Ben Ottewell from Gomez talks emotional reunions and the ‘uptown feeling’ of the De La Warr Pavilion ahead of the band’s Bexhill gig on Thursday, July 18.
From haranguing Sheffield’s most respected A&R agent to winning the 1998 Mercury Music Prize with their debut recording, Bring it On, there’s plenty to talk about from past and present with Ben Ottewell, the charismatic vocalist from Gomez.
So when the opportunity came up to interview him ahead of their gig promoting the 20th Anniversary re-release of Liquid Skin, I grabbed it with both hands.
At the time of Gomez’s rise to critical acclaim in 1997, British music was resurgent, Britpop had brought a new wave of talent to the fore, both here in the UK and globally, but Gomez had created their own distinctive sound, which was harder to classify.
When I caught up with Ben Ottewell he was in relaxed mood considering he was heading off to Italy shortly, for a mini-solo tour.
I take him back to how the band formed during their student days at Sheffield University and where he first got to know Olly Peacock and Ian Ball, who were lifelong friends and the catalyst for the project.
“We didn’t really have a plan to start a band,” he recalls, explaining that the duo told him “this is what we do in our spare time, we create”.
The other band members, Paul Blackburn and Tom Gray soon joined and the line-up was complete. Ironically, none of them were studying music, but were constantly in The Record Collector shop in Sheffield, trying to persuade the owner to listen to their demo.
“He must have got ten demos a day,” Ben says. “But we kept hassling him and eventually it worked.” The owner phoned back immediately after listening to their demo, recorded on a four-track Fostex machine, and offered to help saying “you’ve got to do something with this”.
The first two albums, Bring it On and Liquid Skin, were recorded and released in close succession and Gomez went on to release seven albums in total. So I’m interested to know what effect time has had on the band’s relationship, since two are now living in the US.
“We get on great,” Ben tells me, and adds: “Before the Bring It On tour last year, we hadn’t played together for five years.” I sense Ben’s voice is tinged with emotion as he recalls the experience and pauses slightly.
“It was joyous, and then to see the reaction we got from the crowd when we played live after all that time”.
So what about playing at the De La Warr? “Great,” Ben replies, talking about his admiration for the venue and the hard work that Stewart Drew puts in to keep it high on the agenda for Music and Arts. “I love the feel of going there. It feels like you’re going uptown.”
“I don’t feel there’s a venue to match it in Brighton”, he adds.
After the Bexhill gig, Gomez go onto play a short tour in four metropolitan Cities, which ends in Manchester, no doubt Whippin’ Piccadilly, at the end of July.
The De La Warr Pavilion gig starts at 7pm on Thursday, July 18.
There are limited seats available to see Gomez. Click here to purchase yours.
The Liquid Skin re-release is available here.
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