Brighton, UK based singer Jane Craig and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Craig used to be parts of indie-pop 4-piece Luminous, with which they released an album in 1994 on Kokopop with the assistance of Galaxie 500 producer, Bongwater and Shimmy Disc label legend Kramer, before quitting the music scene.
But was still an unfinished story, and possibly inspired by the acclaimed comebacks of Slowdive and Ride, the duo decided to start composing and recording again, and in just under a year, after a string of well-received singles, here is the first Dreams Of Empire full-length LP on the home straight.
Ten infectious and immersive songs that walk on the fine line between intoxicating hazy dream-pop ambiance and 90s shoegaze-infused guitar distortion, subtly underlying by modern guitar-pop energy and enriched by alluring reverb-drenched ethereal female vocals.
I had a nice with the ‘slightly’ The Smiths infatuated Andrew and Jane about their ‘don’t give up on passions’…
Thanks so much for the interview. Let’s trace back to your personal roots, your earliest inspirations and influences that drove you to became musicians and form a band
Andrew: We grew up playing music. Me the piano, violin then later the guitar and Jane the keyboard and flute. From an early age, we had experienced the unique feeling of creating music in a group. At college, we were in separate bands. I first saw Jane singing on stage with the Spoon Museum. Meanwhile, my band the Bundys was living in a van, playing any venue in the UK that would have us.
Once upon the time, there was Luminous…
Andrew: We both moved to Brighton and joined Luminous. We mailed our cassette demo to every cool label we could think of including Shimmy Disc (I had a good chunk of their catalog on vinyl) run by the legendary Kramer, who wrote back inviting us to work together. We made a record together in a week (an album called “Concentrate”). We met up a couple of times afterward, supporting Kramer and Dogbowl on tour. At that time, “success” was important to us but pre-internet it ultimately proved too difficult to get our music heard.
What were the trigger factors that drove you to play music again?
Andrew: Well my beloved Jazzmaster had started going rusty. OK, that wasn’t the only trigger but I got really curious about music again for the first time in years. I’ve got a house full of guitars but they’d become neglected dusty ornaments and that wasn’t right. So I decided to keep a guitar by my bed and play it every night (I still do). I turned my handful of riffs into a handful of songs, with tunes but no lyrics. I quickly remembered that I really can’t sing (despite once fronting a band!) so set about convincing Jane that if I could write songs, it would be amazing if she’d sing them.
Jane: It wasn’t a case of re-finding singing, as I had never stopped, more a case of re-finding the sound I loved, and being able to originate that with Andrew. And having the space, in our attic studio, made it so much easier to fit it around all the other stuff in our lives.
What are the individual efforts and strengths that each of you brings to the band’s creative process?
Andrew: I’m curious, optimistic and persistent which is why we didn’t give up on this experiment a long time ago. I hate the word “can’t”.
Jane: I provide encouragement and confidence and am a sounding board for all the ideas. I think I bring that confidence into my vocal sound too.
How much is your lyrics writing from personal experiences and how much draw from external sources?
Andrew: Most of my lyrics are personal. Usually about my fears and frustrations. In the beginning, Jane said I should write happy songs, but I think she’s got used to my songs about drowning (Skinny Dipping), insomnia (Stop Me Dreaming), mourning (Beautiful Mind), claustrophobia (Swarm) and amnesia (Forgotten Love) by now.
Do you see this new record as the start of a new “phase” for or rather a natural evolution from where you left off? How your musical taste evolved as well?
Andrew: It does feel like when I opened the dusty guitar case after so long there was still air from 1995 trapped inside when indie bands had more hair and wider jeans. I definitely breathed it in and you’ll hear plenty of 90s influence in our guitar sound. I guess my musical taste hasn’t wavered much my entire life, I’ve just embraced newer versions of essentially the same thing.
Jane: Ditto! I have always loved female-fronted indie bands and it’s great seeing some of the bands we loved from the 1990s active on the scene again. It gives me confidence that there is still lots of interest in our type of music so we should stick to our indie roots!
Your album is going to be released at the end of the month, could you explain the title, the influences, the recording process that has brought to the final result?
Andrew: It’s called “Nothing’s Ever Finished”, mainly because we should never have stopped making music. It’s also because while I’m a perfectionist, we simply couldn’t create the perfect album, not just because of time and budget (we were recording from home and the mixing was being done overnight in the US, which made it a long and sometimes difficult process), but because is there actually any such thing? Kramer used to tell us when we worked with him, “it’s good enough for rock and roll”. The daisies are a bit more subtle. When you cut down daisies they come back stronger, which fits our story.
Which songs would you pick out as your favorites from it if you had to and why?
Andrew: Unless you listen to the whole album you’ll miss some of my highlights. I love “Swarm”, and weirdly found myself in tears when Jane and I first sang the outro together – we’re working on an amazing live version of this. “Heroes Change” was written quite late on and I love the guitars and the Smiths pastiche at the end (it’s a song about falling out of love with Morrissey).
Jane: “Skinny Dipping” was our first song and is still one of our favorites. It has the best ‘wall of noise’ guitar sound on the album.
What’s your favorite part about playing live? Can you remember your 1st gig as a band and your highlights so far? Are you planning live performances for your ‘phase 2’ of the band?
Andrew: I remember the first time Jane and I played in a band live – in Brighton with Luminous. It felt amazing and people loved it. I’ve still got the live recording and it sounds terrible. We weren’t sure if we could do Dreams of Empire live without the challenge of assembling a band, but we’ve managed to find some lovely musicians (Will and Matt) who we’re rehearsing with and preparing for our first live show hopefully in November. We’re so excited about this – already in rehearsals we’re getting that amazing feeling that you only get from creating music as a group.
- Do you follow somehow the Brighton music scene? Do you have any tips about new local bands?
Andrew: There are so many bands in and around Brighton and a really friendly supportive scene. The rise and rise of Penelope Isles have been inspiring to watch but there are loads of others waiting in the wings. Check out Hanya.
Is the DIY ethic still important today like it was in the 80s? How do you weigh music-wise the pro and cons of the new Millenium? Are you comfortable with social media?
Andrew: As an artist, DIY is a blessing and a curse. I love being able to do whatever we want, whenever we want. To make a product that’s been hand packaged with care by us and above all to make music because we love it, not because it is our job. We’re not using social media that much. It’s too easy to get caught up in the numbers of shares/likes etc and feeling the need to say something even when you’ve got nothing useful to say. This is why we’re going to play live – to engage with people in the flesh, not based on how many followers they have.
The album will be self-released as limited vinyl style CD. Do you think is still relevant nowadays the physical edition that will last materially over the years, compared to the cold, liquid digital one? Any of you is a vinyl collector freaks?
Andrew: I wanted to create something physical that people could own and hold and had things like sleeve notes. I stopped buying vinyl a while ago, but wanted something that reminded me of the shiny, 3-dimensional joy of vinyl and the vinyl style CD seemed like a good compromise. There’s even a small homage to vinyl on the final track ‘Beautiful Mind’.
Are there any pivotal records and live concerts that changed indelibly your perception of music?
Andrew: ‘What difference does it make’ by the Smiths absolutely defined my musical taste and style for life. Everything about that song is perfect and will probably never be beaten.
Do you remember the first record you bought?
Andrew: ‘William it was really nothing’ by The Smiths on 7” from a bargain bin. The Smiths records were always in the bargain bin, which was handy.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Andrew: Dean Wareham.
What are you currently listening to?
Andrew: Pip Blom – “Freckles”
Please, name your 5 ‘desert island’ albums
Andrew: Galaxie 500: “On Fire”
The Sundays: “Reading, Writing and Arithmetics”
The Smiths: “The Queen is dead”
Television: “Marquee Moon”
Congratulations and all the best for the new album Is there anything I forgot to ask you and would you like to say?
Andrew: I should mention “Radiation”, our most recent release. The lyrics are our way of saying thank you to everyone like you Fabrizio who gives up their time to support and promote emerging bands. I really wonder whether we’d have ever produced the album without the support from you and others. Thank you.
Dreams of Empire‘s debut album “Nothing’s Ever Finished” is going to be released, tomorrow September 27th, on limited edition hand-numbered, vinyl-style CD plus 3 badges via the band’s Bandcamp.
In the meantime enjoy the full LP stream.
Keep up with Dreams Of Empire: