Jamie Lenman [Interview]

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Of all the shows I caught during Independent Venue Week, Jamie Lenman’s Saturday night acoustic set at the Boileroom in Guildford most effectively captured the community spirit celebrated by IVW. Intimate, emotional, and packed with Lenman fans old and new, it was a genuine experience made truly special by a level of audience interaction which was not only extremely rare, but spontaneous. Heartbreaking songs, humour, and the sense of a few hundred people being in something together; small-scale shows just don’t get much better than that.

After Jamie Lenman’s set, TMMP caught up with the man of the night to discuss community, the Boileroom, the up-and-coming bands currently rocking his world, and what Jamie Lenman may (or may not) get up to later this year…

That was a hell of a show! How’re you feeling right now?

I feel really good. I’ve only just decompressed. It’s hard doing a show that’s 45 minutes, because 45 minutes is like halfway through your normal show, or maybe toward the end, so it’s like the peak time. And so to stop there, it’s like “Uh, where does all that adrenaline go?”

Usually at the end of a show you’re worn out, but I was just getting to it. And I don’t have so many songs that I can play on my own, and I had to rework some, because it’s just me on my own. So yeah, it was great and I had a lot of fun, and there was a lot of energy with nowhere to go afterwards. That’s something I hadn’t really considered.

When was the first time you played the Boileroom?

Well, I’m pretty sure the first time I played the Boileroom was when I was playing drums in a band called Caretaker. I don’t know if I played here with Reuben, so it would’ve been on drums with Caretaker. I don’t think I played here right up until we did a secret gig here with my band at the end of 2013.

So I would have played with Caretaker around 2007, and then six years later, [the Boileroom] was one of two venues I asked if we could do a sort of practice run for the tour. And we did a show here, unannounced. I was shitting myself. I really was. But this was a really safe place to do that [show].

Actually, I think I’ve only played the Boileroom four times – four times! But I’m here so often, it feels like I’ve played it many many times.

What do you enjoy most about playing in smaller venues?

Homeliness. I mean, this [gestures around his dressing room, which doubles as a kitchen for the couple who live in the Boileroom] is actually someone’s living space. So it’s very comfy. And in a venue like this that has a kitchen attached and in this case a takeaway, some of the smaller venues like King Tut’s – which is actually a big small venue because it can expand its occupancy depending on what you want, I think it’s similar to here, but they have a kitchen attached so you get a good meal, and it’s so important.

I’m not really in a struggling touring band anymore, but even though I’ve just come down the road, to have a hot meal at this show is really great. So that’s lovely, and [the Boileroom is] full of people – I was here hours before the doors opened and usually I’d just be siting around like a mug, but here I could chat away to [Boileroom owner] Dom and Olly [now-former Head of Sound] and just hang out at the venue.

Then, when I went onstage and did the set, I realised that that room is so small and it’s crammed full of people; there were so many people, but I could see all of their faces. Right to the back, I could see everyone’s face, and I wish I knew all of their names – I felt like I did, almost. And I could connect – I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I felt like I had a direct line to everyone, even the guys stood around the corner [from the stage].

That was really nice, and there’s something about acoustic shows as well. I need to do more acoustic shows; I really enjoyed it. A direct connection, yeah.

What’s your favourite Boileroom-related memory?

I’m sure this will sound cheesy as well, but there have been so many. I’ve had such good fun here – they had a Forties-themed New Year’s party one year, and that was great. I think there were hot dogs…anything with food makes me happy.

I think if we’re talking recently, I came here to see Empress AD, and supporting them was a band called Black Peaks. I can’t get enough of them, and I can’t tell enough people how good they are. And they’re an example, shall we say, because I’ve heard a few, where you go to see a main band but you should make sure you turn up for the supports, because you might get blown away, and I was by Black Peaks. At least recently, it was one of the big moments at the Boileroom where I thought “Oh fuck, man!”

[Black Peaks] were really amazing, and to be blown away like that…again, a couple of months later I came down to see In Dynamics, and supporting them were Rootwork. And again I was like “Who the fuck is this?!” They were amazing. So I make sure I turn up early to see the supports, and I never check them out beforehand, because I want to be surprised. I don’t do research [before shows] – I don’t agree with that. And again, this great band who I’d never heard of exploded into my life.

So I’d go with those as my fondest memories. But you know what, and this sounds cheesy as well, I think tonight is going to be my fondest memory. Because that gig I just played, it was so much fun – and the vibrations were so good coming off of everyone and big big smiles and lots of laughter, and everyone had so much fun, me included, so maybe that will trump it as my favourite Boileroom memory.

If you had to convince someone who’s never been to a small gig before, someone who maybe just goes to festivals and that’s it, to go to a local show, what would you say?

I would say, oddly enough, that in a local show there’s a sort of strange twinning…not all festivals but some festivals that a lot of people really like, say 2000 Trees or ArcTanGent, which have worked hard to engender a sense of community…you will find that [sense of community] at these [smaller] shows that you won’t get at Brixton Academy or say, G Live. Not to knock G Live, but it’s a big shiny venue whereas [the Boileroom], like I said, it’s someone’s home.

You find that sense of community and friendship that you do at some of the bigger, homespun festivals [in smaller venues]. So actually in a way they’re a good match; I got a similar feeling playing that show tonight [to the feeling] I did when I was at 2000 Trees and ArcTanGent. Just people who love music, any kind of music, and I’d never heard the two supports before who supported me tonight, and they were both great, and I met them too, they’re really nice people…community is really the buzzword there.

I know you’ll get asked this a lot, but what are your plans for the rest of 2015?

For 2015 I have even fewer plans than I had for 2014. But at the beginning of 2014 people asked me the same question and I said “Dunno!” But I ended up doing a single and a tour and five or six festivals and odd shows dotted around. They were all great fun, and I had a good time.

Across [last] year, I didn’t tour as hard as I did with Reuben, but I played a lot of shows. And this year, again there’s nothing planned. But who knows?

Between you and me – and everyone who reads this – I would be open to playing some acoustic shows, because I think I’ve now got enough songs to make that float on its own. I just got this lovely guitar from Fender, and I’ve done a couple of [acoustic] shows now, with another one here [at the Boileroom] last year. So it’s a more direct connection. After rocking last year I don’t want to go back to the same places and rock them again – but maybe I’d do some of the same festivals but in a different capacity, as an acoustic act, and then people could see a different slant on things.

I’d quite enjoy it if that were to happen. But as I said, there’s no plans.

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Posted on 03 February 2015

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