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Featured in publications as various as Kerrang! And The Face , Youthmovies are that rarest of beasts – a fiercely independent art-rock band with enough soft edges and love of pop songs to keep everyone happy. From stop-start post-math-spazz-core (yeah, like, whatever) to expansive, drifting passages, YMSS are like your favourite hardcore band and your favourite post-rock outfit welded together into one utterly coherent, focused and brilliant whole. For my money, currently the best band doing the rounds in Oxford, so there.

Al English: guitar, synth, electronics
Graeme Murray: drums
Ham: bass
Andrew Mears: guitar, vocals

Location: Oxford
Formed: We had a few line up changes before we ended up sounding like we do, we started playing with Graeme in November 2002… that seems like a long time ago now.

What do you sound like and how does that compare to what people write about you?

It’s funny when you read what other people think you sound like: often they’re references that I can’t really relate to, because they’re not bands I’ve heard a great deal of. The word ‘hardcore”s used about us quite a lot, and we do listen to some stuff like that, but I don’t think it’s really where our influences lie (perhaps they did when we first started out and it’s stuck with us). Because the songs have so many sections, we’ll often find that reviewers will latch on to one particular element of the track, be that ten seconds or two minutes, and maybe a bit lazily review just that part. As a consequence of people focusing on particular parts, as opposed to the song as a whole, often reviews of the same stuff can be pretty different. Basically, I think we sound like an amalgamation of quite a lot of things – we all roughly have the same taste in music, but we all have our areas that the others are less interested in. Al is a big fan of melodic American indie bands like Death Cab For Cutie and The Shins – most of the time Al will be the one who manages to force a bit of melody in there, but he’s a very much into electronica and IDM as well, which is, I guess, where the gadgets in our music come in to play. Graeme loves King Crimson and quite a few other prog bands – I think it stems from growing up on metal whilst playing percussion in orchestras. He’s been listening to a lot of swing and mountain music lately as well. Ham loves the rock, but also has a little bit of an unhealthy and unshared obsession with David Bowie (even all the shit he did in the 80s and 90s). I (Andrew) have been listening to a lot of classical and modern classical like Henryk Gorecki and Steve Reich lately, but my favourite bands remain Sweep The Leg Johnny, My Bloody Valentine and A Silver Mount Zion: I’m a sucker for anything with apocalypse, math or whimsy. I think we sound like some of these things in places, I hope though that we manage to still sound like us by virtue of the fact we are influenced by all the things in fairly equal measure: it’s sort of a vacuum-packed version of everything we like about music, though we are still in the process of working out the best way to do that.

Tip us off – what great new bands are there in your locality, or that you’ve played with, that you’d urge the curious music fan to check out?

Oxford’s got a fairly vibrant music scene, there are a lot of bands who gig frequently – the last year or so has seen the rise of some really interesting music in oxford. Of course, there’s The Edmund Fitzgerald, who it doesn’t seem we ever stop talking about – they’re the best young unsigned band I’ve ever seen. In the wake of The Ed Fitz, you’ve got quite a few excellent bands: new band Change At Lohne and electronic artist Iwe are set to produce some really beautiful and intimate music this year. At the rock end of things, Kids Who Tell On Other Kids Are Dead Kids are really good. As for bands we’ve played with: I was totally stunned by a band from Leeds called Polaris. They’re well worth seeing – it’s sort of a mixture of Slint, Rumah Sakit and Shipping News (that’s a very lazy description of them, sorry!). There’s a band from Liverpool called The Mighty Saguaro who are very good – they’re real nice guys as well. Finally, there are loads I’ve left out, Hope Of The States are a truly brilliant band – their debut album is due at some point this year, and I’m sure it’s going to be great.

Do you feel much affiliation with any community with regards to the music that you create/release?

Both records we’ve released came out on Oxford-based labels (Quickfix Recordings and Vacuous Pop), so we’ve been lucky in the respect that we live in such a musically proactive town – it’s definitely done us some favours. There are, however, problems that come with it. While it’s true that there are a lot of bands in Oxford, there is no real supportive ‘scene’ to speak of. Certainly there’s a pretence maintained that there is one, but it’s not really anymore than backslapping and n etworking. It’s such a small place that everyone’s too scared to say what they really feel about things in case they in turn get a bad review in a local music magazine, or get attacked on a messageboard or don’t get a gig because of it. It’s pretty silly – there’s a lot of sitting of the fence; I guess it’s the right height to scratch backs from. There are good and bad points – you’ve just got to work out the people who really care about music from the networkers.

You’ve had single of the week in Kerrang! and been in The Face – how did all of that come about?

Both those things we’re flukes. The sun was shining on us… The editor of The Face saw us break things when we played at Oxford’s Truck Festival last summer and got in touch the next day. As for Kerrang! , I sent a CD-R of our single to a guy I met who worked there, but he didn’t have time to listen to it. So he stuck it on the singles pile and they got sent up to a reviewer in Glasgow who just genuinely though our record was the best of that week. Sometimes things go your way…

Where did you get your band name from? Do you like it?

It’s from a text book; Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies is a marketing strategy in the industry wherein record labels take artists that aren’t shifting units and place their music in the soundtrack of a popular youth film – like American Pie or some shit like that. It’s a fairly cynical name – but it’s easy to be cynical, isn’t it? We do like it, sort of: we like what it means, but we don’t like that no-one is able to remember or spell correctly three ten letter words.

Which is your favourite of your own tracks and why?

Our favourite tends to be whatever is the newest at the time: they’re just more fun to play when you’ve still got that feeling it could fall apart at any time. At the moment for us it’s a track called ‘A Little Late He Staggered Though The Door And Into Her Eyes’.

What would you be willing to give up/sacrifice for success in your band?

I guess the main thing we sacrifice is any real degree of comfort – there are a lot of commitments with the band and we’re all fairly hard up financially. Other than that, I’m not really sure what the question’s getting at – is it asking whether we’d sell out or dumb down? Start writing three-minute garage rock songs? I doubt it: there wouldn’t be a great deal of point for us being in a band if it wasn’t on our terms musically. I’d be willing to sacrifice you.

What does your family think of your music?

They’re interested in what’s going on, but it’s not really to their taste (I guess it’s a bit noisy in places) but they’ve all been really supportive. We’ve all just come from university so maybe they’d prefer us to be using our degrees to make money, but I think they can see we’re happy with what we’re doing and I think that’s all they really want.

You’ve been asked to contribute to a charity covers album. Which song(s) would you most likely cover, and why?

We’ve sort of talked about this before and it was decided we’d like to play medleys! Like a medley of r ‘n’ b and hip hop tracks like ‘Get Yr Freak On’ spliced with ‘Like I Love You’ and ‘More Than A Woman’, or eighties ballads like ‘China In Your Hands’ with ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ and something by Billy Joel. I guess there no real reason other than that it’d be fun for us.

If diskant could buy one thing for your band for Christmas, what would it be?

A tam tam.

What are the last couple of albums you bought and are they any good?

Andrew – I bought the Jazz suites by Shostakovich – I usually like his music but I don’t like this, it’s really light and ditsy.

Al – I bought Television’s third album the other week, the one from when they reformed in 1992. The recent reissues of Marquee Moon and Adventure totally rekindled my love for them. It’s not as disappointing as people had primed me for.

Graeme – Buddy Rich, Swingin’ New Band and Beach Boys live in London. Swing is a pretty complicated type of music and this record shows it and as for the Beach Boys, once you get past the screaming fans over everything, it’s really good but no Pet Sounds .

Ham – Red and In The Court Of The Crimson King by king Crimson, they’re awesome.

Choose between:
(a) Indie label or major label deal?
(b) CD or vinyl?
(c) Records or live music?


Sing us a song to send us on our way…

I’ve never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight, I’ve never seen you shine so bright, ooh ooh ooh./ Never seen so many men ask you if you wanted to dance – looking for a little romance, given half a chance./And I’ve never seen that dress your wearing or the highlights in your hair that catch they eye (I have been blind)/ Lady in red is dancing with me, cheek to cheek. There’s nobody here, it’s just you and me, it’s where I want to be./And I hardly know this beauty by my side. I never will forget the way you looked tonight.

Website: www.myspace.com/youthmovies

Records we can buy: Let’s Get Going… You’re Fracturing Me With This Misery (mini-album, 2003 Quickfix Recordings). When We Won’t Have To Make The Freezing Scene No More (split 7″ with The Edmund Fitzgerald, forthcoming, Vacuous Pop Recordings)