Late Of The Pier were formed in 2004 by four teenage friends (Samuel Eastgate AKA Sam Dust, Samuel Potter, Andrew Faley and Ross Dawson) that grew up listening to music together in Castle Donington, the Leicestershire market town associated with Monsters Of Rock and Download, not to mention a host of motorsport history. MySpace was in ascendence as the communication medium of choice for young people, with its UK launch in 2006 directly targeting the UK's music scene.
It was a period of change for UK music, a cultural shake-up comparable to that of the late seventies. Technologies (the birth of social media among them) tipped to a point allowing self-publishing of music online (with relative ease), and crucially the organisation of club nights and communities around the music. The period helped conclude the fairly conformist musical chapter that had been lingering since the turn of the millennium and define a new one.
Klaxons formed a year later than Late Of The Pier in 2005 but managed to release music first. The like of NME were quick to laud Klaxons, naming them band of the year in 2007 and physically painting them as their golden boys on their cover. Journalists and labels (in an effort to remain relevant) struggled to coin a phrase that would describe the new music emerging from the youthful neon-tinted scene. New rave and electroclash were the two terms that stuck, and bands such as Late Of The Pier, CSS, Shitdisco, New Young Pony Club, Hadouken! and Does It Offend You, Yeah? joined Klaxons under the umbrella of the clumsily named genre.
Unconcerned with what everybody else was doing, in March 2007, Late Of The Pier released their debut single 'Space And The Woods', which was limited to 500 7-inch records, but became freely downloadable from the band's MySpace. Originally taken from the band's 'Zarcorp Demo' the wonderfully Numan-esque song with its heavily urgent bassline was new but instantly accessible and engaging, something many of their peers didn't seem interested in doing.
Towards the end of 2007 LOTP attracted interest from the London scene and big labels resulting in a meeting with Erol Alkan, the acclaimed DJ behind London's Trash club night. The band and the DJ hit it off resulting in Alkan producing and working with the band to re-record some of their old material along with new songs to form the basis of their debut, and only, LP, 'Fantasy Black Channel'.
"'Fantasy Black Channel' by Late of the Pier is outrageous. When I was 16 that album was everything. Before the stupid indie boom that proceeded it, that album felt like it was pushing forward in terms of the 'Guitar' music around that same time. Parts of that record have a real pop sensibility, and when it's not doing that - it's unrelenting and brilliant." - Matt Robinson, Milk Disco
'Space and The Woods' was re-recorded with Alkan for inclusion on the album and released as a single backed with the even more urgent 'Focker'. The latter song features a jaw-dropping change of tempo at about two and half minutes in, with the song appearing to defy gravity before freefalling back to earth like some triumphant superhero.
Another song to be reworked for the LP was 'Bathroom Gurgle'. A perfect example of one of the talents that made LOTP so special, the song starts off in similar territory to its sibling 'Space and The Woods' before taking the listener on a grand tour around all manner of techno, metal, prog and glam shaded rock, without ever seeming disjointed or jarring.
While LOTP and Klaxons were never pitted against each other in a Blur Vs Oasis or Stones Vs Beatles manner, it did seem convenient for magazines and radio stations to lazily put LOTP in the same pigeonhole, despite the two outfits having only a superficial likeness musically.
When asked about the comparisons to Klaxons in a 2007 interview with Noize Makes Enemies Sam Eastgate said "These people are clearly deaf and know nothing about music", with Sam Potter adding "I don’t like Klaxons but they do have nicer cheekbones than us, we don’t really have any".
It is a shame that the word 'epic' came into overuse around the time of Fantasy Black Channel's release as it is the perfect word to convey the journey it undertakes from start to finish. It's ambitious without being stuffy, overly proggish and bloated. It has moments of superbly accomplished and composed guitar but doesn't seem self-indulgent. It feels like an old friend with its respectful references to its influences, yet challenges you with its changes of direction. It even has the odd moment of humour.
"I always thought the band Late Of The Pier never got enough credit, I thought they delivered a phenomenal album. 2008’s 'Fantasy Black Channel’, which I think for its time had some really really intriguing sounds and was very experimental and interesting." - Barns Courtney
After Fantasy Black Channel, Late Of The Pier went on to release two non-album songs through Erol Alkan's Phantasy label. 'Blueberry' in late 2009 and 'Best In Class' in early 2010.
The two very different tracks tantalised and hinted at the creative direction, or directions, the band might take next, the Beatles meets Eno/Bowie of 'Blueberry' or the Aphex/Arctic Monkey disco of 'Best In Class', so perfectly illustrated with its human zoetrope video. Soon after the single though it appeared that the quartet had decided to end things on a creative high, while some of their contemporaries were reportedly struggling to come up with album number two and being sent back to the studio to try again by the big labels.
The band members went their separate ways on good terms. Sam Eastgate focussed on his solo project, LA Priest, as well as working with Connan Mockasin and producing the Manchester band Egyptian Hip Hop. Drummer Ross Dawson went on to play with lo-fi new wave band Zibra, before his sad, untimely death in 2015. Andrew Faley became a music entrepreneur striving to provide an alternative to the big label approach and create support networks for emerging artists.
"Sam Dust of LA Priest and Late Of The Pier, the man's seminal." - Adam, 485C
Ten years on from its release, unlike a lot of things from its era, including MySpace, 'Fantasy Black Channel' has aged well and still sounds fresh and intriguing. Though some still lament the fact there was no second or third LOTP album; the LP will always be a special stand-alone story, rather than the just the first episode in a series. Critically the album was reasonably well-received, and looking back it doesn't seem as though Late Of The Pier were harshly criticised, but on reflection, it does seem that they were criminally under-celebrated.
You can stream 'Fantasy Black Channel' on Spotify here.