Cool as folk, rock jazz, blues &c.

The Inspiral Carpets are heading to Brum as part of the Rootsville Festival – always ones to jump at the chance to hob-nob with royalty from England’s second city, hem hem I spoke to lead singer Tom Hingley…

The Inspiral Carpets’ Life LP was one of my first ‘grown up’ record purchases, I’m not counting the hormone-fueled obsession with Wendy James and Transvision Vamp or Ed Stewart’s Pop Party. Drawing me to them rather than the rest of the Madchester scene was, at first, the full Farsifa organ reminding me of The Stranglers (who I had a bizarre pre-teen obsession with), but it was more the ‘proper’ songs, the real-life lyrics that kept me actually listening. It was the songs again that meant I stayed huddled against an ice-cream van in the rain watching the re-formed Inspirals at Glastonbury three years ago, instead of slinking away to a tent, any tent.

They stood out at Glastonbury that year as a band that actually had songs and could play them, despite the fashion to denigrate ‘band’ bands in favour of the more trendy ‘world’ stuff – a groove is all well and good, but it’s not going to keep you company on the long drive home. It’s this that makes them perfect headliners for the glasto-in-redbrick Rootsville Festival – there’s every chance of being so grooved up by the time they come on stage that songs, like dedication will be what you need. Tom Hingley is just the man to sing those songs, and he’s looking forward to it as much as you should be. “It’s not as if we’re schlepping round the country doing every festival going, we only do the gigs we want to now. We’re only doing about nine gigs this year, I think one other festival. There’s a load of new young bands on, who I don’t know too much about to be honest, and it should be great.”

Doing just what they want is a feature of life for the Inspirals now, they’ve got a rarities album ‘Keep the Circles’ out (now on iTunes etc) and are completely happy not to have to worry about record labels, it’s “doing well” with stuff “not seen outside the B-sides of vinyl singles” as well as a previously unreleased version of Saturn 5 (featuring Mark E Smith of The Fall) that someone at The Guardian has been half-heartedly attempting to hype into the charts. If you must hype…

Take me anywhere, it could be Leeds or Birmingham, but i don’t care

I was all ready to quiz Tom about the differences between Manchester and Birmingham (knowing that he’s actually from Oxford, but surely an honourary Manc), but there’s nothing doing. Manchester apparently is, or was, “a state of mind rather than a geographical location” and the whole scene was “much more about alienation, alienation from the mainstream… it wasn’t about ‘Manchester’s great’, more about how the music coming out of London was crap”. Tom was DJing recently in Leeds and was accused of having not been complementary about the city in the past, “the bloke just wanted a fight. Someone I may have been associated with years ago, might of said something. Leeds is Leeds, Manchester is Manchester, Birmingham’s Birmingham it’s all European now – there’s no point in comparing.”

It turns out that the Hingley family line can be followed back to the Black Country, where Tom’s ancestors were into heavy metal – specifically holding the patent for the type of anchor that the royal navy used. “That’s quite grounding in a way, no matter how good people tell you you are – if you dredged the sea you’d probably find my family name on what’s left of the Titanic”. Well, one thing the Titanic never had a problem with was stopping.

Listening to Five Live on my way home from work the other day, I heard attempted Labour leadership candidate John McDonnell claim – fellow Rootsville artist – Soweto Kinch as his favourite artist. I was sceptical, it seemed a little bit of an answer tailor-spun to show social consciousness – in a world where it can seem most musicians have pretty much given up with songs about the human condition. If they were coming out now it’s something I reckon theInspirals could have fallen prey to – I’m being too cynical, though “at least he isn’t saying his favourite thing is bringing back hanging. It’s a strange time, you could walk into any pub, factory, primary school and find that almost anyone in there would make a better President of the United States than George Bush. We’ve got to be careful of disengaging with politics, that’s what you end up with.”

I suppose a band whose slogan was ‘cool as fuck’ (“a San Francisco, Height-Astbury thing, we thought”) wasn’t ever going to be courted by the mainstream press, a similar thing to how despite loads of coverage, no-one can ever find us as our URL never makes it to the papers. They weren’t bothered, “it became a catchphrase, we had ‘cool as fuck’, then Oasis had ‘I Love Tony Blair’. There’s worse words in the world than ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’… hang on I’m trying to think of one… ‘extraordinary rendition’, or ‘Razorlight'”.

Tom has his solo stuff, a band (The Lovers), as well as Inspirals going on. They recently had “more fun than we’ve ever had before” at a gig in Athens, and Tom reckons they’re getting better, and that it’s down to never being reliant on technology in the way that the Mondays were or Primal Scream ended up. “I saw Primal Scream recently and half of their stuff is coming off tape, we’re just five guys playing – our records weren’t reliant on Andy Weatherall mixes, anyone from the fifties on could have done what we did.”

They didn’t though, the Inspiral Carpets did – a huge clutch of great songs, tunes, grooves, from a real band (they all wrote, unlike some). Be nostalgic for their heyday if you must, but I’m betting that live it’ll feel as much the present as it ever did. Catch them while they’re still enjoying it.

Official website | myspace site (with tunes from the new album)

We’re running a compo to win tickets for the Festival, here. For those who don’t win, you can of course buy your tickets from The Ticketsellers: 08707 544445 (9.30am – 6.00pm mon-fri, and 11- 4pm Saturday). Or in person from Jibbering Records, Old school Daze, or Swordfish.