The Lincolnshire trio have taken the music scene by storm in the past year with their own brand of blues rock. They've also recently toured the US with rock'n'roll upstarts Kings of Leon and Jet.
Now the lads are about to tour the UK and will visit The Joiners in Southampton early next month. BBC Southampton's Abbie Collins spoke to singer Martin Trimble.
Where are you?
I'm down in Cornwall. We're just demoing some stuff for the album.
Cool. When can we expect that?
We're at the final stages and getting all the songs together so hopefully it'll be out around early Spring.
Where does the name 22-20s come from?
It's an old song by a guy called Skip James. He was a pre-war blues singer and played piano and guitar. 22-20 Blues is arguably his greatest song.
Tell us about your US tour with Kings of Leon and Jet. That must have been great.
Yeah, that was a really good tour. The other bands were great. There was a kind of common thread that ran through the bands musically but we were all different enough for people to come and see three totally different things.
Your gig at the Dublin Castle in Camden has already become legendary. A&R guys were all scrambling to sign you there. Did that surprise you?
Yeah! We'd never had anything like it. Me and Glen had been playing the blues scene for a couple of years and were used to playing in front of no-one. For that kind of thing to happen over a four track demo was mad. It was so ridiculous that we were just having fun with it.
You've played at The Joiners before. Did you enjoy that gig?
I can't remember it but I was told that I nearly fell off the stage at some point walking over my mic stand! I was walking across to change guitar or something and got dangerously close to the front of the stage and stumbled. I was absolutely hammered! The pattern of that whole tour was just getting absolutely smashed. We've curbed that now though.
What do you think makes a good gig?
If I play the songs differently than I have the night before then that's usually a sign that I'm getting into it and I'm not afraid to try some new things. That's usually a good gig. The really obvious as well - if it's going down great and if we've got a good sound.
I think it's the things that you can't hear on a record that make a great gig. That's why we released that six track. There are a few little blips on my guitar. I lost a string at some point but it's nice to keep those things in. It adds some spontaneity.
That partly answers my next question. Why did you decide to release a mini album of live tracks?
Well there are songs on it that I don't think are good enough now to be on the album but there's a kind of vibe and energy there that I thought it was important that people heard. I also thought it was important that we documented what got us the record deal, which was playing live.
What made you put the Muddy Waters track King Bee in your mini album? Does that song have meaning for you?
I suppose it's tongue in cheek in a way. I don't think the rest of our songs are like that. It's quite a macho song. It's just got that energy. We were doing it for years, me and Glen. It's kind of a favourite of ours and the 'Stones did it. It's kind of a nod to our fore-fathers.
Are you sick of being compared to The White Stripes?
No, they're a great band and it was inspiring to see a band like that break into the mainstream, playing raw, traditional music. When our album comes out, I don't think it will be a problem.
We're from a different lineage really. It's like the 'Stones and Van Morrison taking American influences back to American music with something different, a bit English about it. Our roots are slightly different. I don't think there are any comparisons really. It's just lazy to compare us.
Who are your favourite contemporary bands?
I always like what Primal Scream do and I think that the new Spiritualized record is great. I've had that on the stereo for about five days now. I'm just a sucker for melody and there are a lot of really great songs on it. What is refreshing about it is that the songs are quite direct. The lyrics are quite simple and it's just relying on that bit of melody.
When it comes down to it, that's what it always comes back to. Like Hank Williams with country music or Gram Parsons or Bob Dylan. It's all about melody and about the lyrics. I don't like abstract lyrics, I like direct lyrics. That's why I like that album. Primal Scream's different - I just like their grooves.
The Joiners gig is one of your last before Christmas so what are you up to in the New Year?
I assume that we're going to do some pretty heavy duty touring until the album comes out. We'll do another English tour and we might go to Europe at some point. I don't think there's any plans to go back to America for a while though.
The Joiners, Southampton 023 8022 5612
Sunday 2nd November, 2003
[ back ]
Blues Boys Ready To Let Rip With A Mini Album
Evening Times 16.10.03
NURTURED on blues and evolving in leafy Lincolnshire, the 22-20s were shell- shocked when they found themselves at the centre of a music industry feeding frenzy last spring.
At their first London gig, more than 20 A&R people turned up seeking their signatures.
Within weeks of the gig, the teenage trio were snapped up by Radiohead's management company and signed to Heavenly Records, home to The Vines, Doves and Beth Orton.
Since then they have played Glastonbury, supported Beck and the Beastie Boys in front of 75,000 fans in New York and have just finished a US tour with Kings Of Leon and Jet.
All this, and they haven't even been given time to sit down and write their debut album yet.
Speaking from a recording studio in Cornwall, singer/ guitarist Martin Trimble explained how such a young bunch of musicians - himself, Glen Bartup on bass and James Irving on drums - turned on to the blues.
"When we were growing up it was the fag-end of Britpop. I was too young for Oasis or the Stone Roses, and there was no band I was interested in going to see.
"One Christmas my uncle came to visit and he had a huge blues collection - BB King, Buddy Guy, Robert Johnston, Muddy Waters. It had that backbeat and guitar, and at 14 that was really exciting. So from then on I tried to learn to play guitar like that.
"Then The White Stripes came along and we thought 'They're doing what we want to do!' But it was good in a way because it opened the door to that kind of bluesy sound."
This week the band, who have just added keyboard player Charlie Coombes, younger brother of Gaz from Supergrass, to their line-up, release a live mini-album, 05/03.
The band's debut album proper is due out early next year, but before that they play King Tut's Wah Wah Hut on October 22.
[ back ]
The Next Big Thing
The Guardian 24.10.03
They had A&R men promising them fortunes, flying over on Concorde for their gigs, telling them Dylan would call. Yet all they had made was a demo. Alexis Petridis asks the 22-20s what it's like to start a bidding war
As he sits quietly in a central London pub, it is hard to remain unimpressed by Martin Trimble's calm demeanour. He looks remarkably unruffled for a man who, barely out of his teens, recently caused an astonishing bidding war among record companies.
The desperation to uncover the next big thing means that such wars over new artists are an everyday occurrence. However, the fight over Trimble's band, the 22-20s, gave even jaded observers pause for thought. One dubbed it "the A&R scramble of the century". Jeff Barrett, the man who eventually signed the band to his label Heavenly, remembers one gig where the bosses of every major American record label turned up: "People were flying over on Concorde to see them, twice. I've been in this game 15 years, and they gave me more sleepless nights and grey hairs than any other band I've worked with." This is a remark that should not be taken lightly, given that Barrett spent part of the 1980s working with the heroin-sodden Happy Mondays.
Anyone requiring further evidence that the 22-20s are destined for great things should note that Kate Moss has graced their live performances with her presence, a turn of events that seems to have become as essential to a hotly tipped band's rise as the obligatory string of demented music press reviews. They have had those, too: in the past nine months, their gutsy, blues-influenced rock has been favourably compared to everyone from Oasis to Hendrix. They have been variously described as the best British band in years and the sound of cutting-edge England 2003 - all on the basis of a four-track demo, one single and a handful of gigs.
Given this insane level of hyperbole, you would forgive Trimble if he possessed megalomaniac tendencies or a nervous twitch. Quite the opposite. He's making the effort to look like a rock god - skintight denim flares, leather jacket, long hair and mid-afternoon glass of Southern Comfort - but that's about as far as it goes. His conversation offers neither the standard swaggering self-belief of the star-in-waiting nor the angst of a sensitive songwriter troubled by the music industry's machinations. Instead, he offers a kind of polite indifference, which occasionally seems like a defence mechanism against the sort of pressure that might otherwise have sent a 20-year-old barmy. Asked how he feels about one hack's overwrought description of him as "the feathercut prince of the blues", Trimble frowns, repeats the phrase slowly and inquisitively as if trying it on for size, then quickly changes the subject.
Similarly, the bidding war apparently left him "a bit miffed": "It just started to explode before we'd really had a chance to find out what sound we wanted to get. We were being taken to lunch every day, meeting lawyers, being told about these ridiculous sums of money. We heard a rumour that one label was going to get Bob Dylan to ring us and convince us to sign with them. It was absurd."
It must have seemed even more absurd given the 22-20s' background. Trimble and 19-year-old bass player Glen Bartup are from Sleaford, a Lincolnshire market town where the previous star attraction was Cogglesford watermill and its ingenious labour-saving sack hoist. As Trimble gently points out, "It's not very cosmopolitan." His musical education was equally arcane. While his school mates were listening to Britpop, Trimble favoured the blues records his uncle brought round at Christmas. "Blues became this thing that me and Glen were into. We've never really got involved in anything else."
Even today, his attitude to music is so reactionary that your average trad-jazz fan would consider it a tad fusty. Technology is out, "mainly because I don't know how any of it works". Artists who "wave the flag for African awareness or the Iraq thing" get similarly short shrift: "I feel like it comes across a lot of the time as patronising."
By the time they were 15, the duo were playing on the wildly unfashionable European blues circuit. (Drummer James Irving is a more recent recruit.) Trimble remembers the gigs as "better than getting a paper round", but not much. "It was just cabaret, people who thought the blues was about the Blues Brothers, porkpie hats and shades. We were playing this Stones kind of thing and it was going down like a cup of cold sick."
This odd apprenticeship left Trimble with an admirably surly onstage manner ("I never wanted to talk to the crowd") and enough money to record their demo. That fell into Jeff Barrett's hands via his Nottingham bar, The Social, where the band had hoped to secure a gig.
Barrett, more effusive than his charges, recalls his initial reaction: "Holy shit almighty, fuck, this is great." He says: "It's a rare thing to get a demo that gives you that holy shiver. This one did. You could go round the pubs in London in the 18 months after the White Stripes and hear a lot of blues-influenced bands, but it was very rare to hear one and think, 'Shit, you're not just copying them, you've got some devil dust in you.'
"I went to see them play a gig the next night. I walked into this empty cellar and I couldn't see anybody in there apart from these three kids. I thought, surely not - I was expecting blokes. They told me they'd known each other since they were nippers, about the uncle with a blues collection and playing all these terrible blues festivals in Holland. I'm an old romantic - stories like that send me fluttering. At the time, they were still living with their mums and dads. I took them to the pub and said, 'You realise that your lives are about to change? Your demo is really good, even some dumb-ass motherfucker is going to sign you because of the White Stripes. Have you thought of what you're going to do?' Martin turned around and said, 'Jeff, we've only got seven songs and five of those are shit.'"
Nevertheless, Barrett was right. The pressure of record company and press interest was only heightened by the band's refusal to sign a deal until they had written more songs. They eventually signed with Barrett - "Some people we met knew nothing about music, but he kept playing us loads of great soul records" - and with high-powered management company ATC Management, whose roster also includes Radiohead.
ATC initially chose not to promote them, but to try to calm the hype by refusing interviews. They packed the band off on a tour of unlikely provincial venues. While one reviewer was describing their limited-edition debut single, Such a Fool, as the work of "the most important Brit rock band of the century", the said band were to be found playing in rock'n'roll haunts such as Southend Chinnerys. Trimble describes this experience as "awful - when we're playing to 20 people it doesn't work", but it appeared to have the desired effect. The press's attention shifted elsewhere, at least temporarily.
The band emerged from the tumult apparently unscathed. "I'm pretty comfortable with it all now," says Trimble. "I did feel the weight of expectation on my shoulders, but that's because we didn't have the songs. If I like what we do, then I'm pretty happy."
The future is a matter of some conjecture. Their current live mini-album roars from the speakers, appealingly tough and cocky, but it is impossible to tell whether the band's career can match the expectations fostered over the past nine months. For the time being, however, the 22-20s find themselves in a unique position: they seem like survivors before even releasing their debut album. They have moved from Sleaford, to an Oxfordshire village called Milton. "It's just a little cottage in the middle of nowhere. It suits us really well," grins Trimble. "We like being away from things."
• 05-03 is out on Astralwerks.
[ back ]
“The Best Thing About Being In A Band Is Being Able To Afford Better Cigarettes…”
Drowned In Sound 28.10.03
Who are the 22-20s? DIS hooked up with Martin Trimble, guitarist, songwriter and overall mouthpiece for the 22-20’s, to find out who this band are. We can tell you they're quite possibly the best thing to come out of Lincolnshire since the A52 provided a welcome solace from those family days out in Skegness.
Martin and bass player Glen Bartup have been playing in bands together for years, but the current line-up came together in August 2002, and within a matter of months they were signed up by those curators of taste, Heavenly. Martin takes up the story:
“We’re all from in and around Lincoln, and we’ve all played in various bands around the local circuit for a number of years, so when our old drummer left last summer, James (Irving) seemed the right choice for the band. His first gig with the band was actually in London, and from that moment on everything seemed to happen so quickly. With the old drummer, we’d already put 4 songs down on a demo, and when James Baillie from the Heavenly Social heard it, he offered to put us on and the rest is…just a blur really!”
So, with the record deal inked, The 22-20s (named after the Skip James song ’22-20 Blues’) then decided that the best thing to do was go on tour and they have rarely been home since.
“It’s been great. Just being able to play headline gigs in England and seeing some of the same faces night after night. It really gets you when people know the songs word for word, particularly as we hadn’t released a record at that stage.”
Since then of course, the seven-inch only blues/spunk strut ‘Such A Fool’ cleared out the vinyl racks at just about every record store in Britain on the first day of release, while October sees the release of their debut album, ‘05/03’, which was recorded throughout their UK tour of, yes you guessed it, May 2003.
Every single band in living memory spends hour upon hour trying to get the right producer to recreate that “live” sound, so the 22-20s have gone one better by actually recording their first opus live. Martin fills us in:-
“We were first noticed on the strength of how we play as a live band, so it seemed the right thing to do. Some of the songs on ‘05/03’ wouldn’t work on a studio album, so we felt the live album would be a fitting document of the first songs we ever did together. We have got enough songs for a studio album as well, and we plan to get it recorded before Christmas. We actually want to record the album on tape, because it sounds better…”
It seems quite strange that a bunch of teenagers have found themselves playing a type of blues that seems more appropriate to 50 year old men in trilby hats and long black overcoats, and so it may come as a compliment that along with bands like The White Stripes and The Mooney Suzuki, The 22-20’s could be seen as more of an introduction to a revitalised genre rather than retrospective revivalists.
“When I was 14, my uncle used to stay with my family at Christmas, and he used to bring me these old blues 45s, people like Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and Hank Williams. I was learning to play the guitar at the time so I was prepared to listen to anything and everything. I think it’s flattering that we’re being compared to bands like the White Stripes, who I have a lot of respect for, but in terms of the way we both sound, I can’t really see it myself. I think we have a few things in common, namely that we both try and keep our songs direct and simple with good melodies, and also that we’re both obviously influenced by the blues but at the same time don’t necessarily believe that it should be kept how it was.”
The band’s reputation as one of 2003’s must-see artists was quickly enhanced when they were invited to tour the States with the Kings Of Leon and Jet, both of whom have risen from the status of being pub bands in their native cities to platinum album sellers in a matter of months.
“The whole experience of playing with those bands was just great. It just goes to show that there is such a demand for live, raw, rootsy music at the moment.”
So with that in mind, could the 22-20s be the Brits that finally prosper where Oasis, Robbie and the Manics all failed? Martin Trimble seems almost disconsolate at the thought:-
“We’ve no massive ambition to break territories. It’s never been an intention of mine to initiate such a move…”
On the subject of future plans and ambitions, and bearing in mind the giant leaps Martin and the band have taken over the past 12 months, where next for the 22-20’s?
“We enjoyed playing the festival circuit during the summer, so we’re definitely looking forward to doing some of those again. In the long term, if I could make an album half as good as ‘Exile On Main Street’ with the integrity of what Primal Scream have carried throughout their entire career, that’ll do me. For now though, we can’t wait for Christmas as I can’t remember the last time I had a day off…”
[ back ]
Garage/blues rock UK group
The 22-20s are from Lincoln, but they don't have to be. They could be from "Hartlepool, Darlington, anywhere there's nothing going on." More important is that between them (Martin Trimble; guitar/vocals; Glen Bartup; bass; James Irving; drums) they make the sort of coruscating, primal rock’n’roll noise you’d started to believe wasn’t possible from a young British rock group in 2003. On record (to date, only a limited edition 7" of 'Such A Fool'/'Baby You're Not In Love') they exhibit a ferocity which moved the NME to declare: ‘The 22-20s are unquestionably the most exciting rock’n’roll rumble since the Gallaghers’. Live, their incendiary performances transmit that same feeling of brooding menace and repressed violence you can find walking through any provincial town centre in England after midnight.
"Everything we do is quite abrasive" agrees Martin, sitting in sunshine outside a bar near their Oxford HQ. "I hate bands who pander to their audience or who want to shake their hands. For me, that’s not what it's about. I don’t want a band to be like ordinary people. You want to trust someone’s vision. Like Dylan or Neil Young: they're right and the audience can't judge them. You have a job to entertain, but it has to be on your own terms."
The 22-20s have a depth of musical knowledge which belies their tender ages (they are all nineteen). An afternoon in conversation takes in everything from Buddy Guy, the perils of the Low Countries cabaret circuit and how Martin derived the inspiration for a large percentage of the band’s material from an encounter with the ‘biggest cunt in the world’. But it still doesn’t quite explain the how the most exciting young British group since Oasis got here. After two hours unravelling their story you find yourself asking, where, really to begin? Martin affords himself an inscrutable smile. ”At the beginning?” Martin Trimble and Glen Bartup grew up in separate villages within a fifteen mile radius of Lincoln, North Yorkshire. Having met at secondary school, the pair bought their first guitars on the same day from a shop owned by Martins uncle. It was 1997; they were both fourteen. “I’ve always been into the blues.” explains Martin. “It was the first music I heard. My uncle was in straightforward rock bands but he loved blues. He used to come to our house at Christmas and bring his guitar over. He’d play me all these amazing records: Muddy Waters, BB King. He took me to my first gig. Buddy Guy when I was sixteen.” Soon the duo were immersing themselves in the blues by day and rehearsing in their bedrooms by night. By fifteen they’d realised a huge gulf was opening up between them and friends who were falling prey to temptations well beyond ‘Smokestack Lightning’.
Seeking a platform, the pair hurled themselves into the nether-world of the local blues circuit. Playing regularly “up north” with a series of pub drummers whom Martin will only refer to as "mercenaries”, the band found themselves learning the ropes in the traditional way. Glen: “There was always this nagging doubt that we were playing to the wrong crowd. People would say things to us like ‘you’re not a blues band, you’re a rock’n’roll band’ or, far worse, ‘if you dress up smartly you’ll be playing the main stage next year’. We didn’t want to know.” The crunch came after a particularly grim trip to Holland and Belgium. Glen: “We were on the ferry coming back and we were so depressed. We broke the band up completely for six months. I got a job in a furniture warehouse. It was tough but it mean’t that we got our enthusiasm back. Martin: “By this point Glen had bought a bass and I was starting to write. We’d meet up and listen to stuff like Neil Young and Shuggie Otis, but predominantly Dylan. He opened the door. It was like a big whack around the head in terms of songwriting. Suddenly I realised that I could write songs that went beyond all these blues cliché’s. Then once we’d asked James (Irving) to join on drums everything fell into place. For the first time we were playing with someone our own age. At last it felt like we were a band...” The 22-20s had yet to release a note when in the middle of last year, word of their lacerating live shows reached the ear of Heavenly Records boss Jeff Barrett. In one of those unseemly scrambles for signatures the record industry thrives upon, The 22-20s rapidly became the subject of one of the biggest A&R scrambles in living memory, culminating in an oxygen-free show at the Camden Dublin Castle. Stranger still, as the band ended with an apocalyptic thrash through Slim Harpo’s ‘King Bee’, it saw MD’s of major labels in that rarest of positions: unanimous approval.
In an independent music scene cluttered with make-weight rock revival imports, ‘Live’ is the most thrilling sound a British guitar band has made in years. Play loud.
[ back ]
A Different Kind Of Blue
“I think it’s probably the most personal and emotive music ever created,” says Martin Trimble. He’s talking about the blues, that most pure of musical forms that Lincoln’s 22-20s still make sound raw, energetic and relevant 100 years after the first black American sold his soul at the crossroads.
“I think records have become so produced that people want to go and see live bands again to see music that’s edgy,” says Martin (vocals/guitar). “I think the blues fit that bill.” 22-20s recently released a mini album, 05/03, a collection of six live tracks showcasing the energy of the power-trio in the live arena. “We won’t get the opportunity to release a record like that for a few years. It’ll all be studio albums, so it was nice to do to mark out our territory.”
The band, who sound reminiscent to late 60s acts like The Doors, Cream and Hendrix, grew up in the middle of nowhere listening to Dylan and early delta bluesmen like Skid James, from whose classic song they take their name. “When you’re isolated like that you’re not in a scene with a kind of peer group saying, ‘You’ve got to listen to this’,” says Martin. “I was always just finding my own records and I think that influenced the music quite a lot. We weren’t really in touch with anything else going on.”
The Band are currently holed up working on their debut album. “It’ll still sound as raw but it’ll be more melodic,” reckons Martin. “There’ll be more songs on it. It won’t be purely about that live energy, there’ll be a more cerebral element to it.” Matt Walton 12 December 03
22-20s – 05/03, out now on Heavenly Records.
[ back ]
22-20s... Live And Dangerous
Evening Times 18.3.04
RELEASING a live album for your debut is a bold move for any band, not just because it is a risky business trying to get a true reproduction of your sound from the bear-pit of the live arena.
It is also a warts-and-all document of a band at their rawest and most vulnerable.
But having released their live 05/03 album last autumn in what they described as an attempt to document, wrap up and put to bed the earliest period of their career, the 22-20s are now hoping it will stand as a marker of how far they have come.
Bassist Glen Bartup says: "We have become a lot better live.
"When we started out we were playing our entire set and it was still only about six songs. In the last year we have thrown away tons of songs - it has just developed so naturally and 05/03 is a sign of how far we have come."
It is only 12 months since the band played its disastrous first gig at King Tut's in Glasgow, where everything that possibly could go wrong sound-wise went wrong and ended with frontman Martin Trimble throwing a major huff.
Glenn puts it down in part to the pressure of playing their first gig before their label bosses at Heavenly.
But, after a year spent on the road, their confidence has come on in leaps and bounds and things are considerably calmer now, as they prepare to hit the road with The Cribs and The Ordinary Boys for the NME's Bratpack tour, which comes to King Tut's on March 24.
The Lincolnshire three-piece this week put the finishing touches to their first album proper, which they recorded over the space of two months in Cornwall and at home in Lincoln.
It was produced by Brendan Lynch, who mixed Primal Scream's Vanishing Point and produced Paul Weller's Wild Wood album.
Glenn says the 22-20s sound has mutated and developed in unexpected ways throughout the recording process.
He adds: "We spent two weeks in a rehearsal studio playing Rolling Stones and Crazy Horse covers, but decided we were starting to sound a bit too dad-rock.
"But a lot of new influences have come into it and the album is a lot darker than we expected it to be."
[ back ]
Move Day 3: 22-20s Interview
Manchester Evening News 28.6.04
22-20s play the Saturday at Move
IT seems appropriate that a band who hail from a county famed for its sausages should find themselves going through the motions when it came to delivering their product.
And this is exactly the worrying predicament Lincolnshire quartet the 22-20s found themselves in just over 12 months ago.
Bored and despondent with their lacklustre live shows, the band (then a trio), led by front man Martin Trimble, had become so fed up with churning out sets they were prone to cutting them drastically short to the bemusement of their gathering fans.
Thankfully, a year on, and the band are now in much happier and healthier spirits.
After wisely deciding to recruit a keyboardist to beef up their sound (Charlie Coombes, brother of Supergrass' Gaz) ,the band took a step back and remembered why they formed a band in the first place.
Armed and ready the new look 22-20s went on to hit 2003's festival circuit with great gusto, carrying that spirit into a headlining slot on the NME Brat Tour earlier this year.
Now hitting the festival circuit again - they played last weekend's Glastonbury, I caught up with bassist Glen Bartup.
You've been touring pretty solidly ever since summer shows lasy year. Do you feel you are performing consistently well now?
Yeah I think so. We were talking about this last night. We know the songs inside out now, so it's just about putting on a performance each time. There is nothing that tightens you up like gigs really. The only thing we want to add to it is new songs, which are coming through all the time.
You released a few singles and a mini live album to date is there any news on the debut LP's release yet?
I don't know. We actually finished recording it in January. It went out to mixed in America, but that put it back as the guys out there couldn't mix it till May. (It's since been confirmed for a September release). We've actually been busy writing for the next one as well, which we hope to get in and record before the end of the year. We'll see how it goes.
You've spoken about how your live performances have improved so much; did you try to harness this live sound on the LP?
No not really. I know we put out that live album last year, but that was just to document what were doing at the time. We didn't want to record an album like that; we wanted it to be more about the quality of the songs. I don't know if you've heard the singles we've put out, but they are pretty indicative of the heavier side of the album.
You've always loved blues music, and since you've been out on the road listening to different albums, how has this influenced the new stuff?
I think the blues thing is always going to be there because of the way we play our instruments. Martin and me have always expressed ourselves like that and it was how we learned to play really. We've been listening to a lot of far-ranging stuff in recent months, which has obviously affected what we've written and we are looking forward to putting them down in the studio.
You played Manchester recently on the NME tour with Delays and The Ordinary Boys. How did those shows go?
The NME tour was really good actually, although it got off to a bad start. For the first few nights none of our gear worked and I think we broke 12 strings in three nights! We got a guitar tech in though after that and the rest of the tour went great.
You are back in the city for the Saturday of Move. Looking forward to it?
It should be good. It's going to be a bit hectic because I think we're playing T In The Park the next day, although we are hoping to stay and catch the Pixies before we head off, as we've not seen them since they've reformed.
There is a bit of time off then you're playing the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. Will it be your first time over there?
Yes it will. I'm looking forward to it. We've done a few interviews to promote it with Japanese journalists and they've been really interested to find out what we're up to and more about us, so that's been great. They seem to know more about us than we do to be honest, so hopefully we'll go down well.
How important were the big support slots with Jet and Kings Of Leon in building up your stage confidence?
They were great. I mean it was a month of gigs, so it was bound to help us really. The Supergrass shows we did early in the year also helped us out a lot as well. Touring is part and parcel of the lifestyle we want for ourselves really. We either want to be out on the road seeing new placse or in the studio working on new tracks. We just want to keep this going as long as possible really.
It sounds like the four of you are pretty self-motivated?
I think so yes. I mean we could probably push each other a bit more I suppose, but we all know what we want and where we want to go and Martin really pushes himself with the song writing, so that's good. We made a fresh start last year and cut back on the drinking and now we are all happy with the ways things are going.
So there is real sense of optimism about the future now?
Yes I think so. We were never really in a rush to record an album or jump on any bandwagon. But the album's finished we like it, we're happy with how we're playing and the new stuff coming through is sounding even better. So things are looking good.
22-20s play Move at Old Trafford Cricket Ground on Saturday, July 10. Tickets are priced '30. To book call 0870 060 1768 or click here . New single Shoot Your Gun is out now.
[ back ]
They provoked a huge A&R bidding war before releasing a single track and their explosive performances have created an excitable stir in the press pages.
Yet the 22-20s remain remarkably humble.
In fact, it seems the Delta blues-driven foursome from Lincolnshire are in awe of their own success, not long ago only gigging to tiny crowds in pubs up north.
As they arrive in Liverpool for an instore signing and set-playing sesh, musicOMH catches up with bassist Glen Bartup and soon discovers that live music isn't just there to be played, but also to hide behind...
When I was asked by the PR chap whether I could ring back in two minutes because Glen Bartup was "at the bar" I thought 'here we go, drinking in the morning, typical rock 'n' roll band'. But when I got hold of the 22-20s bassist the explanation was all too innocent: "Nah I just had to get a box of matches for a cigarette". So you're not on the gin 'n' tonics then. "No it's a little early for that", he responds abashedly.
It's the start of a very revealing conversation about the band - unveiling a fundamental truth about these lads from Lincolnshire that undoubtedly a lot of bands can relate to: that music is their alter ego.
For on stage the 22-20s thrash out their sinister and gritty blues-influenced music (I daren't call it blues rock - read on to find out why), with pomp and bravado. Gig reviews liken them to The Rolling Stones and abound with praise over their incendiary high-octane performances. But off stage? Well, that seems to be an entirely different story.
"We're all fairly insular, not that comfortable going out," says Glen quietly but matter-of-factly. Saying of frontman Martin Trimble: "He can't believe anyone would want to listen to his voice for 40 minutes. We're always grateful to everyone who comes and watches us."
"When we go on stage we all get pretty nervous beforehand but once on stage we can hide behind a set that is hopefully loud as hell - it's a pretty good defence mechanism. I shit myself before I go on but as soon as the first song comes on it's fine. It's nice having it blowing out the speakers - at maximum volume it takes the attention away from you."
Hardly the words we expect from a band who stun crowds with their lacerating shows. Their on-stage personas seem to hide a deep-seated awe of how far they've come - it smacks of a band that can't quite believe their luck.
"We never thought about getting signed", remarks the 20-year-old, going on to explain how club owner James Baillie of the Heavenly Social in Nottingham by chance heard their demo and consequently offered to put them on stage. News of the band's spirited gigs led to an A&R bidding war and eventually a deal with Heavenly Records, that runs the Social.
It's refreshing to come across a band who are rising stars and yet remain humble. Glen strikes me as a solid hard-working bloke trying to earn an honest keep in life. He divulges: "We didn't know what we wanted to do, none of us wanted an office job, I know Martin certainly wouldn't last in an office - we both worked in a furniture warehouse when we were 16/17, Martin lasted three weeks. Music is the only thing we've ever been good at."
I ask him what it is about blues rock music in particular that really makes the band tick. After all, they are named after a song called 22-20 Blues by legendary pre-war Delta Blues singer Skip James. My question unexpectedly sparks off some petulant animosity.
Glen takes an audible drag on his cigarette and replies: "I don't mean to be rude to you but we really hate that term". Sensing a raw nerve I encourage him to explain why. He continues: "Me and Martin got into the blues when we were about 14, but we also listened to Deep Purple, AC/DC and Rory Gallagher. Blues rock to us says men clad in denim. We love people like Skip James but also Marc Bolan and Iggy Pop."
The band are certainly as dedicated as their heroes, for the 22-20s appear to be constantly on the road. They have an extensive tour of the UK and Ireland coming up in October. Last year they toured with Jet and Kings Of Leon, they're currently city-hopping to music stores promoting their new single 22 Days and their debut studio album, also called 22-20s. Plus they're writing their second album for which they already have some songs in the can. I remark that his life sounds incredibly hectic, doesn't he wish he could just go home and relax?
"It's the lifestyle we're used to", he replies, "it's like being in the army, you wake up and get told where you're going to go, it keeps you in check. Whenever we've had weeks off at home it all goes wrong cos it gives you a chance to think and start asking yourself questions about what you're doing. We prefer to go out and just do it."
And 'just doing it' has led them out of playing quiet gigs in North Yorkshire to facing the crowds - something we now know makes Glen "shit" himself. So what about the huge festivals they've been playing of late such as Glastonbury and the Carling Weekend Reading and Leeds festivals, which have thousands upon thousands of people watching them?
"We quite like festivals because, you know, people don't go there just to see you so we can be a bit stand-offish and just play our set." No need for the alter-ego there then.
Determined to get Glen to say something that isn't rational or practical I ask whether he has any amusing anecdotes from touring. "Emmm, I don't really do amusing anecdotes", he replies, my heart sinking, but he then suddenly pipes up: "I once sleep-walked in a New York hotel in my underwear, pissed out of my brain, I was just off my face. I found myself outside the door but I knew Martin had a cold so I didn't want to wake him. I went in the lift to go downstairs, there was a porter in there and I just stood next to him half-naked!"
I have a sneaking suspicion that apart from his 22-20s persona, it's the most rock 'n' roll thing he's ever done.
[ back ]
The 22-20s Chat About Primal Scream, Cynicism And Being Labelled New Rock!
Faster Louder 6.10.04
“Even before we signed to Heavenly, they started grappling. I don’t know, I think in England people look at … a lot of companies, a lot of people…they’ll jump on the bandwagon, because somebody else is looking for a band, and more often than not its to please their managing director, rather than having a passion for that band, or what they do.”
That’s 24 year old Martin Trimble, guitarist and singer with Oxford four piece the 22-20s, and to say that this band has a critical take on the industry they’re about to plunge into is an understatement. Trimble talks with a wisdom and cracking cynicism that enables him and his band to look at things in a new-blood thirsty England with one foot planted firmly planted on the ground – and the other lingering above the Muddy Waters. He goes on:
“That’s one of the reason we ended up signing with Jeff and Heavenly because he was the one guy from a record company who didn’t bother taking us out for lunch, he just took us around to his office and we got absolutely hammered till about three in the morning listening to soul records.”
Trimble makes it sound so easy, “Me and Glen the bass player, we’ve been playing together for ages. We met at school when we were about 11, and got into playing in a band when we were like 14, and then were really influenced by the blues, and we gigged on the blues scene for about three years before getting told we couldn’t play certain songs because they weren’t blues enough. We got Jason the drummer when were 18 and it kinda started there and we recorded a demo, and got signed after that.”
But in actuality, he, and band mate Glen Bartup have always been a little different. Engaged by the blues at an early age they started playing the European blues circuit at age15, and while their mates were doing the ‘usual’ thing, they were putting together the first incarnation of the 22-20s.
“It was pretty easy. We were 15, 16 and all our mates would be going out, or down to a club and we’d go out and play gigs on a Friday and Saturday night just to earn a bit of money really. We loved playing blues, and we got into this scene in the north, we’re it was like….well towards the end it all got a bit cabaret, and we would play some of our own songs, and we’d have agents coming up to us and saying ‘you can’t play that! That’s not blues!’
“They had this very defined idea of what blues was, which was pretty restricting, and I wasn’t interested in singing about ‘leaving Chicago’ anymore, or relating to a place that I didn’t come from, so we kinda got shoved off that.”
Casting aside the shackles of what ‘some old guy defining blues’ was, Trimble took his own songs, now a fierce and passionate combination of blues and rock on the road in support of a demo they recorded, basically, at home.
“It kinda hit us, so toward the end we were kinda using the money to go into a studio and record our demo. And we ended up doing a gig at The Social, in Nottingham and there were loads of kids there, and we played a Muddy Waters song in our own way, and they just got that rush. That raw energy without analysing it, or analysing what was going on with the guitar playing. They just got it. Got the feel. To me, when you have kids coming up to you after a gig and they go out and buy a Charlie Patton record then that’s great! That’s a job done. There’s so much crap around that’s going around, they wouldn’t normally be exposed to this stuff. I mean they got it more than the middle aged guy who’s been listening to this stuff for years.”
Does this sound at all familiar? Another artist has been echoing these sentiments since their debut album in 1998…The White Stripes, but again Trimble takes all this with the usual grain of salt.
“I don’t think musically we’re that similar…instinctually? Maybe, I think the traditional art of song writing, the interpretation of blues should be something that you work with, something that you make you own. Something that should be raw – and that’s why, maybe, they associate more with blues. And I think why we do as well. The one thing I can’t understand is why they classify jazz and blues as the same thing in a record shop – to me that’s just a different thing.
“The Stripes kinda kicked the door open I think for live music in the UK especially, about three years ago, I think they’re a great antidote to what’s been doing on with all this really substandard British rock.”
For a band used to touring their visceral, addictive blend of raw energy, stepping into a studio could indeed be fraught with problems, however their debut offers a window to a young band who want to keep things simple and pure – even if they’re producer, noted Primal Scream collaborator Brendan Lynch – is not.
“I think the main reason was Primal Scream. I think of them as a band that uses that rock’n’roll energy – MC5, Stooges – but has a really contemporary outlook on making records. And making really soulful records as well, and I think we just really respected what Brendan had done with that – and Jeff from our label got in touch with him and he came along and did it. I thought it was really important for us not just to get … we had never been in a studio before to record an album …so we wanted to get someone, so we could make an intelligent start.”
But stepping into a real studio, for first time, that wasn’t at all daunting?
”I think through demoing we saw everything as being a demo and with Brendan we’d just get together and go in a play live, and once we laid all the basic tracks down like that and even with vocal takes, we kinda got the basic template down live and then took it out as we went on. I think we never really knew when we put a final take down anyway – so that kinda took the pressure off. We never used pro-tools to programme the whole thing and then we didn’t really know at what point we were going to get the song anyway.”
For a band so young, yet so assured, are they fearful of anything? ‘Substandard British rock’ appears to be the answer, even if the UK is experiencing a resurgence in original music all signs appear that the agitation which spawned its popularity, will also play a part in its downfall.
“It’s coming back now! It’s really disappointing, I though music – especially rock’n’roll music was getting really exciting there for a while…and now things, it seems to have gone back to that….
“But all that art-rock nonsense…I just thinks bands get loads of these ‘art-rock’ thing, or the ‘New York’ thing – I mean everyone of these bands fits into a certain stereotype that you’d associate with ‘art-rock’...like geometric haircuts, and slightly homo-erotic lyrics. And really, their songs aren’t really there and I think that’s one thing we suffer from is not ever being willing to, we didn’t want to be part of that whole ‘new-rock’ revival.
“That kinda implies that the lyrics should be pretty unintelligent, but then again, we chose to be a rock’n’roll band rather than an ‘arty-rock’ band, so it’s been quite hard for us. We never really plugged in.”
But just sometimes that originality sparks something, and just maybe that something will outlast them. It is the first time in the interview that the thoughtful and assured Trimble is a little particular, describing the environment in which talented new British bands are received:
“It’s weird really. It’s so small, that bands get a lot of heat at one amount of time, and then it all spreads around quite quickly. When we first came out there was this big hype, people wanted to push us pretty quick, and rush something out – and we didn’t really want to do that. So I think we became a band that decided that we wanted to do things our own way, with touring, getting sings on the radio. I think – in Britain – there’s a lot of heat on your back at a certain time, and then it either flies or it doesn’t. And I don’t think we pout ourselves up to be one of those types of bands. We’ve kinda put our names down for the long haul.”
Such a serious soul in an unforgiving industry, Trimble does allow himself one flight of fancy in regards to making money, “I want a big house with a moat around it…that’s been my dream, with a draw bridge.”
The 22-20s stellar debut is out now through Heavenly/EMI.
[ back ]
Lincoln Band 22-20s talk to Crud Magazine
Crud Magazine 10.10.04
From Lincoln to Camden. The 22-20s tell of the hype, the hell and the Heavenly. And, of course, the blues. Sherief Younis muddys the waters..
The industry's best kept secret? Little more than a year ago 22-20’s stormed the headspaces of the minority whilst giving genre a shot in the arm. ‘It basically all came from when we were 18, Martin got into Dylan and started writing songs and having something to sing about’. Coupled with their mini album released last May, what was to follow was an A & R clamour to end all worlds, which eventually saw them sign to Heavenly. A year can be a long time, and secrets are there to be told.
’Finishing the album was a definite highlight. After all the hype it felt like we were already writing our second album, but getting it finished meant we knew how to sound in our heads and find out what we were about.’
Named after ‘Skip’ James, ’22-20 Blues’ they wear their influences on their pinstripe sleeves. Coming from a small village near Lincoln best demonstrates their influences, because quite simply, there weren’t any. ‘It wasn’t like we lived in Camden with people throwing records at us and I suppose we caught the fag end of Britpop. We just missed out on Oasis, so there wasn’t really anything for us. We heard some blues records and loved them, and got snobbish about the fact there wasn’t anything else.’
Bluesy but not quite the blues, their self titled debut album combines a lovelorn tenderness, of loss and want, but a darker side is unleashed. As you’ve probably guessed this isn’t porch and harmonica blues. It’s there in spirit, but musically, it’s more powerful and resonating and gives the blues a new reason to feel sorry for itself. Front man Martin Trimble’s roaming lyrics are delivered with contempt as the doldrums of bassist Glen Bartrup and drummer James Irving roll and hammer with purpose.
Latest single ’22 Days’ shows just how direct they can be. It’s diamond grinding diamond. (Visceral) vocals, and a pounding rhythm gives white noise a new polish. The cynical ‘Why don’t you do it for me’ gives folk guitar some high level voltage, a megaphone and passion, whilst during ‘Shoot your gun’ you can feel yourself sliding off your barstool, watching as your sour mash disappears way up high.
With influences such as Muddy Waters, Marc Bolan and Bob Dylan, 22-20’s seem unperturbed that they’ve unconsciously sculpted their own pilot sound. Martin’s song writing has a simple rhetoric that is answered with the pummelling music of his band mates, instead of his own personal battles.
‘I’ve always hated blues rock. Places would book blues bands who were really earnest whereas we were really direct. We never really tried to sound blues. Martin writes the songs and we play them….as blues musicians.’
But the burning question still remains! Too blues to be rock, and too rock to be blues. What will the record store kids do? Lump them in by the Von Bondies or bump them to the blues section? Or will they forever be damned to ‘Miscellaneous?’ On Glens own admission, they’re sound is at best ‘stand offish’ which in turn gives them their sense of aloof. In avertedly intense and indirectly accessible, potential listeners are invited to expand their musical mind and enter the world of blues.
After an enforced sabbatical of sorts, a full debut album on the shelves and an extensive touring schedule taking in Europe’s finest festivals, expectation rides high. Obviously not when you’re as grounded as they are.
’We have none at all. It’s good to be on the road and its great touring. We never planned on having office jobs so it’s all the better as long as a few people buy the album and get what we’re doing’.
For a band as industrious and designed them, you wonder where their problems come from. No nine to five grind, an up and coming band and soon the money will start to flow..
’Fucking hell there’s so much to choose from. I can ritually think of fifty things I hate daily...but at the hotel last night, it didn’t have any room service, so I had to eat four packets of cheese and onion crisps. I didn’t really want to do that.’
A ha! I knew it! Beneath the cool façade, beneath the diligent exterior, this is the blues. It may not be coke and hookers, or room service just yet, but there will no doubt be a few more whiskeys and rollies on the way. For anyone who missed them the first time round put the harmonica down but as for the A & R guys, enjoy your sleepless nights.
[ back ]
22-20s: Blues Thunder
The Independent 15.10.04
Sleaford proved too dull, and London was too rife with temptations, so maybe Oxford is the place if you're a young band wanting to live out the communal rock'n'roll lifestyle experiment, in the venerable tradition of Sun Ra's Arkestra or Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica-era Magic Band. It was in Oxford that the 22-20s immersed themselves in music while preparing their debut album, 22-20s. And when they weren't writing or rehearsing their own songs, they were drinking in records by their heroes, deep into the night.
Sleaford proved too dull, and London was too rife with temptations, so maybe Oxford is the place if you're a young band wanting to live out the communal rock'n'roll lifestyle experiment, in the venerable tradition of Sun Ra's Arkestra or Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica-era Magic Band. It was in Oxford that the 22-20s immersed themselves in music while preparing their debut album, 22-20s. And when they weren't writing or rehearsing their own songs, they were drinking in records by their heroes, deep into the night.
When I meet the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Martin Trimble, he looks the rock'n'roll part in raven-black jacket, spider-leg trousers and anteater boots, tousled hair drooping strategically over his eyes. Trimble is a reserved 21-year-old, but he's focused in his opinions and decisive in his vision for the band's future.
Later that night, he's in his element, down at the Zodiac on the run of alternative restaurants, bars and clubs that is Oxford's Cowley Road. It's a jammed home-town crowd. Just four nights into the tour, the foursome have already welded into a fearsome unit. Guitars are cranked up for a primitivist barrage of sound, but their individual parts are still discernible, retaining a melodic heart. James Irving's drums maintain a brutally primeval beat, sluiced around by the organ swirls of Charly Coombes. The lanky bassist Glen Bartup is a flailing presence, frequently encroaching on Trimble's body space.
The songs race past with a purposeful bullishness, the volume curve rising exponentially. Due to a balanced mix, all the rowdy elements are lovingly sculpted. There's a headbanging power, but numbers such as "Devil In Me", "Such a Fool" and "Why Don't You Do It For Me?" all have aggressive hook-lines.
The band's name is taken from the old "22-20 Blues", recorded by the Mississippi-born Skip James in the early 1930s. Although blues music is essential to the mood of the foursome, they are not directly of that genre, but they are its spiritual descendants.
In their Lincolnshire home town of Sleaford, the band started playing not long after they could walk. "When we were 14 or 15 we were actually gigging," Trimble says. "That was me and Glen [Bartup], the bass player. We played in a lot of blues bands. My uncle used to bring round a lot of blues records at Christmas - Skip James, Charley Patton. It's quite hard to get into that at the age of 13 or 14, but there was something about it..."
Trimble and Bartup were soon investigating the Chicago-based Chess label's wares, digging back into Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. "We had a little band going, and we were able to do that kind of stuff," Trimble recalls. "The Otis Rush song, "All Your Love", was the first one we tried, and it sounded great. Really loose.
"It was just more fun to do that kind of thing, more expressive at that time. I didn't feel any inclination to write songs. That was the next best thing, having these backbones to songs we could mess around with. That looseness stuck with us. When we got to 18, playing the blues scene was so uncool. They seemed to have straitjacketed blues into this kind of cabaret thing. We wanted to be a band like Oasis or The Stone Roses."
Trimble wanted his blues to be more threatening, although it's curious he doesn't mention the likes of Jon Spencer, The Gun Club or The Stooges as benchmarks. He was also listening to country music, making a start with the obvious Hank Williams and Johnny Cash records.
"It's a pretty guttural form of music, not something you play in the corner of a restaurant. It annoys me that in record shops, you've got blues and jazz categorised together as a similar form of music. I always think of blues going in the Stones or T Rex way, and then into punk music. It should be about the groove and the lyrics. It shouldn't be about how fast you can play the guitar."
Eventually, The White Stripes and The Von Bondies have to come up. "The White Stripes kicked open the door. They were a great antidote to the records that were coming out in '98, '99. The guitars sounded like they'd gone through a million processes to be where they are. When the Stripes came out, they sounded so raw. They really showed that you can play a guitar and it sounds like a guitar. They showed that you can still be creative within the tightest of parameters. That's always been our ethos. All I want to do is write about what's happened to me."
In the early days, Trimble and Bartup employed session drummers. Then they met James Irving. "It was the first time someone came in and unconditionally wanted to play music. It was the first time we were able to ring up and just get together that night, to work on something Glen and I had done in the day."
Irving was heading for college in London, but that was short-lived; the band were beginning to get noticed by the NME. Before long, they all wound up in the capital. "London's so much more cosmopolitan," Trimble says. "You don't get black or Asian people walking down the streets in Sleaford. It's an RAF mentality, very anti-homosexual, very anti-asylum-seekers, very anti-everything.
"We wanted to move to London so we could go out and see bands every night. We had six months there, and we were just going out and getting wrecked. We couldn't really write, because we were in a kind of big flat complex. It was so expensive, and we were right next to professionals who'd put letters through our door complaining about our music. So we moved to this little village called Milton, about 20 miles from Oxford, in a cottage in the middle of nowhere. We spent the whole summer staying up until five, listening to records."
The communal rock'n'roll living situation was an important factor. "We see it as a lifestyle thing. If we're not touring, then we're listening to music, or writing. I've got a romantic illusion of travelling around, doing gigs and writing songs. I know that's the most honest thing you can do."
For the rest of the year, the band are finishing off Europe, then travelling to the USA, Australia and Japan. Their set has expanded from 30 to 55 minutes.
Six months ago, the 22-20s moved to Oxford because they were tired of driving to the service station for cigarettes. "We're pretty restless, really. We'll probably move again in a couple of weeks..."
Now, the commune has divided in half. Trimble lives with Bartup, and Irving lives with the new fourth member Charly Coombes, the keyboardist, who's actually been gigging with the original trio for a while but has only recently been inducted as a permanent 22-20.
"We don't just want to be a thrash band, although we like playing loud. We're interested in melody." Martin mentions Bob Dylan in 1966, and also gives the nod to Gram Parsons. "We'll lay down the track completely live. With the album, we wanted to get the energy and kind of sound you only get when all four play at once. We didn't want to be precious about not adding extra guitars or keyboards. We wanted to be experimental with the sounds, building on a template of a proper live take."
In the beginning, Trimble poured out his inner demons. He's completely dedicated. "Everything you do should be documented in songs. The way we dress, even the records we listen to; it's all part of it. It's an ongoing thing. We don't care if we don't sell millions of records, but we want to keep doing it for 10 years and make five great records, and have lots of fun doing it. We might get chucked after two, I don't know..."
The debut album had been delayed for many months, subjected to endless mixing, which had frustrated the band. Jason Pierce of Spiritualized has remixed their "Hold On" number for limited-edition release in the new year. He's succeeded in almost completely dismantling the original tune, reshaping it as a wordless, abstracted meditation. "I don't recognise it," Trimble laughs. "It's really different, but I love it."
The 22-20s already have three songs virtually completed for the next album. Trimble sees the new material as a continuation, not representing any radical shift in direction. "Maybe it's a little more flippant. One of my regrets about the first album is that it gave too much, it was so direct. I'd like to hide a few things on this next one, make it a little less obvious. I got so depressed writing that stuff. I don't want to put out a negative record for the sake of it."
The 22-20s tour to the end of this month. Their debut album is out on Heavenly Recordings/EMI
[ back ]
Last Broadcast 23.10.04
How's the tour been going so far?
Glen: It's been sold out pretty much every night! Now the album's out everyone knows all the songs, so it's been really good.
What have the audiences been like?
Glen: Best we've ever had on a tour. We used to do a kind of hit-and-run tour, now its more...
Martin: There's something for everyone!
How would you sum up your music to someone who hadn't heard it before?
Glen: We always play as a blues band, but our aim is just to write pop songs.
Which other bands and musicians have influenced you?
Glen: I suppose Dylan, a lot of blues stuff, T-Rex, the Stones...
Are you pleased with how the album's been doing?
Glen: We're never going to sell massive amount of records, but we're not too fussed about it really. The people coming to the gigs certainly seem to have a lot more goodwill than we've seen before...
You've toured quite a lot this year, with the NME Tour at the start of the year and supporting Supergrass, Jet, Kings Of Leon... - is playing live the most enjoyable part of being in the band for you?
Martin: I think so, we're always happier when we're on the road. It helps with writing too, it's a lifestyle thing, and we really enjoy playing gigs.
Glen: I mean, sometime you get pissed off if you have a bad gig...
Martin: I think we're one of those bands that are better off spending nine months of the year on tour and three months in the studio than the other way round. We're not just a band who love music. Lyrically, I think we really have something to say, maybe not on all the songs, but certainly on enough to worry about wanting to get out every night and sing them.
D'you know how many shows you've played this year?
Glen: Not a clue...
Martin: Our tour manager will know - how many live shows have we played this year?
Tour Manager: Um.
Martin: There you go, from the top!
Tour Manager: Maybe fifty odd, a hundred? How many days in the year?
How were the festivals you played?
Martin: Leeds, Leeds was really good, and Fuji Rock was really good...
How did you go down with the Japanese audience at Fuji Rock?
Martin: Well, we were told they were going to be really quiet, but they really got into it, it was brilliant.
You've had a really successful year, what's been the highlight so far?
Glen: After one show we played in Manchester, this dad turned round to his little lad and said "that's rock and roll, son", made me laugh!
[ back ]
Claire Foss spoke to Glen Bartup, Bass player with the 22-20's
Left Lion 10.04
"I fucking hate rock music. Anything with delusions of grandeur really. Anything that's supposedly credible. Prog rock is the worst. Pink Floyd is bloody terrible. But I hate rock music. Be it Limp Bizkit and all that sort of shit today or Deep Purple in the 70s, I detest rock, it's earnest and it's terrible."
Glen Bartup (below) has plenty to be chuffed about. He's not in a rock band, for a start. And at just 21 years young, the 22-20s have pretty much cornered the market for trendy blues music. In a world of flaccid pulpy indie and repro-rock, the music buying public can't get enough of their refreshing blues sound.
Hailing from rural Lincolnshire, famous more for its sausages than the humming of harmonicas and guitars, afforded the young blues aspirants a certain freedom. "Me and Martin [the lead singer], we just listened so stuff in our bedrooms, simple as that. We had no one telling us what bands to listen to, which had it's good points and its bad points. We didn't go out on Friday nights, we were a bit sad like that, we just sat around and listened to records."
The band was born young, ("I think it was one Christmas, me and Martin both got little guitars and a little amp and then started at about 15"), and quickly found themselves a public. Unfortunately, they weren't always appreciative of the young talent. "We started playing the working men's clubs up North. We got into blues and we were playing old Muddy Waters and Buddy Guys songs, stuff like that. It was alright at first, because we were getting paid money to do gigs and we were quite excited, but it was a bit `cabaret'. We had people telling Martin to put his guitar behind his head and pick a pretty girl from the crown and get her on stage.
"Everyone who came to our gigs was a 50-year-old man with a moustache so I'm not sure where he'd have found that pretty girl. I think they were quite intrigued about us because they'd never seen people our age playing that sort of music. I think they hoped that as we got older we'd clean up our act and turn down the amps and get all the banter going with the crowd. But I think in their eyes we got worst and worst as we went on."
Luckily a record deal rescued them from the world of bad blues and pork pie hatted men and packed them off on tour. "When we first got a publishing deal a couple of years ago when we somehow got sent out on tour with Supergrass round Scandinavia and Paris. On the second night in Paris we played at a place called the Trabendo. I just remember it, because we'd been signed and two weeks later we were in Paris and we were doing this gig and it went down great and we were going out afterwards. I think that was probably my moment, if I look back on any moment and think, "Fucking hell, this has actually happened". I was jaded immediately after that actually."
To sing the blues properly, misery flowing from every orifice, you need to have suffered a bit. And despite being really very nice boys, the 22-20s do a pretty good line in modern misanthropy. Leftlion caught up with bassist Glen Bartup for a chat about Bob Dylan and cheesy pasties.
Not only jaded, but also pushed too far too soon. Early successes meant the band had trouble keeping up with expectations. "We had some pretty shoddy nights. We would do a 17 minute set and we were headlining. I think that was the period when the hype and the pressure to deliver got to us a little bit and we weren't really in control of what we were doing any more. We only had three songs when we got that demo and I think we lost control of it for six months, culminating in that tour.
"There was a gig in Liverpool that was absolutely ruined, it was dreadful. I was pissed off my face and Martin was singing and I was stood in between Martin and the audience in front of the microphone with my back to Martin for two or three songs. There were some great nights on that tour as well. But that's what happens when you all get really hammered: some nights are great and some nights it just all goes wrong."
And now? "We went back to Paris and did some interviews a couple of weeks ago and we just realised how much fun we had on that tour and how miserable we are these days but never mind. Nashville was a really great gig. We did a good gig in Lyon last year and just everything we did this year was brilliant." Miserable indeed. Any more good fortune and the 22-20s' next album will be a Disney soundtrack. Still, there are the old chestnuts of loneliness and absent love to get them by. "I get really bored at home. Time off is just a nightmare for us really, we tend to fall apart a little bit. We just like being in the studio or on a tour bus.
"I don't have any friends to speak of. Actually I was trying to work out last night whether I had any friends and I realised that everyone I would consider to be a friend either works for the band or is in the band. And then I even found myself trying to reason that my sister could be counted as a friend. It would be great to see my girlfriend more because I don't see her enough."
Of course, no one can be miserable all the time, no matter how productive, lucrative and damned entertaining the lyrical byproducts. Luckily, the band love touring. And Glen's life is a better place for seeing Bob Dylan at Fleadh this summer. Post-gig, he likes to indulge in a cheese and onion pasty ("about as un rock and roll as you can get really"). But do us a favour lads. Try not to enjoy it too much.
The 22-20's are playing at the Rescue Rooms on Thursday 21st October
[ back ]
Boredom Blues Of The 22-20s
Up and coming band the 22-20s have boredom in their home town of Sleaford, Lincolnshire to thank for triggering an interest in blues music - which critics say they are updating for a modern audience.
The group, together with bands such as The White Stripes and The Kills, are seen as spearheading a music trend that is redefining blues music for the 21st Century.
Bassist Glen Bartup told BBC World Service's The Music Biz programme that discovering blues music had been a "bit of a fluke," after they got hold of records bought by the uncle of frontman Martin Trimble at Christmas.
"We used to have jam sessions playing 12-bar blues stuff, and then we went out and bought a load of records ourselves," he added.
"It was basically that there is nothing to do in Sleaford, and we were two very bored young lads. We discovered we liked something and threw ourselves into it."
'Power and charisma'
The 22-20s were the subject of a major bidding war earlier this year.
Their first album was collection of live tracks. They left it until September this year to launch their debut studio album.
Bartup said the way the group played was always going to be blues-influenced, because that was the way they had learned to play their instruments.
"We did that from 13 to 18, and we did nothing else," he said.
"We were around at the fag-end of Britpop, and we saw videos of Muddy Waters live in the 70s and things like that - the power and the charisma.
"It was power, but it was in the control of the band - they had it and they could make the music just whenever they wanted, they could lower it and it was always understated, with a real punch to it."
Bartup said that Such A Fool - the group's first release, a limited 7" vinyl record in 2003 - was the first time they had captured this.
However, he also insisted the track was not a pointer for how the band wanted to sound, as it had been massively influenced by the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street - sometimes described as that group's greatest album.
"It can be too much fun playing the Stones in rehearsal," Bartup said.
"We went in and put down Such A Fool and Devil In Me first. They weren't how we wanted to sound, we just spent too much time playing together and having fun.
"But we wouldn't be together as a band the way we are now if we hadn't had that six months of grooving and just playing around with that kind of stuff."
But Bartup does not expect the blues sound to stay in fashion for long.
"These things always go in cycles," Bartup said.
"For me and Martin, when we were 15 in Sleaford, listening to a Muddy Waters record - what on Earth would make us want to listen to Travis?
"I assume you get bored of things. If people get tired then they want something that's direct - I suppose that's why punk came around in the 70s.
"It'll happen time and time again - I'm sure there'll be a lot of shoe-gazing and manufactured pop will come again in 10 years and dominate again."
[ back ]
ON THE COUCH WITH: 22-20s
Access All Areas 12.04
UK band the 22-20s recently made their way through Australia having released their self-titled debut studio album earlier this year. With an obvious blues influence the band took their name from Delta bluesman Skip James' piano-led 22-20's Blues. Access All Areas.net.au sat down with founding member and bass player Glen Bartup, and drummer James Irving about their influences, album and how things are going.
Access All Areas.net.au: How do you describe your own music?
Glen: We don't really know how to answer that. We never really thought about it. For about four years me and Martin were in a band when we were about fourteen, and for about three or four years we just listened to blues and played blues and, by about 18 we'd got into [Bob] Dylan which lead us onto all sorts of music really and we realised the directness of blues that we first got into, you could find that in country, you could find that in Mo-town and three minute pop songs and [we] got into things like T-Rex and The [Rolling] Stones and The Clash and just anything that was direct and had a point to being written. It didn't matter if it was a three-minute pop song. Around about that age, about 18, Martin started writing songs; just because I s'pose he felt like he had stuff that he wanted to write about for the first time. And so we never actually had any conscious thought of kind of what we were trying to do although there we always used kind of blues songs and that sort of vibe and used them as a template and kind of just done sets with those sort of things and then Martin started writing songs after doing a few years of that and then had a period where he listened to quite a lot of new stuff. So we never actually once sat down and consciously thought what kind of a band it was going to be it was just a case of this is the first time we've ever written songs and this is kind of what we'll play in our set now, we'll play our own stuff and not their stuff. You could tell us what the sound is.
Access All Areas.net.au: Well, my first impression was that it's an older style of rock sound, would you agree with that?
James: I think the roots of it are more in the past but I don't think the sound of it is necessarily harking back to any kind of 60's revival.
Glen: I don't think it's necessarily in line with a lot of bands that are coming out at the moment. But it's almost seen as more advanced, as more progressive to be influenced by someone like Radiohead or Coldplay then you're being more progressive than if you're listening to Johnny Cash or Muddy Waters or The Clash or something. And I don't really see why that is. Obviously there's kind of today, if you've got sort of and 80's kind of meaning then you're described as very current but we have an opinion that you can't do anything new in music anymore, it's all been done. You're not going to invent a new guitar sound or invent a new style, really the only thing you can do is write songs if you have a reason to write them and write melodies and do what you do and try and write songs with a reason for them being written. And I think if it's a good song it's always going to be contemporary and if it's not a good song you can probably say well that's retro. All you can do these days is try and write songs that are true to yourself and express yourself in a way that you can understand the language and if we listen to a lot of blues first and then stuff like The Stones and T-Rex that was because we has a certain romantic view of that world, and the impact on the lifestyle in those groups, and if that's at the satisfaction of today looking back on that kind of stuff, well that's a comment on today in itself. We just write songs and hopefully if the second album's full of good songs then people will consider it contemporary. Good songs someone will always listen to in twenty years time and crap songs people will probably listen to it and say that sounds like it's about thirty years old.
Access All Areas.net.au: How do you see yourselves compared to you contemporaries?
Glen: I don't know. I don't think we really sound like anyone else that's around at the moment. But I think, in about '97 and that sort of time when we started playing in bands in Britain there wasn't a lot going on musically, and the radio was a bit crap really.
James: Pop had kind of filled in the void that Britpop had left.
Glen: We missed that kind of first thing when Oasis came out and that time. We just sort of missed that. And I think there was kind of a kind of slump after it, which, I suppose there always are on these kind of things. We were living in a little town in the middle of Lincolnshire and happened to get a Muddy Waters record and really like it and then got really into blues and stuff like that whereas I think maybe other people in Camden played old Clash records and they got into that. I think there's a lot of bands at the moment that have got some interesting influences and I think there's a lot of bands that would be into music that wasn't around just in the last five years. I suppose there's a certain similarity there. But a lot of people our age that started bands at our age are influenced by music that was around twenty years ago or more. In terms of direction I don't think we're too similar to anyone. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing.
Access All Areas.net.au: Would you deliberately try to avoid a direction similar to your contemporaries?
Glen: I guess the difference is if song writing is a conscious thing or a subconscious thing. If you start thinking we don't want to sound like that, we don't want to sound like that kind of taints the writing process; you're putting constraints on yourself that you don't really need. Writing songs is a purely creative thing and that comes through what you've been listening to or how you're feeling that day or whatever's around you, and that could be contemporary music or that could be old music. We're not going to say that we're not going to write like someone else, it's just what happens happens.
James: I think we're not, I don't think we're going to stick our heads in the ground and say we're not going to write a song that'd be played on the radio, we'd love to write a song that'd be played on the radio, but I don't think there's anything deliberate about it.
Access All Areas.net.au: So, tell me about this album.
Glen: It was recorded down in Cornwall in England. And Brendan Lynch produced it and we got him because he'd worked with Primal Scream and that was what caught our ear when a few names were bandied around. We kind of thought as Primal Scream as their albums always sound pretty fresh and I think they all sound pretty individual and I think we didn't want an album that sound like it had been made, we didn't want an album that sounded like it'd been made in the 60s. I don't even know what microphones we used or anything like that all we wanted to hear it coming out of the speakers and sounding how we wanted it to sound. Brendan was good for that because he had the references we had but at the same time he could make it sound quite fresh.
James: There was no getting away from the fact that you were making the album, everyone was living in the same house. You couldn't escape. To get a boat to the mainland you were all. There was a common force to get it done.
Access All Areas.net.au: How does song writing happen for the 22-20s?
Glen: Martin writes the songs, he writes the lyrics. Some are different; some come more from playing together in rehearsal. I think we've always had the opinion that the better songs are where the lyrics come first and the crapper songs are where the music comes first and you sort of tag the lyrics on later. So, Martin writes the lyrics so he'll usually plan a melody and some chords in mind with the lyrics that he's written, and sometimes it changes quite a lot in the rehearsal room other times it is pretty much done in ten minutes from when he brings it to us and it doesn't change at all. But Martin writes the songs. And Charly, actually since Charly joined he's bringing a lot of stuff. So maybe Charly will get his grubby little fingerprints over it, but we'll wait and see.
Access All Areas.net.au: Having mentioned the Rolling Stones as a great influence, who else do you feel has influenced your music and style?
James: [Bob] Dylan's a big one.
Glen: Yeah Dylan, T-Rex, Primal Scream. Anything, The Clash, The Smiths. We were into the Blues when we were younger and me and Martin were really ignorant about it and just like oh, this is the only music and then hearing Dylan and kind of realised that Blues wasn't the only music that was direct, it wasn't the only music that had a kind of romance to it and had a songwriter behind it and there'd be songs that were written because the person who wrote them needed to write them, did that mean that it just had a catchy chorus or that they liked doing that or…?
Access All Areas.net.au: What about from the current crop?
Glen: I think The Strokes are a really good band, The White Stripes are a really good band, and the Sleepy Jackson, I think that album was brilliant. So stuff I've always though was pretty spiritual is good stuff. Bits and pieces. For fifty years albums have been made that have still got a pretty direct connection to music around today. I think it's more strange if a band quotes thirty albums that were around in the last two years. I hate music connoisseurs, there's a fairly narrow list of bands that we actually like, and a strong bond that's between them all I think. We don't listen to it because it's the style; it's just what we like.
Access All Areas.net.au: Where did the Blues influence originally come from?
Glen: Martin's uncle just used to bring down records at Christmas and he heard them. I think that we kind of came from a little town and there's no scene and there's no bands and stuff on the radio stuff that wasn't particularly great at that time. It wasn't like growing up in London where people would be able to throw loads of great records at you. So we found Blues and at first it was kind of just playing it and then as we got a bit older we got a bit more in love with the romance of it and all that sort of thing. Yeah, I think we just lived in a small town and kind of got ourselves in a little bubble and that was all we knew and the music we're drawn to now is still kind of bares out sort of things, that kind of romance, songwriters and touring and direct songs, and also gigs that are pretty exciting. So, we'd have always been drawn to that but that happened to be the thing that we heard and be our first love and there weren't load of people tapping us on the shoulder saying oh, by the way The Smiths are great as well, so it was only as we got older and got into Dylan that we found that for ourselves. So I think that was the main reason we walked around when we were fifteen and said all other music was shit, we just hadn't heard it all yet.
Access All Areas.net.au: Was that the original direction you were looking to go in?
Glen: We never really thought about that. We were just fourteen/fifteen booking gigs and that was what we liked playing and that was what we listened to, so we just did that. The only time we ever consciously thought of direction was when Martin wrote the first few songs at eighteen, we'd seen a Dylan thing from 1966, a documentary about when he came to England and first went electric and the band just looked great, they were all in suits and they all looked fantastic and Dylan looked fine up the front and the songs were brilliant and we were like, fuck, this is amazing, so I suppose we always had that kind of sound, like to do our kind of impersonation of that was what we were trying to do. And just sort of seeing festivals on TV and stuff that was going on, seeing bands and thinking that's just not exciting, that's not like watching Muddy Waters, that's not like watching Dylan so we always wanted to, the direction in those days was just, well lets not play blues anymore Martin had songs that he wanted to write and things he wanted to write about but lets make it exciting and lets make it kind of dark and try to make it a bit scary. So that was the sort of direction. We're not very scary though but that's what we tried to do.
Access All Areas.net.au: Do you prefer studio work to performing live?
James: We were all brought up as live musicians really. As you say, when you were fourteen…
Glen: When you're fourteen doing gigs you're still only doing probably one a week, it's not like going on tour.
James: I think for us it's always been a balance. We like touring a lot and we like playing live but we don't want to be sat on our arse doing nothing, we want to be in the studio and writing and creating new stuff.
Glen: I think it's just, if you're on tour for a while you've usually got a few new songs, and think oh, we really want to go and record these songs and then you've been in the studio for a month you think, oh, we really want to go play these songs live. I think we've been better so far live than in the studio, I think it's just because that's what we knew better so we feel more comfortable with that. But, depends how it goes really. Maybe we will get sick of it in a year and say we're just a studio band.
Access All Areas.net.au: Where are you looking to move in the future?
Glen: We started off with songs like Such A Fool and that was in the early days when it was just me and Martin and then James, that was the sort of sound we wanted and when we first got Charly, and Charly had listened to a lot of different stuff to us but we kind of came together in the middle with the Stones. For quite a while when we first got Charly all we did was jam a lot of Rolling Stones stuff and things like that because that was the middle ground that we all knew and was what worked. And then when we did the album we put down Such A Fool and things like that to start, so you go oh, hang on this is what excited us at the start and then sort of followed that path for the album, but I think we'd spent six months jamming songs with good choruses and catchy hooks and I think if we could somehow do what we were trying to do in the first place, which was make direct songs and dark songs, and if we could give them a few poppy choruses and things like that we'd be very happy, give it a bit of a twist and not be so earnest and not be so direct. I think that's what we'd like to do. Just write some good choruses, that'd be good.
Access All Areas.net.au: Is there a song that you feel stands alone as a representation of the 22-20s?
Glen: I think Such A Fool is the one, but that was the first one we'd written so maybe we look at that with rose tinted glasses. I think that's the one that consciously in our minds for the second album that we might be trying to better. That's the point where we'd be quite excited about a new song when we kind of think, oh it's even better than that. I think that sums up what we were about when we first started and the kind of music we were wanting to make.
Access All Areas.net.au: Do you feel you have achieved what you wanted to from this first album?
Glen: Ummm, yeah, I think we're pretty happy with it.
James: The thing about a debut album is you go in there with a collection of songs and for the first time you're trying to record definitive versions of those songs that are there forever, they're going to be your debut album. And we did that. We made an album that sounds like an album.
Glen: In England when we first got spotted there was loads of hype and this big record company and things like that…from putting down songs that we didn't think anyone would ever hear, we had sort of fifteen opinions on every demo…and it wasn't just us being selfish and just writing songs anymore and we were thrown off by that. I think, since then we've been trying to reclaim it, and I think the first album did that a bit and I think we made an album that we're pretty happy with, so I think we're happy to kind of, the main thing with that is that we got an album out and got that pressure that we'd put onto our own heads, kind of exorcised that a bit by getting an album out and being pretty happy with it and I think now we can write songs for the second one with a bit more freedom and a bit more confidence. But it might mean that the second album's actually crap. It might be that the first album was alright because it was quite fragile because we were quite worried about it, maybe if we get confident we'll end up with fifteen minute guitar solos and all that kind of shit so I don't know, it might go wrong.
Access All Areas.net.au: How do you choose what goes onto a debut album?
James: The first things that we laid down when we went into the studio were 22 Days, Such A Fool, Devil In Me and Shoot Your Gun with the mindset that from a career point it was the obvious place to get started. From that the sound of the album developed directly between the band and the producer, Brendan [Lynch]…a darkish theme to the album. There was only a couple of things that we laid down that we thought really didn't fit with that.
Glen: It was a lot of the Stones-y sort of jams that sounded great in rehearsal…but then putting them down and sitting them along side Such A Fool you think, well actually that's got a lot more point than that has, that's just us having a good time in rehearsal whereas that was written for a proper reason and has a reason to be there. But we throw away too much, and we've been on tour this year and you get loads of ideas that you're really excited about but you can't go in the studio for the next three months because you're on tour and by the time you get to the studio you say, no it's shit, because you've picked holes in it. I think we cull way too much. I think it was a case of squeezing out ten that we didn't hate rather than sitting down sixteen and thinking, oh, which ones are we going to get rid of because we're the most stupid band in the world, we get rid of it all before we put it down, we get an idea, think that's great then the next day we say no, it's shit, that's shit, we won't bother with that, and never really give it a chance. Even Such A Fool, three months after we put that down we weren't doing that in a set at that point in time, we thought that was shit as well, it was only when other people came along and said it was good we finally dared sit in front of a speaker and listen to it and actually thought, oh no no, that's alright.
Access All Areas.net.au: So, do you feel you're overly critical of yourselves?
James: Bands are really. You kind of get self-involved and always think the grass is always greener on the other side.
Glen: Martin said, in an interview that made me laugh, I wooed myself into writing songs and now I've wooed myself out of it, I think that sort of sums it up really.
Access All Areas.net.au: How are things for you in the UK?
Glen: It's good. The first album got pretty good reviews and the gigs, the last tour went really well, so I think it's all really good there.
James: It's building nicely, isn't it?
Glen: Yeah, I don't think we really think about it too much. I think we were really happy that we're no longer the band that got loads of hype and an anticipated first album, but we're actually just a band that's in existence and actual people come to our gigs because they like us rather than because they've read something and are going to stand at the back with their arms folded and say, come on then, if you're great, impress us. People come to our gigs now because they've heard our album and they like it, so I think that's a way healthier position to be in as a band. We're a lot happier being like that.
Perhaps you’ve heard it before, but it’s a story that bears repeating. It’s about early promise being fulfilled. About capturing the moment, and great songs. It’s about not knowing the destination, but wanting to get started on the journey anyway. It is, of course, the story of the great debut album – and it’s one that’s currently being told about Lincoln’s 22-20s.
Recorded with Brendan Lynch (Paul Weller, Primal Scream), at Sawmills, Cornwall and in Wembley, North London, the band’s ‘22-20s’ is a debut album that captures a young trio approaching the raw materials of classic rock ‘n’ roll – to name a choice few, love, lust and frustration – and making them their own. Their first release, last year’s live EP ‘05/03’ showed a group in love with the spirit of the blues. The full-length ‘22-20s’, meanwhile, sees that spirit loving them right back.
“We wanted to make a rock’n’roll record that wasn’t about wearing Converse and becoming junkies,” says the band’s 21-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist, Martin Trimble. “And I think we did that. There’s a lot of bands coming out today who look like they’re made to be on a Gap advert, which is all quite unnecessary to us. I think what we do is pretty pure, really.”
Begun in November last year, ‘22-20s’ is on fire with that purity of purpose: to make a record that would do justice to Martin’s songs, and best convey the rawness of the interplay between himself and Glen Bartup (21, bass), James Irving (20, drums) and new member Charly Coombes (keyboards) who joined as a full-time member during recording. But though there’s plenty here to evidence the influence of some of the band’s favourite records – namely Buddy Guy’s stripped-down ‘Live At The Checkerboard Lounge’ – and to bear favourable comparison with other classy debuts, like the first album by The Rolling Stones, the group are not hell-bent on the pursuit of some luddite dream of authenticity.
“If the Stones had been recording now, I think they’d have gone for the best possible sound,” says Martin. “And like the Stones, I hope we go away and find a style that’s totally our own, and go and write an album as good as Exile On Main Street.”
It’s not a far-fetched an idea. The 22-20s, after all, have got being totally on their own pretty much in the blood. Formed three years ago and named after the Delta bluesman Skip James’s piano-led ‘22-20 Blues’, this was a group that from the start was reading from its own fairly eccentric map. Having grown up in admiration of the blues records brought round by his Uncle at Christmas, Martin and Glen had played for several years on the domestic and European blues scene as a duo, backed by session drummers. When one departed for a more profitable soul gig elsewhere, a position was left vacant for newcomer James to fill.
It was a fortuitous moment in a promising time. Though still with little in the way of a musical peer group around, there were still inklings that the times were, for them at least, beginning to change.
“We weren’t bluesy enough for the blues scene,” says Martin. “We did these festivals in Germany where we played songs we’d written like ‘Devil In Me’ and ‘22 Days’. One time a bloke came up to us, and said ‘I Like what you do, but it’s rock ‘n’ roll not blues, so I can’t listen to it.’ That kind of attitude.
“But on that tour we played our old drummer this tape we had of the White Stripes doing a Peel session. He said, ‘Christ, it’s a fucking racket!’ But for a guitar band, you can’t underestimate the impact that had. They’re an important band.”
Encouraged, if still pretty much alone, after a six month break the group spent the money they earned from their unrewarding blues gigs on going into the studio to record. Sending the resultant tape to venues, rather than record companies, word quickly spread of the group’s formidable live reputation, and having made an immediate convert in the form of Heavenly records boss Jeff Barrett, the group signed with his label to release a limited-edition single ‘Such A Fool’, which was followed up swiftly by ‘05/03’.
Since then the group have retreated from the publicity that surrounded their deal, to concentrate on their songwriting, and, developing at their own pace, on making ‘22-20s’ the most representative album possible.
It’s been worth the wait. Mixed in the US by Rich Costey, songs like’ Devil In Me’, ‘Hold On’, ‘Such A Fool ‘previous single ‘Why Don’t You Do It For Me’ and dark, thunderous Top 30 single ‘Shoot Your Gun’ show a group confident in their abilities, but also anxious to move things on, to show what else they can do besides.
“We wanted it to sound intense and quite dark” smiles Martin. “Most of the songs are about insecurity, but I think there’s a fine line between that and self-pity. ‘Shoot Your Gun’ is the kind of place we’re headed next. It’s got those psychedelic, run-down chords, and it’s not quite so bluesy.
“We wouldn’t like to be tagged as just being a blues band,” he continues. “In blues, everything after a certain point became fixated on the guitar, when before it had been about the voice, the heart and the soul of it. When you listen to ‘Dirt’ by Iggy Pop you can really relate to that primal thing. What we do is personal, and it has that same thread running through it – it’s just more honest that way.”
Heart. Soul. Honesty. These are all key issues when you’re thinking about ‘22-20s’ and the band that made it. As such, while Martin’s keen to stress he thinks ‘22-20s’ is pretty good, as something of a restless spirit, he says it’s the idea of staying on the road and playing the music live that he remains happiest with.
“I’ve not got people I have to stay at home for,” he says, smiling.
“But it’s not all doom and gloom…”
It certainly isn’t. The blues might still get a seat at Martin’s table – but here it’s the 22-20s who run the game.
[ back ]
The Blues Had a Baby...
Event Guide 12.01.05
The 22-20s play kick-ass blues-inspired rock 'n' roll that takes absolutely no prisoners. Their recently released debut album, '22-20s' has received much critical acclaim and soon they bring their blistering live show to the subterranean confines of The Hub. The Event Guide caught up with a freshly showered Glen Bartup to get some of the low down on the band that you would be a fool to miss.
How did the 22-20s come into being?
Well, me and Martin have known each other since we were about 11-years old. We lived in the same village as each other when we were 14 and both got guitars at the same Christmas. We played in our bedrooms for a few years. By 15 we were really into the blues, through an Otis Redding song called 'All Your Love', and just played the blues from then on.
Who had been the biggest influences on you from the blues world?
Albert King and Buddy Guy and people like that, and Muddy Waters was always a big one. We just worked our way back from there to Skip James and the like. From that we spent a few years on this kind of circuit up in the North of England where they would put on a lot of blues bands. We gravitated towards that, calling into places and trying to get gigs. But by the time we were 18 we were pretty disillusioned with it. We were using older drummers that we were having to pay to rehearse. It was all sort of Blues Brothers and guys in pork pie hats. There was a point at which we felt we had no right to sing 'Sweet Home Chicago' or anything like that. We then got into Dylan and Marc Bolan and realised that these were people who had been influenced by the blues but who wrote three minute pop songs. We also started to feel that we wanted to write songs, which before had never been the case.
It is remarkable that this album is so powerful and you are still so relatively young.
We have played a lot of gigs over the past few years, and really learned how to play as a band. Maybe if we had just been doing Oasis covers some of the lessons we learned might never have occurred to us.
What was the catalyst that transformed the 22-20s from a blues band into such a powerful rock band?
We had gone over to Holland and Belgium to play a small tour of blues venues and we were asked not to play our own songs because they said that they had booked a blues band and not a rock band. We had a year of discontent with what we were doing, and that was the moment that we came back and said fuck this we're wasting our time. But then we found James (Irving, the drummer) and we started trying to book gigs in places where young people went, as opposed to places where the audience was in its 50s. We had been making a lot of money, and that allowed us record our own stuff. When we sat down to write songs at 18 we weren't thinking about the 12 bar format, we just wanted to write our own songs. The way we play them, though, is always going to have that bluesiness to them. We were more concerned with Dylan circa 1966.
How did the connection to Heavenly Records come about?
I think we sent a demo to a venue that is owned by them and the owner heard it and it all became a bit of a blur for six months as the hype took off. We signed a publishing deal with them first and then six months later we signed the record deal with them as well. We all wished that we could cut the period out because it definitely knocked us off kilter a bit.
This record has a lot of the power of bands like The Cramps and The Stooges, and, closer to home, the band Dr. Feelgood.
Actually the gig where Heavenly first saw us we were supporting Wilko Johnson. To us blues rock has always been very earnest and we try to veer away from that. But blues took us to Dylan and Dylan took us to all sorts. It was weird because we discover Primal Scream through the Rolling Stones, rather than the other way around. 'Exile On Main Street' is an album that we love and listen to a lot. We like our music when it when it is dark and not so earnest.
22-20s play their rescheduled Dublin date at Whelan's, on Wexford Street, on Sunay 16th January 2005. Doors open at 8pm, admission €14. www.22-20s.com / www.mcd.ie / www.whelanslive.com / www.ticketmaster.ie
[ back ]
Floatation Suite 6.2.05
The 22-20s are an Oxford based four piece consisting of Front man Martin Trimble, Bassist Glen Bartup, Drummer James Irving and most recent addition keyboardist Charlie Coombes, brother of Supergrass' Gaz. The band has been the subject of a bidding war over them after only 3 songs, and this kind of uninvited hype can ruin a band - you just have to look at the anticipation for new material from the likes of the Darkness and Oasis which has seen everything they have done of late be criticised to the point of withdrawing it and sticking it in the cupboard with the ham radio, the unicycle and the Rubics cube. However, with such diverse influences as 30s blues to country and western, the 22-20s are unique and talented enough to justify the hype.
Rabbi Grice was granted an interview with Glen, although due to the injunction it had to be over the phone...
Firstly, how did you come up with the name "22-20s"?
It was actually a song by Skip James called "22-20 blues". Skip was a blues musician in the 30s, but played bitter twisted melodies, which we listened to almost exclusively until we were 17 or so, it was almost like an antidote to the rock scene.
Not a copyright friendly take on the slightly toxic 80s drink?
No, but I think my sister used to drink that in the park....
I know people that still do... What was the signing battle like for you?
It was surreal, there was so much hype around us and we had only written 3 songs, and there was around 30 different record companies checking us out and it was a bit overwhelming. We ended up being flown over to America and having all these dinners with the executives, but in the end we decided to sign with Jeff on Heavenly Songs because he didn't bullshit us. He called a spade a spade, if we had a bad gig, he would say so when everyone else was kissing our arse.
He seemed genuinely interested in our development, with respect to our careers in 10 years rather than 10 months time and that was a major reason we chose them. Were always going to have the hype on our shoulder though. If we make a shit second record, everyone is going to say that hype was all it was, whereas if we make an outstanding second album, everyone will be expecting it, so we can't win really.
What was it like working with Brendan Lynch?
Our first EP (Such a fool) was recorded live, to give people an idea of what we were like, and it was fairly short. With our first proper album, we wanted it to sound polished, not like it was recorded in a shed, and that professionalism is what Brendan brought to the table. He proved it with what he did with Primal Scream's stuff, and that's what he brought to us. He made it sound contemporary, which is great for us. Although he did try to play the harmonica on it which was just laughable!
What influences have you had over the years?
I've listened to everything from early blues like Skip James and Muddy Waters to stuff like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and T Rex, via stuff like Johnny Cash and Guy Clarke. It's hard to tie down one Influence, and I think I've brought elements of all of them to the band.
What's your ideal festival line up?
That's a hard one. In no particular order, Iggy Pop, Muddy Waters, Johnny Cash, The Clash, Smokey Robinson, Velvet Underground with Rolling Stones supporting Bob Dylan as the headliners. It would have to be Dylan around the time he first went electric in 1966 though. I'm not really into current music really, anything outside Oxford we don't pay much attention too, and as our music taste is quite eclectic, there is very little that catches our attention as it is.
What does your rider consist of?
Fags, vodka and beer mainly. We only recently realised that we had any control over our rider, but it'll be a few months before we're demanding white walls and hummus!
Do you see yourself with political aspirations like Chris Martin or Bono?
Not really, I always preferred Bob Dylan's personal songs to his political stuff, but if Martin (Trimble) decides to write one in the future fair play to him, but I personally don't think political songs are very good.
What was touring with the Kings of Leon and Jet like?
It was good, we were third on the bill with Kings of Leon headlining, and while we were only there a month, it was a real experience. I remember one night in Houston where we had played a gig, and I rang my girlfriend and must've been away more than the 10 minutes I thought I was, as when I rang the driver to find out where they were, I was informed they were two hours down the road. The lads weren't happy, but I blame the manager for fucking up the head count!
What was the Fuji Rock festival like?
It was really good. The fans were great, they knew all the words and they cheered at the right times too which was great. We were expecting them to be quiet, but they were so good we're heading back over there after our UK tour.
What do you do to pass the time on tour?
Some days we listen to music, other days we read the paper, others we just get drunk, but that's pretty much it. We all like football, I support QPR, and hopefully we're safe from relegation, we just need 40 points or so to be safe (at time of writing, they have 23 points so far). Also, Paul Furlong has turned great!
The Heskey-esque useless ex-Chelsea reject?
Yeah! He's fucking brilliant!
I find that hard to believe... do you have any memories of your nights in Newcastle?
Er... I only remember chasing my sister around the Central Station mortal drunk, with the police looking round disapproving. My sister has a really good friend up here, and is coming up for the gig so I'm sure we're going out afterwards.
How does it feel to have your ‘Such a Fool' EP selling for £20 on e-Bay?
I never knew that! It's my girlfriends birthday coming up, and I've got a couple lying around on my bedroom floor, ill get the lads to sign them and stick them on myself, maybe get £30 for them! I'll be laughing!
With their bluesy sound, you wouldn't be surprised to see them jamming in a smokey jazz club, with everyone in the crowd clicking their fingers and nodding in unison, but put down the stereotype handbook and check the band out, as they are going to be a big thing in 2005 - all they need is a favourable festival line up, and try and get a song high up into the charts and they have the potential to be big - you just have to look at the reports of the people in the know in the music industry.
Or they could just do it the quick way and cover themselves in Bling, hang out at China whites with strippers, and duet with Beyonce/Timberlake or Kanye West.....
On second thoughts, see you in a muddy field in June!
[ back ]
22-20s Prepare To Take On North America
Seven months after its U.K. release by Heavenly, the 22-20s self-titled debut will finally arrive in North America on April 19 via Astralwerks. The question for North American audiences will be: is this a rock band that tease the blues or a blues band that enjoys a little rocking out?
"I think what we wanted to do was to make a record with our kind of influences, which is a live-based blues thing; we didn't want to make a record that was based in 1966," lead singer/guitarist Martin Trimble tells Billboard.com. "When [producer] Brendan Lynch got involved I think he used the MC5 and the Stooges as a reference point but was still able to make it into a contemporary record."
Initial tracks were laid down in three weeks and mixed by Rich Costey (Secret Machines, Doves) in New York. Trimble says half the songs were worked out in the studio, a fact demonstrated by the album's mix of upbeat hooks and unpretentious, country-tinged ballads.
Recently, the band has taken inspiration from Bob Dylan's 1966 tour footage, Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and Willie Mason. "I've always been into simple songs; I've never been into 'massive' bands," muses Trimble.
Beginning at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, later this month, the band will hit the road with labelmate Graham Coxon. After a quick breather in April, 22-20s will be back in the States for a May-June tour. Trimble is quick to point out the challenge of making an impact in such a big country.
"Once you get some hype in London and Nottingham, that's it," he says. "They want you to be the biggest thing around. [But] it is such a small place that it's too much in a way. When you come to America, there are bands all over the place -- everything is spread out."
[ back ]
Austin Chronicle 18.3.05
At what point does a blues-influenced band start or stop being a "blues band"? That's the existential question plaguing the 22-20s' Martin Trimble, leader of one of the UK's most talked about, but perhaps mislabeled, new exports.
"There's early Stones or Yardbirds bluesy-ness in there somewhere," says the 21-year-old singer and guitarist, "but it's not like we're playing 12-bar or shuffles. We're a lot less conventional than that."
In fact, very little about the 22-20s' rise has been conventional. What started as a band too rock for London's blues scene and too bluesy for the Coldplay and Travis set ended up in a good ol' fashioned bidding war won on the strength of only three songs. They were the same three tunes used on a live EP, 05/03.
"We thought it better to admit we had just a handful of real songs and put them on a live album rather than put them at the center of an album loaded of bad songs," explains Trimble.
The band's proper Astralwerks debut, a self-titled affair huge already in the UK and hitting stores here next month, is equal parts Cream and Secret Machines, which is to say their intense version of modern blues comes enveloped in a wall of sound. Trimble is acutely aware that a strong SXSW showing is key to replicating the kind of excitement the 22-20s have generated across the pond. If only it were so easy.
"We can be fairly awful or really great," acknowledges Trimble. "There is no middle ground for us. The best gigs are the ones where things go wrong and we have to rescue it from the edge. That's what makes it a gig. And sometimes it falls apart beyond repair anyway. Either way it's a lot of fun, isn't it?"
[ back ]
Gritty Brits Show Blues Roots
The Eagle 3.4.05
The 22-20’s may have only been opening for former Blur-member Graham Coxon Wednesday night at the Black Cat, but to a coterie of cigarette smokers in the front row, they were the only band worth seeing. Glen Bartup, bassist for the 22-20’s, resembles a young Jarvis Cocker. He rocked his long, scraggly locks, full black suit and near-absent tush during the band’s 40-minute corker.
It’s unknown whether the band has really experienced all the heartache moaned about so bitterly on their self-titled debut, which they previewed at the show. Lyrics like “Where’d you learn to shoot your gun so straight?” prompt musings as to the young-looking chaps’ life experience.
“I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 19!” Bartup admitted.
That was merely two years ago.
The nubile, strapping 22-20’s are from Lincolnshire, England, and their accents are hardly crisp. Martin Trimble’s voice is gritty and soulful, like an aging bluesman from the Mississippi Delta.
The band has broken free of the standard Brit-rock sound and taken influences from traditional American blues. Trimble got Bartup into blues when they were both only 11 years old, which Bartup admits had them brimming with music snobbery.
“We decided that there was nothing else in the world,” he said.
Highlights from the gig included “Shoot Your Gun,” an angst-ridden rant against girls who’ve done them wrong, and “Such a Fool,” a song toted by Bartup as “the one they’re happy with.”
The band fulfills a tenacious oral fixation with Camel Lights, and Bartup loves hitting his sauce of choice, vodka. After their 2003 opening slot for Kings of Leon and Jet, this current tour and two club dates at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, they are well on their way to overdoing the rock star life. Recently Trimble has even taken up residence in New York City.
“Every time he’s been drunk he’s told me he’s never leaving,” Bartup said.
With the release of their album on April 19, the band is gaining popularity by the gig. It hasn’t reached the pinnacle of stardom, however.
“I don’t think we’ve had any stalkers yet,” Bartup said.
[ back ]
22-20s (Martin Trimble's debut album)
Guitar Player 1.6.05
On the 22-20s' self-titled Astralwerks debut, the depth of Martin Trimble's blues-drenched playing belies his limited years. It's hard to believe that the album's percussive, Dylan-esque jangle, and weeping, Muddy Waters-like slide sounds emanate not from the weathered paws of a road-seasoned bluesman, but from the supple hands of a 21-year-old Englishman.
"My uncle used to bring blues records around at Christmas," says Trimble, "and once I heard Robert Johnson's power and delivery, the stuff I grew up having to listen to on the radio--bands like Coldplay and Travis--just seemed banal and pointless."
Family music-sharing aside, the 22-20s' sound is not all blues-driven. "Sure, we've listened to Son House and Jimmy Reed and Mississippi Fred McDowell," says Trimble, "but those influences are only a part of our sound. Just because we prefer a raw sound doesn't mean we're not looking forward. Regardless of who your influences are, I think you have to care about your songs, or there's no point in being there. And the reality is that we're a contemporary band that writes contemporary songs."
To keep those songs fresh for the hand, Trimble likes to mix things up onstage. "Once we get used to playing a song, we keep the essential parts, and then take it somewhere else," he says. "I think it allows the songs to live a little bit more. If I were in Coldplay, and I had to play the same thing every night, I'd probably get bored and quit."
[ back ]
British Blues From 22-20s
American blues has held a fascination for British rock bands ever since Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton heard their first Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf records. Music critic Christian Bordal says a young English band called the 22-20s are mining some of that same territory on their first CD.
The blues is supposed to be all about the pain and heartache of life and love--"My Baby Left Me For My Best Friend," "I'm Down On My Luck," "I'm Drowning My Sorrows In A Whiskey Jar." But looking all the way back to the early '60s, blues in the hands of Englishmen in their early 20s sounds mostly like everyone's having a blast.
The 22-20s' lead singer and songwriter, Martin Trimble, says he grew up listening to a lot of the old-time American blues players, and the band takes its name from an old Skip James blues tune. But their musical references don't come directly from these old bluesmen; they come mostly through the British invasion bands of the mid-'60s, bands like the Stones and The Kinks and The Yardbirds.
Mr. MARTIN TRIMBLE (Lead Singer, 22-20s): You know, I never listened to Zeppelin. I'd always listened to kind of band putting out pop songs that were using blues as that kind of template, that kind of directness.
Mr. TRIMBLE: You shouldn't need to play a load of notes at a kind of massive speed or have a degree in something to understand what you're singing about. It should be about the chorus and it should be about a pretty simple riff.
I asked Trimble, the band's lead singer, about their obvious influences.
Mr. TRIMBLE: Inevitably, your first record, you're gonna wear those influences on your sleeve and yet we didn't want to make a record that sounded like a kind of pastiche late '60s record. We worked with the kind of producer that had worked with Primal Scream and been putting out contemporary records, and that's what we wanted to do.
It's hard for a young band to find a unique, original sound and that's not what these guys have achieved. But, you know, so what? The 22-20s have nothing to be ashamed of with this album. It's consistent, well-written, well-played and, more importantly, it has a loud sweaty jam-packed blues club kind of energy. So just enjoy it.
[ back ]
“These go to 11…”
Kotori Mag 05
“Warm, lush, inviting, big-hall British rock.
“Morrisony, Zeppeliny, Stonesy, Dylany, Thoroughgoody, even Pearl Jammy.
Intelligent, driving, and rockin’ me the fuck out!!
Whatever it is, it’s starting to frighten me how much I listen to these guys,” exclaims Editor-In-Chief of uber-underground culture portal
GetUnderground.com (yours truly).When you hear those words in reference to a blues-rock band comprised of a group of young British blokes who’ve barely escaped the halls of adolescence, it’s an understandably difficult notion to mentally digest. But once the amps are switched on and that first chord explodes out of the speaker cones, it’s a different story. It’s all over.
Martin Trimbale, 21, on vocals and guitar.
Glen Bartup, 21, on bass.
James Irving, 20, on drums.
And last but not least, Charly Coombs on keys.
Ladies and gentlemen…the 22-20s!
“When we were 14, 15, and just started playing guitars and stuff, there was
not a lot going on,” Glen laments. “There were a lot of bands on the radio that weren’t very challenging. There wasn’t a great deal of intensity, there wasn’t a great deal of anything being said. It was all just sort of background music. Pretty uninspiring.” But lack of inspiration in one place can strategically translate to loads of motivation in another. “Me and Martin lived in a little town and didn’t have access to much music, but he(Martin) had an uncle that was into the blues. When we heard our first blues record, it was really exciting, and we got into it.”
Naming themselves after Delta bluesman Skip James’s piano-led ‘22-20 Blues,’ the members of this band are focused on keeping their music as pure and honest as their iconic predecessors. Judging by the results of the 22-20s collective brilliance, they more than make up for the lack of intensity and substance they so despised. Drawing upon more modern influences as Dylan’s “Route 66,” (“It was dark and it was scary and it was intense. Dylan had this deep presence around him,” Bartup says), this fiery foursome manage a thick and powerful sound that can’t help but take firm hold of anyone within earshot. “We always wanted a spark,” states Bartup. “We wanted to be able to stand behind the speakers and have it sound like the front.” And the secret is not as elusive as it may seem. “We just turn it up real loud.”
Though they’re well on their way to emotionally and creatively satisfying musical careers, the road certainly wasn’t an easy one. Their early days in England were defined by playing to bitter and conservative older crowds that populated the clubs of the British blues circuit. Since at that point the 22-20s were playing mostly “Buddy Guy songs and that sort of stuff,” it just happened to be the scene they gravitated towards, but “by the time we were 16 or 17, we were kinda getting further and further away from that and they couldn’t stand us after a while, so we’d push away from that. In fact, we grew to detest it,” Glen confides. “As soon as we got signed, then it was mostly a younger crowd.”
While they’ve been isolated in European label life for most of their young career, “we just get a schedule and go where they tell us to go,” tells us Glen. 2005 will see the 22-20s embark on a full scale invasion of the States.
Though they’ve managed limited one-off gigs and a glorious appearance at 2005’s glorious Coachella Music& Arts Festival, in addition to an anticipated spot at this years SXSW (South By South West) conference in Austin, Texas, they’re also “coming to America 2 or 3 times to do some touring,” Bartup proclaims. “we are looking forward to it.” And in addition to their full length being released stateside in March, the band has “quite a few songs we’re kicking about and floating around” and plan to “record the new album in the summer.”
The band’s EP, “05/03” was released last year. Their self-titled debut studio album will be released this Spring on Astralwerks.
[ back ]
2005 Year-End Artist Survey
Under The Radar 1.1.06
Top Nine Albums of 2005
(In no particular order)
Willy Mason: Where the Human’s Eat
The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan
Neil Young: Prairie Wind
Doves: Some Cities
Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have it So Much Better
Babyshambles: Down in Albion
Bob Dylan: No Direction Home: The Soundtrack (The Bootleg Series Vol. 7)
The Duke Spirit: Cuts Across the Land
Graham Coxon: Happiness in Magazines
What was the highlight of 2005 for either you personally or for the band?
Moving to NYC.
What was the low point of 2005 for you?
The final part of touring the last record in the U.S. Playing songs that we recorded two years ago was tough. It’s strange because you get the opportunity to travel all over the place, yet you are at a standstill musically.
What are your hopes and plans for 2006?
We hope to record a far better record. However, planning is pointless in our case.
If you could drop a copy of one album in the mailbox of every American citizen, what album would it be?
The Smiths: The Queen is Dead
Will the iPod, and its ability to combine all genres and its emphasis on individual songs, render the album format irrelevant?
Maybe. I think bands will still record albums, but the listener will have more control over what they listen to. There are very few albums I can listen to in their entirety. I don’t have the patience, for example, to listen to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon backwards (or forwards for that matter).
With Kate Bush, Gang of Four, Ray Davies, Scott Walker, and others issuing new releases, what icon needs to return and make another album?
Too wary of disappointment. I still have a fantasy that the Stones will put out a really un-produced record likeExile On Main Street. It makes so much sense in the current musical climate.
With the mainstream success of artists like Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Bright Eyes, The White Stripes, and Franz Ferdinand, has the meaning of “indie rock” shifted? Has the term lost all meaning?
Bands like The White Stripes have shown that they can be artistically independent within the framework of a major label. You either like a band or do not like a band - who cares about the label (with exception of Astralwerks!). ;-)
If you couldn't be a musician, what other profession do you think that you'd enjoy and why?
A film director. I wouldn’t have a clue of how to do it, but to be able to project an idea without having to project yourself is attractive.
[ back ]
This Is Fake DIY 2.3.06
We caught up with Martin and Glen following their set at Popscene in San Francisco.
With the recent wave of artsy/dance-punk bands to hit the scene, the 22-20s may feel like a breath of fresh air, trading pre-programmed computers for simple keyboards, and countless effects pedals for a lone guitar slide. Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Martin Trimble, bassist Glen Bartrup, drummer James Irving and newcomer Charly Coombes on keys, the band got their name from bluesman Skip James' song '22-20 Blues'. Their music is best described like a fine whiskey, with bass notes of The Rolling Stones, and undertones of Robert Johnson, yet with an overall sound that is just their own.
The band are currently touring the US with Graham Coxon in anticipation of their self-titled album being released on 19th April. We caught up with Martin and Glen following their set at Popscene in San Francisco. They played a tight set, with opener 'Why Don't You Do It For Me?' transporting the audience to a dingy nightclub in the Bayou of the deep South. The pace slowed down in the middle of the set, with bluesy ballad 'Baby Brings Bad News', only to return to the thrash-like grit that is '22 Days', and finishing off with 'Devil In Me', an almost unnervingly haunting song with voodoo-like chants soaring over grinding guitar chords, pulsating bass lines, booming drums, and frenzied keys.
So how has your US tour been going so far?
Glen: It's been good. It's only been about three days, but nothing's gone horribly wrong yet, so that's good.
How did you end up touring with Graham Coxon?
Glen: Well he's on our label.
Martin: [laughs] Nothing to do with us, really!
What's the difference between playing the US and playing the UK?
Martin: It's colder in New York!
Glen: ...and hotter in LA.
Martin: It wasn't yesterday though, it was like in England, and we just sat there in the rain.
You guys are clearly influenced by blues - what was it like first playing in the South, where blues was born?
Martin: We had our best gig on the last tour in Nashville. Yet blues is listened to as much in England as it is in the States. I mean the Stones and people brought blues to the British audience. Before it was just an American audience.
Why do you think you were so well recieved in Nashville?
Martin: I dunno, we just had a good night. The sound was really good.
Did you go to Graceland at all?
Martin: [laughs] No, no no...
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Martin: I dunno, we kind of listen to blues, and then we make pop songs out of blues. I suppose the Stones, T-Rex, people I admire like Skip James, Johnny Cash.
You used to be a three-piece band, what made you add a keyboard player?
Martin: Charity. Charly was homeless [laughs]
Glen: Thought we'd do him a favour.
Was he a friend of yours?
Martin: Not really, no [laughs]
Was he just a tramp on the street with a sign that said 'will play keys for food'?
Martin: No [laughs] he's too young to be a tramp!
Glen: He's got the beard for it though.
What's the best thing about being in a band, and what's the worst?
Martin: The best thing, what's the best thing?
Glen: The friends.
Martin: Yeah, that's a joke.
Glen: Sorry! [laughs] It's the money isn't it?
Martin: Yeah, the money! [laughs] We don't have to work for a living. That's the worst thing...
What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you during a live show?
Martin: My singing's quite embarrassing.
Glen: I fell over once.
You fell over?
Glen: Yeah, there was a monitor I didn't see. I pretended to be pissed for the next two songs, but it wasn't really alcohol induced.
How do your families feel about you being in a band, and not being something like, say, accountants?
Glen: My mum always wanted me to be an accountant because my older cousin was.
Martin: This is the man that has 2,000 homes...
Glen: Yeah, I know. I didn't do that well. My mum was disappointed at first, but she's OK now I think. She still calls me.
Martin: My mum's just happy that I have a job.
How long have you been a band, and how long have you known each other?
Glen: A few years?
Martin: Two years I think? We've known each other for about ten years, we've known James for a couple of years. We've known Charly for just over a year, year and a half maybe?
Is it really hard to get a group of people together where it just gels?
Martin: Well I don't think you have to really play great, it's more of a chemistry thing.
Glen: I'm very much here as Martin's friend. Bass is an easy instrument.
Martin: Keith Richards never played very well [laughs]
[ back ]
Filter Magazine 2.6.10
It’s been an interesting journey for the English band 22-20s. Once involved in a huge label bidding war, the band broke up in 2006 but then got back together two and a half years later, and now, 22-20s’ new album, Shake/Shiver/Moan, is slated to be released on June 22 through TBD Records. Founding members Martin Trimble and Glen Bartup took some time to answer our questions about the origins of the band, their 2008 "secret" tour and what former tourmate Liam Gallagher can pull off that they themselves cannot.
The name of the band comes from the Skip James song "22-20 Blues"... but were there any other names in consideration?
No other names as far as I can remember – we were 19 when we named the band. I remember we liked the staccato nature of the phrase and the conscious nod to our reference points at that time. We had some gigs coming up and needed a name so it was a pretty quick conversation.
What was the coolest thing you saw Liam Gallagher and The Black Crowes' Chris Robinson do onstage during the time you spent touring with their bands? Have you incorporated any of the lessons learned from these rockers into your touring mindset?
I remember Liam Gallagher in shorts at Milton Keynes, which I don’t think I could carry off. I don’t remember much of Chris Robinson in all honesty.
In 2003, you were part of a huge A&R bidding war between the American record labels. What were some your favorite moments of being 'wined and dined' by the labels? What sorts of differences exist in today's label structure?
Enormous differences apparently. We were too insular the first time around to pay attention to what was happening around us. Things seem more insecure now for bands. I think you probably have to be less precious and do what is necessary just to get through to the next tour and the next album. You always want your next album to be better than the last. These days, there’s less guarantee you’ll make the next one. As for the wining and dining, lots of wining on our part and a phone call from Dylan was promised at one point. It never happened…
Though the band split while recording the second album in early 2006, are there any outtakes or songs that are on Shake/Shiver/Moan or could be retooled for future albums?
To be honest we never even got around to thinking of the second record then. I think we toured the first record far too long and ended up getting through it rather than getting material together. We hadn’t written a new song in three years and I don’t think we’d have written another one if we’d had another three years of trying.
How did Heavenly Records convince you to do the one-off at the Royal Festival Hall in London? Was there any lingering resentment between the members?
We’d have always done that gig. Jeff [Barrett] at Heavenly put us on the fast track to some great records that would have taken us years to discover otherwise. We’ll always be grateful for that and proud to have been part of Heavenly. I don’t think there was ever any resentment towards each other. The band broke up because of our collective disappointment at the band we’d become and our inability to see any way out of it. Personally there were no issues at all. It’s been a pleasure this time around from the moment we met up again.
Why did you tour under the "Bitter Pills" moniker in 2008? Was it to test new material or tour anonymously without the pressures of a reunion-tour?
Both really. In the U.K I think it’s a lot harder to do stuff off the radar and we wanted to get really tight before we started gigging under 22-20s. We’d only done the Heavenly gig in the past four years or so, had a set of pretty much entirely new songs and a new member with Dan on guitar. We were still finishing the album also so it was a chance to flesh out things we were still writing.
It's been six years since you released an album. How was the recording and writing of Shake/Shiver/Moan different from 22-20s?
It was the exact opposite to the first record in that we hardly had the money to make it and had no record deal and no expectations. Practically and financially it was a more difficult record to make but psychologically I think we felt liberated to make the record we wanted to without worrying about the consequences
How did you get involved with TBD Records? How is it working with an indie label as compared to a major like EMI?
Our management had known [TBD's] Phil Costello for years and played him some of the earlier demos. We never really pitched it around from there as we knew pretty quickly we wanted to do it through him and TBD. With Jeff on the first album it wasn’t so much like working with a major in many senses. Things have changed anyway, or everyone tells us they have. With Phil, it’s easy. He doesn’t meddle with anything you wouldn’t want him too, but Jeff never did either. We were pretty shielded from the crap people probably have to put up with on majors.
[ back ]
The life, death and resurrection of Britain's 22-20s
Colorado Springs Independent 17.6.10
Named for the early Skip James song, 22-20s were always enamored with the blues, at least until frontman Martin Trimble ended up coming down with a case of his own.
The Northern English group — hailed as the U.K.'s next big thing while still in their teens — basically imploded on the road, with Trimble pronouncing them in "a state of arrested development" and saying he was no longer comfortable being in a band named after a blues song.
At which point things took a turn for the worse.
"We'd toured the first record for way too long, and we had complete writer's block," says Trimble, whose songwriting talent is easily on a par with Noel Gallagher's. "At the point where we broke up, I felt like I could never write a song again. I think the longer you go on NOT writing, the more impossible it seems."
After the split, Trimble moved to New York to be with his girlfriend and didn't touch his guitar for six months.
"We had a little apartment in Chinatown, and she was working, so I would kinda stay in all day drinking coffee and watching telly," recalls the musician. "For a year or so, it was a pretty dark time, you know, I needed to get out and play again. But you need to go through that, I think. It makes you realize what you love doing."
Sittin' on top of the world
Today, the re-formed 22-20s (including original bassist Glen Bartup and drummer James Irving, as well as new guitarist Dan Hare) are back on the road, playing small American clubs to promote their second studio album, Shake/Shiver/Moan, which is due out next week. It's all a marked contrast to 2003, when the band found itself in the middle of a massive bidding war.
"People were flying over on Concorde to see them, twice," Jeff Barrett, who signed the band to his Heavenly label, told the Guardian at the time. "I've been in this game 15 years, and they gave me more sleepless nights and grey hairs than any other band I've worked with." [Guardian writer Alexis Petridis placed the comment in perspective by noting that Barrett had "spent part of the 1980s working with the heroin-sodden Happy Mondays."]
"We got blown up out of all proportion in the U.K. over a demo that had four tracks on it," Trimble says in retrospect. "Suddenly we were the new Oasis and the biggest A&R scramble of the new millennium and all that crap. And we were 17 or 18 and didn't know how to deal with it.
"We were quite naïve at that age," he adds. "And quite fearless about things, which is probably good, because we'd just go on and play and do our thing."
Goodbye porkpie hats
All that would change soon enough. Like any number of British Invasion bands from four decades earlier, 22-20s rapidly evolved from playing blues covers to crafting their own hooky rock offerings. Soon, they began to feel hemmed in by the blues influence that once served as an antidote to constantly hearing Coldplay's "Yellow" at the local pub.
"We did this tour of Holland and Belgium where there were loads of blues aficionados — but in a really kinda tacky way, like wearing porkpie hats and that kind of stuff. And we had already started to write songs like "Devil in Me" and "Such a Fool," which both ended up on the first record. And people were kinda saying, 'Oh that's not blues, that's rock 'n roll.'"
Which it was. And is. After the group's former label encouraged it to re-form for a one-off gig at London's Royal Festival Hall in 2008, 22-20s ended up going back into the studio with Supergrass/Band of Skulls producer Ian Davenport. The rest is history that may or may not repeat.
The blues influences still turn up on a couple of the new tracks, but they've gone missing on songs like the instantly memorable "96 to 4," which Trimble says is about a friend who lost her mom.
"It's kind of the personal song on the record," he adds. "You've asked about the wrong song. Can I have another?"
Well, there's always "Latest Heartbreak," which is the result of listening to a lot of Motown.
"The chorus is ripped off from 'Heat Wave' by Martha & the Vandellas," Trimble admits, "but you're not conscious of those things when you're writing or even recording it."
What Trimble is conscious of at the moment is his determination to make good on a career that crashed and burned all too quickly the first time around. Although signed to TBD, which is Radiohead's label here in America, the group still doesn't have a U.K. deal. Instead, he says, they're content to spend the next four or five months touring the States.
"In the U.S., you have to work really hard to build up an audience. You have to go out and play shows in the middle of nowhere, and you play every night, and it seems like a really honest way of doing it. Whereas in the U.K, a lot of it's just bullshit."
[ back ]
Salt Lake Tribune 20.6.10
Cage the Elephant headlines at The Depot tonight, but it will be worth your time to arrive early to catch the 22-20s, a British bluesy rock band that drops its highly anticipated second album, “Shake/Shiver/Moan,” the same day as the show. The quartet from Lincolnshire was the focus of a fierce international bidding war in 2004 when the lads were only 19, and then dissolved in 2006 after recording one album. “We just lost our way,” said bassist Glen Bartup in an interview. “We lost sight of what we wanted the band to be. We weren’t the band we set out to be. We made a mess of it.” After members worked for a time at normal jobs — Bartup worked at pubs and for a time at a hospital — the band regrouped and began playing stealth shows in England, calling itself the Bitter Pills. “We were just a band again,” said Bartup, released from the pressure of being a buzz band that couldn’t handle the pressure. “It was a pleasure.” The reunited band intends to bring the pleasure to The Depot.
When • Sunday, June 20, at 8 p.m.
Where • The Depot, 400 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $15 in advance, $20 day of, at SmithsTix
[ back ]
The Right Way. Their Way.
You may well get a feeling of de ja vu upon hearing the name 22-20s. Don’t panic though, your instincts are still intact. After all, this is their second outing. Having endured an interesting career thus far the 22 20′s have finally buried hatchets and let bygones be bygones.
Whilst most kids were revising and sitting exams these lads were out on the road playing blues clubs and festivals. This was a good education for them as Blues was the passion they followed. But they found this scene a tad restricting as most attendees were over 50 and had their own idea how their beloved Blues should sound – not appreciating the extra chords and licks this bunch of kids were offering. This prompted them to elaborate on the theme and led them to record a demo featuring future hits “Devil in Me” & “Such A Fool“. This edgy blues/rock sound catapulted them into the mainstream with early comparisons to U.S rockers The Strokes and The White Stripes. The lads were still in their teens.
In hindsight this may have been the undoing of them, as is the case with a lot of young acts, although these days they do get a little more schooling on how to cope with these life changes. After a brief hiatus they took stock of what they had – a great sound and a large following – and decided to attempt things from their own angle.
As with a lot of things in life timing is of the essence and the 22-20s were spot on. With the recent resurgence of garage rock music they formed a cartel with like minded bands such as, The Whigs, Band of Skulls, Cage The Elephant & Alberta Cross, who are now ripping venues up the world over.
Armed with the release earlier this month of new album “Shake/Shiver/Moan” they played their 2nd New York gig in as many months, lending support to Alberta Cross at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. The fans reacted well to the showcase of the new album. “Latest Heartbreak” opened a few eyes and ears with its pounding drum intro flipping quickly into a revved up guitar feud between Trimble & Bartup. “Shake, Shiver & Moan” is more melodic, showing they can write a love song and have a sensitive side but true to form it does end in a guitarfest. Saving songs of old until the end brought a smile to many faces. “Devil in Me” & “Such A Fool” took the revved up crowd back to the beginning, back in time to the birth of a band who, almost surely, will defy musical longevity. Trimble chucked his guitar on the ground and walked off stage having gained a hoard of new fans – fans who were left wishing this was only the beginning of the set.
All in all it seems the 22-20s have matured well with age. “Shake/Shiver/Moan” shows they’ve spent time perfecting their craft, proving them a class act and in no way one dimensional.
Live4ever sat down with Martin and Glen from the 22-20s before the show and in advance of the second of back to back consecutive US tours – this time in support of Cage the Elephant.
L4E: Evening guys, how’s everything?
22-20s: Good, yeah.
L4E: You just came from Canada where you had a few dates, right? – How was that? Shitty?!
22-20s: Nah, there weren’t enough Canadians! We were supposed to go up there with Alberta Cross and for some reason they ended up not going, but we decided to do a few dates anyway. There was only about 30 or 40 people at the gigs which was alright I suppose. So, there just weren’t enough Canadians really!
L4E: Introduce the band for our readers by explaining who each of you are and what you do in the band?
Glen: Well, I’m Glen and I play bass.
Martin: And I’m Martin and I play guitar and sing. James plays drums and Dan plays guitar and sings.
L4E: So, in the recent documentary film ‘It Might Get Loud’, there’s a part where Jack White takes out a 45 and plays it on a turntable. He says since he first heard the song, it has been his favorite. The song is by Son House, an old blues musician with whom I’m sure you’re familiar as you named your band after a song by one of his contemporaries, Skip James. Is that correct?
Glen: Yeah, ‘22-20 Blues’.
L4E: Any particular reason for naming your band after that song?
Glen: Well, we didn’t name the band until we actually had some gigs where we were going to be playing our own stuff. James had joined by that point and we were hanging about the village I used to live in one day and we had to come up with a name in about 20 minutes!
Martin: Yeah, I think we wanted our sound to be quiet aggressive – we probably did then, more than we do now. We were probably a bit more raw then. And so the nature of that song, even though it’s a piano based song, is kind of like that. It’s got an aggressive lyric and we just liked the sound of it.
L4E: So, you two are really the backbone of the band in a way – you’ve been friends since you were young lads. Tell us about the early days. We read you toured parts of Europe playing Blues cover songs when you were sixteen or seventeen? Is that right?
Martin: Yeah, sixteen or seventeen we were. But even at that age I think we realized it was a blues scene we didn’t really want to be part of. It seemed like it was mostly forty-five to fifty year old British guys who had watched ‘The Blues Brothers’ and they had their pork pie hats and harmonicas… And we didn’t want to do that. We were listening to a lot of stuff like ‘R.L. Burnside’ and a lot of these hill country Mississippi Blues players. And it’s pretty stripped back and raw and it had kind of a hypnotic groove to it, stuff like ‘Johnny Lee Hooker’, and we were always into that kind of stuff more than the more clichéd kind of ‘Blues’.
We ended up doing a tour around Holland and Belgium and we started throwing some of our own stuff into the set, like ‘Devil In Me’ and ‘Such a Fool’, some of the stuff that is on the first record. And these guys were saying, ‘this is not blues, this is rock n roll’. They were quite funny about it. It was a funny scene. So, we had about enough of it then and we felt that what we were doing we could play in front of a younger crowd. ‘The White Stripes’ had done that John Peel session, before they broke really, and we could relate to that. With the stuff we were playing we could relate to the younger people. James joined at that point and that’s where it really got started.
L4E: You wrote those songs ‘Devil In Me’ and ‘Such a Fool’ at that point, when you were sixteen or seventeen?
Glen: Nah, we were probably like eighteen by that time. It all really kicked off when were eighteen or nineteen really.
L4E: Well, regardless – some pretty solid tunes for a couple of young lads! In fact, some of those songs got you a few publishing deals, right?
Martin: Yeah, we were just playing similar stuff to the stuff we were listening to. We didn’t think it was that great or radically different or anything. And we were kind of astounded when Jeff Barrett down at Heavenly started listening to us, and NME started playing us. Suddenly my Mum was fielding calls from Sony! It was just a bizarre situation. I mean it was just a three or four track demo we’d done and ultimately we could’ve done with having that natural growth as a band, where there’s that gradual build-up. We think we could’ve been better off because we were never quite sure of ourselves early on and I think that’s why it took a long time to record the first record, and ultimately why we ended up splitting up for a while – It was all a bit too soon for us.
Glen: The demo was what got us signed, and was the first batch of songs we’d ever written together because we’d always been doing that blues and covers thing up until then. So, we were in out of our depth before we really had any idea of what we were doing. We had an idea of how we wanted to sound and if we had to have spent another six months writing it would have done us the world of good.
L4E: Really? Yeah, we read that it was the “bidding war of the century” trying to sign you guys! Was it true you were being flown over to the States to meet record execs etc.?
Martin: I think the people that took us on at the time, everyone older and wiser that was around the band, could have handled it better because we did fly out to meet these people and do these things and it just put more pressure on the situation than there needed to be at the time. And we were a bit too naïve to stand up and say we wanted something different.
Glen: We ended up signing a record deal a year and a half after that demo and we were touring because we’d done that publishing deal and it paid for the touring and some other things. But we ended up signing with Jeff Barrett, who was the first guy we met anyway. He was the guy who essentially we always wanted to sign with. So, looking back the year and a half was kind of wasted time as we could’ve been writing the album and all the other stuff we really should have been doing.
Martin: Are you depressed yet?!
L4E: No, not at all. Your story is intriguing. Here you are, a couple of young lads from small towns in Lincolnshire, who started playing music around the age of fourteen and a few short years later you write a couple of great tunes and something happens that you weren’t quite expecting. And then following the year and a half of unnecessary fanfare, you signed with someone you always wanted to sign with and this was someone who shared your passion for music.
Martin: Yeah, Jeff was totally different. He got us into soul – these kind of rare Motown tracks. He was an absolute nut about American soul music basically. So it’s true, a lot of people took us out to dinner or tried to do something impressive, whereas Jeff would just get us down to the office and we’d hang out there till three or four in the morning listening to all these records. So, we knew from a very early stage that we wanted to sign with Jeff. Of course, the people around us at the time kept saying you got to check out this and check out that and it just became a load of bullshit that we just didn’t need really.
L4E: So, would Jeff’s label Heavenly be considered an ‘indie’ label or is there some link to EMI or someone else?
Glen: Well, they started out as an indie label and then they spent some time where they did some deals with various majors. They were with EMI at the time we signed with them. I think they’re independent again now, I believe…
L4E: What do make of this whole ‘indie’ scene or whether there is a scene or what does it mean?
Martin: I guess indie has become more about the sound rather than the meaning. It’s hard to know really. In the eighties, indie meant independent didn’t it?
Glen: I don’t think the distinction bothers me really. If you can record an album and you can have the input of those who ‘get’ the kind of music you want to make and are willing to tell you that you might be going in the wrong direction with something, like Jeff and the people we work with now, rather than working with those people who are thinking about radio play and things like that, then I think you’re going to make better music and whether you find a great little label that’s part of a major or an indie label, it doesn’t really matter to me. Essentially you just want to make records and have somebody release them and have us deal with as little bullshit as we possibly can.
L4E: Brendan Lynch produced your first album, right? He’s someone who has worked with bands that you are fans of. How was that experience and how was it working with Ian Davenport on the new album by comparison?
Martin: Brendan was brilliant, actually. He got it didn’t he? (Looking for Glen’s approval). He was great to work with. But I don’t think we were in the right state of mind to make the type of record we really wanted to make. I feel it should have been really striped back, really raw. But that wasn’t his fault. It was the songs we delivered but there’s maybe four or five good songs on that record.
But I think where the difference lay this time had a lot got to do with our mindset and not with the producer. Ian took quite a role on this record. We had started writing much more melodic stuff as a reaction to the last record and we were listening to bands like ‘Big Star’ and all that kind of thing and Ian actually guided us back to, what he thought, was the essence of the band. And he’d stick us in a room and just make us play and jam things out and get ideas out like that. So, songs on the record like ‘Talk to Me” and “Latest Heartbreak”, the more kind of raw stuff came later on and I think that’s his influence.
L4E: Well, it’s a great album lads.
Martin: Ahh, thanks a lot!
L4E: Tell us about playing live and touring. How has that been? Do you like touring?
Martin: We love it! Although I might be only saying that now, it might be different in two months but so far we love it.
Glen: Yeah, it’s good fun touring and playing live. I think it’s also important for a band like us because we’re not going to get played on the radio and the only way we can make an impact on people is to go out and tour and by playing gigs and bring them to the records that way. Someone is more likely to see us live and buy the record than hear the record on the radio and then come to the live gig after that.
Martin: It feels like a really honest way of doing it as well. And I think in the past, with the first record people were saying we’ve got to get this song or that song on the radio and that almost seems like a cheap way of doing it and it’s kind of like you’re building your house on the sand. Like, last night we played Boston for the second time now and thirty odd people came back because they’d seen us the first gig and it feels like we’re doing it the right way. It’s a really good feeling.
L4E: You seem to have put a lot of emphasis on not only playing live but recording and releasing it. Is that something you feel you’ll continue doing?
Glen: I think this time it was about releasing something to help get people into the band. We reckon playing live is a bit of a strength of ours. But I don’t think it’s been a conscious decision. The label might say, let’s put out a live EP and we’ve been happy to do it.
L4E: (Well, we feel we can’t get enough live music playing on our iPods! It’s quite a different experience. ) Have you recorded live using tape either on this album or the last?
Glen: It’s kind of half and half. There are some songs on there that were written as they were recorded because it kind of necessitated that. Probably about half the album was recorded when we were all in the room.
L4E: How do you feel about the new album Martin? I read you wanted to make a record you could be proud of regardless of whether you sold one copy or not.
Martin: Well, I don’t think it’s the definitive record for us but you get where we’re going with things. There’s a lot of melody and it’s interesting because of that. I was worried that there wouldn’t be a strand that would go through the record that would tie the tracks together but there is. I’m a lot happier than I was with the first record. We enjoyed making this record. There was no pressure like there was with the first album – we were 18 year olds then! I do like the sound of this record. It describes where we’re at in terms of the sounds we’re going for and I think it’s interesting because of that even though I don’t think it’s the best record we’re going to make.
L4E: You mentioned The White Stripes earlier in terms of artists you’ve been compared to. I feel your voice, Martin, on more than a few tracks, reminds me of Lou Reed. Are you comfortable with these kinds of comparisons?
Martin: Well, I don’t think Lou Reed would be very comfortable! And The White Stripes one early on was just lazy journalism really, on the part of NME. We were supposed to be like this British equivalent but I don’t think we sounded a great deal like them to be honest. In fact, if you listen to The Black Keys, which came out afterwards, I think it’s probably a little closer to that. We don’t look at it like it’s a big deal though.
L4E: Switching gears a bit – Do you think it’s ok if some kid in Russia illegally downloads your EP or album and gets to enjoy your music that way, or would you prefer if you were able to sell it?
Glen: I’d rather they just got into it. That’s what’s important. If they’re into it and we tour there and bands like us can make a living that way I think that’s what is important. But I mean, I’ve downloaded music the last few years, living in London absolutely skint! So, I couldn’t criticize anyone for doing something that I’ve done myself.
L4E: You’re back in New York for the second time this year. Was it here that the band decided to split a few years ago? How is it being back?
Glen: We love New York. We came here to record the second album, the first attempt at the second album. James and I moved out here, Martin was living here already and we tried to record the album. It was a non-starter really. By that point we had no idea what we were going to sound like, so after about a month we called it a day. I think we were relieved to call time on it at that point. It wasn’t going anywhere and we weren’t writing any songs. But I don’t associate that with New York.
L4E: With all the touring you’ve done are there any towns, venues or fans that stand out?
Glen: Chicago has always been good. We enjoyed Seattle, although last time we were there we were awful, but that was five years ago!
Martin: New York is the place that feels like the big one.
L4E: From a band perspective, do you notice a difference between the venues? Take for instance the difference between The Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall – fans say Music Hall’s sound is much better.
Martin: You don’t really notice when you’re on stage.
Glen: That’s the funny thing, the last time we were here we played both venues and I actually enjoyed the Bowery much more, personally, but everyone that knew us that was here (Music Hall) said it was infinitely better. You’re at the mercy of how is sounds out front though. It shouldn’t matter to us when we’re playing.
L4E: How about the crowds in Europe versus America – Noel Gallagher said in an interview that you have to be more on top of your game here in the States more so than in Europe as the crowds are somewhat semi-geeky. They’re into your equipment, instruments and they watch the settings on your amps and they know if you make a mistake. So, he says he like playing here because you cannot have an off night. Do you see a difference?
Glen: I totally agree with that, to an extent.
Martin: Yeah, in England you can get a buzz going straight away and be a big band and get on the radio and all that without having to work hard and play a shit load of gigs. I’m surprised how sloppy bands are sometimes, when I go around London and see bands. A classic example of what you’re talking about is with a band we toured with, The Whigs. They’re not a ‘big band’ but they’re just incredibly tight and they play like that every night. And there’s obviously more of an emphasis on that in America and there’s probably more of an emphasis on musicianship here too, just because of the history here of having Jazz, Blues and Country and people who can really play.
Glen: On the flip side I think there can be too much emphasis on musicianship because the main focus has got to be the song. I don’t get any kick out of seeing a great guitarist or great drummer. I like seeing great bands, like Creedance where its really simple and it’s not just a display of technical proficiency. A lot of it has to do with, not just the groove but, the band.
L4E: Thanks a lot lads. All the best with the rest of the tour!
[ back ]
Blues-rock Band 22-20s Start Comeback Trail With Gig On Home Territory
Lincolnshire Echo 20.6.10
LOCAL blues-rock band 22-20s return to Lincoln for the first time in five years for a special homecoming gig.
The 22-20s formed in Sleaford in 2002 and their eponymous debut album stormed into the UK's official top 40 chart.
They disbanded in 2006, but have now announced their first UK tour in over four years – including a special warm-up show at Lincoln's Duke of Wellington.
Earlier this year, they announced they had been working on new material, which saw the release of their second album in Japan and North America, Shake/Shiver/Moan.
Martin Trimble, lead singer and guitarist, said their return to the city was long overdue.
He said: "It's been about five years since we last played in Lincoln and we can't wait to get back.
"It's always nice playing in your home town – we haven't done it enough.
"We got a fair bit of activity on our Facebook page because people wanted to see us play.
"We're doing this tour purely for the fans.
"We don't have a record deal in the UK, so there's nothing to promote. We just love playing live, so if there's a chance, we'll take it.
"We've tried to retain the raw sound from what we had before, but this time it's a different experience altogether.
"Last time, it kind of blew up and there was a lot of heat on us.
"This time, there's no pressure, and we've really enjoyed recording the new record."
The 22-20s are just about to embark on a North American tour alongside Canadian alt-rock band Hot Hot Heat.
They will then play six dates in Japan before jetting over to kick off their UK tour in Lincoln.
Support for the Lincoln gig will come from Sam Dale and Lincoln band The Eusa Show.
Ronan Morrissey, guitarist, bassist and keyboard player for The Eusa Show, said supporting the 22-20s was a dream come true.
He said: "They're one of my favourite bands and have been for the past four years.
Tickets are available online at www.plusminusevents.com, or from Kind bar in Lincoln's High Street.
Priced at £10, each ticket includes a copy of an exclusive live EP from the band upon entry to the venue. Doors open at 7.30pm.
[ back ]
Live Review & Q&A with The 22-20s at The Masquerade, August 31
Atlanta Music Guide 9.9.10
Blues wave pop group The 22-20s played Tuesday, August 31 at The Masquerade as part of their current tour with Hot Hot Heat and Hey Rosetta! The sparse but enthusiastic crowd eagerly devoured these out of town sounds from Canada and England. Hey, if Kenny Crucial’s there, you know it must be the place to be.
I walked in just as The 22-20s were kicking off “Latest Heartbreak,” the title track from their live EP. It was immediately clear that these guys know how to play. Martin Trimble is a hell of a frontman, one who is both able to lead by example and participate in near telepathic communication with his bandmates. While he’s a sick lead guitarist, he only offers small glimpses of what he’s really capable of on the instrument. Trimble will occasionally do a fiery but brief flourish during a musical crescendo, or perhaps provide an interesting contrapuntal guitar harmony with newest member Dan Hare, but he never overdoes it at the cost of the song. James Irving is perfectly capable of banging out standard rock beats with passion and precision, but he seems to shine best when executing sparse, well-thought-out arrangements like the hi-hat strikes and precise kicks on “Shiver/Shake/Moan.” And there’s something I just plain like about Glen Bartup and the way he drops the bass guitar out of the sound, making his re-appearances in the mix all the more impactful. These sensitivities to nuance allow their live performances to translate intact from the record studio onto the stage. Their stage show, however, shows you that they’re just as comfortable playing instrumentally as they are singing songs. One feels as though The 22-20s could play the blues for you all night long, but they’re just too bored with blues-as-tradition to do anything but re-establish the preeminent role of blues-as-experiment.
While they’re currently taking charge of their direction and their sound, The 22-20s have had to face the advantages and the limitations of being a major label band for most of their career. Their original aspirations of playing the blues were simple enough, but finding an audience for their original material was complicated by blues traditionalists on the English festival circuit that were determined to maintain the status quo. Seeking an outlet for the original songs that were pouring out of them, they made a demo and starting sending it out to labels, resulting in a ridiculous bidding war and subsequent deal with Heavenly Records. As a result of this good fortune, and the outside forces that came with it, their early recordings were well-made and widely marketed, but there’s a sense that everything happened a little too fast. After touring and recording constantly for several years, they practically broke up between 2006–2008. This time away, however, seems to have provided them with the growing experiences they may have been robbed of in their youth. After touring in secret as The Bitter Pills for a while, they’ve officially returned as a recharged and re-branded 22-20s, back to claim the opportunity to one day make a truly classic record.
“We’re not Hot Hot Heat” quips Martin. We’re standing out behind the Masquerade on that smelly loading dock shortly after Hot Hot Heat has closed out the show. Two pretty girls have just approached the 22-20s and asked them to sign the setlists they were clever enough to take off the stage. Martin’s convinced that they must not be setlists for the 22-20s, but when he sees that the girls have got it right he asks me for a pen.
How’s the tour going? Who were you touring with before Hot Hot Heat?
James Irving: This tour started about two weeks ago in Portland. Before that we played with bands like Cage the Elephant and Band of Skulls. One of the bands we’ve met up with on tour that we think fits with us the most is The Whigs.
That’s awesome, The Whigs are from around here. I know their manager, Josh Rifkin. What do you think of playing in Atlanta?
Martin Trimble: The last time we were here was six years ago with The Black Crowes. And that was, well, an older crowd.
Yeah, they draw more of that Allman Brothers kind of crowd.
MT: Exactly. The crowd tonight was totally different.
JI: And everyone here has been incredibly friendly.
You guys have toured all over the world for years, and for you, this is an international stop. I wonder what impressions you have about touring internationally. Is it better or worse now than when you first came to the states? Is the music market just as troubled internationally, or is it really as bad here as we all think?
JI: The United States is great. You have to remember, there’s such a rich heritage of touring culture here.
You’re right, in a sense. It’s constantly happening and never stops. There’s always someone touring somewhere.
Glen Bartup: In England, you’re always under the microscope. It’s so small that people notice if a band does something like go on tour. It can make it hard to exist as a band. In the states, there are so many places to play that a band can tour for years and really develop into something great by the time anybody notices.
How does your version of the rock star lifestyle differ from popular impressions people have of rock stars on tour? I’m always curious to find out how touring musicians live when they get back home. Some guys tour all the time, but back home they work at a pet shop or manage hedge funds. Would you consider music to be your full time job? Or is it all sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll with you guys?
MT: We just want to make a great record. That’s what we want.
GB: It’s all about trying to get to that point.
MT: We make about half as much money as we would make if we had regular jobs. It doesn’t really matter, except in those situations where your girlfriend makes twice as much as you and you might have trouble paying the rent. But, we get to go from city to city playing our music, and we get to make records.
JI: It’s our job. You have to make sacrifices, but it’s worth it.
Tell our readers something about how you formed, where you’re at, and where you think the 22-20′s are headed. Something that we can’t find out by researching you online.
MT: Me and Glen met at school. We used to play football together. When we were 14 or 15, we started getting into the blues.
GB: We realized we weren’t going to be professional football players.
MT: We were really into Skip James, Robert Johnson. Dylan. Dylan was huge. By the time we were 17 or 18, we started playing lots of blues festivals. It was all these middle aged guys in their pork pie hats. We decided to make a demo and send it out to labels, but we wanted to do it in a scruffy way. Our drummer at the time left the band, but about three months before we were signed to Heavenly we got James here. That has turned out to be a good thing.
Which one of you is the “crazy” one?
JI: I don’t know if there is a crazy one. Dan is the most irrational. Or is it rational? No, irrational.
Dan Hare: Do you know this place, The Clermont Lounge? Do you know how to get there from here?
[ back ]
22-20s On Their Return
Brum Notes 19.10.10
22-20s emerged on a wave of hype through super-cool Heavenly Records, unleashing their acclaimed eponymous debut in 2004 before imploding shortly afterwards amidst claims of musical differences and a lack of musical freedom.
Now, after reuniting two years ago and following a frantic US tour, they are back on home soil and more focused than ever. Brum Notes Magazine caught up with them for this month’s issue ahead of their headline show at the Hare & Hounds tonight. Read the full Q&A with bassist Glen Bartup below.
So, for those who aren’t aware, where have you been the last few years?
For the first few years after we split in 2005 we were all scattered around. Martin was living in New York, I lived in Nottingham and James moved down to London. Between us we collected and went through various jobs (electrician, mechanic, barman, stock controller and A&E clerk amongst others) whilst James played in a few other bands and me and Martin periodically got together when we could afford it and tried to piece together some new material and find a way into making the kind of music we wanted to. When we split there was a feeling of dismay amongst us about the band we’d become and our inability to change it, at that time it would have seemed inconceivable that we would ever reform 22-20s. In 2008 me and Martin were offered the chance by our old manager to have a bit of studio time in England. We needed a drummer and it seemed natural to call James. In truth once we did we were all pretty excited about playing again and from the very start it was a pleasure, a complete contrast to all before it. The cloud we’d draped ourselves in the first time around had gone and it felt liberating to have the chance to play and write again, particularly as no-one was watching or even aware we were. A Forever Heavenly gig (a weekend of gigs at the South Bank Centre to celebrate our old label Heavenly’s 25th birthday) was offered and playing it gave us the chance to ask an old school friend to play guitar with us. He subsequently joined, Martin moved to England and we recorded the album late in 2009. It was picked up by a US label (TBD Records) and we’ve been touring it out in the US since March.
Does it feel good to be back and back in full on touring mode?
It feels great to be back. The US is an entertaining place to tour. I hadn’t expected to enjoy it so much. As a nation it is so full of contradictions, there is plenty to dislike about it but I’ve come to realise there’s also a lot to love about it. There are a lot of great cities out here and so many avenues for interest or mischief. The sheer size of it means touring here quickly becomes a way of life. Your landscape becomes littered with motels, breakfast at roadside diners, endless spells on the freeway, the fleeting chance to stretch your legs at a petrol station, the sight of another downtown skyline looming into view followed by the sudden flutter of activity around the gig and the cramping of a city night into the few available hours after you’ve played. It becomes both habitual and addictive. We went home for a few weeks in July and as much as the break was welcome it felt dangerously like home the first time we climbed back into the van.
Are you still technically unsigned in the UK or any plans for a UK release of the album?
We’re not signed in the UK. Phil Costello (who runs TBD) is a pretty charismatic guy and came on board very early. He was clear from the start he wanted to sign the band but also that he would expect us to be committed to putting in a lot of time into touring out here. The first few labels we spoke to in the UK were wary of our history and keen on us changing our name, something which, even with our mixed feelings towards our past, struck us as a little false seeing as we were essentially the same band. We made the decision to go with TBD and get on with touring and writing and hope that at some point things in the UK would fall into place rather than scrabble around trying to get our foot back in the door at home. If we could get something going in the UK again we would love that but the main thing for us is that we can continue touring and writing. If it doesn’t happen on this record then hopefully it will happen on the next one.
When you split a lot was said about musical differences, not necessarily being able to go in the directions you all wanted. Do you feel like you’re writing and playing with a lot more freedom than pre-split?
As I alluded to in an earlier answer, massively so. There were no great musical differences between us at the time, we all agreed that we were shit (we probably have a bit more perspective on it all now). We had a lot of hype before we’d ever done anything to justify it. We only had three songs we liked. We flew to LA and New York to play industry shows, we toured for two years, under what felt to us at 19/20, rightly or wrongly, like quite a fierce spotlight, and lost any sense of what we were trying to do. It became a bit of a runaway train and we fell further and further behind it the longer we continued. We felt obsolete before we even stepped into the studio to record our first album. This time around no-one expects anything of us, very few people are even looking. I think we’re grateful for the chance to try and quietly go away and make something to force people to pay attention rather than feel we need to shy away from it. We didn’t write a song for three years at the end of the first time around, this time I think we would all be disappointed if the next album doesn’t come quickly and isn’t better than the current one.
Your first album was well hyped and got a lot of acclaim, is it strange getting back on the radar, does it feel like a fresh start?
It definitely feels like a fresh start but I’m not sure we’re even on the radar yet. Hopefully we can turn a few heads on the upcoming tour and with upcoming albums. Everything’s changed a little now and I think for most bands it’s mainly about survival, trying to keep things going well enough that someone will put a bit of money in so you can keep going. Our ambitions stretch as far as making the next album better than this one.
The musical landscape has changed a lot in the UK in the past seven years, especially with regards to the number of decent guitar bands getting airplay and exposure these days. Does it feel like a completely different challenge now?
It does but I don’t think we mind that. The wheel will come back around at some point. All you can hope to do is be making interesting enough music when it does that you’ll be a part of it.
You’ve been spending a lot of time abroad, are you looking forward to the ‘homecoming’ tour?
I’m really looking forward to the tour. We’ve been surprised by the level of support from people in England on things like Facebook. We were surprised anyone even remembered us really. As much as I’ve enjoyed the last five months or so I’d be really disappointed if we weren’t able to make an impression at home.
What will be on your rider?
Gin and tonic will be the priority, another habit born out of the last five months. I’ve lost the imagination to even contemplate ordering anything else now.
What can fans or newcomers expect from your live sets?
Fans from before can expect longer sets for a start (I think on our last visit to the Little Civic in Wolverhampton we managed a dismal 17 minutes). It’s two guitars now rather than the one guitar and keyboards it used to be which has made it all a little sharper edged. There’s more melody in the newer songs but hopefully the delivery remains loose and dirty enough.
[ back ]
Interview: 22-20s’ Martin Trimble
Back Seat Seattle 27.1.11
22-20s are one of the world’s perfect bands. They’re just beautiful. The Lincolnshire, England band first came to my attention in 2004 with their shocker of of a debut CD. After a couple years of touring, they went on hiatus. Now reformed, the band released the superb Shake/Shiver/Moan in 2010 and are currently working on album three. I got to talk to singer/guitarist/writer Martin Trimble last year about the break, the new CD and how he and bassist/co-founder Glen Bartup have remained friends for so long.
I am so happy that you guys are back together.
Martin Trimble: Thank you – we are too.
You decided just to take a break?
MT: I think we toured too long on the first record. We’d done two years of touring without many breaks. We hadn’t done much writing. I think it all just sort of eroded any sense of fun in it, and I think once that’s gone . . . it was quite a mutual thing really. It just wasn’t really going anywhere, we didn’t have a second album in the bag and so we kind of called it a day. There were never any fireworks with the split, it kind of fizzled out.
Did you keep writing during the break?
MT: The six months after – or the six months to a year – we split I don’t think I even picked up a guitar. I hadn’t written a song for so long that after a certain amount of time it feels impossible to actually write one. Me and Glen always kept in touch and I did write a couple songs. We wanted to put them down and we just thought, who are we going to get involved for drums on it? We thought there was no one better than James [Irving], and we’d always gotten along anyways. So we started out like that, we put a couple down which I think were “4th Floor” and “Let it Go” and then it grew from there.
Where did you record Shake/Shiver/Moan?
MT: In the Courtyard, which is a little studio – our management has a studio of their own. It’s nothing fancy but we just did it there. We didn’t have a lot of money to record it so we’d just grab any time. They kind of let us have it for free and we’d grab any time there wasn’t a band in there. It was quite a process. We didn’t actually go in for four weeks and do the record. It was very much we’d write some stuff and then grab a bit of time and put some stuff down. Some stuff that was demoed actually ended up on the record.
I mean this in good way – the new music has more of a pop sound to it. Did you go that route intentionally?
MT: Subconsciously I think after the last record we were all pretty disillusioned about with the way it had gone. I think there was a subconscious veering away from the kind of more bluesy stuff we were doing. We were listening to bands like Big Star and Teenage Fanclub, more of a power pop sort of thing. Initially when we went in we did songs like “4th Floor” and “Let it Go” you can really hear the influence. Ian [Davenport, the producer] was quite involved in terms of putting out the good elements of last time – we didn’t want to lose the raw element to it. I think that’s the period we started writing stuff like “Talk to Me,” “Latest Heartbreak,” “Shake Shiver and Moan”. We went into it wanting to write more melodic stuff and I think as the process went on we became more comfortable with what we are and what makes us different from other bands, which is that raw approach and putting it down live.
How did you find your producer, Ian Davenport?
MT: He was the house engineer and producer at Courtyard. He’s doing well now – he did the Band of Skulls record, which is kind of a similar band to ourselves. It’s kind of a family thing there. We used to have Charly [Coombes, keys] in the band; his brother was in Supergrass and their management is the same. There’s a bit of a Courtyard stable. We’d do the next record with Ian, without a doubt. I already can’t speak highly enough of him.
22-20s’ Martin Trimble- Seattle 2010
You toured your new material for a while as the Bitter Pills. Did people find you?
MT: I think it got leaked a little bit. England’s so small you run the risk of them (reviewers) shooting you down before you’ve even put the record out. We just wanted to go out and tour, play and get tight. We wanted to dip our toes in the water – and Dan (guitar player) had just joined us as well. You can rehearse as much as you want but it’s totally different from playing live gigs, so we needed to get into that zone. But we didn’t want to advertise it as some sort of comeback.
How did [new guitarist] Dan Hare join the band? He was in the Jubilees?
MT: We were actually at school together – he was a couple years younger than me. We never really hung about. This is the first time in the band where we’re all born and grew up within two miles of each other. I remember him playing an Oasis song when he was about eleven in a talent competition at school. I never had much to do with him at school but I’d kind of seen his band playing around and he was always a handy guitar player and good singer. He came down to play the Heavenly show, like a 10 years of Heavenly anniversary, and he fit in straight away. As a person we all get along and we’ve got the same reference points so it kind of feels like it’s a gang of us, which I think is important in a band. You’ve got to come from the same place.
Are there songs you won’t do live again?
MT: On the first record I can’t imagine we’d play shoot your gun again. We said that but the thing is we came and said we’d only do the new stuff but then you want to play the old ones as well. I think that’s another thing we’ve become quite laid back about, is that initially we just wanted to do new stuff and reject the old stuff. You get to the stage when you realize it’s all part of the story and we feel pretty comfortable playing the old stuff. I don’t think there’s one we’d never play again. “Hold On” . . . perhaps not that one.
You and Glen met when you were very young?
MT: We were eleven.
How have you maintained the friendship?
MT: A good thing about me and Glen is that we can sit in a room for 48 hours and not say a word to each other and neither of us would take offense. I know it sounds kind of cheesy but we basically grew up as brothers really. We kind of know what pisses each other off. We just don’t talk a lot – that’s the key.
What other jobs did you have before doing music?
MT: I did a bit of work at a warehouse. Glen lasted a lot longer than I did – he got me the job actually. We were just loading massive bits of furniture in to a back of a truck and I managed about 5 days. Near the end of one of the days I just thought, fuck it, I can’t be doing this anymore. I booked some acoustic gigs to make some money – play for an hour and earn about 50 quid. That was it. I learned then I wasn’t cut out for manual labor.
What other things interest you apart from music?
MT: Football. I’m obsessed with football and music.
What were your best subjects in school?
MT: Awful at Maths, awful at Science. Anything logical I was bad at. I loved History and English.
Do you set aside time to write lyrics?
MT: I think an idea will come along from nowhere – a line or a melody. You can’t think you’re gonna sit down and come up with an idea. I think the discipline then is that when you do get that moment is sitting down and making sure you’ve got the whole song. There are so many times you get an idea and you let it linger with just the two lines and then you’re bored with it before you’ve even finished it.
Do you play any other instruments?
MT: I used to play drums a bit. I can kind of mess around on a piano but I can’t read music. I haven’t got knowledge of theory or anything like that. Even my guitar playing is quite rude and blues playing – 3 chords and stuff like that. I’m not a multi-instrumentalist.
So you learned by ear then?
MT: Pretty much, at the start. My dad had a couple books from the late 70s with guitar chords so that’s how we started out. Me and Glen got guitars at the same time. Then we found out there was this guy in Grantham (he’s still one of our best mates) who taught us the rest.
Were your family members musical?
MT: They never played anything. My mom could sing in tune but the only one who did play was my uncle, who’s obsessed with blues. When I got into guitar he gave me all these records, like Charley Patton and Muddy Waters. But my little brother plays everything – he’s only ten and he can play piano and picks up guitar really quick. A hell of a lot more natural than I am. I don’t know where he gets it from.
[ back ]