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Brakes: Eamon Hamilton

Article written by Ged M
Aug 23, 2005.

Brakes are Eamon Hamilton (vocals, guitar), Tom White (guitar), Alex White (drums) and Marc Beatty (bass). Their other bands are British Sea Power, Electric Soft Parade and The Tenderfoot, although any talk of ‘supergroups’ tends to be stamped on: they’re just old friends in Brighton who play together (and rope in other old friends like Leila Moss from the Duke Spirit and the Pipettes to join them). Their styles range from Kraftwerk to country to punk so it’s hard to define them but it means that their eclectic ‘Give Blood’ album (Rough Trade) is an even more exciting listen, even though it doesn’t break the 30 minute mark with its 16 songs. ‘Pick Up The Phone’ was an earlier single on Tugboat; ‘All Night Disco Party’ is the current platter and ‘Ring A Ding Ding’ is set to come out in October. We spoke to Eamon after their set at Truck Eight in July.

SXP: Is there a concept to Brakes?

Eamon: We wanted a concept that you could play! We all listen to loads of things - Johnny Cash, the Del Vikings I’ve been getting into lately, and the Band - and we wanted a record that stood up to that. But that was the concept – to get an album. Hopefully we did it.

SXP: It’s quite a short album. Do short songs have equal weight to long ones?

Eamon: Yeah, absolutely! Each song’s a song by itself. Then we suddenly realised that all these songs didn’t actually add up to 30 minutes so we should do a cover version and that’s where ‘Jackson’ came from.

SXP: You also released a short single, ‘Pick Up the Phone’; even with the additional tracks, the whole thing is less than 5 minutes!

Eamon: We cut a video as well. It was on MTV: 30 seconds!

SXP: How do you write a song that’s 7 seconds long (‘Cheney’)? Were you trying to write something longer?

Eamon: I don’t think of it in that way. Songs come to you just playing guitar, and singing really. *mimics power chords* Just "chugga, chugga" on ‘Cheney’. What else can you say? What a Dick! What a Dick!

SXP: With so many short songs and the mix of styles, it might not feel serious.

Eamon: Absolutely. We put everything we had into it. We totally did. It’s fun, but fun can be serious as well. We’re dedicated to it.

SXP: Is the speed of recording important? I heard that you did hardly any overdubs and all the vocals were live.

Eamon: A couple of them were. We overdubbed a few of the other ones. Well, we only had a week within our schedules to do it all in!

SXP: You all must be busy with your other bands. Do you have to schedule a week when you’re all in Brighton to record?

Eamon: Yeah, pretty much! But whenever we are, it’s just great to get together. You know, we’ve all been friends for a long time. It’s kind of like meeting up with your mates and playing some music as well.

SXP: When do you write your Brakes songs?

Eamon: You always have melodies and lyrics going through your head.

SXP: When do the other members of Brakes get to hear them?

Eamon: We were in our basement two nights ago and it was: “we’ve got a new one”! Hopefully for the next album we’re all going to have some time to actually jam, get some ideas of band things as well as being in the basement. We only learned that Camper Van Beethoven song yesterday [Brakes played a CVB song to kick off their Truck set]! I got album III about a week ago and it’s just amazing! *laughter*

SXP: Is there much opportunity to go and promote Brakes?

Eamon: We have to work in advance. We’re going on tour from September to November with Brakes, with a few weeks off, we’re going round Europe and hopefully to America, and back round England.

SXP: Are your other bands taking time off?

Eamon: Yeah, for writing and things. It’s worked out quite nicely. Other things are slotting together like a jigsaw. It just means I’m constantly on tour. That’s alright!

SXP: According to your website there’s a story behind each of your songs.

Eamon: That’s why we take each one seriously. That’s why in each one, even in ‘Comma, Comma, Comma, Full Stop’, there’s a story. I’ve given you the punctuation, you’ve got to make up your own sentence!

SXP: Are all your songs autobiographical?

Eamon: Pretty much, yeah, they all are. But that’s nice. I like songs that connect with someone else’s…loss! Like Loudon Wainwright III. He’s a brilliant songwriter and pretty much all of his stuff is autobiographical. I like all that. I’ve been listening to the Byrds lately and their songs are autobiographical.

SXP: There are lots of different elements in your songs. What are your influences?

Eamon: I know I may sound obscure but there’s a band called Humphrey and the Dumptrucks from Saskatchewan in Canada. They released an album that I’ve had all my life; it’s like a Canadian jazz band and they do country, and they’re just an amazing band. You can still get them on Boot Records! The Jesus and Mary Chain, obviously, and Sonic Youth; I saw them playing live [recently] and it was brilliant, they’re still pretty cool. I said to her afterwards “I really like your stuff” and she was *adopts Kim Gordon cool voice*: “oh, yeah?” I said *adopts sheepish voice*: “Alright, thanks a lot”! And also Dinosaur Jr, Pixies and My Bloody Valentine.

SXP: Do you model your singing after anyone?

Eamon: Erm, no, I just sing! I’ve read [we sound like] Roxy Music in reviews and I didn’t really know Roxy Music until that review. *sings* “What’s your name, Virginia Plain”. He’s got a good voice, that man! I had that Eno record ‘Music for Airports’ but I only just got Roxy Music the other week. Who would I like to sing like? Little Richard! My dad gave me a cassette on my 11th or 12th birthday I think. To hear him, Little Richard, was like: fucking hell! This man is rock! Just absolutely pounding! If I could sing like anyone, it would be Little Richard.

SXP: When you sing with Leila on ‘Jackson’, there’s a touch of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra.

Eamon: I was trying! Man, she’s amazing.

SXP: Your two voices sound good together.

Eamon: You think? I always listen to it and say: shit, man, I wish I’d sung a bit better! Leila sounds amazing on it, when she goes up at the end. But that was all one take through one microphone, looking at each other. It’s good fun. But that’s the way it should be isn’t it, instead of sending computer files over the fucking Atlantic!

SXP: The covers of ‘Jackson’ and ‘Sometimes Always’ are great, partly because you got such good people to sing with you.

Eamon: Yeah, superb! We knew that with Leila we’d be able to do it in one take. With the Pipettes, there are three of them but they did it in two takes, I think, all round one microphone. It was a pleasure to see.

SXP: What are you doing next? More Brakes stuff or BSP?

Eamon: In the immediate future, we’ve got two Brakes gigs on Monday and Wednesday, then a British Sea Power gig in Germany, then that night I have to fly back to do a Brakes gig, and then the day after I do another BSP show!

SXP: How do you manage? Do you compartmentalise these things?

Eamon: No man, it’s just music isn’t it? It’s good!

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