Thursday, 22 December 2016

An Interview With THE OPERA COMIC ~ 15.12.16

Back in September, a mysterious spiral image began appearing both online and on posters and flyers across Leeds and beyond; this, and links to an equally intriguing but frustratingly anonymous website, provided curious visitors with the promise that on the first of October we'd be able to find out a little more about this illusive new band. On the third of October, a mellifluous debut release entitled 'We Are The Freaks' hit the airwaves... and so The Opera Comic was born.

(l-r) Jack, Nathan, Luke & Mitch
Since then, the band (Luke Thompson, Mitch Thompson, Jack Mattison, Nathan Francey and Mitchell Wright) have enjoyed a string of live dates up and down the country, culminating in a triumphant hometown show at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. I was able to chat 4/5 of the band prior to their set and, as their original introductory campaign poster encouraged, 'take a trip into their world'...

Luke and Mitch, being brothers you obviously don't have to explain yourselves on this one... but where did the rest of you all meet?
Mitch: Me, Luke and Jack were at the same school so obviously we all knew eachother there. Then I did A-level music with Nathan. Then what about Mitch?
Luke: He was just sent down to heaven from us. To us... 

It was an extremely interesting and innovative thing that you did with the 'What Is This Band?' campaign... where did the idea for that come from, and do you think retaining that anonymity throughout helped you at all?
Luke: The thing that worked best was that nobody knew who we were, and I think people were intrigued by that. I think it was a really exciting thing to do... and it was that crossover between the physical side of things and the digital side of things. With the spiral image as a poster, we took photos of it and then wherever it was popping up, was where we'd be doing gigs in the future... so it was kind of about linking it all together like that, really.
Nathan: It was a bit of an intimacy thing as well... it gets people more involved with what you're doing because of the way you had to go and search for what it actually was. People actually went and searched for it, to our surprise! People went looking, and they found everything we had online... the teaser videos and everything, so it was a fun little way of doing it.
Jack: It was trying to create that hype without anything actually being there and make people want something that wasn't there.
Luke: It's a weird concept that we'd had in our heads. We knew how to do it and what we wanted to get across... it was just whether or not people would get it, and I think they did. A lot of people, when we were telling them about it, laughed at it or thought it'd be a bit weird but it's just because it's never been done in that way before. A band has never launched in that way before. We gave people a code word and a website to go and type it into, and they did it! It's a bold move to do it and try to create a hype without a name or a song.
Nathan: It was a bit intimidating and we were concerned about how it was going to come across and if people would respond well to it or not.

Were there any bands or artists that have particularly influenced you, and do you think your music taste has changed much since your childhood?
Luke: We've changed as songwriters, in a way and musicians... everyone is finding their own individual character.
Nathan: It's been a strange development really because we've all come from really different backgrounds in terms of what we all listen to. I was into the noise rock scene around Leeds when I was 16. Obviously, we don't play music like that... but it's all influenced me as a player and in everything that I do.
Mitch: Everyone has different backgrounds and influences, but because we're not all into one thing it brings about lots of cool, different ideas which we can merge into one. It all works really well. We're kind of heavily into soundtracks as well. They mean a lot to us, and we try and replicate that in our music as well.
Jack: It ebbs and flows as you get older doesn't it, and you go through different phases. You'll buzz off a band, and then move on to the next one! It's like a synergy of different sounds and genres really. It's got to the point where we don't really think about influences now. Our way of playing and writing songs is built into us now, it's subconscious.

You've just reached the end of a very successful debut tour... how do you think its gone? Did much preperation go into perfecting your sound and readying yourselves for that?
Luke: Because they were the first shows, it was mainly about us just finding our feet and seeing what worked and what didn't. We'd been rehearsing the set for quite a long time before we played live... but when you're in the rehearsal room, it can sound great, but then when you play it live it can be absolutely appalling. Luckily that didn't happen! In terms of the shows themselves, I've never known a band have so much bad luck!
Jack: 9 hours in a van!
Mitch: We went to Glasgow and it took a good 9 hours from Leeds because we got stuck in a load of traffic. We ended up getting there about 10 or 15 minutes before we were due on.
Nathan: The band that were meant to go on after us went on before us so that we could actually play, because we were that late! It kind of shows the commitment everyone has to it, really. We turned up, plugged in, played... then had to get back in the van again!

What's the story behind the band name? It's a bit of a quirky one!
Luke: It was taking us ages to think of a band name, and I decided I was just going to not think about it and then if something came across that I liked the look of... I'd put it forward. It was an old theatre in the strand in the 19th century called The Opera Comique... I just thought we'd change it to The Opera Comic. No one had ever used anything like that before, which I was surprised by as I thought it'd be a widely used thing.

Is there anywhere that you'd really love the opportunity to gig? That could be a particular venue, or maybe just a certain city that you've always wanted to visit.
Luke: If we do Glasgow again, I want to do King Tuts. I've heard lots of good things about it. I'd love to do KOKO again.
Nathan: I've always wanted to go to Europe to do gigs.

Is the songwriting process a collaborative effort or is there a primary songwriter?
Luke: I like to work on them acoustically at home... I don't like the pressure of doing it in the rehearsal room in front of everyone. In terms of ideas, I'll just get melodies and lyrics ready and then take them to rehearsals. I don't like to be too much of a control freak over it because I know there are people in the band who can bring a lot more to it than I can... I've got my limits, really.
Nathan: But everyone does. It's good when there are 5 of us in the live room.
Jack: You feed off eachother really. We always have that initial stimulus to work from, and it just develops organically from there.

What other hobbies and interests do you all have outside of music?
Luke: Nathan is a keen golfer.
Nathan: No I'm not. I've never played golf in my life.
Mitch: Nath plays gaelic football, that's quite unique.
Nathan: It's like an Irish hybrid of football and rugby. It's bizarre!
Jack: I love scanners.... flatbed scanners that you use for scanning paper. It's gotta be flatbed ones though, because if it's one of those that you feed it in, it's just not good enough. But yeah, I just like scanners. I like other things as well, but I'm choosing scanners.

Luke and Mitch, did you even share your hobbies?!
Nathan: I don't think either me or them did, really! I just crumbled under the pressure of telling people I wasn't a golfer...
Luke: I do allsorts really, just whatever I fancy... going for walks... It's just nice to zone out at times. I like to draw and forget everything... and get away from this lot! I might draw them one day. I think Nath said he'd like to pose for a live drawing for me.

Finally... what does 2017 have in store for The Opera Comic?
Mitch: Releases and plenty of tour dates.
Luke: We've got a tune that we've just recorded down at The Motor Museum in Liverpool. We did 'We Are The Freaks' down in Liverpool. We used to record in Leeds, but it was so nice to get away. We've got Live At Leeds, plus a few other metropolitan festivals like that. There's a new venue in Leeds that's opened called The Church and there's this little venue down there that we might go and check out called The Chapel that's next to it... we want to do some kind of gig that's a bit different, we want to play somewhere with a bit of character that'll be a bit more of an experience.

Listen to The Opera Comic and their debut single 'We Are The Freaks' here:

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