“Kaydee”, applauded my friend Lionel on our way home after a chaotic club crawl around London. We’d been ‘raving’, apparently. “You can really rock out!”
Pleased with myself for managing to impress Lionel – an American cool cat who makes dimples look compulsory and, I imagine, entered my friendship group through a broken window – I used this moment of flattery to shrug off a couple of stories about my days as a fledgling singer.
“Of course, this was all before I studied Journalism” I said anciently.
But it was too late, by the time we said goodbye, Lionel had convinced himself that I was the next Lady Gaga.
A couple of weeks later I received a text message from Lionel. ‘Heeey giiiiiirl’, it read. ‘so my friends are in a band called the Crystal Fighters’…
What was this, another one of Lionel’s send-to-many invites to a car park with perspiring walls and wobbly portaloos?
… ‘they’ve lost their female singer so I gave ‘em your number. They’re gonna give y’all a call. Sw’t’.
Lost their singer?
I googled The Crystal Fighters immediately to check if they were the same Crystal Fighters I had seen at a music night a year ago. For the record, I don’t go to many music nights. In fact, I don’t know what music nights are and suspect there’s a much better name for them than ‘music nights’.
But I did recall that on this particular occasion, The Crystal Fighters were the only band capable of getting the stressful jubilee line crowd going. They played their instruments like they were in pain and sang as if what they were saying would change our lives forever.
Google informed me that they were on the brink of releasing their debut album – Star Of Love. Marvellous, I thought. Just in time.
A gentleman named Graham – who turned out to be the hairiest man I’ve ever met – was the one who got in touch. He invited me to audition at their ‘place’, a warehouse flat in Hackney Wick where I envisaged ‘rocking out’ on a rooftop, eyeing up the Gherkin with music video wind in my hair. He asked for my email address to which he sent a couple of tracks from their upcoming album.
‘At Home’ was particularly enjoyable – a hybrid of Jonie Mitchell, Led Zepellin and Fleetwood Mac. A power group, you could say. The other track ‘With you’ was quite different; robotic, descending into full blown drum n’ bass. Playing, pausing and rewinding this rowdy track with such intensity at my kitchen table in the middle of the day – I’m sure I looked insane.
As I walked to my audition, serious thoughts crossed my mind. Am I cool enough to be in a band that plays real gigs, has an album and a fan-base on facebook? I already had a big music project lined up with my buddies; a wedding, in Bury, April 2011. What would I tell them if I got into the The Crystal Fighters?
The smell of cigarettes and stale booze flew up my nostrils as the door opened, and the first thing I wanted to ask these tattooed men was where their bedrooms were. Highly inappropriate not to mention irrelevant. But really, where were their rooms, their wardrobes and how did they know where the sofa still was with all the…stuff…everywhere? This wasn’t a warehouse flat. This was a warehouse.
I refrained from asking anything of the sort and was duly introduced to the other two – Sebastian and Gilbert. Together the long haired men briefed me on why they needed a female vocalist and in a quiz master’s tone, Gilbert, plucking a background ditty, asked me if I thought I could handle going on tour with them. I swung my legs over the arm of the chair I was sat on and smiled a showbiz smile – “yeeeah”.
“Then let’s audition!” he said, and I swung my legs back round, stood up and followed them like a sheep in rock star’s clothing into a room small enough to be a cot.
The songs I’d been listening to on my laptop were being played live and there was nothing left to do but start singing. I’d grown fond of both the songs I’d been sent and wanted to press a pause button so I could savor this moment properly. Would I ever get to sing again with a band possessing such raw musical talent?
“You’ve got a beautiful voice”, said Graham, finally, having made four previous attempts at the compliment but having been interrupted by Gilbert’s drumming.
We jammed for a whole hour.
Nose to nose, Sebastian and I teamed up for the ‘no-no-no-no’s and gave each other a congratulatory wink on getting the timing right for the ‘yeh-yeh-yeh-yeh’s. I left The Crystal Fighter’s warehouse having refused a post-jam smoke, keen to get back to the leg of lamb my boyfriend was preparing at home.
On the way back, more serious thoughts entered my mind. How am I going to tell Ben that I’m going on tour with three sexy men? Would I rather be ‘At Home’ ‘With You’ than catching colds on tour buses? As I drifted off to sleep that night, I thought of the supportive words my mother had said on the phone.
‘‘You’re a shmuck for even auditioning”.
Time went on and I heard nothing. I moved in properly with my boyfriend, and my father began handing me leaflets on owning a mortgage. I was growing up, it seems, and the Crystals weren’t getting in touch.
When the Crystal Fighters finally did get back in touch, the news wasn’t good. Or maybe it was good, depending on which way you look at it. Either way, I wasn’t to be in the band, I wasn’t going to Bestival and I wasn’t going on a European tour.
“You’re just not suitable” read the text. “… but, hey, let’s hang out soon!” were Graham’s parting words as he pressed ‘delete contact Kaydee Burnetts’.
In the words of my parents; you win some, you lose some. I remember sitting at the dinner table as a little girl listening to my father’s tales of the sixties. He was friends with T-Rex, then arch enemies with T-Rex, he was chased down Knightsbridge for looking like Ringo Starr, remembered seeing a band called The Beatles play at the Pigalle in London and thinking ‘wow’.
I hoped I’d have at least one anecdote like that to tell my kids, and now I think I do.
For if I’ve inherited a fraction of my father’s prophetic sense of which bands will see success, I’ll throw my pride out the window and predict that The Crystal Fighters are going to be extremely popular.
The next Beatles? No. They’re just not suitable.
Star Of Love is out October 4 .. [without me]