Envy & Other Sins, then - remind us again why exactly it is that they're not all over the radio, billboards, the charts, medium-sized venues, your minds, your eardrums. Their music is infiltrating hooks warped to within an inch of their lives. Downright brilliant lyricism is their thing – on '(It Gets Harder To Be A) Martyr' they muse like they're at some midpoint between C.S. Lewis and Gruff Rhys.
So why is it then that they're going by mostly unnoticed? Maybe it's something to do with the preconceptions people have from the fact that they won a T4 talent contest to get their record deal. Just maybe. But with four years of gigs and demos behind them, it's somewhat of a false lead. In a recent interview the band revealed their discontent at the poor scheduling of their releases, the lack of press and where the '£1 million deal' seems to have disappeared to.
So here's an insight into the world of Victorian grandeur and discontent – a catch up backstage at Bush Hall with Ali (vocals, guitar), Jarvey (keyboards, vocals), Mark (bass, vocals) and Jim (drums), and a chance to delve into the minds of a band that the masses should be all over by now.
So the studio stuff's been done - what happens after the tour's over?
Jarvey: It's not over yet, so we're really just enjoying it - it's going great. And beyond that, we'll release more singles and get back in the studio. We're planning a load of YouTube films, that's what we’re gonna do.
Is that your own idea?
Jarvey: Er, yeah. [mass laughter]
Well that was a way of evading 'did the label encourage you with that'!
Jarvey: We've got a video camera on the road with us.
Ali: We're gearing up little bits of video promo to support the music we've been recording. We're planning for the next single even if we haven't had it confirmed. [cue mass deep inhalation of air]
Let's talk about the lack of radio airplay 'Highness' got. Is that a major thing to you?
Ali: Jo Whiley [one of the three judges on T4 MobileAct Unsigned] played it once.
Jarvey: She doesn't get a lot of choice on what gets played on her show, not a lot of them do on Radio 1.
Mark: You have to be their favourite band of the year to get played.
Ali: They're not playing as many bands recently just generally, and our back story didn't help. But at the same time it's very hard to get on the radio anyway. We're not that kind of band at the moment.
Do you think that's one of the reasons why the single didn't do as well as it should have done?Jarvey: It's funny because the goalposts have moved hugely. We were planning our own releases before we got involved in all the TV stuff and we were only going to do 1000 copies. We didn't expect to sell 1000 in a week! And by the sounds of it we did 2500 - nearly 3000 - which is amazing. For us. But if you're a major label band, then...
How do you feel about your album 'We Leave At Dawn'?
Jarvey: Making the album's probably the biggest buzz out of the whole thing. We got to make the album we've been working towards for four years. And we got to make it as well as we could possibly make it in a beautiful studio, with a really good producer [Danton Supple] and we just went for it. So we're all pretty proud of what we've done.
Ali: For ages, we primarily gigged. We rehearsed material because we couldn't afford to fund a release. We were bemoaning the fact that we couldn't get our music to people. Now, we're doing gigs where people have got the album and they come in and sing the words back - it's great.
Mark: Friends have been texting us saying "wow - we thought you were alright but we didn't expect you to make an album that sounds this consistent or as good as this". People are remarking on how they really like every song.
Next up, I'm going to quote Jarvey, the last time I interviewed you guys.
Jarvey: Oh dear.
"B-sides are a bit of a funny one at the moment because we haven't got any time to do anything new so we're just using our own recordings and stuff like that". And then you had to record the theme tune to the V show, 'You've Got Something'?
Jarvey: We did, yes.
Jim: It took about twenty minutes!
Ali: We did it once in the studio initially. We did a reggae version with Mark doing the lead vocal, but we did alter the lyrics ever so slightly so that it wasn't a song about winning against the odds. It was more a song about having something in the first place. They weren't too keen on that! We had to do it again and they sent us all the lyrics.
Jarvey: Anyway, that particular B-side is hidden away on a vinyl. It's not so painful that way.
Mark: How many did we do? There were three B-sides weren't there... And considering the song, Ali did a wicked job on it!
Jarvey: It's the second track on the B-side! Unless you're a really committed fan, you probably don't know what the B-sides are anyway. I remember when I was a teenager I'd buy every single release by a band I like just so I could have all of the B-sides. I hope that in the future we'll be able to put all of the B-sides together in a collection.
Jim: That'll be the title track for the B-sides collection - 'We've Got Something'.
So, what would make you happier – loads of bad press or none at all?
Mark: Depends how aggressive it'd get.
Jim: You're always told not to read it anyway. Bad press is good press.
Ali: I think you've misinterpreted that a little bit!Jarvey: He means any press is good press!Mark: Or good press is good press?
Ali: It's probably better to be in the public eye in some form than not at all, I guess. If you could go back a year, knowing what you know now, would you have still entered the competition?
Ali: We're certainly in a better position now than we were a year ago, so I think so.
Jim: When we sit down for five seconds we realise that this is our job now – when you put it in perspective it's a really positive thing that's happened, it's just a very odd thing that's happened as well.
Mark: If we're gonna drive the band forward as we were going to before, then we're now in a better position to launch it from than we were a few months ago. You can't really argue with that.
Ali: As long as we get time to carry on writing and getting new stuff through. We've given up our day jobs, but our days a filled with loads of other things now, especially because we do so much ourselves. As long as we get time to write, rehearse and get in the studio then we'll be happy.
Do you think you'd have dealt with the show any differently? You seemed to have been cautious anyway with the contract and the formalities.
Jim: There were things we didn't have a choice with. And if we did it again, we still wouldn't have a choice. At every stage of the competition, we did what we thought was the right thing to do.
Jarvey: On the contrary to what people might think, because we're a poppy sort of band, we're quite principled. When we did the TV show, like you say, we didn't really do anything that was too grating for us.
Ali: That's probably the reason they booted us off in the first place.
Jarvey: There's been a couple of things since that we haven't been very keen on, but we've made it as clear as we can. We're pretty honest and people know that.
Is your patience going to run out?
Jarvey: We can't really answer that.
Ali: Whatever happens, it'd be really nice to find a way into the studio again before next year. Jarvey: We haven't really been able to sit down with anyone and have an interview, and just talk about music. And that's the thing we're most passionate about. That's why we're in a band. We love music, we love making it. As long as we get to carry on making music, one way or another – and we will find a way to do that whatever happens – we'll be planning on doing our own thing and there'll be more music coming out. However it happens to come out.
Going back again, in spite of what you've just said, do you find it difficult responding to these type of questions without sounding hard done by?
Ali: Definitely, because we're not - we've got a record deal, we're not going to work tomorrow because we've got another gig, and that's what we want.
Mark: It is very difficult to talk about it without sounding hard done by.
Ali: At the end of the day, that's the stuff that people want to talk to you about. There are a lot of positives – we're doing a tour, we're playing to loads of people, we've got our album out... going back to our old demos, the old recordings don't capture the songs the way the new ones do. It's so much better now.
On a lighter note, if you could structure your own interviews, what would you want to be asked instead of all this?
Jarvey: Cookery, Maths.
Jim: I'd talk about physics all day.
Mark: We'd all talk about what Jim wears.
Ali: Jim's tie collection.
And in the longer term, where would you wake up in a year?
Jim: We'd have a second album, people'd be buying our first album in droves and go "what the hell were we thinking – they're musical genii".
Ali: A Mercury Music Prize for the first album so the label keeps us on, invests more money and everything's hunky dory. That'd be good.
Jarvey: Realistic goals. Hopefully people will listen to the album and then all of this other stuff will fall behind. Because that's what it’s all about. We just need to keep going, keep playing to people, make sure that people are still listening to the record - and it'll spread. Because we know we've made a good record.