As I take the train to Twickenham, I think back to when I first saw The Carnabys, which was at The Bedford Park Festival in Chiswick back in June this year. A friend, Paul Stansfield, who was helping the guys, had told me they were brilliant, and he was not wrong. I knew from that first gig that I had to interview them. This was slightly more difficult than I first thought, as they never seem to stop.
A brief interview after a gig was not going to work, as I really wanted to get to know the guys, what makes them tick and what drives them. I needed to find a quiet space where I could get them to sit still for a while, and that happened to be in the recording studios at Heatham House youth centre in Twickenham.
Sitting with these five young guys, I felt very Rock & Roll. This was my ‘Beatles’ moment; and I don’t say that lightly.
The guys were very chilled as we sat in the studio, despite the fact they had to learn a load of old hits for a party they had been asked to perform at that weekend.
From left to right, meet Mike (bass guitar), Ben (guitar), Alex (guitar), Jack (vocals) and James (drums).
“Me, Alex and Mike have known each other since school.” Jack told me, “the three of us formed a school band when we were fourteen. We met Ben through another musician who played with us.”
“When we heard Ben play, we were like; we have to start a band with him,” Alex added.
James was introduced to the guys by Alex; he auditioned to be their drummer, but the main test came at a gig in December 2010, where the guys decided to see what James would be like playing live with them.
Alex relates, “We had a trial session with James; it was quite a big thing getting him in as a new drummer. I couldn’t make the December gig because I was ill, but James fitted straight in. We realised just how good he was because he’d barely played with the guys before, and he just smashed it!”
The combination of musical talent, drive and friendship fused the five guys into a force to be reckoned with. The Carnabys were born.
“The Carnabys officially started at the strike of midnight of New Years two years ago,” said Alex, “and that’s when we played the first song we wrote.”
“Without my mum we wouldn’t have had our first gig” he admits, “she got us our first gig in a pub, she was constantly on the phone promoting us. From then onwards we got the confidence to perform live.”
I have to mention The Parents at this point. All of them have been supremely supportive of the band since it started.
In my opinion you need at least these three things to succeed with any dream; these are talent, hard work and support.
All of The Carnabys parents have been great. Jack’s father, Simon seems to have been a bit of a super star in supporting the band.
“Simon has just been a gem,” they told me, “he’s been a manager and he’s been like a dad to all of us. He keeps us in line, always drives us to gigs and is our sound man for every gig. We wouldn’t be where we are today without him.”
This is where the hard work started. Their aim was to get out there as much as possible.
“To start with we needed something that we could give to people, so we could get more gigs.” With this in mind, they asked Dwayne Hamilton who works at Heatham House for his help.
“We came in here, and we met Dwayne, “continued Ben, “we had never been in a studio before and it was our first time working with him. We had two hours and we just needed to bang something out pretty quick. So Dwayne set this room up, with drums and with all of our stuff, and we recorded our live demo.”
Once they had a live demo, they starting gigging like mad! And before long they had produced a recording with three of their songs; Forgive Me When I Shout, Down So Low and Brenda The Contender. We bought our copy when we saw them at The Bedford Park Festival; we had to be quick as they sold out in minutes.
Paul phoned me a few months later to tell me that The Carnabys had made it to the final of the UK leg of the Emergenza unsigned bands competition, and would I like to go? My husband and I were there like a bear.
This was a big deal for the band and they certainly rocked The Garage in Islington. We were thrilled to see them win.
So, their reward was to play in the grand final at the Taubertal Open air Festival in Germany, in front of 30,000 people. While they did not win the whole thing, the experience was fantastic for them. They left Germany on a high, and with a brand new Marshall Amp, which had been awarded to Alex for being the best guitarist in the competition. Very impressive!
Their year kept getting better, and in September the Carnabys were invited to support Corrine Bailey Rae at a Charity event for World Peace Day.
I’ll let the guys tell you more:
Jack, “It was wickeeeeed!”
James, “She is so nice. She is so down to earth and you forgot just what a big star she is.”
Jack, “I remember there was a sound check, she was singing and then there was a silence, I started singing and I realised that everyone was looking at me.”
Ben, “We were watching the sound check and we were all sitting down at Heatham, on the step, with our jaws open.”
James, “She is mesmerising.”
Ben, “You completely forgot who she was and then I was sitting watching a film the next day, it was a big Hollywood movie, with all of these big stars, and the main love sequence had one of her songs, and I was like, ‘oh S@*T!’.”
In between a huge number of other gigs, the next big event for the guys was Oxjam Chiswick in October, and my husband and I were there to support them. We got the same feeling we had the first time we saw them perform, only this time we knew the words to their songs, and we sang along as they played.
We managed to grab a couple of minutes with the guys at the end of their set (before they had to shoot off) for a mini interview, it was the first time we had chatted with them as a group and we were amazed at their maturity and togetherness, plus they are just really cool, nice guys.
So are the guys planning to put their feet up for a while? Just the opposite, they are finishing work on a new EP.
James, “The new EP is coming out in December. Right now the tracks are close to being finished. They’re all sounding very good. We recorded them over five days at the Arcadian studios in Ladbroke Grove. It was a really nice process.”
“There’s going to be a lot of content for the EP. And also we’re doing a music video for one of the songs,” adds Ben.
“The single should be out very early December,” James told me, “and then there’s lots of promotion and stuff. Then there’s our gig at Bush Ball on the 11thof January, this is one of our big gigs for promoting the EP. We’re being supported by Jungle Doctors and Dorey The Wise. We also want to organise our own event.”
“We’ve done quite a lot, we’ve been quite busy, but we’re still relatively unknown,” said Ben, “so this is really our first big opportunity to shout – ‘This is our music; this is what we’re about’.”
“In a way until now we’ve almost been holding back,” said James, “we’ve been waiting for something like this, something that we’re really proud of that we can put out there.”
So what is The Carnabys big dream? When they answered they were unanimous in their response, and that’s when I really knew that these guys are serious musicians, and not just kids looking for fame and fortune.
Alex, “We want to make a name for ourselves, but write interesting music, be something different.”
Jack, “I would like to make popular music, something that is recognised as good music, well written, written by proper musicians.”
Ben, “As far as our band, we’ve said that in five years, we want to be the best live band in the world.”
Jack, “We’ve said that in five or six years time, someone’s got to be the best live band, so why not us?”
So, they have set their goals high, and I really hope they achieve their dreams. I think that if you watch this space closely, then in five years time you will see the meteoric rise of these five guys from west London.
Yes, they are massively talented, have great stage presence and chemistry, write their own kick-ass songs, but what I think will make them really huge is their personalities. Because they are such a nice group of guys, people want to help them. That says a lot I think.
Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it, but check out the links below, and if you get the opportunity go and watch them perform so you can decide for yourself. I promise you will not be disappointed.
‘Sharp Rose’ video (my favourite track) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RG6YfdHsR0&noredirect=1
Come along to the Bush Hall gig on the 11th Jan 2013 for the EP release: http://www.bushhallmusic.co.uk/live-music/whats-on/
This will take you to the what’s on page and you need to scroll down to the 11th Jan and click for the Carnabys