Friday 22 February 2013

Poetry, Bus stops and underpants-Brian Bryden and the Understudies

 Brian Bryden, guitarist, songwriter and singer of the Understudies is happy man. "The  Union Chapel show was pretty amazing, John Jervis of WIAWYA records invited us along and we had the opportunity to play with the little orchestra as they're also doing strings for the forthcoming album. They were brilliant and really made the songs work in what is the biggest and most beautiful venue we've played. We were quite shocked about how many people turned up but managed to hold our nerves. Gold stars to Thom and Ian as it was only their second gig with us."

I love the Understudies. Though they are yet to reach the epic levels of output of the Fall, I have loved every single song they have put out, possibly even more than the author himself "pretty much everything we've put out up until now has been home recordings done in my bedroom which we've never really been happy with."

They have a knack of encapsulating life into a three minute musical Polaroid snapshot with the panache of writers such as Richard Yates, JD Salinger and Miranda July. Songs of nostalgia, sensitivity, and genuine warmth, they manage to keep their feet on the ground with an almost Carry On sense of humour "we don't tend to take ourselves very seriously, it must be exhausting maintaining the level of earnestness and cool that some people strive for. Being quite shy but having the ridiculous urge to get up on stage and sing seems a bit daft but when it's good it can be life affirming."

Like every good pop band, the songs are the key "We do try to approach the songs with as much respect as we can though. Quite a few of my songs have their beginnings in memories and things that have happened but they're usually just a jumping off point and once the songs are beyond the first few lines they kind of take on a life of their own, half fiction half truth. Others have no grain of truth or experience whatsoever and are just inspired by a line or title that pops into my head at 3 in the morning."  

Possibly the strongest work in their current cannon is the Oddbox single 'Everyone Deserves at least one Summer of Love'. Under the watchful eye of designer extraordinaire and band keyboardist/vocalist Bree Wright, the record is a beautifully packaged coloured 7"(even the download code slip is a work of art). The titular A-Side is a self assured, galloping heart stopper that sees its epic verses melt into a toffee-tasty life affirming chorus.  "Surprisingly that one isn't autobiographical at all. I actually pinched the opening lines from the tombstone of some long lost member of the aristocracy whilst wandering around the Victoria and Albert museum, the rest is just my imagination as they say, the title was actually the last thing to come which is a bit arse about face for me. I can tell you though, that I wrote the song in my pants whilst watching the snooker world championships on telly. It's weird but true. I've written some of my best songs whilst watching snooker in my pants, must be the meditative aspect which allows the mind to wander or something."

The flip is the equally assured 'If I come to You'. A gently slow-burning, warm-as-toast arpeggio ballad. It's naked honesty is hard not to fall head over heels for. "with if i come to you... I just wanted to be honest really, not clever or knowing or ironic or whatever. You run the risk of falling flat on your face but I think it's a risk worth taking sometimes."

It's all change for the Understudies at the moment, with a line up change and a new LP on the cards "As luck would have it Ian Cowen was free and we pretty much offered him the job halfway through our first rehearsal. Same applied to Thom Allot Who we recruited after Graeme left to concentrate on his writing. They both clicked from the start which makes it really easy. We're only a few shows in but it's going really well and we've had some really nice feed back. Got plenty of shows lined up so we're quite eager to get back to playing after a quiet 2012."
The swan song of the original line up is the wonderful video for 'Erika K'

Perhaps the the best thing about the Understudies is the fact hey love music and records just as much as you and I do. It's there in the attention to detail and beauty of the record packaging, it's there in the lyrics about French films, bus stops rooted in nostalgia, it's in Brian Bryden's blood. "First and foremost I am a fan. I can't really remember not being interested in music. I was a totp and smash hits obsessive as a kid and pretty much followed on from there and it's been a constant companion all my life. It's a massive cliche but I have no clue what would have filled the void in me if I music hadn't found me. I'd be a completely different person. "

Can he squeeze the vitality, poetry, and day dreaminess of the Understudies in three words? Of course he can-"Buy. The. Album!"

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