Interview and story by Jack Foley
WHEN South were first asked to play a one-off concert in aid of the Teenage
Cancer Trust, it was a decision they refused to take lightly. The answer,
of course, was 'yes', as even if they could only help in a small way in the
greater scheme of things, they were honoured to be able to do so.
And ever since they committed themselves to the project (which was first imagined by Simon Pinion), they have been brilliant, really entering into the spirit of the unique occasion (very few concerts have been organised by just one individual).
South are comprised of Joel Cadbury, Jamie McDonald and Brett Shaw and they are as nice a bunch of guys as you are ever likely to meet; rock stars in the approachable Coldplay mode, rather than the 'bad boy' histrionics of the likes of Oasis.
Hanging out with them in the hours before the concert (on Thursday at BBC LDN's studios in Marylebone) and at ULU as they made their final preparations was almost as rewarding as watching them perform the gig itself, providing a memorable insight into the behind-the-scenes work that goes into such an event.
Jamie, the band's lead guitarist and an avid Arsenal fan like myself, even
spared a few moments to talk about what it meant for South to be performing
on the night, the band's forthcoming EP release and to reflect on their recent
tour of America.
Talking about the upcoming gig itself, he said the band was 'really happy' to be back in the capital, just up the road from their Camden home, especially as it has been some time since they last appeared as the headline act.
"We have not played in London since we supported Ian Brown in November
last year and headlined Hackney Ocean last summer, so just coming off the
back of the American tour it's nice to be playing in London again, because
we're gonna know everyone in the audience," he said.
The concert could not have come at a better time for the band and puts them back in the limelight at a time when they are about to release a new five-track EP, Nothing Personal, in June or July, and just weeks after they conquered the States - an achievement so far reserved for an elite selection of Brit bands.
Reflecting on that tour, during which they supported Elbow, Jamie described it as 'a great success', giving people the opportunity to discover a little bit about them as well as providing 'a nice way to see America'.
"To begin with people came out to see Elbow, as they knew who they were, but by the end of the tour they were coming out to see us as well, so it worked really well," he continued.
The tour itself took in high profile cities such as San Francisco - including a two-night stop at Popscene - and New York, which was Jamie's personal favourite.
"We had friends come out and meet us and were there for a few days, so we got to see the city together and it was like a big party," he revealed with a cheeky laugh.
The US release of the band's debut album, From Here On In, features an extra track not available on the UK version and it is this which will feature as the band's new single when the Nothing Personal EP is released. And while Jamie is aware that it is 'not actually an EP because it has five tracks on it', he joked that the band would be calling it that anyway, 'just to fuck people up'.
Its release will coincide with another tour for the band, the dates of which have yet to be confirmed, although the Reading and Leeds festivals seem likely (keep hitting these pages for details as we get them). But South are confident they can continue to build on the success of the first album and capitalise on the current resurgence of guitar-based music.
When asked which bands they were listening to at the moment, both Jamie and Joel agreed that Doves were very good (Joel described the new single, There Goes The Fear, as 'so Roses'), while Elbow's new album was also a top quality product.
But as the interview drew to a close, Jamie had time to reflect on another great passion of his, football, and the chances of Arsenal's success in the league.
"I can taste it already, man," he enthused, excitedly. "I'm back to '98 and the Double. I'll be at Ipswich on Sunday, but I think they have the quality and the mental attitude to do it, so I'm really excited," he added.
If all goes to plan, the summer of 2002 should be a memorable one for South
and for Jamie. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed on both counts...
Click here for a review of the TCT gig...