Eastfield ”â in conversation
Eastfield ”Ë Detonation Junction’
“15 years ”â 3 chords”Â
”ËMusically we play 3 chord, sing-a-long, simple catchy songs. There has never been any attempt to copy anyone’s style or stance – this would be totally pointless. Regardless of whether what we do is any good or not, it is better to be a first-rate Eastfield than an eighth-rate wannabe someone else. We have no pretensions that we are doing anything original, we do what we want and what we like to do’
This paragraph, taken from the bands website rather succinctly sums up Eastfields musical philosophy; and at the same time tells you what to expect from ”ËDetonation Junction’ the fifth full album from the ”Ëurban rail punks’. Eastfield are the embodiment of what many better known and now much better off punk bands initially espoused as their defining reason to be in a band ”â to play music on their own terms. Eastfield remain 100% DIY ”â they do not have a manager, do not use an agent, they write all there own songs, design their own sleeves, T-shirts, self release all their own records ”â however do not assume that this level of independence produce inferior results”Â¦
I caught up with Eastfield front-man Jessie not long having exited the Olympia Stage at the 2011 Rebellion Festival, the band have played a set drawing from ”ËDetonation Junction’ and selection of other releases, it’s in the live arena that Eastfield excel; they connect instantly with their audience ”â there’s no rock star posturing, well maybe a teeny bit as Jessie leapt from the drum riser a couple of times!
How did you feel the gig went? (LTW Review)
Was marvellous to see a really decent sized crowd. It seemed to go down well with everyone, so that’s always got to be a good thing. So I think we did ok. There were a lot of familiar faces in there but it looks like we’ve definititely made a few new friends as well. Bit concerned that I’ve knackered my arm up, I couldn’t grip my guitar properly for the last 3 songs but think I got away with it. I guess that’s rock n roll for you!
Where you pleased with the reaction?
Definitely, the whole crowd seemed to be smiling throughout, there was a great atmosphere in there, very positive. That showed at the end too. You can’t ask for much more than that. Top top people.
Can you introduce the band?
The good ship Eastfield comprises of myself Jessi, Bambi, Trina and Pete (guitar/singing, bass/singing, more singing and drums respectively). I have been on board since the bands inception in 1996. Bambi was there at the start then went off on a sabbatical before returning in late 2003 together with Trina who had already done a few gigs with us. Pete is our latest recruit, replacing Oddo who had to retire from all drumming duties due to health reasons. Pete had already done 20+ gigs filling in for Oddo while he was previously ill. Can you see a pattern here, how we suck people into our world!
Is Eastfield a full time occupation?
Eastfield isn’t a full time occupation as such, although can be ”Ëfull on’. We have thus gained a reputation as a very busy band. Some say ”Ëhard-working’ which isn’t bad for a bunch of slackers. It’s true to say Eastfield occupies a fair degree of time and headspace but we don’t actually earn a living from it. Although Eastfield ticks over more than nicely and pays for itself, we still work to varying degrees to pay the rent and bills.
Having looked at your website you have had an army of past members, is that because you are a tyrannical maniac?
Ha ha, either a tyrannical maniac or some may say a bloody-minded bastard. Although in essence the opposite may actually be true too. Any band or group of people (think sports teams) that exists for a lengthy period is bound to have various changes in personnel over the years. Eastfield has had a kind of revolving door policy where generally friends/people we initially know have become involved. Some have really loved and believed in it but then got burnt out or had a change in priorities/circumstances e.g. gone off travelling etc. When people want to do other things it’s not for me to stand in their way. Sometimes things just naturally run their course and we can go our separate ways as friends. Other people haven’t really got it at all and have wanted to do something more ”Ëchallenging’ for them musically. Again if that’s what they believe then Eastfield isn’t the place for them.
What’s the ethos that drives Eastfield?
Basically to carry on and do our own thing without conforming to any of the stereotypical rock n roll bullshit. One of the reasons I formed Eastfield was to send up all the nonsense witnessed from musicians and bands all around me, even from those that I would call my friends. Not just from the musicians themselves but peoples attitudes towards musicians, all that treating them with reverence just because they play in a pop group. At the same time I do like music and songs myself but I don’t see it as the be all and end all.
Can you explain what the hell ‘urban rail punk’ is ”â what’s the obsession with trains?
I grew up with both trains and punk rock music, as did Bambi and many other people around this time. Pete our drummer is also into trains and used to work on them. Trains and punk rock may seem incongruous pastimes but a lot happens in and around the railways and station environments, like a microcosm of life. I have spent a large proportion of my own life travelling on and photographing trains (I’m personally into the aesthetics, rather than the technical side of things) thus Eastfield songs are going to reflect this, seeing as they contain a lot of first-hand experience (and train references!).
The tag ”ËUrban rail punk’ came about when a friend joking described our genre as ”Ërail punk’. I liked this, and added the ”Ëurban’ as we live in a big city (Birmingham) but to encompass all areas rather than to confine it to one area eg ”ËWest Midlands Hardcore’ ”â the tag that led to our friend making the initial off the cuff remark “What are you then, ”Ërail punk’?!”.
You are clearly a true independent band – I believe you run your own label, produce your own merch, without your website and or going to gigs getting hold of your CD’s is hard work; Its as if that’s a calculated action on your behalf?
Eastfield is more about lifestyle choice than just a band and DIY culture goes hand in hand with this. I have screen printed literally thousands of t-shirts over the years, it’s rewarding but is also time consuming so only recently we have got a mate to print them for us, we get a good deal so can still knock them out at decent prices. It makes me smirk when this winds up ”Ëbigger’ bands. Some of these bands are so divorced from the manufacturing processes that they don’t know the price of what things actually cost, or are tied to a record company which inevitably and significantly pushes the prices up. It beggars belief why so many bands over the years have had one main aspiration ”â to get ”Ësigned’. They may as well jack it all in now ”â sign away your artistic freedom and integrity on the dotted line, folks.
We don’t need a record company or manager to tell us what to do or how the band should be run. We have taught ourselves and learnt stuff that we can pass on to other like-minded souls. Importantly, anyone that deals with Eastfield deals with us in person, which makes it easier to form mutually beneficial relationships. For example when releasing something we liase with manufacturers direct, to cut out the unnecessary middleman/woman. Obviously we do need to make a small profit on everything, but this goes back into the collective pot to help fund the day-to-day running of Eastfield e.g. recording, releasing, etc.
The bulk of our CD/vinyl/t-shirt sales are indeed at gigs but that’s not a bad thing as we are constantly playing, that sounds like we are taking Eastfield plc on the road with us!
A smaller amount is sold through the website, this has decreased over the last few years but that is probably inversely proportional to the amount of gigs we do. Smaller DIY distros also take our stuff but these are also generally selling less of anything via mail order than they used to.
The downside of all this perhaps is that we don’t have access to more mainstream networks, therefore there is less scope for Joe and Joanna Public to ”Ëfind’ us. However, not wishing to sound up my own arse, in the confines of Eastfield I am a songwriter/musician/performer/artist (delete as appropriate) not a businessman or advertising executive. To me, the important thing is that I/we believe in what we do. It is obviously great that other people do too and on the whole these lovely people have sought out us by themselves. An artist doesn’t go around saying “you should like my paintings”, at least I hope they don’t. Beauty should be firmly in the eye of the beholder rather than being bombarded upon us by the marketing agencies and mainstream media telling people exactly what they should like or ought to like. Unfortunately, people generally lap this up like sheep, rendering the initial art worthless and devoid of any integrity. That in a nutshell is what is precisely wrong with the messed up world of popular entertainment and why I for one choose to operate outside of it.
In a similar style to your own label – your gigs are on the margins of the punk circuit – Do you, have you ever wanted to come in from the cold?
Perhaps we have ghettoised ourselves, but we work with people we know, like, trust and grew up with, a lot of these lovely people live on the periphery too. A few years ago I accidentally saw a list of venues and contacts from a band that were trying to book gigs, next to one venue they had written “crusty, anarcho, Eastfield-type venue ”â avoid at all costs (unless they offer us large sums of money)”. A lot of people would be totally offended by this, but it just made me laugh. I think it perfectly sums up the difference between our attitude and the attitude held by a lot of other bands. We would never grovel to anyone to let us in from the cold but are willing to dip our toes in when we have offers. Currently sound people like the Men They Couldn’t Hang and Goldblade want to gig and tour with us.
I know you play a huge number of benefit gigs, clearly that is by choice; but has it had a detrimental effect on the success of the band?
At times it probably has had a detrimental effect on us financially, especially on the few occasions that we have been down on petrol money in order to support a benefit. We are more than happy to support causes we believe in, but if it means we actually spend more money from our own coffers to play a gig than the people actually coming to watch the gig then it is a ludicrous situation that we are not prepared to be in. Regarding ”Ësuccess’, I think the opposite applies, it is surely far more successful to be able to play, support and raise money for a good cause than to simply play to massage our own egos. Similarly, everyone having an infectiously good time together at an ”Ëevent’ of substance is far better than a bog standard rock n roll gig.
That said how do you measure success?
As we have just discussed, there are different levels of ”Ësuccess’. Besides success is only relative to what your own goals are. Eastfield are successful as we constantly hear that we are looked upon as the good guys and girls. In addition, if you do want to measure this in financial terms, units shifted or bums on seats we do sell shed loads of our stuff, far more than many ”Ëbigger’ bands, though at sensible prices. People come to our gigs so we get to communicate and make new friends. I believe it to be a total success that we have managed to do this on our own terms, without shafting anyone else or prostituting ourselves in the process.
I was delighted you played The Rebellion Festival this year – You seem to have been missing from the line-up for far to long…
Yes, we get on well with them but again we are not prepared to kiss proverbial ass to play. They asked us back and we are happy with that. Last time when we played (2009) our room was operating ”Ëone in one out’, packed to the gills with people smiling and having a good time, thankfully this year was no different! I like to think that it gave people a good lift for the weekend. Some people have their issues with the festival but it generally has a good vibe with very little or no trouble. Having said that, it’s difficult to attend if we aren’t playing as all weekend I’ll be constantly asked ”ËAre you playing?’/’Why aren’t Eastfield playing?’, lovely to hear that so many people care.
What I particuarly enjoy about Eastfield is the instant accessability, its basic three chord punk rock, this coupled with often witty sardonic lyrics – how is an Eastfield track born?
The subject matter will come to me when I’m out and about and in the right frame of mind, usually this will concern something that amuses or riles me. I’ll work out an idea for the core of the lyrics and a basic tune. When I get to pick up a guitar I’ll transpose this tune which usually means it has changed completely from what I intended”Â¦oh, the perils of being tone deaf! When I have more guitar time I’ll finish all the lyrics which may subsequently be fine-tuned over time. My problem is one of a busy lifestyle so apart from playing gigs I rarely get to pick up a guitar, one of the reasons there has been a large gap between the last two albums.
Also I cannot write to demand and things have to make some kind of tangible sense, at least to me! Only when a song is complete will I give it to the rest of the band (although I may do further slight revisions of lyrics). They are given free-reign to add their drums, bass, extra vocals, which they do brilliantly. I wouldn’t want to tell people what to play as it would lose certain dynamics of creativity. Having said that, I consider it an achievement that even though many people have played in Eastfield over the years – an Eastfield track always sounds like an Eastfield track. There aren’t many bands that can claim this, obviously some like The Fall can.
Whats next for Eastfield – new album, European tour, further collaborations – Which ‘celeb’ is next in the firing line for an Eastfield track?
We’re recently on our second European tour of this period, we have also done several other gigs including our ”Ë15 years and 3 chords’ anniversary party in Birmingham this April which was banging. Plus we recorded the new album ”ËDetonation Junction’ and released it on both CD and vinyl. We had an enforced line-up change (another!) immediately before the recording session which meant that Pete had to learn and rehearse most of the songs the evening before going into the studio, having only heard them that day too. For any new band, I would totally not recommend this in the slightest, but some can get away with it as it can produce that edge. Pete did absolutely brilliantly and I’m not alone in thinking this is our best album ever, even though it’s what the music business would call the difficult fifth album!
Hmm, choice of next celebrity on the chopping block is a bit tricky”Â¦there are plenty of them out there, some probably a bit more obvious than others…perhaps, I need to find some time for watching TV or something”Â¦
”ËDetonation Junction’ is available now on both CD and vinyl; obviously it sounds like all the other Eastfield releases, it would of failed it hadn’t ”â however it is more melodic, though certainly never loses any of the sardonic wit that characterizes the band ”â Eastfield remain on familiar lyrical ground; fellowship, the intransigence of commercial and government bodies, and also being able to smile in the face of adversity.
Eat Yourself Dead
Get A Grip
Why Do People Sing About Riots?
Peace And Love Muthafucka
Don’t Phone Back
Keep On Tracking The Train
Everything Is Marvellous
Apologies for the sound quality during the live clips – Eastfield don’t do live DVD’s (yet)