Earlier on this year, this now seven strong outfit from Brighton, Levellers celebrated twenty years of free spirited folk/punk rocking with a tour taking in venues like the sizeable Apollo Theatre in Manchester, with 2,000 plus gatherers revelling in a mixture of nostalgia and the band’s new direction. It has since been discovered that this new direction takes the form a politicised, ranging album, ‘Letters from the Underground.’
Building around new found versatility in the vocals of lead man, Mark Chadwick, standout track ‘Before The End’, uses the stirring, lingering didgeridoo introductory drag of Stephen Boakes to set off a stirring ballad that represents a tenderizing interlude amid a hotbed of political back-lashing. Jeremy, gives up some of his precious time to lift the veil on this new release and to open up the world of one of the UK’s most universal and far-reaching acts of the last two decades.
1. Your new album; Letters from the Underground accentuates both your fiddle element and your political edge. Was this a conscious approach and do you think that the vocal range on this album is the widest that you have achieved?
J: Yes, it was all conscious. We wanted to play and record it live; the world is in such chaos, with few artists documenting it, especially musicians. That we knew it would be political. We had all the lyrics and the title done before the music and having 3 singers broadens the range.
2. Standout offering on the above album is the wistful, ballad flirting, tenderized stroll of ‘Before The End’. What is the meaning behind this song? Do you agree that it shows an almost soulful, tenderer side to Mark Chadwick’s vocals that has been fully explored in the past?
J: It’s all about the destructive and repetitive strain of real life. On the original lyrics I wrote; ‘sing like Lou Reed’, which would have been completely different. John and Mark came up with that style of vocal. It’s a bit wet for me so Mark will be explaining it on his own time.
3. What do you want people to take out of a live the Levellers show, how do you want to leave people feeling after they have seen you live?
J: Angry; we want them to go and break something, preferably government property or riot; that would be great.
4. Is it getting harder to compile set-lists these days? Are there any surprises planned for the forthcoming tour and festival appearances?
J: Set lists just get easier as we have more songs to play.
5. What did producer Sean Lakeman bring to the new album and do you have any plans to work with him or his brother Seth in the future?
J: We play with Seth all the time, he guests on one of our songs and he’s covered ‘The Boatman’; he and Sean our friends of ours.
Sean is, with Al Scott, the best producer we’ve worked with. This is in terms of defining the group’s sound and, in his own words; “Thinking out of the box”. Plus he’s not afraid to get into a fight and works like a motherfucker. Just what we need.
6. Has the song-writing process changed for you over the years? Does Jeremy still pen the bulk of the songs and do you find yourselves jamming more these days?
J: I wrote most of the lyrics for the album, but it’s the first time since the ‘Zeitgeist days. I gave the band the word and they went to Ireland and wrote the album. Mark & Si wrote a few songs themselves too.
7. Which of your songs sum up your current mood and why?
J: ‘Behold A Pale Rider’. It starts of about the London bombings of 7/7, then goes onto the repercussions in the Middle East and all the inter-connections It’s a very complex song lyrically. It sums up my concerns and interests anyway.
8. Your live sets and some of the albums in the past have been freshened up by Simon Friend’s vocals and acoustic tinkering. Are there any plans to build upon and broaden this aspect of your sound in the future?
J; Simon wrote some of the songs for “Letters” and, a lot of the music too. His presence is clearly felt throughout it. I personally wanted to hear more of him on this record, so I am pleased that he got down to it. He also sings some of his own and mine on the ltd edition ‘Letters’ digi pack.