HE wrote one of 2007’s most acclaimed albums, Thirst For Romance, won an Ivor Novello award... and promptly vanished.
The official website stopped being updated, the chime of praise in the national press fell quiet and no hint was given as to when the follow up album would appear.
So where has Simon Aldred, the Bolton-born frontman of Cherry Ghost, been? And why have we been waiting so long for album number two?
The answer lies in the great EMI cull of Oh-Eight, when litigation-loving tax exile Guy Hands took over the label and set about pruning any bands that didn’t look set to offer immediate commercial success.
Hundreds of bands were dropped and still more, including Radiohead and the Rolling Stones, quit in disgust — and so did Cherry Ghost.
“They started to renegotiate all the contracts because they were losing so much money,” he says. “They hung on to the mainstream, poppy stuff — we thought we’d get dropped, but we didn’t. But then the money they offered us for the second album was so low we could have put it in ourselves. With a record company you only get 15 per cent, and it was just ridiculous. So we left.”
Unwilling to work for less than a proper wage, the band struck out to record album number two by themselves. And Hands’ ploy didn’t work — EMI lost £1.7 billion last year.
The label do however still have control of the band’s official website, which they are unwilling to hand over, and so communication with fans is at the moment only through their MySpace site.
Nevertheless, “I think we’re better off out of it,” says Simon cheerily — conversationally, cheeriness is his hallmark, despite the brooding lyrics of debut album Thirst For Romance. “The major labels have lost their stranglehold and they’re not willing to take any risks.”
The windswept Lancashire Americana of Thirst For Romance might not have been splattered all over the radio waves like then-label mates Lily Allen and Robbie Williams, but it did peak at number four on the album chart, and spawned the award-winning single People Help The People.
The only problem is that Simon doesn’t particularly like it.
“There are a few songs on that album that I’m proud of,” he says. “But the rest...” He tails off reflectively.
The process of recording the first album was “frustrating” and “patchy”, he says, and it’s clear that he is happier with the pressure of a major label breathing down the band’s neck.
“This album is really consistent and much more accomplished,” he says. “It’s been a lot slower, and a lot more fun.”
He is full of praise for “Kissing Strangers” in particular, describing it as “Sinatra-esque.”
“I think it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever written,” he says. “It’s nice to have a single I’m really proud of.”
Although he is excited about the new album now, Simon admits that the band have been through some very tough times.
“Had you spoken to me 18 months ago I might have been a bit more frantic about things, but it’s panned out nicely,” he says. Of course, unlike when he was trying to get his break, Simon isn’t only responsible for himself but also for his band — who he feels often get overlooked by people who see “Cherry Ghost” and “Simon Aldred” as interchangeable.
“I feel really sorry for the band when they read that.” he says. “They’re totally busting their balls for this record.”
They have been recording in the Cheshire barn-cum-studio owned by fellow Mancunians Doves, whose forthcoming Best Of also features Simon on guest vocals.
The plan at the moment is to release the as-yet-untitled new album in early July through a distribution deal with Heavenly, preceded by a single.
“It’s all starting to become very positive after a lot of hard work,” says Simon, who has been holed up in a studio in Bath mixing the record.
“I’m unshaven, unkempt — I’ve forgotten how to socialise with people,” he says. “I look mildly primal.”
• For more information, visit myspace.com/cherryghostband