What's the meaning behind your name?
SM: It took a lot of disagreement and a ridiculous amount of time to agree on Neon Highwire. A band title is so important yet whilst you as people and musicians may move on, it will forever remain set. It's also likely to be the very first thing people will discover about you. Because of this, it was an exhausting effort coming up with a name that we all happy to make permanent. To me, the name reflects both the style of music we make and a reminder of the precarious nature of three people who could happily make music independently, but strive to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
LF: It means a polar bear on ice skates, dressed up like he’s in the film TRON slapping you in the face with an electric halibut.
JD: We wanted something that summed up the feeling of a drunk robot clown staggering over the gap between two buildings in Neo-Tokyo.
How did you get started with all this?
LF: How did YOU get started with this? ;) No, but seriously. Jimi Hendrix visited my house in a kayak whilst I was a sleeping toddler. The rest is pretty obvious.
SM: I've been in bands or making music for as long as I can remember. More specifically, I used to be in the band Antiba with Luke years ago and Jim used to be in the band Antistar with Luke more recently. Those two lived together in Bristol and following the disbanding of Antistar were making music independently for a while under the titles Hail! Perestroika and Novelty Music Scene. Occasionally I'd come visit from London where I was living and we'd just jam for hours at their place. It was always fun (though not for the neighbours), but ended in frustration as we'd end up with this pool of ideas that would go nowhere when I got back on the train to London. Eventually Jim & Luke saw sense and moved to London where there was never any question of us making music together full time.
What's the message to transmit with your music?
SM: It's all a reflection of who we are and trying to make sense of our lives and the discrepancies between youthful ideals and the realities we end up living. As I get older I become more and more aware of the lack of uniqueness in every minutae of my thoughts, actions and decisions. At times it can be pretty depressing and really make you question why you bother to go to your job in the morning, or what's the point of doing anything with a finished recording other than to put it on your portable music player and enjoy it yourself? However even these thoughts are as cliched as the phrase "put your hands in the air like you just don't care". Instead it's more about trying to observe everything around you and making the most of each and every thing. In a way, the creation of this music is a form of therapy, a release of these tensions and hopefully those who listen can take that away with them also. Alternatively, you could more succinctly sum it up as "dance your tits off".
LF: We’re transmitting the message that cake is better than war, being naked is better than cake and being naked and oily with many, many girls is better than being naked whilst doing a crossword. Neon Highwire is at least 4.3 levels better than all of these things combined.
What's your method at the time of writing a song?
LF: We keep it fresh by having literally no plans. I try to channel cosmic forces. Then I punch my mac in the face until it weeps musical tears.
SM: Every song we've written has had a different inception and long may that continue. Initially our songs tend to become sprawling jams with layer upon layer added until the whole thing becomes this impenetrable beheamoth. I think during the early phases of writing a song it's not healthy to try and edit too much as that's the time where your ideas of what it is are less set and it's easier to explore the less obvious. Once you've reached that point then it's mostly a case of stripping things down, editing them and reworking until the only parts that remain are all absolutely crucial. Doing our own recording and mixing on our own equipment gives us the luxury of trying so many different ideas, listening back over days to let the sink in and then reworking what's necessary. In previous outfits, we were slaves to the costs of studio time and not once did we come away happy with what we'd recorded. Now, we can spend months with songs 80% complete making changes at our leisure. Crowd reactions to playing them live helps give perspective also.
Who are your music influences?
SM: The common ground comes most recently in the form of a lot of electro, techno and dubstep. Years prior it would have been a lot of post-rock and anything with big-riffs and aggression. Other than that, our tastes vary hugely. I can't speak as much for the other two, but according to my last.fm account my top five are Future Of The Left, Why?, The Dismemberment Plan, Menomena and Ted Leo. I'm so stoked for The Dismemberment Plan reunion. I found out about it during an innocuous night out. I was chatting to a girl, she asked me to look after her drink for a minute, I killed the time waiting for her return browsing the net on my phone and saw that they'd reunited and tickets were on sale right now. When the girl got back I told her I'd just had some bad news and had to leave. Went home, bought tickets, bought flights, went to bed. Woke up, had forgotten about it, then remembered with the mixed feelings of celebration that I was going to see them and the nausea that I'd just spent more money than made any sense on a spontaneous decision.
LF: Mostly Lionel Richie’s early work, and also Napalm Death. I have a large desire to puree Jamie Cullum which also drives me forward.
What plans do you guys have for the future?
SM: We're currently working on a follow up EP to Luminescence which we should be releasing early next year. Other than that, we'll be working on a follow up video to Bear At The Bus Stop (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9n9KUNwV74) and we're getting some shows booked up further afield but with nothing confirmed yet other than a show supporting Pete & The Pirates at Scala, London on 23rd October.
LF: Green energy, red light districts, blue movies, the brown note.
What has been the greatest day as a musician?
SM: The day we wrote, recorded and mixed Fantasy Land (Christmas In The TerrorZone). We'd not long finished the Luminescence EP which we were sick to the sound of so decided to set up a 24-hour session to write and record a Christmas song. We contacted quite a few other bands we knew of to get them to join in, creating something incredibly over the top as some sort of indulgent palette cleansing. The resulting track ended up being better than we expected, especially as we were intentionally engaging in as many studio horrors as we could (auto-tune, synth strings & choral voices, OTT guitar solos etc.). You can download it now for free on Soundcloud (http://soundcloud.com/neonhighwire/fantasy-land-christmas-in-the-terror-zone), if you're that way inclined.
LF: Playing a weird, small festivals is always fun. We played ‘Here Comes the Sun’ in Reading recently and had our faces painted expertly. I was wearing fairy wings and looked a bit like a big fat Timmy Mallet. Steve looked like the happiest serial killer I’ve ever seen. There was much rejoicing.
What has been the funniest prank you guys have been or took part of while on tour or after a show?
LF: Steve kegging the sound man thinking it was me at our last show.
SM: Our last show, we'd just finished our set during which I'd polished off the best part of a bottle of port. We were packing away our pedals when I looked up to see Luke standing in front of me, in the way of my pedals. Without a second thought I pulled his trousers down to his ankles in one fluid motion. However as I looked up with a laugh, I noticed that the red t-shirt of this bare legged person was not Luke's red t-shirt at all. In fact the person wearing the t-shirt was, as you may have guessed, not Luke. It was in fact the sound engineer Reuben staring right back at me with a look as though he wanted to tear my face off. Thankfully he didn't, but I did have to apologize like I've never apologized before (in between the giggles).
If you guys were stranded in the middle of nowhere after a show or while on tour, and the help is 65 miles away from where you guys are, who would you guys send to look for help? And if while the rest wait, there's no food and the only way to feed yourself is by eating each other, who would you eat first?
SM: Though hypothetically a horrific situation, the answer seems unquestionably clear in my head. I would kill both of them, eat their choice cuts raw and then fashion their remaining parts into a sort of outift which I would wear whilst screaming at the bastard sky. I'd probably then have a little cry and wonder why I'm so aroused by hurting the ones I love. Whilst contemplating that, I'd probably massage each of my own nipples with the severed remains of each of their tongues. After that I would use Jim's remains to create a pair of makeshift chaps and Luke's to create a sexy waistcoat. I'm tempted to do that every day.
LF: I would fashion a kayak (in the Style of Jimi Hendrix) out of the other two and make rudimentary biltong from their fleshy leg areas to keep me sustained. Using bones for masts and skin for a sail I would head for Rio. Or Club Tropicana depending on the availability of white suits.
What are your hobbies?
LF: I like riding bikes in muddy places and making unnecessarily elaborate robot costumes out of cardboard boxes.
SM: After first moving to London, the intensity of it was overwhelming. After a while I had a few crazy episodes, or panic attacks, I don't know what to call them so I started running. After finishing, I noticed that the physical exhaustion had totally chilled me out mentally also. Since discovering this instant way of escapism if I ever feel like things are getting too much, I've gone from someone who would usually go out of their way to avoid exercise to having run two marathons in the past year. Other than that, with the music, work and friends, I don't really have time for anything else anymore.
What country would you guys love to play?
LF: For me, it would be Hungary, Poland or the Czech Republic. Good beers, friendly people and a worrying lack of ugly people.
SM: For me personally, I'd love to travel and play around the USA. To date we've only played in the UK as logistically our live set up is just too big and clumbsy to take around any other way. I've been to the States a few times as a tourist, but there's so much more I'd want to explore and discover there. It's no surprise that a significant proportion of my favourite artists are American, it feels like a logical progression.
With what bands would you guys love to share the stage?
LF: We already played with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, which was blooming ace, but Errors are the bizzle and Alice from Crystal Castles is hot/mental which is always a good combination.
SM: I love collaborating with others, it always forces you to up your game and encourages you to look at things in a different way. Being in a band with no drummer does mean we're relatively restricted with certain things we can do in a live performance (though that is something we are working on), so ideally for me it'd be the incredible drumming of Joe Easley every time. It'd be cool to do something with Errors too. I met them at Truck Festival and Field Day 2009, though I think I came across as intensely psychotic both times rather then endearing. It's a nasty habit I've developed.
Are you guys happy with the direction the band is going?
SM: Fuck no! Never! The moment we are, it'll be a horrible symptom of complacency. Though we get on famously on a personal level, the tension between us when it comes to the music we make is omnipresent and necessary. We're always looking for new ways to improve and change the way we do things and we're obsessive and meticulous editors. Slagging each other's work off is never healthy though. If there was something in a recording that one of us heard that another did and didn't like it, they can either re-record or remix it so we can compare the two deciding which is best, or they can shut the fuck up. It's the democratic advantage of us all being multi-instrumentalists.
LF: What direction is that? If it’s North North East, then no. Other compass directions I am ambivalent about at best.