Late last year I came across a song that sounded like Mark E Smith had enlisted Andrew Weatherall to produce the Fall, and given him license to deliver the output however he so wished. This dub heavy, bleep and squeak laden tune, Mushrooms and Leather by Cowboy Flying Saucer led me to check out the bands second studio album ‘Travel Lodge’, and suitably impressed, I added it into our Best Albums of 2019.
Travel Lodge amalgamates an impressively wide range of music styles - post-punk/indie augmented by dub/funk/jazz/acid/techno/krautrock and other musical explorations, all put together beautifully by a clearly talented bunch of people, who as well performing in Cowboy Flying Saucer are all involved in a number of interesting side projects of their own, including ‘Tape 1054’ a collection of experimental field recordings under the guise of D/Bam released last month.
Coming into 2020, the band have released a live album ‘Live in Leyton’ and are in the process of replacing their bassist Spanna, who has left the UK to go and live in Australia. The band kindly answered a few questions for New Music Social at Spanna’s leaving drinks, discussing the songs behind Travel Lodge, the new Live album and the background to the band:
For those people that have never heard of Cowboy Flying Saucer, how do you describe yourselves?
We're 4 people; ones got a guitar, ones got a bass, ones got drums and one speaks/sings and sometimes hits a keyboard with his fists and together we make some beautiful music. We're glamour, looking for leather, hanging around the sandy regions of London looking for fun. We're collectively quite elderly but we're keeping us fit and healthy with a steady diet of assorted crisps.
Where does your name come from?
Originally, BK13 thought we'd be Disco Cowboy Magic. That idea was rejected by others in the band (although it still exists for the odd session where members are missing) Then we thought we'd be Disco Volante. We checked that on Ask Jeeves and Clippy popped up and told us it had already been taken. By now, we were fuelled by beer and BK13 said what about Cowboy Flying Saucer. It stuck as it was a nice combination of the two previous suggestions and we couldn't think about it any more.
Talk us through the tracks on Travelodge (in terms of music and lyrics)
Heavily Sedated NOW! - Drum heavy song with some bass on it, it's in 5/4. Take all the drugs if the Doctor says so.
No Cover at all - Don't put the cover on your teapot.
Mushrooms & Leather – A man revisiting his past life with his old mates. Mushrooms and leather, one last go, for old times sake.
Travelodge Wedding – A wedding in a Travelodge where people had a lovely time. All the rooms in the Travelodge have a behind closed doors story too, many of them are on this album.
Camouflage – difficult to spot this one. Never seen it but it's hard to disguise. It's a love song. About BK13's French exchange trip at school where he met the lovely Guiliam, gave him a kiss and held his hand.
Theme From CFS - A theme tune for an imaginary TV show. Or maybe about Stoke Newington Police and their top pockets
Crack Grandma – loading up for rehearsal one night and Bobby spotted a situation unfolding down the road involving a little exchange between supplier and customer. The story was retold at the rehearsal and then became a CFS mainstay.
Space Town Lovers – Balls longer than cock, a classic insult from days gone by. Insults were so much better in the old days.
I want more – who doesn't? We all do, right?
If you were an invited guest at the Travelodge Wedding and had attended the full day, what would the bride and groom’s first dance be to, what would the dinner have been and what would the best man’s speech have sounded like?
Dance - Come up and see me, make me smile – Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
Dinner – scampi in a basket/chicken dinner/lager/sponge wedding cake/artic roll
Best man's speech – Tony does the best man's speech. Gets as far as thanking everyone for being there, making a toast to the bride and groom but then the fight breaks out; smashed bottles, full ruck, chairs all over the place, piss everywhere.
Your music takes in a great range of styles, krautrock, indie, jazz, dub, acid and so on – do you all share the same music taste or does each of you bring different styles to the table?
We all have different tastes and interests but plenty of overlap; there is probably a Venn diagram or something, if we could be bothered to draw it.
Tell us about the new live album
Recorded by our friend The Sound Mechanic at a gig at The William the Fourth, Leyton, in September 2019. We released it digitally at Christmas to raise a little money for Eat or Heat, a local food bank charity. It's on our bandcamp page but will also be a physical (CD) release on the marvellous TQ N-aut label very soon. All proceeds go to Eat or Heat.
I gather a member of the band has moved to Australia – how does that impact your plans in the future?
Spanna is still here, he's going on Monday though. Spanna says we should keep going but all get bum tattoos of his face. He will appear as a hologram sometimes or maybe we'll set up a cup and string line to Oz to avoid high costs during rehearsals and gigs. Actually, we'll get a new bass player. Spanna might play comb and paper a bit, if he ever comes back to visit.
Other projects outside of CFS?
Dave does a bit of sound art; mainly field recording mutations and some generative improv with synth/drum outfit, Red Team. Occasionally some output from this is shared with the world. Most recently, a track made from sounds recorded on the 97 bus was included on “Fieldwave Vol. 1” (Nonclassical Records) and an album “1054” released via Chelmsford's Misophonia Records. Both available on cassette NOW!
Jven does house music and has done for many a year. Current project is Jonno & Tommo
BK13 promotes a spoken word & music night, called Chickentown at Biddle Bros in Clapton, Hackney. Second Tuesday of the month. Allows the use of the phrase C U next Tuesday in advertising you see. Anything goes, it's free and you never know what to expect, except for a hangover on the Wednesday.
Spanna does some Acid House and visual art too. Have a look at his YouTube channel
What have you got planned for 2020?
New bass player, new CD release with TQ N-aut, hopefully some gigs, including outside of London, and maybe, just maybe, a new album too. Probably some more things that we haven't planned for just yet.
You can buy Travel Lodge and Live in Leyton via https://cowboyflyingsaucer.bandcamp.com/
For more information on the charity Eat of Heat go to http://eatorheat.org/