Thursday, 17 May 2012

Interview: The Calimocho Club

Bluesy rock duo The Calimocho Club may be named after a drink whose ingredients of Cola and red wine seem like chalk and cheese, but as a band they’re a cohesive unit despite the project’s nascent age. For Gary L Hope (vocals, guitar) and Tommy Pickford (drums) are no strangers to the live music circuit around Manchester and Salford, having appeared until recently as the stylish and memorably suited The Black Knights.

The shift into a new gear was a result of pure “gut feeling”, amongst other reasons, but a host of live shows and an accomplished debut EP have seen them accelerate since.

Conversely, debut EP Whoa Whoa, Hey Hey seems to want to slow down in title at least, but its content is juxtaposed with such an interpretation. Staccato grooves, screaming riffs and soulful rhythms are delivered with the force and unflinching starkness synonymous with the very best of electric blues and all with an urgency that keeps the fleeting running time under 15 minutes.

Musically, Tommy’s drum rolls are reminiscent of The Black Keys’ early records – in particular Pat Carney’s stick work on Thickfreakness – while Gary’s guitar and lyrics fit with the spirit of blues that they define as “raw, sometimes violent, melancholy, sarcastic, wry, hopeful and hopeless [and] mostly governed by feel”.

Their next show is a headline slot at the next Now Then Manchester show at Dulcimer bar, bringing the curtain down on another folk and blues showcase and they shared a few thoughts with us in anticipation.

Now Then: Why did you change your band name and aesthetic [from The Black Knights]?

The Calimocho Club: It felt right to do it – a combination of musical reasons, where we sat in the universe, a gut feeling and other behind the scenes issues definitely pushed us toward it.

NT: Do you have a favourite musical reinvention?

CC: Bowie has been the king of reinvention, killing Ziggy and going all 80s cocaine kid is up there for me.

NT: What have the experiences of support slots with the likes of The Jim Jones Revue, Those Darlins and Dave Arcari taught you?

CC: It helps break you out of your own bubble. They all tour like beasts – Bog Log III is the same. Band of Skulls have gone on to support The Black Keys. It’s a reality check that no two acts do things the same way. Some have more backing (team, press and monetary), some go totally DIY, some sit between the two. What is clear is that it is still a slog - you still have to be great.

What else has it taught us? That we can sit comfortably in that company. It forces us to raise our game. We always get a better reaction at these types of shows – to put it into crude numbers, we sell more CDs, and get more fans. It’s also good to see how other acts do things; you can always pick up something useful.

NT: You’ve just finished a tour of your own; which show was the pick of the bunch and why?

CC: They were all great shows but I’d say the Puzzle Hall, Sowerby Bridge for the performance and audience reaction. Bristol for the aftershow party!

NT: Lightnin’ Hopkins or The Black Keys? Do you prefer the blues of old or new – or are they not comparable?

CC: They are all the same ballpark. It’s more the spirit of the blues that draws me in – by definition it is raw, sometimes violent, melancholy, sarcastic, wry, hopeful and hopeless. It’s also mostly governed by feel rather than robotically learning patterns. Same ballpark then, but, like anything, if you can add your own personal twist onto it you’re away...

NT: What do you have planned for the near future? Are there any new recordings lined up?

CC: Unfortunately/fortunately our imagination exceeds our budget at times. We are putting together another tour at the moment, UK, but may look at some European shows.

We will be getting some new photos done, do another music video – not too concerned with having new recordings at the moment, there’s the artist in me that wants to record, fighting the businessman in me that says: “create more demand first”. We have a good EP that has still got legs and have some acoustic demos floating around.

In fairness the world is laden with recorded music; it’s ten-a-penny. It might be fighting a losing battle, but we want to try and keep music special, an experience. It’s another debate entirely, but the series of 0s and 1s that the digital marketplace has squeezed that thrill somewhat.

However, a great live show cannot be beaten. Playing live has always been our forte. You experience it in the moment and you can change things around in a way that a recorded artifact literally cannot. Yes, there are an ever-growing number of people who spend the show recording it on phones for posterity, sharing and using at as an honour/social ‘badge’ (and so miss out on the immediacy of being in the moment), but there’s still loads who long for that buzz that a live show can generate in them. That’s the fucking money!

Words & edits: Ian Pennington
Flyer design: Craig Brown Beards Club Illustration
Photos & logo: courtesy of The Calimocho Club

The Calimocho Club headline Dulcimer bar in Chorlton on Thursday 17th May. The free entry blues and folk showcase will also feature performances by Rory Charles, Eleanor Lou and Mathew Gray.

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