Feature from NME, September 2008
THE VICHY GOVERNMENT- Comprising a Cambridge graduate and an equally erduite local resident, their music consists of amateur keyboard tootling and monologues about things like suicide and celebrity.
We knew we'd need a brainy act to help us get to the heart of Cambridge -what with Hamfatter, the city;s most headline-snatching indie band of the moment, currently giving it as much credibility as a Findus Crispy Pancake. The Vichy Government, the black-humoured, Casio monologue duo affiliated with the New Cross scene but residing here, are so patently pecuilar that they fit the bill. Our meeting was scheduled to go ahead at the Empress pub, one of their favourite drinking holes off the recommended Mill Road area -crammed full of good charity shops, tat merchants and nice cafés, and away from the "braying students" as vocalist Jamie, the alumnus, explains- but sadly it's shut. Instead we convene next door in the Jubilee public house, which keyboardist Andrew describes as having an interior "like 1940's Poland".
Keen to clear our mind of such things, we jump in the car and head down to Oxfam, a chain you'll notice gets a suspicios amount of mentions on these pages. Andrew, in a kind of "once this was all fields, as far as the eye can see" way, tells us of a time, not long ago, when Cambridge had five independent record shops, Now there's none. We do, however, uncover a copy of Jamie's favourite book, Bily Liar, which he was after anyway, having handed out the last five to various ex-girlfriends. Then we're on our way to visit one of the last-standing outposts of music retailer Fopp. With a rainstorm approaching we head to the band's favourite cafe, Indigo Coffee House, for shelter and a rather fine latte.
Later that evening, we're booked in to pay a visit to the Portland Arms, the best gig venue in town for new bands. On the way, Jamie points out where he used to live with Alexis from Hot Chip (whose college demos apparently sounded like "Nick Drake having a sulky day") and the Playroom, an amateur theatre where he used to spend many an afternoon "watching A-level students slaughter Harold Pinter for £2". Of course it wouldn't be a Cambridge trip without a bookshop. The choice pick is Heffers, an enormous independent that someone with time on their hands could get lost in for weeks on end.
Keen to prove what other underground treats Cambridge has in store, Andrew cites The Resistance, "Cambridge's only good band with a drummer". We'd describe them as psychedelia-era Verve after some monster hydrophonic bonging session. Over a drink at the Portland, they happily rattle through a liist of the city;s other young talents, including a rather large strain of 'electronic auteurs', the pick of which is the avant-loungecore of Um, who we're informed, occasionally stages 24-hour concerts in his bedroom, leaving his front door constantly open. Then there's, erm, Man From Uranus, who looks like Terry Nutkins and flits between demented arcade-pop and freefrom static noise. The Vichy don't strike us as the clubbing type, though they do espouse the virtues of the Eagle pub, which is where Francis Crick and James Watson announced their discovery of DNA.