Suicide is currently the single biggest killer of young men in the United Kingdom, and Ben Tallon is trying to help change that.
Quenched Music, Tallon’s company, hopes to release a charity album on May 3rd of this year to benefit CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), which is an organization that helps prevent suicides in the U.K. The album is part of the Xpress campaign and is currently in its fundraising stages – it needs at least $1,000 more for 1,000 copies to be made – and will include a track from The Strokes.
Tallon and I recently completed a Q&A over email – Tallon and Quenched Music partner Danni Skerritt are based in Manchester, while I live in Chicago – and we talked about the project, the process of getting a track from The Strokes and just how much CALM can benefit from this record.
****Read it and donate a little bit of money for a good cause, won’t you?****
Eric Van Dril: Can you take us through the process of getting The Strokes to agree to let you use “Trying Your Luck” on your record? I’m specifically interested in how long it took, who you reached out to and the band’s response to your request.
Ben Tallon: We came into this whole campaign quite inexperienced in some areas. I mean, my Quenched Music partner Danni Skerritt and I are good at what we do, but we had essentially gone from being DJ/Writer and Illustrator/Creative Director respectively, to this crash course in music licensing and all these new things. So we came into this at base level, which was knocking on the door of Rough Trade Records. The guys at Rough Trade were cool and they took down the details of our campaign before contacting The Strokes management. We honestly didn’t hold out much hope if I’m honest, Danni and I are massive fans and we laughed at our audacity in even asking. A few weeks later we heard from Beggars Group, who deal with compilation licensing requests and they blew our minds by telling us the track had been signed off. It turns out the band and management were super keen to support CALM’s work and liked what we were doing. The whole process took around three weeks.
EVD: Why did you choose “Trying Your Luck”? Were there any other Strokes songs you considered?
BT: We were both very familiar with The Strokes work and it was quite an easy decision. We had to consider two main things – does the track sit with the flow of the album and what does the track express? The tone of the track always sounded very personal to us and this was a decisive factor. It would have been easy for us to go straight in for new material, but at that point we weren’t familiar with it. We hand picked Trying Your Luck based on the track’s qualities, not how recently it has been written. We wanted to avoid the big singles because everyone knows about those.
(Ed. note: If you need a reminder of how mind-blowingly awesome this song is, listen to the following.)
EVD: Do you feel like “Trying Your Luck” – either the lyrics or, more abstractly, the music – represents some of the positive things that CALM is trying to highlight?
BT: When we set out putting together this album, we wanted to create the right balance of tracks that conveyed a range of moods. ‘Noisy Neighbour’ by Reverend and The Makers is a tongue in cheek song referencing the front man, Jon McClure’s student neighbours. We hand picked this because it represented a more light hearted form of expressing something through the medium of song. Jun Tzu is a rapper from Belfast and ‘The Bridge’ is a heavily political track because that’s his background. With ‘Trying Your Luck,’ it not only served as a massive lead track for the album because it’s by The Strokes, but it comes across lyrically as quite indecisive. If you speak to someone who is suffering from depression, this is a common trait of the illness. You could pick any line from that tune and there’ll be someone who could relate it back to their own circumstances at the time they’re listening. The music itself is quite stirring to me, it’s somewhat solemn. I guess we could never fully decipher something so personal and insular but that’s the beauty of this whole project – we can all communicate emotion through art, yet only the creator could ever truly know the inner workings of the result.
EVD: Is it a big deal to be able to include a Strokes track on the record? Do you feel like it increases its credibility, and will allow you to have a better chance of reaching the $6,000 fundraising goal?
BT: Forgive my language here, but it’s fucking huge. We approached CALM and asked for their blessing to create Xpress on their behalf and then we sat there, in our office above a pub and we had nothing. No budget, no industry contacts to get to bands, so we had to be cautious in our approach. If you’d told us then that we’d release an album featuring The Strokes, I’d have passed out. But for what we lack in money, we make up for in self belief, so we aimed high, no matter how unrealistic. We wanted to support all the great new artists out there when we started Quenched, but the reality with a release like this is that people don’t gamble and buy albums comprised of musicians they’ve never heard of. So our great challenge was to attract a marquee name who would turn heads. Suddenly we’re being taken very seriously thanks to The Strokes. When I received that email I leapt off my chair and spilled my drink all over the place, ecstatic doesn’t do it justice. $6000 was a high target and we were never likely to make that but when we announced The Strokes we saw a nice spike in the rate of donations. If we can just raise our minimum target of $2000, that will enable us to pay for 1000 physical copies. If we sell those, we’ll raise over $15,000 for CALM.
EVD: Who are some of the other artists you plan on having on the record? The Strokes obviously have a certain type of sound; will the entire record be in a similar vein, or will it also include genres like hip-hop and pop?
BT: The strap line for Quenched Music is ‘Not genre fuelled, music driven.’ So right from the off we wanted to welcome all comers, it’s just about connecting them with the right ears. Dirty Freud, our album curator, has a ridiculously strong music knowledge so I trusted him with the album. Considering we have indie, old school rock n roll, Irish hip-hop, Australian hip-hop and gypsy folk on the album – a pretty mad mix – the flow and consistency are second to none. The album just rolls from one genre into the next. We have The Libertines who everyone knows about, Reverend and The Makers with their indie-step blend, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly’s acoustic/electronic fusion and Naymedici’s gypsy folk roar. I think this album will pleasantly surprise many people.
EVD: Are there one or two of the unknown artists on the record that you think fans of The Strokes will be into? If so, who are they?
BT: Certainly. Stalagmites are a great new guitar band from Manchester who are going places. The Rimes capture the raw, rock n roll sound that drives much of The Strokes earlier material. The Cold One Hundred will turn a few heads too. Many will be familiar with The Libertines from the early noughties.
(Ed. Note: Here are the Stalagmites and The Rimes…)
EVD: And how did you choose those artists? Are they all related to the CALM cause in some way – do their songs carry a certain type of message – or is the goal more about just trying to create the most appealing record in order to raise the maximum amount of money?
BT: We wanted to challenge ourselves with a brief that resonated strongly with the ethos of Xpress – artistic expression. That can be positive, negative or light-hearted. So we not only wanted to showcase a wide range of new music, but also highlight how these artists were expressing things through their lyrics or their sound. Obviously raising money is key, but with the lineup we have, we believe that will follow naturally.
EVD: What is the fundraising status, at this point? How much money needs to be raised in order to reach your fundraising goal? How much time remains, as of Feb. 27?
BT: We’ve just passed the $1,000 mark. Ideally, we need to reach $2,000 minimum, otherwise we’ll have to find a way to pay for the albums to be made physically. But anything we do raise helps us greatly. Just over two weeks remain.
EVD: If you’re able to reach your fundraising goal, how much money can be raised for CALM with this project?
If we can pay for 1,000 physical albums, we have a calendar year to sell them. If we sell them all, we’ll make $15,000 for CALM plus digital sales.
EVD: How will you raise money for charity? Is it just a matter of selling the record? If so, where will you sell it? Where can readers of this site buy it? Will it be available solely in the UK? What about on iTunes?
BT: We will sell the album digitally. We hope to sell on iTunes. All this information will be available on http://xpressofficial.com the nearer we get to the May 3rd release date. Beyond the album, we hope to commission specific creative projects with the intention to raise more money for CALM. We see awareness as equally important as money since the subject of suicide is still a taboo in the UK and many other countries despite the damning statistics.
EVD: The last question: Have you heard The Strokes’ two new songs? If so, how do you like them?
BT: One Way Trigger is standout to me. Superb track and I’m constantly inspired by the way the band keep challenging us with their ever-evolving sound. All The Time is on a par with One Way Trigger – refreshing new material. Bring on Comedown Machine.
You can support Xpress and help get this record made by going here and donating as little as $2.