Gimme Indie Rock
by Michael P. O’Shaughnessy

Editor’s note: As we’ve done in the past, for the month of January, our features will be focusing on up-and-coming artists, what we call “rated rookies.” These musicians are making what we feel is the cream of a new crop, and we think you will (sooner or later) agree. Enjoy!

Judging from their videos, Fanzine pays as much homage to the past with their visual aesthetic as they do with their aural aesthetic. Don’t get confused, though, they aren’t another Dinosaur homage or a Built to Spill rip-off. There are more reference points from Alice Cooper (for an example, compare the intro of Fanzine’s “Roman Holiday” to that of Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy”) and Kevin Ayers (hold up Fanzine’s “Tough” to “Unfinished” from Ayers’ What More Can I Say) than any Kill Rock Stars comp. Fanzine has been garnering more and more attention and internet buzz, while their shows have been getting bigger and bigger as they progress from being in a supporting role for bands like Yuck and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and enjoy the support of a healthy London fanbase. And all this has happened after only a self-released EP and a single, though they’ve got a handful of other songs recorded and plans to write more. That indie rock is alive and well is obvious with Fanzine, though it’s become more spritely and young. I caught up with one half of the Fanzine songwriting team, Jock Norton, on the phone from his home in London.

Where are you from?

Jock Norton: We’re all from London, except our drummer is from up north of England. We’re all old school friends, Kit, Ed and I. We grew up as friends and none of us went to university, so we decided to form a band.

How did you guys meet?

JN: Kit and Ed went to kindergarten together, so they’ve known each other since they were like five, and then I joined them shortly afterwards. It’s hard to have a big argument and fall out with the only people you really hang out with, you know?

Why did you decide on rock & roll? Why not electronic music or something?

JN: We all learned our instruments together when we were about 13 or 14, starting to play guitar and stuff. We were all into hard rock, like Pantera and stuff like that. The stuff we liked playing and listening to was always really guitar-based. As we got older, our tastes changed and evolved. There’s that thing that you want to go back to, you know, the reason you fell in love with music in the first place: guitar solos and cheeky stuff like that. It’s fun to keep that in the stuff we’re doing now. I think there’s elements of quite a few different things in our music, but I think the core of it is still rock & roll.

Tell me a bit about the videos for “Roman Holiday” and “Tough.” Who made them?

JN: The video for “Tough” was made by a friend of ours, Jacob Perlmutter. He’s an up and coming director and was kind enough to put it together for us. It looks great. The “Roman Holiday” one was just us wanting to put something together to post online. None of us were very good at filming stuff so we just decided to trawl YouTube and stick them all together. It was free, which is always good, but there’s a little bit of Jason and the Argonauts in there, so hopefully no one will sue us at any point for using their stuff.

I won’t tell anybody. So who does the artwork? It’s definitely got an early Dinosaur feel.

JN: That was all me. Me and Kit, who plays bass, we’re very into illustrations and always have been into comics and stuff like that. It was also born out of not having any money or people working with us, so we decided to do it ourselves. We went through a few images and the one that I did ended up getting used for the single cover, which is cool for me. With the fanzine, it had a couple of comics from Kit in there and a couple of our friends contributed to it. It’s a cool way to be creative without focusing on music the whole time. Plus, it makes you like the music more when you come back to it after spending all this time drawing.

Have you guys played in other bands or always together?

KN: Well yes, but most of them were just projects that never got to their first gig. I think also the fact that it’s us in the band and we get on so well makes it easy to know all the music we each like. So playing in other bands, it’s a bit weird trying to be creative with someone else. It just felt right for us, like why not just make a band, you know? But really, this is the first proper band.

Did you decide right away that you wanted to sound like early ’90s indie rock or is that just what came out when you turned the amps on?

JN: When we first started out, I was doing most of the writing and that was really more my interest. Kit was really into that stuff, but he wasn’t doing as much writing. It was me and Ed writing the songs. As it evolved, Ed got more into writing and he’s more into like ’60s English guitar pop, so it turned into this amalgamation of the two. But at the same time, playing that ’90s indie rock was a good way to play guitar solos and get away with it.

Like Archers of Loaf and the Shondells together.

JN: Right, but it wasn’t exactly conscious. I mean, I really only just got into most of that stuff through our good friends in Yuck. We’ve toured with them a few times and they put us on to a lot of that stuff. It’s cool that it keeps inspiring me and I keep finding more bands like that, but it’s also good I didn’t know too much and blow my load too early as far as listening to good bands.

Our focus is really to just write good songs, and I hope that the music stands up beyond those comparisons. It’s great being compared and finding our more stuff to check out, but really it’s the songwriting for us.

Would you say with Yuck, you guys and Old Forest in London, is there like a scene growing?

JN: I’ve known the guys in Yuck since college and we hang out together. But a lot of the other bands like History of Apple Pie or Old Forest, we just met through being put together on bills. It’s a scene in that everyone is supporting the music and hanging out, and it’s nice being around similarly minded people.

You’re working on new stuff. Who does the recording?

JN: Ed has a Mac and a Logic. Like I said before, it’s born out of not having any money or anything. It’s come together really nicely, though, and it really suits the music, so I’m happy with it.