Hong Kong-based indie-rockersTheSleeves
are back in Cambodia this week with a brace of gigs in Siem Reap and
recording sessions at 60 Road
Studios. Leng Pleng caught
up with band leader Keith Goodman
to find out what has
been happening since their last visit to The
Kingdom of Wonder in 2015.
At The Wanch in Hong Kong last week, you put on
the H2 Music Festival. 76 bands ?! in seven days ?! at
a small independent venue in the Wanchai district… you must
be absolutely exhausted !!
It’s more exhilarating than exhausting to be honest. Believe it or not, it all ran like clockwork… great to see so many bands, so many great performances, really good crowds, good turn-out – all the bands really fed off that. Even on the sixth and seventh days when I hadn’t had much sleep as I’d like to have had, I was still really enjoying it and buzzing on the atmosphere.
It’s something that we’ve been doing once a year for the past seven years now. It started in 2010 when myself and the other two owners took over the venue and wanted to do something to celebrate that and announce that new energy and new ideas were going to go into the place. To try and get people who maybe knew the venue but hadn’t been there for a while to come back. So we put on a festival which was just for one day, twelve bands in one day. It went really well and other bands said to us ‘why didn’t you ask us?’ The following year we did it for two days… then it was four days… and for the last three years it’s been seven days.
This year, we had something like 100 artists and bands wanting to play, including six from overseas: one from Macau, one from southern China, a travelling artist from New Zealand, a guy from the UK and two bands from Kuala Lumpur as well. It just seems to grow each year in terms of interest from performers and from the crowds as well. This year we had Live Nation supporting the event for the first time, which certainly helped with the marketing and enabled us to make more people aware of the festival.
Every city needs an outlet for people who want to enjoy live music. Unfortunately, due to the rent situation in Hong Kong – there are a very limited number of live music venues for a city of it’s size …compared to, say, London where there are probably 50 to 100 live music venues, if not more. In Hong Kong there are less than 10, possibly less than 5 these days. I got involved [in The Wanch] from being a customer who wanted a place to go and watch live bands. It was a sanctuary to me. I later became a band member who played there… and my involvement has grown from there.
60 Road Studios, Siem Reap
Sleeves last visited Cambodia to play a few gigs back in March 2015.
This time the band is coming for a longer stint, with plans to record
an album in Siem Reap? What made you guys want to come and do the
We played four gigs last year over a period of five or six days and got to see a bit of the country as well. The reason we’re coming this time is because when we were there last year, I was looking on the first day to see if our gig at Oscar’s was listed in the Phnom Penh Post. On the page that had the gig listings, there was an article about this new state-of-the-art studio that had recently opened in Siem Reap called 60 Road Studios. I said to the rest of the band at the time that as and when we’ve got an album ready to record, maybe we should think about coming back and doing it there. I thought that would be a great experience and great fun to record an album away from Hong Kong and actually immerse ourselves in the process. …and here we are, just over a year later and that’s exactly what we are doing.
We’ve been talking to Ian [Croft] and Steve [Bloxham] – the guys from 60 Road – via Skype and emails now for four or five months and they’ve been very thorough and very professional in the way they’re approaching it. We’ve already got into quite a level of detail with them about the sound that we’re looking for and discussed ways of achieving that. We’re really happy with the way things have gone so far and looking forward to actually meeting the guys in person on Saturday when we arrive!
Why are we coming to Siem Reap to do it? For various reasons. If we were staying in Hong Kong to record we would all be going to work during the day and then snatching an evening here, a half day there, perhaps a weekend day another time… and it would probably take us two or three months to record – which is what happened for our first album [‘Arcade Rock’]. Every time we went into the studio, somebody else has been in the studio since we were last there, and so we had to set it all up again: try and get the same drum sounds, try and get the mics in roughly the same place with all the same settings etc etc. By having one studio to ourselves for a week enables us to set the place up once at the start of the week and then it’s ours.
We’re book-ending the trip with a couple of gigs. We fly in this Saturday the 9th, we’re going to play a show at X-Bar. Then we’re in the studio from Sunday through until the following Saturday the 16th when we will be playing on the rooftop of the Galaxy Night Club. Then we fly out on Sunday the 17th. Most of our colleagues, contemporaries and friends in Hong Kong think we’re going for a holiday! But the reality is that we arrive, we play a gig, we’re in the studio for seven days, we play another gig and then we fly back. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s a working trip… but obviously we hope to see a bit of Angkor and enjoy some of the Khmer hospitality as well.
Your debut album
is entitled Arcade Rock. The sound of The Sleeves is, for me,
quintessentially British – reminiscent of classic indie, rock and
punk bands. What are your sonic plans going into this next record?
The current line-up has been together for about a year-and-a-half now. The first album that we made five years ago was something of an anthology of all the various line-ups that had existed prior to that. Songs had been written by different combinations of band members during the preceding four years. For the new record, we have a couple of [older] songs but the rest of the material has been written almost exclusively by the current line-up within the last eighteen months. The song-writing dynamic which has created this new album is much more stable than for our debut album.
In terms of the overall sound, all four of us are English, so there is a degree of solidarity in terms of our musical influences, ranging from Led Zeppelin through 1970’s punk – The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers… and into post-punk – Joy Division – this was a very strong era for British music and we’d certainly like to capture as much of that as possible albeit brought up-to-date through modern production techniques.I think lyrically the new songs are darker than before – but that doesn’t necessarily apply to the melody and the overall sound. We’re looking for a very fat Zeppelin percussion sound, British indie guitars and danceable bass grooves wherever possible.
The Sleeves, March
2015: Keith Goodman, Matt Coleman, Pete Gordon, Stu McCutcheon.
Travelling abroad to record your own
music, running an independent music venue, refusing to play cover
songs… there is a theme emerging here… The Sleeves are an
independent rock’n’roll band doing it your own way?
Basically since the last
line-up change, we’ve been much more mobile and have much more…
we’ve always been ambitious, like I’m sure most bands are, about
getting our music heard by as wide an audience as possible. The
reality is, to achieve that, you’ve got to get out there and play it
in as many different places as you can. It hasn’t really been until
the current line-up that we’ve been willing and able to travel more
to play. It is over the last eighteen months that we’ve played in
Cambodia and Taiwan, in England, in various places in southern China.
That is certainly our intention over the next year or so – to get
to as many different places as we can.
Refusing to play cover songs? The Sleeves actually started playing cover songs but… the era of The Sleeves playing cover songs didn’t last very long. It’s a far more rewarding experience to play your own songs live and hear people appreciate and applaud them. So as soon as we were able to, we made the switch. Individually, each of us has at various times and even currently been in covers bands. But The Sleeves has for some time been the outlet for our collective creative muse.
The Sleeves will be
playing a live show at the X-Bar in Siem Reap on Saturday the 9th
July. The X-Bar is well known in Cambodia as a great
rock’n’roll venue – with a bit of a backpacker party vibe and the
unusual addition of a skateboard half-pipe situated near the stage.
If the Sleeves could (just for fun) install a dress code for the gig,
what would it be?