For a band with a name as macabre as The Limbs, frontman James Redman does not himself sport any limb peculiarities, nor is he a collector of limbs, human or otherwise, in his spare time. While perhaps not much of a stretch from these unconventional pastimes, he is essentially grunge per-sonified. Clothed in an ageing Mossimo shirt and blue Wrangler cap with slick, shoulder-length hair and bedraggled beard, the only luxury he sports is a watch. Of course, Redman is not aiming to become some kind of fashionista. This is a man who lives and breathes music, a man who has the utmost confidence in his decision to bet everything on his music career.
In its two years of existence the band has gone through four bassists. The road to refining it into a well-oiled machine has been a case of building Frankenstein’s monster. The band only finalised its lineup last year after releasing its debut, self-titled EP. While the release sold out at its launch, Redman was unsatisfied with the finished product. “We were in a good place when we were recording it, but we weren’t really friends. We’ve had four bass players, and there was no real chemistry with the one that was there (during production), and I think that was reflected in the recordings.” The 25-year old vocalist and guitarist formed the current lineup with the unlikely duo of a pub regular (26 year-old Michael Hay, bassist) and childcare worker (24 year-old Toby Bartle, drummer).
Redman speaks with admiration about how the search for a new bassist turned up unexpected results. “I didn’t even know what (songs) he could play, but I knew he was a really boisterous, funny, personable guy so I kind of threw out the idea that maybe we should have a jam together,” he says, eyes shining. “He had learnt all the songs off our EP by heart, so we were really excited.” Their musical style is best described as grunge pop, however the lads are looking to expand their musical horizons to incorporate all manner of styles, taking inspiration from Blur and The Beach Boys all the way to Velvet Underground and The Pixies. Redman believes one of the most important aspects of jamming is to never force production. “What you want to do is incorporate lots of different atmosphere, moods and vibes into a three-piece rock band,” he says. “You just want to make it feel natural and seamless, I think that’s the most important part. If anything feels forced, it’s not fun for you and it’s not fun for them.”
Redman’s upbringing was not one of musical genes. His father was tone-deaf and his mother could play one song on piano. His sisters were also not “gifted” (“That’s a horrible thing to say”, Redman says with joyous alarm, backtracking to “creatively inclined”). Redman was going down a similar path, until he was hit with a blessing in disguise. “I used to be a skateboarder, but then my skateboard got stolen and my friend started getting me into guitar,” he says. “I learned very quickly, and I got a guitar that Christmas and was so obsessed. I just found this thing I could do a little better than the other things.” Contrary to his keen interest in music, Redman dropped out of an Advanced Diploma of Music Production degree at WAAPA after two years. “I enrolled just trying to appease the parents because I wasn’t doing much and I just thought it’d make them happy,” says Redman.
Lyrically speaking, Redman takes his songwriting inspiration from the world around him, giving his songs a relatable flair. “Once I bring (songs) to the band I get their feedback we start bouncing ideas off, and that’s when it becomes a collaborative process which is really the most enjoyable thing,” he says. “It starts to become something you never thought it could have been. Sometimes it’s worse, but usually – hopefully – it’s better.” “It’s a very enjoyable process, the morale at the moment with the band is really high.”
As the main songwriter, when Redman sings “It took me years to get this far, it took me years to fall apart/put it all back together” on recently released track Flatline, the raw emotion in his voice is palpable. The song highlights the tremendous growth the band has undergone since its humble beginning as a grunge-pop outfit, now sporting a smooth and stylish indie-rock sound. Believing the debut EP to be “dull”, Redman is immensely positive about the upcoming release, and not just because he mixed it himself. “This one is a lot more fancy, a lot more overdubs, a lot more harmonies, it’s much more sparkly, melodically rich, dense music, whereas the last one was a little blunt,” he says. “It took about five months to relearn how to (mix) it…Once it started to come together it was just so much fun, I was having the best time.”
The band’s current plans are to focus on the production and release of the EP, before doing a re-gional tour, if time and money permits. You might think it hard for a man who’s been through eight bands in ten years to find the will to keep trying, but Redman believes making music is something you do not for commercial success, but for yourself. “I just like writing songs and I really like playing live, so if I can get the opportunity to do that, that will keep me going,” he says. “I’ve shifted a lot of things around in my life just so I can do this. “I’ve never really had a backup plan in terms of playing music, I just really wanted to put all my energy into it.” Redman taps a drinks coaster on the table as he recounts the difficulty of balancing the band with other life commitments. “Whenever the band gets busier everything else is going to have to move off to the side and that includes work or social life or girlfriends or whatever,” he says with a note of resignation. “It’s quite stressful sometimes but I have my priorities and I know what I want to do. Not one to lose sight of the important things in life, he grins as he says “I still want to have a house to live in, that’s important.”
The Limbs’ second EP is set to be released on 2nd January. They are playing at the Wamfest closing party at the Newport Hotel on 8th November.