“Hearts And Minds”- Performance Interview

“The Living” by Performance

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Free Download-“Let’s Start” By Peformance

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When you ask a band or artist to describe their music, many fix you with an imperious stare and trot out something along the lines of “I don’t like to describe my music, I leave that to less talented mortals, you, for example!” Which, let’s be honest can make them come across as a bit of an ostentatious arse!  So when Performance’s singer and lyricist Joe Stretch describes their music as ‘a subtle cross between Mickey Mouse and Jean-Paul Sartre’ it’s as refreshing as it’s unexpected.

But then again I suppose we should expect the unexpected from this Mancunian  trio, who have gained something of a cult following due to their mix of euphoric pop juxtaposed with dark, twisted lyrics.  Performance first emerged on the synth pop scene back in 2003 when ‘pop’ was frowned upon by scenesters, hipsters and all those who were generally at  the vanguard of pretentious wankery.   “We’ve always divided Mancunian audiences,’ says Joe Stretch. ‘For some, we’re superficial tossers. For others, we’re sonic sages.’ The band certainly have a chequered past , surviving chemicals, a big label deal and an inter-band romance that contributed  to the sort of  meltdown that left current members, Stretch, Joe Cross and Laura Marsden barely on speaking terms.

Being dropped by Polydor may have been the catalyst for Performance to take a collective deep breath . . . and focus.   By 2007, and back on course, they released their limited edition début album ‘We Are Performance”. Their love of making great pop music once more, had strengthened their bond and their resolve as they vowed to continue working together. However their career was put on hold when Stretch signed a publishing deal with Vintage/Random House and during an amicable three year band hiatus he published two novels, ‘Friction’ and ‘Wildlife’ whilst  Cross and Marsden formed an electro-pop duo, Kiss In Cities, with Cross also working as a producer and songwriter.

Now Performance is back with all guns blazing, and they follow up April’s darkly euphoric synth pop blast ‘The Living’ with the equally impressive ‘Unconsoled’. A new album ‘Red Brick Heart’ is pencilled in for release later in the year, although Stretch admits ‘I suppose there’s always a chance that love will tear us apart again. But we’re a brilliant band,’ -that’s why we’re coming back. Some people in the music business told us it would be better if we changed our name, so we could seem new. But I’m not going to change my name for a man who looks like polished fruit. Anyway, aren’t most new bands crap?   We’re a fuck sight better than half the rubbish that gets on television.’

We spoke to Stretch about their explosive past, the sodomy of popular culture and the addictive nature of pop music!

VP: Performance certainly appears to be a band with a chequered past, teetering on the precipice of oblivion, yet somehow drawn together by a mutual desire to create…Would that be a fair assessment?

JS: Yeh, I think that’s fair. We keep accidentally not stopping playing. People underestimate how addictive pop music is.

VP:Cliff Jones, (producer) said of you “‘I’ve honestly never met a more sombre bunch of people in my life. It’s unclear to me why they make pop music.’ What would be your answer?

JS: People underestimate how fun being sombre is. It’s surprisingly refreshing and slows the days down.

VP: You’ve just released a new  single “Unrconsoled” , ahead of a new album “Red Brick Heart”,  for newcomers to your work what can people expect from a Performance album?

JS: People underestimate Performance. Our album is eclectic, serious, rock, electro, poetic, northern nonsense.

VP:In 2005 you had a major label deal, many bands complain that the perceived holy grail of signing to a major is not always all it’s made out to be. How did you find that experience?

JS: Well, I must say I enjoyed the food. It was cooked for us by a pretty dashing Frenchman called Jerome. The beds I enjoyed less so, I’m afraid. I once slept in room full of dead wasps for a very long time while trying to make an album. How did I find it? Pretty much as expected. I signed the deal with a betting pen and was young and carefree, yet to commit my portion to the landfill of innocence. It was quite good really. I’d made room in my bottom for the cocks.

VP: There have been huge changes in the music industry since Performance formed in  2003.  What would you say have been the positives and negatives of the digital age?

JS: Oh, I don’t know much about that. If you’re a fan of good music, then it’s easier to find. If you’re a fan of bad music, then that’s easier to track down, too. I’m not sure it’s changed all that much. Bands, for example, are still simply trying to get out of the shit and stand out and be heard. You’re just more aware of the shit than you were in the past. Text messaging’s useful.

VP: What sort of artists and musicians has had major influences on Performance’s outlook and the sort of music you produce?

JS:  I think we’re influence by people like Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Kraftwerk. A lot of my lyrics come after I’ve read a book. Books create moods and attitudes and I think those things lie at the heart of songwriting. I like that link. Read a book – get in a mood – write a song. Other times it’s, Kiss a girl – stop kissing her – write a song.

VP: You’re a novelist whilst Laura and Joe are in electro duo Kiss In Cities. With so much going on how do you find the time to get together and how does the creative process work within Performance?

JS: All we do is we occasionally get together and it’s awkward and there’s nothing to talk about so we write songs. The band is a womb and we constantly try to climb back inside it. We enjoy the process. Joe Cross is always busy producing other people (Hurts, Sound Of Arrows, Heartbreaks, Hero) Laura is the pied piper of Manchester. But people underestimate how much time there is in the world.

VP: Joe, you’re next novel is ‘One Hit Wonder’ can you give us a rough idea what it will be about?

JS: It’s about a family called the Albrights. It follows them from 1989 to 2010 and documents every single member of the family and their efforts, during that period, to become famous.

VP: X Factor, Pop Idol and Cowell ….. Harmless fun or the sodomy of popular culture?

JS: Sodomy of pop culture, probably. Ironic appreciation is sad, I think. Irony, really, is just another way of giving in. People should stay in their bedrooms until they come up with an idea, not stand on a cross and sing Snow Patrol. X-Factor is, when you stop and think about it, a religion of shit.

VP: If you had a band motto what would it be ?

JS: “Another one bites the dust.”








“Unconsoled” by Performance


“The Living” By Performance



7 thoughts on ““Hearts And Minds”- Performance Interview”

  1. Good interview – surely time for a ‘talent show’ backlash when there are bands as good as this about

  2. “Read a book – get in a mood – write a song.”

    Alice in Wonderland. Flapper. When you drink too much coffee and your bladder feels sexually full. Knock Me Down With A Feather by Henry Cooper.

  3. “People should stay in their bedrooms until they come up with an idea”

    Sometimes, someone says something that you just need to hear.


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