They are three precociously talented sibling teenagers, on tour with their mum and dad. Dapper, quiet, polite and impeccably mannered, they cut an almost Enid Blyton-esque triumvirate figure, although the homespun image is rather punctured by the fact that they are narked that they can’t get ciggies on their rider. They are Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, and they came to rock and roll. But they do NOT appreciate being called “rockabilly” thank you very much. “We’re not rockabilly. Journalists use that word because it’s easy,” observes Lewis, the chatty one. “They see quiffs and want to compress all our influences into one word,” adds sister Daisy, the street-savvy one. “We play music from the ’20s right through to the ’60s. But they just call us rockabilly.” Kitty, the quiet one, nods in agreement.
Lewis is chuffed that State’s photoshoot in a barber shop has given him the opportunity to avail of a free hot towel shave. As a result he looks about 12.
Kitty, Daisy & Lewis are sitting in their dressing room at the Button Factory. Occasionally Kitty will toddle over to the mirror to add some more hairspray to her already impressive hairdo. Lewis roots through the fridge for a can of lager then jams for a bit with his dad. Eddie Thornton, the Jamaican trumpeteer who will shout the phrase “NICEY NICEY NICEY!” as he joins them onstage later, is having a snooze on a sofa in the corner. As a family band on the road you’d expect things to be tense, but apart from a mild tiff during the soundcheck, everyone is relaxed. Lewis is chuffed that State’s photoshoot in a barber shop has given him the opportunity to avail of a free hot towel shave. As a result he looks about 12.
The trio started out as a band in London, gravitating towards the music scene around Mario’s Cafe, the Camden caff immortalized in song by Saint Etienne on their So Tough album (its owner Mario formed a band called Mario’s Cafe which still gigs). Under the influence of fellow band members Mum (Ingrid, on bass) and Dad (Graham on guitar), they learned to play “songs that were easy to pick up. Three chord stuff.” Like dedicated students of music they toured clubs and asked permission to get off school to go on jaunts around the country. “But we didn’t make a big deal of it at school,” Daisy maintains. “Our classmates knew we were in a band but there was never any fuss about it”.
Soon they were signed to a proper record label and towards the end of 2008 they got the chance to put out a CD. The band received audio help from lab-coated boffin Liam Watson of Toe Rag Studios and the resulting, self-titled, album was one of the most vibrant funk-pop-a-roll records in years; a fusion of jazz, old style rhythm and blues and zippy rock and roll. Lewis reckons they were “really lucky” to find such an accommodating label. “Sunday Best are great. They let us do what we like. There’s no pressure on us to sound like this or that”. That first record clocked in at less than half an hour but their forthcoming long-player Smoking In Heaven is a full hour in length – and with added ska! – which by this band’s standards is, I suggest, an endeavour of prog-rock style proportions. Snorts of derisive laughter are heard from dad Graham, who clearly has no truck with the world of mellotrons and Roger Dean artwork.
All but two of the songs on the first album were covers, but having run out of old songs to play the trio decided to write some nifty tunes of their own. “We tried using computers to record the new album but it sounded crap,” Daisy states bluntly. A bunch of confessed vintage audiophiles, they issued the debut album as a set of 78rpm 10″ vinyl discs. “There are good, audio reasons for doing that,” offers Lewis, before Daisy adds that “they’re not made of the same material old 78s are made of. They can’t make them like that anymore.” The band came up with new material by jamming along to their favourite riffs. While they are indebted to the records which they listened to as they grew up, it’s fair to say grime, chillwave and X Factor are not on this lot’s radar. Or as Lewis puts it: “We don’t really listen to much contemporary music, but we are still discovering older stuff”.
One of the most striking things about the Kitty, Daisy and Lewis live “experience” is, to be a bit muso-y about it, how tight the band are. This is the end result of years of dedication to their playing but, as Lewis points out, their musical passion was never in conflict with their regular schooling. “There was one teacher in particular who was really supportive. You couldn’t sleep through class, but if you needed time off to go and play a gig somewhere he understood.”
They’ve all left school now. Touring is an education in itself. “A bad is gig is when you don’t connect to the audience”, Lewis explains. “We did a show in New Zealand and mum got sick near the end of the show, so we were left without a double bassist. We continued to play on but we’d lost that connection with the crowd”.
What’s been the best gig then? “There isn’t one that sticks out, because they’ve all been crap! Haha!” he chortles somewhat unconvincingly, before asking for some input from his dad. “Dad, can you remember any great gigs?”, he asks. “I’m not being interviewed!” comes the dad’s chirpy but firm response. The trio have toured widely too; playing clubs in England – “blues crowds and rock crowds are no different, and we attract people of all ages,” beams Kitty – as well as European outdoor festivals (“We always go down really well in Germany and Spain,” says Daisy). And when they take to the boards in Dublin after speaking to State, the audience go wild. As well they might, because the band are actually properly brilliant, swapping instruments, human beatboxing, harmonizing fabulously and looking completely utterly fantastic, as pop stars should do.
Who would they contact at a seance? Lewis would like to contact “Jesus. Why? To see if he’s on the other side. To see if he’ll pick up.”
Yes, yes, yes but who would they contact at a seance? Lewis would like to contact “Jesus. Why? To see if he’s on the other side. To see if he’ll pick up.” Much mirth ensues. Daisy’s face wrinkles when I ask how important fashion is to the band’s image. “This is just how we dress,” she protests, sounding a tad miffed. And do you turn heads as you wander down the street? “Not really,” says Lewis. “Well, maybe Kitty might. Har har!” “Shut up!”, says an embarrassed Kitty.
When they’re not living the rock and roll lifestyle they watch telly. “Come Dine With Me!”, squeals Daisy when I inquire after her extra-musical televisual viewing activities. Would they be inclined to appear on the celebrity version of said show? “Oh no”, muses Lewis, “I hate people coming up and saying things to me like ‘oh you’re that guy out of that band'”. “But there’s always someone at the hob in our house”, Daisy assures us. The entertainment tonight has been tremendous, the band make for excellent company – it’s a resounding 10 out of 10 from State.