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The Backhanded Compliments


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Sheffield History

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The Backhanded Compliments were a Sheffield band born out of the ashes of a recently split Milburn.

Band members were Tom Rowley (Milburn, Dead Sons, Arctic Monkeys) on vocals, Joe Green (Milburn, Dead Sons) on drums and Ryan Sellars (Union City, Dead Sons) on bass.


Interview with The Backhanded Compliments

Given the horrendous journey down to the venue (Hoxton Bar and Grill), it would have been no surprise for guitarist and vocalist Tom Rowley to tell us there was no time for an interview. However, having lugged all the equipment from the van and up on stage, he kindly sat with us, in the relative quiet, and gave us ten minutes of his time before the soundcheck....


MN: We can't interview you without mentioning Milburn - well, you have still got the name on the Flight cases..

Yeah, unfortunately

MN: Why is that? There is a common thought that the split was record company based?

I was getting frustrated with Milburn and it ended because there was conflict between me and Joe. We had a difference of opinion, I wanted to go one way, he the other and we just thought it was pointless staying together.

MN: The Backhanded Compliments' sound is a lot darker than Milburn's - is this intentional, or natural, and bands such as Queens Of The Stone Age have been mooted as influences?

Yes, Queens of the Stone Age have been a huge influence, I also count Nick Cave as an influence, as well as Tom Waits, been listening to a lot of them. We've definitely gone a different way to Milburn, some say a lot darker musically and lyrically, but I think that's a sub-conscious thing.

MN: So, were you a frustrated frontman?

I never set out to be the frontman, and I don't really like singing but am happy to do it because it's mine and I can put my own spin on it and no one can interfere. It's frustrating when you have an idea and someone else tries to take over or put their spin on it.

MN: At what stage were TBC becoming an idea to be turned into reality? Were there thoughts of the band during Milburns career?

I started thinking about the Backhanded Compliments at the end of 2007, the beginning of 2008. I knew that Milburn weren't going to continue, people were arguing too much, over small petty things and I knew it was time to move on.

MN: Have you learned lessons from the way you were treated by The Press, the record company etc? Are you more guarded about any approaches?

We're not signed to anyone but to be honest, am in no rush at the moment. From being in Milburn, we're certainly, I wouldn't say cynical about offers, but we are a lot wiser and am happy doing what we're doing for the moment. We're also doing everything on the dole so are a lot more aware of where every penny is going.

MN: And how are the songs written...tunes first?

The music definitely comes first when we write songs, and the lyrics then follow, although I wouldn't say there was any big inspiration behind it, just what's going on in your head at the time.

MN: Master of Disguise is (very) early runner to be the 'What You Could Have Won' of the set..is it about anyone in particular?

Master of Disguise is written about someone but I don't want to reveal who. It's no-one famous or anyone like that.

MN: Lots of talk on the forum about your recent addition to the Reverend and The Makers line-up. If TBC take off, where do your priorities lie?

I am enjoying being in Reverend and the Makers but Backhanded Compliments are taking priority, have made a commitment to this band and also, I can dictate where and when, have more control and freedom, and will work Rev around it.

MN: If you weren't in either band, what would you have done?

Dunno really. If I hadn't been in Milburn or formed the Backhanded Compliments, then I'd still definitely would have gone into music.

MN: Despite gigs at The Hard Rock and Astoria, I never felt the sound transferred down properly to audiences in London. Are you bothered?

You think? I thought it did. The audiences in the north are definitely different than the southerners and I am conscious of transferring our sound down here, it's very different from where we're from.

MN: In which case, how much importance do you put on the likes of your Myspace page?

We keep our MySpace page regularly up to date, I think it's really important to because we've generated everything from there.

MN: On your Myspace page, there are a good few contributors who only got to know of you through the recent support of The View. How were those gigs?

It's been only one so far but we played with the View last week in Manchester and got a lot of positive feedback and we hope to spend a bit more time with them.

MN: Name one song you would really like to cover.

If I had to choose to do any cover, it would be The Doors song Love Me Two Times, although have been doing a version of Elvis Costello's I Don't Want to Go To Chelsea, although it's a lot heavier and there's no keyboard.

MN: And which band would make you proud if they asked to cover one of yours?

If I could choose anyone to cover one of our songs it would be Nick Cave, he'd be great.

MN: What do you expect from tonight's gig, your first in London?

I don't know what to expect from tonight's gig, this is our first date down south so we'll have to see. And I doubt any of our northern following would have made the trip down, being a Monday night!

MN: There are ten songs out there now, and a recent EP. Any plans for an album?

We're happy with the EP for now, think it's too early for an album. It would be great to do one eventually but there's no grand plan, we're just enjoying what we're doing for now.


Personable, knowledgeable and tremendously relaxed and open, I hope Tom enjoyed it as much as I did.

The Backhanded Compliments EP is now available to purchase at any upcoming gig for £2, or online for £3.
Their website www.thebackhanded.com

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