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      Love Undercover

      James Skelly
      James Skelly is of course best known as lead singer of The Coral, a band who need no introduction in Liverpool. Following the critical acclaim of brother Ian’s solo record ‘Cut From a Star’ of late last year, James has followed suit by releasing his own, very different record ‘Love Undercover’. We spoke to James ahead of it’s release and his UK tour this month.

      THIS RECORD IS BILLED AS JAMES SKELLY AND THE INTENDERS. WHO ARE THE INTENDERS?
      Well a band called the Sundowners do bits of backing singing, Alfie from the band does some guitar, one of my mates is on bass. So it’s all different people that just sort of joined in with the album. We’ve got Sundowners supporting us live so a couple of the girls will get up and do bits of backing singing, I’ve got one of my mates coming down on harmonica.

      AH HODGEPODGE! WHAT’S WITH THE NAME?
      There’s a singer called Gordon Lightfoot and in one of his songs he sings something about going to watch a band called the Intenders. My sister was telling me about it and she said, ‘don’t they sound like an amazing group?’ But they’re not a real group, so I just took it from there.

      THE RECORD HAS AN OLD-FASHIONED, CLASSIC FEEL TO IT. WAS THAT THE INTENTION?
      Yeah, I was looking for something direct in a way. Something that just hits you straight away, that you don’t have to think about it too much. We just went in and it was pretty much live, there’s no more than 3 takes on any of the tunes.

      WAS THERE A PARTICULAR THEME OR THREAD TO THE RECORD?
      No, I just wanted it to be direct, you know, like straight to the chorus. And I wanted the words to be direct. I think some of The Coral’s words are quite sort of poetic, and in a different way these are more like classic songs.

      WERE THESE SONGS YOU JUST HAD KICKING AROUND?
      One of the songs, ‘What a Day’, me and Ian wrote it about 15 years ago but we never finished it. We just wrote it when we were like kids. So it had a different kind of point of view on it than all of the other songs, that you wouldn’t think of now as you get older. So we kind of tapped into that, finished it off.

      HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN YOUR PLAN, TO RELEASE A SOLO RECORD?
      It was timing in a way, we were doing a Coral album and we sort of left it because we ran out of a bit of steam. I was just messing around with demos and people started joining in, and it just sort of organically happened. It wasn’t like a big plan really, it just sort of happened and it was quite natural.

      HOW DID YOU APPROACH THIS DIFFERENTLY TO THE CORAL?
      The Coral’s a different thing, it’s got it’s own set of rules and everyone collaborates, you want a piece of everyone’s personality in it in a way. Whereas the Intenders is like, me, and then the group back me. Everyone’s personality’s on it, but I’m playing the songs and they’re backing it. With the Coral’s, everyone got an equal role.

      THE CORAL WERE CITED AS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BANDS OF THE ‘GUITAR REVIVAL’ IN THE EARLY 2000S. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE MANY CONTEMPORARIES AT THE MOMENT?
      There’s a good band called the Circles, they’re from Birmingham, I’ve been working with them a bit. I mean, I haven’t heard that’s got me excited really. It’s seems hard in a way - it’s either like you’re in the blog world or you’re kind of big with a major label, there doesn’t seem to be an in between.

      I’m kind of waiting for a band to come in and just sort of smash it. Everyone can have a party then and join in. Someone’s gotta knock the door down - it seems to be either lo-fi or X-Factor. It’s quite easy to be cool and lo-fi, but it’s sometimes a bit boring, I just want someone to come along and smash it and open the door.

      ARE YOU HAPPY SELF-RELEASING AS YOU HAVE BEEN?
      Yeah I mean I’m lucky enough to have gotten to work with John Leckie (on the Coral’s 5th record, Butterfly House), who’s one of the best producers ever. In a great studio in London, I’m so glad that I got to do that. But maybe young bands like that wouldn’t get a chance. I learnt loads from it. We did an album and then we did another half an album, and I learnt so much from him. Whereas if I didn’t do it with them I wouldn’t know half of what I learnt. So in a way I think it’s quite good that there’s the lo-fi stuff, but for a young band to get to work with John Leckie or Rick Rubin or Ethan Johns it would be amazing. How much could you learn, and take into your own stuff and then teach other bands.

      SO WHAT CAN PUNTERS EXPECT FROM YOUR SHOW THIS MONTH?

      I think the songs really come to life live, they’re a bit heavier. In a way when you’re doing your album you kind of work it out, and they you play for a couple of months in rehearsal, and you do some gigs and by that point that’s kind of when your album is formed. So I think they’ll get to hear the best sort of version of it live. It’s happening and you can’t really download that - it’s happening in that moment. It’s kind of the only thing music has got left, that feeling. Also - we play some Coral tunes on the tour and we do a cover of a Ray Charles song!

      See James Skelly and the Intenders play at the O2 Academy 2 on June 8th. www.jamesskellyandtheintenders.com

      JEN PERKIN ||

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