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'A Patchwork Style': An Interview With Trueman

Alex Thompson talks influences, gigging and songwriting with York based indie musician Trueman

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Image Credit: Darren Andrews Photography

Yorkshire based musician Sam Trueman has been making introspective, avant-garde indie music for the past few years under the moniker Trueman, writing and recording theatrical indie pop with a distinctly retro flavour. From writing and recording in his bedroom to becoming a regular at York based Young Thugs Studios and playing local festivals, Sam has retained his unique sound and style and his throwback approach to songwriting. In the lead up to the release of his latest single ‘Playstation Dreaming’, I caught up with Sam to discuss bands with personality, British seaside towns, Driffield humour and how internet pornography has changed pop music.

Growing up in a small town in East Yorkshire, how did you begin to get involved with music?
I started in musical theatre as a teenager before getting into guitar. I started in my house, in the middle of nowhere and worked for months before it all started to come together.
Around the time I left my last band and started this solo project I had to mature a lot. I was really isolated in this gap of not being old and not being young anymore and had nothing to do. I’d end up going to old seaside towns in my area that were a bit stuck in time, harking back to the 50s and 60s and I think that had a definite impact on my style.
What bands/artists do you feel influenced you the most in terms of your music?
I’ve always been drawn to the 90s alternative style because of bands with big personalities like Pulp, Suede and the Longpigs. It was a time where there was a great deal of artistic freedom but also a great deal of personality and originality, for some reason I’ve always gravitated towards bands like that. Otherwise it was artists from the 50s and 60s like Roy Orbison or The Marvelettes, that’s probably where my patchwork style comes from.
You mentioned your style as patchwork, how else would you describe it?
I don’t know, it’s a bit of a call back. I’m still coming up as an artist so it’s still changing but for the moment it’s a kind of patchwork of sounds from classic rock and roll and heavier stuff from the 90s. I think I want to make proper pop music which I feel like we’re lacking at the moment; I don’t think we have any real rock and roll outlet that supports pop music in 2019. But yeah, I’d say my style is really a mosaic of different things.
And was this style a conscious decision to stand out or a natural extension of your personality?
I think it’s semi-conscious really, not to beat around the point. My last band was very much an indie rock band which was good but didn’t really reflect our personalities and my personality is well.... a bit hodgepodge, a bit old in a lot of ways. It comes from a heritage, classic place. I’m into my old books and television and all that and I wanted my music, my lyrics especially, to reflect that style.
Speaking of lyrics, how do you approach writing your songs?
I tend not to write things that are too serious, things that are a bit tongue in cheek. A lot of the humour of my area is kind of dark, tongue in cheek metaphors that are a bit obscure, a lot of old sayings. A lot of my lyrics come from that tradition, that kind of colloquial phrasing.
Recently, I’ve started to focus more on narratives. My first release was a paint by numbers pop song in many ways but it’s unabashedly about internet pornography. With pop music it’s about giving the listener something that sounds familiar and it’s the job of the artist to get in their own agenda, something a bit weird or different. If the foundations of the pop music are love and relationships, in 2019 those ideas are very different to how they used to be. People would say to me at our shows that our sound was ‘like being in an open top Cadillac with a girl on the beach’ but when I think about women in cars I don’t tend to think of that anymore. I think of some dodgy, sordid internet videos that are probably more apparent in our current culture.
In your past few years of gigging and touring, what’s been your most memorable live experience?
In my previous band we’d done all the standard gigs my local area could offer which is very few unfortunately so I started gravitating towards putting on my own shows. For our first show (Trueman), we were sponsored alongside a menswear company in a seaside town, they had this warehouse where they had the shop and the store that was all closed down so I asked if I could put on a gig there. We themed the entire place out to be like an old house and it was amazing. I’m yet to have my big show where we completely pack it out so far but that was my best one yet.
What’s been the biggest milestone in your music career so far?
I think just generally I’ve been with surprised how quickly everything’s come together. I’ve only released two singles since August of last year and one of them has been selected for BBC Introducing. I didn’t expect the commitment that BBC Introducing has given us. Both singles have been played multiple times and the second was made track of the week as soon as it was released. Also getting Live At Leeds was a massive one.
As an up and coming indie artist how does it feel to be playing a festival like Live At Leeds?
It’s an amazing honour to be asked to play Live At Leeds so soon after coming onto the scene. Usually I’m lucky to have an incredible band behind me but Live At Leeds is my first major time on stage playing solo. I’m playing a low-key set, not quite acoustic but stripped down versions of my songs.
I’m excited for it, I’ve been playing solo shows around York recently and I’ve realised how much I missed playing solo. It’s a lot more intimate, you can take your time and improvise and it frees you up a lot.
And finally have you got any future plans or releases you’d like to let us know about?
We have a gig in York on the 17th of April at The Fulford Arms, we’re playing alongside a band called Vains from Hull and it’s my first major York show with a full band lineup which I’m looking forward to. I’m playing The Crescent soon after and Live At Leeds as well. My next single ‘Playstation Dreaming’ is coming out in a few weeks, I haven’t got an exact date but keep an eye out for that.

Trueman are playing the Fulford Arms in York on the 17th of April followed by dates at The Crescent York on the 9th of May, Café Totem Sheffield on the 7th of June and Live at Leeds on the 4th of May.

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