Festival fashion is a funny one.
On one end of the spectrum you’ve got the absolute try-hards, lasses wearing the shortest shorts imaginable, riding up their arses, whilst the lads look like even a hint of mud going anywhere near their expensive trainers would have them mortified. Then there’s the folk who wear walking boots – eurgh!
But it doesn’t matter how hard you try to pull off that festival fashion look, because if Jamie Lenman is appearing on the bill, you’ve got no chance. Out of your element in the flick of a Timepiece.
This year at 2000trees was no exception, with the former Reuben frontman rocking up for our allotted interview time dressed to the absolute nines. It felt wrong to be interviewing him under such circumstances. A more considerate approach would have been to have him up at Manchester’s Whim Wham Café, with its vintage décor and Gimlet’s on tap, but sadly that place shut down years ago. A bustling press area with its view of a small lake would have to do.
Whilst our locale might have seen Jamie’s clobber choices put him in the minority, the clientele were more than welcoming. “It’s a bit like shooting fish in a barrel because everyone is so receptive to me here.” Says Jamie, minutes after graciously allowing a group of punters to jump in and have a photograph prior to the interview. ”D’you know what, I’m not gonna kid myself that it’s a personal reception,” He continues. “I think if you’re at 2000trees, you’re already of a friendly disposition because it’s a friendly festival. If you walk round, everyone says hello. Lots of people have been coming up and shaking my hand and saying ‘Hello Jamie’. It’s really friendly, really nice.”
A festival so friendly in fact that they were kind enough to offer Jamie two slots on the festival; his evening set taking place on The Axiom stage, whilst a more intimate affair could be found earlier in the afternoon in the majestic forest area. It was in the forest where Jamie serenaded a large group of fans with, amongst other things, hit theme songs from Australian Television shows.
“I’ve played some funny places, man, but…it was really great. It looked lovely; very nice atmosphere to do a show in.” Says Jamie. The site itself is almost other worldly; unlike any other area of the festival yet undeniably in touch with the 2000trees vibe. “I haven’t really thought about it before, but actually – the sort of ambience of a venue is overlooked and it can make a difference, but sometimes only subtly. If I’d been doing that stage with my full band and jumping about and whatnot, maybe it wouldn’t have made such of a difference. Because it was just me, just a guitar and a microphone, it really helped and it was really lovely.”
Outside of the enchanted woods and back in the typical surroundings of the festival, Jamie would later go on to offer his own blend of enchantment. The second set of the day saw Lenman joined on stage by a few special guests, with members of The St. Pierre Snake Invasion and Arcane Roots offering a helping hand on a number or two. Keen Lenman supporters (of which there are many) will have likely noticed that it’s not unusual for Jamie to collaborate with others. He’s been especially busy of late, providing his signature vocals to a number of different artists over the past year, including Down I Go and Black Peaks.
“I do worry that people might get sick of me, because it did seem for a minute like every new UK heavy record that came out had me on it.” Smiles Jamie, going on to liken himself *ever so slightly* to Mike Patton and his relationship with Ipecac Records. “You pick up an Ipecac and ‘feat. Mike Patton’,” He chuckles. “…you’re blowing my mind, I never would’ve guessed.”
Quick to offer assurance that he is in no way comparing himself to Sir Patton, Jamie did have fears that the numerous guest spots under his belt could potentially see his stock spread a little thin, with fans being potentially turned away at the mere sight of his name on a record sleeve. But to find his name on a record sleeve outside of his guest vocal work, you’d have to go back a few years. “I haven’t made a record since 2013 – three years ago, it doesn’t feel like three years ago.” He sums up. “But since then I’ve been involved, not constantly, but very frequently in different projects by all kind of different artists that I admire. It’s been really great, I love doing guest spots. I prefer it when it’s a little bit more collaborative, like the one I did with Black Peaks. They just said – here’s the second half of the song, come up with something. I wrote the lyrics based on what William had written already, and I wrote the tune and then we jiggled it about a bit when we got in the studio. That’s my favourite way of doing it. I really love doing that.”
As well as special guests and Australian soap themes, 2000trees also marked the live debut of Lenman’s latest number ‘Friends In Low Places’. The track itself is the closer on a 26 song compilation put out through Lockjaw Records, with proceeds going toward Crohn’s & Colitis UK – A charity looking to lay a beating on Inflammatory Bowel Disease. ‘No Guts No Glory: A Tribute To Kicking Crohn’s & Colitis Ass’ features a host of punk and hardcore bands from all over, with the likes of Boston Manor, A Wilhelm Scream and Gnarwolves holding hands with labels like Failure By Design Records and Big Scary Monsters. Good company indeed, though Lenman is ever so slightly unsure of his footing amongst the 25 others. “To be honest, I think my track sticks out like a bit of a sore thumb. That’s why they put it last,” He smiles. “But that’s sort of the nature of the thing. I did it because Rob’s my friend and I think it’s more about friendship on that compilation and I really dig it. I’m pleased to be on it.”
Its live run-through on The Axiom was a treat for all in attendance, but also a nod from the man himself, avoiding the opportunity to arrive at the festival empty handed. “I wouldn’t have thought it would get to be a big deal where I released one song and that’s the most recent thing I did – one song! I put it on a charity record – I’m friends with the label. If anything, that gave me a bit of license to come here, because I didn’t want to come and play another show without any new material. I know it’s only one song, but for me it’s just enough input to say – hey, let’s sing a new song.”
With the appearance of Friends In Low Places, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest this was a sure sign of new material from Lenman. But when quizzed as to whether this is the beginning of something new, Jamie appeared as the cat who got the cream.
“Is it?” He asks with a smile, causing yours truly to stutter a response. Laughing it off, he counters with “It’s old material is what it is, because I wrote it just at the end of Muscle Memory. Very often when that’s happening, even while you’re recording an album, you’re still writing. A couple of tracks maybe get in just before the gate closes and some of them get left straggling behind. You write it when you’re mixing and you think – god damn, that would’ve been really good to put on that record! So I had it banging about, so that really is sort of the last bit of Muscle Memory if you like.”
A man with more than one string to his bow, Jamie hasn’t spent the last three years twiddling his thumbs. Away from the music side of things, he works as an illustrator, racking up awards for the likes of Dr Who Magazine – one of the most recent awards being a Guiness World Record (“We went to the swanky place and we ate Dr Who themed canapes. I’m not joking, that was a real thing.”)
Whilst the wait for new material following Muscle Memory might be agonising for some, it’s felt like “a million years” to Jamie. ”I’ve had a busy time since then.” He says. ”We spent that year, 2014, touring and doing all the festivals. Nowhere near as heavily as when I was in the band, but to an old duffer like me – I’m 33 – it felt pretty intense! I did like four festivals, I was knackered! But since then it’s just been illustration all the way – books, books, books. Back to the real job.”
With our time nearing an end and his PR person hovering nearby, Lenman doffs his hat and gets set to move onto his next interview – likely another journo to find themselves suddenly underdressed and in need of a more suitable location. But before he does, now clearly selective in his decision making process since becoming an “old duffer”, Lenman comments on his future when it comes to music. “I only came to 2000trees because they asked so nice. I only put that track on the compilation because they asked, because he was my buddy. At some point I’ll probably get round to doing another record, but I wouldn’t do it unless I was guaranteed to reach a broader audience. I’d like to play to more than just my existing supporters, which isn’t to denigrate or reject their support in any way – they’re my favourite people. But you always wanna meet new people, don’t you? You can’t just play to the same people all the time, however nice they are….and they’re REALLY nice.” He smiles, adding a footnote. “Put that in capitals.”