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The Levellers

07 April 2005

The Levellers would be a mess if they earnt a decent wage according to bassist Jeremy Cunningham. Instead it's about keeping it real, gigging town halls, and running their festival, Beautiful Days.

Virtual Festivals: You're currently doing what you seem to love the most - touring. How's it all going?
Jeremy Cunningham: The tour is going very well, thank you. The one we just did was only about five dates, and it was in smaller venues so it all sold out pretty fast. It was just to let our fans know that we were coming back out with new material because last year we spent the whole year doing acoustic shows really, and not doing the normal electric Levellers stuff at all. So, this was just to give the fans a taster and to get us back into the swing of it!

VF: When you tour, you often play at fairly modest venues. Is this a conscious decision to avoid being viewed as sell-outs?
JC: We play smaller venues such as town halls and this is because at the moment, we are promoting our own shows and we have been doing so for three or four years. When we promote our shows, we go into places that people donít usually play in because it is off the circuit so we can actually get a better deal ourselves, and we can give the people coming in a better deal. People like it because it is not your run of the mill show. Having said that, we still do a tour that, at the moment, is working out at once every two years for SJM, our promoter. On that tour, we do go through all the normal venues and use a standard promoter as well. We do that to keep everyone happy basically. The next coming winter will be the next tour of this kind that weíre going to do.

VF: Your music has been described both as folk-punk and indie, what description do you think fits you best?
JC: There are all these labels flying around but folk-punk is what we do, it just sounds really boring, dull and horrible I think! However, indie is certainly what we always have been because weíre probably one of the only two independent bands on our own record label, and we have our own record label, our own promotions and everything. We used to call ourselves a punk rock group because thatís where the attitude and the music come from.

VF: Would you have as much respect today if you had followed a more glamourised life created for you by a record company?
JC: I donít think that we would have the same respect and following if we had taken a life mapped out for us by a major record company, but that was never what we were about. We always wanted as much control as we could possibly have over what we were doing, and so we always took the long game into consideration when we were signing deals. We didnít care if we didnít get paid as much as so-and-so as long as we could manage ourselves on a wage for the next five or six years, and have some sort of security from that. None of us would ever be good with big sums of money; weíd probably be horrible messes by now if we had have been given that!

VF: You own Metway studios in Brighton. I guess a large part of your money goes into that?
JC: As soon as we got any kind of money, we set up the studio and then ever since that, all the money goes into keeping the place going because itís like an arts centre Ė thereís so many people in there doing different things, and it costs an absolute fortune to keep it going, and to keep the maintenance up.

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Article by: Jennifer Smith

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