Nine For 2009 – The Invisible

"Our own TV On The Radio" talk about their unique sound...

Attracting plaudits though they have been for some months, London trio The Invisible seem to have been missed by many in the annual tipping wars. Well, not by Clash.

Comprising Dave Okumu, Dave Herbert and Leo Taylor, the band’s fusion of true soul and pop-savvy modern rock has led sharp-eared critics to label them our own TV On The Radio. High praise, but deserved: Okumu’s precise guitar work (see them live and be dazzled) is laid atop similarly accomplished percussion – the kind that dances about you, rather than pummels senseless – while rumbling bass provides a solid backbone for said partners to cling to. The effect is intoxicating – coming on slow, but striking most sweetly.

The band’s debut album, a self-titled effort out in March, is preceded by the release of single ‘London Girl’ on February 16. Here, funk collides with the best post-punk, twitchy guitar lines finding space between Okumu’s warm vocals – The Guardian has claimed it to be the single of the year, already. Both come your way via Accidental, the label helmed by acclaimed electro artist Matthew Herbert.

The Invisible’s first live date of 2009 will be at the next Clash Saturday Social, on January 31 at the Notting Hill Arts Club’s RoTa afternoon. Find full details of the free-entry event, which runs from 4pm ‘til 8pm and also features Brontide and Three Trapped Tigers live, HERE

Clash dropped Dave Okumu an e-mail full of questions, and he kindly replied…

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The Invisible – ‘London Girl’

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As is the nature of introductory pieces, let’s begin with some background. How and when did the band come together? A meeting of likeminded fellows? Was there always a sound in mind, even before the three began playing together?

The Invisible started taking shape towards the end of 2006. Leo (drums) and I had been touring with Matthew Herbert having recorded ‘Scale’. Matthew expressed an interest in producing my first record. We talked about a solo project, but my real desire was to start a band. Tom (bass), Leo and I go back a long way, having played in different bands together and hung out since school. I love playing with them so it felt very natural to involve them as an integral part of the record. Fortunately, through the process of recording, we became a band.

I think our friendship was certainly a strong foundation for our musical union, as well as the fact that we had done much of our formative musical exploration together.

There was never any agenda with the sound other than to be ourselves. Shaping the sound, with Matthew’s invaluable assistance, has been a bit like creating our own language: one which reflects whatever we love, whatever inspires us, and whatever we care about.

You’re looking likely to succeed in bridging pigeonholes, with critics uncomfortable bracketing the band rock or dance. Is this something that was intentional at the outset, to create music that can’t be neatly boxed? Or have your songs developed in a manner entirely of their own, organically, and you can’t recall how they got there?

I think pigeonholes exist to serve a specific function: to make things more palatable, easy to digest. Categorisation can be a really useful way of allowing people a way in to engage with what you’re doing. I think people appreciate the simplicity that the boundaries of definition engender. But there is also something really unnatural about shoehorning expression into a category for the sake of convenience. After all, we are all unique and this is what makes us special. I’m not particularly interested in emulating someone else’s sound when you could just go to the source and listen to that. I’d rather try and make something that clearly reflects who I am and let the listener make their mind up about what they think it is. All my favourite music has its own sound. Hopefully we do too. Our sources of inspiration are pretty broad and varied and I guess that imbues our sound with those qualities. Hopefully this occurs in a distilled and focussed way.

Would you say that your sound is the product of genuinely varied influences? Many bands come together through sharing tastes, and subsequently many bands are boring; but you do sound like each member brings something different to the mix.

I think collectively our influences are very varied but I think there are fundamental qualities that really resonate with us. We love music that feels like it has substance and integrity, whether it’s pop, experimental, electronic or whatever, it’s just so powerful when it feels real, like something you can believe in. In this sense I think there is a real unity in our vision of music.

There’s a studio sheen to tracks like ‘London Girl’ that comes through – is it a hope to recreate this slickness live, all the time, or are you happy to roughen the edges of these songs from time to time? Generally, how do you find taking your songs into the live arena, and do you write with performance in mind?

For us, the studio is one thing and the live setting is another. There is certainly a thread of continuity between the two, but there is no desire to faithfully recreate the record when we’re gigging. We approach gigs much more as an interpretation of the record. That way the material can take on a new life and stay fresh. It’s a lot of fun selecting the elements from the record we wish to replicate and which parts we want to revamp. It feels like there’s so much to play around with and that’s very exciting. I love the roughness and element of surprise that a gig can introduce to proceedings. Every room is different, every audience is different. It’s nice to feel like you’re engaged in a fluid dialogue with these elements and I think, sometimes, if you’re too rigid in your approach it can inhibit that dialogue.

Matthew Herbert worked with you on the album, and you’re releasing via Accidental. What are the roots of this relationship?

Leo introduced me to Matt having worked with him on ‘Plat Du Jour’. I ended up working on ‘Scale’ and touring with Matt and Leo. Matt and I became really good friends and it felt like a very natural progression to make a record together.

As we’re in the season of tips, do you have any tips for the year yourself? Any great bands you love that we should be listening out for?

We run a night in New Cross at The Montague Arms called Coronary Crumpage. Most of the bands who have played there have completely blown my mind. These include Alice Grant and the Cool Dudes, Serafina Steer, Micachu, Anna Calvi, Olivia Chaney, Finn Peters, Room of Katinas and Def Langoustine. We also love The Golden Silvers – their live shows are off the chain. All life-changing for me, and deserving of the widest possible platform.

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Find The Invisible on MySpace HERE and see them live at the Clash Saturday Social @ RoTa on January 31, details HERE.

The full Nine For 2009 set of interviews, for you slow sorts at the back…

The Invisible (you’re looking at it)

Hudson Mohawke

Micachu & The Shapes


Three Trapped Tigers


Drums Of Death


Amazing Baby

What, no White Lies? Look HERE. Florence and her Machine can eff right off, mind.

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