Our Lost Infantry had followed up the release of ‘The Arsonist’ with ‘Parkin’ – a song named after the drummer – and 2011 saw them continue to self-release a succession of incredibly well-received singles. ‘I Love You, Sandra Billson (The Last Dance)’, named after a spam account who had contacted Parkin on Facebook, had a video produced by fellow local J Productions Ltd and was released in May to much acclaim – quickly becoming both a live and recorded favourite – the ballroom-dancing stars of the video even came to a gig. OLI also had the chance to play our friends at Fools Paradise’s opening night alongside Stagecoach and Katie Malco.
I’m not sure I’ve never been so excited to open an email as I was when I saw the invite for Our Lost Infantry to play on the BBC Introducing Stage at 2011’s T in the Park. One of the few non-Scottish bands on the stage’s line-up, we headed up to Scotland on a nightmare journey full of traffic, motorway picnics and a bad night’s sleep for everyone involved when we were not let in the campsite at arrival, but this all soon gave way to a sense of achievement (and, in me and Barney from the Westy’s case, immense pride at our friends doing so well) after a day’s flyering on the Saturday. Armed with even more flyers, free CDs and T-shirts, OLI played early on the Sunday and pulled an impressive, impassioned crowd. When they told the crowd I had all the free merch, I had a brief glimpse into how it must feel when a singer walks into the audience at a festival – or how Robert Muldoon felt when he noticed the ‘clever girl’ nearby – as I was surrounded in record time as people desperately trying to nab whatever they could lay their hands on…
Following T – a performance that couldn’t really be beaten – the band spent the rest of the year working hard on new material to hopefully make up an album. As the sound of the album grew, OLI realised they wanted to be moving away from the poppier sound that they’d captured on the likes of ‘My God, It’s Full of Stars’ and ‘Pedestals’ and move towards something altogether more complex. There were even whispers of a mini rock-opera… A show at the Star in Guildford was arranged to say goodbye to the old songs and at this gig the band were joined by Jumping Ships, Cats and Cats and Cats and Matt Emery.
The longest Our Lost Infantry had ever gone without playing, they wouldn’t re-emerge in the live scene until May this year in Kingston. It was the right decision for the band to spend all their time and effort making what was to become ‘The New Art History’ sound as good as it possibly could and it was here where they not only unveiled the non-stop nature of the album for the first time but also Joe Ashworth’s as bass player. No dramatic fall-outs happened, Tom just felt the time was right to move on and let the band concentrate on this all-encompassing record. The second time that the album was played live was in a headline slot at the Summer Westival in Aldershot. With plenty of advance notice that the old songs had been played for the last time, the band received rapturous applause and people began to take note something special could be happening with this debut long player.
Another show with Fools Paradise followed, this time playing with Wot Gorilla?, before a long-awaited return to New Slang where OLI got to play with band favourites TTNG. Having sent demos over to legendary US label Deep Elm, the band were delighted to have the chance to release ‘The New Art History’ with them and managed to fit in a show with new label-mates Moonlit Sailor before the year’s end, as well as a launch gig – complete with punk-rock ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ – at the Westy in December.
What does a band do after such an all-encompassing album as ‘The New Art History’? In Our Lost Infantry’s case, it was release a video for fan favourite ‘All the Streetlights of My Hometown’ and take a well-deserved break before playing a few shows for friends we knew we could trust to put on good gigs. A show at Dengfest in August would prove to be one of Parkin’s last in Our Lost Infantry as he realised he couldn’t juggle playing shows with both OLI and Olympians, while also working on his degree and trying to make a name for himself as an illustrator. The band played for Rose Coloured at the Star in October before taking another break as they begun to work on ‘Interregnum’.
It was at this point, with the label and others covering press and the band playing fewer shows, that I also naturally took a step back. To be honest, the band had so much talent and commitment that they could have done everything (and more) without me being involved at all. I was just delighted to have been invited along to join the ride.
Another quiet year for Our Lost Infantry as they made an increasingly rare live appearance to support Parachute For Gordo at their album launch gig at the Westy and then played for their new management team Brain Wave at Brixton Windmill on Easter Sunday. With new members Mark Rochman (shortly replaced by Josh See after he embarked on a travelling adventure) and Stu Smith settling in well, the band were now back as a five-piece, which really beefed up their sound for new songs being aired like ‘New World Time’. OLI also played a show for GU1 Punx in the Keystone in Guildford and recorded a beautiful acoustic version of ‘The Dry Salvages’ for Death of the Blogger.
OLI started the year with a support slot to Glastonbury Pyramid Stage favourites Songhoy Blues at the Westy and again took to playing fewer shows as they really got to grips with making sure this was the year that ‘Interregnum’ was finally released. ‘The Dry Salvages’ appeared on Till Deaf Do Us Party Records’ ‘A Compilation in Aid of C.A.L.M’ (one we’d highly recommend donating to and downloading as it’s such a strong album for a fully deserving cause) and the band also played a long-overdue London show with Bowhunter and Quiet Lions.
As ‘Interregnum’ approached completion, the mutual decision was made to call it a day while they still had strong friendships, integrity and a brilliant back catalogue to leave behind. Of course, given how much importance the Westy has had in the band’s achievements and the amount of support the staff (especially Barney) have given them, there really was no other choice for the final stand.
OLI have hand-picked a terrific line-up that it would be a shame for anyone to miss out on – and there are also many surprises in store that will delight fans old and new. Please make sure you attend and send them off in style.
A short personal note
I’d like to thank all the band members over the years for letting me have a small part in the band that was Our Lost Infantry. You were a band free from falseness who truly believed in the music you were creating and played every show as if it was your last, there will be a hole left behind that will take a long time to replace. Bowing out at the right time is to be admired, but you’ll be missed so much by so many people.
Our Lost Infantry, thank you. x