Interview: More bands on why they got involved with God Is In The TV’s R.E.M. charity tribute album

Last week we caught up with Piney Gir, Stephen Evens and Yout The Living about their involvement in fellow chroniclers of the music scene God Is In The TV‘s excellent covers album A Carnival of Sorts, released in honour of R.E.M.’s 40th anniversary and to raise money for the charity Help Musicians. You can read their thoughts here.

Today, we catch up with four more of the forty (!) artists who recorded an exclusive new take on one of the band’s many classic tracks for the record, which has received praise from Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Bill Berry, and is available to download via Bandcamp for just £6 here.

Track: Everybody Hurts

Photograph by Michaela Jay

What is it about R.E.M. and their music that got you interested in taking part in this project? 
Well in all honesty when I saw that God Is In The TV Zine were putting together a compilation album to raise money for Help Musicians UK that’s what drew me in. Help Musicians UK is such a genuine charity. They helped me with emergency funding during the pandemic and financial aid and counselling when I was in hospital in 2019. I couldn’t work for a few months and I’m not sure what I would have done without their help and support. Recording an R.E.M. cover for the project was a bonus. I grew up listening to R.E.M. so being able to choose one of their songs was an important responsibility. I felt like I was revisiting my teen years and emotional narrative which I guess I was. 

How did you first get into R.E.M.?
I remember a TV advert playing quite frequently featuring a snippet of their music video ‘Man On The Moon.’ I loved the melody and the whole vibe of the track. It stuck in my head. That led me to explore more of the band’s music. 

Why did you choose this particular song to cover?
‘Everybody Hurts’ made sense to me as it’s the R.E.M song that has connected to me most over the years. I wanted to be delicate and heartfelt with my contribution. Recording from home was daunting yet allowed me the freedom to really focus on the feeling and heart behind the words.  I remember as a kid popping to Woolworths to grab the single. I’ve always been passionate about film and visuals so I loved the video too. The way everyone just gets out of their cars towards the end. The song along with such strong visuals gave me reassurance that we’re not alone in our pain and grief. It connected with my desire to be understood in the world.

Which is your favourite R.E.M. track and why?
I really love the track ‘Losing my Religion’ Although I understand that the song is not about religion and about unrequited love – that line, “That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spot-light, losing my religion,” is powerful. For me it means that I’m leaving behind everything that I’ve learnt and that society has put upon me, I’m losing what isn’t true and real in order to build a foundation of what is for me. I guess that’s the beauty in lyrics, we make up our own interpretations. 

If you have any interesting R.E.M. facts or anecdotes, please share them here…
Only that it was bloody surreal and beautiful to grow up listening to a band that years later listened to my cover of one of their classics. 

Aside from appearing on this release, what have you got coming up? 
I’m performing at LOUD Women Fest on Saturday 18th September and finishing my next single ‘Trends’ which I aim to release in November 2021. 

Find our more about MIRI on her official website

Track: Fall On Me

Photograph by Bethan Miller

What is it about R.E.M. and their music that got you interested in taking part in this project?
I have been a huge R.E.M. fan for a very long time, so being involved in this project couldn’t have been more of a joy and privilege. Ever since listening to the greatest hits compilation as a child, R.E.M. have always been an important band for me in terms of both my outlook on music and on life. It’s only really been the past five or so years however, that I’ve really delved into the band’s entire discography, and this has honestly been life changing for me. They have helped me through some pretty rough patches in life and I will forever be grateful for their music.

Why did you choose this particular song to cover?
We chose to cover ‘Fall On Me’ for this album simply because it is one of mine and Rhys’ favourite tracks. It’s always the one we put on the jukebox at this bar in Swansea at 3am, emotionally singing along, slightly under the influence. It was also really fun to record as there are so many little elements to the track to play around with to try and put our own twist on it. The whole thing was recorded in Tom’s bedroom, and it was pretty crazy to hear that Michael, Peter and Mike would have listened to our home recording.

Which is your favourite R.E.M. album and why?
This is always a difficult question because I admire all of R.E.M’s albums in their own way. And to be honest, my ‘favourite’ R.E.M. album changes by the month. At the moment I’d say it’s Monster, Stipe’s vocal performance in the track ‘Tongue’ always blows me away when I listen to this album. My most recent album discovery was Accelerate after I bought it in a charity shop a few years ago and couldn’t believe I’d been missing out this whole time. Document also played a huge part in my introduction to R.E.M., as it was the album that I listened to every time on the bus, amazed by the songwriting and production. Like I said, it’s always hard to choose just one album. 

Aside from appearing on this release, what have you got coming up? 
We’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up for the rest of this year and the next. It’s great to be playing live shows again and we’re lucky have a few dates in the calendar booked in. We’ll be playing Cwrw in Carmarthen on the 24th and Tiny Rebel in Cardiff on the 25th both this month, with some amazing bands. We’re also heading to FOCUS Wales for the first time in October which is very exciting and returning to The Swansea Fringe a couple of weekends after. Aside from live shows, we have some releases we are bursting at the seams to announce, so stay tuned!

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Pocket Lint
Track: Pretty Persuasion

What is it about R.E.M. and their music that got you interested in taking part in this project?
When I saw Bill (God Is In The TV editor)’s tweet I had recently started rediscovering their 90s output. I had ditched it all in the Britpop purge after hearing Modern Life Is Rubbish. I later rediscovered their 80s stuff but for very pathetic indie snob reasons decided to limit it to their pre-major label days.

How did you first get into R.E.M.?
When I was 12 I discovered Jimi Hendrix and from there lots of 60s rock. One of my best friends at school was the only person I knew who had MTV. He would hear bands and then make cassettes for me. So through him I got Nirvana, REM, Frank Black, the Pumpkins et al.

Why did you choose this particular song to cover?
So this song, ‘Pretty Persuasion’, was my reintroduction to REM in my 20s. I was in hospital on IVs and my dad visited and brought me some DVDs to keep me entertained. Citizen Kane and some Old Grey Whistle Test DVDs. As I was in bed and didn’t have a remote I couldn’t skip any bands so I just watched it all. When R.E.M. came on and sang ‘Moon River’ before launching into ‘Pretty Persuasion’, I was an R.E.M. fan again. It just grabbed me and I was back to a younger age just appreciating an incredible band. When I got out of hospital I bought the best of R.E.M. (the early compilation) and went from there.

Which is your favourite R.E.M. album and why?
This would probably have to be Green, or maybe Life’s Rich Pageant. To be honest anything around that period is incredible in my opinion. That isn’t to say that the later stuff isn’t equally wonderful, but Green especially has so many memories. The one problem I have with it is that my friend mentioned before, Steve, recorded the album in order of his favourites so whenever I hear it now, it sounds incorrectly sequenced as it’s not the order I grew up listening to.

If you have any interesting R.E.M. facts or anecdotes, please share them here…
I once made someone cry in a ski resort by playing a cover of the one I love. I think they were pleased, but it may have just been bloody awful.

Aside from appearing on this release, what have you got coming up?
I’ve just released a soundtrack to an imaginary film on cassette and download which has been a lot of fun to record. 
The idea came from reading about Barry Adamson’s Moss Side Story album many years ago. I have always fancied writing a soundtrack and in lockdown it struck me that I could and should.

The sounds themselves are inspired by John Carpenter’s early work, Moroder, and Vangelis’ Blade runner soundtrack.

It’s set in a futuristic city run by arcane guilds. A stranger is invited in to investigate the disappearance of prominent locals. The music provides the story for what happens next. It’s available on Bandcamp here.

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S.T. Manville
Track: Welcome to The Occupation

What is it about R.E.M. and their music that got you interested in taking part in this project?
R.E.M. were one of the 2 bands that made me want to play music. I got a guitar for my tenth birthday and the second thing I learnt to play was the ‘One I Love’ riff.

How did you first get into R.E.M.
My Dad was a fan. I used to sit in the living room and listen to Document and Out Of Time on repeat. They’ve been one of those bands that have stuck with me my whole life.

Why did you choose this particular song to cover?
As soon as I was asked to take part I know that ‘Welcome to the Occupation’ would be the one for me. It already had that dark americana undertone and I could hear it played in a way that would work with my voice and style of arrangement.

Which is your favourite R.E.M. album and why?
It would have to be Document. I think for me it hits the sweet spot, somewhere between the really esoteric angst of the earlier records but incorporating the more melodic tendencies that would define the next few records. There’s an urgency about the record that I don’t think many bands have captured on record.

If you have any interesting R.E.M. facts or anecdotes, please share them here…
I saw them headline Glastonbury when I was about 11 and it was something that has stuck with me forever. Not only my first time at a major festival but also seeing a band that I knew a lot of their songs was just mind blowing.

Aside from appearing on this release, what have you got coming up? 
I’ve just released a single called ‘Stalemate’ and I have an EP out on the 17th November. I’m currently doing some dates with American country folk artists Willy Tea Taylor and will be touring the UK with OWEN (Mike Kinsella/American Football) in November. 

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The album A Carnival of Sorts: An R.E.M. Covers Compilation is available now as a digital download from Bandcamp.

Article by Paul Maps

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