Ahead of their Liverpool Philharmonic gig on Tuesday 10th July, Mike Kneafsey caught up with the Levellers for a chat on behalf of Urbanista
Urbanista: “We The Collective” may be a new release which celebrates 30 years of the Levellers, it may include beautifully reworked hits, but I still get the impression that you are a band which is simply driving on as a force for music and still very much in the moment and the emotion of the performance right now. You don’t seem too bothered about looking back. Is that true?
The Levellers: Yes, you’ve always gotta look forward! Admittedly We The Collective is 80% old songs, but we tried to re-work them accordingly, and we did add three new songs – two on the album, and one on the extras. New album coming next year!
Urbanista: Did you record the album as a performance in itself (as much as possible) and did the atmosphere and acoustics of Abbey Road help create some spontaneous energy of its own?
The Levellers: Both. It was recorded live in the studio (after two weeks rehearsal at our own place in Brighton!), but yeah it’s hard not to feel a bit of that history rubbing off on you, and there were plenty of last minute detail changes to keep us on our toes!
Urbanista: How did you find working with producer Jon Leckie? With his previous production credits including Radiohead, Stone Roses, Magazine – what did he bring to the party?
The Levellers: Working with John was great – we’re all massive fans of The Bends in particular, plus multiple of his other works…. plus he tells a good rock n roll yarn haha! Plenty of ‘em! Because we all wanted to record live he kept the discipline plus how to make it for listening to as a record, not just a performance. It was a difficult job for him to chose the final take, with up to twelve of us all recording at the same time, while he was live mixing in the control room. The man has skills! And of course is a bone fide legend.
Urbanista: How does this release feel in comparison to recording Levelling the Land? How do you think your role as musicians with a sense of social justice and something to say has changed since the days of Crass and punk protest?
The Levellers: Our ethos hasn’t changed at all, I’m glad to say. Indeed it was similar to recording Levelling The Land – just a lot of fun! And very rarely going beyond four takes of any song… like Levelling The Land we had it all thoroughly rehearsed with the producer before we went into the studio. We The Collective only took 4 days at Abbey Road…
Urbanista: You put out two new songs on the album, what inspires and motivates you to write new songs in 2018? Yeah there’s two on the album, and another on the extras EP/CD.
The Levellers: Our inspiration remains the same: what’s going on in the world, what’s going on with the band, what’s going on in our own heads/relationships, and how to constructively deal with it all! The music changes and evolves but those core inspirations remain the same.
Urbanista: Did you feel any ghostly presence of the Beatles in Abbey Road (obviously Paul MacCartney isn’t dead though that was just a late 60s rumour)? How about some straightforward historical music vibes?
The Levellers: I didn’t really but Mark and Matt are especially big Beatles fans! They felt it… they were all over that piano that was part of ‘A Day In The Life’. As for me, it was just a great old studio with a nice vibe…
Urbanista: Do you still party like it’s 1999, or have you slowed down these days?
The Levellers: Goodness I think we’ve all slowed down a bit – or we wouldn’t still be here haha! That said we still rise to the occasion with shameful regularity! That’s called being in a band…
Urbanista: When are you next playing live in the north west of England? Any surprise spontaneously planned pub gigs likely?
The Levellers: We’re playing Liverpool Philharmonic on the 10th July. We often do warm-up shows in small clubs or the odd acoustic pub show but they are genuinely last minute affairs I’m afraid so I haven’t got any info on that – as yet!
Tickets for The Levellers gig at the Liverpool Philharmonic are available here.