Since 2007, Hoodlums (some of London’s best purveyors of unconditionally happy indie-pop) have been perfecting their craft on the live circuit. For this band it was never about locking themselves in a studio and releasing over-produced, money-making albums. Their following has been picked up on tour.
And quite a following it is. Hoodlums are still yet to release a debut single, but already they’ve sold out big rooms like London’s Cargo, and played to rammed tents at festivals like Hop Farm – where they infamously “tore the roof down”.
Last year, the music press confirmed the hype with rave reviews of their live sets. The past few months have seen them writing and recording new material in anticipation of three singles that are to be released before Christmas. But now it’s time to get back onstage to road-test their new material, so SLE met up with them just before they headlined the Hoxton Pony to find out what makes their shows work, and how the new songs are going to shake things up.
The band are casual ahead of tonight’s performance. “This isn’t our show tonight,” says lead singer, Lou Vainglorious, rather unexpectedly. “We just did this as a favour. We know Hares [the band who run the monthly live music night]. They supported us when they used to be Musical Differences.”
But there is an undeniable mood of excitement surrounding them as their stage time approaches. “We’re bursting to play again,” says an eager Nick Pini (double bass). “It’s been really difficult staying in the practice room, not playing to people.”
Spending time in the studio has been a difficult adjustment for Hoodlums. “We’ve only done like four [gigs this year],” says keyboardist Oli Wennink. “And that’s unheard of for us.”
2010 was a big year for Hoodlums, as the hard work paid off and their headline shows sold out. “We did one in August, middle of the festival season, and we were like, ‘no one’s gonna come’. We did it anyway, which was stupid, and it worked! 300 people turned up. Within half an hour we were thinking, fucking hell, there’s an audience for the tunes,” gushes Lou.
But, like most bands, it wasn’t always so easy. Hoodlums have come from humble beginnings – proof that they’ve earned their good reputation. “It’s never good when the promoter comes to you before you go on stage and goes, ‘you don’t have to play’,” laughs Lou as the band reflects on their early shows.
“We played the [now closed Kentish Town pub] Flowerpot when it was the Bullet Bar, and we played to the three drunks that lived there,” remembers Oli.
And when it comes to unusual first gigs, they’ve done them all. “What about that one on that beach in a shopping mall?” suggests Oli. “They made a beach in the shopping mall, and then they got bands to play on it,” he says, still sounding amazed by the concept.
“I gestured to one of the kids to have a little dance and the kid just went, ‘I’m building a sandcastle, piss off’. They were like cutting our teeth, those gigs, ‘cos they were different audiences – they don’t give a shit,” says Lou.
“Those gigs when we were on top of those barges on the canal were amazing,” adds Nick.
“There’s this really good promoter in London who does this weird tour every year where bands go up and down the country on barges. They live on the barge, and they play on the roof, and go on a little tour, and we did that. It was fucking amazing! Picture Borough Market on a Sunday, with people just picking up their loaf of bread or whatever, and then this barge rocks up and we’re playing on the roof. At the time you think ‘this is ‘fucking ludicrous’, but then they stick in your mind forever,” explains Lou.
And it doesn’t end there. Hoodlums are well up for the weird and wonderful when it comes to playing live. “You’ve gotta find new ways in this day and age,” agrees Lou. “I’m trying to convince these guys to do Shoreditch Church, and we’re doing one in a train station in a few weeks as well.”
It seems the band will be taking part in the upcoming Station Sessions at King’s Cross. “We play outside a pub there, just before the Eurostar leaves. Apparently it’s brilliant,” says Oli, looking forward to it.
But before they start experimenting again, tonight is set to be a carefully crafted set to showcase their upcoming singles.
“A lot of time goes into organising the songs and arranging them – not so much into practising, but more arranging,” explains Oli.
“We’re going to do a new one tonight and it’s certainly not finished but it should be fun,” says Lou. Hoodlums are keen on road-testing their new material. “Otherwise they start to destroy themselves and no one ever hears the good version – it’s like over-working it. You’ve gotta get it out and let other people decide. If it’s good, then it stays, if it’s bad, then we just never talk about it again. We’ve got a few of them,” he laughs.
“Tonight it’s just all the tunes that we’re getting ready for our album. We’ll probably record that early next year. We’re trying to design all the tunes to work together live, like you’d try and do for an album.
As for the end of the night, Hoodlums are working too hard to party at the moment. “The idea is that we get all the work done now – two, three years worth of shit – then we’ll just be necking champagne, patting each other on the back,” says Lou.
They may be working hard, but, with big things to come in 2011, they won’t be ruling out celebrations of success. As Lou hints, “Settling down is definitely not on the cards.”