Brevity Of Craft: An Interview With Tom Bellamy From LOSERS
It was while Alternative Rock trio LOSERS were on tour with Gary Newman in 2013 that their merch girl described a ridiculously brilliant residential studio on the outskirts of Berlin. It was empty and needed some tenants of worth, but that was not it: it boasted 11 rooms, an actual tower, a trapdoor from the lounge into the music studio, a grand piano and the permission to make noise 24 hours a day. All that and it would be a third of the rent that they were paying in London.
Tom Bellamy of the band was just getting started as we fired up: "Oh, and it was roughly 100 times bigger! We kind of couldn’t say no to that. It was only meant to be for four months. That was seven years ago, and I'm still in Berlin. Paul Mullen moved to the Californian desert about a year ago, and original member Eddy Temple-Morris is keeping it tight in London."
But to get down to the nitty-gritty, Mr Bellamy can indeed verify that the most noticeable difference between his motherland and current home was a distinct lack of Salt and Vinegar crisps. He recalls with clarity, "I gave up looking after a while, and seven years later, they seem to be popping up more frequently in the supermarket aisles. I still think we’re still years behind seeing the likes of prawn cocktail or smoked ham and pickle on the shelves, but it seems to be progressing in the right direction, so I’m grateful for that," and I breathed a sigh of relief.
"The main similarity is that people here also have two legs, two arms, one head etc. I think there’s a whole bunch of people out there who believe people from other countries are aliens." He can confidently confirm that that is not the case.
I question if melody-shunning techno still takes centre stage, staying close to its birthplace. "The music scene is heavily influenced by techno, yes, but we work in a studio house with about 250 rooms of musicians and producers making rock, pop, psychedelia, classical, opera, funk. It’s wild, highly inspiring and of course completely bonkers if they’re all playing at the same time with their windows open."
All three performers have a substantial footing in the world of music with Eddy a founder of Ibiza Rocks and champion of Electro Indie crossover, Paul enhancing numerous groups including Yourcodenameis:milo, leaving Tom playing anything he could lay his hands on in The Cooper Temple Clause. He contemplates which dynamics shape LOSERS. "Band chemistry is a weird and wonderful thing. Bands are the best examples of dysfunctional families around. Add into that some huge egos, some sort of drink/drug problem and/or crippling mental health problem, and you’re just getting started."
"In the early days, none of this mattered because we were younger, and we didn’t know any better. It was messy, and it was wild. You never knew what was happening one day to the next." He feels now that they have got their shit together with Losers. "During the tenure of this band, all three members hit rock bottom at some point and have come out the other side feeling a lot wiser and stronger.
"I think because of this, we’ve managed to grow even closer and be more understanding of each other. We all have our space (I mean, we couldn’t be further away from each other if we tried!) Getting the relationship between band members working is the hard bit. The music is a bonus."
Our dastardly foe, the pandemic, offered time in spades to masses with varying outcomes of what people spent it on. I wondered what this meant for the group, did it water growth or stump blossoming? "Time to grow, absolutely. We just stopped making music. The dust gathered in the studio, and we all did what we had to do to survive. I guess the creativity came out elsewhere, mainly in the kitchen. Eddy is a master chef, I sadly am not, but I’m ok with this. I’m working on it," he assures.
"I mean, it was a difficult time for everyone, right? I had a roof over my head and food on the table, so I am incredibly grateful for that. I’ve come out the other side with a lot more perspective, feeling a lot more focused and refreshed."
Recent track Lost In Translation is beautifully spacious: a swirly filmesque affair; its progression hits hard. Elegant orchestral work too. Bellany factors maturity for their current sound to which a younger self would recoil in sheer horror hearing him state that, "But I can happily say I am loving where we’re at musically at the moment. Putting hundreds of tracks of noise down is easy, and we kind of did that quite a lot."
"These days, less is more and to pull that off, your standards have to be higher. We used some live strings on some other new tracks and almost did for this but instead, I used a violin bow on my guitar and mixed it in with some string samples, and it just sounded great, so we ditched that plan."
Although written years ago, the song sings of isolation; it was plain to recognise its prevalence, which could not be ignored. "When corona kicked in, the lyrics just made even more sense. The track felt totally in sync with the sentiment of the time. To be honest, that’s the reason we decided to drop it. He appreciates listening to a song that helps him understand how he feels and helps to put into words the sensations that bounce around inside his head. "Maybe someone will listen to it, and it might help them not feel so alone."
"I have always felt outside of the pack like I was talking a different language, like I was part of a huge crowd of people who were all walking in the opposite direction. I guess there are other people like me out there. It’s a song about wanting to regroup, find new ways, create new communities and ignore the mainstream. It’s anti-nationalism, anti-establishment and basically anything that makes us feel like we are separate from one another."
He grants advice of note, "Stop, pause and remember that underneath all the bullshit stories we tell each other, we are the same, human beings, utterly lost on a planet orbiting a ball of fire in the middle of space."
The sister of the single is a mesmeric video produced by Euan McGrath, revelling in a bold colour pallet and font, and as dark transcends to light, just at the conclusion, it communicates to the watcher. "I wanted the viewer to feel a sense of hope as the video comes to its conclusion. That’s what the track is all about. Reminding yourself not to get caught up in the bullshit, to step back, reconnect with yourself and nature and to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that- as my dying grandmother told me on her deathbed- ‘it all works out in the end’.
Using the power of telepathy, I vision a return to their dance roots with reworkings of Lost In Translation and other up-to-date numbers, and ask if he is remixing and who, in a dream world, would he like to play artistically with his work. "You will indeed see just that. Are you in one of the rooms next to us in our studio? How did you know this? Yes, I am currently remixing most of the new songs, plus a few of the old bangers for a future event, where there will be dancing involved. I would love to collaborate with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. I think he’s a very special lad."
And what of the future? LOSERS will be releasing a new track every six weeks with an accompanying live version, studio webinar, free downloadable stems, playlists that inspired the tracks, festivals, NFTs and so on. "It’s already kicking off, and we’ve only just started the campaign. Incredibly grateful for all the support and incredibly excited about the whole process."
Before our eloquent Tom Bellamy left our humour drizzled powwow, I had to enquire about where to go in bustling Berlin. "It’s an obvious one but Mauer Park every Sunday is amazing. It’s a vintage flea market with awesome food, karaoke, live bands, and just all-round great vibes. Also if you like ice cream (who doesn’t like ice cream?), go to the Canal in Hakesher Markt and then go and eat it on the lawn at James-Simon Park next to the river, in front of the Cathedral. Lovely stuff."
Article by Beverley Knight