Eclectic, post-blues-punk-poetry duo, Stage Door Guy, release their second album WROCLAW (pronounced Vrots-waff), produced by Jono Podmore (Jaki Liebzeit, Irmin Schmidt, Kumo, Metamono), out on October 30th, 2020. Legend has it that Mancunian actor, writer and performer, Adam Brody met guitarist CJ Williams in New Orleans, and by Fat Tuesday they were playing their first ever gig together.
Their second album is certainly peppered and laced with American riffs and references – Jr Kimbrough’s North Mississippi trance blues underpins Song For Alex. Amazing Grace – normally a hymn of redemption – disintegrates into US police sirens and chants of ”Trump, Trump, Trump” as the nation burns. While the jittering, joyful rockabilly guitar of Cartoon Man plays against the self-lacerating lyrics.
But the album is also a distinctly English affair, and more specifically a north-western English affair – John Cooper Clarke is a presiding spirit, Lemn Sissay a guiding light and Mark E Smith a skulking presence. The Smiths, Joy Division and Dead Or Alive’s ‘Spin Me Round’ all get namechecks and soundchecks. While both producers, Jono Podmore, who handles ten tracks, and Colin Thorpe, two, are doyens of the Mersey-Manchester axis.
Brody found his way to Stage Door Guy via the world of spoken word. Part of the Contact Young Actors’ Company in Manchester, he was initially inspired to write and then to perform by his hero Lemn Sissay. Adam started out at the city’s famous ‘Speakeasy’ nights at The Green Room. He moved to London and Stage Door Guy was formed after he had spent too many years working in a coffin-shaped stage door kiosk at a theatre in London’s West End.
Brody hosted an underground Arts Venue called SELAR, nodding to those Speakeasy nights, where he met legendary producer and sonic alchemist Jono Podmore – who also plays theremin on Wroclaw. Adam honed his skills at The Two Brewers where the Nathan Osgood Trio encouraged his contributions, and where he met harmonica wizard, Joff Watkins of Jimmy Regal & The Royals. Joff also plays on Wroclaw, which was recorded in true DIY punk style at The Crooked Billet in Penge in a former stable. CJ Williams jetted in from New Orleans for the sessions. Or from just around the corner. Whichever you choose to believe. The album title adds a further dimension to this punchy, multi-layered, multi-genre work.
Several tracks document an ill-fated car journey one Christmas from London to Wrocław. Brody elucidates – “A fucked-up car, a fucked-up relationship and a fucked-up me.
Christmas in Wrocław spent with a person who is tearing you apart. It’s a beautiful bohemian Polish city seen through the lens of insomnia and a heart full of disappointment. While Car Crash Blonde describes the road trip that lead to a mental breakdown or a mental breakdown that lead to a road trip…”
In 2019 Stage Door Guy returned to Wroclaw and played a triumphant gig in a disused tram station.
The album begins with Stop Your Whining – “A song to tell Stage Door Guy and their generation to stop wallowing in their own self-pitying melancholy. Stage Door Guy do not always listen to their own advice.”
It travels through tragedy, depression, and star-crossed love – sometimes by bicycle, or not, as Guy That Stole My Bike witnesses (it’s a hilarious diatribe worthy of Half Man Half Biscuit). The album is brimming with the blues, but it’s regularly shot through with dour, existential humour and punk defiance, and buoyed by musical and performative energy and invention. It closes with Standstill, the soothing voice of pop singer Starling, and a sense of acceptance.
As Brody says – “When all’s said and done, be brave and face the music. It’s chaos out there embrace it.”