words: Tom Goodhand
pics: Andy Brown
"I believe, in this day and age, originality is an impossible concept, and therefore we are being completely unoriginal” says Russell. It’s not the world’s best sales pitch, but then you get the impression that he isn’t perhaps the world’s most serious interviewee. After all though, isn’t that what we want in a band? The Research are unashamedly having fun. They are making daft lo-fi pop, they are happy to spend a large proportion of this interviewing describing how Russell once saved his ‘stolen’ cat, Angus, from a tree. Having fun is good, therefore The Research are good.
Of course, that is slightly limited. The Research are more than good. They are the most infectious band you are likely to see for a long time. When I meet them, they are knackered from a gig in London last night, and attempting to liven themselves for a gig at Joseph’s Well that night. In spite of that, that Russell (keyboards and lead vocals), Georgia (bass and vocals) and Sarah (drums and, guess what, vocals), are chatty, pleasant and thoroughly entertaining company.
The most notable thing about The Research is how very charming they are. They are happy to tell stories, crack jokes and listen carefully to any question you may ask. On stage, they are even more charming. Russell sits on a stool with his keyboard, which was from ‘Cash-Converters, for £9 with the power adaptor’, Sarah plays a drum kit that consists of only a bass drum, snare and high-hat, I felt it necessary to check that Georgia’s bass had more than one string. However, ask the band about their stage show, and they are less than complementary. After Sarah calls it ‘shambolic’ and Russell says ‘it’s like watching paint dry’, Russell then goes on to describe the show in a bizarre manner; ‘I sit on stage left, Sarah sits mid stage and Georgia sits, well stands, at stage right. I try and find a bar stool, rather than a short stool so that I’m about the same height as Georgia so we’re a bit symmetrical on stage. And then I try and rockabout in my chair as much as I can without falling over, I’ve only fallen off twice’.
The tough thing when interviewing The Research is that they are perhaps too close as a band. The interview is smattered with ‘in-jokes’ and finishing off each other sentences. This might make for a good chat, but is not so good when you are wanting to get some hard-hitting quotes on such topics as; whether Russell would make a centre-fold in Smash Hits (possibly yes, he has that indie-boy charm about him), future plotlines in Neighbours (apparently Lassiters will burn down and Skye will go lesbian) and whether Brad Pitt is cooler than Johnny Depp (more on that one later).
Some facts, The Research are from Wakefield (home of little of note, but The Cribs and The Blueskins and an alarming number of Pound Shops), which they like because it makes them ‘underdogs, which makes it easier’ says Russell, and Georgia claims it also means that ‘people don’t expect us to be so good then’. They refute their being a scene in Wakefield, Sarah claims that the Escobar is the only place putting on gigs, and even then it is a rare thing. ‘It just so happens that the bands from Wakefield who are playing in Leeds are doing quite well’ says Russell, which given Wakefield’s venue-void and the huge number of Wakefield band who are wrongly classed as Leeds bands (such as The Cribs) seems very true. The Research also have an imminent single called ‘She’s Not Leaving’ (out on November 15th) which is under two minutes long and combines a simply marvelously poppy keyboard riff with cutesy vocals and a huge potential for indie-disco dancing.
You may have noticed by now, that no mention of a guitar has been made yet. ‘An indie band without a guitar?’ I hear you say, surely that has only ever been done by Keane, and they’re just a pile of post-Travis wank. It is true, The Research don’t have a guitarist. When questioned on this, Russell responds with the line ‘Heck, I’d love to have a guitarist in our band’, but then the band burst into giggles, so I assume it was one of his many little jokes. If you think you hear a guitar it is merely because when Russell put ‘the sounds on the keyboard I only used the ones that sound roughly like a guitar anyway’. Why? ‘I just can’t play guitar’. I doesn’t stop a lot of bands I must say.
The bands’ sound seems to come from a range of influence, from Russell’s love of ‘American indie stuff like Pavement’ to Georgia’s fondness for Madonna, Prince and Tori Amos. One band they all agree on is The Beach Boys, or is it:
Russell: We had this before though, Georgia doesn’t really like them
Sarah: Don’t you?
Georgia: No, I do
Sarah: You should
Georgia: I just don’t like spending money on their music
OK, so they all like them (and they all like ‘a good boogie to the old Crobs’ – that’s The Cribs to you and me), and ever since she was ten and saw her on telly, Sarah has just wanted to be Karen Carpenter. Eclecticism is obviously the way forward. Although most would call them a pop-group, they have been somewhat less obviously called them a ‘noise nuisance’ by a neighbour after practicing in Georgia’s flat. He told them, ‘it was illegal for rock bands to live on his road’, to which Russell responded, ‘we’re not a rock band, we’re a pop band’. Unabashed the neighbour ended the argument saying ‘I know, I know’. Predictably enough, songwriting ain’t straightforward for this bunch either. Take a look at the single and the track names might ring a bell: ‘Stand By My Man’ and ‘Love Me Tender’. So why steal other peoples’ song names Russell?
Georgia: Russell can’t make new ones up.
Russell: Well yeah, it’s like when we, you, one, goes to write a song, I just find it really hard not to have other songs in my head
Georgia: Careful what you say…
Sarah: Yeah, the copyright…
Russell: Copyright, schmopyright. How can you not think about other songs when you’re writing a song?
Eventually, they decide to blame it on a ‘crisis of modernity’.
Back to more serious matters, The Research seem to be doing surprisingly well for a band that has only existed eighteen months. John Peel has played them, they are playing to large crowds in London, they are signed to At Large Records (Russell: It’s meant to be like, we’re signed but we’re still ‘at large’. It’s the ultimate independent record company name, that is. Well thought out) and have a single in the pipeline about to be spewed forth.
How’d that happen? Russell makes it sound very simple; ‘We went and played a gig in London for a manager. We played at the Cribs album launch first, then they asked us to go down to London. And we got a manager, and he got everyone else onboard.’ Russell has even been called a ‘genius’ by a man that Sandman was chatting to a gig. Russell passes this off, ‘he’s very deluded, and nice. I pay him a lot of money to do a good PR job for me. He just tells everyone I’m really cool, and trendy, good looking, clever, enthusiastic, hard-working, good member of a team’. Although he does admit that me might just be possessed by Bob Marley (‘I feel very close to Bob’), who is feeding him his melodies. Sarah even claims he looks a bit like Marley (he doesn’t).
Whether Russell is a genius or not (he’s certainly a marvelous songwriter), the band have come a long way in eighteen months. The band started last April their first gig in a Salvation Army Hall covering Barry White’s ‘My First, My Last, My Everything’ (Russell: It was the most complicated song we’ve ever played. I can’t be bothered to learn it again. It had about 15 chords!) with the bass being played through a organ.
Now they’ve started to do get their name about, their aims are grand, they want to be Neighbours’ Skye Mangle’s favourite band, and then, Sarah explains, ‘Skye’s going to organize an event, maybe at the bar with the roller-skating and waitressing (she means Grease Monkeys). We’ll be the band that all the kids get down to’. Russell expands on this: We wanna do the reversal. You know how people start acting really badly on Neighbours then bloom into a lovely pop star, like Kylie, Holly Valance, Jason Donovan, we’re going to do it the other way. We’re going to be rubbish pop stars and then blossom into wonderful actors on Neighbours. That’s what the future holds for us.’ On a slightly saner note, Georgia wants to ‘want to spend loads of money and be really famous’, and Russell ‘wants to make enough money to eat, just the money. Just to be able to eat the money, in front of poor people’. He then decides that that would be a bad idea, because money is ‘filthy stuff’, and the ink probably wouldn’t be good for you. Finally, that Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp discussion.
There is serious talk of Brad Pitt appearing in a future video by The Research, Russell says, ‘It’s just a really rubbish publicity stunt. No, we genuinely wanted to work with Brad Pitt’, Sarah makes things a bit clearer: ‘our record company are asking him. He’ll probably say no, but if he wants to get down with the kids he should say yes. It’d look good on his CV’. The band then debate whether that’s more Johnny Depp’s kinda thing than Pitt’s (Sarah and Georgia are insistent that Depp is a musician, although Russell thinks ‘he’s probably just a good soloist’ and has his sights set on Pitt). Eventually, they agree that ‘Brad Pitt’s fine’ (Sarah), ‘Yeah, it’s going to be Brad Pitt’ (Russell). Which leaves the girls discussing going shopping with Jennifer Aniston, and Russell still wants Brad Pitt in his video. Hey, it could happen.