Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Unbelievable Truth

The arguments have been going on for years: all the best bands come from London; Manchester bands are better; Camden is the centre of the music business; Glasgow is the new Seattle; Newport is the new Seattle. And all this time there's Oxford, just sitting there, getting on with things, and giving bands us Ride, Radiohead, Supergrass, and now one of the most promising new bands around, the Unbelievable Truth. Fronted by a certain Andy Yorke (vocals, guitar), the younger brother of the singer of some band of which you may already have heard (though if the rumours that a gig on their last tour was cancelled at the last moment because they were advertised on this basis rather being allowed their own identity are true, it may not wise to remind them of that fact) the line up is completed by Nigel Powell (drums, keyboards, guitar), and Jason Moulster (bass).

Instead of taking the normal route for forming a band, they waited until Andy was studying in Russia, while his friend from school, Nigel, remained in Oxford. "Andy was away in Moscow on his university course," Nigel says. "And he wrote to me saying he'd started writing some songs, why don't I get a band together and we'd play them when he got back home. I got Jason because he's the best. Basically it was us three and it was a slow start, we just kind of wrote and recorded, made some demos, played them to some people, and got offered a publishing deal."

It was at this stage that things went a bit unusual. "Andy decided he wasn't ready, he left, and went back to Moscow as that was what he had enjoyed," explain Nigel. "Ironically, he started writing some more songs when he was out there, and when he came back again he stayed at my house. We were still playing the stuff we had demoed and he was starting to think it was quite good." Given this uncommon approach to dealing with record companies, attention soon turned back to the band, and this time they were signed to Virgin.

Andy's main reason for turning down the publishing deal has been put down to his confidence in the songs, and the way in which the industry was closing in around them, an unease which was shared by the rest of the band. "Once you start signing deals, it's a job, you have to deal with the business side of it. The main thing we all feel is the visual thing, you have to have pictures taken of you, appear in videos, it's not something we want to do."

As well as three singles on Virgin, the Unbelievable Truth's involvement with the music industry has so far also included releases on the ultra-cool Fierce Panda record label (the 'Cry Me a Liver' EP, on which they featured alongside Velocette and theaudience), and Oxford's own Shifty Disco singles club, partly to gauge the reaction to their music, and to support the new label. "We had to rush that one through so we could get it out before we signed to Virgin, just to avoid any legal problems. I've been a musician in Oxford for so long that I know everybody there, and I wanted to be a part of it. Shifty Disco is run by the guy that writes Nightshift, Oxford's local music paper; the guy who used to manage Ride; and the guy who promoted the Jericho Tavern, and I wanted to be involved with that."

Another band featuring in the Shifty Disco singles club were Beaker, with whom Nigel has become further involved in his continued support for the Oxford music scene. "They're fantastic, they've got a new single coming out on Fierce Panda which I think is good, but then I would because I produced it." Oxford bands have always seemed fond of their hometown because, as Nigel puts it, "it is such a tight-knit community, you all help each other. It gives you a sense of community, which is nice, because otherwise you're a band on your own against the entire music industry."

The Unbelievable Truth have had a great deal of press attention for a band who have so recently embarked on their musical career, and most of the music press has picked them out as one the bands to watch this year. This has generated a lot of curiosity surrounding the band. "Its cooled down now, but it was going quite strongly at the beginning of the year, though we never egged it on. I think it's getting to the point now where people are genuinely liking us or not, and hopefully that will happen much more after the album." This curiosity has meant that gigs in so much demand that the Unbelievable Truth are now a tour ahead of themselves in London, with the dates for successive tours being advertised early in order to cater for the number of people trying to get tickets, after selling out the Borderline, and they have since developed their own method of judging audience reaction. "I think we gauge our gigs by the really quiet songs, see how quiet the audience is. Our last song is our most sparse one, and it was absolutely silent, which was really good. It's a pretty big place, there's like five or six hundred people there, and it was completely silent. It's such a quiet song you can hear if anybody's even whispering."

The debut album will be released this month, and is set to win them yet more fans and critical acclaim. However, the band are not idly sitting around waiting for success, with further touring taking its place alongside songwriting, which has led to a number of new songs being aired on the recent tour. "We've bought Andy an electric guitar so some of them will be a bit harder. We're very aware of never trying to think about anything too much when being creative. It's got to be natural, so any changes that happen are going to be organic. It's not like we've made our acoustic, folk-pop album, and the next one's going to be our techno, jazz, be-bop album. We're happy that because we're doing it naturally it will just progress because we're learning more; we understand music better than we did when we were recording this album. As long as you remain open-minded and inquisitive, you'll always manage to carry on."