English Folk rock band The Levellers formed in Brighton, England in 1988, consisting of Mark Chadwick (guitar and vocals), Jeremy Cunningham (bass guitar), Charlie Heather (drums), Jon Sevink (violin), Simon Friend (guitar and vocals), and Matt Savage (keyboards). Taking their name from the Levellers political movement. With a long career in the music industry the guys are still a creative force and are due to release their 12th album, ‘Peace’ on August 14th. We caught up with artist and bassist Jeremy Cunningham to find out how the guys are coping during the pandemic and all things Levellers and music.
1. Difficult times, how has this crisis affected you guys as a whole? All safe and well? Any message to your fans?
It’s effected us a lot, like everyone else! A whole years worth of live shows cancelled or postponed, including our own Beautiful Days festival. Heartbreaking stuff but gotta stay safe. We’ve all been ok, staying in touch with fans via social media, YouTube etc but it’s not the same as playing live! So our message to everyone is hang in there!
2. Have you been able to keep in touch with each other, or even do anything creative since we went into lockdown?
Yeah, we text each other etc and have band meetings on Zoom. I have been plenty creative, initially finishing the new Levs album artwork and checking through video edits. I am now doing a comic strip for the Levs Facebook, plus all the drawing I just do for my own amusement… Mark and Si have both been on YouTube playing and Jon is mixing some live recordings so I think we’re all keeping kinda productive.
3. After the 8-year gap of releasing new music, has your approach to song writing changed? How does a track develop within the band?
It has been a long time gestating! But the process is still the same – Mark and Si will either come in with the bones of a finished song or they’ll write one to my lyrics. Then we all just get stuck in arranging and playing it, changing stuff quite radically along the way sometimes. The big difference this time was that we did quick demos of everything along the way. But that’s partly why it took so long too cos we couldn’t decide if they were any good or not! Thankfully we got our heads around it all in the end.
4. Is being in a band still what you guys love? What keeps you guys creating after all these years? Has it got any easier?
Yep, still love it! Now we’re all pottering around our houses locked in like everyone else, doing ordinary things instead of the extraordinary adventure of being in a band… The noise we make has always been bigger than the sum of its parts, that’s what keeps us creating together. Simple as that. It doesn’t get easier though because we don’t want to repeat ourselves. And we like to push ourselves as well. You can’t make good art without that.
5. What’s your favourite tracks to play? What songs are you looking forward to playing live when you get the chance?
I actually like playing everything! Of the new stuff we just recorded I’m particularly looking forward to playing ‘Four Boys Lost’ and ‘Generation Fear’
6. How do you feel when looking back over your three and a bit decades? Do you feel like you have achieved what you set out to do?
Time flies! I think looking back we wildly exceeded my expectations musically, in terms of success, it’s been crazy! But that’s tempered with absolutely failing to change the world politically. We’re still working on that!
7. How has the music scene changed much over the years for you guys? Has the internet with such things as social media made it easier to be in a band?
It’s completely changed! When we started bands made their living from record sales. Playing live lost most groups money but was essential for promoting albums etc… Now it’s completely the opposite! All the money is in live shows. Electronic media has been a big factor in that change. It’s democratised music completely in that you don’t need big record labels to have a hit now. You can do it all yourself, from recording to promo. I’m all for DIY! Levs are completely independent. But there are downsides too. E-communication is so quick, people’s attention span has shortened accordingly. So even though it’s easier than ever now to make a record, it’s much harder to keep your audience interested…But the music biz has always been full of ups and downs!
8. Are there any bands past or present you would love to have played with or even been part of?
We were lucky enough to have Joe Strummer play on one of our records so that was a dream come true! As was supporting Neil Young multiple times… I’d have loved to have played bass with RDF (Radical Dance Faction) for a gig or two back in the day but usually I’m happy enough in the crowd at other guys gigs!
9. Difficult to talk about future plans, but what does the future look like post lockdown for the band?
Live shows man! When social distancing is over it’s all about getting back on stage for us. Can’t wait!
10. What music are you digging right now? Any particular artists you would love to see make it?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Kano recently. Specially ‘Made In The Manor’. And Phoebe Bridgers/Boy Genius…Been playing a lot of old Libertines stuff too. A great band I’d like to see really make it (though they have three albums out and do well on the underground) is Wolfpeople. They’re an awesome psychedelic folk rock. They should be massive!
11. Can you give us a top three album list that everyone should have in their collection?
London Calling – The Clash It takes a nation of millions to hold us back – Public Enemy Decade – Neil Young
Huge thanks to Jeremy for taking the time out to answer our questions.
Pre-order the album here.
Check out The Levellers new video for track ‘Our Future’
Head on over the Their Youtube page to watch Jeremy create the art work for ‘Peace’