I remember, way back in 2007 (them were the days eh, lads?) camping opposite Pete Green (then Juggernautless) at the first Indietracks festival. Ah, I can still smell him now...
Of course, back then, it was all fields around Butterley, and the trains ran on steam, and you could still get a seat in the church after 4pm in the afternoon. Fancy that! So, two long years on, I thought it was about time we cast our minds back, and reminisced about that long, hot summer of 2007...
What were your initial thoughts when you first heard about Indietracks?
First thought: "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Second thought: "Hang on – how am I gonna get there?" Indietracks is a combination of wonderful things which none of us ever remotely imagined somebody might put together. It's like Wash & Go, but with steam trains and indiepop instead of shampoo and conditioner. And a shower of real ale. The phrase 'best thing ever' tends to be squandered on YouTube clips of funny cats, but it's fully justified when it comes to Indietracks.
What came first? Indietracks or the train enthusiasm?
I got interested in heritage lines and steam after I had a go on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in 2005, a couple of years before Indietracks began. It kind of helped that they had a real ale coach on the train with a lovely little purpose-built bar. I've always been fond of trains really, though – it was just a question of coming out at the right moment, in a tolerant environment and with a supportive group of friends around me. Not that I'm a spotter, you understand. Honest! 'Enthusiast' is a much better word.
Which has been your favourite Indietracks? 2007 or 2008?
2008 was amazing but I guess 2007 edges it for me, if only cos I was there that year as a performer as well as a fan, so there were two different kinds of thrills. Anyway, I confidently expect 2009 to be even better than both. They're all fantastic though, aren't they? I can't see anything at all to be less than joyful about. It's like trying to choose your favourite member of The Deirdres.
And what has been your favourite Indietracks moment?
My favourite Indietracks moment and possibly my favourite whole life moment was during the Pocketbooks singalong on the train in 2007. They asked me to join them on guitar but I didn't really know what we were playing – it was half their songs, half covers – so I was kind of muddling through but having a blast anyway. Then Dan very quickly showed me the chords for 'I'm Not Going Out' just before we played it, and by the mercy of the pop gods it came out note perfect, and at the end Dan and me turned round to each other and laughed in amazement and joy. This combination of musical perfection, dozens of people having so much fun, and the sheer weirdness of all this happening on a moving steam train made me so happy that I had an out-of-body experience, but then I got a bit thirsty and there wasn't a bar up there. It's always the way.
Sometimes when I feel a bit down, I'll go on the internet and watch the video of us all doing 'Happy Hour' later in the set, and it never fails to make me grin and go "awww!" and think maybe that was the hour when my entire existence on Earth became worthwhile.
Has Indietracks turned you on to going to other festivals at all?
Not really. I mean it's done the best it can, but the other festivals need to try harder. For a long, long time I'd just never have even considered going to one – mud, crap line-ups, mud, expensive, corporate sponsors, mud, pooing into a bucket, possibility of horrible people trampling on your tent. Indietracks has proved it doesn't have to be like that, but I look down the line-ups of other festivals and there's maybe two or three bands out of 40 that I'd be bothered about seeing. I guess something like Primavera or ATP would come closest but, I dunno, just too many people. Maybe Emmaboda sometime, if I ever get a passport. But in reality there's probably more chance of me giving in to my mum and letting her drag me to one of these terrifying hippy-folky festivals she goes to in deepest Lincolnshire.
Do you think there'll come a time when Indietracks will have to veer away slightly from indiepop?
Hey, now pack that in, you mardy old goth. Why would it? I've interviewed Stuart Indietracks for my new zine Bye Bye, Duffel Boy and he put my mind completely at rest about the future of the festival, so there's really no need to sit in the cemetery with a bottle of Thunderbird obsessing about everything having to die. I know they lost a few quid in 2007 but there's loads going this year. Indiepop – it's the new craze, you know!
What are your thoughts on this year's line-up?
This year there's a cracking mix of acts who I've seen a few times, and already know to be chuffing brilliant, with a load of really intriguing new or new-ish names who sound really promising from a quick listen on last.fm: people like The Specific Heats and Rose out of The Pipettes. Also: ohmygod ohmygod Eux Autres! This year's line-up is the best yet. I live in daily terror that just before they split up The Lucksmiths will be announced as a late headliner and ruin everything!
And what do you have planned for your set this year? Any surprises?
We're hoping to have a special guest join the band on stage for a couple of songs, but I'm not telling you who, cos then it wouldn't be a surprise. Before you ask, no, it isn't Morrissey – they're much prettier than that. What I can tell you now, though, is that just before the festival The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut will be releasing 'Hey Dr Beeching' as a free mp3 download. Wooo-wooooo! I wrote it so I'd have a train song to play at Indietracks in 2007, so it's all kind of fitting. Finally, and most importantly of all, I can reveal exclusively to A Layer of Chips that I'll be sporting a new and rather fetching pair of red festival shorts.