October 21, 2013

There’s a Band in My Flat: Cozying Up with Framework

Getting comfy with Framework; leading man Jack Brown (left), drummer George Walker (right), and bassist Nathan Cook (bottom right)
             My living room is empty and seemingly lacking after Framework’s departure. Just on Friday night, Burger King cups were strewn around me, my couches dominated by testosterone-fueled conversation. My living room has since recovered to its normal feminine form and the couch bed has been rolled away, but Framework didn’t half leave a lasting impression. Framework is a post-grunge band based out of Barnstaple, Devon. Lead singer and guitarist Jack Brown has been a very good friend of mine for the past year, so when he told me that his band had booked a gig in Kingston in southwest London, I didn’t hesitate to buy a ticket there and then. The rest of the trio consists of Nathan Cook on bass and George Walker on drums.

             Framework was included in a line-up hosted by Banquet Records at a venue called The Peel with Rattle Snake, Hornets, and main act, Max Raptor. While all of these bands are worthy of praise in their own right, I am going to strictly cover Framework’s performance. I made my way to Kingston on the bus and there I proceeded to be picked up by the Framework band members as they honked at me from their car filled with instruments and equipment. It was a tight squeeze in the back, but it left me feeling very “I’m with the band.”

             The Peel allows for direct contact from stage to audience, as seen when band members hopped down from their platform and joined the crowd. While there were hardly over 30 people in attendance that night, all of the bands had an energy that more than made up for it. The supporters who were there were enthusiastic and more than ready to engage in typical moshing behavior that goes alongside the heavy music that featured. 

             I tended to stay on the sidelines to avoid said behavior, but when Framework graced the stage, I inched my way up to the front and center, camera at the ready. Framework’s set was comprised of “Intro,” “Purity,” “Rodeo Clown,” “Cover,” “Intro Pt. 2,” and “Arsonist.” All of the songs were completely original except for “Rodeo Clown,” which is a Lifetime cover. Brown was a natural onstage, engaging the crowd in banter and swinging his guitar around with precise control. The dynamic among Brown, Cook, and Walker really shone through as they joked around and seemed to just enjoy the limelight.

             Brown gave an emotional performance, straining his voice to the limit and delivering each lyric with aggressive flair in order for each word to sink in. Framework dabbles in material that borders on the more morose side but this rawness gives them the guts to say what most people want to, but don’t. Framework’s sound is refined and melodic, but alternatively jolting and abrasive. There’s an edge to them that makes them not just another wannabe punk band and a genuine passion that lies at the heart of their music.

             When Brown delivered the brash line, “I don’t feel anything anymore,” to signal the end of the set, it was apparent that the audience had felt something as they quickly snatched up the free CDs that Brown was handing out afterwards. The CD’s track listing is made up of a “Purity” demo and “Arsonist” single. The members of Framework and I hung around to listen to the rest of the bands before we headed back to my flat in Bayswater so they could get some much-needed rest.

             Those aforementioned Burger King cups in tow, Brown, Cook, and Walker chowed down on their burgers while I grilled them with questions in the comfort of my own home. They are just such down-to-earth and easy-going guys that they were a real pleasure to talk to. They are truly comfortable in their own skin and they aren’t afraid to let everyone else know it too, so I think that the best way to get to know them is in their own words.

             I would like to give a big thank you to Jack Brown, Nathan Cook, and George Walker for making this interview possible.

Laura Rutkowski: Your lyrics tend to be evocative and emotionally charged. Which of your songs do you feel has been the most cathartic to write and perform?

Jack Brown: I think “Cover” is probably lyrically the most personal song I’ve written. I haven’t actually told anyone what it’s about. There are sometimes some lines in that song that I actually don’t feel comfortable singing. Not in a way where it’s like I don’t feel comfortable saying that because I don’t want to put it in there, but it’s like I need to put it in there, but I still feel quite sad saying some of those things.

LR: Can you disclose what it’s about?

JB: I wasn’t very happy with the person I was from the ages of around 16 to 20 and then I lost a lot of friends and nearly lost a lot of best friends. Then I ended up kind of sorting myself out and then managed to regain some of the friendships that I nearly lost, but then a lot of those friends had turned into not very nice people. I did a lot of things for them, but they didn’t really appreciate it and they didn’t really notice it, so you’ve got to try and just I guess bite the bullet and realize that they’re not apart of your life anymore. That’s what it’s about. It was a pretty rough time, but it’s all sorted now. 

LR: Your new single is called “Purity.” What can you tell me about that?

Nathan Cook: It’s really fun.

George Walker: It’s a faster song we’ve done. It’s our punk song isn’t it, really?

JB: When we started out and we released “Arsonist,” literally everyone was like, “I didn’t really expect you to release that, because you don’t look like a band to release that kind of song.” That’s kind of why we released that one first, because we don’t want anyone having expectations of us.

GW: It shows our limits, doesn’t it?

JB: I don’t want anyone to expect what we’re doing, whereas “Purity” is pretty much the song that everyone was expecting, so it’s like now we can give it to them. It’s a very in-your-face song. There’s no build up or count in. It doesn’t gradually build up, and structurally as well, it’s not verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. It’s pretty much just verse, chorus, verse, finish. It’s quite a short song, but it’s very in-your-face and punchy. I really like opening with it.

GW: It’s the right one to open with. I couldn’t imagine opening with any other song.

JB: Lyrically, I guess it’s just about wanting to feel something that is real and I think that a lot of people go through that. I think that a lot of things get sugarcoated and then you kind of realize that you strive for something a bit more than that.

LR: How would you like fans to remember you?

NC: Just fun. I just want to get the energy across and obviously it’s some punky stuff. It’s serious, but obviously some songs are just fun, but you have the serious element as well, but I think people are always expecting a scrappy pop-punk band.

GW: There’s a lot more professionalism in it now. If we were to do a gig when we first started writing, it wouldn’t be like it is now. I think we’ve realized that we can actually play pretty well. At first, I think we just thought we were doing something for fun and it turns out that we’ve written a few songs we’re really proud of.

NC: I think we’ve had more fun than we thought we would, yeah.

JB: I think that, especially on stage, us three do have a laugh together and I think that that shows that we all do get along. Obviously there are some bands we look up to like Blink-182 and everything, but when they started out, one of their songs is called “Toast and Bananas” and it’s an awful song. They’ve got other songs about, you know, just sucking dick and stuff like that, whereas even though we do like to have a laugh, I think the lyrical content of what we write is pretty serious. I think that if we just took the piss, it would be like those songs didn’t really mean anything, whereas they’re actually really honest. They’re about delicate matters and I think that we can still have fun. I mean it’s not that we take ourselves seriously, but we take the music that we write seriously.

GW: I think it comes out when we play. You can tell. People think it’s going to be a joke, but when we play, I think it’s different. It comes out and people understand straight away.

JB: We’re not playing for anyone else. 

GW: It’s for us. 

NC: We didn’t come all the way here to play for just anyone. It was like, London would be so fun, let’s go.

GW: If it weren’t for ourselves, we wouldn’t be in a band together, because we wouldn’t enjoy it.

JB: Before we played tonight, we just kind of had a little huddle and just said play for each other. That’s it. Not going to lie, we did expect the crowd to be a bit bigger, but we played as if it was bigger. We played as if it was a sold-out show. 

GW: I think you have to do that, don’t you really?

JB: We don’t know any other people in that room, besides from you and our friends.

GW: We could have made potentially at least 20 fans from it. 

LR: Do you go through a conscious thought process about your look and style when presenting yourself as Framework’s frontman?

NC: Yes. “I’m just pulling my socks up.”

[Everyone laughs] 

JB: ”I’m just putting on my shorts.”

NC: I guess generally it’s not as if I dress to play a gig.

GW: We just dress like we normally do.

JB: The only mistake I ever made playing a gig was when I wore that jumper on our first one. If anything, it’s more of a comfort thing. I’ll wear things that make me comfortable. For example, I know it sounds stupid, but I prefer to wear shorts because I can move around a lot easier in shorts than I can with skinny jeans.

GW: Same with drums really. I couldn’t drum in the summer without wearing shorts.

JB: If anything, that kind of complements the image that I want to get across, the fact that I am comfortable on stage. I don’t want to look uncomfortable and if I was wearing anything that made me feel uncomfortable, then I think that would come across. We don’t really have an image. The image that we do have is, I guess, the mentality and attitude of we don’t really care about anything. We don’t care what people think about us and we don’t care what people will expect of us. We don’t really care what we wear. We literally wear anything we want.

We don’t have an image. We don’t wear suits. We don’t all follow suit and all wear the same thing. We just wear what we want. I like the whole DIY ethic. I like the fact that we look like we’re just three friends doing it purely for the enjoyment of music. I think so many people get caught up in the idea of an image that they kind of forget about the music and they start taking photos on Instagram and stuff that they focus on that before they’re writing good music. 

NC:  My t-shirt had a pug on it at our first gig.

JB: Yeah, exactly.

GW: I saw that in a picture.

JB: I just think that the music’s more important as far as image goes and I think that our image complements our music pretty well. We all grew up playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. The bands that I listened to throughout the whole of my teenage years never really had an image. It was always just t-shirt and shorts. It kind of goes in with the skateboarding lifestyle, so if we had to define what we dressed as it would be skater boys and Groundskeeper Willie [The Simpsons character, referring to George].

GW: I guess it’s true.

JB: We’re not going to be wearing Beatles suits anytime soon I don’t think. 

LR: How does it feel being able to live out your dream of performing gigs?

JB: It’s pretty exciting to be honest. 

NC: My third ever gig, ever. I’d always wanted to be in a band, even before I ever played anything.

GW: It’s cool, because every band I’ve been in played in Barnstaple in crappy little villages all the time, and our third gig, we’ve already played in London. It’s just cool for me.

NC: Yeah, I did not expect to be in London. Is Kingston London really? 

JB: It’s London outskirts. The London buses drive through it; therefore, it’s London. It’s as simple as that. The last band I was in which was actually properly playing gigs was when I was 16 and that was a band in Barnstaple called Hear the Call which was with Scott Linn and I quit that band. I tried to start a band when I lived up here but it just didn’t feel right. It got to the point where I was trying to find band members through a website called joinmyband.co.uk. It just didn’t feel very natural at all. Say you became successful, so maybe like, “Oh, how did you guys meet?” It’s like a dating site but for a band and I did not want to be able to say that, so personally I think for me, I waited for the right time and I couldn’t pick any other people I’d rather be in a band with.

I think we waited for the right time and I think we were all in pretty much the same place, you know, working jobs and just wanting to do something more. The thing is as well, we’re all in this band because we love the music we’re playing and because we all want to do the same thing. For example, I didn’t just get Nathan because he can play bass and I didn’t just get George because he can play drums. No, I got George because he likes the same music as I do and he can play drums. I hate the thought of if he wanted to be in a heavy metal band and he’s like, “I’m a really good drummer” and he just joins this band for the sake of being in a band. I didn’t want anyone to be in a band just for the sake of, “Oh yeah, I’m in a band” kind of thing.

GW: It doesn’t make much sense, does it?

LR: I think you guys had the best onstage chemistry together. You were having fun with it.

JB: That’s kind of it really. Some people have a transition of when they go from getting ready to being onstage. Their whole persona just changes, but it’s literally just we’ve just plugged in our instruments and that’s it. We’re literally exactly the same as we are onstage. We all take the piss out of each other.

NC: It’s just the same as when we play the practice space. It’s just relaxed. 

GW: It’s the best way to do it really. It’s good to have some professionalism, but I think you ought to save that for when you’re setting up your instruments and getting them ready.

JB: Just because we don’t necessarily take ourselves seriously, we take Framework as a unit seriously.

GW: Of course you do, else you wouldn’t be doing this.

JB: Yeah, and I think that that’s the most important thing. I mean, we’re still gelling now, especially when it comes to writing. It usually goes that I’ll write a song on an acoustic guitar and then that song, the skeleton of that song, it will literally change completely when I take it to Nathan and George. It will not sound the same at all and then I’ll go back and rework it based on what Nathan has said about it and what Nathan has brought to the table and the same with George and because we’re all such good friends, we can all be honest with each other. If I write something and Nathan doesn’t like it or George doesn’t like it, they will tell me. They won’t say, “Oh, it’s good” because they’re scared to hurt my feelings. They will literally say, “That is rubbish,” which is the best way to work because then we all come up with better stuff.

GW: We all get a part of the song. 

JB: It all gets the best out of us, which is how we like to work. There was talks maybe about getting a fourth member in to change things, but I think that we’ve got such a way now with the way that we write, it just wouldn’t feel right. I think that we all work so well together that if we brought someone else in, it would just kind of break it apart.

GW: It would change it as well, because some people come in and try and take full control, which we don’t want. We like it being just us three because it’s easiest to get everyone in one space at one time and sort things out.

LR: If you could collaborate with any musician or band, living or dead, who would you choose?

JB: Jesse Lacey from Brand New.

NC: Yeah, Brand New’s up there. New Found Glory’s just always been my favorite band. Playing the same festival as them, opening for them, that would be awesome.

GW: I was happy enough with Max Raptor to be honest. I’d never be able to choose someone I’d want to play with. I’ll play for anyone whether they’re worse or better than our band. I really don’t care. If someone said to me do you want to play for a band like New Found Glory who I don’t really know that well, I’d quite happily do it. I’d love to be able to support The Stranglers. They’re my favorite band ever, but a gig’s a gig really, isn’t it? 

JB: I don’t know if I’d like to collaborate with someone. I’m not really a fan of guest vocals and stuff, but it’d be interesting to maybe watch how a band like Citizen or Brand New write songs. I’d love to spend the day in a studio and watch how they write things and watch how Jesse writes songs. I think that’d be really interesting and there’s probably things from that which then we could then probably take and maybe apply to our songwriting. I think that’d be kind of cool, but there’s something about Brand New. They make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up sometimes. I fucking love that band. 

GW: I’d love to be able to do that with The 1975 though. Their songwriting is unbelievable.

LR: To sum up, what should we expect from Framework as the band progresses?

GW: More gigs away. 

JB: It’s kind of cool at the moment because I think that now because we’ve all got a better understanding, especially of the research by doing it yourself, it is actually quite easy to get into supportive shows and I really like doing that. I’m really glad we played Max Raptor, because they’re George’s favorite band. I think that’s a lifetime goal sorted and he’s only fucking 19. Apart from Max Raptor, I’d never heard of Hornets or Rattle Snake ever, but it’s cool to go to a gig and then it’s kind of like trading cards. Do you see what I mean? 

NC: Yeah, talking about gig swapping and stuff and “I will like your band if you like my band.”

JB: Even though it is the most said thing by any musician, it is literally all about networking and just making friends. Staying in touch with Banquet Records, who are fantastic at what they do, we’re pretty much guaranteed a gig in Kingston again and then from the bands that we make friends with because of Kingston gigs, like Max Raptor, we’ve now got a gig in Exeter. Then we’re playing with bands in Exeter at that gig who we’ve never met before.

GW: When that ball starts rolling, you’ll have bands messaging you saying, “Do you want to come on tour with us?” It all falls into place after a while.

JB: It all just kind of builds up. It’s a very exciting time to do this and it’s going to help because we are still writing our EP and that’s hopefully going to be recorded beginning of December. Then we’re going to get that out, especially with some t-shirts, because we’re aiming to be on tour in January/February. We don’t know how many days. It probably won’t be many. It’s probably what we’re doing now in succession, so for example tonight, instead of staying somewhere, we might crash somewhere or we might be on our way to the next city. Maybe just a week tour just to play specific places where we haven’t been before.


We’re going to go to Norwich and Norwich has got a good music scene. We’ve been offered shows in Glasgow and Cardiff, Brighton, so we want to try to get out to those many places, but it’d be cool to go there with some form of merchandise to sell. Obviously it’s cool tonight we gave out free CDs, but it’s only got a demo and a single, so to be able to do that, like I’d be happy to do that constantly and just kind of build up from there really. I need to start probably buying some trousers, because I can’t keep wearing shorts in winter. 

             Find Framework on Facebook here and give them a listen here. I promise you won't regret it.

October 13, 2013

Going in Blind

             To say that Dans le Noir? is a unique culinary experience would be a gross understatement. My roommate and I first stumbled across the restaurant after watching the film About Time. The concept is a simple yet unusual one - dining in the dark. In the movie, characters played by Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams start conversing during a trip to the restaurant and only later come to properly “meet” when they exit, making their return to the outside world. My roommate, Heidi, and I figured that surely such a restaurant could not exist, but I assure you, the restaurant is alive and well right here in London.

             I must recommend now that it is better to book in advance, because spaces definitely fill up at this hot spot. Dans le Noir? was founded in 2004 in Paris by Edouard de Broglie with backing from the Paul Guinot Foundation for Blind People. The restaurant has branched out since then, infiltrating places such as Barcelona, Spain and St. Petersburg, Russia. It has also held temporary residence in New York City, New York, Warsaw, Poland, Bangkok, Thailand, and Moscow, Russia.

             Heidi and I decided to make a reservation and see for ourselves what all of the fuss was about. Upon our arrival, we were allowed to relax in the designated lounge areas either upstairs or downstairs and grab a drink. We were also told to surrender our belongings, specifically those with light sources (mobile phones, cameras), to lockers before we entered the actual eating space. We were approached by one of the staff members to choose from the White (chef’s surprise), Blue (fish and seafood), Green (vegetarian), and Red (meat) “surprise” menus.

             Then, we were given the options of either a two-course meal consisting of a main and dessert or a starter and dessert or a three-course meal consisting of a starter, main, and dessert. Heidi and I both decided we’d try the Red two-course meal. At that point, we were also instructed to relay any food allergies or specifications, because until we actually tasted the food, and maybe even then, we would have no idea what we would be eating. Promptly afterwards, we were introduced to Roberto, our waiter and blind guide. Heidi placed her hand on Roberto’s right shoulder while I placed mine on hers and all we could do was have a little “blind faith” in our astute leader.

             Roberto led us into pitch darkness as Heidi and I tottered precariously on our heels. I inched my way forward taking baby steps, vastly aware that we had entered the dining room. The clinking of glasses and cutlery and the boisterousness of other guests’ laughs boomed all around us as we were led to our table. Heidi and I were both very obviously disorientated and entered a state of delirious giggling and poking around the table, often times finding each other’s face at the end of our reaching hands. Roberto informed us that we had a napkin in front of us with a knife and a fork, along with two glasses, one for wine if we so desired, and the other for our drink of choice. As soon as Roberto’s helpful nudges and hand placements dissipated back into the abyss, Heidi and I were left to fend for ourselves.

             Our food and drinks arrived swiftly. Roberto told me that my Diet Coke had a straw in it, so I searched around for its familiar shape and thought that the ease of this action would be translated to eating my meal. I knew how to use cutlery and I certainly knew what cutlery felt like. I had cut many pieces of food in my lifetime, so I figured this really shouldn’t be that hard. I was wrong, oh so very wrong. I clanked my knife and fork around in a desperate and hungry attempt to locate the food on my plate, and was rendered apprehensive to take the first bite once I did.

             I half expected for my eyes to grow accustomed to the dark as the evening progressed, but even with that, I was wrong. The entire room was blacked out purposefully and whatever hopes I had of being able to see were abandoned in a fruitless effort. Let me just say that cutting a piece of meat in the dark is inordinately difficult. I exclaimed, “Chicken!” while Heidi simultaneously squealed, “Beef!” I came to the conclusion that she might have been right that it was beef, but we were both left puzzled about the mysterious vegetable. I had a mouth full of a leafy substance at one point, of that I was certain, but I had to glug down my drink after a bitter aftertaste of that previously mentioned unknown vegetable.

             It might be key to mention at this point that I am a very picky eater. If I don’t like the look or smell or texture of a certain food, I will certainly not put it anywhere near my mouth. Dans le Noir? forced me out of my comfort zone, and for that, I am extremely grateful. As soon as Heidi and I had composed ourselves from our delirium, we spoke just as friends normally do. No ambient music filled the space, so we were left to rely on our verbal skills.

             While you might assume the restaurant would be flooded with noise and bogged down by hearing the conversations of others, it wasn’t like that at all. Rather, the atmosphere was buzzing, but everyone honed in on their own table and their own conversation. No one cared to listen to the other guests, and with the distraction of mobile phones out of the equation, all anyone could do was give their undivided attention to the other person or persons at their table.

             Roberto’s voice came to Heidi and me through the cloak of incomprehensible black and he told us it was time for our main course. We were utterly confused since we had only ordered a two-course meal, so we explained, and Roberto said there must have been a mix-up. However, the reason I mention this is we were privileged to three courses for the price of two thanks to the kind staff. Now I have the ability to report on all three of the dishes, for the Red menu at least.

             Our main course was most elusive, but endlessly delicious. I sunk my teeth into tender and succulent meat laced with a sweet sauce that I assumed was cranberry. I dug into other meats around the plate, relishing each one’s flavor and their accompanying toppings and seasonings while Heidi lunged at me, bread in hand, from across the table. Heidi told me she had given up on her utensils and had begun using her hands. I stuck to the struggle of the knife and fork, determined to maintain my etiquette even under cover of darkness.

Oh look, there’s Heidi and me enjoying our meal…
             I relinquished this pleasantry by dessert when I plunged my hand onto my plate and found what was undoubtedly a strawberry. After biting into the juicy outside, I knew I had to be right. Surely my taste buds could not trick me when it came to my favorite fruit! Dessert was the meal where I felt invincible. My hand crept upon a small dish, so with spoon back in hand, creamy delight ensued and I tasted the familiar gravely crunch and smooth consistency of what I have come to know as crème brûlée. Heidi and I agreed in unison, excited that we had finally come to a confident conclusion.

             All I had in the restaurant were my sensations and my perceptions. As proclaimed by the website itself, in the dark, everyone is equalized. It does not matter what anyone looks like, or even who anyone is. All that matters in that moment is being present. My generation is hooked on electronic devices. Glued to phones, laptops, and social media, it’s no wonder that we report feelings of loneliness as a result. Ironically, Dans le Noir? forces us to truly see the person who has accompanied us for the evening.

             Conversational gesticulations and movements such as head nods were impossible, so Heidi and I had to communicate to one another that we were listening by other means, such as asking questions and saying things like, “Yes, I understand,” or, “Go on.” With our sight stripped, we couldn’t even be tempted by external stimuli, whether it be in the form of people or scenery. For these reasons, the restaurant is an ideal date location in my opinion and probably one of the most romantic as well. What more could anyone want than to be with good company and even better food in such an intimate setting, explicitly attuned to their partner?

             Dans le Noir? also offers awareness about the condition of being blind. As soon as Heidi and I stepped outside of our black box, I couldn’t be more indebted to my sight, something I normally just take as a given. It was amazing how my body compensated in the areas of hearing, smelling, and tasting, and the whole experience was truly unforgettable. While gathering our possessions from our locker and blinking through blurred vision, we were asked slyly by the restaurant’s endearing manager, Dominique Raclin, if we would like to know what we consumed during our meal.

             Raclin talked us through each course and I might have been right on some of my guesswork, but at other times, I was so far off! I was highly impressed however, because what I had eaten was not merely food, but gourmet cuisine of the finest quality, and it doesn’t take seeing a certain dish to recognize that. When Heidi and I emerged into the lit lounge, that’s when we paid. The restaurant could be categorized in the pricier range, but it’s a night out well worth the splurge. Raclin even told us that there have indeed been incidents of “dating in the dark,” just as was idealized in About Time.

             As far as whether you think I’m going to clue you in on the specifics of what I had to eat, you would be highly mistaken. All I will say is that the sauce definitely wasn’t cranberry and I realized my aversion to artichokes. As for the rest, that’s something you’ll just have to go and find out for yourself. 

             To reserve a table at the London-based Dans le Noir? restaurant and determine whether you would like to join the dark side, have a look here.