Infadels: Back from the brink

When their first recordings fell on deaf ears, the dance-rockers Infadels gave up. But not for long, they tell Alexia Loundras
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The Independent Culture

"We shouldn't really be here," says Infadels' guitarist, Matt Gooderson. Beside him, sipping watery orange juice through a straw, his bandmate, the frontman Bnann Watts, nods in agreement. But they're not talking about the north London boozer we're sitting in; they're talking about their band. After all they've been through, this motley crew - which counts among its number a former Busted guitar-tech, a failed label boss and the son of a legendary 1970s prog drummer - should have given up long ago. Even their name is an unintentional spelling mistake. But Infadels are a triumph of passion over sense. And, finally, it looks as though their dogged determination might just pay off.

In an industry increasingly driven by internet buzz and media hype, these east London dance-rockers have raised their profiles the old-fashioned way; by getting out on the road to tour the fiery, dancefloor-igniting sounds of their debut album, We Are Not The Infadels. Infadels' incendiary live shows have given the band something of a cult status. They're sweaty, noisy and reckless affairs, delivered with a bright-eyed sense of indie-disco fun. "We're not interested in being cool," says Watts, who's far too giddy to ever be mistaken as such. "Where's the joy in that? What we like to do is go out and express ourselves. And if everyone else in the audience is expressing themselves; forgetting about their jobs, their troubles, then we're happy."

Sustained by seemingly endless reserves of enthusiasm, Infadels have spent the last two years expressing themselves at gig venues throughout Europe and America. Highlights include a performance at the height of the Biblical downpour that drowned Glastonbury last year - "We were warned we might die, but we kept going", giggles Gooderson, emboldened with hindsight. That sort of attitude is typical of Infadels' dedication to the cause. When they signed to Wall Of Sound, they decided to turn down the usual record company advance in return for a greater cut of their own profits - "If we don't sell albums then we don't deserve any money," explains Watts, defiantly.

Unfortunately, they haven't sold all that many yet, so they're penniless. Existing on their meagre touring pocket-money (£7 a day) the band have all had to give up their flats. When they're not on the road, they have to sleep at friends' houses. "That's why we can't stop touring," laughs Watts, only half joking.

Not that the lean times seem to have caused any disharmony within the band. As Gooderson and Watts fall over each other to show off the ostentatious stage gear they'll wear at tonight's show (luminous, knee-length socks; black and crimson cravats) they display an obvious brotherly affection. They met when Watts' last band imploded around the turn of the millennium. The two were fixed up by a mutual friend: Watts was a songwriter seeking an electronica whizz, while Gooderson, a man handy with a synth, was hankering for a songwriter to lend him direction. "When I first met Matty," remembers Watts fondly, "he had purple hair with a grey streak running through it. I thought, I like this guy. Then, as soon as we started jamming, something happened; we were definitely on the same page."

Like their New York contemporaries, Radio 4 and The Rapture, Gooderson and Watts were inspired by the potential energy of dance-laced rock. Raised on a diet of Primal Scream, Daft Punk, The Clash and Kraftwerk, the pair wanted to fuse the rabid spirit of acid-house with the driving urges of razor-edged rock. "We'd spent years going to raves then coming home and listening to Nirvana," continues Watts. "It made perfect sense for us to want to make music that was a cross between what we were hearing at clubs and at gigs; we wanted to make electronic rock 'n' roll." Gooderson wasted no time in recruiting his old college pal, drummer Alex Bruford: "I knew he'd be right for this," he says, eyes gleaming.

Gooderson and Bruford met in the queue registering for their music course on their first day at university. "He looked like Brad from Neighbours gone wrong," giggles Gooderson fondly. The pair started a musical project, Screaming Heads: "Basically it was just me shouting over a drum beat," admits Gooderson. Still, they managed to draw crowds of about 500; more likely on account of Bruford's stick-skills than Gooderson's vocal performances. As Gooderson later discovered, Bruford had something of a drumming pedigree: his dad, Bill, drummed for the Seventies rock heroes Yes and King Crimson. "I couldn't believe it when Alex told me he'd been to Phil Collins' wedding," says Gooderson.

The band took day-jobs monitoring radio stations for royalties. Job satisfaction was thin on the ground ("Having to listen to Virgin was the worst," shudders Gooderson) but aside from listening to hours of David Gray, they met a colleague called Richie Vermin. He turned out to be an aspiring label boss with some modest life savings to burn. Vermin proceeded to throw his cash at his first signings. "We spent something like £3,000 getting in fancy producers to record our tracks," laughs Watts, still reeling from the sheer decadence of it. Arriving hot on the heels of über-cool, electroclash imports like Fischerspooner, Infadels' surging, electro-barbed guitars couldn't have sounded more "now". And although the band had only played a few local, East End club nights, they'd already begun ruffling the feather boas of trend-setting Hoxton-ites eager for their own home-grown answer to New York's synth-laced invasion.

But the attention wasn't sitting well with the band. "We'd fallen into this high-end, pose-tastic, fashionista scene," explains Watts, "but we quickly realised we really didn't want to be playing to these kinds of audiences." "They were peacocks," says Gooderson. "The people coming to our shows were all about being seen. They didn't seem to be able to let loose and enjoy themselves. It just wasn't our kind of crowd at all."

To make matters worse, they had no money coming in. Vermin's cash had paid for snazzily recorded demos, but - new to the music business - neither he nor the band knew what to do next. "In the end, all we ever did with these demos was give them away at gigs. We never saw any money back. It was all going wrong. We felt like we'd got off on the wrong foot." Bitterly disappointed - and skint - the band called it a day.

"I'd pretty much given up the idea of being a musician," says Gooderson, fingering his trademark trilby under the table. Disheartened, he started training as a music teacher and took a job at an east London school teaching kids how to compose hip-hop. "I don't know how I ended up teaching that," laughs Gooderson. His lessons consisted of trying to get his class of grime-obsessed teens to open up musically. "I introduced them to Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley - anything for inspiration." He ended up re-inspiring himself.

Gooderson grew up in a musical family - his father was a blues guitarist - but it was his sister that alerted him to the power of music . "My sister was so severely disabled she couldn't recognise my voice," he says. "But she responded to music. So music became the most important thing to me. It was the only way we could communicate and ever since I could talk I was playing all sorts of instruments. Being good at music has been the biggest priority in my life. I never wanted to do anything else and I never have."

Reinvigorated, Gooderson decided to resurrect Infadels. The original trio recruited Bruford's old friend, Wag Marshall Page, on bass, poaching him from his job tuning guitars for Busted. They also invited their old label-boss Vermin to play keys - "It was the least we could do after spending all his money," grins Watts. "Besides, I always thought he was more of a performer anyway."

"We'd wasted so much time before trying to be this really professional outfit with properly recorded songs," says Gooderson, "I just wanted us to do something for ourselves." Infadels version 2.0 wrote one song, "Leave Your Body", a rock-dance stormer which they recorded in Gooderson's bedroom. Then, after saving up £150 each, they released it themselves. "We didn't really care too much anymore," says Gooderson. "We let our inadequacies fly ahead of us and we let it be raw. And for the first time it actually felt like we'd achieved something worthwhile. So we thought, let's just send it out to a few people and see what happens"

What happened was that one of the people they sent it to - John Peel - played the record on his Radio 1 show. Spurred on, the band started playing a few gigs and entered themselves for 2004's Diesel U Music awards for unsigned bands. They won the awards for Best Dance Band and Best Live Act. If that weren't enough, one of the judges, the Wall Of Sound boss Mark Jones, was so impressed that he immediately offered the band a deal. "That night was unbelievable," says Watts. "It was everything we'd ever dreamed of coming true at once."

Two years and a whole lot of gigs later, the band are looking to reap the rewards of the fiercely loyal live fanbase they've gathered by re-releasing We Are Not The Infadels, complete with bonus live DVD. Having already lent songs to a mobile phone advert and to the CSI: Miami soundtrack, it looks like the album's vibrant dance-punk sounds might finally get the attention they deserve.

Of course, having been through so much, the band know not to count their chickens. "It still feels like we're swimming through custard," says Gooderson. "It's just battle, battle, battle. But we've developed this mentality now where we just smash through any resistance and continue to do our own thing."

"We always believed if we made enough noise, someone would hear us," adds Watts, grinning. "And let's face it, we're a very loud band."

'We Are Not The Infadels' is re- released on 9 October on Wall of Sound. The band is touring until December (