22-20s are one of the world’s perfect bands. They’re just beautiful. The Lincolnshire, England band first came to my attention in 2004 with their shocker of a debut CD. After a couple years of touring, they went on hiatus. Now reformed, the band released the superb Shake/Shiver/Moan in 2010 and are currently working on album three. I got to talk to singer/guitarist/writer Martin Trimble last year about the break, the new CD and how he and bassist/co-founder Glen Bartup have remained friends for so long.
I am so happy that you guys are back together.
Martin Trimble: Thank you – we are too.
You decided just to take a break?
MT: I think we toured too long on the first record. We’d done two years of touring without many breaks. We hadn’t done much writing. I think it all just sort of eroded any sense of fun in it, and I think once that’s gone . . . it was quite a mutual thing really. It just wasn’t really going anywhere, we didn’t have a second album in the bag and so we kind of called it a day. There were never any fireworks with the split, it kind of fizzled out.
Did you keep writing during the break?
MT: The six months after – or the six months to a year – we split I don’t think I even picked up a guitar. I hadn’t written a song for so long that after a certain amount of time it feels impossible to actually write one. Me and Glen always kept in touch and I did write a couple songs. We wanted to put them down and we just thought, who are we going to get involved for drums on it? We thought there was no one better than James [Irving], and we’d always gotten along anyways. So we started out like that, we put a couple down which I think were “4th Floor” and “Let it Go” and then it grew from there.
Where did you record Shake/Shiver/Moan?
MT: In the Courtyard, which is a little studio – our management has a studio of their own. It’s nothing fancy but we just did it there. We didn’t have a lot of money to record it so we’d just grab any time. They kind of let us have it for free and we’d grab any time there wasn’t a band in there. It was quite a process. We didn’t actually go in for four weeks and do the record. It was very much we’d write some stuff and then grab a bit of time and put some stuff down. Some stuff that was demoed actually ended up on the record.
I mean this in good way – the new music has more of a pop sound to it. Did you go that route intentionally?
MT: Subconsciously I think after the last record we were all pretty disillusioned about with the way it had gone. I think there was a subconscious veering away from the kind of more bluesy stuff we were doing. We were listening to bands like Big Star and Teenage Fanclub, more of a power pop sort of thing. Initially when we went in we did songs like “4th Floor” and “Let it Go” you can really hear the influence. Ian [Davenport, the producer] was quite involved in terms of putting out the good elements of last time – we didn’t want to lose the raw element to it. I think that’s the period we started writing stuff like “Talk to Me,” “Latest Heartbreak,” “Shake Shiver and Moan”. We went into it wanting to write more melodic stuff and I think as the process went on we became more comfortable with what we are and what makes us different from other bands, which is that raw approach and putting it down live.
How did you find your producer, Ian Davenport?
MT: He was the house engineer and producer at Courtyard. He’s doing well now – he did the Band of Skulls record, which is kind of a similar band to ourselves. It’s kind of a family thing there. We used to have Charly [Coombes, keys] in the band; his brother was in Supergrass and their management is the same. There’s a bit of a Courtyard stable. We’d do the next record with Ian, without a doubt. I already can’t speak highly enough of him.
22-20s’ Martin Trimble– Seattle 2010
You toured your new material for a while as the Bitter Pills. Did people find you?
MT: I think it got leaked a little bit. England’s so small you run the risk of them (reviewers) shooting you down before you’ve even put the record out. We just wanted to go out and tour, play and get tight. We wanted to dip our toes in the water – and Dan (guitar player) had just joined us as well. You can rehearse as much as you want but it’s totally different from playing live gigs, so we needed to get into that zone. But we didn’t want to advertise it as some sort of comeback.
How did [new guitarist] Dan Hare join the band? He was in the Jubilees?
MT: We were actually at school together – he was a couple years younger than me. We never really hung about. This is the first time in the band where we’re all born and grew up within two miles of each other. I remember him playing an Oasis song when he was about eleven in a talent competition at school. I never had much to do with him at school but I’d kind of seen his band playing around and he was always a handy guitar player and good singer. He came down to play the Heavenly show, like a 10 years of Heavenly anniversary, and he fit in straight away. As a person we all get along and we’ve got the same reference points so it kind of feels like it’s a gang of us, which I think is important in a band. You’ve got to come from the same place.
Are there songs you won’t do live again?
MT: On the first record I can’t imagine we’d play shoot your gun again. We said that but the thing is we came and said we’d only do the new stuff but then you want to play the old ones as well. I think that’s another thing we’ve become quite laid back about, is that initially we just wanted to do new stuff and reject the old stuff. You get to the stage when you realize it’s all part of the story and we feel pretty comfortable playing the old stuff. I don’t think there’s one we’d never play again. “Hold On” . . . perhaps not that one.
You and Glen met when you were very young?
MT: We were eleven.
How have you maintained the friendship?
MT: A good thing about me and Glen is that we can sit in a room for 48 hours and not say a word to each other and neither of us would take offense. I know it sounds kind of cheesy but we basically grew up as brothers really. We kind of know what pisses each other off. We just don’t talk a lot – that’s the key.
What other jobs did you have before doing music?
MT: I did a bit of work at a warehouse. Glen lasted a lot longer than I did – he got me the job actually. We were just loading massive bits of furniture in to a back of a truck and I managed about 5 days. Near the end of one of the days I just thought, fuck it, I can’t be doing this anymore. I booked some acoustic gigs to make some money – play for an hour and earn about 50 quid. That was it. I learned then I wasn’t cut out for manual labor.
What other things interest you apart from music?
MT: Football. I’m obsessed with football and music.
What were your best subjects in school?
MT: Awful at Maths, awful at Science. Anything logical I was bad at. I loved History and English.
Do you set aside time to write lyrics?
MT: I think an idea will come along from nowhere – a line or a melody. You can’t think you’re gonna sit down and come up with an idea. I think the discipline then is that when you do get that moment is sitting down and making sure you’ve got the whole song. There are so many times you get an idea and you let it linger with just the two lines and then you’re bored with it before you’ve even finished it.
Do you play any other instruments?
MT: I used to play drums a bit. I can kind of mess around on a piano but I can’t read music. I haven’t got knowledge of theory or anything like that. Even my guitar playing is quite rude and blues playing – 3 chords and stuff like that. I’m not a multi-instrumentalist.
So you learned by ear then?
MT: Pretty much, at the start. My dad had a couple books from the late 70s with guitar chords so that’s how we started out. Me and Glen got guitars at the same time. Then we found out there was this guy in Grantham (he’s still one of our best mates) who taught us the rest.
Were your family members musical?
MT: They never played anything. My mom could sing in tune but the only one who did play was my uncle, who’s obsessed with blues. When I got into guitar he gave me all these records, like Charley Patton and Muddy Waters. But my little brother plays everything – he’s only ten and he can play piano and picks up guitar really quick. A hell of a lot more natural than I am. I don’t know where he gets it from.
photo & interview by Dagmar