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Escape Velocity

November Five Explain Why They're Both ASBO And Mensa
The Quietus , February 5th, 2009 11:26

Does November Five's moniker suggest that, on Guy Fawkes night every year, you're likely to find them in some musty Napoleonic uniform wandering the streets of Lewes in East Sussex, bashing drums and throwing explosives about the place before indulging in a bit of anti-Pope effigy burning? They claim, after all, to combine the spirits of both ASBO and MENSA, which suggests they're not adverse to the kind of thoughtful rampaging that dresses up tradition with some good old fashioned boozy roistering.

Musically, the Londoners (there's actually only four of them) combine the driving sneer of Earl Brutus, some of the atmospherics of the Arcade Fire if they weren't twig-stroking Canadians, and some very British bombast - in November Five's hands, guitars do, very much, squall. First of all, though, a disclaimer...

You write for my site and now I’m interviewing you about your band – isn’t this a darned abuse of power? Tell us why your band is actually pretty good, thank you very much.

Julian: Well, I suppose it’d be an abuse of power if I was the editor promoting my own band but as it is I’m just one of your scribes. Still, if you want to talk the talk then you might as well walk the walk. Anyway, it’s hardly insider trading, is it? I mean, it’s not like cash for questions or the Hutton Inquiry; no one’s going to get fucked over or bumped off while on an afternoon stroll in the woods for any of this, are they? As for being pretty good, I think we’re more than that. Joe’s lyrics examine the human condition with an uncanny precision and the music fleshes out those concerns.

Your new single ‘Closure’ is very good indeed; it sounds like a more rock’n’roll Arcade Fire. Tell us about it please.

Joe: Thanks, I’m glad you like it. ‘Closure’ is about trying to help someone you care deeply about doing everything they can to fuck their lives right up. I’ve seen so many people full of life and energy blow it brown. ‘Closure’ isn’t just about drugs though; it’s about hope. There are millions of bright people out there who’ve been written off or have written themselves off which is such a waste. The song is essentially about never giving up; you have to continue despite whatever’s thrown at you. There’s nothing else so you have to make the best of it as you can. Never mind going on about when you last washed your keks. Anyway, the only thing you’ll find at the end of a needle is a prick.

What’s your favourite scene in Closer? Mine is where Clive Owen starts crying in the strip club while listening to The Smiths. And anything that involves Jude Law getting hurt.

Joe: I can’t really comment on Closer as I haven’t seen it but I saw the trailer and it looks like a slightly darker ‘Notting Hill’ but I’m afraid those people say nothing to me about my life so I think I’d definitely pass on that. The best film I’ve seen recently was ‘Red Road’ which is set in Glasgow. It’s so bleak it’s like reality bleeding from the screen. It’s not exactly a date movie but even here there’s hope and redemption.

Glenn Close’s hair cut in Fatal Attraction – time for a revival?

Chris: Not now. Not ever.

Julian: That whole 80s revival has been done to death. The 80s were pretty fucking horrible the first time round so why would anybody want to go through all that again? Mind you, with the current recession, that really is the icing on the cake for the revivalists. All we need now is the very real threat of a nuclear war and an evil bastard in Number 10 and you’ve got the lot.

Los from Kingmaker – I bet he’s not laughing now, eh?

Dan: Who are Kingmaker?

Julian: Well, quite. Apart from sharing a flat with Justine and Damon during their ‘open relationship’ days, you wouldn’t have thought he’d have had much to laugh about anyway.

Introduce yourselves and let us know what instruments you play.

Joe: I’m Joe and I play the bass and I sing. Chris: I’m Chris and I play the guitar. Julian: I’m Julian and I play the guitar and sing backing vocals. Dan: I’m Dan and I play the drums.

London is full of bands – why should we go and watch yours?

Joe: Because I mean what I sing and I sing what I mean. There’s no choice; we have to do it, that’s it. Everything else just falls away. We’re not interested in egos and nonsense; I don’t want to be a VIP. We want to have a good time and bring everyone along because we love playing live. I see some bands and they don’t even look like they want to be there. For me, it’s all about passion. If you have passion you can do anything.

Julian: We’re an antidote to all those faceless, boring tossers who spend too much time trying to be a tribute band to whatever their favourite group is. We get dressed up and put on a full-on live experience. By the time we come offstage, you’d be hard pressed to remember if anyone else was on the line-up.

Your excitable press release claims you are like MENSA colliding with ASBO. How does this present itself in practical terms?

Joe: I like the idea of tearing away barriers and the obstacles surrounding us. So then why shouldn’t someone with an ASBO become a member of MENSA? ‘Closure’ is about realising that you have these possibilities, that we’re not limited by our condition and that we can be whatever we want to be and we don’t need anybody’s permission to do it. You don’t need justification for jubilation.

That said, MENSA is a clique that should be shut. I want to see the chavs and the mosh kids holding hands together walking down the street and singing. I want to see them sharing the headphones on their iPods and listening to death metal, country, r’n’b or whatever all in the same sitting without any tribal nonsense going on. Recognise the enemy and know that it’s not each other.

Our music is filled with optimism. Yeah, there are some dark episodes but at the core it presents itself as being hopeful and that a clash of ideas can exist happily together.

What libations oil the wheels of The November Five? And do these libations ever make the wheels fall off the cart?

Joe: We never get drunk before we go onstage. Not because we’re straight edge or anything like that but because it’s not a good idea. Sure, one or two drinks to loosen up but after that you’re in knobhead territory. If they don’t let you drive a car after two pints what makes you think you’re gonna make great music when you’re pissed? After the gig we’ll drink ourselves daft but not before.

Chris: Anyway, being on stage is a rush in itself and when I come off I’m in a daze; I’m in another zone.

Joe: Yeah, being onstage is almost like a religious experience.

Dan: Mind you, there have been silly scraps afterwards.

Joe: Ahh yes…the cells on a Friday night. There’s nothing quite like sitting there while the guy next door is repeatedly kicking the fuck out of his metal cell door. That hollow thumping sound, of a shoeless foot meeting metal. It’d be a great sample, that! Maybe do a remix of it! ‘You’re all a load of…BANG! BANG! BANG! Give us a fucking cig! BANG! BANG! BANG! Thanks for the cig, you fucking pig bastard! BANG BANG BANG! Err…have you got a light please, mate?’

You say never trust a band that doesn’t sweat. Interesting, but what about Kraftwerk?

Joe: Ah, yes…but it’s a little known fact that Kraftwerk fart an awful lot on stage. That’s why they’re pulling those serious faces – it’s all wind. I blame the sausages. I feel sorry for anyone sat in the front row at their gigs. They never do encores in case they follow through. That’s why the send robots on stage instead. Besides, who says we trust Kraftwerk anyway?

What’s your motivation to be in a band?

Joe: If we don’t do this, we’ll be screaming at traffic and boxing with invisible opponents. I’ve got to let it out because if I don’t I’ll explode. There’s simply nothing else.

What is your strangest ambition for The November Five?

Joe: To have ‘Closure’ played as the hold music for the Betty Ford Clinic.

‘Closure’ by The November Five is out now