“I’m not as smart as I like to think, but I’m young.”
Endearingly self-deprecating lines like this (from the track “It’s Over! It’s Over! It’s Over!”) suggest that The Answering Machine will pull off a successful Japan debut alongside the other hopefuls at the annual British Anthems showcase, organized by promoter Creativeman.
Formed in 2006 by mates at Manchester University, The Answering Machine were soon being stalked by the predatory UK music industry vampire looking for new blood. Resisting its lures, the group opted to stay indie, issuing the bright-and-shiny "Another City, Another Sorry" on a friend’s label, "Heist Or Hit Records," last summer. That decision slowed them down a bit, but The Answering Machine are now hitting their stride.
“It really feels that way,” frontman Martin Colclough enthuses by phone from Manchester, where he’s doing a bit of shopping before heading off to play New York’s pivotal CMJ showcase. “We entered the competition to play British Anthems, which has given us this opportunity to get over to Japan. Ten years ago there would have been no way we could have done this if we weren’t signed to a big label.”
Opting to keep their fate in their own hands has made The Answering Machine’s development more organic.
“It’s a good time and a bad time to be in a band,” Colclough says. “The great thing about being on an indie label is that we have the freedom to do what we want to do. We do all our own artwork, we do all our own merchandising, we do everything — so we’re really happy.”
It turns out that by coming over to Japan, The Answering Machine are following in the footsteps of their Mancunian friends, Keith.
“[Frontman] Oli [Bayston] used to live with our drummer,” Colclough says. “They did really well out there, and they say it’s amazing to play Japan. They keep providing us with crazy stories about stuff happening over there.”
Like Keith, The Answering Machine also bear the strong imprint of their Manchester forebearers — topped up with a healthy dose of Strokes/Libertines-era ’00s attitude.
“We’re influenced by Joy Division, The Smiths and all the Manchester bands,” Colclough says. “The music is just everywhere you look. Everything is marked by some sort of history: [legendary Manchester club] Hacienda is still here in one form or other; the Factory Records office plaque is up next to an indie club that is popular with students…”
Colclough suggests an overriding factor in the enduring relevance of Manchester music is the sheer geographical distance from the London media machine.
“There’s a lot of legacy from the ’80s indie scene in Manchester, and the underground scene is really vibrant,” he says. “But it’s kind of an anti-industry feel. The climate in the UK at the moment is quite stale in terms of the major labels seeking new artists, but Manchester has this feel, like ‘We can do this on our own’ — again, similar to the ’80s.”
Along with the dynamism of Manchester comes competitiveness. Colclough is looking forward to Japanese fans’ legendary welcome — often irrespective of the quality of the performance.
“Oli was saying that people embrace the bands a lot more than they do in the UK. They announced the show on the Japanese Myspace last week, and we’ve had such a flood of emails since then. In the UK, every other person you meet is in a band. Here, it seems like there is a lot of honesty: you can just admit you’re a music fan. It’s really refreshing to go places where people just sit and enjoy the music — that’s what it’s all about.”
Brit indie bands The Vaselines, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Answering Machine and others. Dec 6, 2 p.m., 6,500 yen. Studio Coast, Shin-Kiba. Tel: Creativeman 03-3462-6969.
This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).© Japan Today