Out Of The Shade And Into The Light: Luminous Bodies Interviewed

Noisy supremos Luminous Bodies, featuring members of Gum Takes Tooth, Terminal Cheesecake and more, tell Matt Ridout about their quest to make knuckle-dragging rock & roll. Photographs courtesy of Monica Staniaszek

"Don’t say anything." My interview with Luminous Bodies began with drummer Dan Hunt telling me the words of wisdom his friend, an actor with many interviews under his belt, had given him. "That’s what he said when I told him I was doing this interview today, don’t say a word and you’ll be fine."

I have been a fan of Luminous Bodies since their inception just over 18 months ago. They are one of a kind, with their chaotic energy often making it appear like they are about to come unstuck, before pulling it all together and sublimely emerging unscathed. How do they do it? No idea, but in the process they offer up a selection of big riffs and big hooks, without formula.

The names and faces in the band are familiar, however, with the line-up crafted from current and former members of Terminal Cheesecake, Part Chimp, Gum Takes Tooth, Ikara Colt, We Wild Blood and Blind Yeti to name a few, but the sound is not. Perhaps a cross between the Butthole Surfers, God Bullies and Mudhoney comes close? By their own admission, they aim to be "knuckle-dragging rock & roll", but the end result is much more sophisticated.

Speaking to the five members of the band, their fondness for each other is undeniable. Not in a familial way, more like they were the last ones awake at the party after everyone else went home and became firm friends because of it. With their self-titled debut LP Luminous Bodies set for release on Newcastle-based label Box Records, I joined Gordon Watson (vocals and guitar), Tracy Bellaries (bass), Tom Fug (guitar), Dan Hunt (drums) and Luca Zoo Franzoni (drums) for a BBQ and a chance to get an insight into the album, the band and how they manage to keep it all together.

How did Luminous Bodies come about?

Dan Hunt: I first met Tracy at the Islington Mill in Manchester years ago. I was in a band called Apes Fight Back that played with Part Chimp, Hey Colossus and Dethscalator at a gig there. We were pretty excited to be on the same bill as Part Chimp, but had to play really early to next to no one watching. Except Tracy, who was leaning against a pillar screaming, "Yeah! Yeah!" When we finished and were loading out she was buzzing around us saying, "That was great!"

Tracy Bellaries: I knew Duncan from Apes Fight Back from before, but that was the first time I had seen them play. I was friends with his girlfriend Joanne, she is in a band called Breaking Colts. We call each other doppelgangers as we look really similar and both play Thunderbird basses. After an Ikara Colt gig she came up to me and said, "I play a Thunderbird bass" and I said, "You’re just like me!" and we got on really well from that moment. When Gordon and I decided to play music together Dan was the first drummer I thought of and the timing was perfect as he had just moved to London.

At the time did you have a set idea of what you wanted it to sound like?

TB: Not really, we were still struggling to work out what it was going to sound like, as it was just me and Gordon, and he had all these ideas, but we had no idea what it was going to turn into. As a starting point we thought Butthole Surfers, but I don’t think we turned out anything like them.

Gordon Watson: I just wanted to start a band that was really knuckle-dragging dumb rock & roll, and I couldn’t find anyone to do that with for ages. I managed to persuade Tracy to have a go at it.

And then you decided to get a drummer – Fug – to play guitar and a guitar player – Franzoni – for a second drummer? Tom, were you looking to play guitar in a band?

Tom Fug: No! I was just sitting around Gordon’s house one day messing around playing a few things on one of his guitars, and he asked me: "Why don’t you do that in our band?"

TB: We wanted to get a second drummer because of the Butthole Surfers inspiration, and we were debating who we thought would work and remembered seeing Zoo play drums for a band called Alcatraz at a gig where I broke my rib. Me and Gordon had been jumping on each other and he landed on me and broke my rib!

Luca Zoo Franzoni: And it was love!

TB: We just thought Zoo would definitely work, we couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought of it before. As soon as we introduced Zoo and Dan it was love at first sight.

LZF: I knew everyone else, but then I met Dan and he is an amazing drummer. I am pretty good at what I do, but I am pretty shit at drumming!

A friend of mine described the two drum styles as "the guy who can play and the guy you can’t stop watching".

LZF: Yeah, Dan is such a great drummer that sometimes I can do something else completely, like stick my legs on the bass drum or stand on the kit and people go "that’s amazing", but it’s because he is still playing .

GW: You take all the glory.

LZF: Yes! But Dan also says that I come up with stuff that he would never think of.

DH: I’m always thinking, "Right, keep it together, keep it together" and he’s going wild.

So when you took your initial riffs to these guys, was it an easy process turning those ideas into songs with the full band?

DH: I think the first songs, the majority of the Luminous Bodies album that we’ve got, were pretty much together already. It was just a matter of learning them and getting comfortable. It was pretty easy.

The record is going to be released on Box Records, who have had an amazing pedigree of releases recently, with artists such as Haikai No Ku, Blown Out and Foot Hair. How did you connect with Box in the first place?

TB: It was through Adam Reid, who promotes events as Cacophonous Sarcophagus in Bristol. He found out about us and brought us down to play at the Crypt with The Cosmic Dead and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. We just immediately hit it off with all of them.

LZF: That’s when we met The Boss [Box Records founder and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs frontman Matt Baty].

DH: And the second time we played there, he was there with Blown Out and he said, "I want to put your record out" and I immediately said, "A record?! Talk to Gordon!"

TF: It’s the first time I’ve been in a band where after only four gigs someone wants to put a record out.

TB: In the beginning Matt wanted us to come up to Newcastle to record there, but the logistics just didn’t work out. So we ended up meeting up with Wayne Adams from the amazing band Shitwife and decided to do it at his Bear Bites Horse studio.

TF: I knew Wayne had the studio and suggested it would be worth trying it out instead as it was local. You go and record and then you think: "That’s not sounding right, this isn’t sounding right." It’s a lot easier walking down the road to get it sorted than emailing back and forth. Not long ago I did a Gum Takes Tooth recording in Belfast, which turned out great, but it took a long time to get it right.

GW: Wayne was incredible. We’d recommend him to anyone.

DH: Wayne was really good about putting his own input in as well.

TB: Yeah, he was producing in many ways, rather than just being an engineer.

LZF: Recording two drummers isn’t easy, and I think he did a great job with that as he had back-up plans in case it just didn’t work with us all in a room together.

So did you track all the instruments live?

DH: We did the drums and bass together.

LZF: At the beginning we did try with all of us in the room together, but there was just a wall of guitar between the drums, I couldn’t hear what Dan was playing so it just didn’t work.

TF: We had to tell Dan to stop counting with his face as well! We needed him to do a click count so that we would know where the songs started when we overdubbed the guitars, but through the webcam from the booth to the studio live room we could still see him mouthing "one, two, three, four".

DH: Gordon’s made that part of the lyrics to the song now: "Stop counting with your face"!

LZF: As a band we just want to make things sound the best, so there is no ego when it came to the recording. We went with whatever works and sounds best.

TF: On the first track of the album, ‘Man’s Milk’, for example, I really wanted to do a solo, and I practiced the week before to try and get something together for it. In the end I just thought, what’s the point? I just asked Gordon to play it as I knew he could do it better.

DH: I take the piss out of Gordon’s guitar solos.

TB: Sometimes when we play live and Gordon’s doing a solo Dan will make wanking gestures with his drumsticks.

GW: I’m a very well respected musician.

It’s hard for me to provide a frame of reference for Luminous Bodies, maybe early nineties AmRep bands such as God Bullies and the like are the closest musical point of reference?

TB: Yeah, there isn’t really any. We just wanted to do a great band that we enjoy doing.

LZF: We want to be the band that we would love to see play.

DH: When I first started playing with them having only known Tracy, the thing that struck me from the first two songs was the riffs. I was just blown away by the riffs.

Did you have those riffs kicking around for a while?

GW: It was a mixture, some of them were five years old, some of them were new. Honestly, I would really like to sound heavier and darker but I just end up writing melodies!

TF: That’s the thing I really like about the way Gordon writes, though, that he has noisy riffs but with melody as well.

Everyone from Luminous Bodies is in at least one other band, with Gordon in Terminal Cheesecake, Tom in Gum Takes Tooth, Dan in We Wild Blood and Zoo in Blind Yeti. Now Tom and Gordon are also in a group with Mike Vest from Bong and Russ Smith from Terminal Cheesecake, and Tracy and Dan are starting a new band with members of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs and Dethscalator. Do you ever find it difficult with so many projects going on at the same time?

TF: We do more gigs than rehearse. I think we always will.

TB: Yeah we just try and work around all the gigs people do and we just don’t rehearse very much. We aren’t competitive. We look forward to seeing each others’ bands when they are playing and support each other.

Will that make writing the follow-up record difficult, the lack of rehearsal time?

TF: We haven’t had much time to write new material, which would be good to do at some point.

LZF: We have got some really good new riffs though. And Tracy came up with that drum beat for the song ‘Om Naman Shivaya’.

TB: I didn’t come up with that, Butthole Surfers did!

LZF: Oh!

GW: But they took that from Noh Mercy in the first place anyway. Going back to the question, we are probably not going to play much new stuff for a while, most people we will be playing to won’t have heard any of the music on the record before to be honest, so that’s what we will be playing.

Luminous Bodies is out in September on Box Records; pre-order it from their site here. They play Islington Mill in Salford tomorrow, August 14, and the Brixton Windmill in London, headlining the Cosmic Carnage Smash It Out all-dayer on Saturday, August 15; head here for full details

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