INTERVIEW ALERT: As Luxury Stranger gear up to play Hockley Hustle we caught up with lead singer Simon York for a history lesson in all things LS!
October 2, 2017
By Claire L Broughton
"We tend to refer to Luxury Stranger as being 'cross-genre'." Simon York
With echoes of 80s punk still ringing in the ears of Simon York – amongst a plethora of other 80s long-standing musical heroes – the music influences of his misspent youth are clear to hear on the band's latest Luxury Stranger album Darkness Falls Upon The Light. Melodic and dark lines are brought to life amid the intertwining riffs and drum beats with mesmerizing darkly atmospheric on point vocals to boot. He probably wouldn't thank me for saying this but Simon's vocal ability could be mistaken for the melodic tones of Tom Smith of the Editors and we like it a lot. Not a band to be easily defined or pigeon holed these guys play to their own tune and it's makes a refreshing change.
Although the band has gone through some serious line up changes over the years, it's safe to say that the current line up is here to stay. Their strong uniformed sound washes over you like a wave of nostalgia kicking you back to the 80s and winding you in the process.
It's clear to see why these lads are taking the alternative music scene by storm in Nottingham and beyond, and we are more than glad that they've given us an insight into all things Luxury stranger. Grab a brew, put your feet up and let Simon lead you on a journey of discovery into all things Luxury Stranger. And while you're at it, go purchase the new album, it doesn't ruddy disappoint!
Who is Luxury Stranger and how would you define your sound?
Luxury Stranger is me (Simon York) on voice and guitar, Martin Valentine on bass guitar and Harry Hallam on drums. The sound of LS is a wall of sound made up from a mixture of spikey or jangley melodic guitar, driving bass and solid drums topped with vocals which according to Reflections of Darkness magazine are coming from “one of the finest vocalists in the UK right now."... which is nice. The weird thing is, despite working as a lead vocalist in the past – when I started off the Luxury Stranger project back in 2006, I didn't intend to be the lead vocalist.. I just wanted to write the songs, play guitar/keyboard and do backing vocals and maybe sing the odd song to change the depth or atmosphere. It's funny how things turn out!
I'd say the songs of Luxury Stranger are kind of dark, yet ‘singalongable’. They’re mainly about love and its various forms and aspects. It's the sort of music you'd sit and listen to clinically in headphones yet it can also be danced to. We tend to refer to Luxury Stranger as being 'cross-genre'. We're inspired by the sounds and styles that came from European post-punk / cold wave, American alternative and college rock and British alternative / indie music, and we have a constant influence from Bowie, Echo and the Bunnymen, Brian Eno, the Chameleons and Depeche Mode. I guess at the end of the day there's something for everyone.
But some people have interpreted our sound in ways to suit them and what makes them comfortable listening to new music... Unfortunately, I think some of those opinions have found ways to hinder what we're doing due to people following the shepherds and not willing to make their own mind up.
You've had some amazing opportunities over the years playing with some of the worlds greatest bands and artists, what's been your biggest highlight to date? And can we see more of the same in the future?
Crikey, there’s so many things we’ve achieved that don’t often get talked about or acknowledged... but I think for me personally, I think when we played the WGT festival in Leipzig is a big marker on the LS timeline – that was in 2010, I believe. I understand it's one of Europe's biggest alternative festivals, and we found ourselves on the bill with some fantastic bands. It was such a great audience, many of which are still following Luxury Stranger to this day – buying the records, travelling to see us play (sometimes even to other countries). It's a grounding for solid faithful music fans.
In terms of the future, I think it all depends on if people give us the chances which would serve us well. So many opportunities are dished out but I see them wasted. I’d like to see some of those opportunities come our way soon – we’d use them to our advantage.
Is the current Luxury Stranger line up here to stay given the bands ethos of "New beginnings"?
I sincerely hope so – it's possibly the best and most focused and ambitious line up LS has had... with the way the sound has developed we also aim to expand on the line up – we're looking to recruit a second guitarist and/or a keyboard/piano player. But it's got to be the right person. We won’t just take anyone on board. Until then, the three-piece wall of sound is what goes on the road.
To be honest, the 'new beginnings' viewpoint feels like an airbrushed way of saying one can't trust some folk or that some people have no real sense of commitment *ha ha ha*. At the end of the day, I have a vision – and whichever way someone looks at it, I think I've struck lucky every time a new line up has come to be – every member of the band has given something to the band and to me, whether it's been to try and help LS reach the next rung on the ladder or for their own personal agenda.
I'll admit, it hurts when you get let down by people you've allowed to be a part of your own piece of work – sometimes it's had more of an effect than some people would realise or admit – but I've been doing this practically my whole life and been successful in many ways and unsuccessful in almost as many, so I’m hardly going to stop now.
You recently released your latest album Darkness Falls Upon The Light, do you feel your sound has progressed with this latest release? Or have you tried to maintain the essence of previous releases?
I think things have progressed, yes – it has to or you're churning out the same old safety net. Change also keeps things interesting for me as an artist, for the guys in the band and those working with us – and also for the people who've followed LS all this time.
This new album is certainly an embellishment of a sound I picked out of key songs from the first two albums (Desolation and 'Commitment and Discipline'). I think there is a retaining of the dark song content or the atmosphere and power from live shows – this is all to give a sense of familiarity, I suppose... but we are aiming to reach new listeners – and are doing across the world – and I think this current LS sound is what's making that possible.
There's a nagging sense of commerciality, yet Luxury Stranger isn't a mainstream band... it's just melodic, catchy and powerful emotion poured into the songs. I guess, what I'm thinking is that you have to constantly strive and change and develop the work or else it goes stale and then you're doing the work for the wrong reasons and producing the wrong kind of work.
I’m really glad the German label, Cold Insanity, who we’ve worked with in the past have been behind this album. They also supported me when I set up the Earth-Two Records label to sort all the PPL and physical format stuff for this album. It’s a good feeling... scratch that – it’s fantastic!
What are you working on right now?
I'm developing and writing material for albums four, five and six... I'm also deconstructing what would have been my second and third solo albums to see if anything can be rearranged into the LS style to make sure those pieces and songs get more exposure. I don't think my soundtrack EP and first solo album got as much attention as they could have – to quote that solo album's title, "nothing's ever quite what you thought it would be". But I guess that's another story...
What does the rest of the year hold for Luxury Stranger?
Getting the album in as many hands and ears as possible, and getting the Luxury Stranger brand in everyone's eyes, heads and mouths... more press and more radio play across the planet too. Also, playing as many productive shows as possible, while booking more shows for when we focus on getting back to playing more frequent in the UK and Europe in 2018. It'll be good to be back on the mainland in May... I think I need to sort a new publishing deal too – yeah, that’s on the cards.
You're pretty well received in Nottingham and will be playing Hockley Hustle in October. Does it always feel more rewarding playing for a home crowd?
Yeah, I'm looking forward to playing the Sunday Alternative stage at Hockley Hustle. Steve Oliver who's running that stage is one of the few who has stuck their neck out and said they like and support me and Luxury Stranger. He's a good man.
To be honest I don't tend to focus too much on 'local'. We're not something I think can be defined as a 'local band' – which I seriously think can be a damaging form of terminology. I like to think we focus on things that're outside boundaries like local scenes – if one really does exist in Nottingham in the classic ‘camaraderie style’ sense of it all.
However saying that, if I did have to look at Nottingham then I would say that in general I don't feel we're as well supported in the home base as people think. Yes, we have a faithful following here – and a very mixed following too, coming from various genres and musical interests etc – but it's pretty much the same style of following we have in other towns/cities/countries. It’s hard to explain – I guess what I mean is, our local scene is everywhere... we have our own ‘scene’. We’re known, supported and loved in many places by people who’re into so many kinds of music, not just one strict genre.
To say we have managed to prove longevity and an ability to develop rather than remain what we were when we first started, and the discipline and desire within the band unit to make Luxury Stranger work, I believe we could be acknowledged, helped, supported and rewarded more than we are in our home base town. I would say that I seriously believe what has been said about Luxury Stranger – that no one does this with as much intent as we do... I think we get a sense that we're proving something whenever we play the home base, that, no matter what – Luxury Stranger always flies like it means it.
Nottingham has a pretty decent music scene right now with some great bands and artists emerging, who would you say are the ones to look out for right now?
Again, I don't really focus on or see anything in terms of a local scene – and if there is one I haven't really seen evidence that LS is considered part of it. But if I had to choose a ‘new’ band on Earth that I think people need to look out for right now, then it would be Luxury Stranger. Seriously... I just want people to know about and listen to the Darkness Falls Upon The Light album by Luxury Stranger and stick with us for the rest of the journey...
What's your favourite venue in Nottingham to unleash the full power of Luxury Stranger?
I think Luxury Stranger has made good use of the stage space at the Rescue Rooms on several occasions, however I have to say the Chameleon has always been my favourite for sound and is easily the best venue in Nottingham to present the atmosphere and intensity of a LS show. It’s intimate but there’s a historical bohemian boudoir feel to it. Simon over there is possibly best sound engineer I've worked with in the UK in my long life playing live music, and if I could have him he'd be top of my list as an on-tour engineer for Luxury Stranger.