In December last year Singing Adams released their second album Moves. Despite clocking in at just over half an hour, the album covers a lot of ground, both musically and lyrically, and is loaded with catchy little hooks and sing-along choruses, building on the foundations of their debut without ever over-complicating things. We met up with the band ahead of their London show with Teitur at King’s Place earlier this year.
“I’ve just come up with a new heavy metal band name today”, frontman Steven Adams informs me as I arrive at the venue. “Leather Bee.” He then proceeds to sing the band’s name, metal style, to the tune of ‘Let It Be’. It isn’t necessarily what you expect, given that a number of reviews of Moves have suggested that the new Singing Adams album is downbeat, or even dour and miserable. Yet while the record undoubtedly addresses some of the doubts and worries of modern life, Moves also seems to be more a record of acceptance. For every moment of struggle, worry about the future, or black cloud there is a moment of realistation of what really matters: being with friends, telling stories, enjoying yourself while you can. I suggest this to Adams and he smiles. “I’m glad you said that, because I never thought about it as being really dark. To me Moves is quite a chirpy and optimistic record.”
While he’s happy to talk about, well, pretty much anything, Adams confesses to having problems talking about the meanings and intentions behind songs. “I find it increasingly difficult to say anything interesting because I feel like I’ve already done the job by writing the words. A lot of the time if things aren’t obvious it’s deliberate – they have been left open for a reason. When we did the press release I said ‘London Trocadero’ was about the riots in London. Which it isn’t. I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I said that. LOL”. The “LOL” sets Adams and his bandmates Michael Wood, Melinda Bronstein and Matt Ashton into a fit of giggles, and leads to numerous stories about text speak, and some unfortunate misunderstandings between Laugh Out Loud and Lots of Love. Indeed, there is so much “LOL”-ing in the Singing Adams world that the phrase is even chanted on one of Moves’ standout tracks ‘Building A Wall’.
I ask Adams about the self-made video for ‘Dead End’, the first track to be released from Moves, with its insistent refrain of “Think of all the other things you could be doing…”. The video cuts together home footage taken from trains and on various trips to the countryside: a journey of escape from the city, and all of its numerous pulls and obligations. “When I made that I had in mind this aesthetic to what we do. We kind of get lumped in with the indie schmindie, but I don’t think that’s us. There is definitely a tension between rural and urban going on…”
“We’re all in our late 30s now.” Ashton interjects.
“…and we are hurtling towards our early fifties…” Adams continues. “But look how happy we are. I’ve got a drink. And a sandwich! Cheers!”
Drummer Melinda Bronstein sits down seriously. “There are certain things you need to know..” she begins. “Michael will sing sweetly. We do have a tour bin… Matt… do you iron any clothes? Do you like a crispy sock?” Ashton, it transpires isn’t a fan of rigid hosiery, but will own up to enjoying the feeling of a freshly ironed shirt. Meanwhile, Wood is applauded for unveiling the spotted shirt he intends to wear for the night’s performance. Laughter fills the room, and the fact that is does so is key to understanding the Singing Adams. The bond of friendship, and shared experiences permeates the whole venture, onstage and off. The band seems to exude an exuberant togetherness – seeming to enjoy every minute of being in a rock n’ roll gang with their own rules. It wouldn’t be a surprise to find that they had a secret handshake and it’s little wonder that the debut album was called Everybody Friends Now.
While Adams had originally released a solo album as The Singing Adams, Singing Adams the band formed over a period of time after he relocated from Cambridge to London. That isn’t to say that the members hadn’t played together before however. Guitarist Matt Ashton was paid £10 to get on stage and do handclaps by Adams at a long ago and (almost) forgotten show. “And it’s still the most i’ve been paid for a Singing Adams show” he smiles. Bassist Michael Wood had been approached first as a guitarist and then offered to play banjo and mandolin. “I was looking at the emails the other day,” Ashton says. “You sent us emails asking what else we could play”.
“At the time I had this thing that I wasn’t going to play any guitar – be like the guy from The National, wandering around the stage…” Adams confirms.
“I thought I was going to get to live out my Bernard Butler fantasies…” Wood begins, “but it didn’t end up that way. And then, of course, there was the Four Jolly Boys, which was a four part Lancashire harmony thing that we did. And only one of the four of us was actually from Lancashire.” At this point Adams and Wood burst out into the song, which seems to revolve around the easter tradition of “pace egging”, much to the delight of the rest of the band.
Drummer Bronstein has toured with Broken Family Band as part of Absentee, and even played as part of the wedding band at Adams wedding. “I was surprised he asked me to be in the band… I think he assumed that I wouldn’t want to do it.” Adams nods in confirmation. “I always wanted to be in a band with Melinda. If I knew then …”
It certainly feels like there is a lot of good will for the project one way or another, something Adams readily acknowledges. Yet the band have played just a handful of shows in support of the record, mostly in London. “You haven’t asked us why we aren’t on tour,” Adams points out, pretending to be put out. “No one ever asks that.” Dutifully, the question gets asked. And the answer? “No major reason, mostly just trying to get it to work domestically. Oh, and of course there is paternity leave going on… we’ll get back together later on in the year and hopefully play some more shows then.”
Whatever the future brings, Adams seems sure that the band will be ready for it. “One important thing that I try and tell people about the group is that it always seems to do what it is supposed to do. It hasn’t been disappointing and we haven’t had any lofty ambitions or anything. When we started I thought maybe we would have bigger shows, but then, the music didn’t really suit it. Maybe at some point we will become more ambitious. I think sometimes people have this opinion of us: “That’s never going to be huge, or enormous, thats not what they’re after”. It’s not like a willful thing. It’s not that we don’t want to sell lots of records or to play to big audiences or make money or whatever…but it isn’t really the main thing. The most important thing to us is that it is enjoyable and there isn’t some awful step that you have to go through. All that business and the logistics. Everything we do really is easy and fun.”
“Just meeting up, rehearsing and being together is my favourite bit.” Ashton concurs. “Some people might grumble about it but I possibly enjoy it more because you get to play for longer.”
“I also think you had all clocked something it took me a while to understand. I’m not really a musician- so for the longest time I was just like, lets learn it, then move on so we can play shows. But now we play, and mess around and sometimes its useful but the most important thing is to play for the joy of it.” Adams adds. “And of course, it doesn’t hurt that I’m always the loudest….”
Moves is available now through Records Records Records.