By Dee Massey
Some of the greatest ideas and plans have come to people in their dreams. Great prophets have hit on their greatest visions in their slumber – even Nostradamus dreamt up some of his outlandish predictions in his sleep and most of us are still waiting for our ‘eureka!’ moment.
Thom Mackie from Loughborough upstarts ‘The Voom Blooms’ woke one morning with the band’s name inexplicably etched in his mind. Frontman George Guildford recalls ” One night at about 3am [Thom] texted me to say ‘We are called The Voom Blooms’ . And so the pair had a name for a band, now all they had to do was find the missing members to make the dream a reality.
Fast-forward a few years on – the venue, a kebab shop, and the night – New Years Eve 2004. A drunken old stranger mystically predicted that greatness in the music industry was the destiny for the guys. Only weeks earlier George and Thom had started hiring a rehearsal room, jamming for hours on end but with would-be guitarist Craig Monk living miles away in Leeds and would be-bassist Brett Young on the brink of moving to Japan for work forming a band seemed a far flung dream. But fate was having none of that and before long Craig moved back to Loughborough, and after witnessing the 3 piece rehearse Politics and Cigarettes (the debut single) Brett gave up the job in Japan and came aboard as bassist. And so having spent their childhoods walking to school together, bickering over who’d discovered the latest great new band – they suddenly were in a band themselves.
Some bands are just meant to be, and The Voom Blooms seem to slide into this category. From the opening chords it’s like a homecoming – after a few listens, every track has got under your skin. And that’s quite something for a band who despite growing up together, have only officially been together for all of nine months.
So how the hell did they get to where they are now? So many local bands spend years plugging away in back rooms, hoping for ‘that break’ which never comes. But The Voom Blooms boys had a plan.
“From the beginning we said we would spend a lot of time really working hard on putting together a dynamic set, that we would play no longer that 20/25 minute sets and that when we go out to gig we will move around a lot and try and get really good support slots rather than just playing local venues’ George explains.
Lady Luck played another card, and after Jimmy Jukebox, a well know promoter from Stockton-on-Tees, got hold of their demo the gigs started to roll in – the turning point being a show supporting London upstarts ‘The Paddington’s’. An incident involving a tin of corn beef and guitarist Craig’s fingers meant he went on stage with duck taped fingers hoping for the best. One chord later and blood was splattering out over him, the stage, the crowd and his white Strat guitar got a paint job too. But still he plugged away, and The Paddington’s manager “blown away” by both their talent and dedication – and soon after became their manager.
“As soon as that happened we got support slots with the Paddingtons, Babyshambles, Five o’clock Heroes, Boy Kill Boy and we got onto the bill at Manchester’s In The City. I guess in the end it all came down to the ‘Politics & Cigarettes/London heads” demo we made as that’s what originally started to get us attention from people.”
And one of those people was Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq, who’s started playing the bands London Head demo, and so whilst some bands wait years to here themselves on the radio, The Voom Blooms graced the airwaves only a few months after forming.
“I was sat in my lounge [when we were first played on the radio] I couldn’t believe it, it gave me the sudden urge to want to start jumping up and down for some reason. I now know how they feel in “That thing you do” when they all start running around switching all the radios on… (Did I just reference a Tom Hanks film? that’ll haunt me)”. [Yep!]
It’s the unadulterated enthusiasm and genuine excitement that’s one of the most appealing features of this band – yes they’ve only been plugging away for months rather than years, but this is the stuff dreams are made of.
Arm in arm with the airplay came the offer of more shows for the relatively novice performares. One of those gigs was the now infamous Babyshambles show in Leicester. Pete did a Pete No Show special and the crowd reacted.
“There was a bit of a riot, the police dogs turned ..When we heard the promoters were pulling the gig we ran onstage to grab our amps and stuff and the crowd thought we were Babyshambles so they started cheering, but when they saw us taking stuff off the stage they starting throwing bottles and stuff at us, we thought it best to do a runner!”
This was followed by playing to over 500 people at Loughborough University.
“I couldn’t believe it when I walked on stage; it was something I had never experienced.” Explains George, but not one to let his ego bloom he adds, “Funny thing was, the next gig we played there were like 50 people there and we got heckled! [laughs]”
But the question still stands, with the UK music scene being flooded with generic same same indie, can The Voom Blooms stand out? With the ‘indie’ scene enjoying yet another renaissance ( did it ever really go away?!), especially it seems with up and coming bands like The Holloway’s, Larrikin Love et al leading the charge, is that really something a band wants to be part of? It’s easy to get tarred with the same brush and be just another generic indie band.
“I think at the moment a lot of record labels have pigeon-holed us as just another indie band and we find that really funny because that couldn’t be further from the truth. At the moment the lack of money is keeping us from investing in loads of weird and wonderful instruments, so we’re just trying to get by with the tools we have. I would like to see our dynamics grow though over the next year, so I better run off to the local car-boot as soon as I’m done here to find some wonderful toy piano or something!”
Part of the bands strong sense of artistic direction is a reflection of their musical inspirations, which shoot out across the range – from Kanye West, Interpol, Hope of the States, Wacko Jacko, Jeff Buckley through to The Smiths, The Jam, The Cure, Bright Eyes, Mogwai, Brian Wilson.
“I can’t really narrow down my main influences as I feel I am influenced by so many. I think the albums that actually made me think, “how the hell did they do that, I want to do that” were, “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys, Interpol’s “Turn on the Bright Lights“, anything by Kanye West, “Up the Bracket” by The Libertines, “Off the Wall” by Jacko, “Kid A” by Radiohead and Bright Eyes’ “Lifted...” I do love Bloc Party’s sonics though and the way they structure their songs. I remember hearing “So here we are” for the first time, I was at work and it came on the warehouse stereo, I thought, “Wow! That’s brilliant!” the way they took the sound of Mogwai, sped up the guitars and put a fantastic melody over the top. That really inspired me to go home and get back to the drawing board.”
With everyone bringing their imagination to the table to write their own parts in tracks, all members get involved -in the studio they’re self confessed perfectionists, with engineer Adam Ellis (Deadline Studios) having his patience tested,
‘Its usually that me and Craig will sit there with an idea of how we want the sonics and dynamics of the song to be and we don’t leave the room until we’ve matched the sound in our head with what is coming out of the speakers. We‚re all perfectionists too which usually means we’re forever telling Adam to turn one up, turn one down, get this noise, get that noise, god knows how he puts up with us!”
It’s the strong sense of artistic direction that’s given the band a sound that does stand out in the crowd and whilst visually the guys could be Babyshambles’s kid brothers (crack habits notwithstanding) – to the ears they’re a heady mix of Bloc Party, Jeff Buckley and Interpol with a hefty dose of heavier rock embraced by solid melodies and hooks.
It was the demo recorded with Adam Ellis that lead to the band getting their deal with Fiction, home of The Cure, Humanzi and Ian Brown. Alex Close from the label heard debut single Politics and Cigarettes and wanted to bring the band onside. And so, only months into their career, The Voom Blooms found themselves with a deal, and heading down to London for their debut show. Having just played at the spangly new club NME in Sheffield a few nights before, the less-that-salubrious surroundings of The Dublin Castle were a bit of a come down.
“When we turned up at the Dublin castle and played in pretty much the back room of a pub on a tiny stage it was a bit of a contrast. It was the first time we’d ever played at a venue like that. I liked the intimacy of it though, it was a pretty cool venue, like a quintessential old fashioned gig.”
As their 13th gig were they anticipating bad luck?
“We were always waiting for the day when one of us broke a string in the middle of the song and it was typical that at our first London show in the middle of the first song that it would happen, Craig frantically fumbling around looking for the back-up guitar. But nonetheless we had a lot of fun playing that gig!”
The Voom Blooms are the kind of band you really want to succeed. Their quiet confidence and endearing modesty coupled with some truly inspired writing and a well honed live set and bucket loads of talent mean they can’t go wrong. They’re the guys next door living the dream.
“We would hope that people would leave our shows feeling the same way we have when we’ve gone [a band]. I remember seeing Hope of the States…I’d never heard of them but I remember that it made me want to go out and write music like them, it was so uplifting. The thing that struck me was you could see this huge imagination and ambition coming out of all of them, they delivered everything with so much energy and passion. I would hope that we come across that way.”
Noble sentiments from a guy who not so long ago had to chose between making music or selling it in a store. When all’s said and done, I think they can be assured that their place in on stage, not behind the counter at Virgin.. after all – drunken prophets in kebabs shops can’t be wrong.
For further info check out www.thevoomblooms.com