“Hopefully it’ll become a break-up album as renowned as something like ‘Rumours’ by Fleetwood Mac,” says Kate Jackson of The Long Blondes’ impending second album, ‘Couples.’ The bittersweetness of the title led to its inverted commas, in the same vein as Bowie’s “Heroes”. The Long Blondes are ready to re-assault our eardrums, and they are excited about it as we are. “We’ve changed from basically a garage band who couldn’t play, to being an inventive, collaborative art project, which is what we’ve always wanted to be,” Kate muses. “I think it sounds brilliant. We had the ideas but we didn’t have the capability – we were learning as we went along. But now we’ve been doing it for five years we’ve honed our craft and you can hear it on the record.”
It’s been nigh on six months since they played their last gig at Reading/Leeds, and Gigwise caught up with the band’s ever stylish and enchanting frontwoman on the night of the first radio play of new single, ‘Century’. So what have the band been up to recently? “Our weeks consist of trying to learn how to play the new songs,” Kate admits. She’s revved up for the onslaught of a tour that’s coming up, but at the same time she admits that the change in direction of the band’s second LP is proving a challenge to transfer to the live experience. “Some of the songs were written in a traditional Long Blondes way, so they’re guitar-led and really easy to play. But we’ve had to rethink the songs that we’ve written from a rhythm track – there’s a song called ‘Too Clever By Half’ which is really slow and quite sexy, but it’s got this drum all the way through it and then the bass comes in on the first verse – it’s a really sparse sound, and we’ve been struggling how to work that out live. She continues: “I think it’s going to sound good as we’ve got a sampler now which we’re gonna use on stage, so I think it’ll work!”
“We’re on our second album and people are gonna start taking us seriously as a band with an interesting idea of what music should be, and a unique sound.” So, samplers and rhythm track beginnings aside, The Long Blondes have come a long way from their roots. Combine that with electro DJ Erol Alkan on production duties and you’re left with an entirely different, more poised prospect than the still fantastic debut, ‘Someone To Drive You Home’. “We’ve explored a lot of our influences further with this record so it’s not just indie guitar pop like the first album was. It’s much more disco influenced and there’s a lot of Eno synth sounds in there,” Kate admits. “I think it’s cleverer in a lot of ways, without sounding too pretentious.”
Enough muso-ing. Is it strange for Kate to be part of this weird consumeristic generation? She certainly finds it weird when people ask for her photo - “This guy came up to me and said ‘you’re Kate Jackson from The Long Blondes’. I was like ‘yeah’. So he said ‘can I take your picture, my mate really likes you’. I said ‘it’s on your phone, what are you gonna do with it?’ He’ll show him it then he’ll delete it. I just find it really odd. A few months later when he’s decided to like some other band there’ll just be this weird girl on his phone! It’s really strange. It’s something that I’d never do myself. I’d never go up to someone and go ‘can I take your picture’, even with a normal camera let alone a phone!”
So for those who want to find out about the real Kate Jackson, icon that she is and will grow to become entrenched as, better luck next time. “I’m actually really shy so being on stage is the opposite of what I am, I suppose,” she admits. “It’s good because it’s definitely a part of me, a part of me which doesn’t get exposed normally - I’m talking about myself! Stop me, stop me!” She elucidates: “I think it’s helped by Dorian writing a lot of the lyrics so it’s not me wearing my heart on my sleeve like a singer-songwriter.” But Kate isn’t detached, merely reserved and private – understandably. “I do write some of the songs but they’re quite oblique, they’re not about my personal life. I might reference things that have happened but no one would ever know. I don’t think anyone can know me through any of the songs at all.”
“When we were in London recording the record I found that really exciting.” So did that inspire the new album? “Actually some of us are moving down to London because we like it so much,” Kate admits. “I just like walking around and looking at urban areas, just walking around the shops as much as where we live. I do like the old 30s ex-council flats in London and taking lots of pictures of those. I find all that kind of stuff really exciting, just walking for hours and hours and hours taking pictures.” If you didn’t know already, Kate produces all of the artwork for the band’s releases. It pretty much sums up her arguably unrivalled sensitivity, passion, flair and grace in a field where such qualities are rare and laudable. “It’s white with two halves of a zebra on it. It’s influenced by the Monty Python cartoon,” The Long Blondes’ singer says of the artwork for ‘Couples’. “It’s cute, it’s really different.”
Let it not be forgotten that The Long Blondes have enjoyed huge success and praise in a very quick time, from their initial proclamation: “We do not listen to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors or Bob Dylan. We chose an instrument each and learnt to play it.” So how’s Kate dealing with that very world of fame, and can she provide any anecdotes? “Hmm… me and Dorian were sitting at the bar [at Primavera Sound] and Johnny Marr and the guitarist from The Buzzcocks (Pete Shelley) were there”, she eludes. “They were chatting about guitar sounds for ages and we were sitting there in silence listening in and going ‘oh my god!’, so that was quite weird! It’s strange when stuff like that happens. Like we were backstage at a festival and there was Bez, Kele from Bloc Party and Borrell milling about – it’s always a spectacle.”
It’s a point to note that Kate doesn’t see herself in that genus of ‘person to be gawped at’ in the slightest – she’s dealt with the industry pretty well. And was it weird that being female was such a stigma for critics everywhere around the release of the first album and subsequent touring? “I don’t think it’ll be the case anymore because there’s so many other women out there who are far more successful than we’ve been in the past. Like Kate Nash, Amy Winehouse and Beth Ditto from The Gossip. Hopefully we contributed a little bit towards making women equal in music.” She’s a sensible one, and that’s certainly a truth.
So how will someone so switched on deal with reactions to the new album that she’s so proud of? “I’m a bit nervous -I want people to like it,” she discloses. “I think we’ll get good responses, though it is really different to our first record. I think we’ve moved on and grown a lot musically, and I think people’ll appreciate that.” Kate Jackson is captivating, and the band are constantly growing and now have the polish and variation to match the glamour. It makes ‘Couples’ an exciting prospect, and introduces The Long Blondes as a different project altogether; one here for the long-term and one in possession of a gem of a second album.