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Interview: Natalia Tena and Luke Treadaway

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You know how it is, you’re the lead singer in a post-punk girl band trying to prove itself at the ‘best festival in the world’ (in this case it is claimed to be T in the Park) when a stranger handcuffs you to the supermodel-dating member of the headlining act.  Stranger things have happened and most likely they’ve happened to Natalia Tena (Harry Potter, About a Boy)

You InsteadTena and her co-star Luke Treadaway (Attack the Block, Clash of the Titans) are no strangers to the festival circuit as both revellers and performers, so they know first-hand “weird stuff happens at festivals”. 

Surely nothing weirder than the filming You Instead, directed by David Mackenzie, shot over the four day duration of Scottish super-festival T in the Park in 2010.  Not only did Tena and Treadway have to endure being attached together for the majority of the shooting day, but also had to contend with the general public. 

“If I saw a camera at a festival, I would go shout into it too,” says Treadaway about interference from the crowds, but there were also moments of frustration. 

“In effect, we were in their space”, continues Tena, “but it was frustrating because we were short on time and we could lose the whole scene”.

Shooting at the festival itself saved millions of pounds in production costs, but the cast and crew are convinced it was the right thing to do ‘artistically’.  Mackenzie cuts the narrative with the ‘texture’ of the festival - live performances and the kind of crowd shots that make up montages in most festival highlight reels.  For Treadaway, it also helped him ground his character. 

“Your sensitivity to any sort of performance was heightened because of the reality around you,” he says, “You had to be very real”. 

The sense of reality and improvisation is palpable in the film and its humour is very British, somewhat at odds with the Hollywood ‘rom-com’ label the director has given it. 

“I’ve seen great romantic comedies and comedies that have romance, “it’s just when they have to be given those labels that I think -  ‘oh God, I want to punch these people’”, says Tena.

Tena is the real-life lead singer and accordionist of self-proclaimed ‘masters of gypstep’ – a mix of “gyspsy, dubstep and filth” -  but shares more than the status of musician with her character, Morello.  Morello is musically opinionated, berating Treadaway’s Adam for being too “boy-band” alongside a handful of snipes at mainstream bands like Kasabian.  Is Tena any different?

“I’m a musician, so obviously I have opinions on music”. 

With only a gentle nudge she offers her views on talent show singing.  “I personally think X Factor is an insult to every artist in the world.  I watched the final, I couldn’t sleep for about three hours I was so angry.  It’s disgusting”

Her anti-mainstream attitudes also extend to her festival of choice, Secret Garden Party. 

“It’s not commercial. There’s no big, big stages, just enjoying music for what it is”.   

Treadaway also enjoys the virtues of the less well-known festivals.  “At a festival like Latitude, you can get anywhere in about 15 minutes.  At Glastonbury it takes an hour to get from your tent to the music”.

However his favourite line-up comes courtesy of Reading, something he describes as a “dirty festival”.  Unlike his character Adam, who relies on the amenities of backstage ‘glamping’,  Treadaway isn’t prissy when it comes to festivals and their horror stories.  “I’ll use a portaloo, that doesn’t bother me”.  Tena shows herself to be the more hardened festival veteran, “I’ll piss in a cup anywhere”. 

She even returned to T in the Park this year without her fictional bandmates, The Dirty Pinks.  “I wanted to go back for the real experience, not this crazy one” she says. 

Her connection to the festival undoubtedly helped her band, Molotov Jukebox, get their music onto a larger platform.  “The T Break stage is usually only reserved for Scottish bands and those about to break out.  There was an article about us in the paper the day before.  At first when I went up there was no one there, but then suddenly at that time it packed out.” 

The duo only had three weeks practice with their respective bands for You Instead, adding a lot of pressure to their real performances to the crowds at T in the Park. 

“When we saw the schedule, we laughed.  Every day it seemed less likely to be possible”. 

On top of that, both actors performed songs that they had written and co-produced themselves. 

For Tena it was a difficult experience becoming part of a new band.  “It was hard.  The girls [bandmates in The Dirty Pinks] were lovely, but it’s really hard trying to recreate that tightness.”  

Treadaway made a compelling front-man alongside co-star Mathew Baynton, best known as Deano in Gavin and Stacey, as The Make.  Can he see his career moving in this direction?  “Performing on the mainstage was the highlight of the whole thing and something I’ll always remember.  I was thinking – ‘that’s the thing I’d love to be able to do for the rest of my life.’”

“Touring as The Make was something we talked about,” he says, “but it was a part, it wasn’t me.  I don’t think I’m going to start making music like that any time soon, that 80’s electro stuff.  Not that, something different, more my style.”

You Instead is out Friday 16th September

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