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INTERVIEW: The Lake Poets

We caught up with Sunderland songwriter Martin Longstaff - also known as The Lake Poets - for a chat about the derby day occasion, his love of the Black Cats and commonality between music and football.

Derby day is upon us again. What was your reaction to the last derby day result?

I watched it in the Chesters with my brother and Dad. Despite my initial trepidation I had a feeling we'd do it again. I even had a couple of mocking tweets prepped. When we sealed the deal the whole pub was jumping around like mad and I let leash with the jokes online. No feeling like it.

Why do you think the team is able to pull results out of the bag against big teams but then lose to a Watford? What's your views on the recent Newcastle victories too?

It's a great thing to be able to do, but also frustrating as hell. Obviously I love it when we stuff Newcastle or kill a giant, but what I really want is consistency and an end to the sick feeling I get most match days. But then again, that's half the fun.

Your songs touch on themes of loss and pain, feelings with which Sunderland fans are all too familiar. How do you pick yourself up after an SAFC defeat?

As a Sunderland fan I have long since accepted that loss, pain and misery are part of the deal. I pick myself up by remembering that it's just a game, and that all the pain and misery make the good times when we win (especially against the Mags) all the more sweet.

Just on that subject do you think there are any parallels with the community spirit of football and music?

What keeps me interested in both music and football is the camaraderie and sense of belonging. There's nothing like the feeling of singing on stage with your mates, just as there's nothing like the feeling of singing in the terraces with thousands of strangers at the match.

Has football ever inspired you to write a song?

When I was at school I wrote a few cheesy songs about the last match at Roker Park, and the time we beat Manchester United 2-1 on my birthday, but I haven't wrote any football inspired songs recently. Perhaps I'll dig them out. I've always wanted to write a song for the team to run out to, actually. I'll do it one day.

Just like the players you must have to psyche yourself up for a performance. Do you have any pre gig rituals?

I'm not in to daft pep-talks, silly rituals, or making sure I've got my lucky knickers on. Whether solo or with the band we just turn up and do the business.

Quick fire questions:

Who is your favourite player, past or present?

Kevin Philips.

What was the first SAFC match you remember watching?

The first match I ever went to. Man United at Roker Park March 8th 1997.

My Dad took me. We beat them 2-1 and they were so crap we must have been embarrassed so we scored an own goal for them!

What was your most memorable SAFC match?

Most recently it was watching us beat Manchester United on penalties in the game that took us to Wembley. So tense and then so amazing to be jumping around with everyone so happy. My brother was in tears and my guitarist Callum was so elated he picked me up and threw me half way across the pub.

Favourite Manager?

For all his faults I remember the hey-day of Peter Reid fondly.

What is your favourite football chant/song?

I've always liked "He's got a pineapple on his head".

With a dad who worked down the mines you've seen Sunderland undergo huge changes and regeneration. How do you think this is reflected in the club's recent history?

My Dad used to take me to Roker Park when I was a boy, but I was slightly too young to appreciate the significance of the place. Now its gone, like most of our historical buildings and traditions I get a melancholic thinking about how much I'd love to experience the atmosphere of the ground as an adult. Just as I'd love to have seen a ship being launched on the Wear I think it's something I'm going to have to imagine through rose-coloured specs and imagined hindsight.

I've never liked the name, or the sterility of the Stadium Of Light, and even though I'm aware of the legitimate safety reasons, I'd love to experience the feeling of a match stood up in the thick and energy of it all. I think money largely ruins everything that was once pure, especially in football. Perhaps the drive for commercialism, profit and celebrity in football has taken away a lot of the magic. I hope we can get it back somehow.

Referring to the heyday of the shipyards and mines, there is a strong sense of community and local pride emanating from your music. What role do you think SAFC plays in keeping the regional/community spirit alive?

For me, the worlds of music, culture, work and SAFC are all ways of being part of something real. They all provide me with a sense of belonging and shared experience which means I can go anywhere and talk to a stranger and then at the end perhaps have a new mate or have a new perspective on a subject. This is really important to me because I spent a long time as a teenager hidden away in my room feeling alone and sorry for myself which was no fun at all. We are all the same underneath it all, we have the same hopes and fears, and experience the same highs and lows, be it in life or in football. When we share them together I've found the world isn't such a big and frightening place and life is much better.

For more Lake Poets head over to http://thelakepoets.com