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Castrovalva: dividing opinions
Castrovalva - such well-mannered boys

Leeds' noisiest experimental band, Castrovalva, aren't everyone's cup of tea.

Glowing live reviews and internet recommendations have contrasted with negative press from the likes of Kerrang.

The bible of all things heavy "didn't take" to 2009's eponymous mini-album.

However it seems that recently, momentum has been gathering for the band, and it's not just due to their mutation into a three piece.

Natalie Kaye met up with the band at one of Leeds' foremost venues for bands in Leeds, The Packhorse pub, and asked Dan and Ant from the band to try and figure out why they get such schizophrenic press coverage.

BBC: Okay so there are three of you now, there didn't used to be three of you...

D: We got a newby...

A: Leemun just sort of joined!

D: It all started when we had the mini album, he did guest vocals on one of the tracks and we liked them too much. Then we did a tour with Pulled Apart By Horses and we took him with us.

We started out as an improvised band with improvised vocals anyway, so it wasn't too strange. We knew him through Salt The Wound Records which we both run, as we'd signed his old band and did a 7" single with them.

A: Leemun actually just recorded his vocals onto that track, and put it to us. It was just before it the album came out. it was going to be all instrumental but we ended up using it.

D: I didn't want to use it before that! I Absolutely hated the original track ('Bellhausen'). I listened to it and thought 'this is so boring.' But after Leemun's bit I loved it.

BBC: So are you still pleased with the album?

Castrovalva - the sleeve for the debut album
Castrovalva - the sleeve for the debut album

A: Really pleased. I listened to it today, I love the album. It's my kind of music.

D: We still play most of the stuff on it anyway so it's not like we've forgotten about it.

BBC: Do you split your sets between the old instrumental stuff and new songs then?

D: Well actually Leemun put vocals to most of the tracks, so we still play most of them but with added vocals. there's only two songs we don't play live anymore.

BBC: Do you have any local rivals?

D: Someone mentioned Chickenhawk, but I'd say no, they're better than us! I don't want to get involved with that sort of stuff with better bands.

A: Yeah, they can actually play their instruments and we can't.

BBC: Is that really the case though? Do you feel things have taken shape?

A: Yeah... It used to be just like throwing ink into water and it spreading out...

(At this point Ant's attempt at a clever metaphor is the source of some amusement to the rest of the room.)

D: (Laughs) Nice metaphor man! We used to be an improv band. We used to have ideas for parts of songs and riffs and just have massive jam sessions, but they'd change all the time.

Castrovalva - improvise a photo session

A: Things used to just flow more. Like there's a song that we used to do that was about seven minutes long, but today's version is less than half that.

BBC: So I get the impression I get is that you did whatever the hell you liked basically.

D: We'd just have like four and five hour jam sessions and do whatever. We had this really cheap place down Water Lane, £20 for the whole night. We'd just take our laptops and some sleeping bags and some films, jam for a couple of hours, and then sleep there. But now, well, we consciously "write" stuff more.

BBC: So it's less thrashing about and more deliberate?

A: Melody-wise, we will all be out drinking and one of us will come up with something and if we like it, we just record it into a mobile.

D: Play her the new bass line!

(Ant obliges, whipping out his mobile and playing a short clip of Leemun wailing a melody into his phone. One can only imagine what it must have looked like.)

Dan: Three month's time, you're going to be listening to that! (Laughs)

BBC: What do you think Leemun has brought to the equation overall?

A: It's just good having another guy to bounce ideas off really. We're all pretty similar in our tastes and I think that's good.

D: I think that the thing we missed when we were a two-piece is the fact that we're not that great at talking to crowds. Whereas I think Lee is quite extroverted. We've done gigs in the past where it's basically just been "Thanks, goodnight!" Now it's definitely more than that.

Castrovalva play at The Library, Woodhouse Lane on Friday 30 November as part of this year's Brainwashed Festival IV.


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