words: David Thurlby
pics: Phillip Rhodes
June - July 2004
Pop? Rock? East 17’s Brian Harvey and narked Shed Seven bassists? Must be Turismo then.
When the front man of a band declares how consoling Brian Harvey, of dodgy 90's boyband geezers East 17 fame, after a particularly ruthless mauling from the great Hull public was one of his personal highlights of being in the band closely followed by getting caught in the act while pilfering booze from Shed Sevens rider on their farewell tour, you would normally have to ask the question whether this reflected the actions of a band who were really serious about making waves in an already crowded arena of new rock n' roll upstarts. But not with four piece rock-punksters Turismo.
Such incidents are mere footnotes in their two year history which only scratch at the surface of what the band are all about and have experienced in this relatively short time. From packing out local pubs and clubs in the early days of their March 2002 birth where Baggot (vocals) , Jon (guitar) , James (bass) and Rich (drums and backing vocals) were joined by now ex-member Mike to the amicably parting company with the aforementioned Mike and experiencing a crisis of confidence, you do get the impression that things are never particularly dull with this lot.
Self-enforced confinement in an attempt to regain some much needed bravado ending up with the boys producing their first full album "Too Tall For Fashion" and with it a new quirky punk-edged sound and a defiant sense of direction.
"We want to be massive and have gold records" proclaims frustrated helicopter pilot, Rich. "I want to be a big fat rock star" adds obscure heavy rock fan James.
As well as having such grand ambitions the band are well aware that a daily dose of rock pie is not suddenly going to propel them into obscenely large rock stars in literally any sense of the word. There is a hell of a lot of hard graft involved as singer Baggot knows only too well." Jon, Rich and I used to be in a band together where we used to work so hard just to get people to come and see the band play with very little success. Even now we know how much hard work there is to do as we had label interest before when Turismo were a five piece but everything went wrong, Mike was frustrated with our direction and there was just no enthusiasm for it but now we are sorted and ready to go".
Being lucky enough to be invited to their small but compact rehearsal rooms where they go at least three days a week to practice, gave me an extra insight into the determination of the band to give it their best shot.
This hard work has obviously paid off once you take one listen to the new album. But why "Too Tall For Fashion" lads?
"Because I am too tall for fashion!" reveals "Time Warp" fan Baggot. "I don't think its your tallness, you’re just an odd shape, clothes don't sit on you well " shortest member of the ban Jon says in comforting tones. It is evident from hearing the album that the more self-confessed harmony based beginnings collide with the more self-aware punk direction to produce an insanely catchy and contrasting piece of work which is just aching to be heard live in a sweaty pub or club.
Standout tracks "Chinese Torture (Dirty Fingernails)" and "Elvis" feature some ska-punk excellence which cannot fail to get you dancing about no matter how hard you resist, (Go on, I dare you to defy me) with the former’s irritatingly bouncy chorus refusing to leave your music-addled brain for days on end. The equally melodic "Back in '66" and "Llamas" convey an immediate structure and are best described as pop songs verging on punk with a bag load of maturity. (Before you start putting 2 and 2 together and getting Blink 182, they are not going down that road at all.)
Live favourite, with both the crowd and the band, "Rabbi to Rabbi" appears from nowhere in a crescendo of Adam and the Ants style drum beats before transforming into a 70's rock stomp with Baggot pleading insanity by its end. There is also even a few toned down numbers to maybe relax in the garden to on those no doubt sunny days ahead, notably the jangly "Glass Humour" on which you hear Baggot declaring "You don't have much to talk about.." Who needs conversation when you have something as sweet as this playing in the background?
With such a variety of styles even the band themselves are unsure as how to categorise their music. "We are a big big loud rock band" proclaims James. "I'd say punky myself, I think we are punk with punk principles" Adds Jon.
Front man Baggot then goes on to describe how they began pretty much with a blank slate when it came to their style. "When we first started we didn't know what we were doing, we had known each other for differing lengths of time so we ended up writing Jazz, then there would be a pop song and then a punk song". It is refreshing to hear of a band starting out making music for music's sake and not pigeon holing themselves into any of the current trends' which are dreamt up on a weekly basis by various music magazines trying to gain that achingly cool status. "It took us ages to find our niche, and we’re still unsure but I think that's a good thing" admits Jon.
Well it's a bloody good thing if you ask me considering the reviews and general thumbs up that the new and improved Turismo have been getting.
"Our songs have really changed a lot" explains Rich. "Where before Baggot would bring them to practice and we would all play it, we are now in the practice room with all four of us together more often working on the songs and the structure in tandem". This closeness and collective approach contrasts with previous question marks over the bands direction but as Rich now explains "We would not have got to this stage right now without having that kind of beginning".
Having recently just completed a mini UK tour taking in such cities as Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester in order to give the new material a showcase and a much needed live airing, the conversation inevitably leads down the road of what actually constitutes the Turismo live experience, a question which is met with extreme enthusiasm as all four band members eyes light up. "That's the fun part" grins Baggot. "We are quite quirky onstage and that is why we are different to other bands, we don't stand there trying to be cool or moody. We just prat about on stage all the time."
It makes a change from those bands that would never dare sacrifice a hair being knocked out of place in order to let their guard down a little bit. Turismo let fears of dishevelled clothing go to hell by involving their audience as much as is humanely possible, even dragging people up on stage to sing parts of songs.
But please don't go forming the opinion that Turismo's live appearances often descend into a performance akin to a circus show, as Jon defiantly points out "The only people who do care what they look like on stage end up making more of a fool of themselves than what it is if you jump around or whatever."
If you thought all the action and drama occurs during the actual performances on the road, then think again. The best place to be with your camera phone at a Turismo gig may in fact be backstage. Yes, it's the time for the infamous double exposé starring Baggot from Turismo, Brian Harvey and Shed 7. Firstly, how on earth do you explain the tender loving treatment dished out to the East 17 front man?
"He was onstage at the Hull University Ball at which we were playing at and all the students were giving him a hard time." What appears to follow according to Baggot's account is that Mr Harvey began an argument with the crowd, defending himself with the immortal line "Have you ever had a machete put to your head before?" Baggot continues "He came off stage absolutely fuming and I thought this was the ultimate opportunity for me to go and calm him down and I went up to him and said 'It's alright Brian, we all get it', and a beautiful friendship was formed.”
However, enemies could have been formed if it wasn't for the calming influence of one Rick Witter when his band caught a singer with a certain other band delving in to their rider. "They all came in after their performance at the Welly club where we were supporting them going 'Great gig lads, great gig….who the fuck is that in the corner'?" laughs Baggot. What followed was an irritated Shed 7 bassist, excellent peacemaking by Rick Witter and an admittance that it didn't really matter as they had once stole booze from Suede. So they all lived happily ever after.
As well as seeing an upturn in fortunes themselves, the band are happy to report from the front line on how healthy the state of the Hull music scene is at the moment with their favourites being The Favours, Fonda 500, The Paddingtons and Windum Earl. This new wave of talented bands can be attributed to a change in attitude of some of the city's entertainment venues that have finally come to realise the profitable market of live music.
More importantly it's promoters who have such a love of live music are coming out of the woodwork and doing something about their passion, as Jon quite rightly points out, "They are almost as essential as the bands are." This kind of attitude and optimism is needed to finally put Hull on the music map and replace the quips about fish with the praise of an up and coming music scene. Its just unfortunate at the moment that although the talent is there, the image still sticks.
"We used to be disillusioned thinking that, say, the Leeds music scene was far better than in Hull, but after going out gigging with these bands we are in a position to say that there are just as many good bands in Hull as there is anywhere else," says Rich.
“It's the stigma of coming from Hull that can hold a band back" adds Jon. Turismo seem to be determined to not let that happen and they intend to continue promoting their band of quirky rock-punk fun left, right and centre for the rest of the year in an attempt to change a few peoples minds about the positive aspects of Hull.
Ultimately, like any unsigned band, Turismo hope all this hard work will eventually pay off and get them that prized record deal and a release from the creativity-sapping experience of having day-jobs when all they want to do is develop their sound and put all the ideas they have into practice.
"We have a management deal already, so its their job to get us signed, but we need to put together a decent package to sell," explains Baggot. The promising debut album is a good start so come on you A&R men, come to Hull, you are in for a treat, because if you don't, drummer Rich may be forced to try his luck at flying again. "I wanted to be a helicopter pilot and went for lessons, when I was eventually given control, we started to nose-dive straight away. It was traumatic." You have been warned.