Interview 22-20s

We caught up with Martin and Glen following their set at Popscene in San Francisco.

With the recent wave of artsy/dance-punk bands to hit the scene, the 22-20s may feel like a breath of fresh air, trading pre-programmed computers for simple keyboards, and countless effects pedals for a lone guitar slide. Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Martin Trimble, bassist Glen Bartrup, drummer James Irving and newcomer Charly Coombes on keys, the band got their name from bluesman Skip James’ song ‘22-20 Blues’. Their music is best described like a fine whiskey, with bass notes of The Rolling Stones, and undertones of Robert Johnson, yet with an overall sound that is just their own.

The band are currently touring the US with Graham Coxon in anticipation of their self-titled album being released on 19th April. We caught up with Martin and Glen following their set at Popscene in San Francisco. They played a tight set, with opener ‘Why Don’t You Do It For Me?’ transporting the audience to a dingy nightclub in the Bayou of the deep South. The pace slowed down in the middle of the set, with bluesy ballad ‘Baby Brings Bad News’, only to return to the thrash-like grit that is ‘22 Days’, and finishing off with ‘Devil In Me’, an almost unnervingly haunting song with voodoo-like chants soaring over grinding guitar chords, pulsating bass lines, booming drums, and frenzied keys.

So how has your US tour been going so far?
Glen: It’s been good. It’s only been about three days, but nothing’s gone horribly wrong yet, so that’s good.

How did you end up touring with Graham Coxon?
Glen: Well he’s on our label.
Martin: [laughs] Nothing to do with us, really!

What’s the difference between playing the US and playing the UK?
Martin: It’s colder in New York!
Glen: …and hotter in LA.
Martin: It wasn’t yesterday though, it was like in England, and we just sat there in the rain.

You guys are clearly influenced by blues - what was it like first playing in the South, where blues was born?
Martin: We had our best gig on the last tour in Nashville. Yet blues is listened to as much in England as it is in the States. I mean the Stones and people brought blues to the British audience. Before it was just an American audience.

Why do you think you were so well recieved in Nashville?
Martin: I dunno, we just had a good night. The sound was really good.

Did you go to Graceland at all?
Martin: [laughs] No, no no…

Who are your biggest musical influences?
Martin: I dunno, we kind of listen to blues, and then we make pop songs out of blues. I suppose the Stones, T-Rex, people I admire like Skip James, Johnny Cash.

You used to be a three-piece band, what made you add a keyboard player?
Martin: Charity. Charly was homeless [laughs]
Glen: Thought we’d do him a favour.

Was he a friend of yours?
Martin: Not really, no [laughs]

Was he just a tramp on the street with a sign that said ‘will play keys for food’?
Martin: No [laughs] he’s too young to be a tramp!
Glen: He’s got the beard for it though.

What’s the best thing about being in a band, and what’s the worst?
Martin: The best thing, what’s the best thing?
Glen: The friends.
All: Aww
Martin: Yeah, that’s a joke.
Glen: Sorry! [laughs] It’s the money isn’t it?
Martin: Yeah, the money! [laughs] We don’t have to work for a living. That’s the worst thing…

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you during a live show?
Martin: My singing’s quite embarrassing.
Glen: I fell over once.

You fell over?
Glen: Yeah, there was a monitor I didn’t see. I pretended to be pissed for the next two songs, but it wasn’t really alcohol induced.

How do your families feel about you being in a band, and not being something like, say, accountants?
Glen: My mum always wanted me to be an accountant because my older cousin was.
Martin: This is the man that has 2,000 homes…
Glen: Yeah, I know. I didn’t do that well. My mum was disappointed at first, but she’s OK now I think. She still calls me.
Martin: My mum’s just happy that I have a job.

How long have you been a band, and how long have you known each other?
Glen: A few years?
Martin: Two years I think? We’ve known each other for about ten years, we’ve known James for a couple of years. We’ve known Charly for just over a year, year and a half maybe?

Is it really hard to get a group of people together where it just gels?
Martin: Well I don’t think you have to really play great, it’s more of a chemistry thing.
Glen: I’m very much here as Martin’s friend. Bass is an easy instrument.
Martin: Keith Richards never played very well [laughs]

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