As I walk along Friday Street in the heart of Leicester, past the industrial units, Quad Studios and it’s open, rectangular entranceway looms up in front of me. Next door is a pile of rubble – the result of a factory demolished over the last couple of days due to a fire. Thankfully it didn’t reach Quad, so my meeting with Echolocation is still on.
Entering the large open reception area, I see no-one and hear nothing. Then from the end of a corridor, a figure approaches me, as if appearing from nowhere. It’s Peter Ingram – lead vocalist, loudhailer operator and mobile phone manipulator. He leads me into a small room which houses the recording equipment manned by Bob, studio owner, who is overseeing today’s recording. Behind the glass I can see the rest of the core of the band – Harvey Sharman-Dunn (guitars), Andy Askey (bass) and Dan Hessing (drums).
“Who’s that on the roof?
It’s not Batman”
Listening to playback of tracks recorded today, Peter readies himself for his vocal tracks. Armed with his ever present papers containing the poems that become lyrics, he goes through “Day of the Dads”, a track previously performed live, from which the above words are taken, and “Carousel”, a new track.
Peter is a spoken word artist, a poet and, according to the rest of band, performs the sort of thing he used to do in the pub before he joined the band. Peter’s words are intelligent, often humorous, often deathly serious, at times crystal clear and at times ambiguous. I asked how they come about;
“I use cut-ups & play around with things. Once I come up with a good idea, I find it usually writes itself! The most important part is the editing. Picking out bits that I like the feel of. One principal is to try not to sound like anybody else. Going forward, I want to try out some new techniques. So I can develop it & avoid it becoming formulaic & repeating myself. I’ve got some ideas about things I could try.”
Considering the element of uniqueness, I asked him what he thought of the lazy comparisons some listeners have made to The Fall. Both share a northern vocalist who speaks his lyrics as much as sings them and has a cutting sense of humour and irreverence but what does he make of it?
“I like The Fall & I’ve adopted some of Mark E Smiths’ writing techniques, or at least my understanding of them. The spoken word album Pander! Panda! Panzer! was a touchstone. Just in the way that ‘anything goes’. Some similarites in attitude: defiant, nonconformist, er Proletarian, you could say. Someone once wrote that Echolocation are like a more polite, more Southern Fall…which is probably the most insulting thing anyone could ever say.”
Having new ideas is something that drives not only Peter, but Echolocation as a band. The development of the bands sound over five albums and a number of singles has demonstrated that they are absolutely their own band with their own sound and comparisons are pointless.
Last October, the latest album “Empire, Blood and Bones” was released and they are back at Quad already recording the next one. We leave Peter recording more vocals and retire to the reception, where I catch up with Harvey, Andy and Dan.
I ask how the band came together as they don’t appear to be your average “four blokes who know each other and decide to form a band”. Dan is happy to explain. The members of the band have played together over the years in different groups. “Harvey and I were in Chomsky. We played a gig where we made it up and we invited the whole audience of twenty people to join the band. Peter wasn’t in the audience but he heard about it and joined Chomsky for a while.”
Andy continues the story, “I played in a band called Bocca and we needed a drummer so we asked Dan. Soon after Alan Tang (keyboards/guitar) and then Harvey joined and Bocca split. We blundered along a bit with Harvey singing until Pete came along again.”
With Peter firmly established in the band and the addition of Sam Sharman Dunn (cello) and Paul Hing (brass) the band continued gigging, expanding their sound and recording. I asked Peter about the social commentary in his lyrics and if he considered Echolocation to be a political band?
“I would describe the style as confusionist. I strive to write something that merits thinking about, should anyone wish to do so. Sometimes touching on subjects that extend ‘beyond the frame’. So there’s more to it than is actually there. We are political in that the lyrics are topical & deal with politics. One technique I use is to personalise a topic so that its not just reportage. I try to push it creatively as far as I can. I don’t want to be co-opted & I’m not lobbying for anything. I’m just trying to be myself. Another technique I use is to try to make my own personal political stance seem ambiguous.
I’m more interested in standing outside & commenting on the prevailing discourse rather than actively taking part in it. But also I want to be provocative.”
The rest of the band liked Peter’s style from the beginning. According to Dan he used to “rant in the pub” in the same way and as Harvey explained “there’s enough gaps in the music for him to do his stuff.”
There is a lot of humour in Peter’s lyrics and it’s often self deprecating. I asked him if this is a conscious decision? ” No, it just comes naturally, as part of my personality.” It is not unusual for members of the audience to be found laughing out loud in the right places at an Echolocation gig.
The last album, the aforementioned “Empire Blood and Bones” contained some of the post punk spiralling guitars and solid bass and tub thumping of previous albums alongside some more ambient moods. “Each album is a snapshot in time,” Harvey states and it will be interesting to see how this next one compares.
Since I met the band at the studio they have played live in Leicester and beyond including some recent festival appearances. They play at Simon Says on Saturday and it will be great to hear some of the newly recorded tracks given an airing. “This albums rockier – more lo-fi,” comments Dan. Whatever it sounds like, I can’t wait to hear it.
Echolocation play Simon Says the weekend of the 29th & 30th August.