Artist Spotlight

Childhood: Grown

Prior to their headline slot at Midi Festival, PressPlay met up with the four guys of Childhood; Ben (vocals/guitar), Leo (guitar), Dan (bass) and Jonny (drums). Backstage under the Riviera sun, we discussed their origins and the influences of their sound, but also the issues surrounding music journalism and their sense of betrayal with the UK education system.

The origins of Childhood can be found in the intoxicated musings of Ben, the frontboy of the band, circa 2011. Whilst studying American Studies at the University of Nottingham, he wanted to be in band, he wanted Leo (studying History of Art) to be in his band, so he created the fictive Childhood on the spot, one drunken night. He had no songs, only the abstract, experimental idea, but this still managed to persuade Leo to join the ranks. Dan also studied at Nottingham and joined Childhood on “spiritual day two”, playing their first show.

Ben admits that there must have been something playing on his subconscious to come up with such a name. The early aesthetics of Childhood’s music are instrumentally nostalgic; the sound of the band harks back to the 90s heyday of Mancunian indie music, all blurred, dreamy vocals and melody highs. Perhaps this is reflective of the fact that all the band were born in the late 80s/early 90s? Yet, the guys confess not to be too learned in this strand of indie music, instead believing Motown to be the true influence of their sound. People automatically interpret a Motown rhythm section, whilst in the indie format, as being 90s-esque. Certainly, Northern Soul had an influence on Mancunian indie bands (Ian Brown ran a Northern Soul night in a Salford club), perhaps we could describe Childhood’s vibe as indie soul.

Childhood’s summer shoegaze haze (as their seaside, seagull infused video to ‘Solemn Skies’ typifies) suggests that they’re more of a music resurrection than a music revolution. Ben explains that “Childhood aren’t trying to take a style from the past and reuse it, we have a collage of influences so we’re making something which is relevant to 2014.” Admitting that their musical guilty pleasures feature the likes of R Kelly, Lemar (I agree) and The Corrs (I have no words), the boys have no qualms in admitting they are pop through and through. “What we strive to do is make classic pop songs. We use the basic form of pop music, find our own space within it and produce an off kilter perception of pop”, Ben illuminates.

The boys wouldn’t even consider themselves a music revolution; they’re too humble for that. They see themselves, rightly so, as more of an evolution. Yet, what is different about the quartet, is that they transcend the lazy diatribe that all indie musicians are arrogant gobshites who do not walk, but swagger, and who believe they stand atop the musical mountain of the world. Childhood are in stark contrast with Real Lies, playing just before them, who bragged to the crowd about their misogynist lyrics – the very embodiment of the indie nob ‘ed. It’s clear that the boys of Childhood are in it for the love of music, not the love of the image of so-called musicians. In truth, the boys were actually pretty shocked to be described as “casually arrogant” in one misinformed article from a music tabloid. Agitated, Jonny the drummer stated “people see you on stage for half an hour, when you’re preforming, and then they describe you as casually arrogant, it’s… quite strange…”. It seems that these fictitious viewpoints stem from the listeners’ need to create a fantastical world where musicians come from. Ben states, people like to create these spider webs of theories”. Dan suggests that “people need reference points to understand music”, which is where the clutching-at-straws comparisons come through – with Oasis and the Stone Roses in Childhood’s case – “People pigeon hole you, it makes them more comfortable”.

This is reflective of the present state of music journalism where we are fed music, single by single, with a stub of an article squeezing out any analysis on it, no matter how benign, rather than waiting for a whole album to be released, listening to it in its entirety and then developing an informed analysis. Jonny reasons “it’s impossible to write about a band from the first single because you don’t get the whole picture.” Dan implores that upon Lacuna’s release that people listen to the whole record “because that’s the only way to really judge someone.”

The band was roughly formed in 2011, yet the boys were adamant that they would finish their degrees first – a testament to their maturity and refusal to be wooed by the music industry circus. They even waited until they finished their degrees to release their first single, despite being hyped in a plethora of articles since 2012.

The boys used the band as a form of creative escapism from their disillusioned realities at university. Jonny felt like a statistic; Ben found no emotional connection between the individual and the institution. He didn’t even go to his graduation: “It would have felt like a complete lie to myself and my family to pretend like I had some kind of honorary experience with the university… Shaking the hand of someone I didn’t even know, who was awarding me with something that I wasn’t exactly sure I deserved.” Despite achieving his Masters, Dan too feels betrayed by the whole process: “University is a breeding ground for conservatism with a small c, the whole atmosphere is passively right wing, encouraging the profit of the individual, rather than the collective.” Politically astute, he continues: “The Vice Chancellor of Nottingham is pals with David Cameron on £350,000 a year… and there’s people paying £9,000 a year for six hours a week, it’s a soulless institution.”

With their album, Lacuna, set to be released on 11th August 2014, they attributed this hiatus to the illusory power of the internet which allowed Childhood’s fans to think that they were a fully formed band, when the reality was that they were just sat at home writing demos and uploading them online. Despite Leo explaining his excitement to be able to share anything that the band had made, this meant that people jumped on them before they were ready. They were being asked to play gigs when it was just Ben and Leo, two songs, and the newly recruited Dan on bass; no drummer, basic equipment and they didn’t have a clue how to play live. They had to borrow drum kits from uni and gospel choirs, and recruited keyboard players from the library to play gigs. Despite the seeming insanity of a band playing when only a band in the most metaphorical interpretation of the term, Dan likes that they went into it foolhardy because it was for of the love of music. Jonny expands “we weren’t a surprise package ready to be put out by a label… in fact our second album is gonna be named ‘Still Learning’ haha! ” With Childhood there was no manufacturing or marketing ploy; their righteous, naïve beginnings have been all organic, all authentic.

Childhood’s headline performance at Midi Festival was a tribute to their organic origins; they held a great sense of identity and togetherness, bouncing off each other’s energy, as they were enthralled in the music. Devoid of the self-conscious, pretentious need to be “unique”, Childhood invoke the sound of youth: optimistic, carefree and, ultimately, they get you excited about life.

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