The Red Light Company are in town – and have lately been taking over airwaves.
When the Columbia-signed band break off from intense rehearsals at their studio in Hammersmith, it’s frontman Richard Frenneaux who comes over for a chat. He’s full of the joys, a bundle of energy.
“We’re just practising for the Radio 1 Live Lounge on Monday”, he informs me. “That’s a big day for us, as it’s also the album release day.”
So have they chosen a cover version for Ms Whiley’s mid-morning cuppa? “We have indeed, but I’m not allowed to tell you what it’s going to be. I don’t know yet if it’s a faux pas or not, we’ll just have to wait and see – but we’re confident everything will go OK.”
It’s been a busy time for the quintet, still relatively recently assembled. “It has been pretty crazy”, reflects Frenneaux, “but it’s something we’ve loved doing. It’s different from what you’re used to, even this part of the promotional thing. We’ve been used to putting out different singles, so it feels like a lot bigger thing to be talking about the album.”
Fine Fascination is the record in question, and it’s chock full of tunes. “It is melodic, yeah”, he agrees. It was the most important thing when we were making it, and it was a really important part of the writing to keep the melodies strong.”
Songwriting credits are halved so far. “It was just myself and Shawn (Day) for this record, and it was all made out of a flat in Baker Street.” An ironic touch, given Shawn flew over from Wyoming to join the band. “Yeah, well, it was one of those things – I think with the way the world is now you can be based out of anywhere, it’s a sign of the times with the internet and everything.”
Red Light Company are a cosmopolitan lot. Frenneaux was born in England but grew up in Australia and New Zealand, while the rest of the band hail from Wyoming, Wales, Scotland and Maidenhead. So do they feel like there’s a nationality at the root of their bond? “It definitely feels like a UK band”, says Frenneaux, “the Company started in London, we moved here specifically for this. I’ve been around a lot but London is definitely the largest place I’ve been to, and we wanted to set up here.”
The album flows together, but the singer reveals its composition was less slick. “It definitely wasn’t like that. There was no real focussed period of writing it, it was very much track to track with a few weeks in between. We gave ourselves enough room to breathe while it was being done. It’s one of those things”, he continues, “making a record and demoing it in your living room, the songs can take you to arenas – and that’s part of what we loved about doing it. We really took care over how it was executed, and we listened carefully. It’s influenced by House of Love, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Cure, and I think there was that ambition to it when we started writing.”
Ambition is a word represented by the big single Scheme Eugene. “It definitely has that festival singalong anthem to it, but I just hope there’s a broad enough spectrum through the album”, says Frenneaux. “I think there is – Arts & Crafts is more broadly melodic, it’s completely different.”
It’s easy to sense just how much Frenneaux is anticipating the summer festivals. “I can’t wait!” he says, sure enough. “We don’t exactly know what we’re doing yet, but we do know we’re doing the Snow Festival in Austria, and we’re doing Tokyo as well – really excited about that. There are a lot of other prospects though.”
As we talk my eye falls on the artwork for Fine Fascination and it suddenly dawns that it looks more than a little like a panned out version of a famous album cover. “Suede you mean?” he says. I agree. “Well to me they’re not an influence, especially musically – though I can see why people would draw parallels with the cover. I see a lot of similarities with the bands I’ve already mentioned, though a lot of people you see have come to some weird conclusions of what we sound like!”
Frenneaux talks about how the band have got through to people who’ve heard the music but don’t know the titles. “It’s just about that connection,” he says, “we were really happy that Radio One picked up our music. Even at gigs my friend was in the audience and he would hear people saying to each other, “Oh, I didn’t realise they did this one. It’s great!”
It’s interesting to hear him speak of the band, formed only in 2007, as they grow together. What binded them initially? “To some extent, I guess it was musical similarities, which hold any band together – they were the foundations. We had the cornerstone bands we all agree on. But for four people it’s a group, with five people it’s like a gang, a dysfunctional family.”
Day is the butt of a few jokes, which he enjoys having moved over with little more than his bass guitar from Wyoming. “I guess America is one of those cultural differences you have fun with, and we’ve had pronoucements like ‘Lice-ess-ter’ and all that”, laughs Frenneaux.
We move back to the music. “Meccano was based on friendship. I was moving from London to Cardiff at the time, I was starting a whole new life and discovering this whole new big city. With Lights Out that’s a rather different story. It’s about a friend of mine from growing up who took sleeping pills and wandered into a lake. I wanted to write it in a song, like a letter. It’s a weird one to talk about, but I wanted to do it naturally. It was a real catharsis in the end.”
He’s not sombre for long, as talk turns to more gigging. “We’ve quite a few dates in Italy coming up which we’re looking forward to. It’s always the worry that you see the back of a venue, not where you are, and you need to keep motivated so you’re able to get out and see a bit more of the city or place that you’re in. Vocation is a really important thing for records I think. London was for us, and I’d love to try somewhere new for the next one.”
Anywhere in particular? “We went to Ghent quite recently, and I thought that would be a great place to do it, but then I heard the other week that the White Lies went there to record their debut album.”
It’s not the first time the bands have crossed paths. “There are a lot of times we’ve run into each other. There’s even elements of that in the press, I think it’s somewhat derived from the 1980s influence. Theirs is totally ’80s thing though, whereas ours has a bit more worked into it. There have been a lot of coincidences worked into it, I even went to their first gig. It was good.”
So now it’s back to work. “We’re rehearsing today, and we’re pretty nervous. We’ll be doing some of our stuff, and the cover (which turns out to be M.I.A.‘s Paper Planes. For radio and stuff you often get asked to do more poppy covers, which is fine. Once we did ‘Christine’, an old House Of Love track, and you’d like to think things like that can get people into a new band.” Well a lot of people are into the Red Light Company at the moment – and Frenneaux is smiling.