Live @ Cheltenham Boom Bar
July 3, 2003

Interview & Photography: Steve Bateman

They have been described by the NME as "Melancholic Manchester Tunesmiths," and are beginning to be embraced by an ever-growing fan-base, who share an affinity with their sonorous guitar music and honest lyrics.

Having recently scored their first Top 30 hit, with the brooding Further, Longview have subsequently released their debut album: Mercury - which is a record filled to the brim, with heartfelt and emotional songs.

For this band, "Legendary Status is the only goal worth achieving." They aspire to nothing less - they want to write classic songs, that will touch people and that will last forever.

Following lengthy tours as a support band, Longview began their own headline tour in May of this year, and I had the chance to sit down with all 4 members, for an hour, prior to their sound-check. So, at 5.45pm on a warm summer evening, Longview kindly buy me a drink and our interview proceeds in the pub's garden.

From the outset, as the band discuss their music, their influences and their ambitions, a closeness and togetherness shines through. They answer each question thoughtfully and passionately, and later that night, a stunning set / encore, confirms the very qualities that have drawn both myself and so many, to the sound of Longview.

Aidan Banks: bass. Matt Dabbs: drums. Rob McVey: vocals / guitar. Doug Morch: guitar.

1. How's your tour going?
Rob: "The tour's been great, relentless and long. I had my Birthday in April and we went on tour in May - What month in May was it?"
Aidan: "What month in May? - The middle month in May (laughing)."
Rob: "It was May in May when we started, and now we're in July of July aren't we (laughing)? No, its been a couple of months and we're on tour until the end of July."
Aidan: "Is it July now, it's June? - That says it all."
Matt: "It's July now, it's the 3rd."
Aidan: "So that says it all."
Rob: "That says it all, in our confusion of months."
Doug: "Well, we've been touring pretty much non-stop, since we got back from recording our album in Seattle. We got back in sort of mid-January and went out with Easyworld, and then Athlete."
Rob: "The good thing about touring, is that you find little niches of people that like your music, there's a few places like Bristol, where we've played 6 times - we love it, and we've got a lot of fans. Norwich, we played like a real turning point gig there, it was the first gig I think, where people started singing our songs back to us and there was a real change, it was like wow, the crowd are singing back to us our own songs. It was a real breakthrough, we just stopped and then they sang our song, it's the first time that's happened. So, I think touring this relentlessly, you get a real first hand look on how your band is evolving, because that's the most direct way to be in contact with the audience. You really see it first hand and people are hearing it on the radio, and they're singing the songs back to you, that's the most amazing thing. When we played in Norwich, it was like wow, this thing is really going to work, because if you can do it to 120 people in this room, you can do it to 120,000 people, it's exciting that kind of emotion you know. The evolution of the band, is so apparent on a day to day basis through touring. Obviously when we first started a year ago, no one knew who the fuck we were for ages, then the sixth time you play in a city, they go "I know who they are now," it's ace. But Radio 1 has brought some help now, although touring is the way to do it, touring is the real way to communicate music I think, as opposed to being told by the NME what to buy. Although we like the NME, they're nice to us, but I do think that the whole kind of culture, revolves around selling papers more than music, and that's what I don't like. It's this kind of self-elevation of music and media, but not fanzines - fanzines are the real deal, there's no money in fanzines."

2. When did you form and decide on the name Longview?
Aidan: "Well we formed in Manchester about a year and a half ago, and kind of hung around Night and Day and played gigs there - we played about 4 gigs before we got signed. In October, we decided on the name Longview when we all got together, because we wanted something natural sounding, which described the mood in our music, rather than trying to be something trendy or The something. We thought it captured the emotions of the tunes."
Rob: "I think Longview is a word, which is hopefully more timeless than a name like Aidan said, a The name. It's so annoying, we wanted a platform for just writing songs and I think it's a band name and that's all it should be, it's a way of identifying a group of people who are together, and who write songs together, rather than anything else. Longview is just a word, which is kind of a platform for writing songs through. But we didn't want something to inert, to bland, we just wanted an emotive word."

3. You like "The power of rock and the mood of melancholy - the feeling that cuts you really deep." Who are your musical influences and how have they shaped your sound?
Rob: (laughing) "I think that's a fair comment, I never read that - I must have said that in a blink of an eye / the movement of lips, but I mean it and quite like that quote. I think what's important to us, whilst we love bands like Travis and Coldplay, we don't want to just be known for kind of beautiful / sonorous ballads. Part of our sound is rock, we're interested in rock music, bands like Idlewild actually - reading your fanzine - they're a band I've always loved, I've got all of their albums. We were into that Seattle sound as well, like Nirvana when we were young, that's a massive part of our sound, not just kind of namby-pamby acoustic music. Coldplay certainly aren't that, they're great, but I think out of that new acoustic thing, which was a fashion with Turin Brakes etc. there were bands who just couldn't rock and do that. In fact, I defy anyone to do that at the moment, who does that? U2 probably do it, but they're not new they're old."
Doug: "There's various things that make up what we listen to, and makes our music sound the way it does. Like Rob was just saying, there's a lot of American rock bands like Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins and stuff like that, Idlewild like you said. But we've all been into English guitar bands like The Beatles, and songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Ride, well I'm a massive Ride fan anyway - I said British guitar bands didn't I? - I said Joni Mitchell. But anyway, sort of like Stone Roses, The Charlatans, Doves and just so much stuff."
Rob: "I think Joni Mitchell though, is quite British, in the way that her and Hendrix really connected over here. So I mean I can see why you said British, because she certainly influenced a lot of British songwriters and I think in America, same for Jimi Hendrix, they didn't really take off. That whole ilk of writers, was really quite a British loved thing, like Bob Dylan playing the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, I think you're right to say British, she might not be British, but stand by yourself boy (laughing)."
Doug: "Yeah, I mean it is basically about songs, but we add to it more sonorous things, it's inspired by stuff that's happened, like The Verve. The Verve's early stuff and Ride's early stuff - Ride's wall of sound guitars and then The Verve's sonorous / ethereal playing, that sort of adds to what we sound like."
Rob: "I think the most important thing about what we're interested in, is we're self-aware in that we know how good music affects people. We're a band with perhaps something timeless and real to say, rather than something about scene and fashion. So great writers like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, John Lennon or Bob Marley, they transcend scene and style, because they are writing from the heart and they've got something to say, and no one has got anything on them. You can't say "Oh Bob Marley, but wasn't he just cashing in on that fucking post 60s Reggae?" You can't, he was just himself, same for all those writers and I think that's what's exciting in music, and that's what I'm influenced by. But I feel lucky enough to be self-aware - that's half the battle, I don't think songwriters write songs, they just notice things."

4. Song writing is obviously very important to you, are your songs based on personal experience?
Rob: "Yeah of course they are, how could we write about anything else and retain any shred of dignity?"
Doug: "I think everything has to be honest, lyrically and musically, or else it can't connect with people. It has to be something personal, that people experience and you experience, rather than writing about some scene in New York, that we're obviously not part of, because we're from suburban England."

5. Do you have a typical way of writing / working on songs as a band?
Rob: "I'd say all of the songs that we've had, have been done in the same way, they've been written on an acoustic guitar. I mean, I think that's the most important thing - the song - and that's the lyrics, the melody and the chorus existing in time together, and then me taking it to the rehearsal room, and trying to exaggerate all of the parts of the song, with the instruments. So that might be making sonorous guitar noises, to make it more emotive in that way, it might be by putting a heavy / hard-hitting straight-forward drum beat in, or it might be by putting harmonies in. But that's the kind of way we work."

6. You signed a major deal with EastWest Records after just 4 shows, did this surprise you?
Rob: "No, not really, because at the time you only know what you've got don't you? It's like "Are you surprised to be Male / 24?" No, I'm not really - that's what I am, born in 1979 so that makes me that. I think at the time we were like fuck, we need to get signed you know, we weren't that desperate though." "Were you surprised?" (looking towards Aidan, Doug and Matt).
Aidan: "Not surprised, because it wasn't totally out-of-the-blue, and obviously it's what we wanted and had been working for, for years."
Doug: "We got told so often that (pausing), I mean no one tells you that you can do it, you don't get told that you can't, but no one tells you that you can. Because people are always like "Well there's millions of bands out there, that want to get signed" - like your careers officer doesn't say "Go and be in a rock band, if that's what you want to do." But, it works actually!"
Rob: (loud laughter).

7. Night & Day Café has been described as "Manchester's Musical Epicentre." Would you agree that it has played an important role in your career?
Aidan: "Yeah, that's where we did 4 gigs before we got signed. So yeah, they put us on there when no one had heard of us and gave us a chance, they do put on good music and it's a cool place. It's open in the day as a café, so you can go in and chat, and meet people in Manchester."
Doug: "I think Manchester was really important to us in general, not just Night & Day. It's such a vibrant musical place and it made us feel welcome. Although we're not there anymore, we are seen as a Manchester band, because that's our roots and there's a lot to be said for that."
Aidan: "We're as much there as anywhere, because we're on tour."
Doug: "We like to go back."

8. You recorded your debut album in Seattle (with former Soundgarden producer Rick Parashar), how did this come about?
Rob: "Matt, can you explain this one my friend - I'm going to get Matt involved."
Matt: "Right, we were looking through a lot of producers that we liked, the sound of the records that they'd done and one of the sounds that we all sort of agreed on, and really liked, was all of the Seattle stuff. Pearl Jam had got great recordings, Blind Melon, Alice In Chains - all that great classic sounding stuff, nothing that sort of grows old with time, it's still a really good recording. Rob went out to meet Rick, and he was really on it from the word go, he loved the stuff and thought he could make it even better, really get involved with the project and do good stuff with the songs. We heard that he wanted to do it and we were really excited about that, he came over, did some work with us, and we went out and recorded, and had a wicked time."
Rob: "Yeah, I mean the thing was, we signed to Warner and then they were like "Well give us your dream list of producers, that you could ever want to work with," and they had some suggestions and we did, and in the end we couldn't believe it. He was like this world-class producer and he said he wanted to do it, so we feel kind of lucky for that, you know. So that's kind of how it came about, we just couldn't believe it at the time, and we can't really believe it that much now actually."
Matt: "I think the whole experience of being out in Seattle, really comes over on the record. Everything, from being in a great studio with a great producer, to being in such a great city, it's such a wonderful place, you're surrounded by mountains and you can't help but be influenced by the whole culture, and everything that goes off over there, it's wicked!"

9. So recording your album was a very enjoyable experience?
Rob: "I think the ambition to want to record the songs, as well as they could possibly be recorded, is how strongly I felt about it - even by meeting Rick I wasn't nervous, I was like "Look Rick," even if I was arguing with him on every point."
Doug: "I don't care who you are (laughing)."
Rob: "Yeah, you've got to be dignified, you have to retain integrity and dignity, but be respectful and hopefully we were. But I don't care who he is, all I care about, is how talented he is at recording songs - and he's very talented - so nerves and personal things don't come into it really, not at all. If you're eager to get it sounding as good as you can, you can't think about anything else, it's just like "Is this as perfect as it can be?"

10. Some of your EP songs were re-recorded for the LP, was this always the plan?
Rob: "Yeah, we always wanted to re-record the album, and we were lucky enough to have the time granted to us, by the record company, to tour for a year before we went into the studio. But whilst we were touring, we wanted to put out limited edition EPs, which we did do, so I mean that's why we always knew we were going to re-record them."

11. Do you each have a favourite track on the album?
Doug: "It changes all of the time, I'm really proud of this record and I think there are some great songs on it. I'm really fond of This Is, which is like a last minute addition, it's the last track on the record and it's sort of a different side, it's more brooding than anything else on the record."
Rob: "It's quite interesting that song as well actually, because that's one of the songs we recorded kind of differently - it was just done totally freely, with much more of a live feel. I mean everything else, we really kind of layered up and made that massive Longview sound, which we're always trying to get. We can get that live through using microphones and PAs, but in the studio, we did that by multi-tracking. This Is, was a track which we did that was just free - the drums were free and there was no click-tracking, I'm giving out real secrets of the trade here aren't I? - 'How To Record A Longview Album.' But basically, that was a live take and the lads went home a day before me, because I needed one extra day. We didn't run out of time, but we needed one extra day to finish the album and I did the vocal for This Is, and finished it just as the yellow Seattle taxi was waiting. I got in the taxi, on the plane, back to England, off the plane and was straight on tour with these guys, it was ace! It's got a real feel about it that song, and that's why it's the last song on the album as well."
Aidan: "I think my favourite song on the album is Can't Explain, and we're also going to release it as the next single after Further, so yeah I love that one."
Matt: "I think Will You Wait Here is mine. The lyrics in that song are just really, really good and the whole sound of it, when it grows to the chorus - its just turned out really, really well, and live it's always good as well, it's fantastic to play that song live."
Rob: "All of them go down really well, we reckon we've got an album of 12 singles, if we wanted it like that - perhaps we will put 12 out (laughing)."

12. Why the title Mercury?
Rob: "We thought long and hard about what we wanted to call the album, we wanted to have a name, because we've signed for 6 albums and we want to do 6 albums, and we want each album to have individuality. I think bands that name their record after themselves (pausing), well I don't know why they do that. I want everything to have its own identity you know, its just got more weight to it - maybe our last album will be called Longview: Longview (laughing). We wanted a word that meant change and hope, this is what we were thinking, we wanted that kind of word but with a seasonal feel to it, and we just burnt our brains trying to do it. We just killed ourselves trying to come up with a word, and then this word Mercurial was kicking around, and from that word we got Mercury. I think the connotations from the word Mercury (pausing), its got a classic feel to it, but it's quite enigmatic - I just like the word and the actual substance, and I like the relevance to temperature and the seasons. I just think it's a good word."
Doug: "The shifting in a liquid, and the sort of changing as an element you know."

13. How do you choose the artwork for your sleeves?
Rob: "The idea behind the artwork, is that it comes directly from the music. So you think, well the music for us is about everyday emotions, and I want to translate that into artwork, by looking at everyday inanimate objects (looking around), like this fire-heater here, that could be a Longview cover. You can find beauty in it, and I think that's the most beautiful thing, like Nowhere has got a beach with rubbish on and a kite, which is just a perfectly normal thing. But, if captured right and if the photographer is talented enough, it captures a beauty in an inanimate object, that's the whole concept behind the artwork, that's the theory, that's the whole manifesto. I also think, if you go for that, you get striking images all the time, you get a real feel (pausing), because we started with Further which was like windmills, and we love that kind of kinetic movement. I think it was in Nevada that picture, near L. A. actually - and I went to visit that place when I was mixing the album, in L. A. incidentally. But we didn't want us on the front covers, like I said, beauty in normality, which is what the music is. If you think how could I make the artwork like the music - "What's the music?" - then you get a strong identity. I don't know if you've seen the album artwork, but that's the one thing where we've got nothing on the front cover, so that's great - just white, it's just really stark. The girl who took our pictures, her name is Mary Scanlon, she's my favourite photographer ever, she's done some great stuff and we sort of hunted her down, we head-hunted her, found out that she's working undercover as a University Lecturer in Photography. She hung up her hat on the music industry, but we re-commissioned her into working with us." (I show Longview the mail-out postcard featuring a B&W group shot, which I received today and they've only just seen).
Doug: "It's great."
Rob: "It is really nice, I didn't know that was the one that was going out actually, but I do really like it. We've let ourselves be seen on the artwork now, a little bit, not the full cover of the album though, as it folds out into a massive panoramic shot. It's an opaque blue with white, really stark, and we hope people like it. But she's a great photographer, Mary, she gets a real feel in her photos."

14. Have you had any feedback on the album, from family and friends etc.?
Rob: "People have truly fallen in love with the album, and that's the most exciting thing to us - from family to friends, it's exciting and that's why we do it, so great. I know its been well received by Rock Sound Magazine and FHM, but we're in the period now where we're waiting for reviews, so we'll wait and see."

15. What are your hopes for Longview / how would you like people to think of you?
Rob: "Our biggest hope for Longview, is to write songs that people will want to hear, because that's music and that's the way we write - it should make people feel a certain way, or perhaps reflect how they feel - emotive / connective music. We would like people to think of us as music about life, which normal suburban kids lead - which is 40 million people in this country probably - just things we've done and know."
Doug: "We want to make more records that connect."
Rob: "But we hope that this one does connect. Like I said, Norwich was such a turning point for us, because that's when we first saw the crowd singing our songs, and it's the most amazing feeling you know, it really was, even for my stony face, even I let a quick smile out (laughing)."

16. Lastly, Chips or Cream Buns?
Rob: "We don't have fun I'm sorry (laughing)."
Doug: "I'm more of a savoury fan, I can't speak for everyone in Longview, but I'd go for chips."
Aidan: "Normally chips, but I could do with a cream bun right now (laughing)."
Matt: "Cream bun - no need for me to even think about that one."

Set List








A very special thanks to Longview, Ben Durling, Alex and Gilbert, for all of their time and help.