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Unitopia Interview

A couple months back, the up and coming progressive rock band Unitopia released their latest album, Artificial, which was extremely well-received here. Co-founder and multi-instrumentalist Sean Timms kindly took the time for an interview with The Golden Bird.

Sean Timms

The Interview:

Describe how Unitopia came to be – How did you meet one another? Where did the band name come from?

  • Unitopia began in 1996 when a mutual friend who ran a CD store introduced Mark Trueack and me (Sean Timms) after realizing we had similar musical tastes. We caught up over a meal and a few beers and discovered many similarities, not only in music, but in our sense of humour, our movie and TV tastes and our joy for life and concern for the environment. As soon as I heard Mark sing, I knew that we had to start working together. A date was made for Mark to come over to my studio and immediately we began working on the track which was to become ‘Take Good Care’. This formulated into an energetic and exciting song writing partnership that culminated in the completion of our debut album ‘More Than a Dream’. Mark and I would get together sporadically over the next few years. This was due to high levels of commitment each of us had to our own jobs and other areas. This is why More Than a Dream took so long to complete. (9 years!)
  • The name Unitopia was about the fourth name we came up with. The first couple of names were Magoo and Uni-T. This led to an amalgamation of two words, Unity, meaning all together and Utopia, and ideal place. Thus Unitopia means all together in an ideal place. Our website describes it more fully: UNITOPIA – (yu-nih-to-pi-E): meaning living together as one in a place of ideal perfection especially in law, government and social conditions.

Which artists and/or genres have had the greatest influence on your own music? How so?

  • Both Mark and I, as the main two song writers love listening to progressive rock. As Mark and I grew up in the 70’s, we’re naturally very fond of the prog bands from that era. Both of us really love the music of Yes, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd etc… etc… I think what’s different from the bands of yesteryear and those of today is that the ‘older’ bands were really blazing a trail, setting the scene for everyone to follow. It was truly ground breaking work! I remember listening to “Supper’s Ready” (Genesis) and “Close To the Edge” (Yes) the first time as a teenager and those songs blew my mind! Although today’s bands are extremely good, they don’t have the benefit of surprise and that essence of ‘doing it for the 1st time’ that yesterday’s bands had.
  • Unitopia uses a progressive rock framework to convey our message and we try to create something new from what we do. Maybe we succeed at that, maybe we don’t. I’m not sure. That’ll be up to the fans to decide. I think that using that framework, but also adding our own unique brand of musicianship, including world, jazz and classical elements will help us stand out from the crowd a little more. Time will tell I guess.
  • Mark & I have similar music tastes in many areas, but differ in others. We both like Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Yes, Moody Blues, Marillion, Alan Parsons and a lot of the newer prog bands out there such as The Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, Porcupine Tree and Frost. Mark also likes John Martyn, Kate Bush and the more electronic side of music such as Jean Michel Jarre, William Orbit and Vangelis. I tend to prefer the singer/songwriters such as James Taylor, Al Stewart and Paul Simon as well as some of the big 80’s stadium acts such as Heart, Journey, Toto and Ambrosia. I also love listening to Prefab Sprout, Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin and Nicolette Larson.

Have you had problems accommodating for the size of the band, whether it be with the band’s scheduling or in the song-writing process?

  • There are always problems when you’re dealing with only one other person… let alone a 7-piece band. Everyone has jobs, families and other commitments that take priority sometimes. We totally understand this and value any contribution that the members make. I think the secret is not to assume anything and be gracious if a member can’t commit to something regarding the band for whatever reason. We do this for the love of it and don’t ever want what we do to become a chore for us or for anyone else. Organising rehearsals are always tricky as everyone has different schedules. I, for instance teach karate a couple of times a week so certain times are out for me. Dave our drummer has to take his son to sport on Saturday mornings sometimes… and the list goes on… and on… and on… :)

Do you think your music would be any different in another time period (70’s, 80’s, 90’s, etc.)?

  • Probably…not so much from our approach, but what’s available to us from a technological point of view. These days, it’s possible to own and operate a studio at a reasonable cost, whereas back 20-30 years ago, everyone had to have record company backing because studios were so expensive to hire and maintain. We have high speed internet, so from the time you finish mixing a song to the time it’s available to the general public can be minutes instead of months. This makes everything more immediate and accessible. That’s not always a good thing as there is also an amazing amount of material that’s less than good out there and it takes time to sort out the diamonds in the rough. Once upon a time, the record company and radio stations might have done this for you. It just depends on your point of view. There’s positives and negatives to both scenarios.

In what ways has working with InsideOut affected your music?

  • We’re honoured to be represented by such a well-known and respected label! The guys at InsideOut have been fantastic and we’re very happy to be signed to them! It’s great to know that as soon as your album is finished, you know it’s going to be available to fans of the genre. InsideOut have a lot of credibility in the progressive market and many people buy their CD’s because they know that they only sign quality artists. I guess that knowing that has given us a lot of confidence in what we do and also, we can concentrate on making the music, not all the other aspect such as manufacturing, distribution and marketing.

How did your approach to Artficial differ from that of The Garden? Did the change in line up have an impact on your musical approach?

  • Not really. Mark and I are the two constants of Unitopia. We gather musicians around us that we feel represent where we’re headed at the time. Shireen, the bassist on The Garden was extremely busy and couldn’t commit to another album, so she left. Monty, the drummer had too many things on his plate also, so we had to ask him to move on. Jamie and Shaun joined us and everything lifted a little. That’s one thing I can say about every new member, is that Unitopia has lifted every time we’ve had a line-up change. When we couldn’t do the RosFest gig, Shaun and Jamie felt that things weren’t progressing how they would have liked and subsequently quit. We now have David Hopgood and Craig Kelly… and again, the music and the spirit of Unitopia has lifted.
  • The approach we took with Artificial is the same as we’ve always taken, and that’s to write great songs, play, produce and sing them well and keep trying to improve on what we do… as well as enjoy the heck out of every minute of it.

Where did the inspiration behind the theme of Artificial come from?

  • Matt Williams, our guitarist actually came up with the idea. He suggested the theme of Artificial Intelligence and we ran with it. It gradually broadened to encompass everything that’s in our lives that is either real or artificial.

Do you have any plans for the near future (tours, releases, side projects, etc.)? Are there any particular bands you would like to tour with?

  • We’re touring the UK and Europe in October this year. It’s our first international tour and we’re very excited! Please check our website for details about the tour. We are playing at the Summers End festival on the 9th and then over to the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, before heading back to the UK for two more shows with The Tangent.
  • As far as bands we’d like to tour with… anyone that would have us. Marillion would be good, as well as Moon Safari, The Flower Kings and Spock’s Beard.
  • We’re also in the middle of recording an album titled Covered Mirror, which sees us put the Unitopia touch to a dozen or so of our favorite cover songs.

What do you hope to accomplish through Unitopia, whether they be personal goals or for the bigger picture?

  • I think that we would all like to keep making great music that touches and lifts people’s spirits and communicating with and meeting those people at our shows… wherever they might be.

Are there any bands you would personally recommend to your fanbase?

  • Moon Safari, Prefab Sprout (Paddy McAloon is a genius!!!) and you can’t go past The Flower Kings.

And finally, are there any additional comments you would like to make?

  • Many thanks for the interest in Unitopia. It never ceases to amaze me how much people like what we do. We are truly blessed to be able to make music that not only we love, but that others love as well. Also… I’d like to thank Patsy Delledonne, our online manager. She does so much work for us. We wouldn’t be where we are now if it weren’t for her hard work, dedication and belief in us. She’s a gem!!!

And that is Unitopia in a Golden Bird eggshell. Thanks again to Sean Timms for his wonderful and thorough answers. Unitopia is one of the few bands of the 00’s that I truly treasure. If you haven’t yet given them a listen, now is the time to do so! There is a review of the band’s latest album Artificial on this site – check it out.

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