Giant Killers

What are your names? 
M: I’m Michael, but you can call me Mike – my surname is Brown – I so wish I’d given myself a glam sounding stage name. 
J: I’m Jamie. My surname is Wortley – which is pronounced as if the O is an E. 
M: Pedantic is his middle name.

What is the band’s name?
M: Giant…
J: Killers

How did you come up with the band’s name? 
M: The name has an appeal for anyone who has had to overcome forces bigger than themselves to achieve a certain goal – the David versus Goliath struggle.
J: We’ve cast ourselves as the David role, because let’s face it, everybody likes an underdog to do well – especially when the odds are massively stacked against you .
M: And being successful in the field of popular music, is such a battle, when you think about the commoditised nature of the music industry. It’s harder for an independent artist to make a crust, if they have to compete against the huge corporations to cut through to an audience.
J: And our long struggle to bring Songs for the Small Places into the light could be seen as a feat of Giant Killing.

What is your genre of music?
M: I’d say we’re Indie Pop. It’s what all the reviews are saying too.
J: And I’d agree with that. But we didn’t really compose the songs with a genre in mind.
M: They just came out that way – we’re song first, genre last.

Give us a little bio about you.
M: We spent our late teens and throughout our twenties in the back of a van, on the road, in studios and on stages – we achieved two major recording deals. We experienced many of the things we aspired to as young musician starting out…
J: Doing TV, playing festivals, hearing your songs on the radio, meeting your musical heroes. We’ve played Glastonbury, we’ve been on Saturday Morning TV shows, we’ve toured with Blur, Squeeze, Nick Heyward. We were even given away as a sticker in Smash Hits magazine.
M:  As good as all this was, ultimately,  we got dumped by MCA, our second label for not selling enough music. And that happened to us, not once but twice. The first time we were signed to Arista.
J: We’ve finally got the rights back to our compositions – which took a little longer than originally anticipated.
M: Nearly three decades, and now we are releasing those compositions – Songs for the Small Places – on our own label – Little Genius Recordings. 

What made you go into music?

M: That’s easy, we were working-class dream chasers with no academic qualifications and only a brief career in glass to fall back on…

J: That’s right, Mike worked in a Grimsby double glazing factory while I cleaned the town’s windows. In one sense we were destined to be together. We didn’t have that much else going for us…

M: Music seemed to suggest a potential road to glory – it was the only thing we were good at.

Who are your influences?
I love any great singer, Nat King Cole, Sinatra, James Brown, George Michael, Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone, but also, anyone who understands a melody – I don’t mind a bit of Manilow or Buble if I’m honest. Love a musical too
M: I’m going with Bowie, almost anything from the canon of UK and US Punk and New Wave, Roxy Music, as my first instrument is a sax, I’ve listened to lots of Jazz, and Swing, but love a bit of Disco and Dance too. I’m musically promiscuous! Have a soft spot for Beyonce  and Taylor Swift – two of the best gigs I’ve been too.

Are you a signed?
M: As we alluded to earlier – we’ve done the major label thing twice.
J: But now were strictly independent.
M: Little Genius Recordings is our label – we’re the A&R
J: And also the artist. We’ve signed ourselves.
M: Which I guess is an extreme form of nepotism.

You released your debut album ‘Songs For The Small Places’, tell us more about the album and the meaning behind the album.
M: Songs for the Small Places celebrates how where you come from shapes your outlook. For example, the lead track opens with the lines; Outside the shops and round the blocks, the kids who spit and smoke a lot are staring out the local cops, it’s bad – which suggests some tensions caused by a lack of opportunity. You could read that as a dig, but it evolves to celebrate the qualities of resilience and community you get in the kind of places we’re from
J: These are valuable qualities because, as the album draws on, failure is a more likely outcome than success, 
M: Exactly, and also how you always carry a little bit of that place with you, no matter how far you travel, or grow as a person. Songs for the Small Places is about the person you might evolve into, your future potential so to speak, while celebrating the person you used to be.
J: Which is what some of the reviews are picking up on – Louder Than War referred to it as a kind of nostalgia for the future. It’s about loving who you are and where you’re from. But also, to not be confined by those things. Which is a journey that’s universal to everyone.

Describe each track in two words.
M: Can we cheat here and use two words to describe the whole album – it is a thematic piece of work after all. Each track is related to the other.
J: I’m going to pick two adjectives from a recent review – which are sweeps and swoons.
M: They’re great adjectives. In that case, I’m going to follow your lead from another review and up the ante with a bit of alliteration – vivid vignettes.
J: Nice.

What was the writing and recording process like?
J: The writing was interesting – we wrote most of the songs using a guitar that Butch Vig had played. He was a legend to us as he produced Nevermind. Maybe the spirit of our songs contains a little bit of Nirvana too.
M: The guitar in question belonged to our mate Simon Gunning – an artist manager who looked after Butch Vig’s later incarnation as Garbage. He shared an office with our then manager, and he kept the guitar in a corner. We knocked around the place after office hours, actually we lived in an empty office down the corridor…
J: it was rent free, no curtains at the window, but we couldn’t be fussy as we had lost our first record deal, and there wasn’t much money around. It proved inspirational for writing because we didn’t want to continue living like this – we thought we were writing our way out of poverty.
M: We used that guitar to write a few of the tunes on ‘Songs for the Small Places.’ Because we’d seen Butch playing it a couple of times while visiting Simon on business, we hoped a little of his magic would rub off from his fingers and onto our artistic endeavours.

Who did you work with on the album?
M: The recording started with the demos first – for that we went up to an old stomping ground – Fairview Studios in Hull to work with an old friend, an amazing engineer and a very talented producer too – he’s called John Spence. When we brought those ideas back down to London we worked with other musicians to convert the stuff on the demos, which was mainly programmed music, to that very analogue live sound that is getting all the good praise in the album reviews. 

Are we expected to see any music videos from any of the tracks off the album and if so, can you tell us more about what can we expect from the creative process? 
M: Actually, there is one we’re using from back in the day, you can see it on our YT channel. The song Time of our Lives was written as a critique of the party life, and to some degree, the so called rock and roll lifestyle – it particularly attempts to focus on adult rights of passage associated with going out – especially around the narrow focus motivation of trying to meet sexual partners – it seeks to put a question mark at the end of the phrase, ‘the time of our lives’ – to ask is this actually ‘the time of our lives?’ 
J: In the video we attempt to play a couple of hapless, comedic characters with a singular mindset and motivation of the sort you wouldn’t struggle to find in clubs and bars even in the present day. These characters are contrasted with our ‘cooler’ (at least in our view) onstage personas as band members playing live on the Madame Jojo’s stage – a gig we did several times over the years. 
M: In retrospect, our acting skills are possibly not strong enough to convey that the two characters we play in the club, are meant to be totally different people to the two of us in the band.
J: A reworked version of this song appears on Songs for the Small Places.

Do you have any live shows coming up? 
M: There are only two of us, and it’s a well produced album, we’d need to bring in a few other musicians to recreate that sound
J: Which means we will need to fund this if we are to tour it seriously –we’ll need to see how the album picks up over the course of the year.
M: That said we are looking at a couple of shows – one in Brighton and another in London.
J: We are playing acoustically on Patrick Kielty’s show on Radio 5 in a couple of weeks – it will be live from the BBC’s live lounge.

Let us know where we can get tickets if so.
J: We’ll have to keep you posted on that one.

What else can we expect in 2024?
M: We have to work the album first – we’re currently engaged in getting some good reviews at press, music blogs and fan sites.
J: We have two singles from the album in pipeline before the year is out, and some additional material, what used to be called B-sides, that will come along with them. We’re hopeful of leveraging the critical acclaim to maximise our potential to get on some radio playlists.
M: And we’d like to win the Mercury Music Prize.
J: Wow! That’s a bold statement. You heard it here first.

Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
M: We have more material to bring to the world – after Songs for the Small Places, we set off on a quest to write a collection of new ways of looking at the subject of Love – which is interesting as a writer as it’s the most common thematic in popular music.
J: Which makes it ripe for a bit of shaking up. We’re looking forwards to bringing that collection out into the light in the future.
M: And we’d like to develop the label – Little Genius – as a vehicle for other artists, who we know to have been, let’s say bruised by the business of music, but whose work deserves to be heard, but may not fit with what is held to be fashionable.

What quote or saying do you always stick by?
M: Keep moving forwards. Be Kind – this latter one is aspirational – I’m not always kind. Working on it though.
J: Sing when your winning. And when your losing.

When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget? 
M: An open mind and sturdy shoes. Ruined so many pairs of trainers down the front of a show.
J: Why an open mind?
M: People just want to hear the hits – give the new stuff a chance and mix it up – don’t stick to seeing bands in your favourite genre only.
J: I’m going to say tickets, and a sense of generosity when it comes to showing your appreciation for the band on stage
M: And don’t forget to buy some merch – it’s often the only way an artist earns any money

Do you have social media accounts so your fans can follow you?

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