James Tuckwell, Oliver Hartley, and Tom Hartley — past and present.
You remember The Inept, right? The band composed of five English teenagers that played a handful of gigs in the small town next to their boarding school in the mid-80s. Ring a bell yet? They never released an album, EP, single, or any live recordings and immediately called it a day when they finished high school. Come on, you remember these guys. Well, guess what? The Inept have reformed! Well… not exactly. It’s more accurate to say that three-fifths of the band have reformed (it’s sort-of a Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship situation) as a new group called C2.
The current C2 recordings are notable for being an intercontinental collaboration. Oliver Hartley lives in Switzerland, plays most of the bass parts, is a big blues guy, and in his spare time is a professor at the School of Medicine in Geneva. His brother Tom knocks out all the keyboard parts, takes care of most of the production work, and is a professor of psychology in York.
The latter “gets to write all of the psychedelic songs for us,” according to drummer-singer James Tuckwell.
Tuckwell is the lone, US-based C2 representative. “I came over here in 1989 and did an internship, and then I started surfing,” he explained. “Then I went back to London, which is beautiful, but I missed my surfboard.”
He missed it so much that he has been a SoCal resident ever since. He landed in Long Beach but moved to the San Diego region. He currently lives in North County.
“In the late 90s, I hooked up with a band and we practiced in a garage in the alley of Cape May,” Tuckwell explained. “It was called Blue Orange. We had fun. We played Dream Street, The Pour House, and Winstons a few times. We were like Nirvana meets The Beatles. At that point, I had switched over from playing drums and was doing vocals. They liked the English accent with the Squeeze/Beatles kind of thing. These guys were kind of like heavy Les Paul guitars and sweet harmonies. It worked. We did a couple of self-produced CDs. That was out of Ocean Beach.”
The Beatles seem to be a constant influence in every musical project that Tuckwell has participated in. So, it’s no surprise that since 2004 he has played in a trio called The 63eatles that only perform early Beatles songs — any material written after they stopped touring is off-limits. So, no Sgt. Pepper’s, The White Album etc., He cites the Fab Four as being the main influence with C2, and they were a heavy influence on The Inept back in the day as well. Back then they were playing Beatles and Stones covers mixed in with new-wave artists such as Blondie, Squeeze and The Jam.
“To give you a little history, when we were kids in England, at like ten years-old we were packed off as wee laddies and sent off like Prince Charles in The Crown to a school that was about 40 miles north of London,” Tuckwell said. “At about 14 we discovered girls and rock and roll. Each of us found the instrument we were gonna play and just started playing. They put us in a little classroom which was called C2 well away from the main buildings so we couldn’t disturb anybody because we made a lot of noise. We were from London, and there was a local high school where all the locals went. So, of course, there were rivalries because they perceived us as rich kids on the hill. We did play one gig where the local high school girls chased us up the hill. Just fun stuff like that.”
Will there be ladies chasing the three gents up hills after they get a taste of their sweet new batch of C2 harmonies? Likely not. But that’s fine with Tuckwell. He is simply happy to be creating music, and especially to be singing, with his old schoolmates again.
“That’s the one thing with C2, the insistence is that everybody sings on the track. Whatever it is, we all have to sing. It’s not a C2 song unless everybody sings together,” he said.
As for not doing this in room C2 together, Tuckwell doesn’t seem to mind that at all.
“We could probably whip out 20 songs really quickly if we were all in the same room, for sure,” he said. “But it adds a bit of mystique when you’re playing something and you’re like ‘I wonder what they would think about this?’ Or ‘I think Tom or Ollie would like this,’ or ‘I think this is how they would do it.’ Not to be mystical, but when I play, I think about them as being in the room. I think they do the same thing.”