As one of the sell-out gigs of Metronome’s opening weekend in October 2018, The Invisible Orchestra are bringing the party back on 19 April with a whole host of guests and brand new material.
You’re looking quite svelte with only 16 members these days…
Ali: James has learned to assert himself.
James: Ha, there’s that. Also, what idiot gets 32 people in a band, anyway? As good as it sounded, it wasn’t entirely realistic to take on tour. We’re doing more gigs around the country and 16 is a perfect number to fit onto a stage.
Below: The Invisible Orchestra’s rehearsal at First Love Studios in March 2019
Has the line up changed much, then?
James: The more we’ve progressed as a band, with better gigs, the more interest we’ve gained from further afield. We did a session recently and people came from Wales, Bedfordshire and Lincoln, and Malcolm Strachan from The Haggis Horns came to play with us from Leeds. I travelled all the way from Sherwood, a whole mile and a half. I got carried into the car and then put into my diamond-encrusted throne when I got to the rehearsal.
You’re still not a small band, though. Is it like herding cats when it comes to rehearsals and organising gigs?
James: It’s not so bad. There are more professionals in the band now – a lot of people with busy diaries but who have got diaries that they stick to.
Ali: Our drummer, James, his wife was in labour while we were playing our set at Moovin Festival in Stockport last year. He has definitely set the bar high for standards and excuses.
James: He got off stage, ran straight to his car and sped off. He got a speeding ticket that night.
Ali: Apparently, it’s not like in the films and on telly – your wife having a baby doesn’t get you off a speeding ticket.
James: At rehearsal, it’s a bit more sober nowadays, and a bit more productive.
Ali: We’ve got a lot of smokers in the band, though. “We’ll just have another fag and then do one of them music tunes.”
James: Quick music break after the fag rehearsal.
You’ve had a bit of a hiatus from the live scene since you played Metronome last October…
Ali: The gigs are the easiest fun bit, really. It’s the behind-the-scenes stuff that takes the time and effort.
James: We’ve been concentrating on writing and releasing a new album. We realised that we needed to do more than just working towards playing shows. And we’ve taken a few different paths. One of the tunes that Ali does is like a live house tune with horn section.
Ali: It sounds like Knight Rider’s funeral, to me.
Does that mean we can expect a new album soon?
James: We’re mixing some new tracks that we recorded at Vada Studios, which is where we did the first album with Matt Terry. That was so intensive, this time around we’ve tried a different way of doing things. The band has a lot of producers and engineers, so we’ve done the bare bones of recording at Matt’s studio and now we can do the overdubs, the editing and mix it in Nottingham. It allows us the extra time to develop the recordings and the music.
Reassuring to know… The first album was a healthy mix of, well, everything – what can people expect from this one?
James: There was a lot of different genres involved in our last album, but we’ve become a lot more comfortable and I’m more experienced. It’s more of an individual sound. We’ve got a sort of flamenco latin track which Ali’s doing the vocals on. You couldn’t image that all going together, but it works perfectly.
Ali: For me, the music and the band is much more lively by proxy of having so many people in it, and having a big rhythm and horn section. It’s big music, fun is very much at the heart of it. I don’t get that at my solo gigs, people usually just tell me to cheer the fuck up.
With the change in line-up, how do you rework the older songs for different players if you, say, don’t have a violin anymore?
James: At the moment we’ve got the strongest band that we’ve ever had, so we’ve got people that can play whatever you can imagine now rather than working with certain limitations. The band’s got younger and we’ve got some fantastic new musicians, so if you’re writing music, they can just translate it.
You’ve got Bunkerpop, Babar Luck, Mr Switch and BIGSEXY on the line up which is quite the mix. How do you go about picking the support?
James: I try to get completely different people each time; it’s quite a diverse line up, but it’s about condensing all the good people you’ve seen over a year. It’s never all about The Invisible Orchestra at the Nottingham nights, it’s about the whole event. I can put all my eggs in one basket and it doesn’t have to be diluted. We don’t always get the flexibility in other cities. We’re on last, so it’s just about trying to keep sober enough to play and enjoy the event.
To get your ticket to The Invisible Orchestra, visit our event listing. Tickets are selling fast, so make sure you don’t miss out!