Night Engine are a band that have worked relentlessly and meticulously, meaning that when they hit the live scene back in 2012, they had already perfected their sound and had a solid live set to their name. Which in turn, garnered many rave reviews from critics from the get-go. After spending the last year or so working on their début record, they are finally ready to release it early next year and we can’t wait to see what it brings.
Night Engine played the main stage at Bingley Music Live last weekend. I caught up with singer and guitarist, Phil McDonnell and drummer, Lee Jordan after their set at the festival to talk about their forthcoming album, cities that inspire them musically, dance moves and much more.
Can you give us a few words to describe each of your band mates?
Phil: Lee – Honest. Business-like. I need to think of a better word for you – drummer.
Lee: [laughs] Sweaty.
Phil: Yeah, bonkers. Technical.
Phil: Does not hold grudges [laughs]. Matt – A proper musician. Muscle-ly.
Lee: Much better than the rest of us.
Phil: Yeah much better than the rest of us at playing their instruments.
Lee: Phil is direct and controlling, sociopathic.
Phil: Good, thank you.
You describe your music as ‘the music of the city’. So is the music you make an amalgamation of living in London and also being inspired by other cities around the world?
Lee: Yeah, you hit it nail on the head actually. No one’s ever really done that before. It’s completely born out of the experience of living in London, growing up in and around London, not necessarily right in the centre. You end up moving there, around the centre, and it almost kind of sucks you in, it’s quite a tough place.
But it’s full of energy and you can be surrounded by millions of people or you can be completely lonely. It’s quite an extreme kind of place to live and equally, yeah it does incorporate our love of other cities. Mainly Dusseldorf and New York and all those kind of scenes in the 70s and 80s, that along with London we feel are the most important cities and scenes in music to us.
I saw your recent spotify playlist on the cities that inspire you – Dusseldorf being the first to be showcased. Where do we go from there?
Lee: So we’re think we’re going to…are we going to New York next?
Phil: We’re going to New York. It’ll be late 70s, 80s and then I think we’ll go to London naturally because that’s where we are as a band, that’s the place that inspires us now. I think it’s quite a nice way to sum up who we are rather than having a random playlist of just these are our favourite songs. It’s a bit more direct so people can see the type of musical heritage where we’re coming from. Geographically.
If you were to take a classic song by another artist – a song that you love and give it the Night Engine treatment. What song would you pick and why?
Lee: We were discussing this.
Phil: On the list, the one that I think would be good for us. There’s Devo, a song called ‘Freedom of Choice’ or there’s a song by The Associates called ‘Party Fears Two’ which Billy Mackenzie’s sort of vocal, he’s a much much better singer than me, but he has that sort of slightly dramatic vocal delivery. Yeah he has a wonderful range and it’s just a great song. I have been compared to his voice sometimes but he is a much, much better singer. But I think that it’s the type of era that some people say we have The Associates in the music so I think that would be the right one for us.
At the back-end of 2013 I listed your band as ‘One’s to watch in 2014’. It’s been a pretty quiet year for you guys gig-wise considering you’ve been working hard on your début record. Although you’ve still managed to play some big shows with the likes of Many Things, Superfood and Glitches, what’s been your highlight of this year so far?
Lee: Oslo Hackney.
Lee: We did our own headline show in Hackney in the middle of June and that’s always quite special getting to play to the home crowd.
Phil: And we had been away for so long recording the album that it was nice to actually remind yourself of what you do.
Lee: Yeah in fact I kind of realised straight after that it felt like I was addicted to playing live. Sometimes you can’t figure out actually why you’re not feeling so hot about stuff and actually play a live show like us, I’ve just been missing the feeling so much. But that’s just what you have to do to go away and actually record an album you have to take yourself away from that. Otherwise you do what we did last year and just play show after show after show and forget to record an album. We didn’t forget, we…
Lee: Yeah we planned.
So you’ve finished recording your début album now. What was the last track to be penned? Can you tell us a little bit about the track?
Phil: Probably the last one to be penned was the first track called ‘All I Got’ which is a very, very simple, stomping funk track with big group vocals. That was mainly about the live experience and how when we play live, we try and give as much as we physically can in terms of performance, sweat, spit, it’s a bit of bodily fluids in there. But yeah it’s about giving as much as you can during the performance and it’s all for an audience and we’re doing it so an audience can actually feel like they can react back. Yeah that was the last one to be written.
How was the writing and recording process for the record?
Phil: Well, we didn’t do anything in the studio, everything was written before we went in because it’s quite meticulous and some of the parts are quite difficult to play, so we rehearsed it and we rehearsed it in album order. We just wanted to make sure we planned it before rather than going in without any particular aim. We just went straight for it and bashed out ten songs. The bass and drums were done in one room together in two days were they could just react to each other, so that’s how that worked.
What’s the journey we will take throughout the record?
Phil: I think from the start it will smack you in the face and then it will kick into more dancing stuff, and then it will get into slightly more earnest stuff and then it will get to the more darker stuff. Then it goes slightly quieter and then you’re hit with one of the big singles. So from about track 6 or 7 you’re leaving towards the end, where it’s purposely building and climaxing to the very last song where it speeds up almost out of control. So it smacks you around the face at the start and then smacks you around the face at the very end and then leaves.
Will ‘Give Me A Chance’ be on there?
Phil: It won’t actually.
Lee: ‘Give Me A Chance’ isn’t on there, no. We decided to in our months meticulously planning the album trying all the songs we had and we wanted to make a relatively short album at ten tracks and we stayed really, really strict about that and unfortunately it meant that we were swapping things in and swapping things out.
Phil: It’s gotta be the right track listing, so if it doesn’t work in the ten tracks then you’ve got to be brutal with it and know that it’s not the right track for the album. We couldn’t really see where it could fit in, so we didn’t put it in.
Just saving it for another time.
Your music is undeniably addictive and it makes you want to get up and dance. What’s your go-to dance move?
Lee: I’m a finger pointer. I look like I’m teaching a dance lesson while I’m on the dance floor.
Phil: Yeah I think that’s what I do. Yeah I sort of do the pigeon and the velociraptor sort of go around the dance floor. Yeah it’s not very good.
Lee: Now you’ve said it’s velociraptor I get you a lot more.
Your good friends with fellow London-based band Many Things, they remixed one of your songs and you recently played a gig with them. How did that collaboration come about?
Phil: It started at The Great Escape not this year the year before , we played a lot of shows and then we ended up playing at least three of our shows with MT and we really liked them, they really liked us. We started chatting and we felt that we complimented each other quite well because Michael’s a great front guy and you know, you don’t see many people whip ‘em round like he does. He has no fear which is great, he breaks down barriers, like if they go before he breaks down barriers for you and you can sort of take advantage of the work that he’s done.
This is your first time at Bingley Festival. How has it been so far?
Lee: It’s been amazing! It’s the best backstage area I’ve ever seen.
Phil: It’s been great. The catering is amazing.
Lee: The catering is immense.
Phil: Yeah the weather’s amazing, the people are great,
Lee: Lovely setting, the people are super friendly.
Phil: Good bands. Pet Shop Boys are on later and our dressing rooms next to theirs; although I think we have to clear out by then. It’s been great. Yeah and it’s a huge stage, quite alarmingly big but I had great fun. Really, really great fun.
What are your festival dos and don’ts?
Phil: Don’t go see all the big bands, go and see people you don’t know. There’ll be certain people you need to go and see but look at your list mark off people you’ve heard about and you want to go and see and see as much as possible. But also don’t be too worried if you don’t match that plan, don’t be disappointed.
Lee: Try not to run around too much, frantically trying to organise..
Phil: Yeah, don’t guilt trip yourself if you don’t see some stuff.
Lee: Make sure if you find some stuff you like, if you find an area you like just enjoy it rather than freaking out with your spreadsheet about where you need to be next and come see Night Engine.
Phil: Cereal bars.
Festivals are all about the music but fashion is a big part of it too. What’s your favourite festival look?
Lee: I just always wear the same thing day in, day out.
Phil: For us or for other people?
For other people.
Lee: I think cross dressing is important.
Phil: Yeah, cross dressing, fancy dress. There were people dressed in robots. Some people haven’t made much effort, there was one guy that had a Fosters box on his head but it’s because his other mates had made an effort.
Make sure you wear sun cream because you look ridiculous if you’re sunburnt and you take off your top and you can see were you where wearing clothes. So sun cream, wellies and fancy dress costumes.
So can we get a ballpark of when the album will be released?
Lee: You can have the ballpark – March.
A special thanks to Night Engine for this interview and for more info on the band, check out the following links below: