“We get along really well, we don’t argue or get drunk and call each other bastards.”

Photography by Owen Richards

Photography by Owen Richards

There’s no ‘I’ in band

“Blue on Blue are a band from East London,” starts Samir.

“We are not from East London, I’m from South London,” protests Billy.

“Blue on Blue are a band, full stop,” declares Dee. “No, wait – Blue on Blue are a band, question mark,” she corrects herself.

“Hang on,” Samir says. “Blue on Blue, colon…”

“We are not bringing colons into this Samir,” interrupts Dee “that’s a very personal matter.”

I’m in a dark cupboard in Limehouse, listening to a surreal argument about the scatological connotations of punctuation. Okay, it’s not a cupboard, it’s Blue on Blue’s cosy rehearsal space, tucked away in the workshop labyrinth of Cable Street Studios. The room is pitch black, but for a disco light comprised of multicoloured LED’s that scatter their beams over one wall, on which Billy and Samir lean, negotiating the use of each other’s roll-up materials, Billy from behind his mop of face-concealing fringe, Samir from his comfortable slouch behind the drum kit. Dee perches on a nearby amp, peering patiently through the dark.

Blue on Blue is a band, dot dot dot.

“It started out as a bedroom project,” says Dee. “Then I thought the music needed to be live.” And so she recruited Billy on guitar. Their original drummer Mark had to call it quits after only a few gigs and so Dee decided to borrow Samir from his other band, Flats, though, at the time, Samir had been playing drums for roughly two weeks. They’ve now been playing together for two months.

“We get along really well, we don’t argue or get drunk and call each other bastards,” says Samir. “Well, we get drunk, but then these two fall asleep so they can’t hear me calling them bastards.”

“What, like when we were in Berlin and you two shared that sofa bed?” Dee asks. “We went to Berlin to record,” she explains “and those two shared a sofa bed and half way through the night, Samir was spooning Billy and I don’t know what else was going on there, I think he just grabbed him.” Well, as they say, ‘When in Berlin…’.

Harmless expressions of masculine affection aside, while in the German capital the band recorded six tracks with “the Finnish Shoegaze Mafia”.

“This guy’s a renowned Scandinavian jazz drummer, and he’s got drum kits from, like 1918 or something,” Dee starts giggling “and Samir’s like, ‘I want the sound to go boom!’” That sounds accurate – compared to his predecessor, Samir is quite a heavy-handed drummer (to use the technical term, ‘smashy-smashy’) and his style provides weight and drive to both Dee and Billy’s more ethereal, introspective leanings.

There is a pause for more Rizla/filter bartering, “Do you see how diplomatic we are?” says Billy. “Like a commune.”

“It is a little commune,” muses Dee, remembering her first rehearsal with Billy, which was intended to bring her bedroom demos to life and resulted in him creating a riff, which turned into one of the band’s favourite tracks, ‘Cinnamon Swirl’. While Dee started the project with fifty-odd songs already written in her head, that rehearsal opened her to the idea of sharing the songwriting.

“There’s a freedom in the band,” she says. “Like, if I’ve come up with a bass line for a song, Billy puts whatever guitar part he wants to it, Samir plays his drums… Everyone writes what they play.”

“I’ve written a song and I sing it as well,” states Samir. “I’ve got a song, Billy’s got four songs.” He looks over at Dee. “You get to write all the songs, don’t you?”

Dee looks bewildered. “Do I get to write them? I think I just have them…”

Dee started writing her share of the tracks in August, when she was trapped in her room with swine flu. Miserable, feverish and hearing the sounds of life going on outside her window, she says, “I thought I was going to die and I thought I had to leave behind something that really sums up how I feel about stuff. The first song I wrote was called ‘Fallen’, which is a kind of bitter lullaby to someone you still love but it’s just never going to happen. It sums up most of my relationships, really.”

Dee is influenced by many confessional writers, in both music and literature, and tends to focus her writing on how she feels, not her audience. Billy prefers to “write a pop song, then destroy it,” with filthy, psychedelic reverb and feedback while Samir’s take is to “corrupt things as much as possible”. He doesn’t like music that’s too easy to listen to and prefers to throw things off balance.

Blue on Blue is a band of artists, all coming at the same music from different angles, but they’re diplomatic about it, and it works.

By Polly Rappaport


Originally published in issue 18 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. June 2010

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