Hooton Tennis Club - Q&A
We talk to Hooton Tennis Club as they release their second album, ‘Big Box Of Chocolates’ on Heavenly Recordings.
Produced by Edwyn Collins at his Clashnarrow Studios in Helmsdale, Scotland ‘Big Box of Chocolates’ may well be their coming-of-age. A record that retains all the colour and invention of their debut, while being elevated by richer instrumentation and lyrics hinting at slightly heavier themes: love and loss, nihilism and the ‘non-spaces’ of Northern England, all delivered in the band’s typically laconic, bittersweet style. Like a Mersey Beat Murakami if you will.
Recorded over three weeks in Helmsdale, during which time they grew beards, drank copious amounts of tea and became birdwatchers - the album reflects the band’s relaxed approach to songwriting. The band tend not to labour over recording demos or strumming and beating the life out of songs in the practice room. Instead, ideas are allowed to form spontaneously: melodies are hummed into phones or computers, lyrics batted back and forth between Ryan Murphy and James Madden, songs worked out alone in the bedroom, or layered up from scratch together in the studio.
Read on as we discuss the new album, the story behind their house party music video and a new dance move they’re perfecting for their upcoming tour.
Q. Greetings and salutations Hooton Tennis Club. Can you tell us the story about how you came together and what your ambitions were starting off?
Back when we were friends, we used to have fun playing music together. We'd have a great laugh trying to record as many songs as we could in a day, without getting distracted by The West Wing. There was no ambition at all for it to be anything other than that but things change, you become colleagues and the only good thing about the music is the quarterly PRS cheque flying into the bank account so you can buy a meal deal.
Q. Your new album, 'Big Box of Chocolates' is just out. Can you tell us a bit about it, the inspirations behind it and how it differs from your previous work, 'Highest Point in Cliff Town'?
We all thought: "Who doesn't like a present? Who doesn't like a box of chocolates? Who doesn't like a BIG box of chocolates!?", and then, inspired by Randy Newman, Big Star, Scott Walker, Tom Waits, Animal Collective, Pavement, J. J. Cale (and maybe even The Beatles), we made the album. It's different to 'Highest Point in Cliff Town' because it's a time-capsule from a different era in our lives, different things begin to effect you, which in turn is absorbed into our song writing.
Q. The first single off the album is Katy-Anne Bellis. Tell us a bit about who Katy-Anne is and the idea behind the smile-inducing, rhapsodic house party exuberance of the music video?
Katy-Anne is a great friend of ours! She lived in the house Ryan lives in now - the Garlic Mansion. She's a performer of sorts, she works with puppets and animates things with her hands, fingers, and sometimes toes! She's so warm and lovely and inviting and Ryan was genuinely saddened when she left the house. The music video is shot in that house; in the living room as a matter of fact. We like to have house parties from time-to-time. This felt like a good time to have one!
Q. 'Big Box of Chocolates' was produced by the legend that is Edwyn Collins. How did this collaboration come about and how was it working with the great man and what did he bring to the album?
Jeff Barrett from Heavenly Recordings put him forward for the job which we were more than happy to agree too. To put it simply, he is a legend with lots of analog vintage 60's gear based up in Helmsdale, north Scotland. We spent three weeks there drinking Whisky and going for long walks through the Highlands. The place isn't too dissimilar to Tracy Island, which made it an ideal way to record an album. Thunderbirds were go each and every day.
Q. You all live in the Merseyside area. Inevitably, there have already been comparisons to the Coral and even The LA's. How would you say the area of Merseyside has influenced your music (if at all) and do you see yourselves as part of the continuum of the area's rich musical heritage?
We're from a little industrial town named Ellesmere Port OR known by some as The Rossmore. When we we're young we all loved The Coral and bands from the Deltasonic label. They had a huge influence on our younger selves. It really is an inspiring place and to be part of the continuum would be a badge of honour!
Q. Just adding to the 'comparisons' theme - references have also been made to The Kinks and Ray Davies. What do you think it is about your writing style (both lyrically and musically) that draws such comparisons?
We tend to write very close to home and in the case of this song it was very close to home. There's something in the sincerity of writing about things you know and are experiencing, we're not great liars you see!
Q. You are about to embark on a UK and European tour. What can we expect to see from you and is there any particular place you are looking forward to playing most?
Well, new songs, a bass drum skin with our name on it, Callum's pirouette (he's been practicing since the last tour). We're particularly looking forward to playing at The Paradiso, Amsterdam for the 3rd time, we love that place!
Q. One of the first shows you played was at the Kazimier in Liverpool - sadly, like so many smaller, independent venues it is no more. Your forthcoming tour takes in a lot of these independent venues. How important are these types of venues and what do enjoy most in playing them?
Man, so important! They're easily the best venues to play. Usually everyone’s very welcoming and there's some kind interesting or weird story to the place that the owners/promoters tell you about!
Q. Finally, 'Hooten Tennis Club' were recently mentioned on Soccer AM - how flattering is it to have a tribute band so early in your careers?
It's lovely to have a tribute band, but come on lads, aren't you supposed to cover Led Zep or something…