By Luke Hertel
Dry Cleaning drummer Nick Buxton says his U.K. talk rock/spoken word band’s success comes from their age, experience and quite a bit of luck.
The quartet are all in their 30s, something atypical of a new band in the space, and experienced, except for newbie singer Florence Shaw.
Because of this experience, the musicians could select the right members for the band and create a sound they’re proud of.
“We’ve been around the block,” Buxton says. “I think the bullshit indicator was always quite high. We were able to sniff it out quite early.”
Dry Cleaning is now touring in support of its sophomore effort, “Stumpwork.” The band will come to the Crescent Ballroom on Monday, January 23. Buxton admits Dry Cleaning is still working on how to express new songs live, so the concerts are evolving at an alarming rate.
“It’s a new experience taking it out on the road and really getting to learn the songs,” Buxton says. “And so things change around and the set changes and things get expressed differently and the songs expand and contract. So hopefully, we should be firing on all cylinders by then and I’m looking forward to really getting stuck in.”
Buxton adds that it’s not just the set that is changing. They have added touring personnel, who improve the show.
“We’ll have a lighting engineer with us, who’s a really good friend of ours,” Buxton says. “I think he really adds to the show, like the kind of atmosphere that he helps us generate. It’s really important for us, like we can feel it onstage.
“You have to work with good people. You really do. You hear it all the time about these bands who signed to major labels, and they get loads of money. And then everything just sucks. It’s kind of all down to the personnel. It’s so important that you just work with people that you like and you trust.”
Luck played a role as well with Dry Cleaning.
“It’s really strange,” Buxton says. “You know, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve met a lot of really, really good people. Everyone’s been nice to us. And … no one’s trying to patronize us or talk down to us or anything like that. It’s always felt very mutual and respectful and kind to the people that we’ve met.”
“Stumpwork” is the follow up to “New Long Leg,” and saw the band — Buxton, Shaw, guitarist Tom Dowse and bassist Lewis Maynard — return to Rockfield Studios with producer John Parish.
The lyrics were inspired by a variety of topics and people, including artist Maggi Hambling and snippets from the press cuttings library of archivist Edda Tasiemka.
“Stumpwork” was made after the deaths of Maynard’s mother and Dowse’s grandfather, both of whom were supportive of Dry Cleaning. The overall vibe of “Stumpwork” is subtly upbeat, however.
And while pursuing a career in music has been a dream come true, according to Buxton, the four band members held onto their previous jobs as long as they could before committing fully to the band.
Buxton was the part-owner of a cabinetry business and says it was tough to leave that position.
“I worked as a cabinet maker, but also I had my own company that I ran with someone,” Buxton says. “So for me, personally speaking, it was really hard, because I had been playing music my whole life pretty much and the opportunity to do it for a living had never really come up before.
“So, I’d always thought that I would just jump at that straight away, but it caught me at a time in my life where I wasn’t really able to just jump straight into it because I had a lot of other responsibilities. And … when we got involved with a manager, who laid out a plan for us and suggested the kind of route we might take through the music industry, it wasn’t easy for us to kind of accept that that’s what we all wanted to do.”
Buxton says he knew he wanted to make the career change when the musicians ate at Wimpy, a fast-food retro burger chain popular in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
“The waiter in the restaurant came over and he was talking to us and he was like, ‘Oh, you guys are a band,’” Buxton says.
“We were talking to him, and he asked, ‘What’s the name of your band?’ And we were like, ‘Oh, it’s Dry Cleaning.’ And he was just laughing, and he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s a funny name.’ And I just remember thinking … it kind of brought me back down to Earth a little bit. I was like, ‘You know, I would really like to do this. I really want to do this.’ We decided at that point that we were going to move forward with it.”
Despite traveling around the world in the last year and a half, Buxton says that he is proud to call South London his home.
“We are, quintessentially, a South London band and absolutely a product of our environment,” he explains. “I think if you were to take us out of that environment and to somewhere else, I think you’d get a very different thing at the end of it. It’s a really unique place in the world. I think we’re all very proud to say we’re from there.”
Dry Cleaning w/Nourished by Time
WHEN: 8 p.m. Monday, January 23
WHERE: Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Avenue, Phoenix
COST: Tickets start at $22