Enjoy a real Christmas cracker and a trip back to 1992 with Portsmouth's The Stayawakes

Slade, Wizzard, Mariah Carey, Wham… all creators of Christmas classics you’re guaranteed to be hearing every year.

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 11:38 am
The Stayawakes have released a Christmas single, Let's Stay Awake This Christmas Eve. Picture by Joe Watson

And if there’s any justice in the world you can add Portsmouth’s pre-eminent purveyors of power-pop, The Stayawakes to that list.

The four-piece have just released a surprise Christmas single, Let’s Stayawake This Christmas Eve, complete with a brilliant video claiming to be shot on a Panasonic NV-VX55A VHS camcorder in Christmas 1992.

The Guide caught up with three-quarters of the band over Zoom to find out more.

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Drummer Steven Hart says: ‘For years now we've said we should try and write some sort of Christmas hit, and this year we thought it was time to have a crack.

‘Jimmy locked himself away for a week and wrote the chorus, and it went from there.’

Bassist and vocalist Jimmy Cooper adds: ‘The hardest part is coming up with something that you're sure is actually Christmassy and just doesn't sound like a regular song: “Is this actually Christmassy, I don't know?” I think we got there in the end!’

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With a song full of ’90s references, the video is full of appropriate period props. But as the guys joke, this isn’t nostalgia for them – this is a trip into the band’s collective psyche.

‘It's not really memory lane for us,’ laughs Jimmy.

‘We're still living it,’ chips in guitarist and vocalist Andrew Ricks.

‘It's all we ever talk about – it's just a glimpse into our lives, basically.’

‘We kind of are stuck in the ’90s,’ says Steven without a hint of remorse.

‘We've got a friend who basically still lives in the past so he could kindly loan us the stuff,’ explains Steven. ‘We only shot it a week ago – it's been a very quick turnaround.’

Andrew says: ‘We shot it at PJ – our guitarist's house. We all kind of crashed round his house and did it. His wife put their Christmas tree up in mid-November so since then we were like: “Right, we're coming round to yours to shoot this!” Doing videos with these guys I have the most fun.’

The single is only intended as a stop-gap though – the band are due to release their second album, Pop Dreamz, on January 29.

‘This was a bit of a laugh,’ explains Jimmy, ‘something we decided to do, we wrote it, recorded it really quickly and thought we'd just get it out.

‘We shot the video ourselves, so PJ did the majority of the editing, and Steve did a bit of post-production on it.

‘The turnaround was only a couple of weeks, which is unheard of for us, because usually we're agonising over every detail. It was meant to just be a bit of fun, but it's got a bit bigger than we imagined!’

In that alternate universe where the pandemic never happened, the album would already be out – the band actually finished recording it at the start of the year.

‘We've had it in the can since February, then it was a case of getting it mixed, which they could do remotely,’ says Jimmy. ‘Luckily we had it all pretty much done before we had to do what needed to be done for lockdown.

Andrew: ‘The label wanted it out in the summer but we didn't feel prepared, we didn't feel like we had planned enough for its release, so we held it back until there's at least the potential of doing a gig.

‘We're aiming to do a release show for mid-March. It will happen somewhere, at some point. We just want somewhere where we can enjoy it and people can be safe.’

And of course, like many performers, they’re missing being able to play live. Their last show was at The Loft in Southsea in February.

Steven recalls: ‘At the time we were completely oblivious, we thought, right, the album's coming out in the summer, so we'll be touring that, and then all of a sudden it's just gone…

‘And you’re left going: “Ah, right, okay”.’

The closest they’ve come since was from Casemates Rehearsal Studios in Hilsea, which has been putting on a series of livestreams of local acts.

‘We labelled that our 2020 world tour,’ Steven says with a wry smile, ‘all in front of an audience of a sound guy and two cameramen. That’s actually not a bad audience for us!’

But being unable to gig has made them look in other directions to channel their energy.

‘It's given us a good excuse to think of other things and ways to keep ourselves busy – we've now filmed three or four music videos this year, that's where we've become fairly prolific now.

‘We've recorded a cover by a band called Superdrag (Sucked Out) where we filmed it in our own houses, sent it to a friend of ours and he glued that together and made a video without us even seeing each other which was quite cool.’

There’s also a video for their song Lovestruck, which sees them playing in the bowl at Prevail Skatehouse in Poole while BMXers whizz around.

Jimmy: ‘It's made us more proactive, this Christmas single probably wouldn't have happened if we were in our normal worlds. Trying to be proactive and to keep the ball rolling you do find other stuff to do, whether it's shooting the videos, or the live thing at Casemates probably wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for this.‘All these new experiences for us - we'd probably have just been rehearsing the same set week in, week out, playing gigs.

‘But this has forced us to do something a bit more, you know: “What can we do?” And it's probably not been something we've done before – as much as we do love playing live, the positive of it is doing those other things.’

So, the Christmas video, was it really shot on a vintage camcorder?

They all laugh, before Jimmy says: ‘This is the most asked question we've had about the video, was it really shot on a Panasonic N75-whatever-it-was, but we don't really want to spoil the illusion… You can decide.’

Let’s Stay Awake This Christmas Eve is available to stream or buy on all major platforms: distrokid.com.

Their next single, Please Steve Just Drive, is out on January 15.

The album Pop Dreamz is released on CD/streaming/digital services January 29, with a vinyl release to follow soon after.