Somojo Magazine

The A Train

Black And White Memories (June 2009, CD and download)
Don’t Have Far To Go (November 2009, download single)
Beginning E.P. (CD and download, February 2011)

Hi, how are you?
We’re very well, thank you.

Would you mind introducing us to your band members?
Brothers Dan + James on both vocals and guitars,
Ben (Colonel Woton) on bass,  
Ben (Lieutenant Mango) on drums.

How long has the current band line up been together?
We’ve been playing as The ‘A’ Train since spring 2008, but with this line up for just under a year.

How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t yet heard you?
Alt. folk-rock, psych-indie, calypso-country soul.

What have you been up to recently? Do you have any new recordings planned?
Dan: “We recently finished our new E.P. which we’re proud of. Its due for release in February. We’ve also just started work on some new recordings too, which I’m sure will see the light of day later in the year.”

What can your fans look forward to in the next 12 months?
20% VAT, cuts and austerity.

How did you meet each other?
James “I’ve known Dan since he was born, pretty much! The two Bens not quite so long.”

How did you come up with your name for the band?
We named ourselves after the Duke Ellington tune Take The A Train.

Did you always want to be in a band?

What music did you listen to while growing up?
Dan: “Our Mum played stuff like The Beatles, The Animals… Our Dad played Fleetwood Mac, Leonard Cohen and Don’t Start Me To Talkin’ by Sonny Boy Williamson.”

How long have you been involved with writing & performing music?
I think we all have most of our lives really.

What were your first music making experiences?
James: “I wrote a song about Tarzan when I was 7 or 8.”

Are you self-taught or did you have lessons?
All largely self-taught.

What is your current equipment?
Dan: “I play a Fender Tele through a Vox AC15. James plays a Simon and Patrick acoustic guitar. Hoots plays a Fender Jazz Bass and his double bass, ‘Rosy.’ Mango’s drum kit is a hotch potch of all sorts.”

If you had an unlimited equipment budget what would be on your shopping list?
A house with a dedicated studio room, first up. Some drum mics. We have most of what we need, really. Although I suppose a few upgrades wouldn’t go amiss!

Do you use the same equipment live as you do when in a studio?

Do you have a set routine when recording or does it depend on each track and the inspiration?
I guess we do have some tried and trusted methods, but then again most of the recording process (including mixing) we do at home, so there’s always plenty of chance to try out different approaches.

Which software/recording process do you use?
Whatever we can get!

Would you sign with a major record company?
I don’t know; I’d prefer a larger indie. Maybe.

How much involvement do you have with the arranging and production of the songs when recording?
Absolute involvement.

Is the production side of things something you’d like to get involved more in the future, maybe working with other artists?
Dan: “We already have and do. But its not the main focus at the moment.”

Do you find the process of recording enjoyable and does it get easier the more you do?
James: “I’ve always found it enjoyable, and I’ve never found it hard. But I’m sure we get better the more we do.”

Do you try to capture your ‘live’ sound on recordings or do you think that the ‘live’ sound and recorded sound should be different experiences for your fans?
James: “There’s a lot of layers, and a lot of textures on our recordings, but most of them are built up from pretty live takes. Moon Water was live, for example, even  down to its guitar solo. We try to get the best of both worlds.”

Do you any favourite tracks from your album?
Dan: “Probably Morning Dream.”

The A Train

Who are the main songwriters for the band?
James and Dan.

Do you have a method for writing songs?
James: “Several!

Do you write songs only about personal experiences?

Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
Writing okay songs is easy. Writing really good ones can be hard work!

Is there anyone who you would like to collaborate with on writing songs or performing?
Loads… Andre 3000, Lauryn Hill.

Who are your favourite songwriters?
Lennon / McCartney, Randy Newman, Curtis Mayfield, Dylan, Tim Buckley, Cohen, Judie Sill…  

Which countries have you gigged in?
England and France.

Which countries would be at the top of your list to tour?
The U.S., Japan, Australia…

Who would you like to tour with?
Anyone whose music we like.

How do you promote your music and get your music out to new fans?
Playing shows, making recordings and getting them heard.

Which music promotion websites do you use and do you have a favourite?
Hoots: “Most of them, I think. We’re not on Twitter yet.”
James: “I think Facebook is probably the best, strangely.”

Do you think such sites and the internet are good tools for independent and unsigned artists?
“Of course.”

With all the various websites out there for independent and unsigned artists, is there still something that is missing from them that you think would benefit the lesser-known artists?
Fewer websites? And fewer bands!

Have you ever entered any ‘battle of the bands’ competitions?
Once; we didn’t get far. It was rigged!

What’s your best/worst experience at a gig?
The worst was travelling to what we thought was a show somewhere in Essex. The promoter thought it an opportunity to vet bands - cover bands largely – for their suitability to play at his other venue. Basically we played to nobody.
The best… I don’t know. There’s been many good experiences. The next one!

Do you get nervous before a gig? How do you calm down?
Yes, but I don’t think it makes sense to calm down.

Would you like to be full time working musicians or are you happy with things as they are?
The aim is to make music as good as we can. I suppose the more time we have available, the better the chance to do that. But it might not be that simple. We’d like to reach as many people as possible.

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