Monday, 5 May 2014

Turin Brakes - Southbank Centre

IN 2001 Turin Brakes burst onto the UK music scene with their Mercury Prize nominated debut album The Optimist. Thanks to its catchy folk and rock inspired tunes the album received critical acclaim and cemented the band's place in the UK "acoustic movement".
Since then the band, formed in Balham by childhood friends Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian, has toured the globe and sold more than one million records worldwide.
Fifteen years on the now Brixton and Tooting based folk-rock band are still going strong and have been joined by long-term collaborators Rob Allum and Eddie Myer.
They celebrated the release of their sixth studio album We Were Here in October last year and are about to take to the stage at the Southbank Centre (SBC).
It is the first time they have performed at the SBC and Olly admits to a few nerves, not least because he says he feels a certain pressure playing on home turf and at a venue which has played such an important part in his younger years.
"We live in South London – I live in Tooting and Gale in Brixton," says Olly. "We love this area, we grew up here so it's incredibly special to us because we spent much of our youth here.
"For London it’s a culturally significant area with the BFI, the theatres and all the other galleries and museums so it's hard not to spend time here.
"The Southbank Centre itself is an inspiring and fancy venue,” he says warmly. "Lots of great bands that we love and which have inspired us throughout our lives have played here over the years and London is our home so we want to do a great show.
"We love its vibe and are really excited - after 15 years of doing this we think we can take it in our stride!"
They will be playing on Saturday, May 10 on the SBC's Queen Elizabeth Hall stage and Olly says there will be plenty for fans to get excited about.
As well as a selection of songs from their extensive back catalogue, there will be more than a few from the latest album as well as some new compositions.
"We really loved putting it together," says Olly. "It was designed for a live set so it really comes alive when we play it live. We are very proud of it and it's had good feedback from those who've heard it which is lovely.
"We don't like disappointing the fans though so there will be the old favourites that people want to hear."
One of those will undoubtedly be the band's re-working of the song Chim Chim Cher-ee, from the film Mary Poppins which they released as a digital single to raise money for homeless charities.
"It's amazing that it did so well," says Olly. "We did it a couple of years ago as a charity song for Shelter and it refuses to die!
"It keeps getting re-released much to our amazement and delight. It's a song people know from childhood but we did a twist on it and slowed it right down.
"It really struck a chord with people which was fantastic.
"The video that went with it was amazing - it was made up of portraits of homeless people in America and was incredibly powerful. Very little happens but viewers just see the haggard faces in the camera. It's very emotional and quite beautiful."
That song aside, most of their music has been inspired by their friendship, school and growing up in South London.
The band have stayed true to their roots too. They recorded the third and fifth albums in Brixton and until recently had a studio in Loughborough Junction.
The pair met when they were at Macaulay Primary School in Clapham in 1984 when they were about seven years old.
They became firm friends and bonded over a shared love of music, guitars and skateboards.
“We spent most of our time in our rooms, listening to music our parents loved like Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchell and Laura Marlin, all the Laurel Canyon type stuff – playing guitars and smoking," says Olly. "All the grunge era stuff was big for us and we share a real love for blues and folk music.
"We basically found all our parents' records and enjoyed listening to them," he adds laughing. "It was very influential in shaping our own music."
And he says when they weren't doing that, they were down at the South Bank indulging in their other love - skateboarding.
"We used to go there every week to skate - we spent a huge amount of time there and there was always a great atmosphere," says Olly.
And he admits he’s surprised the skaters’ campaign to keep the Undercroft galvanised so much public support.
"While I was keen for the skateboarders to win, I didn’t think they would,” he says. “I thought big business would win the argument and crush them. It blew my mind when that didn’t happen."
And he says it was a similar feeling to when he and Gale got their first break.
"I was doing a degree at Central St Martin's in Covent Garden making soundtracks for films which was amazing but on the side I was still playing music with Gale," he says.
"We had fun and never really took it seriously but had always made tapes for friends and one day someone happened to hear a bit of our music and wanted to put out a record so we did it. It was completely random but just took off from there," he laughs.
"In the end we got offered this tiny record deal but I thought I could carry on doing film stuff because I didn't think the deal would come to much. However, a year later we had 12 major deals offered to us. It was crazy but I've no regrets as the band has given me so many other amazing opportunities."
And he says travelling the world and playing the music he loves with his friend in front of a home crowd are just two of these. Which brings us back to the SBC gig.
"Every audience is different but playing in London is very special - although it's more nervewracking because it's a home audience with family and friends. But it means more to us and we can't wait!"

Turin Brakes play the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre on Saturday, May 10. Tickets from £15. Call the box office on 020 7960 4200  

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