After a twenty year break, The Loft recently reformed for a series of gigs to promote their new compilation on Rev-Ola ‘Magpie Eyes 1982-1985’. We caught up with Andy Strickland and Pete Astor to talk about the recent gigs, their future plans and how they now feel about ‘that’ night supporting The Colour Field.
So here we are, nearly 20 years since your last gigs, does it feel strange having the old band back together after all these years?
Andy: Yes, and no. I never really envisaged this happening because of the way we split up in ’85, but it’s felt very natural and the music is sounding good – we are still a good band together. And we’ve got on really well – no hissy fits, no fights.
Pete: Indeed..yes & no also…it really feels very natural….its fantastic to be involved in the four of us playing together…its that old ‘greater than the sum of its parts’ thing….very enjoyable…
What were your reasons for getting back together?
Andy: To help promote the new album, ‘Magpie Eyes’ out on Revola right now.
Pete: Yes & because it feels right…
How did you all get back in touch with each other?
Andy: I emailed everyone about meeting for a drink 20 years after the split (June 24th) but Pete had been talking to Bill about the album and had kept in touch and carried on playing with Dave.
Pete: Yes…..it was great to talk & communicate after all that time & all the muddy water under the bridge….
Did anyone have any reservations or was there mutual enthusiasm from everyone?
Andy: I’m sure we all had reservations, but once we met and talked over a few drinks, everyone seemed to agree that it was well worth doing.
Pete: Uh huh
What was it like hearing the old songs played live again for the first time in 20 years during those rehearsals?
Andy: Amazing and funny on occasion. We’re all fans of the Loft music too so it was great to be able to get the chance to hear those songs again – even if we are playing them.
Pete: It was amazingly smooth I felt, we were right then & we’re right now, if you know what i mean…no one had to take any flangers off their instruments..or restyle our Flock of Seagull locks…so that was gratifying…as well as very convenient…
Could you all remember the songs ok or did you have to familiarise yourselves with the old records?
Andy: Some of them are much trickier than you might think. Others are lodged firmly in the brain never to be forgotten. I spent ages trying to remember my guitar parts on ‘Time’.
Pete: Yeh, it was alright..I was impressed with how ingenious some of the arrangements were, actually….
You played your first gig at the Freebutt in Brighton, how did that go?
Andy: Very nerve wracking for me, but I don’t think it showed. We had some friendly faces on hand to help calm us down. I was relieved to get through it. The Spitz gig was amazing though.
Pete: Cool…we were pretty good & at the Spitz we were, having done one, able to relax into the thing & enjoy it more…which was the idea of playing in Brighton first, anyway….
Were you surprised by the reaction of the audience?
Andy: People said it was great. There does seem to be some genuine excitement that we’re doing this so that’s encouraging and, frankly, quite touching. The reception at the Spitz was quite touching to be honest.
Pete: Yes…fuck, people were very kind…
There’s also a compilation coming out on Cherry Red soon, how did that come about? Was there any involvement from the band putting it together?
Andy: Pete got the ball rolling with Cherry Red/Revola and we decided to add some unreleased stuff that we have. We’ve all written sleeve notes (very candid) and have had a laugh pulling together all the photos. Some ‘fans’ such as James Dean Bradfield, Steve Lamacq and Janice Long have written some nice things about us too.
Pete: its been great fun getting it together….
Your last gig before this week was that night supporting The Colour Field at Hammersmith Palais. Have you talked about the night since or is it a subject best avoided?
Andy: Typically Loft, we haven’t actually talked about it, but Pete has written about his feelings that night and explained what was going on in his head. We’ve had one or two sly jokes about finishing ‘Up The Hill….’ In rehearsals. All very good hearted really. It’s only a band at the end of the day.
Pete:…um, there’s I think, probably not an awful lot more to say – certainly not in an interview – other than: that was a bit ropey, wasn’t it?
Pete’s past has been well documented with the solo material, Weather Prophets, Wisdom of Harry & Ellis Island Sound. What have the other members of the band been upto for the last 20 years?
Andy: I formed the Caretaker Race (crap name) and wrote and sang all the songs – and we were signed by Stephen Street and made an album and a few singles with him which was amazing. We toured in Europe, had a great time and I came back to England to get married and give up all this rock and roll lark. Now I’m out buying guitars again! Bill made some great records with the Wishing Stones and Dave keeps drumming for everyone you can think of.
Andy, you ran Dotmusic for a few years, how did that come about?
Andy: It was just a job – a fun one mind. We had more users and better content than nme.com and that was my target while I was there. We did first live online gigs by Weller, the Cure, Muse, Bush…not bad really.
Last time I interviewed Pete, he seemed a bit concerned after watching you (Andy) on TV talking about All Saints splitting up. What sort of music do you all listen to these days?
Andy: I got the Northern Soul bug a few years back and now run the monthly Walls Of Heartache club in Walthamstow. That means buying lots of 60s soul 45s which I love to bits. But I also still love the old punk classics – Magazine, Clash, Buzzcocks, Wire.
Pete: My current faves…(they change by the hour….) we’ve just had a week in the house where nobody’s allowed to listen anything but The Beatles….which was an interesting bit of mind control….it made me realise just how annoying Paul McCartney really is…you’re listening to The White Album thinking..this is the greatest album ever ..then fuckin’ Ohblahdi Ohblah Da comes on…perhaps not…also…oh, Sufjan Stevens, Van Der Graff Generator, Harmonia, Ronnie Lane, American Spring, The Coral, & the old mix of raw power…shit but it….
You’ve presumably all got responsibilities these days with jobs and families, would you consider writing and recording some new songs or are these gigs just a one-off?
Andy: From the first rehearsal back in June we started work on new songs. It’s what we always did and I love it when Pete starts playing a new song and the rest of us get to work. We still bounce off each other musically in a way that’s natural and hard to explain. We’ve got two or three new songs at the moment and we’d love to get into a studio soon. Bill’s really busy running GQ magazine and Dave’s doing other stuff so we all need to fit things around our ‘real lives’. We’re playijg Nottingham Social on October 8th and I’m sure there are more gigs to come. It would be amazing to do a new single wouldn’t it?
Interview: January 2004