London's most passionate and wired underground rock'n'roll band.
Formed in the summer of 2002 around 22 year old frontman/singer/writer Johnny Borrell, they existed for two months without a name, until one night at a Warholian squat party in a derelict factory in the East End, their singer found himself speaking in tongues. Improvising lyrics at the end of the set, Johnny was passed down words from the watchful muses above, and out of his mouth came the sound... rezorright... raisaaarite....razorlight. Now they had a name they could proceed to blow away every run of the mill garage rock band, with a set of serrated, transatlantic, poetic songs played with white knuckle intensity and delivered by a singer with total, natural charisma.
Night after long night they'd been holed up in a rat-plagued low-boho rehearsal studio on the East edge of town,
shaping the scribbled visions of urchin-savant Johnny into grooved, twitching, adrenalised guitar pieces and making occasional live foreys to support The Von Bondies or The Libertines. Finally they could play shows where the converts in the crowd could happily shout 'You are the bollocks!' without adding, in frustration 'What's your band called?'. A name is nothing and everything but in this case the razorlight in question might also be the clear, sharp light of exposure which lets you see if there's spirit in what's before you. razorlight have spirit like the Caspian Sea has oil.
There was never even a plan to form a band. The plan was to avoid forming a band, but then the songs that were taking shape in Johnny's battered notebook - scribbled on bus rides, in bars, in the dead of night, while assaulted by the big city, by febrile girls, and by fake culture - dictated that a glimmering noise had to be arranged around the words. So it was that through the summer of 2002, Johnny sought out three young lovers of sinuous street noise - Carl Dalemo (bass), Bjorn Agren (guitar) and Christian Smith (drums). Agren bumped into Johnny at a Queens Of The Stone Age gig and his angular, driving guitar style proved to be the perfect foil for the singer. And Agren had a Swedish mate, Carl, who was already famous for being thrown out of venues around London and for being the quintessential Adonis of punk bass. With Johnny's longstanding friend Christian on drums, they had a unit of perfectly complimentary dysfunction and uniquely interlocked musicality.
By late summer razorlight were sending precious antique amps to their death in basement gigs and support slots around London. In early November they followed The White Stripes into the renowned analogue haven studio,Toerag, to record three songs over three days. The resulting trio - 'Rip It Up', 'Rock'n'Roll Lies' and 'In The City' emerged as a scorching advertisement for the band and started to pull in serious label interest. They sent one CD to one DJ - John Kennedy at XFM, who immediately began playing the songs. From San Francisco corporate record label offices (listening on line) to the dormitaries of London boarding schools for girls (listening in bed) people began to realise that something very special was going on.
If there is an edge to razorlight's music and lyrics it owes a lot to Johnny's meandering, hole-in-my-shoe path, prior to setting up the group.Two years ago he was to be found hanging around at Libertines gigs, looking like a young Mick Jones from The Clash, clutching a novel by William Faulkner and a large but tatty book of scrawled, semi complete midnight-eyed lyrics and poems. For over a year he studied the great blues players and American folk artists from Leadbelly onwards, playing small gigs across London and living a life of contemporary skid row reality. For that year his stage clothes amounted to a tee shirt and one pair of jeans, gradually splitting and ripping to the point of rags. These are still (usually) his stagewear. For a while he lived in the boiler room above The Verge in Kentish town. Turning up at a gig would often depend on whether he could jump the turnstiles at the nearest tube. One night he lost his entire book of lyrics in a bet gone wrong. It had always been Johnny's contention that you had to know the basics of rock'n'roll before you could move ahead with your own style and having put in the time with the music of the old greats he knew he had to arrange his own set of parameters. razorlight are the brilliant realisation of that need to move on into something sharp and sexy and immediate. You could spend a week trying to pin down what's exposed in the razorlight beam. Something London, something New York. A kind of serrated romance. A ghost of a writer here and a guitar player there. Something beaten up, that won't give in. But all you really have to know is that razorlight have the best songs and the best spirit in any town. They are a bet, gone right.