#438: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! You may recall that earlier this month, I posted this article RECOMMENDED: THE 286. Yours Truly KJS recently touched base with founder Spencer Hannabuss for the following interview with ELO Beatles Forever [ELOBF]. It's an interview I thoroughly enjoyed and I'm sure you will enjoy reading it too!
KJS: The first question has to be why the name of the band is The 286?
SH: Well, it's always a real nightmare coming up for a name for a band. You always get one person saying "How about this?" and another saying "No, that's rubbish, but what about this?" and it all goes around and around. Then we discovered that half the band took the same bus to get to rehearsal - so we decided to name it after the bus route. It's a bit weird really, the number 286 bus has followed me about ever since I've been in bands. I even used to play in another band with a lad who used to drive the 286 bus! We used to joke about all these coincidences. So that's how the band got it's name, basically an in-joke that caught on!
KJS: How did The 286 come into being?
SH: When my last band, The Fore, was on the verge of breaking up, the rhythm guitarist [Nathan] and I started talking about forming this new band with cellos and violins. It was all a bit of a pipe dream until one day I got out my old cello that I used to play when I was 10 and started adding cello parts to a new demo. That song was "Hello". When Nathan heard it for the first he was blown away and convinced me we had to form this band! I put an advert out onto the local internet sites and amazingly we got a lot of interest. Nathan eventually moved on from the band, but I carried it on, and here we are!
KJS: Please tell me about the band members, their roles and personalities?
SH: On drums is Tom. Tom joined when Nathan left and we were really lucky to find him. Not only is he a great player but he also can sing as well. Then there's Raf on keyboards. Raf is from Brazil and is one of the most positive people you'll ever meet. Definitely the life and soul of the band. Andrew plays bass and does quite a bit on the recording side as well. He's an avid Burnley FC fan - but we don't talk too much about that at the moment! We have two violinists - Josh and Manuel. Both Josh and Manuel go to Trinity College in London, which is one of the top musical colleges in London. Josh helps me with scoring the string parts, so he has the patience of a saint! I can't read music anymore, so he has to put up with pretend violin or cello noises I make during arranging sessions! Finally, on cellos we have Noelle and Lynn. We also have a number of other 'deputies' that join us from time to time on violin or cello. That's the great thing about our band - if we want to we can always expand the string section and make one massive Rock 'n' Roll orchestra! They are the gigs that I really enjoy!
KJS: What has the reaction and interest been like to your new EP?
SH: It's been great! There aren't too many current bands doing what we are doing. We're really pleased with the end result. It was great mixing it all together, seeing the multi-tracked string parts take shape and sound like a full on orchestra. We're close to finalizing a new EP now, so inevitably our attention is turning to that.
KJS: The whole EP, to me, sounds like it is more influenced by early ELO and The Move rather than The Beatles. But what was the main inspiration behind this recording?
SH: I'm glad you said that! In reality, everyone likes to label bands and compare them to other acts that they know. ELO and The Move have faded in the public memory to a certain degree and so it makes more sense that we reference a band that is more familiar to everyone. But that's cool with us, people will make their own comparisons anyway. We've got a lot of followers on Twitter that have never heard of ELO or The Move but really love our sound. When I come up with a song I never really have a particular band or artist in mind. It's really a whole mixture of influences merging into one. And then, when the others in the band add their parts to the song it can go in another completely different direction.
KJS: There are five  tracks on the EP with: "Suite: Beyond The World: two versions of "Sophie Sands"; "Hello and "Battalion 286 [Monmouth Minuet]. They are all laden with beautiful string arrangements and ooze the original ELO ethos. Please tell me about the songs, their source and their message?
SH: We're really proud of the EP. "Beyond The World" is a suite of different musical ideas. I put all my ideas on a cassette player and that one came to me bit by bit. The orchestral intro and 'outro' was the first bit that came to me. The whole concept for the band in the first place was to approach a 'pop' record differently, perhaps in a way that you don't normally get these days, and I was pretty pleased with our attempt there! At seven minutes long, it's definitely more on the 'progressive' side and not so radio friendly, but it's got that: "Ocean Breakup" feel to it, which I love. "Hello" was the first 286 song. It's also one of the first songs that I wrote [I wrote it when I was 14 or 15 years old]. I've got a recording of me playing it when I was younger and it hasn't really changed - apart for the lack of cellos! It's a feel good upbeat song, and goes down well at our live gigs. "Battalion 286" was written at the time when Nathan and I were trying to come up with all different songs all around the '286' theme for a laugh. Our next EP will probably include an instrumental called: "Miracle On 286th Street" which also goes along that theme! I had this idea of writing about writing about a battle. I 'googled' the 28th June [28/6] for famous battles and this battle from the American War of Independence appeared at the top of the listings. I looked more into it and there were all these characters involved with the story [Molly Pitcher, General Lee] - it was perfect! It took me a while to finish the song, but it was worth it. Our former keyboard player Becky Ellard plays the clarinet solo in the song. That's my favourite part. "Sophie Sands" is a great track, written by our old drummer Nathan. Now that he has left the band, we don't play the song any more, which is a shame 'cos it's such a great song. I seem to remember that it was one of the first songs that he wrote as well. My favourite part of the track is the Rock 'n' Roll end part. For some reason it reminds me of mid-seventies Elton John. It's a really good song.
KJS: You are currently participating in the MTV music competition Brand New UK. How did The 286 come to take part in it and how do folks vote for you?
SH: That was a stroke of luck! I happened to come across someone else's tweet about the competition and thought I'd look more into it. The first stage of the competition is a public vote, either via Facebook or Twitter, and then the Top 20 acts go through to a judging panel. The panel then decide on who will win a year's worth of promotion on MTV and get a showcase at The HMV Forum in London. It's the kind of opportunity that really could launch a new band! If all ELO, Beatles and Move fans voted for us, that would make a huge difference! How great would it be to have an ELOesque band back in the limelight, especially after the fantastic Jeff Lynne documentaries recently shown on BBC TV in the UK. Voting has been going really well and our Facebook 'likes' have been going through the roof in the last few weeks, so we're really hopeful of making that final 20. Hopefully readers of this interview [and blog] can make a difference! The vote closes on Tuesday 6th November.
KJS: Are The 286 a live gigging band? If so, what plans do you have for touring in the future?
SH: Yes we are. Recreating our studio sound is always difficult, but we love performing live and try to do so as much as possible. This year's highlights have been performing at The Cavern Club in Liverpool and taking part in Greenwich's Olympic celebrations, performing for the Torch Parade and in front of several thousand people for 'Super Saturday' on Blackheath Common, Greenwich [south-east London] when Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah won their medals. It really was a great summer. We hope to do an EP launch later in the year when we release our next EP. We'll announce more information on that on our Facebook and Twitter pages as and when we have it.
KJS: Inevitably, folks will now start asking you about whether there is a full album in the works. What can you tell us, Spencer, about your future plans?
SH: Hopefully big things! Next up will be our new EP release. We have enough material to release an album in the spring time, so once Christmas is over we'll be back in the studio to work on new songs and get an album out early next year.
KJS: Now finally, here is the question that I always ask next when interviewing for ELOBF: Which are your personal fave tracks by ELO, The Move, Roy Wood and The Beatles, and why?
SH: That is such a hard question! My favourite ELO album changes from day to day, let alone my favourite song! I was lucky enough to have parents with really good musical taste and they had introduced me to The Beatles and ELO by the age of 10, so I got to know all the songs from quite an early age. From there I got into Woody and The Move. It's probably easy to name my favourite song per album, so here goes: "The Battle Of Marston Moor" ["No Answer"/"The Electric Light Orchestra"] - just how do you write such a complicated song?; "From The Sun To The World" ["ELO2"]; "Bluebird Is Dead" ["On The Third Day"]; "Can't Get It Out Of My Head" ["Eldorado"]; "Waterfall" ["Face The Music"]; "Livin' Thing" ["A New World Record"]; "Wild West Hero" ["Out Of The Blue"]; "Last Train To London" ["Discovery"]; "I'm Alive" ["Xanadu"]; "Yours Truly 2095" ["Time"]; "Secret Messages" ["Secret Messages"]; "Getting To The Point" ["Balance Of Power"]; "Moment In Paradise" ["Zoom"]. As for The Beatles, that's equally as tough, but I'd probably go for "We Can Work It Out", just for the way John and Paul's parts play off of each other. For The Move I'd probably go for "Omnibus" for pre-Jeff Move, and "The Words Of Aaron" for the later Move line-up. My favourite Roy Wood solo songs are probably "Dear Elaine" and some of the more unusual songs like "Jolly Cup Of Tea", but I also like other tracks like "The Rain Came Down On Everything". And no Christmas is the same without THE BEST CHRISTMAS track!
Follow The 286 on Twitter here: twitter.com/The286
Follow The 286 on Twitter here: twitter.com/The286
Yours Truly KJS would like to thank Spencer Hannabuss for his taking part in this interview. ELO Beatles Forever [ELOBF] recommends The 286 to those enlightened folks who enjoy the music of ELO, Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, The Move, The Idle Race, The Beatles, 'Brum Beat' and related artistes. Go see 'em - and don't forget to vote for The 286 too!
Until next "Time" in the ELO [and related] Universe ... KJS ... 30-Oct-2012