Blonde ambition returns – with disco highlights

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Dorian Cox, the songwriter behind The Long Blondes is returning to music following a serious illness. Daniel Dylan Wray met his new band.

In June 2008 The Long Blondes arrived back in the UK, returning after a hugely successful tour of America that saw them span the country – they had even sold out New York City’s prestigious The Bowery Ballroom.

Only a couple of days later the band was effectively over, some would argue at their peak. The band’s chief songwriter and guitarist Dorian Cox was suddenly taken ill. He had suffered a stroke at the age of 27.

The future looked bleak.

Today Cox finds himself back at the helm of a great band once more. Cox, a one time recipient of NME’s esteemed Phillip Hall Radar Award and writer of several top 40 singles, initially changed direction when returning to music and dipped his toe in the waters of playing front man back in 2011, fronting a proto-punk-pop outfit Milkteeth. Their sound was indebted to the charged frenzy of early Modern Lovers fused with the camp majesty of Pulp.

Cox’s musical ambitions were still high, so he formed the short-lived three-piece Former Lover, in which he played keys in a minimal, scratchy vein, paying heed to his love of The Young Marble Giants. His most recent outfit, Unmade Bed is where Cox seems to have found his groove, his new musical home, his new Long Blondes – if you will.

Of course, with Cox being a fierce proponent of moving forward musically, Unmade Bed sound nothing like the Long Blondes. In fact, the project fundamentally goes back to the essence of what made Sheffield bands of old so great – thinking not only outside of the ‘box’ but also outside of the city, looking beyond immediate geographical influence and shedding the image of being just another local band.

Disco may instantly spring to mind when listening to their songs but Unmade Bed are really impossible to pinpoint stylistically. It’s probably fair to say that they are equally influenced by Dionne Warwick as they are the Happy Mondays, and as influenced by ESG as they are by Abba or Arthur Russell.

The project was born with Robert E Lee (who Cox met when he spied him in a pub with a bag full of disco records). The pair soon realised a vocalist was needed and enter – in the most unconventional manner – Jeanie. “I saw Jeanie in a club in London and went up to her and asked her to be in my band,” says Cox.

Jeanie elaborates: “He came up to me and said ‘I’m not trying to chat you up or anything but can you sing?’ I said yes, gave him my number and then the following week we were in a studio in Hackney.”

As simple as that, Unmade Bed was born.

“It was a bit scary,” Jeanie admits, “being in a room with two strangers, being given some lyrics and just being told to sing – it was a bit odd”. However, it appears any fears were soon quashed. The results of the studio time are a varied and collective sonic output – Go The Whole Way (which has racked up over 15,000 plays in just over a month) is steeped in classic production, snippets of brass toot over a dense, slow groove.

Lee says: “Bands today playing any kind of disco-influenced music play too fast. We just wanted to slow things down a bit.”

The glue holding these grooves together is the vocals.

Cox says: “Someone recently described Jeanie’s vocals as Marmite. But to me that is great – I would rather someone absolutely loves or hates something I do. There is nothing worse than mediocrity.”

The gloriously fractured and manic Baby, Please Come Home is testament to the Marmite claim.

One of Jeanie’s influences stems from a rather unlikely source. She says: “I really love Shaun Ryder, I think his vocal style is amazing and I’ve been very influenced by that.”

Where Unmade Bed will go next musically is unknown, but they will be taking their soul-drenched, left-field 
disco to a venue near you soon, so keep your eyes peeled.

Pulp once called Sheffield the Sex City on the B-side to their game-changing Babies and after a slew of lifeless indie boy bands seem to 
have taken over, it looks 
like Unmade Bed may 
just be reinstating that 
vital ingredient back into 
the city.

University band went on to receive critical acclaim

The Long Blondes formed in 2003 in Sheffield when the members met while attending the city’s university.

The band released their debut single, New Idols, in 2004 on Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation label. In 2006 they signed to Rough Trade Records and began recording their debut album with Pulp bassist Steve Mackey. The album was preceded by singles Weekend Without Makeup in July and Once and Never Again. The band won critical acclaim – when they split in 2008, a national newspaper published an article entitled Why music will miss the Long Blondes.