Andy Roberts catches up with The Casual Terraces before their gig with Radio Clash...
There have always been bands that inspire contrasting passions. Certain acts throughout the years have provoked love and loathing in equal measure, either through outspoken views, style of music or even image. Oasis certainly fall into the love/hate category. So do a Leeds band that share Noel and Liam's passion for long-ish hair, retro Britrock, swagger and self-belief.
Going around the table we meet Jason, 26, on drums; Mike, 21, "the best guitarist in Leeds, basically"; John Paul, 21, "As well as playing the fool, I play rhythm guitar and do a bit of singing" and Tom, 22 "As well as playing with your missus I play the vocals".
As you can possibly discern already, we have a band with a) a sense of humour and b) a fair bit of self-confidence. Take into account the now trademark barnets, the designer threads and unmistakably in front of LMS sit The Casual Terraces.
The image is paramount in many critics assessments of The Casuals and it seems as though we've all forgotten about what they play. Could they perhaps explain what kind of music they consider themselves to be serving up?
Tom has a go at explaining: "We are rock 'n' roll but can't really be put into any particular genre, we're not punk or electroclash or anything. When people ask us to describe ourselves, it's pretty difficult, it's just Stones-ey rock 'n' roll, mid-to-late sixties stuff."
"Can I just clarify now, we are not from Manchester," implores John Paul referring to the oft-touted misnomer, "the thing that annoys me is the way that in the NME, they fawn over the latest band from the States that play exactly the same kind of stuff that we do, yet you get ridiculed if you're a band from Britain playing the kind of retro-sounding music and look the way we do. It's a double standard."
So how did a like-minded and similarly-coiffed bunch get together in the first place?
"We all got into music around the Britpop era in the mid to late nineties, going to Brighton Beach when it was still good," says Tom, "the first album that I took seriously was Definitely Maybe by Oasis. And that was the same for a million other kids I'm sure. Obviously, we've all soaked up different influences from there, but that was the first thing that made me think that I wanted to be in a rock band!"
That said, John-Paul is very much at pains to spell out that the band isn't just about mindless rock 'n' roll: "Criticism coming from people who think we're very much a narrow thing or that we're just a bunch of lads that don't know anything about music is really hurtful. I Iike to think I buy a lot of records and know a lot about music as well as enjoy what we play."
Leeds as a city is very important to a band that have a great sense of pride in their locality. There's also an element of 'hardness' that they're keen to cultivate. Their description of their music in YEP's review of 2002 as "Ruck and Roll" says it all really. One of Tom's all-time favourite bands were The Bridewell Taxis.
"Liverpool's got The Farm, but Leeds had The Bridewell Taxis, which were one of the hardest, football casual bands ever. How many bands from Leeds went to The Hacienda and got a standing ovation? We want to carry on where they left off."
Leeds as a musical city is very much on the agenda for The Casual Terraces and they don't like to see it not fully compete on the same level as Liverpool or Manchester, two places they know well.
John-Paul explains: "There's a certain very much signed band that just keep slagging off Leeds in the press at every opportunity, but I suppose it's not surprising given that they're from nearer Castleford than Leeds. Why slag off your hometown? When you get dropped and the house and Ferrari get repossessed it'll come back to haunt you. I think Leeds is a good place to play, alright there might not be that many opportunities, but they're there for you to create."
"The only thing wrong is that bands aren't willing to support each other and we all need that." Says Tom. "Swapping gigs and contacts are what it should be all about and yet you just get rivalries. It's not a competition to see who gets signed first. We all need more support in all quarters. There's too much backstabbing - like the jealousy we had to put up with when we got to play at the Leeds Festival through Futuresound."
"The only way Leeds is going to get a scene together itself like Manchester or Liverpool is for people in bands to go and see, support and encourage each other. The only competition is getting Leeds on the map as a music making city."
OK so the competitive nature of the scene is detrimental to the wellbeing of the whole, why else can't Leeds compete with Manchester or Liverpool then? "The difference is that people in Manchester or Liverpool don't go to gigs to be critical, they go to see a band." Says Mike. "They love their music and will watch every band and not just the bands that their mates are in."
We get the feeling The Casuals are perfectly happy to play their part in the network of the local scene, if only their critics would let them in and take them more seriously. They do have a genuine liking from some of the other acts doing the rounds.
John-Paul: "Lorimer are a great band and les Flames! are a great bunch and know how to put on a good show".
"Same goes for Infrasound - a really nice set of lads." Says Tom. "It's good to see a band like Infrasound doing as well as they are because it gives us some hope."
Not that they're without hope of course - far from it in fact. Tom's alter ego as a chef at YTV has given them a leg-up that most bands can only dream about. Mark McMullen who directs ITV's Crimefighters show has helped the lads out in the past and none more so than by filming an expensive video for the new single that The Casuals hope will make it onto MTV2.
Recorded at Liverpool's Parr Street studios, inbetween rubbing shoulders with the likes of Alfie and Elbow, 'She's No Slacker' is being produced by Steve Grimes and Peter Hooton both ex-The Farm, engineered by Darren Simms (Coldplay, The Coral and Ian McCulloch) and should see the light of day nearer the end of the year.
So just how did Liverpool luminary Peter Hooton get involved with a Leeds band then?
John-Paul "He saw us when he'd turned out to see a band in Liverpool and came up to us afterwards raving about how we were like The Ramones, so we left him with a CD. Three days later he rang up asking for lots more stuff..."
"...And the next thing we know we're sitting in Parr Street with him!" Continues Tom. "When talented, motivating people with big ideas get involved with you, it makes all those band practices worth it."
Amen to that.