Interview: The Longsands
Published on April 30th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Newcastle five-piece The Longsands are gearing up for the 11th June release of their debut album Meet Me in Spanish City, so Rocksucker caught up with the band’s songwriter and guitarist Ian Barnes for a hearty natter about their journey thus far, not least a rather innovative series of promo videos that has seen them challenge Mike Tyson to a game of conkers…
…take on Aston Villa and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given at paper-scissors stone…
…go to Ricky Hatton’s house for a game of darts…
…and contest an egg-and-spoon race with Durham and England cricketer Steve Harmison MBE…
How did you go about roping in all those big sporting names?
Our manager [Steve Wraith] does a lot of sports events management, sportsmen’s dinners and all that kind of stuff, and he’s a boxing promoter as well so he’s quite well connected. The events company is called Players Inc, and he runs a Newcastle United fanzine called Toon Talk. We weren’t really planning to do a series of them but we knew we were going to be performing at this event in Gateshead with Mike Tyson, and our singer [Trevor Cox] came up with the idea of challenging him to some sort of fight because if we put it on YouTube then everyone would watch it, and we could stick our track on behind it. We thought a game of conkers would be funny because it’s quite a British and not an American thing to do.
We were waiting in the dressing room with a few other people who’d managed to worm their way in there, then an American guy came in and said, “It’s like a fucking circus in here, man!” and threw everyone out. So we’re amongst about twenty people waiting outside to see who’d be able to get back in, and this security guy with a wire on said, “Okay, Mike will see the band.” We were like, “Haha, get in!”
Mike Tyson was really cool; we had a bit of craic with him about the band, then introduced him to conkers. We were in there for about ten minutes, got some photos with him and stuff, then went out and performed before he came on and did his thing. That got a really good reaction, so we decided that each band member should do their own sporting celebrity challenge. Steve knew Shay Given because he’d done quite a few charity events with him, and he was doing a photo shoot for the NSPCC while Shay was at Manchester City, so because I live in Manchester he just said, “Come over to the training ground.”
I got to go round to Ricky Hatton’s house to play darts with him because it’s just down the road from where I live; we were meant to be doing it in a gym but he said, “Why don’t you just come round to my house?” He’s got this huge mansion with a bar upstairs, everything, it’s brilliant. And there’s the egg-and-spoon race with Steve Harmison, who’s a massive fan of the band and comes to some of our gigs. He did that out in the pissing rain, which showed commitment to be fair to him.
The internet’s great for bands, all the different social networks and stuff, but the problem is that there’s just so many bands that you have to do something that stands out a little bit. A lot of them just have music videos or live videos up there, which we’ve got as well, but someone who might not necessarily have listened to our band might watch Mike Tyson have a game of conkers against some idiot! We’ve got our track playing in the background and at the end it shows a link to our website, so it’s just a different way of initially engaging with people. We never really sat down as a band and planned it; Trevor was just saying how he had to find a way to fight Mike Tyson if he was only going to meet him once, and it sort of panned out from there. It’s been good fun.
How did you get Howard Marks along for the “Little Britain” video?
Our manager’s done quite a lot of gangster journalism and wrote a few books about the community when he was younger. He was quite interested about our life and we got to meet him on a number of occasions, and through them we’ve got to meet other people who used to be gangsters and are now celebrities with a book or a film out. Howard’s another person he’s got to know from doing some charity events and stuff. He sent him a song we did about the smoking ban and he said, “Yeah, definitely.” It was really good.
Wasn’t the album supposed to come out last summer?
And the one before! Basically Steve has only been our manager for about a year and a half now; he’s from a sporting background rather than a musical background, but he’s good at PR and he’s got a few contacts. We were with a music management until 2008, then we managed to get a support slot with Bruce Foxton at the end of 2009, then Steve came in in 2010, about the time that we did the management deal. There was quite a bit of interest from Sony but that didn’t happen in the end; it happens quite a lot at major labels that you make a really good contact, they move on and whoever takes their job doesn’t follow up on their interest.
Some of these processes can end up dragging on for about six months, you have initial meetings and then things go back and forth, and it’s one of those things where you’re sitting there thinking, “This could be a really big break for us, we’ve got to let it happen,” and it’s really frustrating when it comes to an end because from a finance point of view you’ve just been sat there doing nothing for six months.
Basically that led to us parting with our management company for a number of reasons; he was in a legal battle with another artist and he took his eye off the ball, I thought. But he agreed to let us out of our contract and I’ll always respect him for that. Then we had interest from an independent label, but again talks broke down. Eventually we decided to go for it ourselves and it’s the best thing we ever did, but to get the PR right we didn’t want to say, “Right, we’re putting it out next month,” so we waited for the sales of our two singles [“Little Britain” and “Let Love Rain on You”] to come back – HMV and stuff take ages to get money back to the bands – and we’ve been dealing with some good radio pluggers.
It’s very organic now; we’re not going to see sales going through the roof because our budget’s quite tight, but all the money we make goes back into the band and each release is bigger than the next, and I guess at some point if sales and PR go the right way then we’ll probably be in a better position to sign a major licensing deal or record deal. I think it’s probably the way bands are going to have to go, to be honest.
That’s the long version of the story, anyway. The short version is: we just got fucked about by a few record companies!
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
There’s a band called Ambershift who’ll be supporting us at our album launch show at Newcastle University; they’re a really good band. Apart from that…I don’t know, Newcastle doesn’t seem to be the greatest city for original music. People are quite stuck in their ways up there I think, they like their cover bands and stuff, you know? For whatever reason, it’s not like Manchester or Liverpool where you tend to get a stream of bands coming through.
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Beatles, Nirvana and The Doors.
Ian Barnes, thank you.
The Longsands are set to release their new single “Shut Your Mouth” on June 4th, to be followed by their debut album Meet Me in Spanish City on June 11th, both through Unknown Soldier Records. The band will play the following live dates in May and June…
10th May – O2 Academy, Newcastle (w/ The Farm)
25th May – Club Academy, Manchester (w/ The Farm)