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Barabbas And The Blue Cheese

Andy Loynes Talks Selling Out On Ads With A Man With A Spectacular Beard

Published on October 13th 2011.

Barabbas And The Blue Cheese

INTEGRITY is a blighter isn’t it? So easy to compromise for a wodge of filthy lucre. Of course for many of us the dilemma is purely theoretical, making it much easier to moralise. Fun even.

"It’s difficult for a seven piece to make ends meet. It’s paid off our considerable debts and the pressing of the next album.”

Not so for Louis Barabbas, shamanic showman and leader of the estimable Mancunian “dirt swing” collective, The Bedlam Six. You see Louis was asked to do an advert and, as we all know, artists with integrity not only don’t do adverts, they don’t do them with aplomb. They get very sniffy indeed, usually conveniently in front of a journalist’s Dictaphone.

Louis said “yes,” just like the TSB used to. So for what did he sell his soul? Cluster bombs? Cheryl & Ashley’s Good Marriage Guide? Channel 5? Nope. Stick on the old tellybox and a distinctive blast of Louis and the Bedlamers might well greet you, alongside an animation which may prove eerily familiar to lovers of the band’s brilliant Tell-Tale Hound video. The soul stealing product? Cheese. Blacksticks, made by Lancashire’s Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses. Blue cheese, which is something worth getting sniffy about.

But hey, it seems like only last year you were warning fellow musicians at Salford’s Un-Convention to beware the advertisers’ buck. Now you’re selling cheese Louis. Have you gone, er, crackers?

“At Un-Convention I'd advised caution since, although the pay can be amazing, no amount of money is worth it if in ten years time you're known as ‘that band from the Pampers advert,’” says Barabbas. “Then when I got home I checked my emails and found one asking how I'd feel if one of my songs was used to advertise cheese.

“The agency had heard us somewhere and wanted to base the ad's concept on the story of the Tell-Tale Hound, with the titular dog panting excitedly over some cheese.”

So far so odd. But wouldn’t it be, you know, selling out? Louis is pretty dismissive, saying the concept is past its sell-by date. He surely has a point? In an age when kids demand free music, isn’t the cheese ad just another way of putting bread on the table? “Absolutely. It’s difficult for a seven piece to make ends meet. It’s paid off our considerable debts and the pressing of the next album.”

Nonetheless he was keen to protect the band, himself – insisting on retention of vital performance royalties – and their fans. “I decided I had no problem with the company, I was already buying their cheese.  But the one question I had to ask was ‘Will doing this advert compromise the integrity of the song in question?’ I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of the song being chopped in any way, even though it’s not a particular favourite. I saw it as a B-side or some padding but it exploded into a fan favourite. The response I get from Tell-Tale Hound is the thing I love. So I had a big problem with tying it in with a product - almost like it wasn't mine to sell.” A suitably cheesy line, but, he insists, true.

So rather than give up the song Louis wrote a tune with a similar rhythm and atmosphere, sanctioned reference to the video’s visual concept but drew the line at panting canines. The result is a gloriously quirky piece of work very much bearing a Made In Manchester stamp given it again let loose off the creative leash city-based Sam Alder from Edit 19 (and Scenewipe) and Plastic Zoo’s Scott Lockhart.

So what now? “Maybe we should do crackers and chutney next, just for symmetry’s sake,” jokes Barrabas. But advertising is off the agenda as the band return to the day job, preparing a pre-Christmas single and the February release of the album Butler’s paid to press. Blessed indeed are those cheesemakers.

* http://www.bedlamsix.com

* http://www.butlerscheeses.co.uk


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