by Liz Shadbolt
The Fantastic A+E Line hail from the South Coast and are a chaotic collective of just two people, accompanied by the computerised backing of a thousand tracks. Guitarist and synthmaster Thomas Wykes creates most of the backing in his bedroom, but the vocal focus and comedic take on the stupidity of life (i.e. ‘Doggy Heaven’ and ‘The Christopher Walken Song’) come directly from the brain of singer Steven Lake. Both Steve and Thom attend local universities and therefore drum up a lot of support from the student crowd. They also often perform, both acoustically and with a mini disk player, for ‘Solid Air’ - a weekly musical adventure held locally. Both their musical styles contrast greatly, one placing more relevance on the lyrics while the electric entices an audience to dance frantically, competing with the spidery elegance of the singer himself. The website has both musical downloads and is also home to many of Steve’s short films. These often star himself or his close friends, in the guise of schizophrenics, muggers and hopeless romantics.
This obscure and humorous theme is continued throughout the website, which tells you very little about the members, leaving you to listen to the music and create your own opinion. However, they do have an impressive gig record for a band that only formed in March 2005 and have already built up a loyal fanbase and a back catalogue.
A+E have a style that presents a stark contrast to the jangly guitar, emo-rock outfits of the moment and is strengthened still by the two unique vocal styles. Steven’s voice is reminiscent of the primal yells of Mick Jagger, each lyric sung with a passionate desperation. Thom’s downbeat falsetto keeps them grounded, whilst never eclipsing the band’s ‘boring crisps’ ethos: "we sing about life, we sing about choices in life, like choosing a packet of crisps… we don’t sing about choices in life, like if it is morally right to legalise capital punishment in the state of doo doo land…” Steve and Thom gig frequently in the Dorset and Hampshire area and are definitely worth hearing. Whether you love the comedy, the music or both, feel free to throw away all your old pretensions for as Steve himself says, “we are bound only by heavy things”.