It's a clear-skied, surprisingly warm Saturday afternoon in February and Soundblab has elected to spend it in the scruffy but homely environs of Leeds' renowned Brudenell Social. While a gang of kids play a noisy game of hide-and-seek around the pinball machine, Soundblab sits down by the pool tables with five anonymous-looking people who together make up The ABC Club, a Halifax-via-Leeds band who have created a bit of a stir on various blogs and sites and are now in a position to back that up with their first single, the double A-side 'Thieving Magpie'/'Friend of Mine' on Things to Make and Do Records, which they launched on February 25 with a gig at London's Buffalo Bar.
The band is made up of Zandra (vocals) James (drums) David (guitar) Jack (bass) and Jordan (guitar). They formed a few years ago while at school together, except for James who joined a little later when the group's original drummer left to go to uni. It took them a while to get to this stage because, as David humbly explains, "It took us a while before we actually got good."
That's definitely changed now. The ABC Club make emotionally ragged, stormy indie bursting with twinkling guitar melodies. It's the kind of music which attracts descriptions like 'classic' and 'timeless' the way little boys collect scabs. There's a palpable feeling of outsiderdom in their songs, often located in singer Zandra's captivating voice, which wails and keens like a female Morrissey or Ian Curtis.
Sounds pretty cool, doesn't it? But surprisingly, the band seems to be connecting not with the skinny jeans brigade but with a slightly older, more old school crowd; the kind of guys who Zandra, with obvious affection, refers to as 'jazz granddads'. Then again, maybe it's not surprising when you think about the band's possible lineage. There's a proper indie, C86 vibe to songs like 'White Beast' and 'Get Set Go'; songs which recall a time when to be in an indie band meant toughing it out against the vacuous fashions of time, making music on a shoestring and refusing to compromise your ideals in preference of creating your own world. Whether they realise it or not, the sound The ABC Club make invokes a time when indie was outsider's music.
Do you feel things are happening quickly now?
Zandra: Not really. It's been a long time coming
Jordan: The single's meant to have been coming out for a year. (Laughter) Am I right?
James: It seems pretty quick to me though. I've just joined the band.
Jordan: We're a bit picky.
Are you quite excited about the single?
David: We'll have to wait and see.
Jordan: At least our mums will buy it.
You're getting compared to the Smiths and the Strokes a lot. Are you happy with that?
Jordan: Definitely the Strokes.
David: When we started playing in a band together right at the beginning I think the Strokes were I reckon. I don't think we sound like them. I don't know about The Smiths. I think that's just down to Zandra's voice really.
Zandra: I never listened to The Smiths at all (laughs). I mean I listened to them but it wasn't my choice.
Zandra, your singing has actually been compared to Morrissey's. Do you have any influences on your singing style?
Zandra: No (laughs). I don't know.
Jordan: You influenced yourself.
Zandra: Yeah. I think singing in a choir, I would say. I don't know. That's just how it comes out. If anyone would influence me it would probably be Manfred Mann. When I was a kid we used to just jump around and sing to that but it's not a very good influence to be fair. They're all right but, you know.
Your lyrics are often very emotional and tempestuous. Are they drawn from true-life inspirations?
Zandra: Well, yeah. I don't try and make them very straightforward or direct. I just think that's a bit boring to be honest.
What about musical influences?
David: I need, like, a big piece of paper to write them all down.
Jordan: We're all into different styles of music.
Zandra: Adam Green, I like him.
Jordan: I've always been really into Bloc Party, not so much the recent stuff but the old stuff definitely.
Are there any bands that you have an affinity with?
David: I like Fleet Foxes.
Jordan: We all like Wild Beasts. I'm into Maccabees at the minute. I've always been a fan but recently...
Jack: Probably Los Campesinos! at the moment.
Why did you decide to release your single as a limited edition vinyl run of 500 copies and also as a download?
Zandra: I think people who buy vinyl are more into music.
Is that the kind of crowd that you're getting at your gigs?
David: I don't know, people who are into music rather than just people who are following trends.
Jordan: It's starting to be people who like music rather thanâ€¦
Zandra: What you're wearing.
How do you write your songs?
Zandra: We write our own bits, don't we?
Jordan: It sort of comes together, like all these different bits.
Do you compose as a group then?
Jordan: We write the songs in two stages. We're usually really picky with arrangements and stuff so it usually takes us months to write, like, one song. We usually write it and then Zandra just puts her bit on top.
Do you write lyrics separate from the music?
Zandra: I will constantly write lyrics and then I'll take lyrics from different bits and put them all together and then when I hear anything I'm like 'oh yeah, that would go nicely' and then, there you go, put it on.
Is there much of a scene in Halifax?
All: No (laughter)
Jack: If you don't sound like Oasisâ€¦
Do you feel you have to go to London to be successful? Has it been easy to get attention?
Zandra: No. Leeds is reallyâ€¦ They just don't like us. (Laughter)
Is Leeds too incestuous?
Jordan: Yeah. It's very cliquey, isn't it; you've got to know someone. And with us not being from Leeds, we've never had that.
David: All the band in Leeds are al mates and they all know each other. For example, even at the Brudenell when there're gigs put on all the bands are mates with each other.
Jordan: It's good because they help each other on the scene.
Do you think being outsiders in that sense is a good thing?
Zandra: Yeah. It kind of gives us more freedom to work how we want without much influence. We just do what we want to do.
What's next for The ABC Club?
Zandra: Hopefully an album, or another single before the album.
Jordan: I think we're definitely going to work with Things to Make and Do again on the second single and we've already discussed that with them. I think we're gonna try and get in as soon as possible and do the second single. I don't think it'll come out for a good few months.
Do you have a favourite place to play?
Jordan: There's a small pub in our home town called The Puzzle and we played there last week. It's just full of characters. It's like a little old man pub and it's got good ales and stuff. It's just a really nice place, there's always a good atmosphere.
Zandra: Full of jazz granddads, isn't it?
Jordan: Yeah, jazz granddads.
Download The ABC Club's Get Set Go
Click here to read the review of Thieving Magpie/Friend of Mine