The other in crowd
Maria talks of black, Crispian of white as he tossers back the Moet. Turning to face the faceless crowd, his cock-less self-belief wades through scissors-cut perfection and heroin chic. When the in crowd is in town the bar is always open, but never raised. Opinions are driven through snow, never pausing to greet the streams of conscious-less gushing from all directions. But gaze beyond the social currents and spy the smirking shadows of those that jumped the boat. Who are these others?
In 2004 it may be The Others. The East-London-based band has gained a reputation for impromptu musical gatherings that fizz with guerrilla-fuelled intent. A bus. A tube train. A tree. The dodgems. Abbey Road and the lobby of Radio 1. All have been turned into unlikely stages from which The Others deliver their chaotic sets. I listen to Dominic Masters, The Others’ affable singer, nursing a fear that this brand of spontaneity has been lifted from the marketing handbook. “After a while, if you go to the same venues, it’s hard to differentiate between gigs,” he explains. “The guerrilla gigs we play offer a memory. The fans get so much from the gigs.”
The band’s roots seem to dig deeper, beyond the shallow graves of over-promoted promises. “We’ve kept in touch with the kids from the start, through our website,” continues Masters. “And after the release of This Is For The Poor (The Others’ debut single), the fan base erupted. For the upcoming tour I’ve spent three days sorting out the guest list. We want the guests to be the 853 Kamikaze (the self-penned name of the band’s mischievously loyal audience), not the press and record companies.”
Masters is quick to acknowledge that staging one-off events is nothing new. “I guess it’s the lineage,” he offers. “We’re fully aware that the Sex Pistols played on a boat in the seventies and that The Beatles played on a rooftop in the sixties. But we were surprised that no other bands were doing it now. Apart from The Libertines. We were asked to do a gig on the Millennium Eye. But it didn’t feel right, you know? You’d have to queue. So we did a gig on the Abbey Road crossing instead. It seemed to be more chaotic.”
Hissing from the online pages of musicomh.com, Linda Serck labels This Is For The Poor, “ramshackle, revivalist rehash.” She continues, “lads, people had been there and got the tee-shirt 25 years ago.” Admittedly, the song’s musical parts offer nothing new. Cursory listeners could be forgiven for pointing knowing fingers in the direction of The Clash or The Joy Division; concluding that The Others are just a pale shadow of the artists the seek to emulate.
But the parts are united by the band’s community spirit. “When you’re doing outdoor gigs with a toy drum kit, a megaphone and guitars plugged into portable amps it’s important that it’s easy to sing-a-long to,” states Masters. “We’re trying to write about difficult subjects in an easy form, to make them understood. We have a bit of a libertarian attitude.” And perhaps this is the point. Freethinking attitudes date back further than 25 years. “It doesn’t matter if you’re English, Irish, gay, straight, white, black. It doesn’t matter,” proclaims Masters. “It’s more about where you’re from and a sense of community. There’s always a person inside. We focus on political issues and unusual subjects. On the b-side to Stan Bowles (the band’s latest single) there’s a song about transsexuals. And we’ve written a song about how hard it is to tell a male friend how much you love him in a plutonic way.”
On paper these may feel like rose-scented sentiments. But the eloquent passion with which Master’s talks is charged by what he knows. “We write for our own class,” he states. “I was brought up on social security. It was just me and my mum. I’d find it ridiculous to try and write songs for Mondeo man, with a second car and a semi-detached house with a spare bedroom. We look out for the underprivileged outcasts. I can’t identify with people who have been brought up with a sliver spoon in their mouth. Motivated by money, greed. We’ve refused to play places that charge £9 to get in and have a dress code. We play for the people that don’t get in because they’re fat or their face doesn’t fit. It’s about doing it with honour. Someone said to me the other day that perhaps the only people that can afford our singles are the middle class with empathy for the working class, which I think is a great quote. Perhaps in time I’ll understand what makes the middle class tick. If all that comes out of this is that a few more people develop empathy, that’s fine.”
“The people I identify with are people like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen,” reveals Masters. Like the “love that speaks in silence” In Dylan’s Love Minus Zero, The Others don’t appear to be thinking about freethinking, they just are. Their ideas will not change the world. But like the others before them, they’ve chosen to question and explore it. Currently on a conventional tour, the band has received characteristically fervent support from the NME. It’s hard to tell if The Others will remain in the musical in crowd, on the strength of one single. But I get the feeling that they’ll always be a part of the others.
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- June 12, 2006 / 9:41 pm