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Interview with Exeter-based band The Computers: Soul and blues from the birthplace of Ray Charles

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: July 04, 2013

The Computers

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OUT of the many local bands trying to break through, one of the strongest and potentially most successful are The Computers. The Exeter rock 'n' soul quintet have just done a headline tour promoting their new album, but it didn't include a date in their home city.

However, not wanting their local fans to miss out, The Computers have managed to squeeze in a show at Exeter Phoenix on Saturday, July 6.

With a sound that has been described as lying somewhere between Elvis Costello and The Attractions and Black Flag, and with some Rocket From The Crypt for good measure, The Computers have developed a growing following since forming five years ago.

In that time they have performed at top festivals, including Reading and Leeds, and have supported the likes of rock trio The Subways.

The band's debut album This Is The Computers was released in 2010, and was a hardcore punk workout.

But for album two, Love Triangles Hate Squares, they're back, sharp-suited, drenched in Brylcreem with a line in classic, romantic rock 'n' roll, soul and blues that's as sharp as their quiffs.

Singer and guitarist Alex Kershaw explains: "The first album was us getting distracted on the journey to now; I had to exorcise a few things."

It was a pop talk to Rocket From The Crypt's John 'Speedo' Rhys that gave Al the push he needed to dig deeper, eventually finding his voice, both thematically and singing.

The result is a personal, romantic and soulful record broadly about the breakdown of relationships.

"I had stuff I wanted to say, be it as soppy and as schmaltzy as you like," explains Alex. "Being in love is complicated and people can be cruel. I wanted to say these things, and I did in these songs."

When it comes to influences, there is one band that stands out for Alex.

"My favourite band on record is The Clash," he says. "They moved on, and they weren't scared to start off as a punk band and then become this weird white-boy hip hop thing like The Magnificent Seven. And life's too short to do the same thing again and again."

On the suggestion of producer Mark Neil, the album was made in Valdosta, Georgia, USA, a small town packed with tiny churches and calorific waffle houses. The logic is that if you're going to make a southern soul record, you might as well go to the place where Ray Charles was born.

"It's the real home of gospel and southern soul," he says. "It's wet, the air is wet and the record sounds wet because of it."

The heat made the guitars go out of tune; turning the air conditioning off warped the piano strings. The record is a product of its environment, and they stuck to the method, wearing their suits to the studio.

"I would never want to record in tracksuit bottoms," says Alex. "I wouldn't even record with my hair all over the place. 'Like trouser, like mind' – as Joe Strummer wisely said."

The first offering from the album is Disco Sucks, a reference to the racist, homophobic movement led by Midwestern jocks in 1979 that saw disco vinyl destroyed in a football stadium.

It's also the name of a clubnight the band run in Exeter at The Cavern.

Along with the boogie-punk of Bring Me The Head Of A Hipster, the impossibly soulful torch song Cruel and the gorgeous, pared-down Empty Beds, The Computers have made a record guaranteed to make you dance through any kind of heartbreak.

Tickets for the gig at Exeter Phoenix cost £7. Call 01392 667080 or visit www.exeterphoenix.org.uk

After the show, The Computers will host their club night Disco Sucks at The Cavern for the aftershow party.

Watch the band's music video for their new single 'Mr. Saturday Night':

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