Cajun Dance Party
Live @ Oxford Zodiac
October 7, 2008
Interview & Photography: Steve Bateman

“I’d love to go to a brand new place but recognise the sky, a brand new motion yet same old people and that’s the reason why, colours and honey are in your eyes as your life flies high, but before you know it, you fall in a pit, your life flashes before your lies.”

Just a tiny snippet of some of the pure, poetic and pondering lyrics that you’ll find in the feel-good, warm waves of music on Cajun Dance Party’s outstanding debut album, The Colourful Life. A record that is comprised of sun-drenched, melodic, quixotic and glistening home-grown pop songs, which are all the more enchanting, given the fact that Daniel Blumberg (words & vocals), Robbie Stern (guitars & synth), Vicky Freund (keyboards & vocals), Max Bloom (bass & percussion) and Will Vignoles (drums), are amazingly, all still in their teens!

Famously, whilst unsigned, the precocious North London quintet were caught in a blizzard of favourable music press coverage for their grassroots, all-ages, hyperkinetic WayOutWest club shows, and even crossed paths with rock royalty very early on in their career. Firstly, in a serendipitous meeting, Daniel – who resembles a young Bob Dylan, has a swooning voice and a captivating stage presence – bumped into none other than Thom Yorke in a London record shop who said, “Don’t sign to a major,” advising him that his group should sign with XL. Taking this invaluable advice on board there and then, later resulted in the band inking a deal with said label in 2007.

In the meantime, Bernard Butler had also MySpace messaged the group telling them that he was interested in working with them, but not knowing who he was at the time due to their young ages, they never replied to his request. However, fate intervened and ensured that their paths would eventually cross, as Bernard went on to produce The Colourful Life. And with lightness of touch, he perfectly bottled the band’s live experience as well as sprinkling his clean, polished control room stardust all over CDP’s iridescent and rainbow-coloured songs, thus benefiting them with “next-level attention.” Recorded at West Heath studio (which was built by Edwyn Collins) after school, on weekends and block-booking school holidays, interestingly, computer technology was shunned in favour of committing tracks to tape – old-school style!

But before any of this happened, Cajun Dance Party’s first ever live performance (who Stern formed in 2005) was at a school Battle Of The Bands – which they won! And with a cache of cracking singles, The Next Untouchable (written in their first rehearsal), Amylase, Race and Colourful Life, only now have the quintet been able to fully concentrate on the group and had enough free time to tour properly / do promo, as they have finally finished studying and taken all of their sixth form exams. Although a follow-up, companion LP had been provisionally planned for an October release – which would have mirrored the first one both sonically and aesthetically, and is also the reason why their debut is as concise as it is immediate at only 9 tracks. The band have since decided to concentrate on writing and developing a different / fresher musical palette, which when it does surface, will undoubtedly be moulded around multi-instrumentalist Robbie’s “dextrous guitar flourishes and thrusting axe work.”

Since The Colourful Life was released this past April though, a number of music critics have already picked up on how Daniel and Robbie are “deserving of their new Morrissey & Marr sobriquet.” And part of CDP’s bio even reads, ”The combination of Blumberg’s musical naivety – who pre-Cajun Dance Party was listening mainly to (What’s The Story) Morning Glory and had never written a note of music in his life – with Stern’s intense classical training, would become the catalyst for the pair’s exhilarating songwriting partnership. During a period that also saw the lead singer’s fledgling musical knowledge, rapidly expanding via a crash-course of recommendations from band members and new musical friends including Bernard Butler, who simply handed Blumberg his iTunes.”Review clippings for the group’s first outing range from, “The Colourful Life is packed full of whimsical tales of love and youth.” To “Brimful of skittering, light-headed charm, with sleek but subtle strings buoying the riffing guitars, it sets just the right mood of elevated optimism… An enthusiastic start to a potentially colourful career.” To “This is a band who already have the poise and magnetic assurance that most groups strive for in a lifetime.” To my favourite analysis, “Their infectious, musically-rich pop universe, elevates the five-piece out of the exciting but limiting confines of the new band explosion and into the stratosphere!”

After speaking to Robbie and Daniel and watching the “nascent musical voyagers” taught and marvellous show at the Oxford Zodiac (where some new rockier / bluesier material was also premiered), here’s a group who obviously have their eyes on the prize, and I have a feeling that they’re going to grab it with both hands! Because with Cajun Dance Party, no two tracks sound the same and none could be by anybody else. As their Official Press Release puts it, “Cajun have found their own unique way to turn their lives into songs you’ll love forever.”

With vim and verve, a myriad of influences and a knack for knocking out smoothly executed music, prepare for your heart to be hijacked in no time at all…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.A lot of music fans will be aware of Cajun Dance Party from the initial press coverage that you received a couple of years ago. But how do you feel that you’ve changed both as a group and personally since that time?
Daniel: “Well, we’re not at school anymore (laughing)! No, I think loads of things have happened. I mean obviously we had a lot of press really early on, when we were young – it wasn’t too long ago, but it feels like ages ago, because obviously these couple of years are the ones where you do sort of really grow up, in a way (smiling), like 15 to 18. I think personally, I’ve changed a lot and the band has changed a lot personally and musically. At that time, it was just all a bit mad, because we didn’t really know what we were trying to achieve or anything. We knew where we started, which was the Battle Of The Bands, but we didn’t really know anything else – the rest of it was all just quite crazy!”
Robbie: “Chaos!”
Daniel: “Yeah, exactly (laughing)! In interviews, people would be asking us stuff and I didn’t have anything to say, so I’d just say silly things (laughing). But now that I have got more into music since then, I think as a band, we sort of know where we want to be going a bit more.”

2.Would you say that you all now have a common goal, and what is it that you take from the artists / bands that you most admire?
Robbie: “I think songwriting has always got to be central – its always got to be key! And in terms of a common goal, in the broad sense of things, it’s just to be ruthlessly self-critical, write better and better songs and get that side of things right, with a view to creating better records!”
Daniel: “Yeah.”

3.What has been the best thing that someone has said about CDP?
Daniel: “I quite liked it when someone said, “It’s too pop to be weird and too weird to be pop.” It was meant as a criticism, but I liked it, I thought that was cool (laughing)! I’m not sure if Robbie would agree with me?”
Robbie: “I do, yeah (nodding).”
Daniel: “Really (surprised)?”

4.Complete the following: I would like to write a song as good as… and make an album that equals… ?
Daniel: “Oh my gosh.”
Robbie: “Shall we do them separately (looking at Daniel)?”
Daniel: “Yeah, we’ll probably disagree otherwise (laughing)!”
Robbie: “I would like to write a song as good as Tangled Up In Blue (Bob Dylan), and make an album that equals Ys by Joanna Newsom.”
Daniel: “That’s funny that you said Tangled Up In Blue, I wouldn’t have expected you to say that, it’s quite interesting. I would like to write a song as good as (long pause + thinking), I can’t think… maybe Another Day Full Of Dread by Bonnie Prince Billy. And I would like to make an album that equals Slanted And Enchanted (Pavement).”

5.The Colourful Life has a very memorable opening salvo of songs, but are there any albums in your record collection, which you feel have a strong set of opening songs that sit well next to each other?
Daniel: “Slanted And Enchanted (laughing) – definitely! That’s got a good opening (pausing), actually, the best opening to an album is Ziggy Stardust by Bowie – it’s not really one of my favourite albums, but the opening is amazing!”
Robbie: “I like the first few tracks of Revolver – Taxman, Eleanor Rigby and I’m Only Sleeping – that’s an amazing set of opening songs!”
Daniel: “Silver Jews always have amazing first lyrics. Actually, the three artists who I find (pausing), Bonnie Prince Billy and Lambchop always put their best tracks at the start of albums, and Silver Jews always come up with the best lyrics – the opening line is always amazing! But I hadn’t heard of any of these people before writing The Colourful Life.”

6.If you could join any other band for just one night, who would it be?

Robbie: “Oh man (long pause + thinking), I’d like to be in Björk’s backing band…”
Daniel: “How about Suede?”
Robbie: “No (laughing), definitely not Suede! It would be Björk’s backing band!”
Daniel: “I don’t know? I think I’d say Pavement, because it would be so much fun and they’re my favourite band – it would probably be hilarious!”

7.In reference to your band name, what’s the best party that you’ve ever been to?
Robbie: “Oh wow! Well Will – our drummer – there’s always things at his house which I really like going to, which we kind of co-host together.”
Daniel: “That sounds so good (jokingly), “There’s always things at Will’s house which we co-host (laughing).” The best party that I’ve ever been to (pausing), I was wearing a Daniel Johnston T-shirt, I’d just seen him the night before and I was walking in Hackney Market (pausing), this sounds made up but it’s true (laughing)! This fat man walked past with dribble coming out both sides of his mouth – he was American and you could see his belly and he had dribble down his top. I was with my girlfriend and he was like (adopting an American accent), “Hey man, I love Daniel Johnston so much, he’s my hero!” And I was like, “Oh, he’s amazing, we saw him last night.” And then we just got into this massive conversation. He’s got this radio station called South Hackney Radio, which is amazing – it broadcasts for about an hour every Thursday, this is what I found out later. He’s got listeners from all over the world and he’s been doing it for a few years – I think he’s got 26 listeners now (laughing)! But anyway, I was like, “That’s amazing about your radio station,” because he was talking about all of this amazing music and he was like, “Do you want to do a show on it?” And we said, “Yes, definitely!” So he said, “Well why don’t you come to my party tonight, just bring a few beers and we can talk about it.” He gave us his address and we went there and when we walked in (laughing), he was just sitting in the front room of his house, opening Birthday presents and eating cake. It was just him on his own and there were loads and loads of fish tanks, and we were just sat speaking to him for ages, and he was sort of half-speaking, half-eating this massive cake. There was one point where he was sitting on the sofa and he was trying to open this present, but he couldn’t be bothered to pick it up, so he was just sort of clawing at it (laughing). Anyway, that was good and then we went into the other room, and there were about 10 of his really, really close friends around and we felt so awkward (laughing). We were just standing around, but then we ended up having a really great time! The food was great because he had bought it from Hackney Market, so there were really nice meats and stuff, and we met some really nice people. We met this man who used to be in this garage band – The Horrors worship him and he didn’t stop talking about The Horrors – he was like 50 or something, and he was an indie artist from The ‘80s, well, mainly garage punk…”
Robbie: “Have you got to type this up (looking at me)? The article’s going to be pages and pages, it will be massive (laughing)!”
Daniel: “Oh right, sorry, this will finish Chapter 1 (laughing)! Then we took him in the car to the pub, because I was meeting some friends there later – it was so good! But yeah, that was definitely the best party that I’ve ever been to (smiling)!”

8.Each week, The Culture Show has a busking challenge, whereby musicians and bands have to play a selection of their songs to passers by, to see how much money they can make. But if you had to play some Cajun Dance Party tracks and a cover version, what would they be?

Robbie: “I would play No Joanna, a new song which might be called Train Song, and Stephanie Says by The Velvet Underground…”
Daniel: “No, Big Star - Thirteen…”
Robbie: “You can do Big Star - Thirteen.”
Daniel: “It’s the whole band though.”
Robbie: “You could do it separately then, because I would play Stephanie Says.”
Daniel: “You probably wouldn’t do Stephanie Says, because we would have a big discussion with the band…”
Robbie: “And you would manipulate everyone into doing it (laughing).”
Daniel: “No, we’d probably agree on doing Big Star - Thirteen, because Stephanie Says would be too risky as it’s so good! And you wouldn’t want to touch it. So, we would probably do Big Star - Thirteen, not Stephanie Says (laughing). We probably wouldn’t do Train Song, we’d do No Joanna…”
Robbie: “Both (laughing)!”

9.When playing live, do you feel a synergy between the band and the audience?

Robbie: “Yeah, I do! I’m sure it’s different for everyone and I’m sure everyone has got their own individual take on it…”
Daniel: “I reckon that’s what happens most of the time. The thing is, when you’re playing bigger venues, it’s harder to gauge, but we’re still playing really small venues, so it’s really good because it’s just you and your fans in a little room. It’s the best (smiling)!”
Robbie: “When you do an arena, like when we went to Japan and played the Summer Sonic Festival, you almost feel like you’re playing on a stage that’s a little island, because you’re so far away from people.”

10.If you could have been at any gig in the history of music, which one would you have most liked to have attended?

Daniel & Robbie: “Ooh (long pause + thinking)…”
Robbie: “I would have liked to have been at The Trout Quintet at the Royal Festival Hall – that would’ve been mine!”
Daniel: “It’s really difficult to know, to think of the one that you would have most liked to have attended (thinking). I would’ve definitely liked to have seen one of the Neil Young shows at Massey Hall. I have the recording of it, but it would have been amazing to have been there!”
Robbie: “Dylan at The Troubadour Club, that would have been amazing!”
Daniel: “But Neil Young’s better (laughing)!”

11.How do you find life on the road / touring?
Daniel: “I really like it – it’s a nice life! It’s been so good, because if we hadn’t been in the band, we wouldn’t have seen so much of England. Me and Robbie were talking about this in Manchester, because people in general do see other parts of England because they have family living in different areas. But in a band, you just travel everywhere and it’s nice to see all of the little pockets – I quite like that. And we’re going to Europe, which is so good! Going to Japan is really good as well, just in itself – not musically – we’re pretty lucky to be doing these things. It’s part of the job, so that’s really weird.”

12.Do you have any favourite Websites that you would recommend to us, and to date, what’s the best YouTube clip that you’ve seen?
Daniel: “ is my favourite website – if you want to find out about album credits, like who produced what and stuff, it’s amazing! But they’ve given all of my favourite albums really high ratings out of 5 – it’s a really accurate and useful resource. My favourite YouTube clip is Binocular Football. It’s basically a Japanese football match, but they’ve got binoculars strapped to their eyes and they can’t see the ball, so they’re just kicking (laughing), they don’t have any perspective!”
Robbie: “I don’t really go on the Internet very much…”
Daniel: “That’s a lie (laughing).”
Robbie: “No, I don’t. If I had a favourite YouTube clip though, it would probably be The Smiths playing Barbarism Begins At Home, because during the outro Johnny Marr puts down in his guitar, and it’s just him and Morrissey dancing together for about 10 minutes – the tension between them is amazing! It’s just them dancing with the rhythm section rocking-out, it’s hilarious (laughing)!”

13.A lot of CDP’s songs have a real dream-like quality, but have you ever had a recurring dream?
Daniel: “I used to have so many recurring dreams, but they were really weird, because they were all about space and meteors (laughing)! I think there was one about a finger-clicking factory as well, or something really weird – I always got them when I was ill, when I was younger. They weren’t scary, but I can remember thinking that they were really scary at the time. They were just odd concepts – I wish I could remember them, it’s really annoying.”
Robbie: “I’ve not had any recurring dreams recently, but when I was young, I used to dream about robot dinosaurs that were going to kidnap me (laughing).”

14.If you could ask a musical hero anything, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Daniel: “I’d ask Bonnie Prince Billy if he could be my friend and if we could go swimming together (laughing).”
Robbie: “I’d like to sit in a room with Björk for about half-an-hour and just listen to her talk about anything!”
Daniel: “You’d like to (inaudible).”
Robbie: “No (both laugh hysterically).”
Daniel: “You should definitely say that (laughing)!”
Robbie: “No, it’s not being said (laughing)!”

15.As solo artists, Lennon & McCartney were always known to keep a close eye on what each other was doing musically. But are there any specific artists / bands that you use as a musical yardstick?

Robbie: “Not really as a yardstick, no. I don’t think we look at other bands to see what they come up with in a competitive way. I always follow Bombay Bicycle Club and what they’re doing, just because they’re friends of mine and I’ve made music with the singer in the past. So, I keep an eye on them just out of sheer interest because I’m a fan.”
Daniel: “I’m probably the same and also WayOutWest – Late Of The Pier, Video Nasties – they’re the best – and even stuff like Laura Marling. Because when we all started and had our first proper gigs, it was at WayOutWest and it’s just nice to see how all of those people have progressed, what they’re doing and how everyone’s following their own paths now.”

16.Do you have a favourite chord / chord sequence, and are melodies, rhythms, grooves, beats etc. equally as important to you?
Robbie: “I don’t have a favourite chord, but I’ve probably got favourite sequences within various songs and I think for me, harmonies are more important than melodies, rhythms, grooves and beats.”
*Robbie has to leave the interview to soundcheck, but Daniel kindly agrees to answer my remaining questions*

17.Is it difficult letting your songs go, and if by magic you were able to hear your own songs with fresh ears, do you think that you’d appreciate the nuances in Cajun Dance Party’s music?

“It’s pretty difficult knowing when to put a stop on it. Obviously, with things like mixing, you could go on forever. But songwriting-wise, with stuff like lyrics, you could always change words, so it’s difficult to know – it’s normally better if you stop as soon as possible, otherwise, you lose the original sense of it. So, it can be really difficult. I can’t really answer the other part of your question (pausing), it’s weird, because you respond to what people’s reactions to the music is. Like when you come to the venues, they have a little write-up about the band – like yesterday, we were in Cardiff and it described us as “Indie MySpace Cats.” There was a bit of vomit in our mouths when we entered the venue and saw that. But then today, it compared us to Orange Juice and The Smiths and obviously, you much prefer that (laughing)! Everyone really liked it and was like, “Yeah, that’s a much better description!” That’s just obvious, but you never know what to expect, especially with the first album (pausing), because when it was written, I had no idea what we were doing and I hadn’t listened to much music, and I didn’t know what I wanted to achieve musically.”

18.A new physical music format called ‘slotMusic’, which allows people to buy music that has been preloaded onto SanDisk Memory Cards and can be played on a variety of different platforms, is soon to be launched. Do you think it’s likely to take off?
“I don’t understand that, because if people are interested in owning something tangible, art is the only material that people should be interested in – like a CD or vinyl. Vinyl’s the best, because it’s a piece of art and what’s so great about iTunes, is that music becomes something more that just another material possession. People can say, “iTunes makes music less romantic because you’re not putting on a vinyl.” But, I think it makes it more romantic in some ways, because it’s like, “What is it? What do you own?” It’s just a pure track, it’s not like, “Look at my CD collection!” And I think that there’s some beauty in that, that doesn’t ever get talked about and I like that. But at the same time, I love LPs because the artist and musician can present their work in the context of a beautiful piece of art. A Memory Card, what the fuck is that? That’s just a disgusting piece of plastic, which doesn’t help either of those things that I was talking about. I don’t think it’s going to make people buy more music – I don’t care, I don’t want people to buy music, it would just be good if people listened to good music!”

19.Continuing with this train of thought, I really love the photography used on your single sleeves – can you tell us more about this?

“I’m happy that you asked about that, just because I’m obsessed with photography! I did an A-Level in photography and I really enjoyed that, but when we first started getting into photo shoots and stuff, people would come in with these digital cameras and take the most bland photos ever. Because in The ’60s and ‘70s, there were so many different cameras available, but now, there are only a handful of brands and they all take the same pictures – you open up a music magazine and they all look exactly the same. I love photography, music and everything being like this whole world – I love that! Just being absorbed in the whole art side of it and I think it’s really important (pausing), our videos haven’t achieved that at all – I think our videos are awful, apart from the last one we did for Colourful Life, which I really like. The photographer we worked with on our fourth single sleeve is called Jon Bergman, he’s Scandinavian and is quite a classic photographer, he uses old medium format cameras and he takes beautiful photos. I think a lot of other bands have started using him now, but I always want to use him, because it sort of just connected with us. I actually took the third single sleeve myself and I try to do as much photography as possible, for the website and stuff like that. I’m sort of lucky, because even if I’m not good enough at photography (laughing), I’ve still got a platform to use it practically (smiling)! But I’m really into the relationship between music and the visual side of music, because I think it adds so much to it. It’s like with promo videos at the moment, you know that people want to see the band and all that stuff, and that coincides with the whole world that we live in today, which is about personality and celebrity. It’s not about art, which it should be and which is what it used to be about. So I hope in the future, our videos will be less disgusting in that way. The Colourful Life one was made for £200 and even the one that looks really posh and high-budget, that was made pretty cheaply, but it just doesn’t appeal to me.”

20.Are there any songs that you think should have been worldwide smash hits?
“It’s weird, because when songs are smash hits, nowadays, they’re played loads and it’s really annoying (laughing)! So I want to be in control of the songs and if I really love a song, I try not to listen to it over and over and over again, because I know that I’m just going to get sick of it. So I save it for special times (smiling). But yeah, I do think there are some songs that deserve to get played, compared to a lot of the stuff that does.”

21.Is there an artist’s / group’s body of work, that you think would lend itself to either a film soundtrack, or day I say it, a musical?

“I don’t really enjoy musicals (laughing), but I think After The Gold Rush by Neil Young was supposed to be made for a film. Apparently, he was trying to write a film and nobody wanted to make the film, but they wanted to use the soundtrack. I would’ve liked to have seen that.”

22.Do you think the Arts Council ‘Take It Away’ scheme, “To help you to buy an instrument with an interest-free loan” is a positive step for young, up-and-coming musicians?

“That’s such a good idea! Because you can write amazing songs (pausing), you just need one guitar, you don’t need loads of equipment. But if a young musician can get help to buy their first instrument, that can only help increase the amount of quality music being created in this country, which is what we need!”

23.And with so many new bands constantly springing up, do you think it would be a good thing if there were more mainstream music TV shows dedicated to promoting young talent?
“I don’t know? Jools Holland is good, I’ve watched that a couple of times, but I’m not a big TV watcher personally. I think it would be quite good, because people are interested in watching music on TV and music channels are good but (pausing), I don’t know? It depends, because sometimes The Charts can be irrelevant, because there’s so much new music, so it’s difficult to generalise and say, “These are the band’s that people should be watching!” Especially when there’s YouTube and you can watch whatever you want – even if it’s not very popular, there’s always something on there. But I suppose more mainstream music TV shows would be a good thing.”

24.What are your biggest hopes for Cajun Dance Party, and do you see your sound evolving in the future?
“The thing about our music evolving, is that I only want it to evolve if it’s natural. Because with some bands who do something well, you don’t necessarily want them to change direction, as there are so many different bands who can do different things. But, I think our second record will sound completely different and whether that’s a good thing or not, the main thing is that it’s natural. I’m happy for my musical tastes to change, as long as I’m excited about the music that we’re currently working on.”

25.A recent article in The Guardian entitled ‘Class War On The Dancefloor’, discussed how The Enemy’s Tom Clarke once “berated rival bands whose backgrounds he considered to border on the aristocratic.” What are your feelings on this?

“I’m not saying anything bad about other bands, but I think statements like that are disgusting. Because it’s talking about something which is just completely irrelevant to music. Our class has been talked about in articles and it’s been complete bullshit! I mean people can assume stuff, but we’ve never talked about it, so how will people know and why should people care. Because music is music, but some people do get carried away with music being political and blah, blah, blah. But really, that just shouldn’t just come into it. I can understand why people are attracted to bands because of a class or if they’re singing about certain things, that’s great! But I don’t think all bands should do that – there should be diversity! I’m sure there are other bands who were originally seen like that, but then they become successful like The Streets for example. I think it’s amazing how he wrote his third album about being really rich and famous, because if he hadn’t, it would have been disingenuous rubbish. If people want to listen to him singing about urban life, then they should listen to the first two albums – don’t expect him to keep coming out with it. It’s all about being genuine I think, because there are so many people who want to give music and have music to offer, and if they’re genuine, then that’s the best thing!”

26.Lastly, chips or cream buns?
“Oh my gosh, probably chips… with a nice sauce (laughing)!”

A very special thanks to Daniel, Robbie, Vicky, Max and Will, and to Cajun Dance Party’s Manager Alun + Tour Manager Alex, for all of their time and help.

“High up in the sky, in the colourful life
My light will reappear, when they keep it on
To hear my songs”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?