Friday, June 25, 2021

LONGY: An interview with the raw, biting artist holding up a mirror to society with his music

Hailing from Essex, Longy is an exciting and authentic musician bringing something totally fresh to the UK music scene. Describing his own music as  “gospel-trash", Longy is an artist and producer like no other that puts story-telling and making raw, gut-wrenching music at the forefront of his career. 

With the recent release of his poignant new single, ‘iMerica’, I sat down with Longy to chat about his touring experiences, his thoughts on social change, and the levelling effect of music. 

Bold about his opinions and ambitions, my chat with Longy confirmed what one might already be able to tell from his music: that he is a wise, good-humoured, and a refreshingly matter-of-fact artist with a lot left to say. 

One of your most well-known ventures as an artist was to perform 500 shows in 365 days, which is mathematically confounding! Do you have any favourite stories or insights from that experience? How has it helped you to develop your approach to performance?

The synchronicities, the connections, it was an incredible time, house parties, places you would never play like kings hall in Chelsea, intimate shows in peoples lounges, [I’d] done a lot for Sofar sound who were incredible to me, their support and help with shows was constant and they have a seriously good set up there. A lot of the time me and Adam [my] trumpet player would play a lot of acoustic gigs. I think watching him fall out of the bar at the end of the night become quite mandatory. Our best gigs were always when you didn't expect it, they would just appear and suddenly you realised that the vibe of the room was in. We stayed for a lot of after shows, we'd end up playing again, all night. I was thinking the other day about wiping my instagram clean but then realised it had all 500 shows in line on it.

Playing live developed as like anything you'd find progression in a lot of failures maybe not thinking you were delivering the song properly. I mean you had 500 attempts at it, you had to find progression.  There's a live album online called 'songs by the seaside' we did during 500, my management set the whole thing up and we got it recorded. We didn't know how it would come out, we invited 75 people to the upstairs of the railway pub in southend. It was more special that it was in my hometown, the band were on fire and we played with discipline and heart. You never know how those things are gonna turn out, we laughed [at] how big the band were when they came in on first listen, it had to be put out.

You've also performed in the form of a TedEx talk at the London School of Business, how did that unconventional opportunity come about and what was it like?

At the moment we're looking for a booking agent, so those kind of shows creep up and can come out of nowhere. I think someone had heard The Illusionist EP and we got a message sent to us via socials, completely fitting that the talk was on order and chaos. I love those two exact opposites and deal with them everyday in my writing. That's why music is such a good leveller, it brings us to the height of our spirits and connects us to each other through feelings.

I love the attitude of your new single 'iMerica', which doesn't shy away from pointing the finger at the state of the United States right now. What would you like to see called out more and changed at home in the UK?

I think it's absolute insanity that socials worldwide don't do more to call out racists and haters, ban 'em for life if you have to, but do something. You've got to be a bit of a bell if you're wasting your time in a negative way on socials. The fuckers should be shamed, no compromise, otherwise we do not progress as humans. We're trying to grow and I would say the last few years have been an ascension for most people, but that does not mean it returns to normal, it does mean that it's new times and that's what most people are scared of, change.

Speaking of the UK, what are your thoughts on the current UK music scene and what would you like to see more or less of?

More guitars and proper bands is what I'd love to see, but I'm too focused on what me and the band do to worry about others too much. We're living in this multi genre bubblegum, anything goes culture, I don't have any problem with that, it's [the] sculpting of the songs and stories that need more attention. I will give a shout out to Ocean Wisdom though, cracks me up.

You must be excited for the return of live music! What's your favourite live gig you've ever played so far?

Favourite live gig has to be an outside gig we done at Dax festival, it was an enormous sound system, it was the towns yearly get together and it’s fucking madness, thousands of people in one square. I don't know why they gave us free passes to the bull fight, we'd never seen one, but I would advise to never ever go to one. It was vile and I couldn't care less if it’s a tradition, that shit needs to stop. We all came out in tears and went and got very drunk, locked the promoter out of his cabin and flew home that night as the sun shined through the rain.

By the sounds of it you’re a very organised person when it comes to your writing and releases, to the extent that you expect your ‘All Roads Lead To 528’ album to be ready for release in 2023 - How important do you think it is for artists to plan ahead?

I wish I was organised, nine times out of ten it's chaos, but it gets me through. The band are in a good place even though it's the most disjointed we have ever been. I cannot speak for any other artist but I just know my processes and how I work. Whilst writing this I'm juggling a lot of plates and writing loads, but it's constant and there is always something to talk about.

I'm currently writing about my hometown and finding out a lot about habits and where people's minds go for reform or reflection.  Me and the boys always talk about how lucky we are to be able to talk through problems and it's why we have stayed together for a long time, so I would say never be afraid to talk, even if its someone you've only just met, have faith and let the universe play it’s magic, it will guide you to the right things if heart is in the right place.

According to your artist page on Spotify, you picked up a guitar because of Buddy Holly and like to shout like Little Richard. Who that is currently making music inspires you?

I've enjoyed IDLES journey, a band that just lays it all out, but I've liked watching the progression.  Loved Slaves too, that hasn't changed for me for a while. I'd say though my biggest inspiration has been Kendrick Lemar in the last few years, always sounds like Easy E to me and my brother was a non-stop hip hop head when I was a kid. Whatever Damien Rice does as well, you should check out a song called 'Astronaut'.

The links in your press release to social media and a website are deliberately dead ends to the question of "who is longy" - Do you like to maintain an element of mystery as an artist and/or as an individual?

If me and you were Ninjas, who would win?

Is there a question that you absolutely hate getting in interviews?

That last question.

Longy’s latest single ‘iMercia’ is out now and is one of the tracks to be included on his upcoming EP due for release on 4th July 2021 which is confirmed to continue this thread of political engagement through music while providing a spark of hope and positivity for the future.

Aoife McMahon  
Image: iMerica Official Single Artwork

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