➤ Teen musicians call time for
Cowell and his X-culture
Jump to a review of Paradise Point’s debut at Punk in Soho
— Pure pop with lashings of synth
— Plus new live cover video of Jessie J’s Price Tag
Posted on November 16, 2010
◼ ONE VIEWING OF THIS NEW BAND’S VIDEO covering the current Rihanna chart-topper tells you they know what they’re doing. In a second vid the restless vocalist gives Katy Perry’s Firework the grit it badly needs. Paradise Point are full of spunk, energised school-leavers who are determined to return credibility to teen pop music by playing their own instruments live onstage. They offer a determined farewell to the X-culture inflicted on the singles charts by Simon Cowell and his cloned songbirds. PP have had enough of manufactured pop idols and prancing boybands. The most memorable pop of the 80s and 90s was played live by musicians, they say, and these four fresh Brits want to fly the flag for the rest of their teen generation who want to make their own music, not somebody else’s. It’s their turn to be the indie, rock and pop stars of the 20-tens.
This Friday PP unveil their livepop act at the coolest club-night in London, The Face, revivalist venue for the fashionistas who today dub themselves Neo Romantics, in homage to the New Romos of the 80s. Club hosts are Rosemary Turner and Steve Strange, the original Blitz Kid who hired Spandau Ballet to debut at his New Romantic club’s Christmas party in 1979. Paradise Point say “we’re just four kids from outside of London” — emphatically meaning the commuter belt, rather than Nathan Barley’s uber-trendy Shoreditch.
All are 18 except bass player Roman, 17. They write their buzzy and slightly Duranny tunes and lyrics together as a group and insist that no one is their leader. The reason Roman is giving his first interview to Shapersofthe80s is because I’d met him several times during the past year, when his dad Martin Kemp went back on the road with his 80s supergroup Spandau Ballet. The son does not waste your time namedropping, but he’s proud of the encouragement both parents have given — his mum being Shirlie (Holliman) Kemp, formerly of the duo Pepsi & Shirlie who were earlier George Michael’s backing singers during his Wham! phase. All of which does of course enliven the conversation…
Your band’s MySpace page tells us nothing about Paradise Point. Why do you appear to be the Band With No Past, Roman?
Roman Kemp: That’s deliberate. We wanted to create a bit of mystery before playing our first show, and to get people intrigued. We’ve been rehearsing about a year and a half by ourselves downstairs in my basement, getting some songs together. We wanted everything to be perfect, waiting for the right people to get us a gig — and now Steve Strange has done just that. But no, we haven’t played publicly before.
Last month we hired a rehearsal-room called The Premises in Old Street to play for a few friends as a showcase. We spent about three weeks working through our songs to get a solid set going. We have about seven songs we are completely comfortable with, and loads more we can pick up — like the Katy Perry and Rihanna covers we’ve put on video. But we’re all quite perfectionist and even when anyone’s working on a bit of their own they don’t want to show the rest of us till it’s perfect.
So if the band has mainly been using your basement that makes you the leader?
To be honest, no one is a leader in a band, otherwise it’s not a group. It always has to be a team effort. The basement is actually my sister’s photography studio most of the weekend — it was either use Harley’s studio or go and pay for a rehearsal space. And of course my mum does provide the sandwiches after.
Why the silence over the band’s origins?
We’re comfortable with telling our story to anyone who asks… Our singer Cameron Jones went to my school at Berkhamsted and was always the heart-throb kid who used to play at school talent shows and get all the girls. We used to play a bit in the music practice room, he’d get out his guitar and sing and I’d get out my bass and go along with him.
Johnnie Shinner the drummer went to ACM [The Academy of Contemporary Music] and was friends with Adam Saunderson, who turned out to be a much better guitarist than me. We all met at the Reading Festival in 2008. I’d gone with Cam and bumped into Adam and Johnnie at the Raconteurs gig — one of Jack White’s projects — and talking on Facebook three weeks later, we decided to get together and ended up playing in my basement. We rehearse at least once a week even if its just to hang out because Adam and Johnnie live about an hour away from Cam and myself.
What was the first number you played together?
Nobody at that point wanted to step forward to say let’s play this song. Like any drummer Johnnie can’t sit still and the second he sat down started hitting things, Adam started adlibbing and kicking up his own lyrics and we all started jamming. Playing bass I like the old soul music of The Gap Band and Bootsy Collins, and I’ve an extensive collection of Ray Charles. Adam’s a huge Bowie fan and that’s most of his influence. Johnnie is always listening to Duran Duran. Cam is a fan of Simple Minds and Depeche Mode, and really gets into heartfelt lovesongs, you can just see him singing them to a girl.
So between us we have a wide range of musical tastes and what emerged was more of a light breakbeat pop sound, but also the sound of a real live band having fun and doing our thing. We all agreed we want to play our instruments to the best of our abilities — we didn’t want to be one of those bands who stand on a stage and don’t even want to be there, trying to be cool.
Initially Adam was playing guitar — amazingly — but then in the third week he brought round his synth and started playing on that and he was great. And suddenly the sound became very 80s driven. Most of it does sound more like Duran Duran than Spandau Ballet to be honest. Particularly on our song The Only One. Yeah, you can hear a few John Taylorish chords on bass in there. I love those octave movements on the old Duran songs. Of course, we don’t want to be known just as a synth band.
Tell us about the four original numbers by Paradise Point we hear on MySpace, all love songs and all sounding like contenders
Those tracks venture into the various places we think we can go. A song like Unbearable Without You is very pop — it could even be an early, early Madonna song. Compare that to Run In Circles which is very different — more of a dancey rockpop song. The Only One is more of our own rockpop and it was even more rocky, until we put a good old bass line on it to bring it back into the pop range. Tears is more of a bigbeat pop song, very feelgood lyrics, a lot of emotion. It has so much energy — you’ll hear the keys in there, you’ll hear some brass. It’s got a bit of everything which is why we love playing it.
Why did you choose to cover two chart hits in your videos, the Katy Perry and the Rihanna songs?
So people will notice a difference. To show we could take songs that are popular now and make them our own and sound completely different. We want people to notice we’re a band who play our own instruments — and we make pop music, so other would-be musicians can see you don’t have to stand around playing indie music.
There hasn’t been a live British pop band for so long — there’s been Busted and McFly, but they didn’t have an edge. Look back to the 80s and you had Spandau and Duran, whereas now it’s N-Dubz and Rihanna and Katy Perry and such. That’s why we wanted to cover those songs, to leave our own comfort zone.
“We want to see a comeback for live pop bands,
rather than just the five-piece boyband
who just sing. What we’re doing is trying
to bring back something that people
haven’t seen or heard for years”
In a year’s time we want everyone to know about us, to see that it’s OK for 18-year-olds to play pop music. The only live bands you see now are playing rock or indie, it’s all moved away from the New Romantic thing when bands with instruments played pop music onstage. We want to see a comeback for live pop bands, rather than just the five-piece boyband who just sing. What we’re doing is trying to bring back something that people haven’t seen or heard for years.
That’s exactly why those two videos were shot at rehearsals — raw pieces of footage in one shot. In most cover versions there’ll be two of the band doing the promo video: the guitarist and the singer. We wanted you to see a live set with the four of us in shot and the all instruments turned up.
In the latest photos Cameron has acquired a touch of kohl round the eyes, yet Paradise Point don’t look like full-on Neo Romantics — won’t you be stuck with that label by playing at The Face?
It’s not that we don’t want that label, if people want to call us that… If you really think about the Neo Romantic thing it’s so much to do with glamour and mystery, and that’s what we like. You see so many bands go onstage looking as if they’ve just dropped off the bus. Our own character has yet to emerge onstage, that glam side. I know the people at The Face look more extravagant than us but there are elements to how we’re dressing now that are looking more 80s than a year ago! I met Jamie Lovatt at The Face with Cam and we really like his band, Romance — it’s up there as one of groups we listen to. But they are quite a bit more Neo Romantic than us.
Your dad, Martin Kemp — how much influence has he had on your music?
Dad is always jumping on me to keep practising. Obviously I draw a lot from my dad because I’ve watched him play bass from a young age and he’s always tried to help me with my playing. I’m always influenced by what he’s playing and seeing how he does it.
The first time I saw my dad play as a band was last year at the O2. It was weird because I’d grown up just seeing him as an actor on TV. Of course I’d seen the Spandau videos, but it was cool seeing him up there doing his thing. My dad kept trying to make me come to the rehearsals but I’d wanted to see Spandau Ballet on a big stage like the O2 and I was amazed by their fans singing along, and for me it was really inspiring to see him up there playing. I brought along all the guys in our band to come see. You could tell how much Spandau had missed playing, it was great for all of us to see them and how much fun they were having just performing their music, in the same way how we want to put as much energy into our shows just because we’re having fun!
What was the best thing for me was seeing how hard my dad practised for that tour. Say at nine in the morning I’d be hearing I’ll Fly For You being blasted on the bass downstairs.
Is it a coincidence that you played guitar from age eight, then took up bass at 13?
I always played bass because there’s always been one in our house. I wasn’t a stranger to it when I said I wanted to be the bass in Paradise Point. What I like about those 80s bands: the bass player is making those fills that bring the drums and the whole song together. There’ll be the underlying beat but then a few fills here and there to push the bass forward. That’s what I’ve seen my dad do in his band. That’s what I try to do on our songs, hold the rhythm while Cam’s doing his thing, especially on The Only One, then on the verses I’m trying to keep the song going.
Has Martin ever sat beside you giving you tuition?
The last time he did that I was playing guitar. He’s never really given me bass tuition. But my dad has always helped me. If I’m stuck, say we’ll have been at the studio and recorded everything and I’ll take the demo home with me, and I’ll be so annoyed with myself that I can hear I’m missing something, and my dad can show me something different. Then I’ll make that my own. Sometimes he’ll bring out his Spandau bass — a British Wal bass — and he’ll sit beside me and we’ll just play. Mine is a Gibson Thunderbird (I wanted the one that played the loudest). If he figures out a nice riff he’ll show me it and if I figure one out I’ll show him.
Who else has influenced your playing?
My dad’s gonna hate this, but if I thought who would I like to be like with the type of music my band does, I’d probably go more towards John Taylor [of Duran Duran, arch-rivals of Spandau in the 80s]. Both he and my dad do the same thing in trying to push the bass up there with the singer. That’s the glam side I like. Playing-wise there’s loads of influences. There’s Ira Wolf Tuton, the bass player in Yeasayer. I’ve seen him three times, he’s unbelievable, that much energy. They’re an experimental band from Brooklyn, into pop, rock, Middle Eastern and African musics. The bass riffs are amazing. If it works with the song, I’ll try to play it.
Have you ever actually worked with Martin?
Yeah, we made a few media projects for my school and some film things last year. I was doing drama after I finished GCSE and was in and out of college doing film. That’s what I love as well and so does my dad. We think of scripts and go out with a camera. When it comes to those projects dad goes nuts for them, but… Whoever your dad is, it’s always going to be hard to work with your own dad. He would help on the actual filming and would feel like the director, but I’d always have the edge on him, haha. I’d always have the say at the end of the day. I’d always come out with, “It’s MY project, I’m doing what I want.” But he’s always supported me in everything I’ve wanted to do.
So, Friday’s gig? You’re obviously expecting fans of all those acts you tagged on your YouTube videos: Bieber, Katy, Britney, Duran, Gaga, Cheryl, Bruno, Timbaland?
They all represent the musical styles and tastes of the young demographic we want to create. If people search Google for these acts, we think they’ll also like what we do.
And why is Russell Brand in among your tags?
Since we’ve got Cameron in our videos, girls are going to want to see Cameron. We’re pretty sure a lot of people who type in Russell Brand are going to be girls!
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Review: Paradise Point debut at Punk, Soho, November 19, 2010
❚ “CRAZY RIGHT FROM WORD GO!” yelps the 6ft 2in singer in an emotional maelstrom that his band turns into music. With a whiplash gesture, he tells us “I’m addicted to you / In my heart, in my blood, in my soul / I run in circles for you” … This poignant romantic melody catches the agonies and nowness of first-time lurrrrve, accelerated by that racing heart. The singer swivels 90 degrees, one hand grips his thigh, his legs are a-tremble, his arms stretch to there measuring the extent of his despair, his entire body emotes its socks off. He’s intense, handsome and fit, as his gymnastics confirm. He is the vocal storm at the centre of a pool-table-sized stage at the club Punk in central London, and the energy beaming off it is fierce.
The guitarist is a skinny spring-loaded jack-in-a-box, bouncing on the balls of his feet shaking out his floppy blond mop, giving sweet voice to the choruses — and yet he’s thrashing out jagged riffs in savage lightning strikes that threaten to slash his strings. Behind him the kid on the drums — well, he does look about 12 — is gutsy enough to persuade his drum kit to kick you in the vitals but this isn’t straight four-to-the-floor. His classy accents and playful licks whip up a dance party that must surely betray a musical training. Only the dude on bass is relatively cool about the whole affair, grooving purposefully along, exuding a touch of zen, while ensuring his fills push the message of trust in the soul.
What underpins the emotional tsunami is lush orchestral support from a couple of authentic 80s synthesisers you can glimpse in the shadows onstage. Their richly layered wall of sound inevitably invokes memories of Duran Duran, though these harmonies are rungs more sophisticated.
This is the first public gig by Paradise Point, and the whole act feels fresh. Cameron Jones is the keening vocalist, Roman Kemp plays bass, Adam Saunderson guitar, Johnnie Shinner drums. For this show Jordan Page takes keyboards.
They’re letting off steam, the tunes are strong, the words catchy. And there’s tension between the sound and the style. They look like boys next door, fun guys, nicely turned out, mildly flamboyant, a dart of kohl around the eyes, all aged about 18, yet they are not a boy-band. For one thing, they are playing their own instruments and sound brimful of promise. For another what they’re playing is pure pop. Wow. Only today in The Sun The Who’s Roger Daltrey was condemning the current lack of live bands, berating Simon Cowell and damning X-Factor output as “absolute tripe” that has “belittled the power of music”. Coincidentally, this autumn, after ten years of assembly-line pop sung by identikit idols without an instrument in sight, the music press has discovered a new wave of British guitar bands.
Well hello, PP, playing guitars. And synths. The twist is that we’re at one of Steve Strange’s posey club-nights called The Face, and there is a lot of Duran and Spandau in the air. Adam, for instance, really is sporting a white frilly-fronted shirt, circa Rum Runner 1981. So it’s no accident that New Romance is in the air too (or do we call it Neo?). PP sing six numbers in half an hour and each travels the dreamy byways of love, posing questions, questions in the teen labyrinth of confusion.
Run In Circles describes the addictiveness of love. The Only One tackles possessiveness, to tinkling cascades of synth, while Unbearable Without You bemoans the So-Unfairness of the heart as upbeat bubblegum pop with Duranny cowbells for sherbet. The set closes in Tears: “I will seek you out / There’s no place you can go”. It’s a song about vengeance but comes from a heart not yet hardened by bitterness.
Fer heavensake, hinterland is in short supply at age 18 when there are no regrets, no backward glances, no burdens of guilt. Paradise Point are in the wide-eyed realm of Romeo and Juliet. They are great romancers, who cast the vocalist Cam as Romeo putting his heart through the Magimix for his Juliet.
So even if Unbearable sounds like early Madonna, the teenage heart of Paradise Point does not entertain material girls or wannabe gold-diggers. In contrast to the massed ranks of sleazy, bodypopping, pelvis-lunging gangstas and slappers from the urban ghetto, here we have old-fashioned romantics. Wafted here from Paradise, even?
PP’s music is the magnet and their lyrics are your reward. Wait till you get home and play the band’s downloads and pay attention to the words. They prick the teen heart and they pull at everyone’s. These lyrics share some of the emotional intelligence of Morrissey & Marr, who can reduce you to jelly in a phrase, yet PP avoid the confessional mode and so spare us the Mancunian melancholy. Part of the reason is that Paradise Point do not hail from Moss Side, which for The Smiths provided a spur. So who are Paradise Point, whose lack of back story presents them as The Band With No Past? Club kids, yes, but not from the mean streets. The challenge facing these seemingly nice middle-class boys is how to triumph over coming from the home counties.
Feb 9, 2011 ➤ PP release new live cover video
of Jessie J’s Price Tag