Two-thirds of the people in the record business might be frustrated musicians, but rarely does anyone make the transition from desk job to recording studio. Billy Reeves, founder member of theaudience and ex-press officer for Fire Records, is an exception. And his band's debut single, the limited edition dusky and enigmatic I've Got The Wherewithal for Mercury Records (out now), is receiving widespread praise. Reeves released an LP three years ago on Fire as The Congregation "a bunch of mates making a noise" but he describes this outfit as the real deal.
The five members of theaudience were recruited through a popular music industry indie club run by Reeves known as Uncle Bob's Wedding Reception. Most had served in other bands including drummer Patrick Hannan who was in The Sundays and Nyge Butler who sat in for The Charlatans while the late Rob Collins was in prison. The exception was 18-year-old singer Sophie Ellis Bextor, daughter of former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis, who turned up at the club armed with a tape after a tip-off from a mutual friend. Reeves says, "As soon as I got it I thought 'She looks fantastic, she's bound to be shit'. But I put the tape on in the car later: it was brilliant."
Ellis Bextor and Reeves cemented a writing partnership that rapidly spawned a set of songs. They produced their first demo 12 months ago for £110, mailed it to record companies and received instant encouragement. A couple of live performances later and offers were flooding in. Eventually the band signed to Mercury in June. A&R Alan Pell says, "I was attracted by a combination of things. Billy is a great songwriter in the traditional sense while Sophie has a superb voice and the sort of star quality that makes her destined for bedroom walls. They also have that X factor, the gut feeling you get when you hear something that's a cut above the rest."
One of Reeves' overriding demands was that the band release all material under their own l abel, eLLeFFe, a phonetic representation of the late former Music Week A&R editor Leo Finlay's initials. He was the first person to write about the band and a percentage of future profits are earmarked for his family. Adding to their pedigree, theaudience were also taken on by Manic Street Preachers/Catch manager Martin Hall after Pell played him their demos.
"Their songs sounded great," says Hall. The musical chemistry between Reeves and Ellis Bextor is a balance between two distinct types. Thirty-two-year-old Reeves admits to combining an almost bookish obsession with music to a love of out-there genres like krautrock, whereas 18-year-old Bextor provides a more instinctive approach. Reeves says, "I do the writing but Sophie takes it into the Nineties, she makes the ideas accessible. It's your classic pop marriage."
theaudience is currently ensconced in Blah Street studios in Surrey recording their first album, tentatively scheduled for late spring. Reeves is producing the bulk with Dave Bascombe mixing but Mike Hedges will also work on a handful of numbers. The band accept that it's early days. They recently completed a support slot with Monaco but they're still short of live experience. More supports will follow in the New Year along with the single A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed. By then everyone will be hoping theaudience have found one.
1998 | Dotmusic