed a big change.
What I did recently was write some songs with real drums in mind and when we found a drummer it changed the sound so much it didn't really feel like NutronStars. That was such a lo-fi project, everything done on 8 or 10 tracks. The drums made me think 'this is not really Nutronstars any more.' I had the dream about the name and next day I phoned everyone up and said it's time to do something different and they went with it.
The live drummer seems to free things up.
I really missed working with a live drummer. Drum machines are rigid: you're playing to a solid beat that never gets faster or slower, whereas drummers will naturally speed up or slow down. When you're trying to push a song live it makes it more exciting. That's a feeling you never get with a drum machine. It's also much more interesting for people to watch, to see someone bashing away.
The set-up you have: guitar/vocals, two keyboards, drums. That's a slightly unusual format ...
The keyboards do add other dimensions to the songs and it makes it different. A lot of people who come to see us say it looks different. It wasn't really intended. John and Simmo are non-musicians. They weren't musicians when I met them and they learned from scratch. I'd known them for years and it was much more comfortable having them in the band.
How does the songwriting process work? Do you still write on guitar?
It's still me and my acoustic and a tape recorder. Putting stuff down and listening back to see if it's any good. Rough arrangements go to the band so everyone chips in with their ideas.
You seem pretty productive. Is it still easy to write lyrics or pick up the guitar?
I've been lazy with lyrics. I tend to ad-lib stuff for months and months. We play songs live now that I'm still ad-libbing, except maybe for the chorus. Often I just wait until we're recording to write. But I do have loads of old tapes that I'll go back to for a verse or a hook if I think we can use it.
You seem to have a fondness for pop culture.
Oh God, yeah. I'm just obsessed with 60s and 70s stuff. The Avengers, Man in a Suitcase, the Gerry Anderson shows, Batman. You get a lot of ideas for lyrics and song titles from those.
That bubblegum element makes you stand out. You can hear little bits of other bands in what you do, but it's still very British.
Yeah, I don't feel a lot of affinity with other bands 'cos I don't really understand what they're singing about! I don't even have a mobile phone! But then they probably wouldn't understand what we do either.
Tell me a little about what the scene is like in Nottingham. I couldn't think of any bands who'd ever come from there.
It's very divided. You've still got bands that want to sound like Oasis and other bands who are really experimental. There's still a bit of a Britpop hangover: bands who want to sound like Paul Weller b-sides. Nottingham needs a really big band to come through to put the city on the map. That hasn't happened.
Are there local bands you feel an affinity with?
We Show Up On Radar. We've played with them a few times. We tend to play with different bands. Some of them are cool.
What's the circuit like for bands that are just starting?
Most promoters want you to pull a crowd and if you say you can pull 100-150 they'll put you on whether you're really good or really crap. That's been the case for a long time. There are a lot of good bands who don't draw crowds so they don't get many gigs. Bands who can get a load of their mates to sing along with their Oasis-sounding songs get gigs 'cos the promoters can make some money.
Have you had any interest from labels?
I only sent a demo to a label this week! Mostly we've been going to fanzines and the like. All our energies have been going towards playing live and getting reaction from people we've been playing to. And MySpace, of course.
The internet has changed the way bands find an audience.
You get a reaction from all over the world. It's been 99% positive so far.
What would you like to happen over the next 12 months or so?
I never make plans. Just keep writing and recording. We're not teenagers so you don't think record companies are gonna come along and say 'you're fantastic'. It would be nice to get a little deal. Make a couple of cool albums. That's what's important to me: to make good work. People who I've admired have tended to be culty: Julian Cope, Scott Walker, Tim Buckley.
And some of these guys are still plugging away, still making music.
Yeah, although I haven't listened to Walker's recent album - the one where he's slapping bits of meat together or whatever. He needs to get Tony Hatch to write some new songs. If he did those and some of his Jacques Brel stuff, I'd buy that album.
Burt Bacharak Fight Club on MySpace