You may well have noticed already but there are a hell of a lot of new bands around these days.
Differentiating between all those Maccabees and Fratellis must be pretty difficult for the casual observer, but every now and then an act turns up with that extra something special. They used to call it the x-factor, before Simon Cowell came along and flushed a perfectly good phrase down the toilet.
Whatever the terminology, Cajun Dance Party definitely have it. The youthful North London quintet have enjoyed a rise that can confidently be described as meteoric, even in the modern indie climate. Formed for a school battle-of-the-bands competition 18 months ago, they recorded a tune called ‘The Next Untouchables’ at their first demo session, which then went onto their MySpace page and, within a week, led to a flurry of phone calls from major labels itching to know more.
It eventually emerged as a limited 7” on Way Out West back in April and was widely regarded as an early Single of the Year contender, by everyone from seasoned rock hacks to the huge ‘underage’ audience who’ve pounced on them like brightly-coloured hyenas. The follow-up single, a violin-soaked anthem called ‘Amylase’ is, dare we say it, even better. So assured, in fact, that a huge swathe of serious rock fans will soon be lauding it, then wondering if they’re allowed to like it, what with the Dance Party being so young and all...
“That pisses me off,” says floppy-haired frontman Danny Blumberg, looking slightly bewildered in a trendy London gastropub. “An interviewer asked me that the other day - ‘I’m 30, should I be embarrassed to listen to your music?’ - but if that was the case then the only record he’d be able to listen to would be the Fratellis’ debut album, and that would be embarrassing. Every great record was probably written by someone under 30. We’re one year younger than Kate Nash, and no-one asks her that. Music’s for the ears, it’s not for, er, feeling our young flesh.”
One older chap who did take an early interest was Bernard Butler, who contacted the band in the midst of that initial flurry of label interest. A timely intervention it was too, as the former Suede guitarist and all-round indie legend ended up producing ‘Amylase’, which certainly has the sort of grand orchestral sweep you’d expect from a Butler production. He’s now working on their debut album too, and is directing operations in a labyrinth-like underground recording studio when Clash comes to spirit Danny away.
Also in attendance are Robbie Stern, Cajun’s classically-trained lead-guitarist, string-arranger and creative heart (the Bernard Butler, if you like); keyboardist Katie Freund, who also doubles as their sleeve model because “she just has amazing dresses”; and, always last, bassist Max Bloom and drummer Will Vignoles.
Actually multi-instrumentalist Max was instrumental in Cajun getting together, as he’s the link between Blumberg and Bloom, a friend of the former and schoolmate of the latter. When Bloom decided to put a band together for his in-school competition, Danny was the obvious choice as frontman. Well, he’d done a bit of singing.
“I’d always played the piano and sung and stuff, but I’d never written any songs before,” says Blumberg. “I feel quite lucky and privileged, because I’d never really wanted to be in a band – it’d be like me saying I wanted to play for Spurs without ever learning to play football. ‘The Next Untouchables’, that’s the first song I’d ever written in my life. I’d never really listened to much music in my life either.”
Music’s for the ears, it’s not for feeling our young flesh.
Prompted by Bloom, though, he’s been doing the knowledge in recent weeks, genning up on The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Syd Barrett in particular. Which is possibly a bit of a shame, as Blumberg’s fresh approach is clearly a pivotal part of the Cajun sound, when married to Bloom’s obvious rock nous. Thankfully they’ve an album’s worth of material already written (“we’ve held our best songs back”) and they’ll be in the studio with Butler throughout the summer, working on their debut album.
Throughout the summer holidays, to be specific, as they’ve all got a year of A-levels still to negotiate, before giving this music lark their undivided attention. Danny is actually attending the school that previously spawned another hot indie prospect, Les Incompetents, who also formed for a battle-of-the-bands competition, but split up at the height of the buzz as various members went off to university instead. So might Cajun do the same? Do they dream of their studies while strumming away in the studio?
“Not at all, absolutely not. At school I’m always thinking about the next gig, writing lyrics and stuff. I can’t wait to finish now, as this is what I want to put all my energy and time into. I think it’s more rewarding than anything at school - although I’m not saying that people shouldn’t go to school. The rest of the band, I don’t think the label would have signed us for however many albums we got signed for if we all weren’t totally committed.”
How many albums did they get signed for? “Well… more than two. It’s a big commitment, for all of us. We’re Cajun Dance Party and we have been from the start, we’ve never had a different line-up and we never will.”
And, as Blumberg observes during our amiable amble back to the studio later on, they already have a 15-year lead on the Fratellis. So there’s no need to rush.