Friday, October 08, 2004

Engineers

I have seen some strange and peculiar things at gig venues up and down the country, but never have I met an Asda style greeter (is it a new one on you as well?). That is the only way to paint the picture of my first encounter with Sweeney; drummer and raconteur of what is now a Mancunian quintet; Engineers. Already more relaxed and jovial I headed off to my full and frank discussion with musicians Simon Phipp (guitar/vocals) and Mark Peters (guitar), who were being detained in a small room awaiting my arrival.

Strangely enough, Sweeney’s name was tossed around like belittling comments emitted from the mousy mouth of Anne Robinson, as I got the guys engaged on topic of their mini album ‘Folly’ (out now on Echo) and one of the highlight tracks ‘Come in out of The Rain’. The response was unanimous;

“Our drummer wrote the lyrics”
“He is no ordinary drummer is he, as he’s also sung on a song of yours?”

Mark continued and already a tangent was forming;

"He is no ordinary person!.... Anyway, back to the question. 'Come In Out Of The Rain'; It’s about whingeing predominantly, about a friend of ours."

"OOhhh so it's not a general condemnation of society?" I felt overwhelmingly compelled to clear up my mind's confusion, with the ever altruistic Mark helping me out;

"It's about a person with no grasp of morality. It changes narrative; looking at things from the point of view of the victim and then the viewpoint of our friend."

What intrigued me was that this song lyrically speaking is angry with a slight positive tinge of hope. I was struck by the dreamy and uplifting instrumentals that cushion the at times harsh, but fair lyrics to turn in a deep and soothing track. Mark turned in a thoughtful and reflective look, as Simon concurred with this summation;

"Yeah, we always try to juxtapose the tone of music with the lyrics".

Whilst we were on the topic of their songs, what about the deliciously eerie instrumentals that features in pearls such as ‘Pictobug’ and to a lesser extent ‘A Given Right’. Do they watch many horror films, as they certainly have that sort of feel? Mark was first to enlighten me;

“There is certainly a noire element to what we do”

And what about the seven minute instrumental mind mauler that is ‘Pictobox’? There was a little gleam in Mark’s eye, as he was grasped the opportunity to open the door to their adventurous side;

“It was written four years ago when I was working in a meat market in Eccles. It was written in a fucked state of mind.”

His face was a picture of pride. However, they don’t call me the Mr. Bean of interviewing for no reason and I soon managed to dismantle the air of tranquility. With the foolhardiness and bravery of a Cervantes’ character, I raised the subject of hype and how it may be considered dangerous these days to deviate from the popular sounds of moment. In my humble opinion the Engineers take the heart from the early days Verve and The Charlatans, adding a touch of the honesty of Elbow, before their instrumentally experimental kaleidoscope kicks in to blur the visions of reality portrayed through their lyrics that only bands like Four Tet and Sigur Ros have managed to pull off with aplomb. Mark’s terse response couldn’t hide the feeling of bewilderment;

“Yeah I mean we have to change things occasionally; like tonight is more or less a full rock show” (He was referring to their support slot of The Music at King Georges Hall, Blackburn).

I probed them further on the issue; you’d never play ‘Pictograph’ at this sort of gig would you? They both shrugged;

“No, but we are always looking to expand and experiment our sound. We have a very supportive label (Echo). They like what we do”.

It was time for a simple and sharp ending to a compelling and poignant interview; how do they want to leave people feeling after witnessing one of their live sets? Simon pounced on the question with the enthusiasm Karen leaping on Steve Mcdonald in Corrie;

“Physically aroused”

On that colourful note I shall sign off.
Interview undertaken by David Adair.

www.engineersweb.net

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