The Invisible return to Liverpool after a year of heartbreak and near-death experience – our bond is tighter than ever, they tell Getintothis’ Sean Bradbury.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. If ever that cliche has been shown to ring resoundingly true, it is by The Invisible in 2012.
After the death of frontman Dave Okumu‘s mother, the making of the band’s second record took on a whole new meaning.
It is fair to say the process redefined the term ‘difficult second album.’
It became, in Okumu’s words, a ‘love letter to grief‘ – named Rispah in his late parent’s honour.
And then, with his letter composed and ready for release in June, Okumu suffered a horrific accident while on stage in Lagos, Nigeria in May.
As he traded guitars with bassist Tom Herbert between songs, he was electrocuted.
“It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, seeing one of your best friends helpless in front of you. I thought he was going to die,” Herbert recalls.
“He had the guitars in his hand and couldn’t let go of them, he was shaking and screaming. In that environment as well, in a concert, in a country so far from your own. It would be awful wherever it was, but it all conspires to feel very strange.”
Somehow Okumu pulled through, suffering only minor burns from the electrical current and a broken leg from the resultant fall.
“I’m very very grateful that it wasn’t worse,” says Herbert. “All the doctors in London have expressed complete surprise that he’s alive. Electricity and the human heart is not a good mixture.”
Herbert says getting through the two traumatic experiences as a group has strengthened the ties between all three members of The Invisible.
“The process of making our record brought us closer together. Going through that experience in Lagos and helping Dave with his recovery, it has made that bond even stronger and deeper.
“Even if it’s just us that feel it. We’re the sort of the band that the biggest leaps we take with our playing come through our friendship. The deeper that gets the better it gets.”
And it has got very, very good. Rispah is the sound of a soul laid bare; not just an album, but the story of a life.
It is surely as powerful a tribute to his mother as Okumu could have wished for. How did feel for Herbert to share in and help craft this expression of grief?
“It could have been such an awful thing. It is very personal to Dave, the whole experience – his mum dying and the aftermath of that,” he says. “The whole album is testament to that and our friendship. It could have all fallen apart a bit.
“When you go through something so personal sometimes it’s difficult for other people to experience that with you.
“Sometimes you can feel isolated and alienated. It really tested us as a band and as most importantly as friends. It felt like we grew closer together and there was an understanding there that didn’t need discussing that much. It all seemed to fall into place.
“It was a very emotional journey, especially because we’d already started that process and when Dave’s mum died it felt like everything changed. We had to be true to where he was at and open to following where the music was taking us.”
A significant proportion of the record were already in place before Rispah passed away, but much of the material had to be reassessed.
“It became really obvious which songs were the right ones and which ones need adapting. Probably about half of what ended up on the record but it was closer to about three-quarters of a finished record,” says Herbert.
“We had more tunes than we needed and we were trying to figure out which ones were going to make it and which ones weren’t. Even some of the frontrunners at that point didn’t feel right after Dave had been through the experience of his mum dying.”
“Some of the stuff that he’d written prior to that with a certain thing in mind took on a whole new meaning, revealed a deeper resonance and relevance to him after that. It was quite scary how some of them took on new meanings.
“It was amazing and sometimes frightening. It was one of those experiences where you just have to follow your instincts and let it flow.”
The Invisible head to Liverpool’s Studio 2 on Parr Street next weekend at the start of a UK tour, for what will be only the second gig they have played since the drama in Lagos.
How do Herbert and the band approach the challenge of matching the slick studio polish of the album sound in front of a live audience?
“We had the same thing with the first record. We like to use the studio as a tool, it’s not just the case of trying to represent the live band, he says.
“It’s really exciting and you get all these amazing sounds but then you think “my God, how are we going to play this?” Especially because there is only three of us. You’re forced to reinvent in and readdress everything.
“We’ve been working on a lot of this material from the new record, we’ve tried lots of different ways of approaching it and we’re finding the right way now; re-imagining and rearranging a lot of the music.
“It’s going to have quite a different sound from the record, which is kind of cool anyway. I hate going to see gigs where bands play everything exactly like it is in the record.”
For everyone present at Parr Street on Saturday, it will be sweet relief to hear them play at all.
Getintothis has a pair of passes to give away for The Invisible‘s show at Studio 2 on October 13.
To stand a chance of winning, just follow Getintothis on Twitter, and answer the following question and add #Invisible
Q) Which Beatles track did The Invisible cover as a download single in 2009?
a) Come Together
b) I Am the Walrus
c) The Ballad of John and Yoko
d) Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
Here’s the full event info.
Getintothis‘ Top 100 of 2009 including The Invisible’s debut.