Maintaining the admirable policy of conducting his interviews in a different real ale pub each time, Colin had a chat with three members of Oxford’s neo-psychedelic heroes in the Dew Drop, Summertown.
CHM: Firstly, apologies to Roo [Roo Bhasin, Guitar]. Years ago in an interview with the BBC, I mentioned that Sextodecimo were my least favourite band in Oxford. And they were your band before Fixers, so please don’t walk out. I’ve got two hours on the parking meter and want to use it.
RB: Don’t worry, that’s all right. I take it as a compliment. We were Sextodecimo, people weren’t meant to like us.
CHM: Oh, good, some relief, there. Firstly, congratulations on all your recent success. You’re signed to Young and Lost Club, for example.
JACK GOLDSTEIN [vocals, keys]: Yeah, the single [Iron Deer Dream] is coming out on Young and Lost as a 7-inch. They’ve been really, really good to us, nurturing us as a band. And without their interest, approaching us and offering to put the single out, I don’t think we would have garnered the interest we have had since. After the single’s out we’ll be putting our follow-up EP out on Vertigo Records.
CHM: Blimey. So, specifically, what did Young and Lost bring to the party? Did they help you finish the record, or was it more buzz and PR and contacts?
JG: Actually, our management helped us polish the record before that- Tim Goldsworthy did the mastering and our management fronted the money. Young and Lost acted as a platform to get our music out there, and we’re really grateful to them for that.
CHM: So, what stage are you at in your career now? Have you given up the day job?
CHRISTOPHER DAWSON [guitar]: Yup, recently given them up.
RB: Step into the unknown.
JG: We didn’t really have a choice, in the sense that there’s simply no time in our calendars.
CHM: Yeah I noticed your tour dates are wall-to-wall.
JG: You’d need to have a pretty lenient, bordering on non-existent job to work around that lot.
CHM: I guess at some point, if you’re serious about your music, and you’re given the opportunity, you have to make that jump.
JG: Yeah, we had to grow some backbone!
CHM: Can I take you back to early days? How did you all meet? Were you school mates?
JG: No, we were all in different bands in Oxford, and we were all connected to each other by one guy knowing the other. You could chain us together, but the guy at one end of the chain didn’t know the guy two links down.
CHM: One degree of separation.
JG: Now we’re best friends. Good job as we have to share a dodgy van most days.
RB: Yeah, it was strange…but lucky. And it slotted together very naturally and quickly from the very first practice.
CHM: That would have been an interesting moment- to me, Fixers came on the scene in no time, with this very unusual sound, which you wouldn’t get from just five guys jamming in a room a few times. Was there a sort of manifesto, or vision: “Right chaps we’re going to do a very fresh update on West Coast Psychedelia” from the get-go?
JG: Nothing as forward thinking. We were booked to do a Christmas show, our first gig, and we didn’t even have a band! So our first show turned out to be a fairly straight-down-the-line Beach Boys Meets Phil Spector thing, with a few samples to fill out the sound. And that catalysed this explosion of new music in us, which we all loved.
RB: Ever since I was a kid, I always dreamed of being in a Beach Boys covers band!
CHM: Well, Fixers isn’t that, but maybe Beach Boys covers for that difficult eighth album…
JG: For a long time we weren’t interested in current music, but then all of a sudden we got into Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective and then a world of new music beyond them, and that has been as big an influence on us as Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks.
CHM: One thing before we leave the formative period- when you were putting the band together, did you have a stipulation that everyone had to be able to sing? Did you consciously say to yourselves, “To carry off this type of music live, everyone will have to be able to carry a tune, so Joe Blow might be a great bass player but he can’t sing to save his life, so he’s a no-go?”
JG: Never as radical as that, it was partly a fluke that everyone could contribute vocally, and partly a lot of hard work.
CD: But everyone had a basic grasp of melody, though it’s still a work in progress.
CHM: Can I talk to you about one particular live show? I’m thinking of the Manchester Live in the City gig, which has been mentioned in the national press as being the moment when the record industry started running after you. Were you conscious that something special was happening when you were playing?
CD: Not at all, actually! We felt it was a good gig but…
RB: Yeah, we went up there with Hugo Manuel [Chad Valley] and when his gig ended across the road, his whole audience came over and listened to us! So we had a really good response.
CHM: A nice example of the Blessing Force mutual support ethic, I guess. When you were part of it, what else did you get out of it? Was it moral support mostly, or contacts or constructive criticism?
JG: Funnily, I wasn’t even aware of the Blessing Force label until I read about it! Of course I was aware of Pet Moon and Trophy Wife and Hugo’s stuff, and when all these musicians whom we respected so much came down the Cellar to support us and eventually championed us, it was really good, giving us loads of confidence.
CHM: So… do you feel now that with management and record company people to deal with, that you can’t contribute to the Blessing Force collective as fully as you’d like? Is that why you’re not formally members any more?
JG: I guess we’ve never been 100% sure what BF means for people and for us, that it would be selfish of us to trade on their name and reap the benefits. I’m not sure we were in a position to help the other bands as much as we or they would like- so we ended our association with it, while continuing to respect Andrew [Mears, Pet Moon] and the guys enormously.
CHM: So, and finally, do you mind me asking, as the single comes out in a few days: Why ‘Iron Deer Dream’? Sounds very Blade Runner. I was expecting it to sound like Vangelis.
JG: I was reading a book about Sylvia Plath, and she complained one morning of having an Iron Deer Dream. I figured it was some psychiatric phenomenon, but I couldn’t find any references to it and then I found I couldn’t even find the page where I saw it mentioned.
JG: Yeah, so maybe it was me having the Iron Deer Dream.
Iron Deer Dream is released on Young and Lost Club on Monday 21 February
Fixers play The Bullingdon Arms on Friday 25 February