When Charlie Murphy (guitar shredder, throat lacerating front-man and all-round top guy of The Red Cords) came to us and said he would like to write some articles, we were honoured and considered it a privilege to be able to welcome not just one of our friends but a member of one of our favourite bands to Wax Music. Some supremely cool artwork from Lewis Allen gave us a unique direction to take this idea. We couldn’t think of a better place to start than with an introduction to one of Falmouth’s noisiest, The Spankees.
I’ve known Christian Cleave from The Spankees since I was ten and first became best friends with his brother. We all grew up in the same town in North Cornwall and apart from being different ages were exposed to a lot of the same ways of passing time, or in the case of playing music, making your time a little brighter than it was.
The Spankees started when Curt Halling’s – (guitar / vocals) and Ben Nightingale’s (drums and super rockin’ BVs) previous band, the cosmically named Curious Altoids, split up and Christian finally put his bass where his mouth was and learnt to play. What ensued was pretty magic. The first time I watched them jam was in my Mum’s front room, which is apt because most of the North Cornwall-based garage bands are actually more living-room types. They sounded particularly sweet that night, with Curt’s soul-punk voice, Ben’s loose drum style and Christian pressing out the notes on the bass. I desperately wanted to record them before I realised that A) they could a better job themselves and B) I actually have no idea how to record anything well. I really wanted people to see them, which leads me to recollect their first show in Falmouth. They weren’t actually on the bill for the show until they were totally peer pressured into playing by the other bands. It’s probably one of the few examples of positive peer pressure though. They were nervous but great. I think seeing good bands play nervous is positive because rock and roll is nothing if it isn’t human, although I’d love to see a labrador front a classy punk band.
Next came their first E.P, ‘The Break In‘, the story of which is now a sort of a myth. I would write it here gladly but would the run the risk of getting several of The Spankees into some pretty major trouble with their parents. Suffice it to say that I got a text from one of The Spankees at three o’clock in the morning simply saying “We’ve broken in”. The song and the E.P. was written and recorded the next day. It’s fundamentally brilliant, full of everything that makes being a young band so fun and most importantly their sound is effortless from the off, with the combination of Curt and Ben’s backing vocals. The vocals are shared, which is an integral part of what I love about The Spankees. When you listen to their recordings or see them live you get a strong impression of each of their personalities and how they combine, especially with Christian as not even a lobotomy could keep his personality at bay.
This leads us several awesome live shows later to ‘Nothing’s Good Enough‘ and the forthcoming sophomore E.P. They recorded with Max Jacomb, who also recorded both the first and second (not yet released) albums by The Black Tambourines. This saw The Spankees relocate to Troubadour Studios in Falmouth. For anyone who hasn’t been to Troube, it is the hub of music here in Falmouth, especially recording-wise. The new E.P. sees some slight adjustments; Max used Reel to Reel which definitely has a large effect on the record, giving the instruments a more combined feel and everything pleasantly blends. Max’s choosing to record them playing live is perfect for capturing the young punk band in full flow. The first track which they have released, “Nothing’s Good Enough”, is a personal favourite of mine, a combination of righteous chords and Curt’s unique and generally rad vocals that make it both familiar and unique. I feel like Curt’s vocals on this song are something really special to The Spankees. As we all know though what makes us like music is far from just the sum of its parts and this track has that extra thing that makes me excited about it. Hopefully the E.P. will come out soon and everybody can hear it, but until then, Viva La Spankees.
Words by Charlie Murphy
Image by Lewis Allen
Introduction by Ross Jones