Just a few weeks (now known as lifetimes) ago, Sheffield’s much loved avant-pop party babes Life Aquatic Band released their new album L.A.B.P.D. (Or, Band on the Hunt).
In response to this major cultural happening we saw no option but to send roving reportress and interlocutor queen Celestial Broc into the hinterlands of south-west Sheffield to track down the band on the eve of their album launch party, and get the scoop.
She wrote these words…
L.A.B.P.D. is a bizarre concept album. The concept of the album is bizarre. I first assumed the album title is an initialism, as the band are presenting themselves as a police department on the hunt for Paul McCartney. As I listened I changed my mind and it is definitely an acronym. The leitmotif of chasing down Paul McCartney shape-shifts in its genre, instrument, tempo, perspective and lead vocals in such a delightfully convoluted manner that there’s no way it hasn’t lapped itself. With 13 songs in 43 minutes, this is a Band on the Hunt, and they are definitely interval training. Seductive vocals throughout, with Jazmine Kelly beautifully swimming through Ben Allen’s lead, reminding me a bit of a smoothed out Ezra Furman crossed with Paul Simon. Unexpected hints of Motown peppered through Police siren jazz brass jumps up and over Tame Impala psychedelia. Telephone is a triumph as Jazmine and flute become indistinguishable. Grooves abound, an indie funk fusion, L.A.B.P.D. is quite bizarre, but it’s really bloody brilliant.
I hunted down the band myself at the launch party for their album, and extracted some some lovely words from lead singer Ben and keyboard player Henry. Keep reading to hear more about what the problem really is with Sir Paul McCartney…
Celestial Broc: Righto, introduce yourselves.
Ben: Hi, I’m Ben and I’m the guitarist and singer from Life Aquatic Band.
Henry: I’m Henry, I play keyboard and a bit of guitar too.
CB: So how did it all begin?
B: When I went to University I was already a singer-songwriter, I had a band back in Leicestershire called The Native, and went to uni with a fair song book. The rest of the band, apart from Henry, did a music degree at The University of Sheffield, and I cherry picked who I thought were the best musicians! The line up has evolved over time as people have moved away, like Jonny moved to London and is a band now called Monster Florence, so we have a new drummer. We also have a new sax player and there are seven, and sometimes eight of us.
H: We formed 2015, and got a bit more momentum in 2016.
B: Yeah, we started just jamming really, and doing small gigs for friends and stuff in 2015, then really started doing gigs from 2016.
H: So we’re all from different places, but the link between us all is Sheffield uni.
CB: Does your band name come from the film?
B: Yeah, I love Wes Anderson, but I’m also a huge fan of aquatic life, and I wanted to capture something with our shows that would be immersive…
B: Yeah, as you can see, we’ve plastered this room with all these props [room covered with tin foil sea creatures] and I think basing the band on a film is a good start with the idea of creating an immersive show at gigs.
H: And the same themes run through our album, like we have a song dedicated to Bill Murray, so there are few little Easter eggs there for you, if you know about the film.
B: Yeah, the album is L.A.B.P.D. which stands for Life Aquatic Band Police Department and it’s a response to Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run. We’re the band on the hunt and we tie in with Wes Anderson by having Bill Murray as the captain of our police department who we help to chase down McCartney.
H: We have a video coming out too!
CB: What exactly is your issue with Sir Paul McCartney?
H: He’s not to be trusted. We don’t like the look of the guy. We’re fast on his tail and have dedicated all of our musical efforts into raising awareness about how he is not to be trusted [back wall of gig venue is plastered with wanted posters], just so everyone knows, you know?
CB: So you haven’t caught him yet then?
H: You’ll have to listen to the album to find out….but yeah….we haven’t.
B: Henry, shush! Put it this way, there is an opportunity for a sequel.
H: To cut a long story short….he gets away.
B: Henry! You’ve ruined it again.
CB: Was there a specific trigger for this concept album?
B: We were chatting about the album and I said I never want to make an album unless it is for a very specific point, and Henry said “Oh, we should do it like band on the hunt, har har, that’s funny”, and I went to bed thinking, oh shit, I need to do this.
H: Yeah I said “wouldn’t it be funny if we did a cop chase album?”, but it was a throwaway comment. I didn’t think it would latch onto Ben’s thought processes so powerfully. Literally for the next six or seven months, that’s all you did Ben.
B: Yeah, every single day I was constantly thinking to myself “how can I craft this narrative?”.
H: I feel guilty. I feel like I’ve stolen a year of Ben’s life.
CB: I think it was worth it. The album is very genre fluid, do you have any key influences that feed into that style?
B: The genre hopping comes from the fact that all of us are massive music nerds, and we love so many types of music, so it’s hard for us to stick in one direction….
H: …not the band One Direction…
B: …there’s just so much about music that we love, I think we would get bored if we did the same thing over and over again, so we are constantly thinking, what else can we do? But still in the style of Life Aquatic Band, you know? I don’t want to make it clichéd by just nicking elements from other people’s music and just shoving in the obvious choice from each of the different genres we cover.
H: I mean we are influenced by other bands that genre hop. A big influence for us is an Australian band called King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard who make a real point of doing every album in a different style, like they have done an acoustic album, a punk album, a metal album and I think that’s great. Thirty or forty years ago people tended to be in their tribe, like “I’m a metal person, I’m a punk”, but the culture of listening to music now is more fluid, people listen to a bit of a lot of genres on Spotify and on playlists depending on their mood, rather than taking the stance “I’m always a punk”. I feel it makes sense for us as a band to reflect that, and it keeps us and the audience interested.
B: And I think that to try and capture that culture of playlist listening, we’ve written an album that keeps you on your toes. My hope is that people can listen to the album and be constantly surprised by what they are hearing.
CB: Have you ever considered playing under water?
H: I’ve done a gig in a wet suit before, so I’m half way there.
B: That would be something to tick of the life goals list. I think we’d have to be in a bubble though, wouldn’t we?
H: Yeah, I don’t think my synth would be okay with being under water.
CB: What’s your favourite memory of the Sheffield music scene?
H: I’ve really enjoyed watching Otis Mensah go from strength to strength, he’s got some really cool stuff going on, and I really like how he’s expanded into his poetry.
B: I’ve seen a lot of gigs by Oh Papa, who are supporting us tonight, and they’re honestly one of my favourite bands, not because they’re from Sheffield, I genuinely love their song writing as it manages to capture a fantastic atmosphere. They’re a band that definitely stick to what they know sounds good for them, and they do it so well. When I see them play, I feel like I’m in a nice cosy blanket.
H: I loved it at Tramlines when Oh Papa brought their mate on stage to play some bluesey harmonica licks, it was a marriage made in heaven!
B: We were really lucky to have seen that.
CB: Got any hot tips for our readers on bands to watch?
H: I think keep an eye on the band opening for us tonight. This is their first gig, they’re a trio, called Pocket Project and they’re drums and a bass…and a harp!
B: Yeah, look at it on the stage there! It sounds really nice. There should be more harps in bands.
CB: Funnily enough, I saw a band last night called The Dyr Sister and they had a harp, and it was fabulous.
B: Problem is you have to carry it around…
CB: More generally, what do you think is the best way for newer artists to reach further than Sheffield?
H: Hah, I wish someone would tell us that!
B: You just have to go gigging. Once you start getting gigs, and you have your foot in the door, you get those contacts outside of London and your reach grows.
H: Promotors need to see you, so get some music online. Even if it’s not your ultimate studio dream, just get a live video or something online and it helps you get gigs in other cities.
CB: Favourite dinosaur?
B: [confused look] H: [instantly answers] I really like the Ankylosaurus.
B: [glares at Henry] Did you know she was gonna ask you that?
H: [deadpan] No, I just really like the Ankylosaurus. It’s got the same kind of four-legged vibe as the Stegosaurus, but with spikes on the back and a massive club on the end of the tail. What more could you want from a dinosaur?
B: I need more time.
H: Ben, say an aquatic one.
B: I don’t know what they’re called!
H: Plesiosaurus? Nothosaurus? Mosasaurus? Pliosaurus? Elasmosaurus?
B: Bloody hell.
H: I loved Walking With Dinosaurs.
[long discussion ensues about shit graphics of the nineties]
CB: OK, closing statements please.
B: Paul McCartney might seem like a gentle soul, but he’s wearing a mask, and once you realise that, you’ll join us on our chase to de-mask him.
H: He’s just slippery, you can tell when you look in his eyes. Don’t trust him.