Northern Soul chats to The Lovely Eggs about Lancaster, being parents and the punk ethos
On the face of it, a young family living in Lancaster doesn’t exactly scream rock ‘n’ roll.
But then, The Lovely Eggs are not your average band. According to their singer/guitarist Holly Ross, Lancaster is the perfect place for them to call home, in a round-about sort of way. Speaking exclusively to Northern Soul, Ross says: “Living in Lancaster is like living in Twin Peaks. It’s a bit weird. There’s not much going on. Everything’s cobbled or wrapped in pastry. There used to be four Greggs in town, but I think it’s gone down to two or three now.” Despite all that, though – or even because of it – Ross genuinely loves the place.
“On 8 Out of 10 Cats the other day, Jimmy Carr made a joke to [regular contestant] Jon Richardson. He said, ‘oh, you’re from Lancaster – that’s three miles from Morecambe, 60 miles from Manchester and 50 years behind London’. But actually, that was meant to be a put-down and that’s the beauty of why we like it. We think that’s a compliment, because we don’t really like living in the modern world, so being here suits us down to the ground, really. We’re – well, I wouldn’t say proud, because it’s a bit of a shithole – but we love it. We love out shithole. It’s like family, they can be arseholes, but you still love them, don’t you? Yeah, so we’re quite passionate about coming from here.”
Ross makes up one half of The Lovely Eggs, alongside drummer David Blackwell. In civilian life they’re also a married couple. They rehearse and record at Lancaster Music Co-op and the band’s own curious blend of punk pop is all the more striking because Ross sings in her own unadulterated Lancaster accent. In an age when every wannabee star of The Voice affects a transatlantic accent to impress the judges, that feels like a powerful statement.
“Yeah, I think it is,” says Ross. “I think it comes from the punk rock ethos. We just want to be pure. There’s so many bands who pretend to be something that they’re not and it’s bullshit and inauthentic. We want to just be exactly who we are. On a more philosophical level, everyone’s always striving to get more and to get better and to be somewhere else. Sometimes the best place is where you actually are. So, whether that’s your accent or what you do, just stop trying to bloody put on stuff, you know?.”
The band are major fans of the author Richard Brautigan and Ross suggests that it’s factors like his work which are the biggest influences on their music, rather than other bands.
“There is music that we listen to but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it influences hugely how we play. But Richard Brautigan, definitely. It’s just his outlook on stuff, really. He sees normal life through very weird and wonderful glasses and he brings a sort of magical approach to it. I think sometimes, if you see your situation as bleak, it’s going to be bleak. But if you look at it in a twisted way, it can be like a really funny, hilarious, beautiful world. So, we have the same ethos and approach to that. And everyday life we get inspired by, too. I mean, I love normal folk and how they talk. It just cracks me up, seeing people in town nattering to each other. That’s influenced a lot of our songs.”
The Lovely Eggs have joined the bill of this year’s Sounds from the Other City, which will be held in Salford over the April bank holiday weekend. They last played the festival back in 2012. All told, the band have been active since 2006 and have released four albums, the title of their latest, 2015’s This is Our Nowhere, speaking volumes about their home-loving attitude. Over the years they’ve won a loyal following, including several BBC 6 Music presenters, and have brought the world such striking songs as Don’t Look at Me (I Don’t Like It), Have You Ever Heard a Digital Accordion?, Fuck It and Magic Onion.
Back before The Lovely Eggs, Ross led Angelica, an all-girl punk band. Over the years, her circumstances have changed quite a bit. For one thing, she and Blackwell now have young son, Arlo, who currently goes off on tour with them. “I’ve been in a band since I was 15. I’ve never not been in a band. It just seemed so unnatural to me when I had Arlo to say, ‘I’m going to give that up now’. I just can’t, it’d just be too weird.”
Now the band travel around with their son and a couple of friends who look after him when duty calls. “It’s very, very different to how we used to tour. We were bloody lushes, me and David, partying and getting up at three in the afternoon and then setting off to sound check. Now we’re up at around 6 o’clock every morning. I don’t know what’s harder, being sick in a carrier bag and having a hangover in the front seat of a van, or getting up at 6 o’clock and being in a soft play centre by half past nine.”
So far, young Arlo is aware of his parents’ unusual career, but mostly it goes over his head.
“He’s pretty indifferent, really. He’s just not that bothered. He’s probably going to start getting embarrassed of us pretty soon.” On the other hand, he does get to dictate what gets played in the tour van. “David’s got an iPad and he’s got this mount that he’s made for it in our van so Arlo can watch stuff in the back. So we’ve got, like, Meg and Mog on mega, mega loud, blasting us all out in the front.”
Ten years in, then, and Ross still seems fired up by the possibilities of The Lovely Eggs. Certainly, the band don’t feel constricted by their own musical identity.
“I think our sound changes. We’re working on a new record now that’s totally different to what we’ve done before. We don’t think we have to sound like The Lovely Eggs. We just do what we want to do, so we’re still excited about it. It’s become part of our lives. Now we’ve been going ten years, there’s no difference between our home life, our band life and our married life. It all sort of moulds into one. We can’t ever imagine stopping doing it, because it’s part of us, really.”
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Supported by funding from @HeritageFundUK, Betty’s Back! will explore James’s life and works in the context of the 1920s, when the portrait was painted, and will also reveal artwork by Betty Durden Green for the first time.