A South Carolina four-piece are set to knock us for a loop with their upcoming first album. The Films tell Tony Clayton-Lea about the inspiration to be had from dead country musicians – and glam rock
HAKING some head action in your general direction are The Films. Haven’t heard of them? You will when their debut album, Don’t Dance Rattlesnake!!, is released next year. If going through MySpace pages is any indication of what happens to the new breed of rock act that chooses to peddle its wares and highlight the number of its friends on the Web, then you’d have to give The Films not just thumbsup but two helping hands.
The four-piece from Charleston, South Carolina certainly fit the current profile for contender status: they’re young, they look like models fresh from the pages of the latest Viktor& Rolf catalogue, they have a fire in their collective gut, and they rock like mammyfeckers.
The band members didn’t meet in the usual way. No shared school memories for them, nor the pungent aroma of sweat in family garages. “We lived in different places before we all met up with each other,” says singer/guitarist Michael Trent, “but we formed in Charleston. We were all in crap jobs before the band. One guy worked at a Chinese food cart in the ghetto in the city. He served up Chinese food and babysat at the same time, so you could say we’re pretty much pleased to be talking to you from Europe.”
The Films (who also feature drummer Adam Blake, bassist Jake Sinclair and guitarist/keyboardist Kenny Harris) are embracing Europe like thousands of other bands before them. Playing gigs across Germany, Holland, England and Ireland (reaching Dublin on December 13th), they admit to experiencing something of a culture clash. It’s not that they are loath to return to South Carolina – “It’s beautiful there,” says Michael. “The music scene is really good, and we have a lot of friends, all
Sof whom have been very helpful.” It’s just that their hearts melted when they walked in to one or two of Amsterdam’s “coffee” shops only to discover that there was more than a Frappuchino and doughnut on the menu. “Yes,” says Kenny Harris, with more than a hint of sideplate relish. “That was unexpected, but it’s amazing how quickly you get used to the different cultures that life exposes you to.”
Life for The Films wasn’t always so egalitarian; when they left their respective high schools in 2003 and met each other through the open-minded network of the Charleston music scene, they had little idea that within a few years theywould have signed to a major label, recorded a debut album and embarked on a touring schedule that would bring them face to face with white line fever, double yellow line fines and dodgy breakfasts in budget hotels. It’s all part of the experience and the journey, they say.
Michael recalls the early days of the band in and around Charleston: touring South Carolina, mooching around the many small towns for a bar gig, receiving curt nods from bar owners and short shrift from audiences. It’s grist to the mill for any young working band, he contends, paying the dues, building up a fanbase, getting the music heard, trying to cadge a lift on the highway to fame.
“It was easy getting out of Charleston,” says Michael. “Everything moves slowly down there and we were ready for a change of pace. We were bored, anyway, so we were only too happy to move out. We had an idea of what we wanted to sound like. We had a bunch of songs, and arranged them a certain way – something like a cross between The Beatles’ White Album and glam rock. As the years have gone by we’ve progressed from sounding like a cross between Abbey Road and punk rock.”
That’s only half the story, however. Judging by what you hear on Don’t Dance Rattlesnake!!, The Films can expect to be loosely bracketed in with the following: Gram Parsons, Blur, Kinks, Hank Williams, Rolling Stones, Elvises Presley and Costello, and T Rex. It amounts to nothing less than a party going on in your head just before everyone gets drunk. Michael claims the emphasis is on writing songs, but he also hits the nail on the head when he says that the band play “loud rock’n’roll.” We can’t argue with that.
The past three years have seen The Films make inevitable changes to their output; they maintain they are less in thrall to ’70s music and more in tune with dead country musicians. And glam rock. That sounds just about right – Gram and Hank mixing it with Ziggy and Jeepster.
“Hey, we haven’t been to Ireland before,” shouts Kenny Harris, cutting across any themed questions we may have wanted to ask about the connections between country music and glam rock. “We have friends that have been there, though. My impressions are that it’s a green place, with wonderful beer, and a bar or two. Is that right?”
Cutting back in, Michael talks about how he and the band treasure their newfound freedom to follow their dreams. But there’s always a downside; that old devil called work, for one.
“With the level we’re at now there are a lot more things that have to be done. There’s freedom, yes, but there’s always that itch, the ambition, to get to the next level. Like any band worth their salt, you always want to be moving forward. But in terms of freedom, we love this life.”
Kenny cuts across Michael’s reverie. “My impressions,” he says again, this time slightly louder, “are that Ireland is a green place, with fantastic beer, and a bar or four. Is that right?”
A rowdy lot? Just you wait and see.