Ahead of the release of their second album we talk to Riding the Low frontman Paddy Considine about ten years of the band, his love of Guided by Voices, the addictiveness of songwriting, and the creative links between his passion as a musician and his career in film and acting.
Louder Than War editor Sarah Lay interviews.
“The guys were asking me about putting ‘Paddy Considine’s band’ on the posters or whatever. I don’t want Paddy Considine’s band. Riding the Low is uncontaminated. This is just another form of expression.
“You’re interested or you’re not. I don’t need to sell it through me as an actor. I’m not asking you if you take us seriously, or if you like us or dislike us. This is what we do. You’re in or you’re out.”
I’m sat in the dressing room of the Victoria Inn, Derby with Paddy Considine, frontman of Riding the Low, as he comes to life enthusing about his band and his love of music. Outside the other four members are setting up on the small stage, the staccato of instruments being readied the punctuation to their chat and laughter.
This is their last show before the release of their second album ‘Riding the Low Are Here To Help The Neighbourhood’. It comes a decade into the band’s story and three years after their debut ‘What Happened to the Get to Know Ya?’. Last year’s support slots with The Charlatans and festival appearances may have brought the band to your attention but it’s likely that you know Paddy’s name from his acting career more readily than you can bring to mind Riding the Low.
You may even has given them a swerve precisely because of his more well-known creative outlet – he’s starred in films including Dead Man’s Shoes, Hot Fuzz and The Bourne Ultimatum, wrote and directed the award-winning Tyrannosaur, and has most recently been seen on TV in Peaky Blinders. But to pass this band over because of their frontman’s success in another creative career would be an unfortunate omission.
For in Riding the Low you have a rock n roll band with a lot of heart; big melodic riffs wrap around image-filled lyrics for an emotion and energy fuelled sound. They have the swagger without the intimidation, they’re a gang without being elitist, their everyday earthiness is what gives them flight. Live they are the quintessential rock n roll band, bursting with snarling high-kicking passion, and while that energy has the edge taken off on record it doesn’t dim their fire or diminish their emotional resonance.
Not bad for a band that came about more by accident than design.
“I’ve always been around music, there’s always been a bit of something musical around but I never planned for Riding the Low; it was just one of those moments.
“I brought my dad a book a couple of years before he died, about Lee Marvin. I was reading the book one day, my mum was sitting opposite, and there was this bit in it about how Lee would finish jobs and he’d get a bit depressed and down and struggle to get back into life again. His psychiatrist, his doctor, said to him ‘you know, this is the time you should be active, do the fulfilling things, the fishing, the things you enjoy, get out in nature’ and they labelled that time riding the low.
“I just remember looking at it and turning to my mum and going ‘that’s the name of my band’. I didn’t have a band, it was just me writing some songs on my own, but I saw that and I thought ‘I’ve got a band and they’re called Riding the Low’.
“There’s something really cool about imagining that, and then executing it and then you’re a band, Riding the Low, and you’re here ten years later. Not that the world on mass gives a shit but we do; we’re doing it because we love it.”
It wasn’t a role Paddy had ever seen himself in, that of frontman of a rock band, despite having felt the deep pull of music from a very early age. It wasn’t something he saw as a career option, more a vocation that few are called forth to undertake.
“My first real moment though was seeing Adam Ant on Top Of The Pops, that was a massive turning point for me. When people talk about seeing Bowie which must have been incredible for me it was Adam Ant. I was a little kid and got that vibe of the tribalism and being in the gang and the identity and the unity and the pride.
“Even as a kid those lyrics – there is a lot in Adam’s work about self-respect and pride – and even as a kid that resonated with me. I played Prince Charming over and over again and that line ‘ridicule is nothing to be scared of’, even as a kid I didn’t fully understand it but I got it in a way; I could feel it.
“Then I’d stand in front of the mirror with a hair brush like everybody else does and mime, you know I thought I was Elvis and Adam Ant, all that. But really I had no designs on being a musician. I didn’t think you could become one when I was a kid. I thought they were born out of this egg. That they were anointed and it was like ‘you are the one, you go out and do it’. I didn’t realise the context of how you become a pop star or a musician or whatever, or be in a band.”
Hailing from Burton on Trent, a town better known for its breweries than its musical alumni, and mostly passed over by touring bands the pop stars from his TV screen weren’t ones Paddy was coming into contact with in real life. But even in the smallest of towns there is music for those who want to find it. Paddy tells tales of falling in love with music while listening to shoegaze psych rock band The Telescopes rehearse in a garage across the road from his local park, and of locking onto whatever music he heard around him and wanting to be a part of it.
“The music scene in Burton was kind of strange, when I was a kid bands like Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts played and it was a big deal!
“But I always had an ear out and I was always drawn to bands. There was a punk band at the back of our garden that used to play in their shed. They were probably together for a summer and then broke up, but just the sound of them coming out of that shed, there was something about them about that to me which really lit me up.”
Considine wasn’t a front man or songwriter from the off though. During college he formed She Talks To Angels (with cinematic collaborator and friend Shane Meadows, Riding the Low’s bassist Rich Eaton, Nick Hemming of The Leisure Society and friend Simon Hudson) and then university in Brighton where with friends he formed a britpop band, Pedestrians. But it wasn’t until his wife gave him a guitar that he started songwriting for himself.
“I was in my late 20s when my wife brought me this guitar I just started writing songs on it. I didn’t know how to play it and I’m no great guitar player but I started putting chords together and started writing these songs that were kind of Pavement rips offs, very old style country songs. But I loved doing it.”
With no intention of releasing the songs but wanting to capture them Paddy set about recording with Rich and Nick but it wasn’t long before there was a turning point in his musical direction and creative thinking.
“I think the changing point for me happened when I got into Guided By Voices. Bob Pollard switched my head around with his lyrics and the immediacy of the songs. The power of looking at Guided By Voices it was like being in a gang but it wasn’t like dumb rock, the imagery in it was amazing.
“Bob Pollard like all great artists, or bands whether it’s The Ramones or the Pistols they have something about them that makes you go ‘I can do that, can’t I? I think I could do that’. There isn’t that sort of separation where you look at a band on a stage and think ‘I’d need to be a really great musician to do that’.
“And that’s no disrespect because their power is in their kind of commitment, their potency is in their commitent to what they do. And I just saw this commitment in Bob and this brilliance in his writing, and the imagery, and the songs had such amazing melodies in them. I was amazed they weren’t the biggest band in the world.
“I just took that in my head and thought ‘I can write songs like that’ they don’t have to be three and a half minutes long they can be a minute long, they can be 30 seconds long, and it just opened this door so I wrote this bunch of songs and then went to record again.”
His love of Guided by Voices is something Paddy lights up talking about, naming Bob Pollard as his biggest influence. And while parts of his on-stage performance may ape his hero (“I do a few kicks on stage, I nicked them from the Captain, definitely!”) its a shared ethos as much as musical style that comes through in Riding the Low.
“There is an energy that is just Guided By Voices, we were born out of that band really. That’s where the ideology of this band came from, from Bob Pollard, no doubt about it.
“Just something about the way Bob wrote helped me access something. And once you access it, it’s like accessing a voice inside yourself and you’re like ‘oh, that’s where that comes from’.”
As the sound of the band ebbs and flows on the stage beyond the dressing room wall we talk of writing for film compared to songwriting. Considine’s writing career began in earnest when he co-wrote the Shane Meadow’s directed Dead Man’s Shoes, in which is also starred. Since then he’s penned several films, including his award-winning directorial debut Tyrannosaur. Paddy reflects on the similarities in his different forms of writing.
“It is quite different with songs and film. It comes from a similar place but I think it’s just the immediacy of the whole process. It comes from the same pot.
“Chris (Baldwin, Riding the Low guitarist) turned round to me three or four years ago and went ‘this is the same stuff as Tyrannosaur isn’t it’ and I said ‘yeah, of course it is’, what else is it gonna be you know? It’s from the same guy. So it’s all from the same pot but it’s just a different line of expression, that seems to work.”
His success in acting and film-making means some will pass off Riding the Low as a hobby, a vanity project (“people look at me and my acting, I know people think the band is a vanity project, but what ain’t? I mean really, what isn’t!”) but while he may be famous in other creative fields he hasn’t pulled together session musicians to indulge a whim, Riding the Low are that rock n roll gang of brothers of which he’s become the lyrical leader.
“Songwriting is addictive to me. The thing with music is it’s immediate. All the things I write and the notes I keep in the notebooks and the poems and bits that I get, it’s a nugget and it’s captured and that’s really cool that you can express things so quickly.
“The bulk of songs, unless we’ve written them in the practice room, the band send me the music and I write them when I’m away. All that time staring at a wall in a caravan on a film set waiting to go on, that’s where I write songs, so it works out great.”
The band begun to find their way to a wider audience after a chance conversation on Twitter between Paddy and The Charlatans’ frontman Tim Burgess about meditation led to a friendship and invitation to play at Burgess’ festival stage Tim Peaks, in turn leading to Riding the Low providing tour support for The Charlatans on some of their Modern Nature tour dates last year.
“The thing I love about Tim is he’s interested. He knew I had a band but wasn’t ‘oh an actor in a band, off you go’. I always get the Russell Crowe shit but we just do this, it’s what we do and you’re either interested or you’re not!
“Tim was one of those people, he was just interested. There was no sort of prejudice, he was sort of just like ‘oh you’ve got a band, that sounds exciting, do you want to play a gig?’ and then as he’s put us on, he’s seen us play and develop. That got us The Charalatans support.
“I think it’s because we’re essentially a rock band and that rock n roll ethic suits pub back rooms but you can take it to a slightly bigger level too. We were ready to play with The Charlatans, we were ready to stand in the O2 Academy.
“The one in Leicester was rammed when we took to the stage, the first time we played with them, and we had a fucking great show and it, that was a real, I felt like we’d earned it. I didn’t stand there and go ‘Oh God’ I just thought ‘we’re ready to stand on this stage and support The Charlatans’. We’re not ready to stand on that stage ourselves yet but as support.
“When you see Riding The Low, and it’s happened a few times with people that have seen us, it’s not one of these things that people just get, it takes them a little while and then they go ‘I get it, I get what it is’.”
Their second album, Riding the Low Are Here to Help the Neighbourhood, is released this Friday (17 June) on the band’s own label, Clinical Finish.
“There’s a song on the record called ‘Beer Tears’ and it can sound like it’s a drunken kind of thing but it came from years ago when one Christmas we went out. Me, Rich and Justin (Chambers, drums) have all lost our parents and we were talking.
“I got kind of emotional about it, all these demons come up and this horrible stuff and the song came about just thinking about the people that we’ve lost and how we summon them when we’re in this sort of state. The ‘where are they now, what are they doing, do they float around, are they happier now, are they in a better place now’ thinking. It’s a bit about depression and dealing with that sort of loss and circumstance and putting more pressure on yourself.
“What other avenue but music would I have to put that in so immediately? I wrote that the next morning. Justin wrote the music and I was like that’s amazing. I love that, the immediacy. You can express things however you want. It’s amazing for that.
“And then there’s songs on the new album that are just songs about fictional characters. Like the opening track ‘From the Top of the World’, at the time I wrote it I was in Covent Garden on a film, and there was all this theatre around me, all this prose and language. This weird version of Badlands came into my head about these people in the future who are on the run from themselves and they’re killers and they’re collecting souls and they’re running out of places to go but as long as we’ve got each other we’re going to make it. It just became this kind of weird meditation about prose and setting streets on fire. I’ll take that for what that is, I don’t really know what that is but I’ll take it! I’ll do something with it.”
Just before he has to go and soundcheck we talk a little more about the new album, the lines between indulgent vanity and creative self-expression, and regardless of working in film and music the feeling of being a fan of both. It feels like a good place to leave the chat, on not the sound or the players but the feeling and connection of music.
“That’s the magic of music. I don’t think anything hits you like it. Films, you can watch them and it’s a couple of hours of your life and you can be thinking about them for days after but there is something about the immediacy of music.
“I think we’re here to do that stuff, you know, tell stories and learn something about ourselves. That’s just how I feel about it on a spiritual level. I think those art forms are there to enlighten us and remind us who we are and just have some fun with it.”
Riding the Low’s second album, Riding the Low Are Here to Help the Neighbourhood, is released on Friday 17 June 2016 on vinyl, CD and as a download. You can pre-order through their website. You can find the band on Facebook and Twitter too.
- 2 July – Rough Trade East and 93 Feet East, London
- 28 – 31 July – Kendal Calling, Cumbria
- 26 – 28 August – Electric Fields, Dumfries
- 13 October – Hairy Dog, Derby.
Interview by Sarah Lay. You can find Sarah on Twitter, read her author archive or her blog. She provides the weekly LTW recommendation on Radio Andra’s The Rumble every Tuesday night from 8pm – tune in here.
Image by Kristen Goodall.