Interview with Rob McVey lead singer and songwriter of Longview
Interviewed by Elizia Volkmann
When I ring Rob he’s halfway through a day of “doing press” for the re-release of their single “Further” in the board room of Warners. It’s not exactly his natural environment and the strain of being locked in the third ring of corporate purgatory is beginning to tell in his voice. I ask him about the re-release: “Yeah it’s strange because we’re working on the new album and that’s what we’re really concentrating on so it’s strange to be talking about the release of Further, but it’s great because it [this single] has had more radio airplay than we’ve ever had before. It is exciting that it is on the radio so much because it gives us a bigger platform, but it’s not what we’re concentrating on.”
Signed by Warners in 2001 Longview have indeed been a band who have taken the long view on their career, they’ve been hard grafters, honers of their craft fired by their absolute and unshakable love of the art of songwriting. Being evermore lauded over the past year and a tour of America means that they are on the home straight for the fame and success they have worked so hard for but that said, McVey and the band are no longer so hungry for mere commercial success, they are hungry for something quite different. “Before we wanted to be successful, so much and now we feel a lot more philosophical about it all, we’re a lot more laid back about everything. Now all we really want to do is to write music, we’re searching for something really emotional [in our songwriting].
Manchester has been the bands’ creative crucible and indeed they still live there in one of Manchester’s leafy suburbs but they are southerners originally. “I do miss the south sometimes, but coming from Eastly which is the working class end of Winchester it was very much devoid of culture, it was trash culture versus, the non-culture of upper class Winchester and what I liked most about Manchester is its willingness to accommodate art and poetry. It’s easy to find like minded people in Manchester. I would like to live in New York for a year, but yes Manchester is nice, it’s a good place to reflect and watch the world go by. I like that you can stumble around the bars and go late night drinking; well I don’t do that so much, I’m mostly in my flat writing, but [our album] Mercury was about that time in my life, it was about insularity, the industrial side of the city and rainy streets.”
They have already racked up fifteen songs for the new album, I ask him how this differs from Mercury. “We’ve just finished a tour in America and where Mercury was about being in something, the thing I am interested in now is “insignificance”, how small we really are in the grander scheme of things.”
A recurring theme in our conversation is McVey’s search for “something real”. In a society built on media images, internet and mobile connections, McVey searches for real human connections, and is that rare thing in this day and age, a man who yearns for true, sincere emotion. He is also a true lover of music not a Gallagher “fan” seeking to emulate, “I want to hear a real band, who have got something to say. I want a melodic band with some real beauty. I want to hear real music that inspires us with the feeling that got us all into music in the first place.” He cites such a moment as the brief glimmering of The Verve, and the few songs where Oasis got it right. “Right now I think [in Britain] the only bands doing that are Doves and Elbow”
What I think McVey is really talking about is not so much hearing the music that he loves on a stereo but hearing his own music clearly. Composers hear their music, the work is written before a note is written on the page, just the same way photographers have prevision, the picture is taken in the mind not on the celluloid or digital file. McVey’s words speak of a man who is so close to that perfect moment of creation that all artists seek.
“We have been writing the new album since we finished Mercury, we have such a clear vision of what we want to do…” and then he tails off. I know he must be looking around the Warners board room seeing very clearly the thing that is stopping him reaching that goal. The professional hoops he has to jump through, the endless interviews, the travel, the distractions of doing “the business” , that element of fatigue that robs the artist of that climactic experience of union with his private muse.
We’ve been talking about PJ Harvey her ascent and her fondness for unique recording studios, he’s admittedly envious of her control over her creative process, “We’ve signed such a big deal, we feel had to fight to get to do everything our way on Mercury. I really admire the way PJ Harvey makes her work, that is what we want to do.”
Revulsed by the pseuds and phonies that he feels abound in the current music scene, McVey and Longview, walk the road less traveled in their search for the perfect rock song, and talking with McVey I’m surprised that he is only 26, there is something, deeper, more mature, heavier even about him, a colour of wisdom that is rare for his age.
“The rock and roll part of it is what you have got to say, it takes real genius to be in touch with their own generation, in essence to be uncensored, to say it straight. The gift is to say what everyone is feeling and just release it, it is so simplistic but I think about it all the time.”
“Further” is released on Warners 8th August 2005