Q&A with UK band Speed of Sound

The Speed Of Sound L-R Ann-Marie Crowley, John Armstrong, Kevin Roache, John Broadhurst-Photo credit: Shay Rowan
By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Today we are going to ask UK band Speed of Sound a few questions.  The band just celebrated their 30th anniversary and are now with LA-based label Big Stir Records. Lots of big stuff going on!  Let’s catch up with them!
The Speed Of Sound L-R John Broadhurst, Ann-Marie Crowley, The Speed Of Sound Kevin Roache and John Armstronhg – Photo credit: Shay Rowan

Why choose a Byrds cover?

Generally we are much better at playing our own stuff than other peoples’ songs and this is the first cover we’ve released for seven years (the last one was The Jam’s Butterfly Collector) so that IS a good question: ‘I See You’ manages to be two speeds at once, the instruments are rushing headlong while the vocals pull it back and we do that same two-paced thing as a simultaneous float and crunch, it is part of our natural approach as a band; so ‘I See You’ is a song that really suits us. We take a lot of ‘60s influences and run with them and The Byrds were definitely one of those elements, also it is not one of the more famous of their songs so is still fresh and not overplayed, ripe for us to go at it.

How did a UK band get on an LA-based label?

We got to hear about Big Stir Records in Burbank LA from two directions at once; we hosted and played a gig in Manchester with a Swedish band called In Deed (lovely people and great music) their LP release is vinyl, on Open Mind Records in their home town of Uppsala, but they hadn’t had a CD release and Big Stir wanted to do that. Plus, I have two radio shows and Big Stir started sending their releases as submissions for airplay, you spot patterns with labels and I was able to tell they were a very good match for our own musical style. They love power-pop which is one of ‘those’ genre’s that can mean something different to everyone, it is a spectrum and yes we are at the punkier end of the scale but we’re definitely on that scale. They already had several internationally based artists in their catalogue. We got talking and, they’re good guys (and so are we) so yes it has worked out nicely.

Other than several compilation albums we’ve previously featured on this is the first The Speed Of Sound release that hasn’t been issued on our own label. The release is via the Big Stir Records website we’re single No.49.

The Speed of Sound is considered to be kind of a mod band. Mod music never went away in the UK. Do you see it coming back to America?

The thing about subcultures is that they are not mainstream, so I don’t think it will ever become a huge mass thing in the US but having said that style is always fashionable The Speed Of Sound have very pronounced ‘60s influences and we treat them as ‘foundations for us to explore’ not as a blueprint to copy. I think the forward looking and eclectic aspect of Mod is the most important element, its not about dressing in a tightly prescribed way or having a a specific haircut it is a state of mind and it evolves and for some people in the US as well it never went away.

Since The Speed of Sound is on an LA-based label, are there any plans to perform and/or tour in America?

I did some solo gigs in Sweden and Germany last year and the band played Germany earlier this year so we do travel, US gigs would be cool (and I’d like to add stars and stripes to the other flags on my guitar case!) so we are certainly looking into it. You will have to wait and see with that!

The Speed Of Sound started in 1989 are you doing anything to celebrate the band’s 30th birthday?

We’ve just released a very limited edition CD compilation to celebrate 30 years since the first EP was released. It isn’t a ‘greatest hits’; it is a ‘scoop’ through our archive, picking up 12 that have not had a CD issue before and ranging across the whole timeline. The artwork for the Big Stir single and the Scoop album (plus the releases for 2020 and quite likely beyond!) is by Local Hotel Parking, her surreal style compliments the music – and she’s good to work with too – its nice to have some visual continuity too. There is no download for the Scoop album, it is physical CD only and its only available through the shop on our website.

And we’re recording. A Lot! A four song EP for release in early spring (2020), a double-A-side single for summer plus a 13 song album for autumn, so nineteen new ones coming next year… and… I’ve already started writing for the album after that. We’ve been working with Vibratone Sound Studios in Manchester for about five years now and it works well they really get what we’re trying to do; that definitely helps in the creative process. The Scoop CD only covers The First Thirty Years, there is plenty more coming!

Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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