Boy Least Likely To
July 28, 2006 § Leave a comment
by Kate Pilgrim
TT the Bears, June 2006
Jof Owen is in the middle of a moral dilemma. He’s just been asked a Pilgrim favorite, would you sell your soul to the devil for the perfect song? “What does that entail? Your soul? The perfect song.. but hes got my soul?”
“I wouldn’t. Part of the fun of writing songs is just thinking that one day you might get there. I think that’s why you keep doing it because you think ‘One day I’ll write a song that’s as great as ‘Bright Eyes’ (by Simon and Garfunkel). That’s part of the fun; just keep not quite doing it.”
Thinking of countless one hit wonders, we’re satisfied with that response. But Jof’s still thinking.
“You’ll feel a fake as well. You’ll be like ‘Check out my new song’ and people will be like ‘Yeah, did you write that? Just suddenly came to you? Nothing to do with the devil?’ and you’ll be like ‘Yeaaah…'”
Jof is the singer/lyricist of England’s Boy Least Likely To, whose metaphorical apple wagon made its way to Cambridge’s T.T. the Bears in early June. He, along with instrumentalist/composer Peter Hobbs, have been Boy Least Likely To for about four years, but have known each other since they were in their early teens. At first, Jof was the guitarist (“But I’m really bad!”) so “Pete managed to make me sing in tune” and the switch was made. Soon after, they started “putting out our little 7 inches every eight months or so (on their own label, too young to die records) and then the album (Be Gentle With Me) ‘dropped,’ as I believe they say in America, and it just took over our lives.” The band’s level of success Stateside came as a bit of a shock, as they only sent the album to a very limited number of American journalists. That all changed when Pitchfork Media gave it a favorable review: “One day we checked the emails and there was a hundred emails from different American shops. Noone in America showed any interest before, and all of them were mentioning this Pitchfork thing.”
Jof hasn’t been able to figure out why the band seems to fare better this side of the pond: “Maybe because we’re very English sounding? I don’t know but it’s definitely crazier out here and the record just seems to be understood better. In England I don’t think people have quite got it yet. Some people have, some press have. But NME came to see us and said ‘We had a lovely time, great show, but we will never write about you because you’re the most unNME band ever.’ But here, Rolling Stone will write about us?” (Pilgrim grievance: That seems incredibly unfair?! No wonder our forefathers left that place…) Jof and Peter resisted performing for two years, but changed their minds after they were well received at a friend’s country music night, despite resembling “deer in headlights.” That stage fright is far behind them now, and their show at TT’s was not only musically top notch, but there was an incredible vibe throughout the venue. Live, the band triples in size; there are four additional band mates bouncing about, making sure the audience is enjoying every moment. Countless people are dancing their hearts out, an award is given out to the best dancer, Jof chats away to the front row as if they’ve been friends forever. There’s the obvious praises of talented and melodic and suchlike, but there’s something more about this group; it says a lot to be the type of band whos fans will bake them a cake or buy them a book (“I want to encourage people to give me books!”).
It’s so refreshing to meet a band that interacts with their audience in this way; they personally accept MySpace friendships and try to respond to as many peoples’ messages as possible. And downloading? Go for it, the best way to try before you buy, but they do hope you’ll buy it as well: “For me it was always if you make the sleeve good enough and the product good enough then people will buy it anyway and they will download it as well. But it helps I think, you have to give something away.”
As for what’s next, they’re slowly compiling songs for the next album, and hope to do some recording when they return home. When asked to consider the band’s long-term future, Jof muses “This is the only band I’ve ever been in that’s worked perfectly, where what everyone does is right and no one treads on each others toes or anything. So, yaknow, it’d be nice to last as long as Belle and Sebastian but… we might not.” For now, though, Jof’s taking one day at a time, making sure to keep everything in perspective: “I can’t really be out here touring. I’ve got furniture coming!”