EMPEROR PENGUIN comes out of the lockdown with their best record.

SUNDAY CARVERY is British through and through, like The Kinks, Elvis Costello, or XTC, but don’t expect a retro sound; the band is firmly rooted in the present tense.

Neil Christie talks about Fran Lebowitz, rough home demos, strong melodies, and a quirky sensibility.

After seeing the conversations between Scorsese and Fran Lebowitz, our little house in Utrecht was filled with her typical wisdom for months. How did Fran Times a Million come about?

Fran Times a Zillion came about in a way not dissimilar to your own experience! Guitarist Nigel is a fan of the wit and wisdom of author, raconteur and native New Yorker Fran Lebowitz. He urged us all to watch the recent Scorsese series about her, Pretend It’s A City and converted us.

Nigel decided to write a song in praise of her and “Fran Times a Zillion’ is the result. The conceit of the chorus is that the world might benefit if we were to scientifically replace all the morons in the world with cloned duplicates of Ms Lebowitz, multiplied by a zillion – a numerical exaggeration she often employs. Nigel is attending one of the dates on Fran’s forthcoming tour of the UK and may well serenade her from the stalls.

The creation of the record was certainly different this time. Not being able to create together in one space has led to a beautiful result. When did you know it was going to be okay?

Thank you! The songs were written and recorded during the 2020/21 lockdown at home in London, Retford and Surrey. Getting together to rehearse was difficult at that time due to pandemic restrictions, so we made home demos and shared them with each other online. Usually when someone shares a rough home demo there’s a fairly quick consensus on whether something’s OK, or not OK.

Then each band member adds bits, removes bits and changes bits until the songs gradually takes shape. Once we had rough home demos of enough songs we got together as a band in a studio in London, with producer Jamie McEvoy. Jamie helped us to turn the rough demos into final tracks, overdubbing vocals and guitars and ending up with probably our most polished set of recordings yet.

More than usual, Sunday Carvery is compared to the music of XTC. When that comparison is made, what do you hope they heard?

It’s flattering to be compared to XTC as they are musical heroes of ours. If you can hear a resemblance, I think it’s because we’re in that same tradition of literate British guitar pop with witty lyrics, strong melodies and a quirky sensibility. Like XTC, we can’t help being influenced by bands like The Beatles, the Kinks and The Move, but we also love everything from Burt Bacharach to The Wombles.

Nigel actually loves Rush, but we have forbidden him to speak of this. XTC’s approach is eclectic and hard to categorize; I hope people can hear that we share a willingness to try different styles and sounds in our own way.

The last record is always the best. Especially so soon after the release. However, I think I know that in your case it really is. You too?

We think Sunday Carvery is our strongest album so far in terms of songwriting and production. It’s great to hear you agree!

What musical dream would you like to fulfill?

Musical dreams! We’d like to travel back in time and appear on the 1974 Christmas episode of Top of the Pops, please. And while we’ve got the use of the time machine, I’d also like to catch The Beatles at The Cavern, The Sex Pistols at The Screen on the Green and The Who at the Marquee Club.

For the future, the dream is just to get more people to hear our music and enjoy it.

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