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Thursday, 3 May 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Auburn - Jon meets Liz Lenten

I have been a toiler in the Rock and Roll Vineyard for more years than I care to mention. I have interviewed and written features about the great, the small, the good, the bad and the plain forgettable.

Some of these people were already stars, some have achieved stardom in the intervening years since I met them in a small pub or a motorway services, but most of the eager young things I have met over the years have done what they did for a few years and then disappeared.

Occasionally I have spoken to someone who has such an aura about them that one is convinced that their career is bound to go stellar. One such lady was an elfin-looking Icelandic girl who sang with a group called The Sugarcubes whom I interviewed at Exeter University in 1989, another was a student called Thom Yorke (also at Exeter University) who confided in me that his student band Headless Chickens were never going to go anywhere, but that he had a band back in Oxford that he thought were really rather good. Bjork and Radiohead have confirmed that I do, sometimes, have the knack of picking winners.

Now, my spidey sense is tingling again, because I have just interviewed a young lady called Liz Lenten...

Jon: I thought your album was really, really good – it completely came out of left field and I wasn’t expecting it at all

Liz: Thank you... reviews have been quite mixed. Really nice to hear.

Jon: I think it’s smashing. I really liked the cover design as well, it has that kind of weird Edwardian look to it.

Liz: Thank you, yes it is meant to look like a little piece of jewellery or something.

Jon: Years ago I was on tour with Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel and we were in York for a couple of days doing gigs at the York Opera House and they had a season of Oscar Wilde plays and plays about Oscar Wilde and it was laid out in just the same kind of Victorian playbill way.

Liz: The original painting – a friend of mine is an artist – and I used a painting of hers on my last album and she just let me choose which one I wanted, but it was the designer who put all the henna stuff in it and it has come out looking like a piece of Victorian jewellery. I’m really pleased with it.

Jon: I think it is gorgeous. So tell me about the band

Liz: Do you know any of the background?

Jon: Very little – I read the blurb that was on your website and that was it.

Liz: Well Auburn is basically me – my alter-ego because I do other things as well and so I am quite well known as a choral director – so I first started using Auburn as a band name when I put the first album out myself about 10 years ago. I’ve always worked with a lot of different musicians and so we did the last album and the band I had last time, we did a tour with Sophie Ellis Bexter, which was brilliant, we went all over the UK and Europe and just after that my son started school, and we had just moved out of London really to get away from the rat race into the wilds of Lincolnshire so I just sort of hung up the performance boots for a little while, and just played mum and got really involved with working with other artists and composing for choirs and all that kind of stuff and then I started working with one of the artists that I manage.

Max Gilkes is a songwriter, artist, producer and we just started writing, really just for fun again. The plan wasn’t originally to reform Auburn, but we did because you do what you do and we just found that we clicked so we just started writing and demo-ing and then brought other musicians in to play and it just kind of organically came back together. And it just felt like Auburn again so I decided to continue with Auburn and there is the album and now we are touring next week, or we start on gigs next week which is quite exciting.

Jon: It’s a very organic sounding album. It sounds like you guys went in and the whole vibe of the album the whole feel of it came together in the studio it was almost like you hadn’t some of it pre-planned it just happened.

Liz: It’s quite interesting that you say that because we recorded some of these songs about four times in different variations and it just didn’t feel right. We did an acoustic thing and that didn’t feel right so we did a couple of other line ups and that didn’t feel right and then with these guys we got in werecorded all the songs, and two of those songs are literally exactly like a live take and two of the songs of the album are just as they went down, and the other stuff, we just got the feel we wanted and we just did the take until we got the bits we wanted, because we wanted it to feel live and .. but obviously you need to get the whole standard up of course. The discerning listener these days doesn’t want warts and all, they just want the ‘all’, so that is what we tried to do and it’s really nice that you think that it does feel just spontaneous because that is kind of how it was and as I say a couple of them were literally, actually completely live, which I have never done in my life before, not for a record. But I don’t think they stand out. I don’t think you can say ‘oh they’re the live ones and they’re not.’

Jon: No I wouldn’t be able to say which ones were which, but it just feels spontaneous. It’s got a lovely natural feel to it.

Liz: Thank you. With gigs we have been rehearsing with the band – I mean we’ve got a fabulous drummer who is playing live, he is not one of the guys we recorded. My husband recorded some the tracks but he doesn’t play live anymore because he has issues with his wrists and things. And we’ve got this absolutely fantastic drummer but he is literally just playing percussion and it sounds and feels wonderful. And not all drummers can do that, you know, just play percussion and still make it sound and feel viby. And I am getting really excited now about the gigs.

I think the London gig is only a little venue, but it is a really funky little place to play and I think that’s going to be quite fun. The first two shows we are doing are theatre shows so it’s sit down audiences and I’ve got one of my community youth choir that I work with up here – about 12 of the kids are coming to join me for a few songs, you know, because it is a home town show, and we are going to film those two shows and then the other two shows – the southern shows – my band all live in Brighton which is why we are doing Brighton date because it is a home town show for them, and then we are doing the London show after that. The last two are pub-style gigs and the first two are theatre shows.

Jon: So what are you going to be doing with the film, or haven’t you decided yet?

Liz: Well its mainly to be able to have some good live footage which well put up on to Youtube and we will see how it works and if Rob likes it enough and we might put it out as a live DVD at some point. But my initial reason for wanting to get everything filmed was just so that we had some good band stuff to put up on Youtube so that people can see what we are like.

Jon: Well that’s really good because that means I can pinch it and stream it on to the blog site as well.

Liz: Absolutely, yes. I’ve just done a little promo I don’t know if you found it

Jon: It went up this morning

Liz: Ah okay it was just a little promo to get the ball rolling really and we are just going to keep shooting stuff here in the studio, just little hand-held stuff just to keep it rolling, until we get the big boy footage.

Jon: Have you got more recordings planned or are you just going to get this one out of the way first?

Liz: We haven't got any more recordings, we have got a few more songs to record, but we haven’t got any more finished recordings yet.

Jon: But you are planning to do some at point?

Liz: Oh yes, yes. Definitely. We’ve got two or three new songs that just didn’t make it onto the album because we wanted to get it finished in the end so we thought right no, this is the album, this works. So we’ve got material to start the next album as it were.

Jon: When does the tour start?

Liz: Friday (Tomorrow). Just a little whistlestop over the Friday Saturday Sunday Monday over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Jon: I'll Give you a ring after the tour and you can tell us all about it.......

Keep an eye on this girl. She has a great future. Trust me. I'm a cryptozoologist...

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