The Victorian English Gentlemens Club
Name: Mr Fenton and his photo of Melrose Abbey
Artist: The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club
» Download the full track [12.3mb, MP3]
TVEGC were born when Adam Taylor and Louise Mason met at Art College in Cardiff.
Using their combined interest in Art and experimental guitar music, they began writing music solely influenced by the Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth. A year later, the debut album was written, and the band signed to Fantastic Plastic Records, London.
Along with drummer Emma Daman, the band toured for 2 years – doing extensive headline tours of Europe and the UK, playing at SXSW 08, and support tours with Future of The Left, Noisettes, Deerhoof, and British Sea Power.
Then they locked themselves away, wrote 100 songs, disposed of 88 humanely, and have now laid out the remaining dozen on a 3” silver platter. Where the first record wore its influences on its sleeve, 'Love On An Oil Rig' stands alone. The stripped down primal ideas are defined and sharp, retaining their well-developed Art school sensibilities of the absurd, the outrageous and the other.
Since the recording, a new drummer and fourth club member has been recruited to enhance the ferocity of their sound, taking the noise to the next level with offset guitars, shouts and wails.
This is the sound of the purest voices, guitars, basses, drums, circular saws, churches, hands, boots, thoraxes and lungs, juxtaposed to an awkward perfection. The band do not and will not use keyboards, synthesisers or system three acrylic.
In the last two years the band has performed in three forests, two churches and one circus. They still live in Cardiff. They collectively enjoy effects pedals, Sonic Youth, bells, taxidermy seagulls, yellow mackintoshes, distortion, bonsai, black gaffer tape, bone and ivory dominoes and Wire.
The Victorian English Gentlemens Club have been inspired by the work of the nineteenth century photographer Roger Fenton (1819 – 1869).
Fenton was a pioneer of photography and became the first official war photographer when he documented the Crimea in 1855.
Fenton began capturing historic buildings in the 1850s, travelling the country in his mobile photographic van. These images are a reflection both of a burgeoning interest in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings, and also of the influence of the Gothic Revival which was by then at its height.
Melrose Abbey was built in the twelfth century and, as a partial ruin and with characteristic Gothic features, it was the perfect subject for Fenton’s lens. Fenton’s architectural studies reflect also the Picturesque tradition in art, in which atmospheric landscapes were combined frequently with equally atmospheric ruins in an exploration of the relationship between man and nature.
This idea was central to the Romantic movement in art and literature and the concept of the Sublime. Melrose Abbey was in fact made famous by the Romantic novelist Sir Walter Scott, on whose work Fenton drew when selecting locations in Scotland to photograph.
Fenton’s viewpoint and the inclusion of figures in this picture highlight the vastness of the abbey and suggest a disquieting sense of mystery and unresolved narrative.
The Victorian English Gentlemens Club have drawn on this to suggest an imagined context – Fenton posing the sitters as if for a wedding. The band’s Adam Taylor explains:
‘Nineteenth century photography had much longer exposure times than its modern equivalent. Photographers’ models were posed for long periods of time and action had to be staged. It’s those few moments of stillness that this song is about.
The song was recorded on a beaten up electric guitar with a detuned bass string replacing the top string. This gives a good drone which worked well for this piece. I tried to have the backing and main vocals almost in a ‘round’ to remind me of the carols we sang at church when I was at school.
From the beginning I wanted this song to be different to what we do currently within the band but still fit into the traditional structure of verse and chorus. I didn’t want it to be a soundscape for the photograph with sound effects etc - this is more a song written after looking at a photo.’