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Interview


Guillemots


Article written by Hattie N
Nov 28, 2005.

Guillemots are a four-piece based in London, whose luscious blend of honey-soaked euphoric pop and spaced-out wacko gems have got many people rather excited about their prospects for 2006. SoundsXP talks to singer Fyfe about the colour of Martians, the problems of wearing hats with glasses and the Brazilian transport system.

You are named after a breed of cliff-dwelling short-winged birds. Why?
I wouldn't say guillemots are particularly short-winged. But they are cliff-dwelling. The name mainly came about from one of my early lyrics - written when I was 5 - from the song I'm a Human, not yet a Bird. The verse in question went,

"I feel like a guillemot on a cliff.
The cliff of life, the cliff of life.
Guillemots would be a good name for a band.
Oh, my strife."

I always found this an incredibly moving verse and it stayed with me through tough times. Hmm. That might not be true. What is true is that my first band was called "The Yorkshire Puddings", and Guillemots is a better name than that. I also like bird watching. So it made sense.

How did Guillemots evolve into the four-headed creature it is today (the band, not the birds)?
A strange process. I met our drummer Mr Rican Caol at an awful tv programme that his wife and my brother were being funny in. It never went beyond a pilot. He had 3 portions of the buffet and I knew he was my man. Magrao, our guitarist, was about the 17th person to reply to one of my ads, and I was beginning to lose any hope of ever finding anyone that played the guitar in the way I wanted - i.e. not really like a guitar - when I got a strange email from him talking about how he played the typewriter and matchbox. And Arista our double bassist I'd known for a few years - but she was a "jazz person" so I thought she might beat me up for writing songs but I got her to play on our EP and she enjoyed it and then it occurred to me that I might as well ask her to join the band and she said "yes". And thus Guillemots was born and the world breathed once more.

Guillemots seem quite hard to pigeonhole into any particular genre or style. Is there a conscious effort not to be your bog standard indie band?
Well yes, I think a lot of bands don't really think outside of the box that much. You can do more than guitar/bass/drums - great formula as that is. I've always wanted to do something that sounds like its own thing...and that was the thinking behind the line-up of this band, too - having a bunch of people who are all from completely different backgrounds, into completely different music, but also having a common ground where they all meet. It's really exciting when it works. I've always had this strange contradiction within me - I've always loved melodies - even really cheesy ones a lot of the time - but I've also always been fascinated by unusual sounds. I used to love running my fingers along the bottom of the bath when I was little - and when I was in the bath, obviously - you got these strange sort of braying donkey noises. Things like that have can occupy me for hours. And I want there to be lots of little colours like that within our music, but at the same time, I want us to have songs that anyone can just hear once and whistle to themselves.

Some three-legged green Martians pop onto earth for a visit. How would you describe Guillemots and their music to them?
Why are Martians always presumed to be green? I'd imagine them to be red if anything. Anyway, I don't think my first conversation with them would be about Guillemots, to be honest. If we did move onto the topic of music, I wouldn't bother describing us - I'd be frantically trying to find microphones and things to hit and try to make some kind of weird hit single with them.

The same Martians decide to capture you and take you back to their planet. They allow you to take one album with you. What is it and why?
What, so they were pissed off with the music making? Not very charitable aliens then. I would take Adam Bohman's Music and Words because it's funny. He's a musician and general, um, man, from London and the CD is just him talking into his dictaphone about the mundane goings on around him interspersed with some very strange but beautiful music. It's very good. The Martians would like it. It perfectly sums up the strange mechanics of human life.

Your drummer wears hats a lot. Is this because he a) is bald, b) likes to keep his head warm, or c) is leading the crusade to give hats a greater role in modern rock music?
Oh, it's all about the crusade to give hats a greater role in modern rock music. Well, roll rather than rock I think. But yes, hats are great. I didn't wear them so much in the past because I wear glasses, and hats and glasses don't always go, but I wear contact lenses a bit more these days and I find hats are kinder to those whose eyes aren't hidden by glass. So we're all loving hats in Guillemots.

Describe the Guillemots live experience.
wAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH dum dum dum dum dum dum DAD dum dum dum DAd CHHHHHHH! ssHHH HH H shh shh shh shh
JEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII TRTR TR RTRTTRTRTRTRTRTRT RTRTRTRTRTR TRTRT S RT ST RT SRT SRT sling sling sling sling ())()()()( blue MELODY! blue bue blu MEL_ O OOO _DYEE! ebu ebue bue bu ebue bue bue bue bu ebue b bubadfsfdas iuiiu fdsaafds uiuiuiu asfdafdsui RHYTHTm uiuiiu adsfafds uiuiuiui ufdsa sadf uiuiu di di di clap clap clap clap

Whatís the Guillemots song-writing process like? Are you a democracy or a dictatorship?
Oh, both. Actually it's worked out quite well. The majority of the songs are ones I've already written, but we've started doing quite a few that we've made up as a band. We spend loads of time in our rehearsals just playing stuff off the top of our heads with EYES WIDE SHUT and recording it all onto minidisc - we're going to start our own label next year and release loads of these recordings - we've got about 100 minidiscs to sift through already. But certain songs - like the B-side of our new single Go Away come out of playing like that. We then just listen back to them and sort of edit them and arrange them a bit and try to get close to what we were doing in the first place.

With the other songs, there's some that I play to the band and they completely change. Like Made-up Love Song -the song always stepped up half way through, but when I wrote it, it just went into a sort of rock beat. Mr Rican started playing this drum and bass thing and I loved it, and then I asked Arista to play on the track and she came up with this great bass line. And that made it much better than I'd ever have thought it could be. On the other hand something like Who Left The Lights Off Baby or Cats Eyes (from our first EP) are more a case of me just getting down the sound I have in my head as closely as possible and getting on with it by myself. So, sometimes I guess I can be a benevolent dictator, but -honestly - I'm a good person. Or I at least try to be.

Your new single is called Trains To Brazil and, according to this writer at least, is rather ace. Why should SoundsXP readers spend their hard-earned cash on it when it comes out on December 5th?
Well, it's hardly that expensive now, is it? £4 or something. I'm sure they can all afford it anyway. Um, I don't know. COS ITS A NICE SONG, LIKE. It's better than Jamaroqui, or whatever his silly name is. Itís got horns on it. Musically speaking. Itís kind of Christmassy. I don't know - that's your job Hattie...ain't it? It has a sticker sheet inside it. That's good.

Perhaps more importantly, have you ever been on a train to Brazil?
No. Except in the windmills of our mind. Of course, there isn't actually a direct train from the UK to Brazil. But our guitarist Magrao is from Sao Paolo, so I'm sure he's been on plenty of trains WITHIN Brazil. But Trains Within Brazil doesn't scan so well.

Itís this time next year. What has happened in the life of Guillemots? Any plans for an album, shows or maybe world domination?
Well, we're planning for all three, but in reality what will probably happen is that Rican becomes a heroin addict, Magrao, after an uncomfortable experience with a transvestite, vows never to talk to women again and becomes the pope of his own new church - which only has him as a member, I decide that any form of commercialism is wrong and spend the rest of my life making records on which I only play instruments made from water, and Arista becomes a multi-million selling R níB artist. We'll see. We are aiming to have an album out by May though. We'll try.

Thank you for your time. Any random messages or words of advice?
Oh, I'm not wise. Just keep sight with what was in your head when you were very young and you'll be okay.



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