Singing about dickheads, love and youth: An interview with Performance lead singer Joe Stretch.
‘All students should be in a band’, this is the one of the many conclusions that have been reached during the course of my interview with Joe Stretch. Joe is a writing fellow here at Keele, author of two acclaimed novels Friction  and Wildlife  and also member of the Manchester-based band (We Are) Performance.
There is a pause as I consider his statement. I certainly couldn’t be in a band. I imagine my panic-stricken self, positioned next to a microphone in front of a large drunken student crowd, I won’t even allow myself to be dragged onto the Union stage for karaoke let alone perform in a band. I tell him I would be too nervous. ‘We all get nervous, I get nervous. The nerves are a good thing’, if this is true it certainly doesn’t affect Joe’s performance as lead singer which is displayed in the countless videos uploaded by fans to youtube of Performance’s live gigs across the country. ‘We have great fans, fans that love the music and turn up to the gigs wherever we go’. Possibly these fans will follow Performance to Germany which is where the band’s next live tour will begin, following the release of their next album, a compilation of previous hits.
Performance includes members Joe Cross and Laura Marsden who are also currently in a band called Kiss in Cities. Performance could be described as an electro-dance pop act, they sing about dickheads, love and youth. Themes that also feature heavily in Joe’s books, I ask about these prevalent themes and their obvious significance to his work. ‘Well it’s current, it’s relevant. I mention dickheads…because I’m a dickhead, it’s the generational insult, I mean what’s yours? Douchebag?’ It takes me a second to realize that he isn’t actually calling me a douchebag, so I shrug. Before enquiring how he ended up being signed in a band in the first place.
‘I’d never thought about being in a band, until they asked, I’ve been friends with Joe Cross since we were ten. Then one day we were pissing around, recorded a demo in our bedroom, made posters with biros and went to a gig. Someone liked us, asked for a demo and soon that demo was being sent to producers and executives all over the world. We were then signed with Polydor, recording demos in real studios, being told we were great which was weird and scary. We even had our own French chef, Jerome’.
Performance were subsequently named second in NME’s The 100 Greatest albums you’ve never heard list. This must be a bittersweet moment to discover that your creation was well respected just never delivered properly to the public. It turns out that a twist in the bands relationship was to blame for the failure to become truly successful, which according to NME would have been their destiny.
‘Being kept together makes music quite bad, the boring element is what is keeping you together, it’s like touring with a dysfunctional family’ but the band is still together now, still touring, still creating, still great friends, ‘which is really a great achievement in itself’ Joe states as he leans back in his chair, legs stretched to reach the desk.
What is the point of being in a band, I ask him, ‘It’s about emotions to be created, deep feelings and ideas, which is what people should be focusing on. Which is why all students should be in a band’. I’m feeling relatively convinced by the end of this interview. Perhaps I would pick up a microphone and scream over a backing track, why not? If I get mentioned in NME even once, I think it would be worth it.
You can find and listen to Performance on Myspace where there is also a list of their upcoming tour dates and venues.
This article has been reproduced here by the Concourse Deputy-Editor Design. The original author is credited above.