A Fighting Boredom Interview
Catholic Dance Academy are an Experimental Art-Rock duo from Coventry. They have so far released one EP and say that they ‘fuse indie, rock, electronica and the avant-garde into a melting pot of all that is possible.’ Fighting Boredom met up with the two of them in the first of our Saturday afternoon in the pub interviews.
Catholic Dance Academy sideswiped me, two friends form a band and record an EP then all of a sudden before anyone really knows about it there’s a Facebook page and Bandcamp download, usually you get a hint of this sort of thing especially when the people concerned are friends of Fighting Boredom and it’s a local thing. Turns out that it’s pretty good. The three tracks on the EP are strangely compelling and very good. They formed last year and since then have released various remixes, appeared at open mic evenings and continued working on what will eventually become their debut album.
The two members have joined us on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the beer garden just up the road. Jon Hardy responsible for most of the musical side of things and Melina Vent responsible for most of the words. They are relaxed and happy to talk, easy to engage and very open about their music, their plans and the band.
Fighting Boredom asked them how it all came about, how the band was formed. Mel has been writing poetry for years so how did it come about that the two of them started making music.
Jon – ‘We were talking about song writing in general’
Mel – ‘I brought round powerless in its original form and played musical words with it’
Jon – ‘Made it more like, structured to be like a song’
Mel – ‘And then Jon said…’
Jon – ‘You didn’t think we could do it really did you?’
Mel – ‘No, no. Then Jon said we could record it, and we did’
Jon – ‘Yes eventually. Mel said I’m not going to sing anything ever.’
Mel – ‘If the truth be known I am not a singer so for me it was…’
FB – ‘But good things come from jumping out of your comfort zone’
Mel – ‘Well yeah it’s not something I’ve tried before so I thought I’d just.’
FB – ‘I thought it worked’
Jon – ‘Yeah it was really good. On the new track Melina’s vocals are so good that I sang on it and we played it back and I went no, took mine off it.’
FB – ‘So are you more confident with that’
Mel – ‘Yeah yeah, more involved I think, because at first it was… Jon here’s some words do something with it’
Jon – ‘Make it a song’
Mel – ‘Make it a song and it would come back as packaged and all singing all dancing, whereas now I’m having more input coming up with ideas and…’
Jon – ‘And we practice’
Fighting Boredom asked who they have done this for, themselves or for a wider audience.
Mel – ‘Its personal really, really, really personal I think. Doing what I slash we want and if other people like it fair enough’
Fighting Boredom talked about how they describe themselves on Bandcamp as experimental art rock, we know that experiments have results but that you need quite a lot of bravery to share them we wanted to know if either of the band needed persuading to release this to a wider world?
Mel – Originally is wasn’t to put out there was it, but when we got one song, then another one and another one it was like ooh and it just kind of spiralled from there and with that I think confidence grew as well and it was a bit of a devil may care attitude. Then it was like well stick it out there, if anybody likes it they like It, if they don’t they don’t.
Jon – ‘That’s why we purposely didn’t really tell anybody that we’d started the band originally. It was like – we’ll record these songs, see what they sound like and then we just launched the whole thing in one go. Okay there you go, ‘cos we thought people would say of course they’ve formed a band they’re pretending at playing at being in a band but the fact that we went and we recorded something and we put the Facebook page here and we did the photoshoot then we just went…’
Mel – ‘Deal with it’
I talked then about a recent DJ set at a gig that we played and I had had to persuade one of Catholic Dance Academy to let me play one of the EP tracks over the PA at the gig.
Jon – ‘Well it wouldn’t have taken me ten minutes; it must have been you.’
Mel – ‘I think it was my apprehension. Because of the way that we record, it’s not done in a studio as such, a big proper studio; it’s a home studio and you always feel… will it come across the same as other records as in levels as in is it going to sound a bit more homemade? Do you know what I mean?’
Jon – ‘If you play it next to something that’s been recorded in a big glossy studio is it going to sound really lo-fi?
Mel – ‘That’s what I was worried about. Because you’re hearing song after song after song and when ours came on would it suddenly be really like dull sounding? Do you know what it was too, the real test was looking around the room and thinking nobody’s actually batted an eyelid which means obviously it can’t be that bad no one’s going uh what’s this?’
Fighting Boredom asked about the band member’s backgrounds in music?
Jon – ‘Well, the Pristines, like forever. That’s been going for like years, it always went as a side project to other bands that were around the same time, like the Pristines were always around alongside everything else, there was never a live act but we got a band together at one point but that was purely about the Sunday records tour but nothing came of it until 2011 fifteen years later we did the tsunami benefit so it’s always survived.’
Mel – ‘My background in music on the performing side is, I went to stage school so I did perform. For me it was that most of my friends were involved in the music scene so I was constantly there but I also got involved in lots of bands so I was always like behind the scenes constantly behind the scenes of different little projects but never up front, but it’s good.’
Jon – ‘Comfort zones, you’re on about your comfort zones, to me, well basically I’m an average rhythm guitar player but I’m having to change myself to play stuff that I can’t really play, bass stuff like that so again that’s what I like about this as much. I’ve got this free license to play what I want and to try and do stuff I can’t really do and see what happens, it’s either going to work or it isn’t’
Mel – ‘Hence the experimental in inverted commas’
Fighting Boredom asked where the feel of the music comes from
Mel – ‘The feel of it, well do you know what, we kind of write songs back to front. whereas it’s the words that come first. The mood of the words, the style and the music and I think from that then comes the song.’
Jon – ‘Yeah. I try to read the words and think how they should sound, rather than like look at all the words and think which song would this one be a fit for; which is kind of cheating.’
Mel – ‘But why not, if you’ve got a little store of bits and pieces that will it in then it’s not a problem. I think a lot of it’s determined by mood as well. I go ‘right here’s the words’ and it’s really angsty or really
Jon – ‘it’s Probably a new way for me to write come to think of it and I tend to work the other way around, I tend to have a chord progression and then sing a vocal melody, anything, over in my head that then find words that fit to that vocal melody.’
Mel – ‘So yes, totally back to front. Most people come up with the tune and then the words to go to it’
Fighting Boredom asked whether they still listen to new music or are they rooted in the past?
Mel ‘I am kind of rooted in the past, I don’t buy new music but I am now more open. Put it this way, if I come along to one of your discos I haven’t a clue who half the bands are that you’re playing anyway; whether it’s new or old or anything but I’m getting out there and watching it so to speak. I had a period of about, I think it’s when the whole dance craze thing started and I really wasn’t into that sort of genre very much, so I kind of shut myself away from it then never really got back into it and then life happens and I’m tiptoeing back into it again which is what I think I’ve done now over the last year and a half, so I am exposing myself to newer stuff but mainly on the live scene. ‘
Jon – I’m discovering and finding stuff, but I’m totally obsessed at the moment with an album by Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavalle they’re sort of lo-fi and I’m listening to it over and over, beautiful bit of song writing well it’s more like story telling than song writing.’
Fighting Boredom asked what’s the last band you saw live and there’s some discussion about what it was, either a covers band at a party or a battle of the bands style gig for the Coventry Godiva Festival. But they settled on
Jon – ‘The last one I went to might have been the Chameleons with you. I don’t really know the Chameleons, I thought they were fantastic’
Mel – ‘They were actually, I felt like I’d stepped back in time, it was brilliant.’
We then asked what they were going to see next
Mel – ‘It’s a bit of a private affair, it’s Dub Jam Force and Sophie Corona’
Fighting Boredom wanted to know if Catholic Dance Academy will ever gig? We know they have appeared on open mic nights but not an official gig. We also wanted to know why they didn’t tell anyone about their appearances.
Jon – ‘Well we didn’t know really’
Mel – ‘We didn’t really know it was kind of a last minute thing. The problem is, to do our stuff live is tricky.’
FB – ‘So you’d need a recording behind you’
Mel – ‘Yes so it’s either; do you get a band in for the event or do you have some sort of backing.’
Jon – ‘And I play guitar.’
Mel – ‘Or do we just do it acoustically; I mean we’ve done it acoustically twice.’
FB – ‘Did it work’
Jon – ‘Yeah it was alright.’
Mel – The thing is, most of our songs we practice acoustically anyway so it was just an extension of the rehearsal basically.;
Jon – ‘We’d kind of been saying for ages that we should do an open mic, the first one was one out of town and I went to an open mic a couple of weeks ago and I phoned Mel and said ‘there’s three people here, I mean there’s two people playing and about ten people in the audience’ so I said ‘if you want to do one, come down now and just do it because there’s nobody here an ideal opportunity I’ve got to do two sets anyway there’s only three people playing’
Mel – ‘The second time there was more people and there was one person in the audience that I knew so It was alright.’
Jon – ‘Both were last minute, well you came straight from, you were at a party. The first time I said I was trying to get someone else to come down and do another act and I’d just got to the stage to do my set and Melina walked in and I said we’ll do something with her, she didn’t even have time to sit down.’
Mel – ‘It was the best way to do it.’
Jon – ‘No time to get nervous about it.’
Mel – ‘Just like, get up there and do it.’
Jon – ‘And everyone that was there was really supportive, because she was quite nervous they were going it’s fine.’
Mel – ‘But as for anything. I don’t know.’
Jon – ‘Never say never. but there’s a lot of working out how to do it, we’d probably have to have it all on a laptop or a disc. We need a Kev really, Gestalt have a guy that does all the electronics in the background and they live mix it.’
Fighting Boredom talk about the artists we’ve seen like JK Flesh who has a guitar and MacBook with all his backing music on and how that for us is fine.
Mel – ‘Thing is with me is I always think is that acceptable?’
We go on to talk about going to see bands like Pop Will Eat Itself who got rid of the live drums and switched to a drum machine and used a large amount of samples
Mel – ‘But that was just a drum machine, we’re talking about the keyboards, the strings, you know what I mean, there’s extra guitars and this that and the other. I think there’s part of me that sees that and thinks… okay they’re just doing cover songs.’
Jon – ‘Karaoke’
Mel – ‘Do you see what I mean?’
Fighting Boredom talk about the wonderful Chicken Diamond and how he has his one-man band set up playing the drum with his foot and so on.
Jon – ‘I’ve Seen open mics like that, the guy who has the big bass drum and just plays it with his foot.’
Fighting Boredom ash how the EP has sold.
Jon – ‘Better than we thought.’
Mel – ‘Yes quite surprised actually, I even said to Jon as long as we sell one I’ll be happy.’
Jon – ‘Basically we weren’t going to put any put as hard copies but everybody wanted them and we sold, well we didn’t sell a lot but nowadays it’s good, about thirty odd downloads, I mean that’s more than the Pristines sell nowadays when we release stuff.
Mel – ‘We even have somebody who bought the download and the physical copy cd’
FB – ‘Get in’
Mel – ‘Which was quite surprising,’
Jon – ‘You didn’t get a discount though’
The regular questions we are asking at every session come up now. What are your top three albums at the moment? This was greeted with groans and much discussion of not listening to albums all that much.
Jon – “Perils from the Sea” by Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavalle and “Try to be Hopeful” by Spook School’
Mel – ‘I Don’t listen to that many albums to be honest’
Jon – ‘Yours is mainly local bands’
Mel – Yes The Loaded (that was then this is now), Gestalt (Forge A New Noize) and Chameleons (What does Anything Mean? Basically)
Fighting Boredom asks what are the three songs you’ve listened to today and the response is a little underwhelming to be honest
Mel – ‘The radio on the way over here.’
The next question was greeted with far more enthusiasm and so it should be. What are your top three CDA songs in order?
Jon – ‘From the four?’
Mel – ‘Are we allowed to include stuff we haven’t done yet?’
FB – ‘Yes’
Jon and Mel together – ‘Grey Rock definitely.’
Jon – ‘Drowning is a good recording’
Mel – ‘September as well’
Jon – ‘Really like get over it too’
Mel – ‘The thing is they’re all so different you can’t just pigeonhole it all’
We come to the Photographers question and as we are a team I feel that we needed to ask it. What colour socks are you wearing?
Mel – ‘Purple’
FB – ‘They’re lilac not purple, more of a girly pink them’
Mel – ‘No no they’re purple’
Jon – ‘Black, trainer socks’
FB – ‘But you’re not wearing trainers, how odd.’
We finish off by asking what’s coming next for Catholic Dance Academy?
Mel – ‘Album and then do what we do. There’s no rhyme or reason or whatever we just do what we feel like.’
So there you go, a peek into the minds of the duo that is Catholic Dance Academy. Fighting Boredom highly recommend the EP and as the sun stays high in the sky we sit back and continue enjoying our afternoon in the pub with Catholic Dance Academy.
All words by Adrian Bloxham, all pictures by Martin Ward.