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Brinkman: Britpop revivalists and Kinks wannabes

Brinkman

Feature by Jack Foley

BRINKMAN are the antithesis of the overnight sensation syndrome that hypes bands who are barely out of the rehearsal room, only to see them fade back into obscurity when the next flavour of the month turns up.

Despite only being in their mid 20s, they’ve lived a bit. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Paul Cook and drummer Neil Kerly have been in bands together for 10 years, while drifting through a succession of McJobs as shelf-stackers and electricians mates.

It’s fair to say they’ve paid their dues, and it’s paid dividends in the form of Brinkman and a collection of songs that are witty, warm and tuneful in equal measure.

These songs also revive a quintessentially British guitar pop lineage that has laid somewhat dormant for the best part of a decade.

Call it Britpop if you must, but Paul Cook’s songs echo Ray Davies’ pithy social commentaries while being contemporary enough to put a very modern spin on single life in a fussy, dysfunctional 21st century.

“The Beatles are really the ultimate role model, in terms of songwriting,” admits Paul. “Then I see us in the tradition of The Kinks, The La’s and Teenage Fanclub – I feel like we’re a chronological progression.”

“People have also mentioned Squeeze,” adds Neil, “which is a name you don’t hear mentioned so much these days, but I think it deserves to be.”

This clear musical vision is the result of formative years growing up in the mid ‘90s, when British music was enjoying an Indian summer of creativity.

“Britpop was a real explosion for me,” says Paul. “I was probably a bigger Oasis fan at the time, but listening back now to Parklife by Blur, it’s just an immense album, it’s almost like a concept album in a way, 18 great songs, with a strong British theme running through them.

“I’m not saying we don’t like American music but I like to tap into those images of Englishness summed up in those kind of songs.”

You can see that influence in Brinkman’s gently elegant guitar pop style, and their plainspoken, slightly self-deprecating lyrics, laced with dry humour.

Carol Simpson is a wry third-person vignette about a woman whose life is in a mess, immediately reminiscent of Village Green-era Kinks, while A Real Thunderbolt is a disarmingly honest, slightly knock-kneed plea for Ms. Right to turn up, all be it with specifications such as “someone who has good taste in cinema”.

It was this kind of off-kilter charm that got Paul’s songs a publishing deal two years ago, just as Brinkman completed their line-up and bassist Tom Brown answered an ad in NME and moved from Bournemouth to join the Ealing based duo.

They then got a manager who immediately sent them on tour.

“When we came back we were just on fire – that was our equivalent of a ‘Hamburg period’” reckons Tom.

Marsha Shandur, from XFM, saw a show in London soon after, and raved to anyone who would listen: “This is the fourth time I’ve seen them, even for me, that’s excessive for a new band. But each time they have not failed to amaze me. They can only be huge. So tuneful, so BIG sounding, just amazing. You have to at least listen to them now, so that you can feel just a little smug when they’re massive,” she said following a show at London’s Borderline.

In August 2006 the band signed to EMI Records. “We told them that we wanted to be on the His Masters Voice label,” says Neil. “And amazingly they’ve resurrected it, like they did for Morrissey when he first went solo.”

Probably the most common lyrical theme of Brinkman’s songs is Paul Cook’s continuing status as a romantic disaster area. Curse Of The Girlfriend and Single Life seem to take the view that he’s better off alone, yet Pillow bemoans our hero’s lack of romantic companionship. The truth is somewhere in-between, Paul admits.

“People have said I like being single and having lots of short relationships, and I suppose there’s an element of truth in that. I prefer if things are not going right because it makes it easier to write about.”

While Brinkman’s attitude to such subjects is typically modest, understated and British, it was Paul’s unrequited love for an unattainable American that provided the subject matter for Kirsten Dunst, their critically acclaimed debut and limited edition release on Club Fandango.

In addition to scooping up some fine reviews, the song found its way to the lady herself, who much to the band’s delight, declared herself to be “extremely flattered”.

Fast forward to Spring 2007 and with an appearance at the NME Awards shows already under their belts, Brinkman are about to head out on UK dates with both Captain and Travis. The Travis dates have come by way of special invitation from Fran Healy and Brinkman will also be joining Travis for their UK tour in May.

Proving themselves just as adept at another creative medium, Brinkman scripted, directed and filmed the video for the single too, depicting Paul Cook’s escape through a bedroom window and his subsequent bicycle getaway through the streets of London – all created for a total budget of £36.70!