The Tab Meets: Dirty Blonde
JAMIE WEBB talks to one of Cambridge’s biggest student bands about cracked phones, glandular fever, and stroking goldfish to death.
George Longworth shows me his shattered screen.
“This is my phone.”
“I put it on the floor when we played the Union Freshers Ball on Friday. That was not cracked until the shockwaves from the amps literally shattered the screen of my phone. I’m now going to have to go to EE and explain that story.”
Esther Longworth nods. “You rocked your phone to death”.
Dirty Blonde are loud. They’re also very, very good. The band formed in February 2013 and quickly gained a reputation as one of the best live student acts in Cambridge.
Guy Clarke, the band’s bassist, became a member after Longworth performed a dramatic backing track to Clarke’s comedy at a Footlights smoker, a riff that later went into their song Railroad.
He joined Jack Maconochie on drums, and Ed Dakin on keys/rhythm guitar. George and Esther are both on vocals, the frontmen, and just so happen to be brother and sister. So what’s that like?
“Its good for everyone in the band”. Guy proclaims, a bit too chirpily. George says “tense”. Jack points out that it used to be a lot worse.
‘There were a lot of egos”, says Esther. “At the beginning stage when no one knew each other that well, it was tense. You know, competition for whose songs to play. But now we all realise we want the same thing”.
They say their best gig was probably their last – at the Union Freshers Ball, where one member told them there were only 20 people not in the room when they were headlining. Oliver Mosley, they request you as their full time manager.
Their worst was in Leicester Square and came the day before George had to go into hospital with such a severe case of glandular fever that he was placed in an isolation unit.
That they’re still gigging at all might come as a surprise. They lost their lead guitarist Michael Campbell to a 5 year PhD in the States, and short of getting him onstage as a hologram like Tupac, it wasn’t possible for him to stay on. Was there any suggestion that the band itself wouldn’t survive multiple graduations?
“We took a sabbatical and since we came back from the holiday things have been a lot better”, says Esther. “Auditioning new people with fresh ideas has made us reconsider a lot of our stuff. You can get set in your ways and start to dislike some of your old music.”
But what is it that turns a good student band into a good band, period? George reckons the first thing you have to do is leave university and play for a while out in the real world.
“With rock bands, theres an expectation from labels that you have to have a fan base already. Get online, do gigs, BBC Radio Introducing, festivals, and then start doing small tours around the country. That’s how Royal Blood did it. If you get beyond 25 and you haven’t done anything, you’re losing relevance.”
And they don’t think Cambridge is a great place to be an up and coming student band. There’s not a huge demand at May Balls for bands who write their own music, nor a culture among the students for going and listening to new live music.
Esther gets that. “If I’ve been writing a supervision essay all week, I don’t want to go to some music that I can’t sing along to and I don’t know the words.”
But what’s it like when it all clicks? When you’re performing and you sound great and the crowd is loving it? Esther: “that is the best feeling”. Jack: “it’s just really good”. Ed’s more circumspect, saying, “if you’re on the edge, you’re concentrating really hard. I do not smile in the song when I’m playing the guitar. I have to concentrate.”
George describes it as the same feeling Esther had after finally getting a dog after begging for seven years (including a spell of pretending to be a dog and stroking a goldfish to death). That’s what it’s like when it’s good.
As we wrap up, the band head to Pembroke to audition another prospective guitarist. It’s no surprise that people want to be a part of Dirty Blonde. This is a group that is going places.
Check out Dirty Blonde’s soundcloud page here.