Why we recorded Europa
As everybody knows, all our woes here in the UK are the fault of foreign people.
And clearly nothing to do with years of UK austerity-politics and a corrupt-as-fuck banking system.
As the year to kill all years drew to a close and the anti-establishment uprising led by a Thatcherite stockbroker consolidated itself, his American counterpart - billionaire property magnet, reality TV star, Toytown fascist, Lego person lookalike, aka President of the United States of America - maneuvered the likes of the bosses of Goldman Sachs and Exxon Mobil into the Washington corridors of power.
That’s the thing about the new anti-establishment (if you'll forgive me for sounding a bit like that old lefty Donald Rumsfeld) it being so anti-establishment it’s actually anti the anti-establishment, which has become a kind of establishment, therefore it’s like errr the anti-anti-establishment, thus rendering the new anti-establishment as the errr... old establishment?
Well, there's a slight difference, as this new uber-elitist, ultra-powerful establishment is more of an establishment-super.
In other words… do you actually believe that Shell, McDonald’s, Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Exxon will be doing anything any time soon other than getting fatter, stronger and even freer to screw the little guy up the arse even harder?
"The anti-establishment uprising?" Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
That one's up there with "the will of the people", which has more than a whiff of the Goebbels about it if you ask me.
I can see a parallel here in the music world. For instance, those scourges of "the establishment" Coldplay won’t be cancelling any European tours anytime soon.
But if you’re a new band, you’ve probably missed the boat.
Myself and my long-term singing partner, musical collaborator and all round amazing artist Anne Gilpin – now veterans of 6 studio albums – were lucky enough to live in a time where for an independent, relatively unknown band, driving to Hamburg for a show felt no different than driving to Manchester, just a bit more of a trek, that's all.
And like many homegrown bands, our experiences on the road in continental Europe were generally very positive. Here in the UK we were used to an incredibly smug music scene that is much more of a cut-throat-mean-as-fuck-business-like entity, obsessed with the media and all kinds of bullshit that has absolutely nothing to do with music. There’s usually very little free beer, and if the night ends and you’ve avoided a brawl with the local bouncers and made enough money to fill the van up with petrol, it’d be regarded as a resounding success.
Our experience on the continent was different. People weren’t coming to see us 'cos they thought they might catch a glimpse of the "next big thing" - which we clearly have never been, or had any desire to be - it was almost always out of a genuine interest for the music.
We had all sorts of adventures on the road in Europe, and also started listening to different kinds of music, European stuff in particular, which up until that time, like many people from the English-speaking world - apart from Kraftwerk and The Smurfs – we’d pretty much dismissed as being either peroxide eurotrash or bow-legged Frenchmen running around blowing raspberries at each other.
Then we started listening to Can, Françoise Hardy, Notwist, Moroder, and Gainsbourg’s dizzying epic ‘Histoire de Melody Nelson’, and after a brief stint touring with the mind-boggling talented St. Thomas, we realised we’d been wrong.
A lot of this stuff had been around a long time, but it was new to us, most of which we understood nothing of lyrically, which most certainly didn’t exempt our appreciation, you simply have to submit to the raw emotion, and for an aspiring songwriter I’d say it kind of lets your imagination run wild in a much less prescriptive way than say passively listening to say the poetic visions of Bob Dylan for inspiration.
Fast forward back to 2016…
… I remember having a telephone conversation with Anne on the morning of June 24th, it wasn’t like, ‘oh the economy!’ or ‘oh immigration’ or whatever everyone had been banging on about relentlessly for the previous few months, it was simpler than that, more about the ugly type of politics that seemed be on the march, touting imponderable schoolboy conspiracy theories and tapping into people’s basic prejudices a bit like the fascists of the 1930s minus the high-camp military garb - throw lying through your teeth in order to achieve your ends into the pot… et voila, one extra large bowl of Ready Brexit, and of course later in the year we got a red-raw orange Trump steak for lunch.
I dread to fucking think what’s coming for tea?
Had Brexit and the US election results gone the other way, not least as marginally as they did, would Farage and Trump have just conceded defeat and moved on? Not fucking likely! - they both have a track record of crying foul like spoilt kids whenever they think they’re not going to get their way - and in fact, they’d both explicitly stated in public, loud and clear, and on the record that they wouldn’t have.
So why the fuck should we?
But what could we do?
Anyway, that night I flicked on my TV and the headlines were of Poles being openly attacked in the street - one of whom was murdered.
What the fuck was going on?
...what could we do?
Send out a posse? Sign a petition? Go on a march? Start a riot? Armed insurrection? What raw materials were at our disposal? It’s not like we had a cache of Molotov cocktails or anything. I guess the only solid thing we know about that may have the equivalent impact of a good old-fashioned petrol bomb, is of course music.
We were convinced that rather than writing a bunch of protest songs, it would be way more effective to create something that simply made a statement by the mere fact of its very existence.
We thought about our time on the road and we decided to record our own versions of some of the songs we were listening to then regardless of the language.
If we could connect with them with very little or no understanding of the lyrical content, why shouldn’t the rest of the English-speaking world?
We chose 9 different songs in 7 different European languages.
And snuck one of our own in - we couldn't resist - a new version of an old song of ours called 'Sailors', which is of course in English.
And of course English, is after all… a European language.
I'm not sure if we quite make the term 'classic popular European song' But hey! It's a classic in Stockwell, so let's not split hairs.
This is our small way of embracing an international ideal where there are no cultural barriers, albeit with two British fingers up to the wave of narrow nationalism and cultural exclusiveness that are on the march in our country and beyond, a wave that always has, always does, and always will inevitably lead to disaster.
We believe there is an alternative.