TV Face – The physical units are a real two fingers to the streaming mode of engagement

TV Face released one song every month during the shitstorm that was 2020. And then gathered them into three EPs, each with bespoke artwork. Here’s how they did it.

In 2019 the band called TV Face hit on an ambitious plan. 2020 would see them release a new song on the last Friday of each month during the year.

The 12 songs would be collated into three EPs to be released in April, August and December (Christmas Day, as it happened). Each song / EP self produced and accompanied by bespoke artwork for every song.

By any stretch, that’s an ambitious project. And then, of course, we know what happened. But having started, they finished.

This is the story of how the band managed to pull off 12 singles, three EPs in the eye of a storm called Covid 19.

Oh, and we should mention – they are 12 boss tunes from a band we personally hold very close to our heart because they are absolutely lovely people. So, we were happy to see them on Zoom again, following on from our 13 Qs encounter in the summer last year.

The band are raw, dirty and a bit rough around the edges. Scratchy, poppy and jerky guitars and a feel of The Fall / Buzzcocks at times, they’re deserving of your attention. There’s a healthy dose of cynicism going on with their lyrics as well.

We caught up with them after the completion of the 2020 project and found their pissed off-ness was undiminished. Taking time out and wondering what may come next.

P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?

Steve: We’re in Lancaster, our great home. Recovering from a fervent year long project.

Brigit: In our bedroom.

Steve: Which used to be our recording studio. This is where it all happened – the magic. So, what are we doing? It’s the last Friday in January. It would have been release day, today. But it’s not. We’ve done all that.

Brigit: Yeah, we’re having some time off.

P3dro: Congratulations on getting all 12 songs out and the three EPs. That must have been some considerable work.

Steve: It was, actually, way more than we had envisaged.

Brigit: Yeah, we didn’t know what we’d got ourselves into, really. And then, once we’d started we couldn’t stop.

Neil: Hello! My apologies. I am in my basement, breaking the cardinal rule of being interviewed [on video] by eating food and drinking. Figuratively, I don’t really know where we are. In the mix of Armageddon. Although, physically, I am in Lancaster. At the other end from Steve and Brigit.

Steve: Yeah, poles apart.

Neil: Sort of like Romeo and Juliet. The Sharks and The Jets.

P3dro: Where did the idea come from in the first place? Rather than recording a load of songs and putting out an album?

Brigit: Well, from my perspective, impatience, I think. I like to share the stuff we’re making. It’s maybe a short attention span. I just wanna make and share, make and share … Neil had joined the band in May 2019 and that moved us on creatively.

It helped us realise what we were trying to do. That was exciting.

Steve: It’s hard to remember now. I think we thought: “Let’s do an album” and then “Crikey, that’ll take a while. We have no material” So we thought we’d get writing and an album may be in the summer …

Neil: And then there was the idea of finding something different to do. Did we know anyone else who’d done that before? No. Shall we do that? We were throwing ideas about and we landed on this one.

Steve: If we were to be cynical about it, which, of course, we never are … people don’t listen to albums. Not really.

The natural course for somebody like me, who loves an album would be to make an album. And then people will either listen to that album, or they won’t. And it was part of that dialogue …

Brigit: Well, I never listen to albums because I used to get all my music from Lancaster Music Library, I’d get them to buy the records I wanted, I’d borrow them and then I’d tape what I wanted onto one side of a C90. I know that’s terrible, now. I’d listen to the album first before deciding if I wanted to tape it and then I’d pick out my favourite songs and record the album in the order that I wanted the songs to be in. Or, I’d make compilation tapes.

Steve: It was just a long conversation one day in 2019 that ended up: “Let’s do that, it sounds exciting”. Who would have thought, even before we got to the first EP the pandemic would have hit? We released the second track in February and it was called ‘O Death Is Coming’. Who would have thought?

If ever there’s been serendipity in my lengthy affair with music, then that was it. Amazing, really.

P3dro: And, of course, by the end of March, when we all knew the shit was about to hit the fan, how many tracks had you recorded by then?

Steve: We’d recorded ‘Cold Potato Salad’ in December, to see if it worked. Then we were in the studio in January and had nailed the next three, so we had the [first EP] in the bag, bar bits and pieces which we did back at home. So, we were lucky we had those.

Brigit: Then we were just about to set up a recording session for the songs that would be May, June, July and August, when lockdown happened. So, then we had to adapt to that, very quickly.

Steve: Yeah, stretchy time does this weird thing where you think a month gives you loads of space to do things. But everybody knows, once you get beyond the age of about 25 then a month is gone in about three blinks of one eye.

We spent the rest of the year going: “Oh crap! We’ve got another song to do” And that was basically it for the year, thinking how can we adapt to this?

Brigit: We had songs written, but towards the end of the project, we’d run out of songs, so that was a further challenge! Because the way we normally write is in a room, playing together and we couldn’t do that.

Neil: It was a lot harder to get things to where we would liked to have had them without getting together.

P3dro: Did you ever think the project was going to get derailed?

Neil: No! I had faith!

Steve: By the time we’d hit the summer I was wondering how we would get to the end and there were some moments where we’d had some wobbles. But what I’d really missed was being in a room together. And thinking back over 2020, it breaks my heart to think, as a band, we only spent about 10 days in the same room together working on music.

We had done some other things outside, making videos or just having chats. But there was so little of playing together. That loss was just horrible. I missed the chemistry.

Brigit: It was painful.

P3dro: So, how did you manage to adapt the writing and recording process?

Brigit: The first four songs had been done ‘normally’. Then the second [batch of four] were done by Steve building an isolation box [at home] for the amps and we’d delivered the tracks to Neil for his drums to be added. So they were recorded in this very room, with duvets and pillows and stuff to make a vocal booth in a cupboard.

Then there was the summer, so for a short period of time it was possible to have two households together and we had two rehearsals where we worked our arses off in sketching out the four final songs we needed. And then they were recorded the same way as we did [the second batch].

But that was even harder because the songs were brand new. And then there was a point where Steve wasn’t very well, trying to write lyrics lying on the bed as I was trying to scribe it down.

So, there were points when we thought maybe we won’t finish this. Maybe it’s OK if we don’t. But I think we needed to finish it, more than anything.

P3dro: There must have been a real sense of achievement by release number 12?

Steve: I felt a distinct moment of pride that we’d done it, but also there was a sudden chasm that opened up, of nothingness.

Neil: There’s a sense of achievement that has at least given 2020 some sort of meaning. Because every day of 2020, you get up, go to your desk, still in the duvet with a brew. Everyone was on the same hamster wheel, trying to home school, look after everybody, protect everybody. I don’t feel like I’ve done a lot last year. But then, actually, to have released 12 singles and three EPs and for it all to have been done by the three of us, basically, but with some help, was a big thing in a shit year.

P3dro: It would be wrong to talk about the project without mentioning the artwork and the packaging. When the physical CDs dropped through the front door, they were really nice things to have, because there’s not only the music, but Steve’s graphics as well. We really enjoyed that.

Steve: Thank you. I’m really pleased with it. Everything you do creatively is a culmination of what’s gone before, but you also hope you move upwards. It felt like a great realisation of a lot of years of effort. The whole thing, the artwork, the music and it felt like we all worked our socks off on it.

The physical units are a real two fingers to the streaming mode of engagement. I still think that tangible package holds a great meaning. As we go further on in time, I think that meaning will become more important.

The idea of the handmade, short run, thought about, unit is really important.

Neil: From the start it was a conscious decision about how we could do something different. We wanted to make the artwork and the package ourselves. There’s a meaning out of it. It was nice to be involved in the making of a physical product of our music.

Brigit: The images really capture something of the songs as well. People have responded really strongly to that. Even for those people for whom our music maybe not their thing, there is still a point of connection. The music and the art can live separately or they connect.

P3dro: Do you have any of the songs as a favourite? Can you pick any out, or is that like choosing a favourite child?

Steve: Yeah, I think I have favourites.

Neil: I think ‘Work Hard, Have Fun’ is just an absolutely banging tune. It takes no prisoners.

But my favourite to play is ‘No No No No No’

Steve: We’ve never actually played ‘No No No No No’ live to people. How depressing is that?

My favourite would be ‘Like Dominoes’. I vividly remember writing that. I was in a stinking mood.

Brigit: My favourite is ‘She Gets Old’. I really like the drumbeat and how odd it sounds. I like its quirk.

P3dro: Steve, you said there feels like a chasm with no longer having the pressure to get a song out every month, are there any plans for what will fill that void?

Steve: I’ve deliberately taken a month off to ruminate. But there are various things brewing, although it’s sad what might have been with that project. Although we did quite well out of it and achieved way more than I thought, given wat happened, there’s still a part of me that feels the job is not yet done.

There are 12 songs there that didn’t really see as much light as they might have done.

Brigit: Yeah, we built an audience. People joined in along the way. They stumbled across a song and then they’d be there for the next one. The numbers of people listening and buying our music increased substantially over the year, and that was amazing. We had Radio 1, 6Music and XFM, so we were looking over the edge going: “Hello, everybody”.

To imagine what we may have achieved had we been able to tour these releases … But it does feel like a massive achievement, even though some of that opportunity wasn’t realised because of the pandemic.

Steve: We have talked about maybe making an album out of the project and then maybe getting some gigs in the summer, by which point we could get together and start writing again, which is the best way. And then by the autumn we may see some brand new material out there in the world.

I’d like to think there’s a different way of presenting those pieces, but its so hard to make plans. It’s right that the steps we took were taken and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but to have no idea when we may be able to get back together is so frustrating.

Neil: It feels like making any plans is almost a jinx. The very thing that I want to do is the thing I can’t do.

P3dro: Recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.

Steve: I’ve been listening to a lot of Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone on 6Music recently and he reminded me of a great singer / songwriter, Mica Levi who was in a band called Micachu and the Shapes. I’ve been listening to that today – her Good Sad Happy Bad album.. It relates to going for a run and while you’re being good, you’re sad and while you’re being happy, you’re being bad. A nice lo-fi slab of happiness.

Neil: Mine would be three albums. Jamie LenmanKing of Clubs. BosskAudio Noir, that’s been on repeat. It’s a phenomenal album and you should check it out. And Ithaca. These are all quite heavy!

Brigit: Mine will be Moor Mother – ‘Analog Fluids Of Sonic Black Holes‘.

Neil: Wow! That is not a string of words I ever expected to hear.

Brigit: I can send you my running playlist if you like!

Neil: I don’t do running. It’s not my jam.

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