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Interview with Larkins frontman Josh Noble on the meanings of TV Dream, Not Enough Love and Sugar Sweet

Now living in Manchester’s supremely cool Northern Quarter, Larkins frontman Josh Noble says he’s not quite sure if he’s totally left behind his leafy childhood in north Derbyshire.

“I felt lucky to have grown up there, I think Dom [guitar] felt lucky to have grown up there as well with Henry [bass].

“But we were very aware that we had to get out of it before it became quite toxic,” Josh says, as he sits in a beanie hat and jumper backstage before the band’s first gig in a three-month tour of the UK.

At 23, Josh has the stoic confidence of a man who knows he’s cool, but keeps the secret weapon of kindness up his sleeve.

Although if kindness is his secret weapon, on stage his angular face and dark eyes are front-and-centre bazookas. To his left, skeletal guitarist Dom Want revives the sexiness of gawky androgyny, while bassist Henry Beach offers flirty machismo relief, and drummer Joe Gaskell keeps the clean machine running.

Larkins singer Josh Noble outside the Venue in Derby for the first date in their 2019 tour. Behind is guitarist Dom Want (left) and bassist Henry Beach (right). Credit - George Allen

Josh studied a Masters in history at the University of Huddersfield, worked in a student union and a warehouse, and even put on discos for adults with learning disabilities before making music his full-time job with Larkins.

Of Glossop, he says: “It was a very little bubble, a very tight bubble, and a very small town with a lot of values that I don’t particularly agree with. So it just felt like we had to get out of there.

“To sing ‘not enough love left in this town’ over and over kind of felt good.”

But, despite his cathartic refrain on Not Enough Love, has he really left it behind?

“All my family are there,” he says. “I do love it and I go home and you smell some fresh air and the hills and it’s just the most beautiful, idyllic, green place.

“But there’s a lot of things I really don’t like.”

Josh has agreed to talk about how he writes lyrics for www.popmusicexplained.com, so despite how tempting it is to ask about exactly the kind of Glossop politics he is referring to, time is against us.

A morbid curiosity: Josh poses outside historic funeral firm G. Wathall & Son in Macklin Street, Derby. Credit - George Allen

What do the lyrics of TV Dream by Larkins mean?

First on the agenda is the single TV Dream, released by Larkins in 2019 to favourable write ups.

Josh reveals it was the first time he “finally” wrote on a subject that he was passionate about.

And that subject was a disdain for rape culture mixed his grandparents’ tales of romance – plus a hint of retro-futuristic “silver screen” dystopia.

He says: “I felt like we’d written so many songs about girls, about going out – kind of fickle songs.

“And to be able to get that line in about ‘why’d she have to dress like that’, I kept hearing people say that all the time. ‘Well, it was the way she was dressed’. I was like, no! That’s not the point.”

He adds: “And it felt a little bit like I was harking back to those days of taking people dancing but also trying to be like: there’s so much shit, there’s so much shit.

“I think it was just running those two parallels side by side.”

Disabled access at rear: The Larkins’ frontman says he is glad to move away from the ‘toxic’ side of his Glossop hometown. Credit - George Allen

What do the lyrics of The Tale of Cassandra by Larkins mean?

Josh says he wrote lyrics to The Tale of Cassandra at the age of 16 or 17 and admits that he did not choose the name because of its connotations of prophecy.

The Greek mythological daughter of the King of Troy, Cassandra was blessed with the gift of foresight, but cursed with the hindrance that no one would believe her warnings.

Josh replies: “No, it sounded really cool. I know that sounds super lame.

“It had the right amount of syllables. And it made us…I don’t know. At the time we were so young. I remember listening to the band Little Comets.

“They were writing this stuff that was like a storyline. By the end of it I’d felt this new story. It was not chorus, verse, it was something I’d never really done before.

“And this imaginary figure, Cassandra, I think a sixteen-year-old boy, whatever he thinks about, or whatever I happened to be thinking about at the time…it was just this idea of this tale of Cassandra…I don’t know what it was. It was really weird.”

Weird indeed.

The influence of unconscious learning on the writer is interesting. Greek mythology does run through Western civilization like a stick of rock. But it’s enlightening to know that not every apparent reference is intended by the lyricist.

He adds: “I think I was kind of working out how to write. I think it came out OK. I think we could have done it better.” 

‘Pop culture was in art’: Josh stands in front of two billboards in Derby - and behind is a collage by local street artist Face the Strange. Credit - George Allen

What do the lyrics of Sugar Sweet by Larkins mean?

Josh, who is heterosexual, often uses feminine pronouns in the context of romance. But this is not a hard-and-fast rule.

He says when he uses pronouns it is done consciously. And if he writes “she said”, it’s because he’s being autobiographical.

He says of Sugar Sweet: “There was no ‘thing’ for me about the people that were involved.

“But as soon as it came to the video everyone was like ‘it’s about romance, so let’s get a boy and a girl and we’ll do this song’.

“I was like, well, why don’t we get two girls? And everyone was like, ‘umm, is that what the song’s about?’

“The song doesn’t mention any genders. It was never about that. It was about that feeling you get when a friend becomes more than a friend – and it was as simple as that.

“And it just felt very weird to me, fighting that battle, to try to get two girls in the video.”

He adds: “It wasn’t the label. It was just in general – everyone. It wasn’t a battle so much.

“It was just like ‘hmm, that’s an unusual concept!’ And I was like, why?”

And, finally, does it matter if someone doesn’t understand the Larkins’ lyrics?

Josh is quite certain that the answer is no. And he cites the experience of a woman who couldn’t see as his rationale.

He explains: “I’ve started to realise that people come to gigs for different reasons. And I realised this when we did the Albert Hall.

“There was a blind woman upstairs and she could see something like 5% vision. And she comes to the gigs because she can feel the bass. She can see a strobe. All she can see is these lights.

“And for like half an hour, one night in the year, she felt ecstatic and euphoric. I was like…she does not give a fuck what I’m singing about.”

Larkins are playing dozens of dates on a UK tour from October 16, 2019, in Derby, to December 8, 2019, in Plymouth. Tickets are available from www.larkinsband.com. Larkins are on Twitter and Instagram. Josh Noble is on Instagram, as is Dom WantHenry Beach and Joe Gaskell

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