THE BLURT BULLY PULPIT Patrick & Eugene

From the birds and the
bees to llamas and other ungulets: the strange world of the beloved British
band.

 

BY PATRICK DAWES

 

I first met Eugene in
the spring of 1993, and along with his friend Toby, the three of us
would busk in the town centre of Kingston-upon-Thames,
a leafy suburb South-West of London,  close to where we live.  It was
a cheery affair, the music a bright and breezy sax led trad jazz style with
Toby’s guitar (although his main instrument is trumpet) and myself on bongos.
 Quaint, you might say, except for our scruffy demeanor which
both amused and bemused passers by. Finishing my exams at Kingston University
and with no intention on using my degree, I was gearing myself up to
set out to find work in the music biz.  

 

I started out playing percussion alongside DJs in
the burgeoning rave scene. I originally got the idea of playing
bongos, etc., with DJs from traveling with my flat mates to various raves
in warehouses around London
and beyond such as those put on by ‘Spiral Tribe’. (A law has since been passed
to stop similar events by limiting the number of people allowed in one place
listening to music involving ‘repetitive beats’.)  After some
success I got to play some of the main House music venues in London. One example
was a gig at the Ministry of Sound on New Year’s Eve of 1993/4
when I played virtually non-stop from 11pm until 12 noon the
following day. I still work in this area but not until so early in
the morning and not for such long sessions. 

 

Eugene,
Toby and I would still busk occasionally and even do the odd gig in one of the
local bars called ‘The Saucy Kettle’ in nearby Surbiton.  Also, it was
around this time that I was touring Europe and the US with hip hop
band The Herbaliser.  Most daytimes I was busy setting up some
studio gear in my bedroom and got to work trying to make sense of it all.
Attempts to write hip hop or dance music were not that successful
so I decided to go in another direction.

 

Fast forward to the summer of 2000 and I’m finishing
off my first album of percussion music.  Five years in the
making, I was pulling my hair out trying out experimental percussion
music as well as feeling the need to improve its potential
accessibility by screaming and yodeling over the top.  Tim ‘Love’ Lee of
Tummy Touch Records was an early fan of this anarchic style.  Circus Train was released in April 2001
to hostile reviewers who loathed it pretty much.  This led to a long
period of disappointment, although I stand by this album as some of the best
work I’ve done.

 

There was one track on the album – a collaboration with
Eugene – that
seemed to light the way to a more successful path.  This was the title
track, which went on to appear on our first album Postcard from Summerisle and acted as a starting point for our
project.

 

It’s difficult to say exactly what our influences were.
 Eugene
brought jazz and a keen interest in early comedy music such as Spike Jones and
The Bonzo Dog Band.  My influences for this project were more the Beatles,
Beach Boys, Van Dyke Parks and George Formby, although to be fair we’ve both
listened to many styles of music that our influences are fairly limitless. I
had just started touring with Groove Armada, both with the live band and with
some of their DJ sets but was keen not to let the possibilities of our
collaboration go astray. However, my experiences of working with Groove Armada
did imbue the music with a certain dance pop sensibility to make sure each
track kept your head nodding from start to finish.  

 

In the summer of 2002 we wrote ‘The Birds and the
Bees’.  This started out as a percussion track entitled ‘The Garden of
Love’.  I took a section of it and got my friend Samantha to add banjo,
bass and trombone.  (She has been working with us ever since, playing an
array of instruments as well as collaborating with us as a writer.)  I
wanted to try my hand at producing a pop record. There were a lot of pop tracks
around at the time that utilized vocal snippets from old records. Eugene hadn’t done a lot
of singing before but agreed to give it a go.  I suggested we call the
track ‘The Birds and the Bees’ and create our own original verse which Eugene completed. The
vocals worked well so we decided to do more vocal tracks. It was simplicity we
were going for but also the kind of record that makes you want to jump up in
the morning and find reasons to be cheerful.  I enjoy listening to music
from Sun Ra to the Wurzels so I had no issue over the lack of
sophistication. Some people might view this track as an inclusion into the
frightening world of the novelty record but I like to view it more as
a sunshine pop song.

 

When Tim suggested we do some covers, ‘Feelin’
Groovy’ came to mind but more the sunshine pop versions of The Free Design
and Harper’s Bizarre than the Simon and Garfunkel original. We recorded the
backing track for this along with the two other covers – ‘Crazy in
Love’ by Beyonce and ‘I Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ by Kylie Minogue –
 with a small group of musicians in the now sadly deceased recording studio
at The Exchange in Camden. It contained loads of old mics, plate reverbs,
etc., and somewhat incongruously, Simply Red’s Mick Hucknell’s old mixing
desk. They built it as a ‘floating’ room to reduce the noise pollution, but
the neighbors failed to agree. (Fortunately, their famous mastering
studios still live on.)

 

The album was released in 2004 to muted interest
but I was delighted when in 2005 Paul Heaton of The Beautiful South
chose the album as his ‘Buried Treasure’ for Mojo magazine. This spurred us on to do another – Everything and Everyone – which
came out in 2008. There are more vocal tracks and harmony vocals on this
record.  A particular favorite of mine is ‘Llama’. On making the
initial decision to write a song about Llamas, Eugene ingeniously posed the question,
‘What’s your favorite ungulet?’ I’m also very fond of our cover of the
Arctic Monkey’s ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor.’ Matt from the label
heard back that they didn’t care for it much but I’m not surprised as
it is totally at odds with their style.

 

Our music gained some popularity in the US, and so at
the beginning of this year we released a compilation of our most popular tracks
entitled Altogether Now (Birds Bees
Flowers Trees)
.

 

We are both still working on projects – Eugene a solo record, myself alongside
Samantha and Toby – so expect to hear more music from us in the near future.

 

As you may have surmised, Patrick Dawes and Eugene Bezodis comprise the
titular Patrick & Eugene.
Altogether Now (Birds Bees Flowers Trees) was
released earlier this year on Tummy Touch – more details can be gleaned at
their official
website
and their MySpace page. At the latter you can hear the aforementioned
Arctic Monkeys cover, which for our money, wipes the, er, dancefloor with the
Monkeys’ version.

 

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