I have felt inspired to make some more interviews with bands (with focus on the lyrics) that have meant a lot to me through the years and one of these are The Levellers from Brighton, England.
Their 2:nd album “Levelling the land” was a huge international hit back in 1991 and it is such a great album. I don´t know how many times I have listened to songs like “One way”, “15 years” and “Another man´s cause”.
My interest in the band faded later in the middle of the 90s when I began to listen to more heavy music. Luckily I rediscovered The Levellers recently and have enjoyed many great songs from records like “Zeitgeist”, “Static on the airwaves” and their latest album “Peace”.
Jeremy Cunningham (Songwriter and bassplayer) answered my questions fast as a lightning.
Thank you Jeremy for taking your time for this interview. How important are the lyrics for The Levellers?
– We’ll lyrics r kinda the most important thing, the music is written to support the words
Artists that have inspired your songwriting?
– Joe Strummer, Bob Marley, Neil young … and bands like the Clash, Led zeppelin, The libertines, Joy division, + the Waterboys…
What comes first for you – the lyrics or the music?
– That depends who’s writing. Sometimes I’ll write the lyrics first + give them to Mark or Si to write the song. Other times they’ll write the whole song themselves – in that case lyrics/music kinda get done organically at the same time…
Very occasionally Mark or Si will have music they want me to write lyrics to, and sometimes we all contribute! – say Mark writing chorus lyrics while I do the verses (like One Way) … it happens many different ways!
What would you say is the soul of your lyrics?
– It’s all about observation + comment for me. I listen to people’s conversations, how they feel about things. Take it all in, scribbling in a notebook or on my phone. How I feel about things that affect us all, or more personal cathartic stuff. From big world politics to small individual moments – it’s all about that human observation
Do you read poetry and if you do, which poets inspires you?
– I never really read poetry. I do appreciate language + a well crafted phrase so I’m sure I’d like it but it just hasn’t come into my life much really … good question tho!
How much of your lyrics are pure inspiration and how much is hard work? Please tell me a little about the process of writing songs for The Levellers.
– For me I get the initial inspiration (see the question about the soul of the lyrics) but then there’s usually lots of hard work after that. Going through many drafts just to really tighten things up.
The lyrics to One Way took a couple of months from the original idea – which was the line ‘the bright lights of my home town…’ to the final arrangement of everything. More recently Before the end took ages just swapping lines into their appropriate places.
And on our last album Four boys lost was similar – I had it all pretty quickly but the finessing took quite a while … also technically getting the phrasing right for the singers can be quite difficult. There’s always a tension between the written word + the sung line…
And finally – Which of all the Levellers songs has meant the most for you and why?
– Oooh, probably England my home from our first album. As soon as I heard that I knew we had a sound that was bigger than the sum of its parts, and that sounded like nothing else around!
Mark wrote most of that one, with me contributing the middle 8 “why is it England I feel like rubbish on your street… “ etc. It still encapsulates everything we try + do + say in one song I think, lyrically + musically.
Thank you Jeremy for this interview and good luck with the music in the future!
(Photo: Iain Fazackerley)
If anyone are intrested to read interviews with Wayne Hussey (Sisters of mercy/The Mission) or with Justin Sullivan (New Model Army), you can find them here: