Interview: Longy

  • Words: Charlie Wood

As we reach further into what Marty McFly would only half-recognise as the future the increasing disparities within the music industry construct draw wide ranging reactions and criticisms. While much of the creative lifeblood flows beneath the feet of major labels and instead drives forward the swell of Internet-enabled independents, there’re arguments to be put against the habitual androgenisation of attitudes and ideas. This is where the anonymous, Essex-born guitarist and songwriter ‘Longy’ enters from the peripheral. His run of self-released material and history of busking on the streets of Greater London has positioned him as a potential front-runner for the title of people’s champion.

The singer-songwriter nametag hangs crooked from Longy and his past struggles bear a striking resemblance to those felt by a large portion of the working classes; “I’ve worked in too many factories, on too many building sites earning money that don’t even cover the rent, let alone a life, and we’re meant to carry on like everything’s ok”? Longy continues, saying “the system’s not made for people to flourish unless you’re from a certain background, and I know I’m not the only one that feels that way. We’re getting shafted. That’s what I’m conveying”. It seems like this disenfranchised prospective was once something which could be dismissed and localised to the “snotty-nosed students on campus” or “dirty hippies on the allotments”. But with the, albeit anti-climactic, scenes from the international Occupy movement inspiring this new generation of resentment from the online community, it’s quickly become a subject of mass acceptance.

Though his exponential rise has been more recent, Longy has been playing music since he was a child; “I was 8 when I got my first guitar and it was obvious to me that one went with the other, I was writing songs instantly. Little Richard and Buddy Holly excited me and I just remember doing my ma and pa’s heads in by playing the electric guitar stupidly loud till the neighbours complained”. The two EPs which Longy has already released feature the kind of dexterous, evocative song-writing talents which can only be worked on over a period of years – often squeezing every ounce of expression from an acoustic guitar.

It’s important to point out that Longy has remained largely anonymous and has drawn considerable attention harnessing the power of social media via the online #whoislongy campaign. The man himself explains some of the methodology behind the decision to remain in the shadows; “My songs were born in the street, busking and playing on Blackfriars Bridge night after night with my boy The Feralchild (Trumpet player and long standing member of the live band). Busking can make you feel invisible, like you don’t exist, and I wanted that to come across. I dare any artist, absolutely anyone, to go out and play on the street and see how long you can stomach it for. It’s an extension of what I write about, it’s not like I turn up to my gigs wearing a mask and pretending I’m Batman”.

Longy’s ballsy mentality has spawned a number of high profile publicity stunts, with the most notable leading to nationwide speculation over reports of him filling the headline slot at the 2014 Glastonbury Festival; “A late night conversation that turned into media frenzy by dawn. I have no budget, which forces you to think outside the box and I just thought it would be interesting to see if anyone would actually buy the idea of an unknown busker headlining the most famous music festival in the world. We came up with a story; lo and behold the media took it and ran with it”.

So can we expect any more guerrilla publicity stunts or unorthodox approaches to grabbing the British public’s attention? Longy seems to think that getting his hands dirty is the best way to stand out from the background noise; “I wouldn’t call them publicity stunts, that phrase has quite negative undertones. They were born out of necessity. Hardly any bloggers or journalists will open unsolicited emails so you have to find a press agent, convince them to work with you and then pay them a sickening monthly fee to send your music out for you. They call that a campaign. We do everything ourselves and we love everything we do. And it’s important to remind people that you have a sense of humour”.

Making a difference with only a voice and a guitar is harder than it’s ever been. Masses of financial support and alternative agendas hide behind the scenes of successful musicians and ultimately negatively influence and subdue any real individuality. From what Longy has already achieved it’s possible to plot the potential trajectory his message will follow and indicates how he intends to lend a hand in changing the corrupted larger picture. You could label it naïve, but listen to one of his songs and just try to ignore that fire in your gut.

Longy will be performing two secret East London shows (19th march and 24th April), you can find out more at whoislongy.com.