Q&A: Henry Dartnall
Young Knives singer on suits, us and joy
Henry Dartnall, what have they done to you? When last we met, you were rocking the junior-bank-manager look, complete with head-to-toe tweed and sensible shoes. Now look at you -- all snazzy in your tailored suits and crisp shirt.
Snazzy. Thanks very much. That's a good word. The way we dressed was doing us a bit of a disservice. A lot of what we do is twatting around, making jokes. We were trying to put people's backs up a little. There was a certain amount of making ourselves look silly or ugly or whatever, even though I liked some of the clothes we wore. It was tongue in cheek but didn't do us any favours.
It's a fair point -- when your first record came out, the press was too busy commenting on your love of tweed to mention your music.
One of my favourite bands, they're a Norwegian group, they wear skin-tight Lycra and silver pants. And there's an element of, 'I do wish you wouldn't do that -- it makes it seem as if you aren't taking yourself seriously.' For this album, I wanted to maybe look a bit more normal for once.
Considering you recorded it in Los Angeles, we presume you also wanted to catch a tan.
We mainly fancied a really expensive holiday. We were like, 'Let's go there and mess about for six weeks.' It's actually quite cheap to live in Los Angeles. The rent is relatively low and you can afford big spaces. The studio was in a house -- and the house part was free. So we could live there as well. Compared to doing it in London, it was dirt cheap.
While you have been nominated for a Mercury and have a decent following in this part of the world, America hasn't really fallen for your off-beat charms ...
You hear of all these UK bands spending far too much money and failing miserably. We've done little tours there, South By Southwest, New York, LA ... We've never done the whole get on the road for four months and play every shithole venue. It doesn't sound very attractive. I know bands who've gone there and spent shitloads of money and sold maybe 10,000 records. I'm not that keen on that. There is a certain amount of your existence where you actually want to have a nice life.
Then you have a band such as Mumford & Sons who seem to have just struck it lucky in the US and haven't looked back ...
They're not doing it from the ground up. I don't think it's luck as much as money. I reckon a shitload of money was spent on getting them in America because they had a good chance of doing it.
Your lyrics used to be pretty stinging. On the new record, though, you are brimming with the joy of life. Have you suffered a blow to the head?
We were never just slagging people off, so much as slagging ourselves off. We were taking character traits that we recognise in ourselves and giving them a name. Blur did that quite a lot as well. The risk is that you end up sounding as if you are quite down on something. The lyrics weren't saying, 'Oh, you're all twats and we're brilliant.' I was writing about myself. We exhausted that on the last record. We wanted to make something more honest and soulful. That's a difficult thing to do -- being a middle-class white man talking about your emotions.
Ornaments from the Silver Arcade is released next Friday
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