Support bands aren't meant to blow you away. We weren't even meant to catch the support, but our timing was off, and we thought the Spree were on early. And then they disappeared off the radar almost as soon as they left the stage. So when an email arrived announcing a couple of Last Man Standing gigs at Madame JoJos (the next is tomorrow night), we had to ask: do you mean that Last Man Standing. The answer, luckily, was yes.
So off we toddled to see whether we'd get the same feeling of a smokey bar room band, put together by Nick Cave, influenced by a strange mixture of jazz, soul, ragtime, glam, Bowie, good old rock'n'roll and Beatles-esque pop led by a man who may or may not have spent a large part of his youth watching Marc Bolan and Frank Zappa, whilst possibly having dabbled in the odd metal album or two. The answer, luckily, was yes.
With the seven or so members practically falling off the tiny Madame JoJos stage, the band stormed through the bulk of their forthcoming debut album: False Starts And Broken Promises led by the gently self-depracating Max Vanderwolf. Completely out of step with the current vogue for jagged guitar attacks, Last Man Standing opt for an older school performance, with Max in the role of revivalist preacher, urging his congregation on to do nothing more than have a dance, a snog, and a damn good time. And, luckily, we did.
Listening to an advance copy of the album (release date dependent on someone out there releasing it - come on folks), and we're met with the same feelings. The Bowie and Beatles influences ring out on tracks like The Climb and A Man Condemned, whilst overall we wouldn't feel ashamed in saying that there's a sense of Dave Lowry's excellent Cracker played by the key elements of the aforementioned Polyphonic Spree. In other words, they're a damn fine band and worthy of a trip to Madame JoJos tomorrow night. It's a strong claim to be 'London's Best Unsigned Band', but for now at least, we're not arguing with them.
We have a special preview of their current highly limited single Waiting So Long for you to listen to, and if you're lucky we may stick the awesome 7 minute Go Home up on the Juke Box page in a few days. Meanwhile, we caught up with Max to talk about life with Last Man Standing and the terrible truth about The Polyphonic Spree. Over the jump for some potentially life saving advice for when the robe revolution comes.
Where does the name come from?
A lot of stumbling about along the human highway
Who's in the band?
An assortment of downtrodden & bedraggled misfits most of them named Andre, Artemis, or Quint. The guitarist is Cordoba. It is said he once killed a man with his guitar. My name is Max Vanderwolf.
What do you do in the real world?
I like funny movies, reciting sonnets, holding hands, long walks on the beach, a drink at the colony room, and imagining myself as cultural dictator. It can be very time-consuming. I don’t have time for much else.
Describe your sound to us:
Soundtrack to someone's downfall. Its full-tilt rockin and veers recklessly into the fragile, its all delicately laced with 10 different flavours of bitterness.
How did you all get together?
Who are your influences?
Max Biallystock, Cab Calloway, Leon Russell, Tex Avery, Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant, Devo, Robyn Hitchcock, Morricone, John Barry, Brecht-Weill, Lewis Carroll, Emmit Kelly Jr., Mott The Hoople, James Booker, Egon Schiele, The Kinks, Ian Dury and the 5 or 6 contemporary bands that are willing to stand up against the rising tide of corporate indie-rock conformity. George Harrison occasionally visits me from the beyond to help out when I'm writing a song.
Is it true you're friends with Tim DeLaughter of the Polyphonic Spree. If that's the case, what's it like being on the road with those guys. Weird hippy dippy cult, or loveable loons in robes?
They abducted my sister. Several of my friends have succumbed to their ways. They're dangerous people. Don’t let those angelic faces and bold anthems of self-realization fool you. Those people will take over this world faster than the Chinese. Make sure you look good in a robe. They cant be stopped.
What's the greatest lyric you've ever written?
Someone from Holland, that’s been very supportive of the band told me they live by: I don’t know where I'm going and there's no place that I'd rather be.
What's the state of play with the band at the moment?
R2R (ready to rock)
Where can we hear / see you next?
March 1st at Madame JoJo's.
What's the big game plan for the band?
Self-sustenance has to be the main objective for any artist. We're starving. We need to hit the road hard and show the world what a full-on rock show is all about. Once thats established I call launch my secret plan for making everyone wear mauve.
Who would you most like to support?
We'd go down well with fans of Calexico, Nick & The Bad Seeds, Kings of Leon, Macy Gray, Rufus Wainwright, Zutons, White Stripes, Lambchop,
What's your ultimate label to be on?
Gods'…he's almighty…never a change of upper management. He's got the ultimate rolodex. Can pull lots of favors and get you on the best tours, tv, etc.
What's the best gig you've ever been to?
The Who….Patti Smith…Vic Chesnut…too many..don’t get me started..
Have you ever thrown a TV out of a hotel window?
No but I threw my back out trying
Would you like to?
Once I'm through with my physical therapy…I'm training…I lift a small TV everyday in preparation for the real thing. My coach trained Keith Moon.
Any great stories from the road?
Nah…just the same wacky nonsense you've heard from every other band.
Recommend one album to our readers you don't think they will have discovered:
Not sure how deeply informed your readership is so: Cardinal for the deeply informed..they recorded one record in 1994…its gorgeous. Rockbottom by Robert Wyatt for those a bit wet behind the ears.
Why should Londonist readers go and see you?
Its a party…you get to suffer with me and laugh at how miserable we all are. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
What's your favourite...
...venue to play In London?
Koko was pretty rockin wasn’t it?
...venue to go to in London?
Any place you can get more than a Carling or a Grolsch at the bar— and wherever they invest their booze money in a good sound system.
Everyone probably says Rough Trade so i'll say Mole's Jazz..they still going?
What advice would you give Nicky Gavron until Ken's back?
Stop lying to us about why the tubes cant run all night. Stop selling out London culture and London lives to globalism.
What London place or thing would you declare a landmark?
All of Camden Lock, Camden Stalls, Camden Electric Ballroom. Keep Camden rock n roll!
The world is ending in 24 hours. How would you spend your last day in London?
Getting out probably.
Have you ever been sick on the Tube?
No but I'm sick of the Tube.
If you could lose one part of London, which part would it
The perpetual scam of it all.
Greatest thing ever to come out of London?
ROCK MUSIC- Jah bless the UK, Jah bless London…
What advice would you give to someone new to London getting on a night bus for the first time?
Speak to Cordoba my guitarist. He practically lives on those things.
If you wrote a song about London what would it be called and what kind of song would it be?
I think I might call for some kind of consumer revolution. Londoners pay so much for so little and come back for more blind and dazzled by media-hype and Big Brother. The mark-up on goods, the parking violations conspiracy, the selling out of small businesses to large chains, all short-sighted. I wont be writing about my auntie serving me tea in the living room light…leave that to Ray Davies. He's the best. I'm hopelessly yankee.
Sum up London in just one word:
Marc Bolan said it best: it’s a RIP-OFF
If you want more information about Last Man Standing you can email them at this address
If you're a band looking to get coverage in Londonist, get in touch with the music team, after reading these handy tips on How To Get Into Londonist's Music Posts.