INTERVIEW

Ironic in name and adverse to interviews, MONEY aren’t chasing a big payday.

MONEY

As I begin to write I am full of contrite promises, a sense of repent that will soon be broken. A scandalous hour spent in the company of Jamie Lee, one that shattered the spell around his near fabled Manchester band MONEY, and one that questioned why you are in fact reading this very music paper, made everything teeter on the edge, ready to hurtle south. Now that the cloak and daggers are gone, the band must be covered, just as their music demands to be heard.

Bile leaves Jamie and enters me, albeit with an easy charm. “It must be frustrating interviewing other people, not just people but egotistical, self-involved people,” he says. “What is it you want to get out of someone, is it just about the music or is it about who they are?” We sit opposite each other and share nervous grins. This is a near first for the Londoner turned spiritual Mancunian – interviews have been few and far between. “I’m frankly terrified,” he confides with a wicked smile. Me too.

This strange apprehension, this feeling of betrayal is because MONEY are on the brink of something extraordinary. Unspoilt and otherworldly, the band have reimagined Manchester as their very own paradise and now they leave it in their wake. They’re ready to fly the nest.

I meet Jamie having returned from The Best Kept Secret festival in Holland. Sweet-natured and boiling and bubbling with a dangerous charisma, he’s dangling on the precipice of adulthood, the follies of youth never too far from dragging him back under. “I don’t actually think I enjoy festivals, do you?” he asks. “I could be cynical and say that they’re everything that’s wrong with the music industry, the mainstream ones, anyway. There is this impatient attitude and people just make a fucking mess.” Jamie lets out the first of many contagious belly laughs and sits back, a roguish young man with a Macbeth haircut.

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MONEY are about to leave their comfort zone, if you can call an abandoned factory in the shadows of Strangeways Prison a comfort zone. This forcible space has a name; The Bunker is where the magic happened and happens for Jamie and his three friends, Charlie Cocksedge, Billy Byron and Scott Beaman. It’s where like-minded vagabonds and strays unite in wild celebration and where the band reacted to their newfound habitat in fervent performance and rude heath. Esoteric and bizarre, The Bunker brought together bands like MONEY and others in their underground milieu, such as Kult Country, G R E A T W A V E S and Bernard and Edith, to bear their souls inside a wooden cage of musical ceremony, the audience outside this enclosure watching on bewildered.

Now they’re on tour, MONEY are playing to a different breed and it’s been praying on Jamie’s million-miles-an-hour mind. “I was thinking just that this morning actually, I wonder what kind of people are going to start coming to see us. I don’t want to appeal to one group of people. If you’re going to say something in your music you’d like to think it would appeal to a wider demographic than 18 to 35 white males and their girlfriends.”

This begs the question who they were playing to before?

“I remember the first show at The Bunker, and it sounds pathetic when I’m saying it now, but people were walking around naked and just behaving badly. It’s nothing new or different or particularly enlightening, it’s just kind of reckless and fun. Manchester is a mythological, magical place, it’s not a beach and it has flaws but that is its very charm.”

Together with their first label, the self-proclaimed cultural regenerators Sways Records, the band set about harnessing Manchester’s poetic strength. Both as MONEY and in the guise of Books, Youth and Meke Mente, they sabotaged the Manchester music scene leaving it spellbound. “We wanted to create somewhere that was a completely free space where people could express themselves however they wanted, within reason! Of course our thresholds to reason are perhaps less than others. For me I’m glad that The Bunker is there. The guys that run it show a force of will that is so strong.”

Jamie has certainly learnt how to lose his inhibitions. A recent and rare London gig saw him begin at the back of the room, barking out a song called ‘Paradise Is Hell’ in beautiful spoken word before dancing and kissing his way to front of stage. “It’s about making a well-rounded performance,” he says, “showing your interests and your passions at every moment and not just playing songs on stage. As a result of being open and genuine people start to believe in what I am singing, at least I hope they do. We can transport that attitude we had at The Bunker and keep that vivacity – it’s not the audiences fault if they’re not corresponding or relating but hopefully the excitement is recreated. Anyway who have been your favourite interviews with? What makes a good interviewee?” He smiles that wicked smile once more and we digress. Clearly most at comfort asking questions than answering, time passes freely by and much later than deemed appropriate for these situations we return to the reason we’re sat here, MONEY’s moving debut album, ‘The Shadow of Heaven’, released next month.

First I tell him it’s good. “Thanks! I think we could have done it so much better but you know we recorded it in Hackney and it was a relief to get out of Manchester because it would have taken us two years up there; there’s too much going on and it would have been a distraction. We were very slow anyway and if we had the opportunity it would have taken us even longer.”

Then I ask him if he believes in God. “No, not in a conventional sense. We can’t be the zenith of consciousness; we can’t be the finished product. There must be something that is incomprehensible to us that is more powerful or potent than us.”

In Jamie’s words, ‘The Shadow of Heaven’ strives to look at the world in macro terms, imbuing the modern world in biblical proportions, so it seemed pertinent to ask that question and now that he’s answered to pry even further. “I don’t really think that people have a right to say what they think about religion,” he says. “I don’t actually believe atheists are able to say there is no God; I don’t think they have the right to question the universe that way. Unfortunately there is a strand of arrogance, especially amongst modern society – I hate that word, ‘society’ – where people are given the opportunity to make these statements and ideological interpretations which I think are beyond us.” At once Jamie is reasonable but passionate, and I sense that a nerve has been struck.

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At the core of the album lies ‘Hold Me Forever’, an absorbing, majestic song (since made into a music video by Hollywood’s very own Cillian Murphy) that states Paradise could turn to Hell if there is someone in control. So is that MONEY questioning religion?

“I didn’t set out to actively challenge it. I wanted to present these ideas and do it properly so I did it in a song.” Jamie stops and we’re treated to that wonderful laugh again. “If that’s a proper way of doing it! It’s ludicrous to put these thoughts into a 3 minute pop song, isn’t it, with a verse and a chorus and yeah, let’s make it catchy too. There’s a nice nexus there though between what hymns do, which is essentially to educate and to be catchy so people can remember the melody and the message. Pop music does exactly the same thing to me. It says something about our age, maybe a lot of shallow things. I really enjoyed singing hymns unashamedly when I was younger and I was quite moved by it, maybe I think all of us have done it and felt this way too.”

That sense of confession and isolation imbues each and every track on the band’s debut, and from barren ballads to surging ambitious pop songs, ‘The Shadow of Heaven’ is an addictive record that warmly suffocates you in its fanatical lyrical approach. Jamie has a love hate relationship with it, saying: “Well, I stopped listening to the album a long time ago. There’s so much more to listen to! It’s done now and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’d love to be able to record it again knowing what I know now. It would be a different sounding record… anyway.” A slump. A long pause. This is what we’ve been afraid of all along. “It’s just so boring talking about music because… I’m not saying it’s a boring conversation – your questions are good – I just don’t want to get to a stage where I’m enjoying talking about this. I think this is me slowly realising that I have to talk about our music in some regards. It’s difficult talking about yourself, isn’t it? Some people revel in it and really love it, but I can’t say I enjoy it.”

Brightness finally falls upon Jamie when we mention Bella Union, the label that journeyed to Manchester, entered MONEY’s realm and will now present them to the world. “They just completely let us get on with it. After hearing horror stories from other bands signing to majors where A&Rs would be in the studio everyday listening to all the songs, that’s just horrible pressure, not just to make something but also to succeed under someone else’s requirements and watchful eye. All the creative stuff with Bella Union, the actual making of the record, was left completely open, which was a very different attitude to have for a label that size.”

It’s nearly time to end, but one last question is ventured. ‘Goodnight London’, the first song I heard of MONEY’s some time ago, is one that haunts every listen of the album, since it strikes me as being different, untamed perhaps. “It’s about when you meet someone and you say, ‘yeah I’m fine even though you might be suicidal or depressed,’” says Jamie. “Things like that tend to be very private, so I like the idea that when someone who writes, paints, or makes music, it is a very private act and whether that’s masturbatory or communicative on a human level I like that confessional or private thing, and night-time seems to be the perfect metaphysical space to have these conversations because you are essentially alone. It’s a song about isolation, fascination with the city at large and it’s kind of a homosexual lullaby as well,” he spurts out with loud laughter one final time. “I also feel like I’m not doing my job properly if people have to ask.” But they will, I tell him, and deep down Jamie knows this.

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