As of old, the liquor flows and the young professionals sprawl and swarm across the ground floor bar. A poodle tethered to a table leg shoots me a long enquiring look as if to ask “Here we are, again?”
We’re here alright. The city’s heart has begun to beat once more and the cavern beneath The Slaughtered Lamb (the irony not lost on this punter) in Farringdon provides an intimate enough space for Alex Lipinski’s return to London, the ancient citadel upon whose cultural arteries still tightens the hand of history. An inverted neon pentangle hangs behind the small stage, transforming it into a lurid Luciferian altar. And off in a corner of the room, surrounded by guitar cases and amps, I stand with tonight’s headline act behind a heavy door.
“To be honest, the past 12 months have been healthy for me,” says Lipinski. He strokes his chin and the light from the naked 60-watt bulb makes hollows of his eyes. “I haven’t been playing, but this allowed me to write the new record at home in Weston [super-Mare]. So from a selfish point of view it’s been a very productive period.”
He seems changed. The denim jacket is still in evidence but a gold wedding band adorns his left hand. The squall of youth has passed and skies stretch bluer for a man more settled inside, and all the better for it. “It’s been productive for me, this past year, but this wasn’t the case for other musician friends of mine who had no motivation to stay busy. I was lucky, I guess.”
Born lucky, perhaps. His new label boss, Iain Robertson (who resembles a young Steven Berkoff) of Mi Casa Music, joins us and chips in when I ask how Lipinski sees the next year panning out for the industry: “What should have happened and still won’t,” he says, “is that the major artists – every swinging dick, who don’t need the wedge or the adulation, who are going out now to play in 2022 – should have said we’ve got more money than we need, and then stepped aside to hand over the opportunities to the emerging artists. Because the emerging artists were the ones hammered and hit the hardest over the past year. But they won’t step aside and so grass roots venues – because of this trickle-down effect – are being affected. The emerging artists are the ones who need the opportunities, not from a validation point of view, but simply to be able to pay their rent.”
Lipinski nods. “This is why I’ve tried to create my own little bubble to stop myself from thinking too much about what’s been going on. It can wind you up if you think about it all the time.” So what’s the short-term solution? “Well, we’ve decided to start our own festival.”
The Lost Causes Festival – with Lipinski headlining – has been curated and is ready to be unleashed next February at Croft Farm Water Park in Tewkesbury. “Now’s the time to create our own thing, to make others come onboard. Lost Causes is an all-day Americana and indie-centric event that we’re putting on with the launch of my new album, For Everything Under the Sun, which is released the day before. We’ve got John Power [The La’s, Cast] to play and a few others from the Americana-UK scene. And then it’s building from there onwards by trying to get dates in the diary for the UK and Europe. I really believe that the strength of the songs on this album are worthy of a wider tour.”
With the album (his third) already receiving some healthy airplay, Lipinski the optimist exudes a trademark positivity. “There are songs on the new record, in particular Blinded By the Sun and The Great Deprived, that do reflect what has been happening, that have the same underlying themes. It’s a full work, for sure, of light and shade.”
Highly regarded and backed by the likes of Anton Newcombe, Evan Dando and Liam Gallagher, Lipinski’s quest for wider recognition continues unabated. But has he ever thought of giving it all up for a life less beset by the whims of history? “This is what I do. From when I was young, music has been embedded in me, from the love of it. It’s not a conscious thing. I just do it, regardless. The landscape has changed so I have to do the things that work for me now. Fads are not relevant. The goal is to be more well known, of course, but that’s only because I want these songs to be heard and, I think, for the right reasons. My benchmarks are still high and the first consideration is always to write a good song. Playing live, like tonight, is me playing to my strength. I just hope that people will now take the live music industry in this country less for granted and make the most of it.”
A burst of laughter is heard on the other side of the door, yet another welcome sign of humanity reasserting itself through the tradition of musical communion, everyone now content to emerge from the artificially-induced cultural coma. They’ve gone for too long without the needful. And once, not so long ago, they thought the party was well and truly over, but tonight it begins again. Lipinski checks his watch. Perhaps now his time has arrived. Despite knowing that outside the world has changed.
For Everything Under the Sun will be released on Mi Casa Music on 25 February 2022.
See here for more information.