From the moment I first heard their song “Chokehold”, I became hooked on Longfellow’s music. After I discovered more of their music, such as my favorite song, Kiss-Hug-Make Up, I had to find out more about the talent behind the sound.
Band members Owen Lloyd, Ali Hetherington, James Thomas, Lewis Fowler and Simon Treasure from South London, form a band that is said to be “all about art-on-sleeve emoting, where passion outwits fashion and no chorus is ever knowingly undersold.” I had the honor of interviewing Owen Lloyd, (what a nice guy, it was such a pleasure interviewing him) to find out more about Longfellow.
To begin, I was interested in how they all met which, Owen explained is a bit of a long story.
“James and I have been friends for years, we’re equally introvert and felt mutually out of place at our sports orientated-school. We would lock ourselves away in the rehearsal rooms to escape the isolation of the playground. We must have penned our first song together when we were about 14. It wasn’t long before we fell into bands and became completely intoxicated by the local live scene. University pulled us apart for awhile. I had started Longfellow as a solo project while I was studying at Nottingham but later abandoned my training in dietetics to pursue music full-time. I met Ali following the move to London to study music at Westminster; he liked the songs and wanted to get more involved so it wasn’t long before Longfellow became a band. James moved to London after graduating to play guitar and we picked up Lewis and Simon shortly afterwards.”
I can completely understand feeling “out of place”sometimes, especially in school situations. It seems like your experiences really helped inspire forming Longfellow.
School ended and for the first time I had to choose between my passion for music and my aptitude for science. Foolishly I opted to study nutrition at Nottingham University that led to me turning my back on writing for a good period of time. I’d never felt so miserable and it became painfully apparent I wouldn’t be happy pursuing anything other than music. I suppose Longfellow started as a way to express how out of place I felt, it was a way for me to rekindle my love for composing and to embrace who I was rather than who I felt I should be.
I find that really brave and it must have been scary to make such a big decision… almost as hard as coming up with a band name. How was that chosen?
It was my mother’s nickname for me as a child; I was tall and poetic so she found it rather fitting. The switch from solo artist to band was gradual and before we knew it, it was the band name.
I am always interested in seeing who artists look up to musically- who are your top inspirational artists?
Where to begin? For me personally, anything sporting unique and insightful lyrics with a strong sense of melody. Regina Spektor, Death Cab for Cutie, Tegan and Sara and Manchester Orchestra are all strong favourites.
If you could collaborate and/or tour with any artist, who would it be?
Death Cab for Cutie… Old label buddies and kindred spirits; we adore them.
Earlier, you mentioned that your mother was the one who nicknamed you Longfellow. Was she also musically inclined? What about the rest of your families?
My mother was an amateur opera singer and my father played in bands for years… Ali’s dad was a drummer and Lewis’s dad a guitarist (believe it or not they’ve both played together before). James and Simon not so much.
Are you part of other musical ventures at the moment?
Longfellow is all I care about, it sounds stupid but I would feel like it was cheating to do anything else at the moment; I suppose I’m musically monogamous. Ali composes for film & television on the side and Lewis writes with his girlfriend under the guise of ‘Two Ways Home’. I think if you’re compelled to write then it’s important to have your own voice and I’d never begrudge the others for looking to scratch that itch.
I completely understand and respect that. It’s nice to hear that coming from an artist who is in such a tough industry. You have so many amazing songs that I love- which one has the most meaning for you?
‘Gabrielle’ was a real turning point for the project so there’s a big space in all of our hearts for that one. Before that release James was still living on a blow up bed and we’d never played with the band live; our management, radio-plugger, the whole team, all came from releasing that record off our own backs.
Is there anywhere in particular you enjoy performing more than others? A certain venue or a specific location?
We’ve been spoiled with our possible choices over the last few years… My favourite has to be Bournemouth International Centre. We were lucky enough to play to 4,500 people then walk straight off stage down some steps for a beer on Bournemouth beach. I think our music is suited to bigger stages and festivals, it feels like the songs come to life when they have the necessary room to breathe. Rough Trade in Brooklyn was a bit special too.
Sounds like you’d be perfect for Montreal’s Osheaga Festival… I hope to someday hear you play live here! For those reading who may not know your music well yet, what message do you want your music to portray?
I want the songs to encourage our listeners to live and love wholeheartedly without any fear of loss or rejection. As much as our music centers on many negative emotions ultimately the reason I write is to understand and overcome them and I suppose that’s the effect I’d like the songs to have on others.
You were able to tour with legendary Hall and Oates- what was that like?! Are there any moments you will always remember? What lessons did you learn throughout the experience?
It felt completely unbelievable at the time and still does really; we went from playing shows to several hundred to several thousand overnight. I think the strangest part of the tour was when our van broke down and prevented the Hall & Oates entourage from making their way on to their shows in Ireland. Eventually we attracted the attention of about 15 burly crew who planned to lift our several-tonne Mercedes splitter van out of the way so that they could make their great escape; it was the epitome of American spirit. They wobbled it around a few times but needless to say the van was immovable and finally someone ended up lifting it out of the way on a forklift with the ominous sound of crushing metal sickening our stomachs… It was a long night!
What an experience! I’m jealous… even with the bump in the road. Your song Chokehold was featured on MTV’s show, Teen Mom 2- does it still feel surreal to hear your music being broadcasted/ featured on big name stations and shows?
Whenever we land a good sync our phones go mental with star struck friends so I suppose it’s hard to ignore! It’s a strange feeling really… Our music has started to exist outside of our efforts and there’s something magic about that. You spend your lives trying to give your music purpose and then all of a sudden it’s on a TV show or radio station without you even being aware of it.
BBC has made quite a big impact on your career. I read that their services are at risk as part of the government’s BBC charter renewal. Can you tell us more about that and what we can do to help?
There’s a big reform happening with the BBC and they’re considering making cuts to music services. I don’t think our government realises that the BBC are really one of the last lifelines left for new music in the UK, they are fundamental to the support and exposure of emerging bands. There’s a petition you can sign digitally at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/106091
What is the best way for fans to contact you?
We’re always delighted to answer messages via Facebook or through our website.
What would you like your fans and followers to know?
You guys make all the difference… The UK music industry is a tough and confusing place at the moment but we’re lucky to have your support in making it all the easier to navigate.
Earlier you spoke of who you would want to tour with, but are there any plans to tour in the near future?
Writing and recording is our main drive for the moment but we’ll hit the road in 2016 for sure.
If you were to come to Montreal, what would you like to do while you are here? Any landmarks/venues you’d like to visit?
I’ve heard amazing things about the Rialto Theatre… We’re far too ill educated to form a proper list for you Joanna, the perfect excuse for us to visit as soon as possible.
I can’t argue with that! If you need a tour guide, just let me know.
I want to say a huge “Thank You!” to Owen, and to the other members of Longfellow, for taking the time to be featured on Joanna the Montrealer. It was a pleasure getting to know more about you and I hope to one day, see you perform in Montreal.
Everyone, please be sure to show them support by following them on social media and sharing their music!
You can find Longfellow on:
If you enjoyed reading about this great band and would like to see them perform in your city, town or Country, let me know! I would love to see how many people, like me, would love to see them live!
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