We look at new bands with a buzz going on them. This month, Harlot and FBI
After seven months, Harlot are just on the brink of getting it all together. And it won't be a moment too soon. The four piece (Mike Japp, guitar and vocals; Mick Dyche, guitar and vocals; Jimmy Bain, bass and vocals; and Ricky Munro, drums) have been cooking in London for about six months, playing regularly in support (and occasionally as fill in headliners) at the Marquee, the Speakeasy and Greyhound, but they've found it hard to get work outside of London. "The agencies just don't want to know until you've got a recording contract," Jimmy Bain told IM, "and we're not really a pub band — we need too much room to really come across well in a pub."
Harlot were in fact banned permanently from one London pub venue for being too loud — "Disturbing the people at the back" — and gigging has been pretty restricted.
The individual members of Harlot have all been close to success in the past, without actually making it. Mike Japp was in the second version of the Marmalade for three years, Jimmy Bain played in John Lee Hooker's support band on a North American tour, and also played in Choker, Ricky Munro played in Tear Gas and Mandrake Root with Ritchie Blackmore, and Mick Dyche played with Wild Turkey for two years.
The waiting and struggling for a record contract is a strain economically but Harlot reckon that what they have going is worth the wait. "We've all been offered steady gigs with established bands in the last few months, but we haven't even considered them," said Mike Japp. "We've been struggling, but I guess you could say that the money's low but the spirits are high."
The money is, it seems, very low for the moment. The group rehearses in one of the member's flat, their P.A. is hired, and Mike Japp was nearly electrocuted recently when it turned out his stack was unearthed.
"We wouldn't complain if we were playing regularly — if I had one square meal a day and my rent, I'd be happy as a pig in shit. It's the waiting and the disappointments that are hard to take," Jimmy added.
A recording contract is literally just around the corner for Harlot. "We've had the usual difficulties," their manager Louise Barber told me. "A&R men have told us that they like the tapes and once, after he hadn't showed up for the gigs, one rang to say that he was going to come but he fell asleep in front of the telly!"
That kind of remark can only be funny when a contract is near, and the band were smiling. Mick Ralphs and Ron Nevinson have expressed an interest in producing Harlot. "Mick came down to the Speakeasy one night, heard us, and left word with the manager that he would like to talk to Louise. That was how it started. We've seen him quite a bit since, he's heard our tapes and has an idea for a new arrangement for one of our songs."
This interest and the prospect of a recording deal have spurred Harlot into a flurry of activity. They now have a large enough backlog of songs for an album, and, when the contract does come, they'll be ready.
Jimmy Bain plays a '61 Telecaster; Mick Dyche plays a Les Paul and a Gibson SG for slide; Ricky Munro has a Ludwig kit; and Mike Japp plays an Epiphone Sheraton.
If Alvin Lee can be trusted as a judge of musical talent, it should be just about 12 months until F.B.I. are a household word. Perhaps not in every household, but enough to mean success.
A nine-piece funky rock band, F.B.I. have been chugging around the London pub circuit for about seven months, blowing full house after full house into joyful submission.
Herschel Holder, who plays trumpet and flugelhorn told IM that the band had eventually wound together as a number of very talented strands. "I was in a group called Batik with some of the other guys in the band — Root Jackson on congas, Lloyd Smith on sax, Len Meade on bass and Rafi Pereira on guitar — but that split up. We were all close, but we decided to go different ways for a while. We had done some cabaret, backing Jimmy Helms, and we had a residency in Whitley Bay. "We had been pretty close, and after awhile, I got in touch with the others about getting something going."
This was August of last year, and these five were the nucleus of F.B.I. The band, Herschel explains, was formed for love and not money. "We all wanted to get something together that would be beautiful, and spend some time working on it without thinking too much about success."
By the end of November, the five were getting close to cutting off the lucrative sessions and backing gigs to go more or less full time. They held auditions, and Jamie Black got the gig as lead guitarist. "While we auditioned, we had to look for talent and feel, the right kind of feel. Jamie could sing as well, and he'd been working with Mac and Katie Kissoon, and was still committed to a few gigs with them." Bonnie Wilkinson was the next to join, as lead vocalist, followed by pianist Alan Fieldman.
These seven rehearsed together in Herschel's flat, and by Christmas, they had a drummer in Steve Dixon. "I felt we were ready to play, so I phoned Bob Stevens at Ronnie Scott's Upstairs and we went around there."
From there it was the pub circuit — The Torrington, Hope And Anchor, Greyhound, and the Golden Lion, spawning grounds of bands like Kokomo, Gonzalez and Brinsley Schwartz. "I talked to Fred Granger at the Hope And Anchor, and we got to play a cancellation there. After that, we had a regular gig there; and it just grew from that."
The gigging has tailed off now, as F.B.I. devote more time to writing and rehearsing material for an album and a single, "Come See Me Around Midnight", hopefully out in late July or August.
They should surprise a lot of people outside of London. "We have played in Wales once, and also once in Birmingham, but Alvin told us that there was no money in touring outside of London.
"By the time you pay for petrol and hire a van and a minibus, pay for roadies and so forth, you can't break even." Now, after the first taste of success — a contract with Alvin Lee's Space Songs — the last few months' troubles can be seen as funny. "We must be the poorest group in London," Herschel laughed. "Fortunately, the band is cooperative, and some members haven't had to take out so much from what we've earned." Even with that spirit, it's been hard going. "One night, everything just seemed to go at once — the P.A., amps, cabinets, everything. Even the electric piano was going in and out of tune!"
F.B.I. are recording now, at Alvin Lee's home studio. At the time IM spoke to Herschel, it was unsure who would finally be producing them, although Riff Martin's name was mentioned.
Herschel Holder plays an Olds recorder trumpet; Lloyd Smith plays a Selmer Mark VI saxophone; Len Meade plays a Fender Precision bass; Alan Fieldman plays a Fender-Rhodes electric piano; Jamie Black plays a Fender Stratocaster (lent to him by Alvin Lee); Rafi Pereira plays an (unspecified) Hohner guitar; Steve Dixon has a Ludwig drum kit; and Root Jackson plays the congas (an unspecified wooden shell model).