Talking Heads may have broken up over 25 years ago now, but for two November nights, a top tribute band will bring their jerky sound to Hackney’s own answer to Manhattan’s departed CGBG venue – Valette Street’s MOTH Club.
The name of this band is Speaking in Tongues – a moniker chosen for the New York art-poppers’ fifth album – and they’ve been Burning Down The House ever since 2005, when they formed out of Bristol’s rock and funk scenes.
Chris Apthomas, the group’s singer and David Byrne analogue, takes up the story:
“A couple of us, who were rabid Talking Heads fans, were inspired by a particular song that we wanted to play live – ‘The Great Curve’ from Remain In Light (one of the albums we’re recreating) – and that led to the idea for a tribute.”
Once they had that track’s synth-like guitar and car-chase percussion nailed down, the band (a seven-piece outfit with Myke Vince, Jon Friesner, Jonny Velon, Jodi Ahmed, Jason Newman and Marcel Osborne rounding out the line-up) turned their Heads to visuals.
“We’d seen Stop Making Sense,” says Apthomas, referring to the 1984 Talking Heads concert film by recently deceased Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme, “so we copied some of the moves, and often have live back projections as well.
“We do like to dress up for the occasion, but our first love is the music, it’s so much fun to play – very well put together and great for dancing!”
The performance of Talking Heads: 77 on 24 November will be their first time playing that suite in full, although they had already mastered breakthrough hit Psycho Killer. “That album is a very different style from the later ones,” Apthomas notes, “full of quirky pop songs that still sound fresh.”
Where …77 has the stripped-back danceability, Remain in Light – considered to be the Heads’ magnum opus – is an unbelievably tight, complex production. Speaking in Tongues use masses of effects pedals to replicate the more unusual, Brian Eno-produced cut’n’paste sounds found on tracks like ‘Once in a Lifetime’ and ‘Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)’.
Alas, despite being Europe’s only Talking Heads tribute band, encounters with any former members thin on the ground, although percussionist Vince did bump into David Byrne at the 2009 Big Chill festival, and got a pic for proof:
Byrne’s are a difficult set of pipes to replicate – Apthomas admits that vocally “we do make some strange noises at times” – but they form a fantastic facsimile of a band at its peak, and come 24 November, there’ll be plenty of people who may find themselves seeing double and singing along.
Speaking in Tongues will perform Talking Heads: 77 on 24 November, and Remain in Light on 25 November. Both gigs are at MOTH Club (Old Trades Hall, Valette St, E9 6NU) Tickets: £15, doors: 8pm
Promoters Eat Your Own Ears have put together a preview video, which you can watch here/ 9 November, 2017