THE NOISETTES////SHINGAW SHANAWRYA////AUGUST 2009
Since their formation, the Noisettes have been one of the hardest touring bands around. Even with this enthusiasm and the effort poured into promoting their sublime debut album, ‘What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?’ the band never really got the commercial recognition they deserved. All this was to change soon after as their stunning follow-up album ‘Wild Young Hearts’ was released with leading single ‘Don’t Upset the Rhythm’ becoming an A-lister for radio stations from as far afield as Aberdeen to Acapulco. Even though these guys are currently on a ridiculous schedule, where they are rarely getting a second to breath, stunning lead vocalist Shingai Shoniwa was kind enough to spare some time for Outline straight from a hectic weekend at the V Festival…
You finished your V weekend performances yesterday, how was it for you?
It was really wonderful to be honest; ‘cause we hadn’t done it or been there before, I was kind of assuming it to be more like another Reading situation, but it was actually in a really beautiful part of Essex – there was a little chapel in the middle of one of the fields. It was really beautiful; I felt quite bad for expecting it to be just your average run of the mill kind of festival. The gigs were amazing, the outfits were loads of fun, there was lots of jumping around, lots of wardrobe malfunctions…
Which surely is a ladies prerogative?
Well yeah, but I’m not sure what my mother would say with the little peep show I gave according to the News of the World. So er, yeah (laughs)… With the Staffordshire day, the events manager told us that we got the biggest crowd of the whole weekend on that stage. Apparently we played to around 30,000 people, so it was pretty amazing.
The Guardian has recently noted you guys as one of the best live bands in the country at the moment, which is great, but I wondered who else you’ve seen over the summer that you would rate as being up there with you?
Oh let’s see… I thought The Specials were incredible. I managed to see fifteen minutes of their set and I ended up dancing with Charlotte Church, which was quiet funny. She just started talking to me and we ended up having a really nice chat. I remember the first time I heard her sing Ave Maria, she said [in a welsh accent] “oh I’m glad you liked it, but I’m going to be a bit more like you and rock out now”, which was really funny. A lovely girl, she has some new material coming out which is much more upbeat so I’m looking forward to hearing that. So yeah, The Specials were great.
It’s great getting quotes like that, but I wondered if they can put pressure on you for future performances?
No I feel honoured. It makes me realise how far we’ve come, and based mostly on the live merit. It’s a blessing to have a fantastic career with songs that I love, but I think what’s gotten us this far is the fact that people have always given us second chances because we pull out all the stops when it comes to the gigs. There were a lot of people from around the time of the first album who never saw a poster or heard a song on the radio, but never forgot who we were because of the live gigs. So if anything, rather than putting pressure on, it just makes you not want to stop giving people that experience through the shows. I want to keep on making the live experience unforgettable. In America people really go to town when they are doing the live stuff, but over here an indie band might have a glitter cannon for the last track and that’s as big as it gets, but out there people seem to get their dollars’ worth. I’m hoping we can really capitalise on our live reputation in the States.
So we’ve just talked about the good gigs, but in all honesty, i’m interested to know about the shows which haven’t gone quite to plan. There must have been a few along the way?
If I’m honest, one of the worst gigs was a one we had to do last week in Stalybridge, when I was meant to be doing this ‘phoner with you. It was a sweet little town outside of Manchester. It was an event for competition winners, with the idea being that the winner would get us and Daniel Merriweather playing a gig in their street. So we went up the night before because we had to start at 10.30 in the morning. We were drinking hot tea to try and cut through the previous night before. When I say it was someone’s street, it literally was, like a cross between Coronation Street or Emmerdale. There was a little school fete type of tent erected in the middle of this cul-de-sac and it was chucking it down with rain for the whole day. But y’know, we managed to turn the situation around – people were running into their house to get rain gear and the whole thing just ended up having a great community spirit about it. I literally was singing in the rain; we got completely soaked. But there was definitely a metaphorical rainbow in the end.
You guys had done a lot of hard work touring & promoting your debut, ‘What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?’, with not a great deal of commercial recognition. I wondered if you had any idea how big things were going to go for you when you were working on ‘Wild Young Hearts’?
Oh my God, no. I had no idea at all. It was a bit like ‘aw thanks’. I felt like there was a Guardian angle out there looking after me. You know when you think, ‘I really can’t make it over the last hurdle’ and then something gives you that energy to run that last bit. I kinda felt like that really.
How has its success changed things for you?
Well I’ve always been confident on stage and stuff, but generally I don’t think I was that confident – I always felt tired and stuff. I felt I had a lot to prove to my family, particularly my mum who has supported me for so long, but I felt she might start to wonder if it was ever going to happen. I was still working during a lot of the campaign for ‘…Mr. Wolf’, so I thought about going back to that, maybe teaching kids or doing drama. I guess it made me feel like ‘ok, I don’t need to think about doing that for a while’ and it made me feel humble as well. It’s a nice feeling; you feel like anything is possible. You feel a bit big headed at first. Jamie (drums) in interviews can be a little cocky or forthright and just talks about private jets and being a star, but I don’t really feel like I should be saying that because this is not really what I expected.
You chose Jim Abyss to produce your album, the man behind the Arctic Monkeys… were you initially concerned as to how he was going to make the Noisettes sound?
No absolutely not. I thought, if anything, the best thing for us would be to work with someone who has worked with a range of bands or musicians. He’s worked with DJ Shadow, Kasabian & Adele as well. I just liked his range; it seemed to reflect my musical pallet a little bit – you chuck it all in and get a sound that hopefully comes from the heart. He’s so into his music, I just thought it was going to be great.
Although early days, I wondered if any follow-up material has already been written?
I have a lot of ideas in my head, but I find it difficult to write when I’m on tour. I usually spend the whole day shitting myself about the performance that night – that’s the focus of my day really, making sure the shows are good. I’ve got to bring life to these songs and they are still quite new to me. If I’m on a flight, I’ll write things in a scrap book or if I’m in a hotel room I’ll sing into my dictaphone. At the end of the year we’ll see… some of them I might think are ridiculous, but some of them might make it onto some great melodies.
The band are currently working on a video for the track ‘Saturday Night’. I believe you gave loads of your fans camera phones and asked them to film the track live, plus footage of them getting ready for the show and then their own after parties. Great idea, but how’s it coming along?
Apparently there were about 70 cameras used, so at the moment we are still waiting to get some of the footage back. I’m really excited about it, but I’m also concerned that they might miss some intricacies from having to edit so much footage. So fingers crossed, watch this space, as soon as we know more we’ll chuck it onto the internet and get people’s feedback.
You guys have done a lot of touring over the last few years, so I wondered if you could share some road survival tips with us…
If you’ve got a good bunch of friends you can call every now and again for a bit of a whinge then that helps. My mum’s always great. She calls me and reminds me of the problems I thought I had and makes me realise how small they actually are. Also try and do stuff that’s not about the band occasionally. Go for a swim, go for a walk, try and get to know some thing about the town you are in, otherwise you find you get into a bit of a haze and you don’t know where you are one day to the next.
As a threesome, you have very eclectic tastes in music, but are there specific albums you are all currently enjoying?
We’re all really into the new Mos Def record, the Emprie of the Sun record as well. I also really love at the moment Howling Wolf and Joni Mitchell.
You’re blessed with the most angelic voice, with this in mind, I wondered who you would state as vocal inspirations…
I like voices that really move you. Angelic is kind of defined in different ways; I would say both Edith Piaf and Nina Simone have angelic voices, but people would say her voice is kind of coarse… I love singers with a lot of texture in their voice, who you can hear they have a story to tell and they’ve really thrown themselves into life and you can’t take your ear away from the speakers. I like Eartha Kitt, but I also like a lot of early Whitney Houston (laughs)…so it’s hard to get me to agree on any kind of vocalist (laughs)… bit of a spectrum there love!
Finally, Norwich – tell us what you remember about playing here?
The lasting memory I have of Norwich is a huge snowball fight outside the Arts Centre. The snow was knee-deep. In Norwich I also remember seeing lots of snowman competitions as we were driving out, you know when neighbours really start competing (laughs)…