Interview: Middle Distance

By Sean Littlewood

Buckinghamshire definitely isn’t renowned for its emo scene, but Middle Distance have started making waves from their hometown of Chesham with their superb debut EP ‘Losing Colour’, produced by Sam Winfield (Amber Run, Fickle Friends).

With pull from bands like Braid and American Football, their string of demos have seen them fall into the delicate space that exists between early 90s emo, and the new-fashioned form of younger bands like Turnover and Seahaven.

Losing Colour came out on 27th November via Club Omega, the label fronted by Bucks counterparts Big Sixes, and can be ordered via iTunes.

Sean Littlewood caught up with singer Patrick Lewin and spoke about ‘Deja Entendu’, The Hotelier and what it’s like being an emo band in Bucks.

I love ‘Losing Colour’, when did you start on the songs?

Thanks so much. We’re really proud of the final product, Sam (Winfield) did such a great job. These songs are the first we’ve written collaboratively as a band. All our early demos were written by me and then taken to the band as almost complete songs, so it was a really nice change to work off each other and create something that way. The songs, for the most part, all came about early this year or late 2014. Most of them were born from Tim (guitarist) and I hanging out in his room playing guitar, showing each other whatever new music we’d discovered that week and just seeing what happened. Sometimes we’d have a riff we’d want to use, other times it’d just be completely out of the blue. Most songs came about in a six/seven minute long American Football style jam, which we’d record on GarageBand and then listen back to and decide which parts we liked.

Do you have a favorite off the EP?

It all depends what member you ask. Me personally, I’m most proud of ‘Blossom’ – lyrically and musically. It’s the track with the most instrumentation as well, so I was really excited to hear the final mix. I know Tim and Calvin (bass) both love ‘New Hall’ for their guitar/bass lines – Calvin describes it as his ‘funkiest’ bass line and Tim as his ‘slidiest’ lead part. Pealy (Drums) would probably say ‘English Rooftop (Part 2)’ purely because he can let loose on the drums at the end. I think we all agree that ‘Losing Colour’ is our highlight as a band though, because of how it was written and how unexpected it was.

There’s clear Brand New influence, was it ‘Deja…’, ‘Your Favorite Weapon’ or ‘The Devil And God…’ that got you into them?

‘Deja…’, solely because ‘The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot’ was one of my favorite songs for years. It was also the first Brand New record I heard all the way through, then TDAG, and then ‘Daisy’ – so by the time I listened to ‘Your Favorite Weapon’ I was really surprised to hear that it was basically a pop-punk record. I can really appreciate their progression musically through those four albums though, and I’m really excited for the new one.

And what did you think of ‘Daisy’?

Talking to other Brand New fans this album is always the one that, I don’t want to say polarizes, but definitely divides Brand New fans in a way the other albums don’t. Imagine you’re recommending Brand New to a person who has never heard of them before, you wouldn’t tell them that ‘Gasoline’ should be the first song they listen to would you? I just feel that ‘Daisy’ is the kind of album you need to slide into gradually once you understand Brand New and their progression. Not jump straight into before listening to their other albums. I do love it, but it’s their fourth album for a reason. People may disagree, but that seems to be the general consensus I get when talking to other fans as well.

Where do your main influences come from?

Middle Distance became an idea when I was listening to loads of math-rock and ‘twinkly’ guitar music. American Football’s self-titled LP and ‘Animals’ by This Town Needs Guns were my favorite albums when I was 15, so by the time I met Tim (when I was 17) we originally wanted to start a math-rock band. When we figured out that we weren’t good enough at guitar to make that a reality, we created our own sort of hybrid math-rock/indie/emo. By the time we were a complete four piece, bands like Turnover, The Hotelier and others of a similar ilk had hit our radars too, and we took huge influence from them. Me and Tim are also massive Smiths fans, so we’ll both listen to them and be like “Johnny Marr is a genius” – and I definitely take influence lyrically from Morrissey. James Joyce’s ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ also influenced some of the lyrics as well, which is why I reference him in ‘Blossom’.

For me, The Hotelier are probably the most important emo band at the moment. What do you think?

I’d agree with you there. ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’ changed everything for me; it was probably all I listened to whilst writing this EP. You can tell from listening to his lyrics that Christian Holden is such an intelligent person. When the album was first released they put all the lyrics on Bandcamp, and when you read them there are so many subtle nuances you don’t catch – or at least I didn’t – by just listening to them. For instance, the Hamlet reference in ‘Among The Wildflowers’ or the extended metaphor throughout the whole of ‘Housebroken’. Things like that put The Hotelier in a completely different league to a lot of other bands in the scene right now, but it’s also their values as a band. I think they completely re-booked dates on one of their tours because the booking agent was violent against his partner, and they didn’t want to use him anymore. I admired that decision a lot.

Bucks surprisingly has quite a fluctuating music scene, but it tends to involve a lot of straight up indie/singer-songwriter stuff. How have you found being a band in Bucks?

Bucks has a great music scene with some incredible bands coming out of it, and being in a band in Bucks is cool because there are some awesome venues. I feel like the reason there are so many singer songwriter/indie bands is because of the venues though. Promoters will put on indie/rock nights, rather than say hip-hop or RnB nights, because there only seems to be indie bands, so I guess they go hand in hand. You normally have to find those other nights in cities, rather than places like Bucks, because there is more of an audience for it. Playing in Bucks is cool though, because all your mates come down and you’re usually put on the bill with your mates’ bands. We played a show with Blind Tides and Atlantic Shore, which was so much fun because we just packed fifty people we knew into this tiny bar. I find it can also be a bit of a bubble though, and that you’ll need to escape to progress any further as a band. You’ll end up playing the same places to the same people, where it feels like everyone is trying to escape in their own weird way.

What are your feelings on being a band where everything revolves around online content? Does it actually give you a bit of freedom in the way you release content?

It’s 2015, so that’s half the battle. Having great music is a must in my eyes, but then having online aesthetic is also important. You need an online campaign, definitely, but I like to also think that the music speaks for itself. Social media is great, but it should be the music that carries you. It does give you freedom as well though. For instance, at the moment we’re all living quite far away from each other, but because of the internet we can still stay active and release the music we recorded when we were living ten minutes from each other. Even the smallest band can release music with no label or backing now because of Soundcloud and Bandcamp etc. I think that’s definitely a good thing in some ways.

Do you still keep a record collection, or do you just stream?

Yeah, I’m all about keeping a record collection. I know it sounds cliché but I like having something that is tangible. The others do as well. We’ve all massive CD collections from when we were kids and all started collecting records when we were around 15. I think for musicians and music lovers having a physical copy of a piece of music is a must. But sometimes you can’t, for example smaller bands you’re into can’t afford to have their music pressed. But for us having a physical copy of our music was important, so when we released our demos we burnt them on to cheap blank CDs and our split was put onto cassettes.

How have the live shows been so far with the band?

So much fun. Like all bands we’ve played the shows where you play to 5 people and then we’ve played to much larger audiences, especially in recent times. The Club Omega Acoustic Boat show was great, because we got to play with our mates Big Sixes and Atlantic Shore and also Seafoal who was someone we had never heard of before but ended up really liking her music. Also the venue was mad (Thamesis Dock – check it out) and it was a sold out show so we played to one of the biggest audiences we’ve ever played to. We also played this proper DIY show in Nottingham with so many great bands. That was something we had never done before, so it was really cool to experience something like that.

Is there a set plan for the next few months?

Not so much a set plan but we know what we want to achieve. After we release this EP we’ll start booking a tour because that’s always something we’ve wanted to do. We’re just going to play as many shows as possible and we’ve got more music we want to release afterwards but that won’t be for a while. We’ll just ride the wave of the EP and see what happens. Maybe get band tattoos.


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