Concert review and interview: The Cellophane Flowers
The Cellophane Flower’s gig at Venue 229 really makes you wonder how much great music could be circulating London, under the radar. The band’s dynamic, excited, emotive set bubbled with fun and charisma. It was clearly out of the question to dilute the performance to suit the frankly mediocre venue.
A band like The Cellophane Flowers should be on the main stages of all this summer’s festivals – their infectious movement and vivacity onstage, their refreshing ability to mix up instruments (most of the members are multi-instrumentalists) and the depth and range of their songs shouldn’t be crammed into little underground venues. This band deserves room to breathe and to flourish.
That’s not to suggest that the band is down-at-heel. Having worked on their debut album with Dave Allen (The Cure, The Charlatans, Human League), The Cellophane Flowers are definitely one to keep an eye on later in the year. Their sound – psychedelic-tinged indie and emotional, but witty –with dark hints reminiscent of the best of 80s pop, is difficult to pin down.
Lead singer Francesca drives the songs forward with the momentum of a powerful and quirky voice (think Feist crossed with Karen O – although Francesca names her biggest vocal influence as Catatonia singer Cerys Matthews). Francesca is not a simple piece of theatre, or eye candy, as is the fate of so many female vocalists.
Stylish and magnetic onstage, she can still hold her own with the guys and rocks the guitar and harmonica throughout the set – a refreshing sight. Their sound, though inarguably distinctive and polished, is pleasingly diverse. Last night’s set, in particular, was compellingly unpredictable.
The band is visually close-knit onstage, feeding off one another’s energy, resulting in songs that lift themselves above the recorded versions. Every member of the band commands attention – a feature so often forgotten in female-led bands. The Cellophane Flowers are pure entertainment to watch; a celebratory and captivating band.
After the gig, The Upcoming caught up with the guys for a chat and discovered they’re not only a great new talent – but one of the most personable bands in town too! One of the friendliest bands around, the guys were keen to discuss the philosophy of vinyl, the influence of the internet and to tell us all about their exciting debut album (due for release later this year).
How did you all meet and how long have you been together?
Nick: A few years. Ian and I were in a previous band together and then we found Francesca, from Italy.
Francesca: From an ad in the NME. I’d just arrived from Italy, so before I even found a job – the important thing – I’d found a band!
Nick: And Luca, straight from Australia.
Luca: Yeah, they found me on a dingy.
Ian: And, in actual fact, Luca wasn’t a bass player.
Luca: I negotiated … yeah, bass playing, that’s something that can happen.
Nick: So, when did you buy your bass guitar, Luca?
Luca: Err… about two or three days before the first rehearsal.
If you could give one ‘do’ and one ‘don’t’ to new bands and new musicians, what would you say?
I: Don’t listen to people who sound like they know what they’re talking about. There’s a lot of that, but you’ve just got to go with your own thing really. And ‘do’, err… hard to say really.
N: Well you just said it didn’t you? ‘Do’ go with your own thing.
Are you playing any festivals this summer?
I: Yeah… Yorkshire, Redcar festival in July. We’ve got a few we’re trying to set up at the moment.
F: We’re trying to get out of London. Discover other places, the world outside, you know?
Francesca, in one review, your voice was called “indiscriminately delicious”, which is great! Who would you say your biggest vocal influence is?
F: Ha, wow, yeah, that’s great! I like voices that are different; I don’t like trained voices. I love Catatonia, that’s one of my favourites.
And it’s great to see a female vocalist who plays instruments too. Do you think that’s something that should come back? It was around in the days of punk, but not so much now, right?
F: Yeah definitely. Yeah, it should be done more.
N: Well, you see a lot of bands now where the members just stick to their one role. We can move around a bit more.
L: Mmm, we can all play lots of things really, can’t we?
I: There’s a lot of bands with female vocalists… Marina and the Diamonds, Florence and the Machine and so on, where it’s them upfront; they are the band really and the musicians are just there behind them.
F: Maybe these women can play instruments, but they don’t want them to.
N: PJ Harvey is definitely one of the best examples of someone who goes against that. She can really play an instrument and plays lots of instruments in recordings and is really involved.
I: We don’t want Francesca to get ALL the attention!
F: (laughs) They like to kick me out of the way sometimes!
If you could play anywhere, any venue, where would it be?
F: For me, it would be Brixton Academy.
Everyone else: Yeah!
Why Brixton Academy?
I: It’s our local; we’re always there and it’s always great. Best sound, best vibe.
Your sound and your artwork are really suited to vinyl and reminiscent of that kind of nostalgia of records. Is this something you’re all big fans of?
L: Yeah, we all like our vinyl. It’d be nice to release an album on vinyl and to think that there are certain groups of people who like going into record stores and would pick it up.
N: Without going on about the quality of vinyl, which is obvious, it’s about everything. The feel of it, the artwork. The fact that when you buy a vinyl, you’re buying something material and tangible. With the download generation, everything’s disposable.
F: You have to turn it. It’s physical. And you have to really listen.
I: I think the internet is being used in the wrong way about this. It should be used to get people together, to create something tangible, not to encourage this throw-away culture.
Do you have a record coming out soon?
I: We can tell you loads about it! It’s going to be about ten or eleven tracks, it’s an album. We worked with Dave Allen, who did The Cure and Human League. It’ll be released this year. We’re planning on releasing a few tracks online before that, like one track a month, put a track up then take it down and put a new one up. It’s called Staring At The World.
F: It doesn’t have any artwork yet though.
N: No, that’s something we’re still figuring out.
How do you find artists that you want to use?
N: So far it has been friends, or friends of friends. We’ve got a kind of broad concept of what we want, so we’re just approaching people now, to see if anyone wants to work with us. We want someone who gets it and knows what we’re going for.
F: We like to use illustrators. We like our artwork to look different and a bit more personal.
What gigs do you have coming up soon?
I: We’re trying to limit playing in London. Playing here maybe once a month.
F: We’re trying to go further out now.
L: We’re playing soon in Southend-On-Sea. So that’s not too far to come!
F: All the dates and things are on our website.
N: And Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud.
L: We’re all over everything!
For more information visit The Cellophane Flower’s website here.
Photos: Victoria Erdelevskaya
Watch The Cellophane Flowers sing Beautiful Lie live here
Check out the video of Freeze Me by The Cellophane Flowers here