The Draytones: Hand of friendship

The Draytones are in Argentina for five weeks
The Draytones are in Argentina for five weeks

Hot on the heels of the first festival of the season, which was headlined by British bands Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode a fortnight ago, comes number two, the not-so-subtly-named Pepsi Music. And on day one, today, that British onslaught continues with electro dance punks The Prodigy leading the way for this five-day event which takes place over two weekends.

An international affair, other main acts include Californian rockers Faith No More, who formed a year after Depeche Mode in 1981, and German punk band The Dead Trousers (who released their first album in 1983), known to their legions of die-hard, trouser-wearing public as Die Toten Hosen.

This five-dayer definitely holds the spades in hardcore, although it remains baffling that these kings — because barely any queens are participating — of the 1980s still hold such a grip on Argentina’s live music market. Look at AC/DC for example: they’re returning once more to Buenos Aires to play three dates, and at the rate they keep adding them, who’s to say whether they might even extend their tour to a fourth?

But the very first group to set the ball rolling is Anglo-Argentine quartet The Draytones. The band, formed by Argentine guitarist and vocalist Gabriel Boccazzi and British drummer Luke Richardson in 2005, was signed by Sony subsidiary 1965 Records on the strength of their do-it-yourself MySpace website. Chris Le Good (bass and vocals) and Andy Pickering (organ, rhythm guitar and vocals) are the remaining British components of Pepsi Music’s opening act.

Their style is 1960s quirky, perky pop — After All with its Beach Boys-esque guitar combined with Hammond organ and tooting harmonica wouldn’t be out of place on an Austin Powers’ soundtrack, while tracks such as Keep Loving Me are less dreamy and more dynamic, keeping vocals to a minimum and letting drums and guitar take a leading role.

Following their four-day “in-and-out” stay a year ago, the band are here for five weeks this time round and will uniquely be touring the Malvinas mid-November in a musical first. But before that ground-breaking trip, The Draytones have a TV appearance with Mariana Fabbianni, a date at La Trastienda plus others around the country as well as today’s music festival to contend with.

Between rehearsals in a house converted into a studio in the Palermo neighbourhood, all four band members talked to the Herald about how they got together, the making of their second album and the “Friendship Tour.” Treated to several tracks in an intimate space for just 10 people prior to their interview (including a Malvinas veteran who has been in contact with Gabriel over the past two years), if the energetic practice was anything to go by The Draytones are not a band to miss out on while they play in Argentina over the next five weeks.

Lead singer Gabriel, who is from Caballito in Buenos Aires city, moved to the UK’s capital seven years ago, aiming to win a place at a prestigious music school. “I went to London for music,” he says. “I was playing the violin and studying composition and I wanted to take my studies a bit further. I wanted to apply to the Royal Academy of Music, so I flew over there, applied and didn’t get in — but then I joined a band, met Luke and the rest of it just happened.”

Drummer Luke worked as a sound engineer at a live music venue in London and through one key contact, became friends with Gabriel. “The venue owner was a mad Nigerian who was managing a band that Gabriel was in and he thought I could be in it too. So I joined, we did a few gigs but then me and Gabriel decided to leave to set up our own band — I was the singer and he was the bass player. We then swapped, him to vocals and me to drums, so getting a bass player was the next step.”

Having formed in September 2005 and once Chris Le Good was in place they worked as a three piece up until 2008. The next part of their story involved getting some tracks down and out there, which then swiftly led to musical Holy Grail: a deal.

Luke continues: “We did some demos and put them up on MySpace. A record label heard them and offered us a deal and it went from there. That was after our second gig.” It was just nine months later that The Draytones had recorded their first EP. Bassist Chris adds: “It was all so quick, but seems so long ago now!”

BACK IN BA. It’s exactly 12 months since they played the 2008 Personal Fest, and in that time Andy Pickering became the fourth member so this is his first visit to Argentina with the band. “That was a quick in-and-out job,” recalls Luke, but we also played The Roxy.” Andy, who was in another band that previously supported The Draytones, played the organ, a sound the original three wanted to include and develop, so he was a shoo-in.

The quieter fourth man says of their relationship: “I’d kept in touch with them and then I found out about a year ago that they had a space free for organ playing, guitar and singing, so I was like, ‘that’s me’.”

Their musical style, they say, has earned them a larger audience in Argentina than in the UK, which might be because there aren’t many bands around with this modern 60s sound in London. But that doesn’t matter as the three Brits and the Argentine fit right in here, even down to their dapper image topped off with floppy haircuts. “Some of the first EP’s tracks have been broadcast here which is why we are known,” says Gabriel.

“And we’re still playing those tunes today,” adds Luke. “After three years writing together, we’ve definitely had a natural progression, and we’ve just recorded a new album, which is our second LP.”
Chris adds: “The first album had the only songs we’d written on it. That album was basically put together really quickly with all our best songs. Some of these songs on the new one are over three years old still, but I think it has progressed. We’re better in the studio now, we’re better musicians.”

The latest addition to The Draytones’ family recorded on this second album, which obviously led to a change in dynamic. Luke adds: “This is the first time we’ve recorded with someone else because in the past it was always just the three of us. That brought a new dimension to it.”

Having lived in London for seven years, Gabriel speaks excellent English and manages to avoid the pitfall of a sounding like a foreigner when singing. All the band’s lyrics are also in English but they have recently ventured into unchartered territory.

Luke says: “We did a song in Spanish (No me iré) along with a video earlier this year and that has been on MTV here. We’ve always had our English following, but it’s funny because where we’re at compared with where (BBC) Radio 1’s music is at is completely different.”

Chris insinuates that the British media can in fact be more of a hindrance than a help. “In Japan, for example, if they like you, they’ll put you on the radio or write about you. It’s as simple as that and you don’t have to fit into anything. We’ve gone down really well here. I know we’ve got the connections with Gab, but from listening to other bands it’s the same kind of music they like, which is brilliant.”

FURTHER SOUTH. Hopefully the Kelpers will also like The Draytones’ tones, because the band is going to play four gigs on the Malvinas on the “Friendship Tour” in two weeks. Gabriel says: “When we started the band, we were looking for a name that would link both countries. Luke came up with the Hand of God, and it quickly came up that we should play the Malvinas one day. It was like a dream. And you never believe these things until it happens so it’s actually very surreal for me.

“Two years ago a man contacted me whose brother was an Argentine soldier who fought on the Malvinas. The brother was a journalist and he told me about his brother who sent me a very emotional email and we started up a friendship — he was the one who pushed the project forward.”

Luke adds: “When we were booked for Pepsi, we thought we’d try to go to Malvinas, to Uruguay and make a spell of it. The ball started rolling and now we’re going there on November 14. It will be like the old days, playing in pubs to one man and his dog… but it’s going to be great as it will be all of us, plus our team and friends, going over together and going on holiday. That’s what it’s all about, to do something a bit weird and different.”

Apart from the mammoth trek south, this second trip means the group will be playing BA again, as well as dates in La Plata and Uruguay. “Another one of our dreams is to record in Argentina one day,” says Luke. “We’re always looking for the next thing, but if it’s weather like this, we’ll always come back!”

If the bigger, established bands aren’t your cup of Tetley’s tea, you’ll need to get down to Club Ciudad on Av. del Libertador 7395 tomorrow afternoon to catch The Draytones in action, but if that doesn’t fit in with your schedule, they will play La Trastienda on November 28. And if you have a return ticket to Port Stanley, you can see them sooner.

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