And now for something completely different. We stumbled upon Joey Herzfeld and some of Hooverville at the Carling Academy back in January. Their extraordinarily different sound, great musicianship and stage presence alienated half the crowd and transfixed the rest. Were they mental or brave musical pioneers? We couldn't resist snagging them for an interview purely on the basis of a song called "Cavity Search" and a frenetic gypsy dancing interlude. It went like this...
Who's in the band?
Me, Joey Herzfeld - I write and sing the songs. Dave O'Brien plays upright and electric bass, piano and does backing vocals. Jem Doulton plays drums and does backing vocals. Luke Barlow plays piano and sax. Alex Ward plays guitar and clarinet.
Whereabouts in London are you based and what's ace about it?
The band is dotted about across North London and I've been living in Stamford Hill for about six months now. I love it here - it's walking distance to Stoke Newington (packed with great Turkish restaurants and my mangy creative friends) but accommodation's much cheaper here and there are plenty of nice big houses.
It's also great being surrounded by the Hasidic Jewish Community. They're ultra-devout and I'm not religious at all but supposing they're right and I'm wrong I'll still be saved anyway. If there is a God he's bound to cut out the paperwork and save ALL of Stamford Hill. Plus I love Hasidic style. They've not found a great look for summer but otherwise they are the KINGS - the whole black hat, white shirt, dressing gown combo rules. (It's very two-tone. Very penguins on an ice-flow.) All those repellent ultra-trendy Hoxtonites should take tips from the Hasidic masters!
What are you up to at the moment?
We're just finishing off our first album, "Other People's Pain" and looking for a label to put it out. I've been wanting to do an album for about half my life so we've pulled out all the stops for this one - lush strings and horns, loads of songs. We've not DRENCHED it though - it's very much about the five-piece core. (You can hear some of the tracks here.)
Meanwhile I've been writing stacks of new stuff and we're well underway learning songs for the second album. We're getting more ambitious with arrangements - the band are all multi-instrumentalists so we can swap around. That means we've got an occasional horn-section now! (Very exciting for me.) We're also getting in guest musicians to mix it up - we've added a trumpet player for our next gig.
When I'm not writing new songs for the band I'm busy doing them for a musical I'm hoping to put on in the West-End later this year. Nothing too cheezy - more Shockheaded Peter than Les Mis!
What do you sound like?
Nothing else on Earth I hope! (Otherwise there's not much point in doing it.) We mix up a lot of styles - pre-war German cabaret, French chanson, swing, Klezmer, blues, full-on rock n roll, a dash of prog, country. At a push "cabaret-rock" is the best pithy description.
Why should we listen to you than every other new band out there?
If you're looking for songs about topics so unsexy no-one else will touch them with a
barge-pole: senile dementia, the humdrum life of being a teacher - plus bonkers flights of fancy - a murderer fleeing to Mexico, the last man on earth hanging eating in a deserted school canteen - we're the band for you.
What's your favourite London venue?
The Union Chapel. I love big spooky churches. It's a shame they aren't ALL rock venues.
What's your favourite record shop in London?
Sister Ray - obvious choice I know! (Sorry.)
What's your favourite club night in London?
Stranger than Paradise - fantastic Gypsy/Cabaret/Retro night compared by the sublimely insane Amanda. Always a great new theme. Always great outfits and fantastic acts. But if you are gonna come, do make the effort - we could do with one outpost of eccentricity to fend off the drab everyman army!
What's your favourite song so far this year?
A band called Red Smed befriended us on Myspace. Haven't met them but their song "Fat Bald Dave" is a work of inept genius. It will change your life.
What other new London bands/artists should we be checking out?
Well I share band members with a stack of great bands - Dead Days Beyond Help, Porpoise Corpus, Captain Strange, Player Piano, Candythief, Nought, The Luke Barlow Band. My friends alone are producing more good music in a week than they play on Radio 1 in a year. There's so much amazing stuff out there at the moment but you'd never know!
Finally, where can we see you playing next?
The Shaftesbury, 534 Hornsey Road, London N19 3QN. (Feb 9th 7pm - midnight) FREE!!
We're doing a fat hour-long set with the full five-piece plus additional trumpet on a song or two. Loads of brand new songs. I've organised the night myself and picked the acts - the other two bands, Alex Ward and the Dead Ends and The Cesarians are fantastic. We've got a few other gigs coming up but this one is MY BABY.
Decide for yourselves! For more information and gig listings go to myspace.com/joeyherzfeldandhooverville.