Birmingham-based cult post-punk outsiders The Nightingales have been getting some long overdue attention in the wake of the excellent King Rocker documentary, which sees frontman Robert Lloyd explore his musical journey with comedian Stewart Lee. The film has been rightly hailed by critics from Mark Kermode to Radcliffe and Maconie as one of the finest music docs of recent years and has brought a new generation of listeners to The Nightingales’ misfit tales, seeing the band undertake their biggest UK tour to date earlier this year.
With Fire Records reissuing their second album Hysterics, originally released in 1983, we caught up with frontman Robert Lloyd for his reflections on the records’ place in the musical landscape of its release and the times into which it is re-emerging.
How did the reissue come about?
Fire Films were producing the King Rocker film and at the beginning I thought they saw no way that the film would recoup the investment and consequently needed some music to try and get their money back. The ownership of Hysterics was in dispute but – thanks to the Nightingales record company boss, John Henderson – it was eventually found out that I was the rightful owner of the record and a deal was struck with Fire to reissue a bunch of Nightingales material to assist in the production of the film.
How did it feel revisiting the album and looking back at pictures, reviews and footage from that time?
I am not much of one for nostalgia but it was good to see such a slick looking package. That said, I much prefer the music The Nightingales are making now to the old gear so my excitement was rather limited. I am glad it exists though and I know a lot of people really love that album.
Looking back at the album’s original release in 1983, where do you think it fitted into the music scene of the time and what about it has meant it’s been able to stand the test of time well enough to warrant a reissue?
At the time I was never concerned about the music scene nor fitting in or otherwise. I really did not consider other groups and just made music that I liked or at least thought was worthwhile. I have not changed in this regard and I do not know if it stands the test of time, et cetera. Like all of my other records, it is more or less a diary of a moment and I don’t think it is my decision as to whether it warrants a reissue or not. What do you think?
Were there any bands back then that were on a similar wavelength to you or that you felt a sort of kinship with?
Thinking of the musical landscape into which the album is being reissued, what has changed since its original release?
Well tons of stuff, it doesn’t need me to spell it out, just look around, take a listen.
Who are the current bands that you admire? Are there any in whom you can hear or feel a similar spirit to what you were trying to achieve with Hysterics?
I was actually quite sincere, serious and insular when making ‘Hysterics’ and I would be certain that there are artists that feel the same today but I do not know who they are. I am not really up to speed with the current music splurge, I mainly listen to old gear, but I do have admiration for Near Jazz Experience and Surplus 1980 and possibly a few others I can’t think of.
What have you all got going on at the moment/coming up soon?
The Nightingales have just finished their biggest tour to date and will have a new album afore too very long. Meanwhile, the King Rocker soundtrack LP and DVD has been released by Fire and in July they will be reissuing In The Good Old Country Way.
We asked Robert to share a playlist of his favourite tracks from 1983 and the current day – here’s what he came back with:
Well, I have been told that my memory is notable for it’s absence and I most definitely struggle to recall the songs of 1983, though without doubt the best one is ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ by Cyndi Lauper. In the last few years I have loved tracks by Ustad Saami, especially ‘Prayer for a Saint’ and ‘Four Chambered Heart’ by Till By Turning (which doesn’t appear to be on Youtube, so here’s a Bandcamp link instead – Ed). Most stuff by Grace Petrie is good. My favourite 45 of the last decade was ‘Don’t Go Back At Ten’ by Girl Ray and my favourite LP was ‘Scheherazade’ by Freakwater.
The reissue of Hysterics is out now on Fire Records and will be followed by further reissues over the coming months.
King Rocker is available on DVD and to stream on Sky Arts, and you can also get the soundtrack on vinyl or digital download – watch/order here.
Find out more on The Nightingales’ official website
Interview by Paul Maps