After a warm reception in their native UK (they were nominated for the 2009 Mercury Prize following the release of their debut album in March this year) and extensive touring in the UK and Europe, London trio The Invisible is finally getting introduced to audiences in the U.S. The band garnered attention on the other side of the Atlantic while touring with top acts like Doves, Foals and Hot Chip, among others. Still unsigned here, they’ve just played three shows in New York.

The Invisible are David Okumu (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Leo Taylor (drums and percussion) and Tom Herbert (bass and keyboards), all alumni of other bands, such as Bugz in the Attic, Polar Bear and Jade Fox. Hard to categorize but probably generically described as post-rock, the group’s songs draw on various influences and blend indie rock, jazz and funk overtones. Bass lines range from groovy to jazzy to straight-up rock, with guitar styles across the board. One of the band’s most captivating aspects is how they seamlessly segue between styles in their live set.

Luckily, I had a chance to catch up with David and Leo as the guys were down to their last few hours in New York on an unusually warm and balmy November day. At a diner on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, we chatted over “two cappuccinos and a latte” (the latter would be mine) in a glass-walled room where we were surrounded by loud conversations straight out of Seinfeld. I had to listen really closely to hear the two witty, relatively soft-spoken English gents.

So, you’ve finally had your first live shows in the U.S. How has it been for you playing in New York and did you find much difference in the audiences at each show?
Leo: We had three shows in New York – first at Brooklyn Bowl, then Santos, then Pianos. All quite different gigs, but the audience reception was pretty good. Pianos had a nice feel and reminded us of playing London, so we felt quite at home. Brooklyn Bowl was bizarre. It’s a brand new bowling alley, and we were playing along side people bowling – it was interesting. Santos definitely had more of a club feel, with the DJ set up, and there were a lot of gay people dancing. Apparently in New York it’s very difficult to get people to dance at shows, so it was fun to see that.

David: Yeah, Pianos had quite a good feel. Brooklyn Bowl is a really amazing place. We knew it was a bowling alley, and we were expecting something very low key, but it’s like a proper venue, with great sound. And great food as well.

I caught your show at Santos Party House (supporting Dragonette). I thought the live set was pretty tight, and I loved the way you were able to segue from songs that were more funk-sounding to those that were more rock. I’ve been listening to the album, and one thing I noticed is that the live sound is quite different from the one on CD. How long have you been playing together live?
David: Well, we started working on the album in 2007, and the live thing sort of came around more recently. I guess it’s been about a year and a half. The album was originally going to be a solo project for me. Basically we weren’t a band yet when Matthew Herbert expressed an interest in producing the record. (The band is also signed to Matthew Herbert’s label, Accidental Records, in the UK.) I’d worked with Tom and Leo in the past – we’re very old friends — and just asked them to be involved in making the record. The live thing sort of happened after we’d finished recording. It’s basically a very studio-orientated album, and we’ve had to figure out a way to flush it out live.

Well, it works! And I noticed that you all seem to be multi-instrumentalists.
Leo: I really just play drums and percussion. And, trombone, but you don’t have to mention that! [laughs]

David: We haven’t really explored that yet with the band.

Leo: [Joking] Yeah, we’re trying to work out a way of mounting a trombone on the drums! Tom, the bass player, is pretty good on the keys.

David: Spending time in the studio, you want to take in new stuff and try things out. It makes me think of a Tom Waits interview – all of his interviews are very interesting and pretty much anything he says is really fascinating – but there’s one where he said something that stayed with me. He talked about how the hands are incredibly intelligent, and how it’s good to confuse them sometimes. So I think it’s great to get away from instruments that you’re familiar with. I’ve been playing guitar for years and I know it really well, so sometimes it’s good to write on the keyboard or piano, which I don’t know as well. It’s good to vary things. That’s something the three of us really share, and so we try and think outside of the box a little bit and get out of our comfort zone.

Do you have any thoughts about where the music industry has gone in the last few years?
Leo: Accessibility and the way music arrives at its destination now — it’s really evolved over the last four years. Also, it’s so easy now. Every other person is in a band now. If you’ve got a laptop you can make music. You don’t even have to know how to play an instrument!

What are some of your influences?
Leo: Everything! We’ve all enjoyed a broad range of music from over the years. We were in a wedding band as well, so we had quite a repertoire of songs we worked with.

Okay, wedding, meaning you actually played at a lot of weddings?
David & Leo: Yes!
David: And we just did one (joking).

Oh, wow. Any kids parties?
Leo: No.

David: [jokes] Not yet but maybe we should check it out and go on Craigslist!
(all around laughter)


Have you ever heard of the band Appliance?
Leo & David: No.

They’re the one band that comes to mind when I’m listening to some of your songs. They’re a kind of post-rock band from England who were around about 10 years ago, I’m not sure if they’re still doing anything. But I thought that would be a really obscure influence if you had heard of them.
Leo: Maybe we’ve heard them and not realized it.

I wanted to ask you about the video for “London Girl,” which I think is a really awesome. There’s a similarity between the video and the album art work. What came first, that video or the album cover?
David & Leo: The album cover.

David: The album cover was in development for a while, alongside working on the album. The idea of water was quite a strong theme, and I was definitely interested in having the relationship to water in some way expressed on the front cover. Originally the three of us weren’t going to be on the front cover, then we decided that we were. When we started working with the director of the video, Cherise Payne, she picked up on that theme and thought it would be cool to incorporate that somehow. So the album art work kind of dictated the video in a way. We were encouraged to think about and kind of liked the idea of having the visual representation of the band be part of the whole package, tied to the whole concept basically.

Will you be doing more touring for this record?
Leo: We have a few more dates in Europe. Having toured a lot this year in the UK and Europe, We’re very ready to move on, get back in the studio and start making a new record. We’re hoping to start in December.

David: Yeah, in many ways we’re very, very ready to kind of move on and start on new material. It’s funny how making records, getting them out and touring can kind of attract growth. We started working on the record in 2007 and it didn’t come out until March 2009. And we’ve certainly grown — we’re much more a band now than we were starting out. We’ve done really well in the sense that we’ve continued to evolve, and we feel like we’re moving forward. The live thing has been very important for that. We’re constantly thinking about how we can do things differently and better, not just replicating the sound that’s found on the record.

I’ve heard some artists say that they love working on new material while they’re touring, but others have said that they can’t work on writing while touring. What is your take on it?
David: Yeah, it can be very hard. Touring can be very exhausting. But it feels like a very healthy thing to not get locked into one thing and to have other things to focus on. I think those two things (touring and writing) always go alongside each other and both are an important part of the process. –Teresa Sampson, B/W photo by Teresa Sampson, Live photo by Tear-n Tan

  1. Does anyone know if i can buy this Magazine in Ohio or Michigan?
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    Please email me if you know
    The easiest place to email me would actually be on youtube? lol
    Thanks So Much :D