photo by Doron Gild
review by Miriam Lamey
interview by DJ Shannon
photos by Doron Gild
Leeds-based iLiKETRAiNS recently released their enchanting full-length debut Elegies to Lessons Learnt. This haunting, melancholy album combines echoing riffs, driving bass, and velvety vocals with heavy drums and the occasional cornet solo. Interestingly, this piece was recorded in an abandoned Leeds chapel and this unconventional decision matches the albumâ€™s surprising subject material. Elegies to Lessons Learnt explores more somber episodes in history, such as the Great Fire of London, with “25 Sins” and the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated in the darkly urgent “Spencer Perceval.” This dynamic five piece comprised of David Martin (guitar and vocals), Guy Bannister (guitar, rhodes, synths, vocals), Alistair Bowis (bass), Ashley Dean (cornet and visuals), and Simon Fogal (drums) played a sold-out debut show at SWSX and have had admirable press coverage in the UK in NME, The Sun and the Financial Times, plus full airplay of their 9-minute epic “Spencer Percival” on Radio One. This is iLiKETRAiNS’ first appearance in New York.
After their moody, melodic opening set this morning, DJ Shannon cornered the band and asked them a few questions.
DJ Shannon: I had read you perform with British Rail uniforms and have an awesome visual presentation. How has your show evolved?
David: We used to perform in British Rail uniforms. Now we donâ€™t. We perform in mourning gear for our shows now. We wear have black ties and then we have black arm bands as well to remember all the people we sing about in our songs.
DJ Shannon: Who creates the visuals?
Ashley: I do.
DJ Shannon: Do you have a background in that?
Ashley: Yeah. Sort of. Iâ€™ve been doing it for the last 5 years or so. And I try to inform the audience a little bit about the songs. The lyrics are obtuse sometimes, at least telling the story through the songs so Iâ€™m trying to educate.
David: Weâ€™ve got dates and everything.
Ashley: Yeah, thereâ€™s a bit of information with a visual representation of the characters in moments from history in Britain. For the tour we just finished, during the song â€œ25 Sinsâ€, itâ€™s about the Great Fire in London but itâ€™s about contemporary life in London as well. So I had the skyline of the city we played in that burns down.
David: We decided we shouldnâ€™t do that in NY. We thought that would be a bit insensitive.
DJ Shannon: Your songs include lots of historical content including one called â€˜Spencer Percevalâ€™ about the only British prime minister ever to be assassinated. Where do you get your inspiration for your music? Are you opening up your textbooks?
David: We didnâ€™t study history I would have loved to. Maybe I will one day. The best song subjects find us. We donâ€™t go looking for them. We keep our eyes open and read the newspaper. Donâ€™t actively search and find something. Then when they discover us we go to the library and do some research. Buy some books. Itâ€™s kind of a lengthy songwriting process.
DJ Shannon: Do you sit around with some pints at the local pub?
David: Maybe. The really good thing is if you discover a subject. Then you go off on tangents about it. Then you can sort of create a tree of the songs that interconnect. Itâ€™s kind of nice but you find one song then discover another three.
DJ Shannon: Who are you anxious to see this week at CMJ?
David: I donâ€™t know. I know this sounds really bad. But I donâ€™t know whoâ€™s playing.
DJ Shannon: Have you ever seen Foals?
David: Yeah we saw them about 4 weeks ago at Leeds festival. They were great live. I havenâ€™t really connected with the singles but live theyâ€™re much more complex. We went to see Holy Fuck, St. Vincent and the National. They were good.
DJ Shannon: Did you see Pela? They were playing with the National on Monday night and were here in-studio yesterday.
David: Yeah Yeah.
DJ Shannon: Theyâ€™re from Brooklyn.
David: Are they a new band?
DJ Shannon: No, theyâ€™ve been around for years. The drummer was leaving the band but they were scheduled to leave the band. But then played the KEXP BBQ and were blown away by the response that they decided to stay together. Bands are amazed by our listeners. When they come to town they wonder â€˜How does Seattle know so much about our band?â€™
David: So if we ever start questioning our existence then weâ€™ll come over and play in Seattle. It has healing powers.
DJ Shannon: Have you played with British Sea Power?
David: We went on tour with them. We’re going out for drinks tonight with them.
DJ Shannon: I was trying to think of other bands you could play with. Uniforms and stuff.
David: Itâ€™s nice playing with all sorts of bands. Itâ€™s nice to stand apart from everyone else on the bill.