Childhood are undoubtedly one of the buzziest bands around at the moment (they were our Band of the Week back in early July). Having graced stages at most UK festivals, made an appearance at Benicassim and supported The Vaccines on tour, the five-piece are currently working hard in the studio.
Over the last few years it’s become increasingly easy to get lost in the wash of bands with hazy vocals and reverb-laden guitars, but both Childhood’s singles, ‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Solemn Skies’, prove that beneath the shimmery production are really well-written pop songs. In other words, they’re pretty great…
I caught up with Leo Dobsen (Guitar), Dan Salamons (Bass) and Jonny Williams (Drums) to talk about recording the album, their amazing summer, and sharing taxis with Miles Kane.
How did you guys meet? And how did you start the band?
Leo: I met Ben (lead vocals and guitar) at university in first year. We were going out getting drunk together, potentially thinking of playing in a band, and were like, lets try it out, lets play some guitars and see what happens. We wrote two demos together and put them out on the internet, and started getting attention from blogs and gig offers. So we thought, right, let’s start a band. And we got Daniel in on bass.
Dan (Trying and failing to hold a straight face): I was playing in what can only be described as the local Punk-Bossa Nova scene when I came across two young fellows with nice hair. I thought, well, this is ‘It’, and I’ll give up what I love, Bossa Nova, to be a part of it.
Haha, so you’re a massive Bossa Nova fan?
Dan: Huge. Well more Punk-Bossa Nova! We played our first gig at 12 Bar, maybe a couple of years ago and never looked back. After a long time playing with a lot of semi-par drummers we found Jonny.
Jonny: It was an exciting process. The producer I knew, Rory Attwell, recorded their second single…
Leo: Smash-hit second single, ‘Solemn Skies’…
Jonny: …and he was like, do you want to go play drums for these cats? And I said yeah. And so we played together, and they didn’t say don’t come back. They said come back! Haha. So I just kept coming back. The first gig we played was at the Windmill with Bob from Pavement, and then the next day we played Brixton Electric – that was sick!
So you’ve had a busy summer with playing all these festivals, what was your favourite one and why?
Leo: I think for me it’s got to be Reading, NME tent, twelve in the afternoon. Just because it was so surprising that so many people turned up, and because it was a sick show.
Dan: I would concur with Leo. Reading was great. We all went when we were kids as well and it was nice to open up the big stage, that was just something we’d never experienced before. Benicassim was good as well.
Jonny: That’s what I was going to say, Benicassim. Just the whole process of going on a plane to play a gig.
Dan: Yeah that was good. And sharing a cab with Miles Kane. Lovely fellow.
Jonny: We had to pretend that we didn’t know who he was.
Dan: Yeah, that was awkward.
Jonny: But in my head I was just like, ‘INHALER!!!’
Dan: Yeah, so Benicassim and Reading.
Jonny: We did two gigs as well [at Reading]. We headlined the BBC Introducing stage in the evening.
Leo: Both of them were great.
How would you describe your live performances? Do you take inspiration from any other performers?
Leo: I think we like to give it a lot of energy and try to have as much fun as possible.
Dan: Who would you say you take inspiration from?
Leo: Oh god, umm…
Dan: I think it’s got to be Bill Murray really.
Leo and Jonny: Yeah Bill Murray!
Dan: Yeah, he’s had so many years at the top and he just keeps getting stronger. I mean Wes Anderson did wonders for his career, but yeah, Bill Murray.
Do you have any pre/post gig rituals?
Dan: Nah I don’t think we have any rituals?
Jonny: We do a few football stretches.
Leo: Jonny does this weird thing to my back where he stretches it out, but that’s it really.
Dan: We need to get one.
So with touring, a lot of time is taken up travelling from one place to another. Do you have any favourite ways to pass the time when you’re in the van or jetting off to Beni?
Dan: Well we have this game we play called ‘Would you rather’…
Jonny: Yeah that’s really good, that takes up hours.
Dan: For example, if you won the lottery would you rather have a skate park…
Leo: …or an ice rink?
Jonny: No, no, it was a cinema in your house.
So what was the answer?
Jonny: Skate park.
Dan: Yeah, skate park won.
What are any of the other questions? Any weird ones?
Dan: There’s a lot of ones we aren’t allowed to say right now.
Leo: Yeah, disgusting things!
Do you have anything strange on your rider?
Leo: Nah, nothing weird
Dan: Just the standard beers and a bottle of spirit.
Jonny: We had some lasagne the other week.
Dan: We’ve started drinking a lot more wine, but we have to go out and buy that ourselves.
What’s the weirdest thing to happen to you on tour? Have you had any encounters with crazy fans?
Leo: Quite recently in Manchester, we finished playing and this guy from Brazil came on stage with tears streaming down his face, and I was like ‘what’s wrong, man?’, and he was like, ‘your music, it just reminds me of home’. And so I was hugging him, I didn’t know what to do. It was a bit weird.
What did you say to him?
Leo: I just said ‘Thank you, man’.
Jonny: The thing was that it reminded him of his band at home, when he would play music with his friends in Sao Paolo. He was seriously sobbing though.
That must be quite nice though, that someone was so moved by your music?
Leo: Yeah, it was really nice. We haven’t had anything like crazy fans, I don’t think?
Dan: Ben got banned from ASDA for stealing some cured ham or something.
Leo: Yeah, he put a load of chicken up his top or something.
Dan: He was very drunk and now apparently he’s banned from all ASDAs, but we haven’t heard anything.
Leo: We’ve been into a lot of ASDAs since.
Dan: If the good people of ASDA see this, sorry. We will return the cured meat at a suitable time.
Jonny: We had a timid stage invasion the other day.
Leo: Agh, that was horrible!
Jonny: It was just four people got on stage, standing there.
Dan: They thought ‘Solemn Skies’ was the last song as well.
Jonny: And they were forced to stay onstage for ‘Bond Girls’ and grind up against Mr Dobsen.
Leo: I didn’t like it.
Dan: He played very professionally though!
Do you prefer playing live to being in the studio, or vice versa?
Leo: I much prefer playing live.
Jonny: Yeah, live.
Leo: Personally, I’m not a studio guy; I like the outcome of being in the studio, but not the actual process.
I think it depends what kind of band you are.
Jonny: Yeah if you’re a prog-rock band…
Or Kevin Shields…
Jonny: Yeah, or Kevin Shields. You’re going to indulge in the processes. I think Ben likes being in the studio.
Dan: Some good things can come out of it, we wrote our last song in the studio and that was quite interesting.
Jonny: No one has heard it yet, but we probably wouldn’t have written that song that way if we’d just jammed it in a room and played it live for a while.
Dan: There are good points and bad points.
You’re recording the album at the moment, how’s it going?
Jonny: We’ve only done one song, that one song is good.
Dan: We’re going in [to the studio] on Monday with someone who is great and we’re really looking forward to working with him.
What sort of vibe is it going to be, are you looking at experimenting if you’re going to be spending quite a lot of time in the studio?
Jonny: I think there will be experimenting on Ben’s part.
Leo: We don’t know what songs we’re going to do with [this producer] yet, but it’ll be a mixture of old and new.
Dan: Yeah, anyone in a band knows that the more you play together your sound evolves, so it’ll be a mixture of old songs and new stuff that has been written over the last couple of months.
There’s a lot of really great younger bands coming out of the UK at the moment. NME have just done their ‘Young Britannia Issue’, which features you guys. Do you think it’s a positive thing, are there any negatives?
Dan: I think it’s good that a lot of good bands are around, making good music. I think that when NME puts a load of bands on a cover together it makes it look like there’s a scene, but I don’t think that is necessarily the case. We’re friends with quite a few bands, Palma Violets and Splashh, but it’s not so much of a musical thing, it’s more of a friendship thing. I think it’s good that there’s a lot of variety, but it’s not as close-knit as it’s made to seem.
Jonny: It’s not like all those bands play together all the time, but it is good that there’s variety.
Leo: I think some people may criticise magazines like NME for supposedly trying to make a scene, but I don’t think they’re trying to make a scene. I think they are just trying to write about bands that people are finding exciting at the moment. So it’s not a scene, it’s just new exciting music that’s happening now.
Jonny: On the tour we’re doing we’re sandwiched between two punk bands essentially, there’s not really a scene, but we all get along and we all play together.
Who are you going on tour with?
Jonny: Palma Violets, Telegram and Baby Strange.
Dan: That kicks off November 18th in Wolverhampton, I think, and ends at the Coronet in London.
Do you have any other plans for the next few months other than recording the album and the tour?
Jonny: We may have the opportunity to record a cover, which may end up being a lot cooler than just doing a cover, but we can’t really talk about it at the moment.
Dan: There’s a couple of cool things coming up, but the main things are going on tour and finishing off the album.
What were the last records that you all bought?
Jonny: The last record I acquired was Splashh’s album, which is very good
Leo: I recently started listening a lot to Beck’s Modern Guilt, which is a good album, underrated. That’s the last album I bought that I’ve been listening to a lot.
Dan: I’ve been listening to the latest Boards Of Canada album a lot recently, it’s not something that I’d usually like but it’s really good.
Finally any other bands/artists that you’d recommend us checking out?
Dan: Hugh Laurie’s jazz album! Did you say new bands? Ermm, Kagoule, they’re good. Keebo. Speedy Ortiz.
Leo: There’s a band that I’m intrigued by, Rad Stewart. I’ve heard a couple of demos, very Pavement-y, so they may be ones to watch.
Jonny: I do quite like Jackson Scott’s album.
Leo: Yeah, his album is great.
And with that they all agree that Jackson Scott’s album is rather good. Checking their phones, the band realise they’ve had several missed calls from Ben, who is already at their practice space in Lambeth waiting for the others to turn up in preparation for their studio sessions, beginning next week with their exciting, mystery producer. They manage to squeeze in a few more Alan Partridge quotes before saying their goodbyes.
In this day and age it’s a tough one to stand out amongst the many guys with guitars, but Childhood’s special mix of dreamy indie-pop and captivating live shows have continued to catch the attention of bloggers, industry bods and average joes alike. With their debut album in the pipeline, we can be sure of seeing and hearing a lot more from them in the near future.
Words by Lauren Wilson