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Nottingham’s Spotlight Kid is a modern shoegaze band with no less than three guitarists (Chris Moore, Karl Skivington, and Rob McCleary), real drums (Chris Davis), bass (Matt Holt), and the divine singer Katty Heath. Critics like to come up with all sorts of comparisons, and I am no different. I cut my teeth on 90s shoegaze, so of course I hear Ride, Lush, and even The Pale Saints. My Bloody Valentine is a given, but the band also grooves to modern acts as mentioned in the interview.
They first caught my interest early last year thanks to my music friend John Norris, and their music unfolded like a beautiful flower on my dream pop playlist. I hope after reading this interview and listening to the video and audio clips I’ve included, you add them to your playlist as well. Thanks to Rob McCleary for agreeing to this interview.
So you named your band after a Captain Beefheart album. How large a part does Captain Beefheart play in your sound, if at all? Because you just know every music writer is going to ask about this or mention it.
ROB: Not much at all, we have a little bit of psychedelia in some of the track,s but it was never a major influence on us. Like you say, we get asked about it all the time, but it’s a great record and a great name for a band.
Can you give us a capsule summary of how Spotlight Kid got started, from the ashes of Six by Seven to your current lineup?
ROB: We met with Chris D (Six by Seven) when we went to see Six by Seven play in Madrid. He was looking for a full band for a project that he had been working on for a few years as a studio band, and we had just finished a record with our old band so we joined up. Matt joined about a year ago, and we have been the same ever since.
How difficult is it to work together with members being geographically dispersed?
ROB: It’s not as bad as you would think. We demo the songs in our studio, which we can use whenever we want. Matt (who lives in London) is back every other weekend, so we can get down and record. We tend to email Katty tracks, and she can add her vocal on. We don’t tend to write tracks all in one room so this works. I would like us to get some more tracks written as a full band for the new record.
I hear Ride, MBV, Pale Saints, and even Lush tossed into the sonic mix. Do you have any particular favorites in the dream pop/shoegaze genre?
ROB: Personally I love newer shoegaze such as Autolux, Beach House, Amusement Parks on Fire, M83, and A place to bury strangers. They are all great new bands that have inspired us a little.
You’ve released music on a number of labels from Club AC30 to Saint Marie. Have all these label experiences been positive?
ROB: Yeah definitely, they are all great to work with. We released the last record ourselves with the help of Tri-Tone who distributed it. We paid for all the PR and promo out of own pockets, so we know what it’s like to run a label. It’s tough. It’s early days with Saint Marie, but we just hope they can get our record out to people to hear it.
Where do you have your greatest concentration of fans? And have you visited us Stateside yet?
ROB: Obviously, we have more fans in England as that is where we have played the most. I’m not sure about how the Stateside following is. We do get a few orders and requests to play from the States. Our music would go down well over there, so we would love to get over at some point soon.
Can you speak a bit about how you achieve your sound in terms of equipment and recording techniques?
ROB: We keep it simple, recording live in a room at once. We have recently used a studio in Norwich which is a converted church. We set up the room and play together; usually we take about three goes, and then record the vocals separately. We don’t use that much equipment; I have a reverb pedal, a delay and a big muff. That’s it. Chris and Karl have a few more, but its mainly reverb and delay.
What’s been your best experience touring in terms of bands you’ve toured with?
RoB: We haven’t really toured with anyone to be honest, we tend to go out on our own. We are playing a couple of dates with Amusement Parks on Fire in February so we are looking forward to that. When we play with suppor,t they can be either really nice or real dicks. You usually find the new bands who are still playing to have some fun are the best to get on with. It still amazes us when a support band turns up with a plectrum and a tuner and expect us to provide a full backline. We tend to tell them to get back on the tube and sort themselves out!
But didn’t you tour with Joy Formidable (big favorites here at Big Takeover)? I had read that somewhere, and wondered how that experience was. I really enjoy their music, and they seem like a cool group.
ROB: Yes we played some gigs with TJF, they were an amazing band! They really looked after us, and gave us a chance to play with them despite their booking agents wanting a band from their roster to tour with them. They heard about us through a fan, and they checked us out and offered us the dates. A really nice genuine band!
With everyone trying to label a certain sound, do you mind tagged as a shoegaze band?
ROB: Not really, I don’t think anyone is bothered about a tag, It’s more about whether you sound good or not. I think the label helps when people are looking for a certain type of music and they come across us by accident.
What does the band prefer to listen to when you’re not immersed in your own work?
ROB: We all listen to loads of different stuff, but we don’t tend to listen together. Our tour bus doesn’t have a radio player so it’s a bit rubbish, we have to stick our headphones in. I’m listening to a lot of new UK bands and the usual dose of My Bloody Valentine of course.
Out of your body of work, are there any favorite songs the band favors?
ROB: We all enjoy “Haunting Me” live, it’s a great track to blast out. The new ones are coming together now so we are favouring those more as they are fresh and make you play a little harder.
With Disaster Tourist just released on Saint Marie in a deluxe edition, do you have additional material in the works or will you focus on touring behind Disaster Tourist?
ROB: Our new album should be ready by the summer. We have about 7 tracks that we think are there so we are going to record early in the new year.
Check out the band’s web site.