It took just three limited edition vinyl EPs to secure Fred Deakin (cartoon left) and Nick Franglen (cartoon right) a record deal with XL Recordings.
Since then, Lemon Jelly have recorded three full-length albums in little over four years, acquiring glowing compliments from the music press, and a reputation as one of the most popular leftfield downtempo acts around.
In 2000, their 3 EP's were amalgamated into one blissful debut album, Lemonjelly.ky, choc-full of playful samples and gorgeous melodies. Their second full-length album, Lost Horizons (2002), delivered more chillout instrumentals.
A sell-out tour swiftly followed, as did nominations for both a Brit Award and a Mercury Music Award in 2003.
Fast-forward to 2005, and another new album, '64-95'. This time Deakin and Franglen have dipped into their huge record collections to contrive a more varied batch of songs, featuring blended samples from more than a few choice cuts. Fred Deakin fills in the gaps...
Youíre probably used to this question, but I thought Iíd ask it anyway? Where did you choose the name Lemon Jelly from? It was a smell in my kitchen. And Nick (Franglen) came in and said ďIt smells like Lemon Jelly in hereĒ, and I said ďTHATíS THE NAMEĒ. So thatís the long and short of it.
What were your influences as a young(er) man? Well me and Nick [Franglen] used to bump into eachother at 23 Skidoo concerts and that sort of music was what we first got into. And then, nice pictures, graphic stuff. I was into Marvel comics. The first gig was the Buzzcocks, and the first bands that I really got into were XTC and ACR (A Certain Ratio).
Quite rocky bands? Yeah, ACR were quite funky, that was the first time I really got into Dance music. And then from there I very quickly got into Hip Hop, and then just casted the net as wide as possible. I used to run a lot of clubs in Edinburgh, and Iím a Londoner born and bred, I basically started off seeing what was happening in London and then did it in Edinburgh six months later. It was just a bit easy, a bit obvious and boring, so I started trying to do something a little different, a bit more eclectic. I donít think we were really that interested in whatís cool, thatís quite restrictive I think.
So did you work with Nick in those days? No I didnít. We kind of grew up with the same bunch of friends without knowing each other particularly. He once took my sister on a date, on a late night motorcycle rideÖ famously. But then I went away to Edinburgh for 10 years, and thatís where I did my club running and my DJ-ing, and it developed these core values that Nick was kind of sharing.
So to somebody who had never heard Lemon Jellyís music, how would you describe it? I dunnoÖ experiential. Multilayered.
Are you against words like Ďdowntempoí and 'chill-outí? I would like them if I though they were applicable, but I donít think theyíre particularly applicable.
I heard the new album í64-95í, in what way would you say itís different to Lost Horizons and Lemonjelly.ky? Well, I think it is a bit more eclectic. I think itís a progression, I mean weíre not doing the same thing so it has definitely changed. Itís probably a bit more in-your-face. Basically, each record weíve done weíve tried to take a very different approach. The first album was discovering we could make music together, and with this album the whole sample idea is what weíre exploring this time around. Who knows where weíll go next time, but the difference is that the core idea at the heart of it is very specific and very particular.
How pleased were you with the final product? Very pleased, we donít really let anything out the door unless we really like it. Iím sure the same is true with most people.
It sounds a little bit darker doesnít it? Maybe less juvenile, if I can say that? Yeah, why not. Weíre both kind of looking at different stuff I guess. It was almost a love letter to our record collections this album. Theyíre not even our favourites or anything like that, its just random glimpses into the words and music that weíve been rummaging through most of our lives. Thatís the focus, kind of getting our hands dirty and really digging the musical pit.
Did you deliberately avoid using obvious samples that people might immediately recognise? I donít think weíd ever do that to be honest with you. If you know of a sample thatís been used before, then you go somewhere else. Having said that, there are a couple of big hits weíve sampled on there, like on Stay With You, but I think weíve done something very different with them, and hopefully theyíve turned into samples that you wouldnít recognise.
Was there a pressure to move away from the first two albums? We wanted to do that certainly. I think the first two albums are very different themselves as well, so I think as far as Iím concerned, any artist worth their salt has to develop every record they make, so you have to have some kind of difference. If there was any pressure it was from ourselves, we were very concious that we didnít want to repeat ourselves.
Thereís a sample on there from William Shatner as well. Yes, indeed.
Was that from TJ Hooker? Um, no, it was recorded especially for us, which was very nice. We did a track on his album and he did a track on ours. He's just had an album out a few months ago, called Has Been. Itís very good actually, I recommend it highly.
Itís not electronic-related is it? Well, weíve got a track on it and ours is very electronic. Ben Folds produced it, and itís very varied. Check it our, itís good, you can download it on I Tunes.
I heard thereís a DVD version of you new album, can you tell me a bit about the graphics side of that? Well, itís quite hard to describe. Itís very eclectic, itís nine original styles, definitely intended to be an alternative format of the album.
Is it cartoon-like? Not all of it, itís all animated. Thereís one track thatís very cartoony, thereís another track thatís much more minimal and abstract. Thereís one thatís got some live footage in it, thereís one thatís very hand drawn. The whole albumís meant to be nine very varied tracks, we almost tried to push the music as far apart as we could without losing some sort of flow, and the same is true of the DVD.
Was this multimedia approach the record companyís idea or something you wanted to do in particular? Well I think it was natural progression from our packaging really, weíve always had a very strong aesthetic, and our attitude has always been that me and Nick arenít necessarily the personality in the band. Weíre not traditional front people, we donít do lead vocals Ė neither of us is Mick Jagger (laughs), so instead of that, given that thereís that kind of space, we intend the rich, graphic world that we create around these records to take that place and be the personality of the music. So to make that move was a strong opportunity.
Also, the music business is actually in a state of flux at the moment, itís really up in the air, because we did two videos for the last record and the record company hasnít got infinitely deep pockets, so it was a question of whether we actually want to make 3-minute videos that are gonna get shown on MTV twice - and weíre gonna have to compete with Britney Spears with a quarter of the budget - or shall we actually try and make something that stands up on its own and is a different piece of product. Itís something new and different, and although Super Furry Animals did it, itís very rare that you get a DVD thatís all new footage.
Itís quite surprising that it hasnít been done much before? Itís even rarer that you have a DVD where the visuals were basically created by the artists themselves. So given our position it seemed like a very natural and exciting thing to do.
ďAll genres of music have worth in them; itís just that 90% of every genre is shit.Ē
Do you listen too much other music? Yup, loads of stuff. Iím a voracious record collector, Iíve got about 20,000 plus records and Iím always buying a lot of old stuff and a lot of modern stuff.
Are there any that currently stand out for you? Futureheads album last year was wicked, the new John Legend albumís really good. The Go! Team were brilliant, I saw them last night at The 100 Club.
And what artists or sides of the music industry do you find the most distasteful? I think one of the core values of Lemon Jelly that span through this record is that all genres of music have worth in them; itís just that 90% of every genre is shit. Letís face it, 90% of House music is shit, 90% of Garage, or whatever you wanna call it. Punk, Funk music is shit, and 10% is usually great. I mean the proportions vary slightly obviously, but the same is true of chart pop. 90% of chart pop is shit, but 10% of it's fucking great. So, you will find these flowers blooming in unlikely fields of shit, and youíve got to have an open enough mind to go and find them. I donít think I find any particular sector of the music business distasteful. Yíknow, even Pop Idol, letís face it, everyone slags it off and itís a pretty nasty phenomenon, but I actually think Will Youngís made a couple of half decent records, and Girls Aloud - ditto. Now, that aint gonna stop me liking the latest Can release or whatever obscure tease is popping up next. For me itís all music really and itís fun debating the ins and outs of how these genres kind of interact.
I think it's obvious that electronic music will open more doors towards experimenting in different genres of music, which you canít do with Rock or Country? Absolutely. That is the exciting thing about electronic music, and whatís funny is that it seems that this monster that is Dance music seems to have stomped all over it a little bit - and I think itís slightly fragile at the moment. But thatís the exciting thing about it, it is truly modern music without a shadow of a doubt, and thereís so much retro stuff coming out at the momentÖ. I was listening to the Mooney Suzuki album, which is a great album and it sounds like it was made 40 years ago, and I think that was partly the point, the artwork is similar.
Can I ask, whereís your studio based, is it a home studio? We work in a variety of studios. We work in a barn near Nickís house in the countryside and then we work in my house in London.
Are you gear freaks? Not me, Nickís the gear freak. Iím the vinyl freak basically. Probably his Mac (laughs).
Is it all done on Pro Tools then? Logic.
Do you ever get bored of making music? Um... not yet. I kind of almost feel we havenít scratched the surface yet to be honest with you.
So, what do you think youíd be doing if Lemon Jelly hadnít been successful? Well Iíd probably be working at Airside, which is a design company that I run. We do a lot of interactive stuff and animation, check out our website, airside.co.uk.
So what do you plan to do now, take a rest? Well, weíve got this tour coming up in February/March, so thatíll be fun. It kicks off in Dublin, were also doing Brixton and the London Forum. Then weíre going to Japan, where weíll probably do some festivals. Then I suspect itíll be time to start the next record (laughs). No rest for the wicked... we must have been very wicked.
Lemon Jelly interview, Barcode 2005 ©
No part of this interview may be reproduced under any circumstances without the written or verbal permission of the editor.