Good vibrations on NME tour

EMMA LEE The Rumble Strips headline the 2007 Topman NME New Music Tour at the Waterfront in Norwich on Thursday. Emma Lee spoke to trumpeter and keyboard player Henry Clark.


The latest bunch of the NME's tips for the top take to the road this week. Pretty accurate and influential when it comes to making or breaking a band, acts that have featured on the music bible's tours in the last year or so that have ended up on montages of sporting clips on television (a sign you've truly made it) include Monster hitmakers the Automatic and the Fratellis.

Headlining this jaunt around the country are the Rumble Strips - a group of school friends from Devon, who channel the likes of Geno-era Dexy's Midnight Runners, Adam Ant, Lou Reed and David Byrne of Talking Heads.

“I haven't a clue how we ended up headlining,” says keyboardist and trumpet player Henry Clark. “We were in Texas when we found out. We've got quite a good relationship with NME - and we made a few friends there during our quest to get a record deal. But it's crazy that we're going to headline.”

And when he says the “quest” to get a record deal, he's not joking. If you thought that MySpace had made it easy to get a record deal nowadays, think again. “Everybody was pretty much homeless, staying on sofas, working when we could fit it in,” he says.

Henry, singer and guitarist Charlie Waller, bassist Tom Gorbutt and drummer Matthew Wheeler, grew up together in the not particularly rock'n'roll Tavistock, but came together as a band when they relocated to London.

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“Some of us went to primary school together - others since we were in our early teens. And we met through playing music, playing in the youth club band when we were about 12,” says Henry.

“I suppose I've always played music - my dad used to run the youth club we all used to play at. In terms of someone making me want to do music, David Byrne from Talking Heads was an influence - I spent a lot of my youth trying to be him. Charlie had a similar thing with Adam Ant.”

The band's big break came when, out of the blue, hip indie label Transgressive offered to put out a single. Their debut release was Motorcycle, and a tour support slot with the Young Knives followed. That opened the door to bigger support slots with Dirty Pretty Things and the Zutons.

By now signed up to Fallout/ Island Records they were whisked off to LA to record their debut album with Tony Hoffer, who's famed for his work with Beck, the Kooks, the Fratellis and Air, among others.

“The record company has paid us enough money to pay a bit of rent - I can't get over it, this is my job now, and I don't have to worry about where the next money is coming from. And if we build up enough momentum we will start paying for ourselves,” says Henry.

And that's what they're doing - and it sounds exhausting.

“I'm actually at home at the moment,” Henry says. “I'm just back from Liverpool. We're pretty much on the road constantly at the moment. It's a ridiculous schedule - we're at one end of the country and then the other. We're having to fly up and fly back down. But it's great - I'm getting to play gigs every day.

“We recorded the album before Christmas and we went to LA to do it. It's a weird place. We were really working pretty hard in the studio six days a week, so we didn't get much time off. But there were a lot of interesting people to gawk at. I think we were all a little bit unimpressed. But it's amazing looking out and seeing the Hollywood sign.

“Every second counted - the taxi to take us to the airport was at the door as we did the last vocal takes. He [Tony Hoffer] really understood what we wanted to do. But because we didn't dawdle it kept it fresh.”

And if the critical acclaim they've garnered so far is anything to go by, look out for them appearing on a sports show on a television screen near you sometime soon.

t The Rumble Strips play the Waterfront, Norwich, on Thursday, May 31, alongside Pull Tiger Tail, Blood Red Shoes and the Little Ones as part of the 2007 Topman NME New Music Tour. Rotating second and third billing are Stateside five-piece the Little Ones, who are anything but small in sound and London alt-pop trio Pull Tiger Tail who are signed to the same label as the Kaiser Chiefs and the Automatic. Tickets for the Topman NME New Music Tour priced at £7.50 in advance are available in Norwich from UEA Union, Waterfront and Soundclash. Books: 01603 508050 and

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