There’s a new band in town, although they’re quite near the edge of town, apparently. Lounge at the Edge of Town is the latest project by the members of Turin Brakes and Phil Ramocon. It’s Turin Brakes, and it’s not, because it’s many other things as well…
This week, we dive deep into the Lounge, as we have interviews with Gale Paridjanian, TB’s driving force behind the project, and Phil Ramacon, the wondrous wizard musician that helped these songs into existence. They answer many of the questions Turin Brakes and other people may have, including: is this a Turin Brakes album? Who or what is “Hopper”? And will there be a physical release any time soon? Today we interview both Gale and Phil, come back tomorrow for our separate extended interviews with Phil and then Gale the day after. And then, to cap it all off, later in the week, we’ll have an Ether Site review ready for you to read.
First of all, thank you both for answering these questions. Can you guys talk about how you guys met and what sparked this musical collaboration to begin with?
Phil: “We met initially around 2015 for a high profile show celebrating the work of Talk Talk, I was asked to be MD (musical director), for the event since I played with the band on stage and in the studio. It was a great line up including Sophie Barker and Fife Dangerfield. Turin Brakes were outstanding and very cool. We repeated the event and few years later and it was even better. Turin Brakes were again top notch.”
Gale: “I recall Phil talking about touring with ‘Bob’ (Marley, ed.). I was like ‘Which Bob?’ We knew he’d done a load of stuff. He has some great stories from time spent with legends. We became friends with Phil through that. Then he was in the audience of an acoustic gig we were doing. We said “hi” and had a hang out. I just thought: we do quite a lot of writing sessions, so something good will come of it, whether it’s for us or some other unborn thing.”
Phil: “It was at the Groucho Club around September of 2018 that we bumped into each other and talked about writing together. I really liked their songs and I think they liked my keyboard style. Our first writing session was in November 2018.”
And then it was just writing a whole bunch of songs?
Gale: “It just started coming together really quickly. Olly and I arranged for Phil to come to my house where there was a piano in my daughter’s room. After chatting, and playing some songs from Spotify, we sat in my daughter Rosa’s room. Phil is like a ball of energy on the piano, full of ideas: singing stuff, moving on, trying something, getting excited. It worked really well with Olly and me. After loads of slow songwriting sessions that were like pulling teeth, it was like a load of dust was being thrown in the air and you only had to control it a bit and bring it down. Olly started singing, then we all joined in. We started nurturing the first songs, 7 Days (Can’t Look Down, ed.) and Bad Dreams. Incidentally, I had been discussing how Rosa had been having nightmares on the bed we were sitting on. Anyway, It was nice and free. We weren’t thinking about where we were heading , we were just heading.”
Phil: “Out of that first session came Can’t Look Down. We were done by teatime. It was a no brainer to continue writing whenever we could. By May of 2019, we had enough songs to start thinking about how we were going to present them to the world. In mid September we recorded nine songs in a great studio as a band with Olly singing with us in the same room. That’s what you get when you listen to it – that raw sound.”
When did the project become something you wanted to put out in the world?
Gale: “We just didn’t want this to end up a file on a laptop that never saw the light of day. It had kind of been created by magic and we thought we should act on the momentum and lightness of touch. There are so many songs sitting on laptops that could be having a good life. If they’re lucky they get to a label or management meeting for the artist before their heads are cut off. We decided to try and record it quickly, in a live way , just keep it honest and not overblown. Make it first, see what happened after.
Can you talk about the move to release the project: why now, and in this way?
Gale: “We were just starting to feel around and play it to industry types before COVID kicked in. We had thought we’d get it printed on vinyl and do a limited release and were looking for some kind of label partner for it. There was an idea to aim for having the vinyl ready for Record Store Day. We could have maybe just got it there in time but then COVID19 started happening. In lockdown, it was all getting slow and heavy, so we decided we could at least give it a digital life, at least to our reach of Turin Brakes fans. We were aiming originally to try and keep Lounge as quite a separate project, a side story that might appeal to people who weren’t necessarily Turin Brakes fans. Looking at it from the first few weeks of lockdown, getting it out was looking like a loooong road. Then the idea of it sitting on a laptop started to come back… We thought it might be a good time for people to have something new to listen to, and vice versa that people might listen to the whole of it with new ears in light of lockdown and global panic.”
Can you explain the name of the project? Why the different name?
Gale: “The name came from the image of the character that started to emerge. It was a fill in name for the WhatsApp group and it started to stick. We originally didn’t want to mix Turin Brakes into the project too closely. There had been a freedom not thinking about it in those terms. We didn’t want to upset TB fans by doing something light and playful, or put off any potential new listener that might have decided years ago that they did not like Turin Brakes. But I think at the bottom of it was the freedom we felt of not tying it in with TB so closely, of it being new and untethered.”
Can you talk a bit about creating the character “Hopper” for the singer character, as seen on social media?
Gale: “Hopper just started to emerge after Can’t Look Down and Bad Dreams. Usually it’s obvious what or who you’re writing for, as in Whose Project? TB Album? Gorgeous young singer’s debut? But we shelved all those conversations for a bit and let things run. And this washed out character started saying: “Hey, over here, I can help you through this! Just keep colouring me in. Again, I think it was about finding an excuse to be free – to be as lounge, be as cheesy, be as New Orleans, be whatever in that moment because its not ‘you’. So Hopper just seemed to develop with each verse in each song, sometimes as an excuse and sometimes as a reason. We did talk about him, but he kind of talked about himself.”
What songs do you feel capture the essence of the project best?
Gale: “For me it’s kind of the first two songs we wrote again as they seemed to set us off. But Sunshine is a good eye-opener on the heartbreak on the record. I mean each song sheds some light on what’s going on.”
Come back tomorrow for our Phil-focused interview. What’s his influence on the project? What other industry legends has he worked with? And are Turin Brakes the biggest divas of them all?