Humanity Hallows Issue 4 Out Now!
Pick up your copy on campus or read online.
“You spend so much time together, it can be a very personal experience and relationally intense experience.” – Tom Pink, Flight Brigade guitarist
By Alice Denison
Flight Brigade are a seven-piece rock band from Hampshire. Lead singer Ollie Baines and keyboardist and singer Miriam are married. Violinist and vocalist Dorry is also Miriam’s sister, meaning the band have all grown up together in close proximity. Often compared to Arcade Fire, they are also a self-proclaimed “Biffy (Clyro) with girls”.
The Castle Hotel, tucked away on Manchester’s Oldham Street, is a traditional pub hidden from plain sight. It’s an incredibly beautiful old building and an intimate setting for Flight Brigade, the band who are about to perform. With a small stage, I wondered how all six members, usually seven, would fit.
Heading up a steep narrow staircase towards the green room, we’re greeted by Miriam, who warmly introduces herself, her husband Ollie, and the band’s guitarist, Tom. The green room itself is covered in posters of bands, comedians and poets who have previously played, emblazoned with a drastic amount of doodles of male genitalia.
“This is fairly typical green room for a venue,” Ollie comments. “Do you think any of the bands who have drawn wangs on the walls have made it?”
All three band members who join us for the interview are dressed like the typical rock star: shirts and skinny jeans. However, the outfits will change before they go onstage. Just before we start the interview, they take a seat and try to get comfortable. I sit on one of the two sofas and Ollie sits beside me. Miriam perches on a stool next to a wooden table where a bass drum is lying with guitar stands stacked on top of it. Tom and Miriam discuss the fact that this is their first time using inner ear pieces for the sound control and then they go on to discuss the difficulty of buying a glockenspiel before we get on to some questions about how the band got together and started making music.
At what age did you decide to form a band?
Miriam: Ollie and Dorry were in a band together from about the age of eight or ten, Dorry is my sister, she can’t be here today though, but those two started playing together really young just because we lived close by and Dorry was really good at violin and Ollie was on guitar. But, in terms of doing it properly, that came later because everyone went off to university and did different things, jobs and other bands etc. We all came back to square one back to the people nearby.
How did you decide on the band name?
Tom: When I was growing up I wanted to be a pilot so Flight Brigade kind of linked with that interest and no one else really objected.
Miriam: Also Ollie was really obsessed with these legendary skateboarders called The Bones Brigade, so it was bringing together two passions, flying and skateboarding.
How does your close relationship help when writing and recording?
Tom: Yes I think it’s really key as you have to be able to be honest with the music you’re making so if something’s bad, which does happen, you can just say and it won’t be taken personally because we are all very close and know each other very well. Anything that’s negative is always said in a very loving way to someone who really respects you. Otherwise, it could be just be really difficult and, you spend so much time together, it can be a very personal experience and relationally intense experience. It can be a lot of fun though and, if you’re good friends, with someone it could be quite hard.
Miriam: If you didn’t know or trust them, it would be quite hard.
Tom: If you didn’t like them, it would be hard.
Who would you say are your biggest influences and where do you get your inspiration from?
Ollie: It’s quite a melting pot because there are a lot of us. My mum’s American so I’ve grown up listening to a lot of American singer/songwriters and bands like Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. Miriam and Dorry’s parents supported quite avant-garde, renaissance prog rock bands. Tom and Neil have got quite a rock background like Led Zeppelin and the heavier stuff, so there is a kind of craft and tension between heavy rock and melodic songs and I think that really helped us define our sound.
What’s the best gig you’ve played so far?
Tom: We’ve played a lot but, a couple of nights ago, we played at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut which was a bit of a bucket list moment for a lot of us. Especially for me because I’ve known about that place since I was a teenager and I used to read about bands who played there and got signed there.
What’s about the best gig you’ve been to?
Tom: Death Cab were amazing. I saw D’Angelo recently and, on a different tech, I saw Paul Simon in Hyde Park. Those two at the moment really stick out for me but I have seen Queens of the Stone Age twice and they were amazing.
Ollie: We played at Hop Farm and Peter Gabriel played with an orchestra. I particularly like the Peter Gabriel album So and he’s a bit of a hero of mine so that was really good and unusual.
Which song would you say that you are most proud of?
Miriam: ‘House Fire’ is up there.
Ollie: Some songs I’ve written and come to the band and they’ve totally changed and we could have only come up with them together. We’ve actually got a new song called ‘Streets of Tokyo’ which has completely changed. But the song we’re proud of? I don’t know. The song ‘Our Friends Our Enemies’ came from a band jamming session and that’s the title track on our album. It’s very dramatic and the format is a bit unconventional.
What do you think of the music industry at the minute, particularly artists who find fame through TV talent shows like X Factor or via YouTube? Also the increasing lack of Indie Rock music in the charts?
Miriam: It is tricky and a bit topical for us as we’ve just got back from Germany. We did a gig there and sold out and the crowd were so attentive and were coming forward to comment on the gig in depth and asking us to come back so we are now booked again so maybe we’ll have that to compare with the UK.
Ollie: Germans seem to love rock music and come out to more gigs and with TV and X Factor and that kind of thing. You get some amazing voices and breath-taking singers on that show but music is much more interesting when it’s written by that artist as it is connected to them. The world is awash with amazing voices but not that many really good songwriters. A band is different, as you’ve got the song then you have the sound so it won’t work necessarily if it’s someone else’s. People will always love bands.
Miriam: It’s just that bands can’t survive if people don’t come out. A lot of bands we’ve spoken to are talking about going to Europe. It’s the advice we’ve been given.
Tom: We’ve had iTunes purchases from Holland and Spotify plays in Mexico, so it seems to be harder for bands in the UK. The culture of going out to gigs by bands you’ve never heard of seems to be dying out.
Finally, if you were given the choice to work with any band who would it be and why?
Tom: Led Zeppelin or Queens of the Stone Age.
Ollie: Yeah, Queens of the Stone Age.
Tom: Tom Waits, I’d like to play in Tom Waits’ band supporting Queens of the Stone Age.
Miriam: Fleetwood Mac, but it would be intimidating, I’d stand on the outskirts and play triangle and watch them and see if their dynamics, that were so talked about, are really true.
The gig itself was truly spectacular. For a small unknown band to pull off a professional performance is very rare and Flight Brigade definitely delivered that.
The band’s close bond worked brilliantly on stage as it felt like the crowd was experiencing their first gig in Manchester on the stage alongside them. Their opening track was ‘House Fire’ and it shook the old walls of The Castle Hotel and bounded around the space perfectly leaving an eerie echo.
Their final song, ‘Whispers’, was the perfect choice to close on as it left the crowd wanting more and wishing the set list was so much longer than ten songs in total.
Alice Denison is in her third year of an English degree and enjoys going to gigs, playing guitar and watching movies.