Interview: Taxi with Strangers

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Rising Lancaster band, Taxi with Strangers entered onto our radar in 2021 with the release of their latest single, ‘Let Loose’. Picking up plenty of social media attention and radio play alike, it was the seal of approval from Radio X’s ‘most trusted man in music’, John Kennedy, that put the rubber stamp on the release.

With a current line-up of David Morton-Jones (vocals/bass), Jake Bellamy (guitar), Toby Weatherill (drums) and Niall Graham (guitar), the band have been progressing well this year after joining with MLR Management in January and picking up new fans and acclaim.

We caught up with Jake, Toby and David from the band via Zoom to get to know Taxi with Strangers a little bit more. We discussed ‘Let Loose’, as well as the origins of the band, goals for the future, their local music scene and, of course, they chose their Fantasy Pints!

NC: We’ll start by talking about the history, can you tell me about how you all met and the formation of the band?

David: “Toby and I went to sixth form together, we’ve known each other for about eight years now. Jake had started the band, Toby got involved and then I was brought in for a jam, nothing too serious at the time. A few years down the line and now we’re here!”

Toby: “I was playing with another band at the time and we were in a bit of a quiet period so I was looking for somewhere else to play. Jake put an advert out, I joined, and two rehearsals later we were looking for a bass player. I knew Jake had played bass but hadn’t picked it up for a while. I wasn’t sure if he’d be up for it but he came down and he’s still here today so it worked out!”

NC: And where did the band name ‘Taxi with Strangers’ come from?

Jake: “Me and my mate were on our way to Manchester from Ormskirk and had to change trains in Liverpool. Three-quarters of the way there, the train broke down, so we went out to the taxi rank and weren’t having any luck. A local couple came over to us and asked if we were heading to the station and we said yes to sharing a taxi. It just came into my head the phrase ‘taxis with strangers’ and then it was shortened to Taxi with Strangers and it just stuck.”

NC: Do you all have similar tastes and inspirations or is there a variety that contribute to your sound?

Jake: “I think we’re all a bit different in what we listen to. These guys are really into their electronic stuff.”

David: “There are bands that we all like as a group. But individually we all pull influences from different places. There are artists Jake would listen to that I wouldn’t entertain at all, and there are artists Toby listens to that Jake wouldn’t give the time of day to, it’s a bit like that really.”

NC: So who writes the songs, is it a group effort or do you have sole songwriter?

Toby: “Initially, Jake did a lot of it. He would come in and say ‘I’ve been working on this, what do you think?’. It’s weird because personally I struggle songwriting, but then one afternoon I’ll bang out a song. After that I won’t write anything for weeks, it’s strange. Dave’s a little bit like that too. Ideas tend to come into my head when I can’t write it down, I remember driving home after rehearsals and having to ring Dave on hands free because a new part of ‘Let Loose’ had come into my head!”

David: “I tend to get inspiration as I’m about to go to sleep, which is a bit annoying. I remember when we first started I thought there was no way I’d be able to write a song. Over the last few years we’ve grown in our musical ability and confidence and we’ve been able to write more songs and better songs. We can jam together and create a track or Jake can come to us with a riff and we can work with that to create something.”

NC: Had you done much gigging together pre-lockdown?

Jake: “We had more gigs booked for 2020 than we’d ever played before, so it was a big kick in the teeth for us really. We had big headline gigs in Lancaster lined up and then it was just taken away from us. It did give us the chance to write some new tracks like ‘Charity Shop Mannequin’, ‘Breaking the Interval’ and ‘Time’, which we started writing at the beginning of 2020 and then finished them off during lockdown. So we spread those releases out and were really lucky to be able to get some new stuff out there.”

NC: You mention Lancaster, what is the music scene like in your home city?

Jake: “There’s a lot more going on now than ever before, it had been pretty dead beforehand. I couldn’t name many artists off the top of my head to come out of Lancaster.”

Toby: “It’s a weird spot really because I wouldn’t call it an underground scene, but there’s a lot more bands around than I actually thought there were. It’s only when you go out playing that you notice the amount of bands there are locally in what essentially is just town for us. In smaller cities, you assume it’s just a repetitive circuit of the same established musicians and cover bands in local pubs, but it’s only when you pay attention to it that you notice the amount of up and coming bands playing in Lancaster.”

NC: We’ll talk about the latest track now, ‘Let Loose’, can you give us a bit of a background on the track?

David: “I was working in hospitality and I was starting to notice that people were seeming a little more short-fused and I wanted to write a tune about not dwelling on the negatives. Yes, we need to be sensible and follow the rules, but the song is about being able to give yourself a break and not let it dampen your mood. Let loose!”

NC: And it was picked up by John Kennedy on Radio X, that must have been quite a landmark moment for the band?

Jake: “It was surreal. From playing in some dodgy rehearsal space in town to getting your song played on Radio X is a bit mad. And he didn’t just play it, he was actually chatting about it as well which was nice, but so weird that our song was being played on national radio. We’ve put so much hard work into every aspect of the band, so after such an awful year it was really nice to have acknowledgement by someone like John Kennedy.”

Toby: “I remember I’d gone out for some food and I’d got the notification saying BBC Introducing had played our song, but by the time I’d loaded it on my phone there was only 30 seconds left! I remember being buzzing in that moment, but when we got the message saying we’re gonna be on Radio X it was an awesome feeling. Sometimes it’s really hard to assess where you are at and how the band is going, especially when you haven’t got a massive fanbase. We sometimes question if we’re doing things right and if it’s going well. So moments like that set you at ease and encourage us to keep at it and keep improving.”

NC: When we come out of lockdown, are you planning to crack the bigger cities in the north west, like Liverpool and Manchester?

David: “100%. We played a gig at Aatma (Manchester) in the short period when restrictions were eased. It was a socially distanced gig but it was really good. We’d definitely like to play there more moving forward. There is some stuff lined up for the near future but we can’t talk about it just yet.”

NC: This Feeling is important for up and coming bands, is this something you have been involved in or something you would consider being a part of?

David: “I think so, yeah. They have acknowledged us as they added ‘Let Loose’ to one of their playlists. It would be great to work with them in the future because they’re setting up tours for new bands, so it would be cool to get involved with them if the opportunity arose.”

NC: And as a new guitar band is it hard in a crowded market in terms of feeling pressure to be different and avoiding the ‘another guitar band’ tag?

Toby: “It’s about trying to find the right balance between sounding different and getting the basics right. We don’t want to sound too different but I’d say we do have a unique sound. It’s always nice to have our roots and influences coming through in our music too.”

NC: How important has your management been on your recent progression?

David: “It has been massive. We’ve only been working with them since the start of the year but the comparison between this release and others is noticeable. We’re getting to a point where the streams are already hitting the numbers we used to expect after about six months.”

Toby: “Looking back at it now, I almost see it as fundamental for a new band to have some form of management to get organised. It’s not necessarily something you think about too much when you start out as a band. I remember when I was looking to get us gigs initially it was a case of googling every pub in the Lancaster / Morecambe area and sending messages, and just doing that took me the whole of a two-and-a-half-hour train journey. That’s not taking into account organising all of the replies afer that, I just can’t quite fathom how she manages to do it for us.”

NC: Are you planning to release any new music in 2021 after the success of ‘Let Loose’?

David: “We’ve definitely got more music coming this year. There’s going to be a couple of new release over the next six months so keep your eyes peeled for those. One of them is a bit different and one of them is your classic summer tune.”

NC: Has it been strange for you as a new band making new music and trying to breakthrough during such a turbulent year for the industry, particularly considering lack of government funding, talks of musicians re-training, small venues on the brink of closure and the EU visa being declined?

Jake: “It’s been really weird watching it all unfold. It was horrible, especially at the start of the pandemic with the venues saying they would have to close if nothing was done about it. I kept thinking this is going to be really tough. We can’t just sell out Victoria Warehouse in Manchester, we have to start with the grassroots venues. So if they’re not there anymore, where would new bands play? And the government response has been a bit questionable to say the least!”

Toby: “The news has now just turned into a sitcom. There seems to be something bad happening every day. I remember reading about touring staff and people behind the scenes not getting paid or getting furlough. I saw Foals released a remix album to raise money to pay their touring staff. People in full time jobs who are getting the furlough are getting by, but for people like that who are working freelance, it can’t have been easy.”

NC: Do you have short term and long term goals as a band, what do you want to achieve?

Toby: “Short term, I always want the next song we write to be better than the last one. That’s a fundamental rule for me to make sure we’re heading in the right direction. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s my mentality. Generally speaking, looking at our tracks from ‘Green Jacket’ through to ‘Let Loose’, there is a massive difference and clear signs of progression as a band.”

David: “I agree with Toby. Short term has always been to see how it goes, taking one day at a time. A long term goal for me is to record an album. To say this is our album, this is us. There’s no timeframe on that but I’d love for it to happen at some point.”

Jake: “Mine isn’t a goal as such but I remember our last gig before lockdown at The Kings Arms, everyone singing the lyrics of our debut single back to us, and that was quite a surreal feeling. So I just want to be able to play in a packed, sold out venue, and have the crowd know every single word to our songs. We’ve written these words on a piece of paper and for people to pay attention to the songs and enjoy listening to them is a great feeling.”

NC: And we ask everyone we interview for their ‘Fantasy Pints’. If you could go for a beer with any musicians past or present, who would you choose and why?

Jake: “I’d love to go for a beer with Keith Richards, I reckon that would be hilarious. I’m not a huge Stones fan but to be in a room with him on the booze would be class. Then I’ll throw Jedward into the mix!”

Toby: “First person for me would be Hanz Zimmer, I think the guy is a genius. He’d be really interesting and I bet he’s got some stories. Second for me would be Matt Helders. Also, Daft Punk would be class. They could use the effects tube they sing through to drink!”

David: “I’d quite like to go for a pint with Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers. From bassist to bassist, I just don’t know how he does it. I’d be asking him how he plays it at that speed. I wonder if there’s a secret that noone else knows!”

NC: And finally what’s the one thing you’re looking forward to once this is all over and normality resumes?

Toby: “Having a pint with Keith Richards! Beer gardens and gigs!”

David: “Yeah just to be in a warm, sunny beer garden, and to be able to play gigs again for me.”

Jake: “And to be able to stay after gigs to see friends and have a few drinks with them!”

The boys were coy about plans for live shows but assured us there are some gigs in the works, so keep an eye out for announcements in the near future! In the meantime you can follow the band here:

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/taxiwithstrangers/
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/taxiwstrangers
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/taxiwithstrangers/
SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5KhYGMtREpLLdgr1TVifKm?si=GlM5puFMSiScdASg84Dpmg

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https://www.northernchorus.co.uk/2021/02/18/contributors-we-need-you/

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