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SLUMBER PARTY interview by Tone

slumber party.jpg (53757 bytes)Slumber Party, from Detroit, are:

Julie Benjamin (drums);

Gretchen Gonzales (guitar);

Leigh Sabo (bass); and

Aliccia Berg (guitar, lead vocal).

They play a very cool Velvets-style laid-back guitar music which is now almost a forgotten art. They have two albums on US label Kill Rock Stars: ‘Slumber Party’ (also on Poptones in the UK) and ‘Psychedelicate’.  Both are worthy of your attention and you can find out more at their website www.slumberparty.50megs.com.  Our man Tony Strutt tracked them down. 

Tony: Why the name Slumber Party?

Aliccia: The name is from Kim Fowley.  I called him up and he said “Slumber Party” and that’s it.  Do you know who Kim Fowley is? Because a lot of people don’t know him at all.

Tony: Yes, I know him.  I believe that you’re all from Detroit and there’s already an ex-member.

Aliccia: Marcie Bolen.  She’s in the Von Bondies now.

Tony: So, apart from that, it’s all the original members?

Aliccia: Yeah.  Actually, Julie was in the band before Marcie and she took a little hike but now she’s back. 

Tony: You’ve released two albums on Kill Rock Stars.  What attracted you to the label?

Gretchen: Oh gosh!  They were the first takers.  They were really nice, they let us do whatever we want.  It was quick and easy. 

Aliccia: They liked it when we were less than a year into it, when we did some four-track demos on a cassette.  I don’t think other people would have understood what we were doing necessarily, not that they weren’t good demos! *laughs*

Tony: What brought you together as a band?

Aliccia: Gretchen drives! 

Julie: We all have a part that we do. 

Tony: What attracted you to music? I imagine you’ve been going for a few years.

Gretchen: We were all doing things before we met each other.  Leigh and I were introduced through our producer Mat Smith and Leigh was in The Circle.  Then we found Julie on the street at a festival in Detroit, so it just worked out.

Aliccia: We all have similar tastes, that makes it easy. 

Tony: The band names thrown at you are the John Cale version of the Velvets, the Shop Assistants and your voice sounds like the singer of Stereolab.

Aliccia: Sure.  That’s what I’ve read. 

Tony: Do you like being compared to them?  Well, you know the Velvets because they’re American!

Aliccia: *laughs*  Honestly, another one they mention are Galaxie 500. 

Tony: But THEY sound like the Velvets! 

Aliccia: I think we all have similar record collections, similar tastes.   I like to think I sound like Lou Reed but….*laughs*

Tony: Is this your first trip here? Have you enjoyed it?

Aliccia: Yeah, everyday.

Julie: It’s been Glasgow, Nottingham, Lincoln, Manchester, Bath, Cardiff and two gigs in London.

Tony: How well have you gone down?  Have people known you?

Gretchen: Lincoln was an off city, Bath was awesome.

Tony: Have you enjoyed it as much as playing in America?

Gretchen: I think it’s the same.

Aliccia: A little harder for us to get around.  We are driving ourselves.

Tony: You play old-fashioned guitar rock whereas most US guitar rock is now nu-metal.  Is what brought you together the fact that what you’re doing is anti-fashion? 

Aliccia: You know what I think brings us together?  We hear an amp or a guitar tone or a drum tone and we all either like it or not like it, and it comes down to the tone, the warmth of it, and we play off each other.

Tony: Future plans?

Aliccia: New record, which we are recording now. Hopefully it will be out in the next few months.

Tony: Slumber Party: Thank you!

 

 
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DRESSY BESSY interview by Ged, Mawders and Kev

 

dressy1.jpg (19164 bytes)Arthur Conley sang about sweet soul music.  If there was a song about sweet pop music, Dressy Bessy would be the ones to write it.  They’ve released two albums on Track and Field in the UK and a couple of extra things on Kindercore in the US and are touring to promote the latest album, the wondrously melodic ‘Sound Go Round’.  Dressy Bessy are Tammy Ealom (guitar and vocals), John Hill (guitar), Rob Greene (bass) and Darren Albert (drums).  The SoundsXP eds talked to Tammy and John before their Track and Field Night gig at The Water Rats.   

SXP: How’s the tour going?

Tammy: It’s going very well.

John: Really well.  All the shows have been great. 

Tammy: People are buying stuff.  The merchandise – it never really happened much last time.

SXP: We saw you at Reading.

Tammy: That was great.  We liked the place.

SXP: What sort of level of gigs are you playing in America?

Tammy: Medium-sized clubs?

John: Yeah, yeah.

Tammy: Oh we play places like that (Reading) too.  That’d be classed as a warehouse show at home. 

John: According to how big the city is.  Bigger cities, we play bigger places.

SXP: And you’ve got a hometown gig at the end of the month.  Do you still normally play Denver?

Tammy: We do play.  We’ve a practice space round Denver.

John: Yeah, we have a studio and a rehearsal space.

SXP: There’s not much biography on you on the web.  We know bits about you: the fact that John was in The Apples In Stereo.

Tammy: He still is.  He’s permanently in The Apples in Stereo. 

SXP: How do you combine your interests in the two bands?

John: Well, two of my band members had a baby about a year and a half ago so that instantly freed up a lot of my time. It’s kind of a juggle but everyone gives and takes with the schedule.

Tammy: It’s staggered.  A lot of the stuff Dressy Bessy does happens in the Spring.  When we finish up, he has to go because in the Fall the Apples start up whatever they’re going to be doing.

John: This is the last push for ‘Sound Go Round’ for now and the Apples are starting up in September.  I’ll be into that until June and then we start a record.  Hopefully, we can keep it staggered.

SXP: You’re Denver natives?

Tammy: We’re all transplants.  I’ve lived there since 1984.  My father retired there from the military.  It’s an hour south of Denver, a town called Colorado Springs. And I finished high school there. So I’ve been in Colorado almost 20 years. 

SXP: How did you all come together?

Tammy: It came about….

John: …over a few years.

Tammy: You and I had started dating two years previously and I had played in a couple of bands when he and I met and that sort of dissipated. He turned me onto the four-track cassette recorder and he taught me some guitar chords. 

John: I taught her how to play bar chords.

Tammy: I started writing songs and trying to find people who’d let me boss them around a little bit!

SXP: How did you meet Darren and Rob?

Tammy: I met Darren through my work actually. He brought Rob with him.   He had a New York accent and I had just visited New York for the first time.

John: They’re both from New York City.

Tammy: Right. Darren said “that’s so cool; I lived in New York”.  We started talking.   He said he played drums and his friend Rob played guitar.  And they came over and he played drums.

John: And Rob played guitar.

Tammy: He’s a good guitar player.

John: He played guitar for a while then he started playing bass. I actually started playing bass for, like, a week – for about two practices or something.

Tammy: And then we started looking for a guitar player and he said “ach, I’ll do it”! *laughs*

SXP: Your first single was Spring 1997.  How long had Dressy Bessy been together before that?

Tammy: We met in October 1996 and our first show was January 1997 so pretty quick.  We recorded that stuff on a crappy four-track that we had. And we really didn’t do much with sound or anything. We just wanted to record what we’d done and put it out. 

John: It’s just a practice recording.

Tammy: It was: oh, we’ll make a record, it’s cheap!

SXP: You've put out quite a lot of records, judging by your website.

 

John: A lot of compilations.

Tammy: After the first 7-inch came out, the person behind the Drugracer label in the UK wanted to put an album out.  At that time, we didn’t have that many songs.  But we’d have an EP and put the 7-inch on there also.  So, seven songs, in a limited pressing of 500, is all he put out.  

SXP: At Friday’s gig in Reading, there were some tracks we didn’t recognise.

We’re working on recording some now.  They may come out on the next album or singles.  There’s a California EP that Kindercore put out in the US a year and a half ago.   That’s got five songs and we played three from that record, I guess.  We’re considering putting it out as a 10-inch over here.

SXP: I wish you would.  The tracks I didn’t recognise sounded rockier, and for a gig they were perfect.  Are you moving in a rockier direction?

Tammy: It’s how we’ve always sounded live.  We’ve tried to capture that in recording.

John: I guess our live show is what we really are but we’ve just not been able to capture that precisely on a recording.

Tammy: We don’t have a lot of money for our recording budget too.

John: That too. And we’re just learning and kind of throwing it together ourselves. But it’s getting more towards that and I think we’ll probably get it next time to be more like a live show. If you could pull it off, I think we should have a live recording!

SXP: Your album covers are brilliant.  Who designed them?

Tammy: Thank you.  I did them!

SXP: I definitely want you to release a T-shirt with the ‘Sound Go Round’ cover on it.  I’m a macho male but I want to wear a pink T-shirt! *laughs*

John: Iron it on!

Tammy: We actually thought about doing that [producing a transfer print] through the website.  You could do it yourself!

SXP: [to John] You’re a little bit tasty aren’t you?  I noticed during the [Reading] gig there’s a little bit of goading of the audience.  It was a joke wasn’t it?  Have you ever had anyone come back at you, under the influence of alcohol or whatever, and say “you want some”?  In Liverpool that joke might not go down too well!

Tammy: You expect it when you’re tall, I think.  But we’ve gotten a reputation; people think we’re walking about on bubbles, things like that.

John: Yeah, cutesy!  But I was joking, I really was!  I didn’t try to tell that joke there [in Liverpool] because a big guy might come out of the corner and say “come here, I’ll punch you”!

SXP: [to John] I thought you were cute till I saw you the other night!

John: Just don’t get in my way, alright!

SXP: On last Thursday’s John Peel show, Peel read out a letter from a listener who’d seen you in Oxford and said that the guitarist couldn’t stop smiling all night.  Do you enjoy playing live?

Tammy: Yeah.  Best part of the day.

John: Really is.  Love it. 

SXP: You played for over an hour in Reading.  You must have been shattered.

John: They asked us to play longer. We don’t usually play quite that long.  Later we decided it was too long!  We were just drenched in sweat.  But it feels good!

Tammy: Good exercise!

John: We played in Brighton and we had really cold air-conditioning. I didn’t realise then but I realised on Friday: wait a minute, I think I prefer to sweat.  Makes you feel like you’re rocking! 

SXP: Mighty Fudge Studios did the animation on your website.  Do you like it?

Tammy: I love that cartoon.  It was his idea; he picked the song.  He didn’t even know any of us that well.  He was the friend of another friend but he nailed us, I think, our personalities, in the video.

John: But he made a full frame cartoon too. Have you seen it on the website?   That’s like a broken down version of it.   It’s real detailed: it’s great on DVD. 

Tammy: It was a challenge for him.  And it raised his standards a notch.  If you go to his website he got other cartoons.  Some of them I don’t like so much but you can tell he really stepped up with ours. He’s getting more attention round town too.

SXP: Do you encourage that cartoon image?

Tammy: That stuff kind of finds us anyway.  I’m way into the colours, the shapes, things like that anyway so I have no problem with it. 

SXP: We noticed that some of your tracks were picked up for a film.

Tammy: ‘But I’m A Cheerleader’.  You seen that?  It’s an incredibly good movie!

John: Yeah, it’s really silly.

Tammy: It’s all bright and kind of John Waters and all our favourites.

SXP: What songs do they use?

Tammy: They use Just Like Henry and If You Should Try To Kiss Her.   They gave the songs a whole new meaning and they fit in there like they’re written for the movie.   The whole soundtrack’s great. No-one put the soundtrack out but they should have.  The movie’s about a teenage girl whose parents think she’s a lesbian so they send her to rehabilitation camp to become straight.  I mean…!  RuPaul is the male camp councillor for the guys.  Kathy Moriarty is in it, Natasha Lyonne, Bud Cort.

SXP: Sounds a bit kitsch.

Tammy: It is.  Ridiculous!  But it’s so good.  We’ve picked up a lot of fans from that movie.  That thing [the soundtrack] was actually on Napster.  A lot of people were downloading it.

SXP: You happy with people downloading your stuff?

John: It helps more than it hurts.

Tammy: I like to think someone will go try to find the record, like the package and buy it anyway.

SXP: Are you popular in particular US cities? You’ve just toured there with Deathray Davies.

John: We’ve been all over the States, mainly in the big cities but also in the little cities sometimes too.  We did another tour after that tour.  We’ve done about 60 shows in the States this year.  The East Coast is our best market. 

SXP: Is there much of a Denver scene?

John: Not a particular scene.  It’s all one big scene.

Tammy: Lots of people have bands and they’re all doing things.

SXP: And you know them all?

Tammy: No, we don’t!  The reason we live in Denver isn’t the scene.  We rent a cheap house, we stay home, there are great restaurants around, it’s relaxing. 

SXP: What’s playing in the tourbus?

Tammy: The gears!

John: Yeah, a song of diesel!  *makes crunching engine noises*

SXP: What are your influences?

Tammy: I’m reading The Shining right now!  Maybe that’s why I’m…. * growls*!

John: I started listening to hard rock first.  I was fairly mainstream till I got to college.

Tammy: My dad’s a record collector so I’d always have the Beatles, and Toto.  I was really into Prince and Michael Jackson and stuff like that when I was in Junior High.

SXP: Were you ever into bubblegum pop?

Tammy: Oh yeah. When you’re a kid any pop is bubblegum. 

SXP: One of your reviews mentions the Archies.

Tammy: Yeah.  We love the Archies.

John: I think the tambourines set it off.  Like the whole 60s thing: you hear a tambourine, you think: bubblegum pop!  

Tammy: There’s a lot more jangling with the Archies.  We’re more rocking, loud.

SXP: Tammy, you’re the songwriter.  You’ve tapped into the classic pop single sound.  Is that difficult?

Tammy: Thank you.  It’s fun.   I’m really hard on myself when I’m sitting writing.  It seems simple but it’s not as simple as you’d think. 

John: She works with a four-track. She’ll start with a little piece, she’ll record a song and by the end of the day it’ll have been recorded six times.

Tammy: Right, because I’ll rearrange it till I get it.

SXP: Live To Tell All is a great song.  It’s a shame it didn’t get a full Dressy Bessy release.

Tammy: It came out as a single on Kindercore Singles Club and then Track and Field put it out as a split single. In the US, Kindercore are putting out a singles compilation and that’s going to be a track on it.  I love it so if it’s on CD it will give a whole different life to it.  Hopefully they’ll put out a DVD of the video for That’s Why so maybe you’ll have that too.  

SXP: What next for Dressy Bessy?

Tammy: We’re going to start work on another album, a new album coming up next Fall.

SXP: A long wait.

Tammy: Yeah.  But we’ll have the singles compilation come out. It going to have maybe a couple of demos on it and maybe a couple of live recordings.  

SXP: Are you looking forward to playing live on the John Peel Show?

John: Oh yeah!

Tammy: All the girls like him.  They all say: “he’s so sexy”!

John: In the US, everybody in the know knows him. 

SXP: Dressy Bessy, thank you very much! 

 

 
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TENDER TRAP interview by Tone

Tender Trap is the new project from Amelia Fletcher, Rob Pursey and DJ Downfall, all former members of K Records’ band Marine Research.  Prior to this, Amelia had worked with Rob in the legendary Talulah Gosh and Heavenly, who ruled in indie-dom long before lad rock took over.  So it was about being shy, who cares?  It was cool.  Most of all, it was about being oneself and being happy without an attitude.  This new band has a simple and relaxing feel and over 13 tracks on ‘Film Molecules’ (Fortuna Pop) we are offered solid songwriter stuff, experiments in electronic music, post rock and jangly guitars all with the unmistakable vocals of Amelia Fletcher.  Our man Tony Strutt penned these notes and caught up with the band at a gig in June at the Toynbee Hall Arts Café.  

Tony: Your history covers Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research, Sportique and Tender Trap.  Have I missed any? 
Rob: There’s that single you did?
Amelia: I did a disco single between Talulah Gosh and Heavenly.  That was when I thought I was going to be Yazz!  In the end it was released under the name Amelia Fletcher.  I did it when I thought I was going to be famous but in the end I released it as an interesting oddity about two years later.  It was on Fierce Records.     

Tony: Did each project form out of the previous one, because you used similar musicians?
Amelia: Yeah!  Actually, Rob was in Talulah Gosh at the start but he hated it and left. 
Rob: It’s true!
Amelia: It was too ramshackle. 
Rob: It was worse than that: it was like warring egos, it was middle class punk rock.  It was embarrassing.  I’m sure I could handle it now.  It was embarrassing so I left. 
Amelia: I got to know Rob because we wanted a bassist for Talulah Gosh, which he agreed to do for a short while, and I marched down to him and he agreed to be in our band and we stopped Talulah Gosh because it seemed right.  Then I was going to do disco music so I recorded all this disco stuff and then realised I was quite bad at it.  Also really no-one wanted to hear it and what I really knew was indie even though at that time indie was not really….

Tony: …cool.  Well, it never has been fashionable…
Amelia: Even in its own world it was all acid house and stuff.  In the indie world it was all lad rock.
Rob: That was when Heavenly started.
Amelia: It was naturally me, my brother Peter and later Rob who were in Talulah Gosh and then later Cathy and then my brother died so that’s what happened to Heavenly.  Then we weren’t going to do anything, then we got bored so we started up Marine Research with exactly the same line up.  Then Marine Research stopped, us three split up and we are doing this thing.  

Tony: What is the difference between Marine Research and Tender Trap? Rob: What do you think?
DJ: It fits in a car.
Amelia: We promoted DJ from drummer to bass player.
DJ: Demoted.
Rob: It was mainly motivated by the desire to do short songs, because I hate middle eights, and to be able to travel in a small saloon car and never carry a drum kit again.

Tony: How did you name each individual band - was there an idea behind each?  
Rob: I remember Heavenly because Heavenly was to find something as feminine and as un-lad rock as possible.
DJ: We were Marine Sausage Research Limited for the first show, which was a terrible name.

Tony: I believe you are about to celebrate your 16th birthday in music?
Amelia: I am, that’s true!

Tony: Does it feel like 16 years?
Amelia: Not sure if I have passed my 16th birthday.
Rob: you can have sex now!
Amelia: Wow, cool!  I can do all sorts of things.  That’s frightening and you can see from tonight’s gig I still can’t play a guitar.  

Tony: Along with Sarah Records, to a degree you sort of invented ‘twee’. How does that make you feel?
Rob: Sick, sad.  I hate that word.  I really don’t want to hear that word. That’s sad, that’s pathetic, wilful feminisation of men and women into kind of children.  I really despise it, that’s my feeling on it.
Amelia: That said, we were to some degree responsible for it! (*laughs all round*)


Tony: So what do you think of twee now? Belle and Sebastian are making a killing out of it.

DJ: We did really well out of twee.
Amelia: They are good.  

Tony (to Amelia): You have a lot of shy male fans out there.  Is that something you’re proud of?
Amelia: Shy male fans?

Tony: Yeah: They go: “Amelia, she is so cute”!
Amelia: Do they still do that?

Tony: Yeah, they still do that! (*more laughter*)
Rob: After 16 years!

Tony: But they still won’t come up to you to talk after 16 years.
Rob: To be honest, all the bands I like, I have been too shy to go and talk to them.

Tony: Another question from Sweden: what do you think is the best song you’ve ever written?
Amelia: With this band, we write all the songs together where before I wrote all the songs. 
Rob: Not in Talulah Gosh.
Amelia: Blimey!
DJ: I think ‘Fat Lenny’ from the last Heavenly LP.
Amelia: Really? I can’t remember it.

Tone: Out of all your bands, which is the one you’re most proud of?
Amelia: At the moment, Tender Trap.

Tony: To be honest, I think this is your most mature album. 
Rob: Well, 16 years, fucking hell!
Amelia: Probably a good thing.  I’m most proud of that and Talulah Gosh and the reason I like Talulah Gosh was because it was completely out of control, we had no idea what we were doing.  I think we created something interesting.

Tony: The new album is quite different: the last track is post-rock.  Can you see yourselves going down that road?
Amelia: Yeah (*disappears to buy a drink*)
Rob: I think that the songs on the album…when DJ got involved in the album, it made it go more that way because if it started with him it would be more electronic and we’d embellish it.  The next song, me and Amelia have written would be a great single if we started off that way, it is more poppy, it’s high-NRG. 

Tony: Do you think that would alienate the original fans saying “Oh they’ve changed, I’m not going to be shy anymore, I’m off to the pub and I’m going to be a lad”?
DJ: That’s always the way.
Rob: That’s good, because if you didn’t get some new people to like it, it would be sad.  Do you think people would say we’ve lost our jangle?

Tony: No.
*Amelia returns and laughs*

Tony: With each band, have any sold more than the others or has it just carried over?
Rob: I don’t know really.

Amelia: I actually think Heavenly around ‘Le Jardin’ sold the most, especially in Japan.  I think we sold a lot of Marine Research in America.

Tony: Are you going to make MP3s available of stuff never released?
Rob: One thing I wanted to do, when we first started up, we had a little eight-track. There are simple versions of stuff on the LP and it would be fun to put them on the net. 
Amelia: It’s easy making an MP3 file.

Tony: Is the next album written?
Rob: Yeah.
Amelia: A hell of a lot.
Rob: There’s enough songs in various forms.
Amelia: There’s not a lot of lyrics.  

Tony: Last question. Have you ever wanted to be on Top of the Pops?
Amelia: Yeah!
DJ: It’s crap now.

Tony: But would you have liked to have done it?
Amelia: Yeah, I would have loved to have done it.  Heavenly were on the chart show for ten seconds and that was exciting! (http://listen.to/tendertrap)

 

top  Yeah Yeah Yeahs   interview by Ged and Vanilla

Nick Zinner plays guitar with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, probably the coolest American band right now (check out their website at www.yeahyeahyeahs.com).  A three piece (Nick, vocalist Karen O and drummer Brian Chase), they make intelligent, heart-racing and air-punching music and also put on a thrillingly entertaining live show.  The day before their gig at the Highbury Garage, they played the alternative stage at the Mardi Gras on Hackney Marshes, which suffered from bad organisation and poor attendance.  Ged and Vanilla spoke to Nick before the Garage gig.  PS: his favourite colours are black and red. 

SXP: Did you like the Mardi Gras? 

Nick: Not really…I was kinda sick.  It was really fun to have walked around and I would have really liked to have stayed and seen the Human League but they probably wouldn’t have played any songs that I liked.  Their first record’s a really good one but they’d probably just play ‘Only Human’ and all those really stupid songs. 

SXP: Did you stay to see the rest of the bands?

Nick: No.  I saw the Cooper Temple Clause.  They’re alright.  I really liked their first song.  It was really intense.  And then it took us two hours to get out of there.  It was cool to just walk around and see the queer community in England.   Everyone seemed really nice.

SXP: How’s the current tour going? Are you enjoying yourselves?

Nick: It’s great.  This is sort of like the last night.  It’s only been about two weeks but it’s been really fun.  We got to play in Sweden and Denmark and it’s been fantastic. 

SXP: Are you as popular there as you’re becoming here?

Nick: I really don’t know – but there were a lot of people!  We made the front page of the national Swedish newspaper [‘Dagens Nyheter’].  Up on the top there’s the masthead and a little picture of some tennis star and then a picture of Karen.  Open it up and there’s a huge colour picture of us!  It was cool – people there are really receptive. 

SXP: Do you get the same sort of attention in America?  You were a big hit at the South By South West Festival.

Nick: In New York we do.  I think that [the SxSW Festival] sort of set things off.   New York has been really good to us.  We haven’t really toured that much outside the East Coast so it’s hard to tell.

SXP: Is there a renaissance in rock music?

Nick: I think there’s definitely more really good bands now, more than ever, in the time I’ve been listening to music and been involved in music. Yeah, it’s good.

SXP: Who are the bands that you rate now?  The Liars?

Nick: *Laughs*  Of course, the Liars!  They’re fantastic.  I think The Rapture too.  I haven’t seen their new thing but I used to see them a lot in New York about two years ago.  There’s a band called Flux Information Sciences that I think are really great.  They don’t get too much press ‘cos they’re sort of weird and kind of hard-edged, industrial.  And all those other bands are great like The Strokes and White Stripes – they’re all really good bands.  We’ve never felt part of this new rock community but we definitely support all those other guys.  

SXP: The story of how you formed is that Karen said “let’s form a band” and the next thing you’re supporting the White Stripes. Was it like that?

It’s pretty true!  But they weren’t that big when we played with them and Karen and I had been working on this sort of quiet project that we still do sometimes so we’d been playing together for a couple of months.  But, yeah, she was: “let’s form a rock band” and I was: “I’m really busy”!  The White Stripes were on tour with Sleater-Kinney at the time and they were playing the Mercury Lounge – it’s a club like this – in New York.  We were first out of four so it’s not like as glamorous as it sounds.

SXP: We read a couple of days ago that you’d signed to Ministry of Sound.  Is that right?

Nick: *Laughs out loud*  Not true at all!  I’ve heard that rumour.  Where did you read that?  [The Guardian]   Are you serious?  We haven’t.  That’s so…untrue!…so, so untrue.    

SXP: When will we hear more from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs? 

Nick: We might be doing a single in September but as soon as we get back to Brooklyn next week we’re going to start recording the record and hopefully it’ll come out in January.

SXP: Will that be on Wichita?

Nick: We don’t know yet.  I can assure you 100% it will not be on Ministry of Sound! 

SXP: When you go back to Brooklyn are you going to be playing as well as recording?

Nick: We have one show in Coney Island, there’s a festival there that the Village Voice is putting on.  That’s a free festival so we’re going to play at that.  That will probably be it for New York because we’re coming back to Europe in August. 

SXP: Karen was really energetic yesterday on stage.  Do you have plans to get any backing dancers?

Nick:  Hmm.  Not yet!  It’s a good idea though!  She’s a great dancer. 

SXP: Is the fashion side of things that important to the band?  I heard you’ve got Vogue coming tonight. 

Nick: Oh really?  Wow.  It’s secondary, not even third place.  That’s what Karen looked like before she was in a band - we all look the same.  I think it’s great to have a good image, to look exciting.  No-one wants to see just a bunch of guys on stage.  Well, unless you’re Neil Young!

SXP: We saw you at the Monarch when Karen was wearing a Dior dress.

Nick: It’s not Dior actually.  It’s designed by a friend called Christian Joy. 

SXP: Really?  We got that from Everett True’s magazine! 

Nick: I know.  They got a lot of things wrong.  That little piece is really funny! 

SXP: You all seem to enjoy yourself on stage.

Nick: Oh sure.  Yeah, it’s really fun.  It’s a privilege that we have so it’s not a hassle.    Especially if the crowd is really reactive.  Though yesterday seemed a bit forced.  It was like the worst organised festival.*laughs*

SXP: But you sold out this place really quickly.

Nick: Yeah, that’s what I heard.  Amazing. 

SXP: Do you think US bands have more sense of history?  And is there a classic you’d like to cover?  

Nick: I don’t know.  It really depends on what field of music that you listen to.  America is so stratified.  What we listen to, especially me, is all over the place.  If it’s good, I’ll listen to it.  I’ve never felt strongly about only listening to one style of music.  We tried a Madonna cover once! 

SXP: What were you listening to when you grew up?

Nick: Motley Crüe!   I still listen to Motley Crüe!  Their first 2 records are really good.  And Bowie.  We played that Meltdown festival and I think we played the second or the third to last night and it was: oh yeah he’ll be there for sure – he didn’t show up. 

SXP: What about the Human League?

Nick: I just started to get into all that stuff about a year ago.  I ‘m just really interested in music from the late 70s and early 80s in New York and over here too.  Great stuff.   All the barriers came down and everyone started at square one.  You know: what does rhythm mean?  So much good stuff came out of there.

SXP: Is it easier or harder writing for a three piece because you make a big sound?

Nick: It’s much easier! 

SXP: So you wouldn’t want a bass player.

Nick: No, not yet.  I mean, maybe in a year or something.  We tried playing with some other people before we started playing with Brian and it would take hours just to get one song down.  Now, with Brian, Karen and I will have a song half written, bring it into practice and it’s done in 20 minutes.  And it sounds great to us. 

SXP: Tell us about Karen and Brian. 

Nick: I think that Karen is a first class entertainer, a first class inspirer of people, she has a really good pop sensibility in the way she sings and in the delivery of the lyrics, really inspiring.  To be honest, there are few women [in rock] now and, even out of those, few who are any good – which sucks.  I think she’s great.  I don’t think she’s even making a statement about: here I am, a woman doing what’s called a man’s thing.  She’s just up there and doing it.  Brian is an amazing musician.  He’s a classically trained jazz drummer.  He just hears things that no-one else does.  Maybe we’d be sitting around listening to music or something and he’ll be *beats on table* tapping out this great rhythm.  I’ll be: “what are you doing?” and he’ll be: “I’m dividing the rhythm into sevenths!”   But he can do anything – that’s his biggest strength. It’s really inspiring.   

SXP: Do you know anything about your support bands tonight?

Nick: The Loves?  We actually asked them to play with us.  We played with them in Cardiff.  We were blown away.  They’re really cool.  They’re all really young and really cute and the music’s catchy.  I think they’re great! 

SXP: Nick, thanks a lot!

Nick: Cool.  Can I take your picture?  I take a picture of everybody! 


top  Saloon    interview by Ged

Saloon play a wonderful spacerock, sometimes rocky, sometimes spacey…definitely post-modern.  Their album on Track and Field ‘(This Is) What We Call Progress’ has garnered critical praise from, including others, the Sunday Times and Sunday Express while they’re being played on stations from Sweden to Slovakia and in the US, where the album is out on Darla, they’re picking up college airplay and the band have reached the CMJ radio charts.   They spoke to SoundsXP in July 2002. Interview by Ged.

How did the band come together? 
Matt:
The usual – adverts, poaching cool strangers in bars, chance meetings in doctor’s waiting rooms.

Your web site has a series of strong, colourful images of the band and we saw you wearing Kraftwerk / Joy Division “uniform” on stage.  Who has the creative vision in the band? 
Matt:
I think that all five of us each bring our own ideas to the visual side of the band.  Obviously there has to be some compromise – some of the more conceptual ideas have to be reined in a little to avoid us looking like coke-addled tosspots – but we know how important image is.  Also it means we can all come straight from work and not worry about having to bring a change of clothes…

You’re playing the ICA in July, accompanying the film La Jetée.  What attracted you to the project? 
Michael:
“La Jetée” deals with a lot of things that concern us. It's a sci-fi film with no special effects, and is composed purely of black and white stills, which makes it timeless.  It sets up oppositions which you'll find in our music: past / future, pastoral / urban, idyllic / apocalyptic, big things for you to think about.  It will be a discipline to accompany such a formal visual too - we've tended to play in front of more abstract random films before, prepared by the artist Phil Newcombe.  We're really excited about playing at the ICA.  I know it gets a lot of flak for being a bit of an ivory tower, with no real pertinence; but there's a great argument for it's existence in Paul McCartney's biography "Many Years From Now", which everyone in a band who consider themselves as "arty" should read.  
Alison: It’ll be good to play an art institution for a change, instead of your usual pub venue. It’s often difficult to play art events in London unless you’re part of the art scene so this is a great opportunity for us to do something different.  It should be a memorable experience, both for us and for the people who see our usual shows.

Is film important to Saloon?  (‘Bicycle Thieves’ would sound great on a soundtrack.)  
Michael:
Well, "Bicycle Thieves" is a great Italian neo-realist film.  When we're working on new material, we sometimes discuss ideas in visual terms, and these will often refer to Cinema.  It's interesting to describe and understand sound in terms of related images, and in that sense music is certainly more refined - as such you need to work harder to impress people.  We get a lot of people watching us with their eyes closed - if that's possible - maybe that tells us something?!

You seem a particularly culturally literate band.  Favourite film/record? Michael: God. Impossible question.  I like Wes Anderson a lot at the moment, and “La Jetée” is huge - it'll pickle you if you think about it too much.  I love NYC 70's stuff too like “The French Connection”, “Klute” and “The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3” and political stuff like “Z” and “The Battle Of Algiers”.  “The Big Lebowski” and “Being John Malkovich” have a lot of good memories - I've seen them so many times, and with the same set of people funnily enough.  They know who they are.  Oh, and “Magnolia”.  As for Favourite Record - Two Lone Swordsmen's “Tiny Reminders” gets better and better.  Herman Dune's last CD is great.  I've always loved “Sticky Fingers” and “Loaded” by The Velvets.  I'm looking forward to DJ Shadow's album and the new Primal Scream record. That's all I'm prepared to say today.  
Adam:
We’ve always consciously tried to appear a bit more cultured than we probably are, I think it’s because when we formed 4 years ago Britain was still feeling the aftershocks of the horrible Britpop beer, fags and birds culture.  As for films I’ve always been interested in the French New Wave especially Truffaut and Jean Luc-Godard if I’ve got the right head on.  I love Kubrick, but who doesn’t?  Best film of recent years is “Memento” without a doubt.  Favourite new record is the new Mum LP.  Favourite old record at the moment “Power Corruption and Lies” by New Order, which is really giving me faith while writing the difficult second LP.  
Matt:
My favourite record has to be “Endtroducing…” by DJ Shadow.  It may seem like an obvious choice - the hip-hop record it’s ok for indie kids to like – but I love it.  It’s one of the most visual records I’ve ever heard and I never ever get tired of listening to it.  As for my favourite film, when you’re in a band, especially on the road, the sights, sounds… and smells of Spinal Tap are pretty unavoidable. 
Alison:
Favourite film – “Don’t Look Now.”  Favourite records I’ve been listening to recently are: The Brian Jonestown Massacre – “Thank God For Mental Illness”, Mercury Rev – “All is Dream”, Echo & the Bunnymen – “Crocodiles”, The Pretty Things – “SF Sorrow”, Circle – “Reunion”, The Warlocks – “Rise & Fall”………..

You play analogue synths and have a sort of retro-futurist feel.  Does that make you young fogeys?  
Michael:
I am the most fogiest.  I ramble and camp and go to museums.  In fact I am off to the New Forest this weekend armed with a compass and flask. 
Amanda: I don’t know.  You tell us.  We do in some ways make a conscious decision to go back to the past and use instruments we like.  Sixties and seventies soundtracks are a big influence on our sound.  You can call us nostalgic if you like but I think this is unfair.  We are not looking to the past to replicate the exact sound of the music back then; we are using select, interesting instruments from that era, but using them in a modern way.  We’re a very post-modern band, you know.  
Alison:
I dunno, because when I listen to early Brian Eno and Roxy Music using similar sounds and arrangements, I still think they sound modern and ahead of their time and that was like, 30 years ago.  But that might just make me old-fashioned.

Are you happy with the album and with coverage of it (reviews in the Sunday Times and Sunday Express!)? 
Amanda: The press coverage has simultaneously exceeded and disappointed my expectations.  It has been brilliant that we have had fantastic reviews, but they seem to have come from unlikely sources.  It has surpassed my anticipations to make it to the Sunday Times etc, but I can’t help feeling frustrated by being ignored by the so-called independents like the NME.

Reviews have compared you to Stereolab, Broadcast, Beth Orton, Talulah Gosh, Belle and Sebastian and Doctor Who!  Do you find this flattering or unflattering? 
Amanda: It can be annoying for any band to be categorised and sometimes even demeaned by constant references and comparisons to certain other bands.  Yet, I think that it is important to be honest with oneself and acknowledge that comparisons are at times a useful thing, for example in creating interest for new listeners.  It is certainly something I don’t have a problem with when it comes to reviews of other artists.  To me, it seems pointless to whinge about recurring journalistic comparisons.  Saloon has experienced these comparisons probably since day one, but they don’t really bother me anymore.  Admittedly there is a side to us that sounds like Stereolab, but fortunately there are many other sides to our music as well.  
Alison:
I don’t know about musical comparisons, but one thing about some of these bands you’ve mentioned is that they have lasting power, people genuinely believe in them and they don’t have to rely on the NME or whatever to sell their records and sell out shows.  They are / were all respected artists, some of whom have managed to do music for a living, so if reviewers thought that we had that same potential, then I would say it’s a flattering comparison.  Dunno about Doctor Who, I’m afraid.
Adam: I love Dr Who, it was a massive influence on me.  I love the early stuff when Delia Derbyshire was a part of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  The Jon Pertwee period was good too, where the music was made by loads of crazy moogs and EMS synthis.  The episodes with the Silurians always had the best music. I’ve only seen those episodes on video of course; I’m not that old.

Your album is a mix of styles, moods and tones, a mixture of the organic and mechanical – are such contrasts deliberate?  
Michael:
ABSOLUTELY.  That's kind of the point.  I think the most relevant way to make music is to throw the human in with the technological.  That's how we live nowadays isn't it? 
Amanda:
Looking back, after a period of time, on the making of the album I think that the contrasts apparent in it were mainly sub-conscious ones.  The tensions that are on there are pretty indicative of the feelings, emotions and the tensions that went into and that we experienced whilst making the record.

You didn’t include previous singles, which included the two that made the biggest impression on the Festive 50 (“Free Fall” no 49 and “Impact” no 12), on the album.  Was this a matter of principle? 
Adam:
It was a creative decision rather than a commercial one.  With the first album we wanted to release our unreleased songs that are a bit longer, more spacious and less immediate pop.  “Free Fall” and “Impact” represent the other type of song we do; the three and a half-minute electronic pop stomp thing that we’ve been doing on our 7” singles.  They just wouldn’t have fitted comfortably on the album.  The decision to keep them off was made two years ago, before we’d even dreamed of being in the festive 50.  We’ve always been conscious of not wanting to rip off our fans.  We’ve always been like that, always trying to put out as much new stuff as possible, especially on compilations and b-sides.  We will be taking “Girls are the New Boys” off of the album for a future single – even we have to play the game a little - but it’ll be a different mix with two new b-sides so it won’t be too much of a rip-off.

You’re playing the Contem-pop-ranea festival in Spain in July and we understand you’re getting playlisted on US college stations.   Do you have much of a European or US following yet?
Matt: I think we’ll find out when we go over there and play!  There does seem to be quite a diverse range of countries that people email us from - a lot of college radio stations in the States are playing the record but whether many people have heard it in Europe yet remains to be seen, although the British Council and the Peel’s show on the World Service have both played us recently.
Alison:
we’ve always had a great response when we’ve played the boats in Paris, we’re playing Amsterdam and Spain later this summer so we should have more of an idea by then.  There does seem to be a lot of people from America and Canada getting interested so it will be exciting to go over there to play next year.

We’ve seen you at plenty of Herman Düne gigs and Alison and Amanda have both helped out the band.  Given you play rather different music, is there a particular affinity between the bands?  
Michael:
We just get along. Music's music, but it's people that count.  Having said that they happen to be pretty amazing and what they do, and we share some influences, but we're both our own bosses and process things in very different ways.  Amanda: I think there is definitely an affinity of some kind between the bands.  We do play quite different music from Herman Düne, but it is coming from a similar place.  We all really respect their music, but I think the ultimate similarity is that both bands are really into the independent ethic. 
Alison: One important thing is that they’re one band who we’ve all got on with, so that’s a good start.  It was a great experience, playing viola for them at the Toynbee hall. They’re such a beautiful band and there was a lot of feeling and emotion there on stage, like there is with Saloon.  So I suppose that’s a similarity, although we’re playing different music, the feeling’s there with both bands.
Adam:
David is a big Star Wars fan.  That’s why we get on.

Tell us about your Rodney Cromwell offshoot.   And does the fact that you have a track “Radagast the Brown” on a tribute album to The Lord of the Rings suggest you’re a fan of sword and sorcery? 
Adam:
Not at all, I’ve read the books a couple of times but I like them for the fact they’re exciting well-told tales.  I’m not into the whole D&D type thing.  The track and the whole notion of doing a Rodney Cromwell release came about only because Alan from Bearos asked us to submit a song and Saloon were too busy.  Alan is a lovely bloke I couldn’t turn him down; he makes his own absinthe and can tell you a few good tales about Birmingham’s community of axe wielding psychopaths.  I wrote, recorded and mixed the song on Amanda’s granddad’s bed in a three-hour session while he was at the football.  The only instrumentation is from a Korg MS-10 and a Casio MT-30 that I’d bought from a boot-fare for £2.50.  The song is a kind of tribute to the Spectrum computer game of “Lord of the Rings” (where Radagast features for more than the half page he gets in the 1100 page novel.) I loved the computer games, I used to know the formula for The Hobbit off the top of my head.  I was a bit of a geeky kid.  Have you heard the album?  I thought my song was a bit indulgent but next to the other stuff on there it sounds like Steps.

What was the last record to stop you in your tracks?
Michael:
“Gemini Disco” by Ekiti Son.  It's wicked and will blow up over the next couple of months.
Adam:
The Clientele “Lost Weekend” is really nice.  I’ve seen them live a few times and I never really got them, but I bought the EP and it just all clicked.  There’s a lot of new stuff I like but I’ve not heard anything for a good few that has made me feel like I’ve been touched by the voice of God. 
Matt: Too many to get it down to just one – the last Electrelane single, the last DJ Shadow single, Mclusky’s “To Hell With Good Intentions”, an electro track by Miss Kittin and Golden Boy called “Rippin Kittin”, a band we saw from Brighton called Fujiya & Miyagi – all fantastic stuff. 
Alison:
Definitely the new Flaming Lips single “Do You Realise”- they’re one of my favourite bands, I love everything they release, but this one is purely for the lyrics – it’s so simple, reminds me a bit of a school assembly, but really chilling and true…


top  Ant    questions posed by Ged and Kev

 Anthony Harding (Ant) is both drummer with Hefner and a solo artist of growing repute.  He’s just released his first full album, the gorgeous “A Long Way to Blow a Kiss” on Fortune & Glory Records.   This is an album of stolen kisses and silent passion, and is one which shows an emerging talent for lo-fi Nick Drake-like sweet melancholy.  Ged and Kev quizzed him in June 2002.

The songs you perform solo and with Hefner are mostly love songs but they are very different types of love song.  Is Ant always a Nick Drake romantic type or is there another side of you we've not yet glimpsed?
My songs always turn out romantic, even if I'm trying dead hard to be nasty!  For a good while now I've only really subconsciously concentrated on love and relationships as a theme in my songwriting because that's what drives me to write in the first place.  For me the whole point of writing a song is to express my happiness of being in love or my misery of being lonely!  Even though I'm looking for a slightly different angle for the next album, it'll probably end up being romantic again.  It just doesn't feel right trying to write songs about the seaside or the noisy neighbours, without involving those lovesick feelings or the pain of being heartbroken.

Your sound is low-fi and pared down.  Is that for financial reasons or how you want the songs to sound?  And if someone offered a big production and a full orchestra, would you take them?
The recordings sound a bit lo-fi because I record at home with no budget and the sound of the fridge and the traffic in the background!  It suits me at the moment, but one day I would love to give a record the full monty just to see if it would work with an orchestra and a grand piano.  But I would still want it to sound very simple and intimate.  I think it works best that way.  Anyway, I think this album sounds wicked!! I don't think my songs need much production.

Do you enjoy performing your songs live?
Yes. When I play live it's just my voice and the acoustic guitar, and more recently the drum machine. So it's a very basic and intimate show.  Sometimes the audience talk louder than my guitar, but as long as some of the people are listening then I'm fine with that.  You have to earn an audience’s silence!  I guess it works better if they are already familiar with the songs from hearing the CDs.  Playing live gives me the chance to strip it back down again to the point at which the song first began to take shape, with the guitar and vocal.  I have no desire to try to replicate the CD versions live on stage with a full band.  Yikes!  That would mean soundchecks longer than a few minutes, and arguments over what songs we would play!!  It would become like being in a proper band!

What comes first: solo work or Hefner, especially now you and Jack are releasing solo albums and playing live?
Hefner always came first because we had a proper record deal, were being paid a wage, and were very busy touring and recording.  That didn't leave much time to organise solo gigs or to do much recording of my own, only snippets here and there. But now we are taking a couple of years off to do our separate things and are no longer being paid, it's all changed. I now live in Malmö, Sweden and I'm doing some shows out here and a festival, and I'm also hoping to record an EP in Bologna, Italy soon, with Homesleep Records.  For the first time in nearly five years I have the time to focus properly on my own music, so I'm already planning the next album.  I have my drum kit set up in the lounge and hope to use it on some new songs soon (neighbours permitting) and I'm also learning the violin, and have just bought a melodica and a xylophone!  Jack is also releasing his solo album of beautiful, funny folk songs this year.

Do you enjoy making videos for Hefner?  And in the video for Good Fruit, why are you hiding behind your drums while everyone else is doing the Hefner linedance?
Not really.  Making videos involves even more waiting around than being on tour!  To be honest at first they were interesting experiences, but I think we could have spent all that money on more important things.   In Good Fruit the director wanted me to set up my drums and play while everyone else danced!  At first I was chuffed, as I hate dancing, especially in front of cameras!  But after dismantling and erecting those drums fifty times, I was itching to join in!

You went to art school.  Apart from sleeve art, do you draw seriously for other purposes?
Not really.  I tried for a while when I left art college, but no one was really interested. So I decided to concentrate fully on music and make a living that way.  Now I'm lucky enough to be able to use my drawings to illustrate my music.  Perfect!!  I would like to do more art in the future though. Big messy landscapes!

In your songs, are you singing to a particular person or persons?
Yes.  I'm not much of a storymaker, so I always use my own experiences and relationships for my songs.  This album starts with a few songs about breaking up with my last girlfriend, and then goes on to celebrate the new romance I am in now.  I  have to be careful not to get too sickly sweet, but it's hard to write sad songs about your lover when you know she's in the next room and she'll be the first to hear them!

You say on your website that you find solace in sad aspects of relationships.  Do you think that artists have to suffer in order to create art?
Yes. From my own point of view, my best work always comes from breaking up and not falling in love.  I guess when you fall in love you're far too content with everything, and can just sit there staring into space for hours on end with a stupid look on your face, whereas if you're heartbroken, you have all those bitter, jealous, lonely and paranoid feelings you need to exorcize.  It's almost like you long to be let down really badly so you can spend the rest of your life writing about it!  At the moment I'm finding love songs more of a challenge.  Trying to catch the sweetness and light without making people puke!  Not easy.

You seem to have a number of connections to Sweden.  Do you have particular ties to Sweden or a following there?
I released a single here in Sweden a few years ago on a small label called Fabulous Friends, limited to just 100 copies.  The following year I played the Emmaboda Festival.  I got a bit of radio play on the alternative show P3POP, and I also did an interview for them, and the same station broadcast some of the live set from the festival.  I guess since then I've had a very small but devoted following.  My girlfriend is also Swedish, and now we live in Sweden!   It has a great appetite for those gentle indie bands, and the kids are cool.  I am playing the Emmaboda festival again this summer.

What's your favourite book/film?
I wouldn't say I had favourites, but a book I've always admired is Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.  I hadn't read anything like that before.  His whole style of writing is superb, the way he doesn't use much punctuation, he just rambles and it flows.  Also he doesn't use anything to indicate who's speaking, but it still becomes obvious.  Similar to Jack Kerouac I guess, only much more interesting.  As for a film, again it's hard to pick just one.  My favourite directors at the moment are still Coppola, Scorsese, Hitchcock, Kubrick and of course Clint Eastwood!  All the obvious ones.

Is there one song/record you wish you'd written?
Oh yes!  There are many, but mostly I would have loved to have written the whole album - Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars!  My favourite album.  Every song is a marvel!  As well as any of Bowie's classic singles, from Space Oddity or Changes, even as far as Modern Love or Let's Dance!

What was the last piece of music you heard that stopped you in your tracks?
That doesn't happen anymore, but probably a piece of classical music on TV or in a film.  Something that just pulls your heartstrings, bringing a tear to your eye.  You have no idea who wrote it or what its title is.  Just something of real beauty.  I like that though, not needing to know its name or its writer, just hearing it once being enough.

Questions posed by Ged and Kev


top  Bearsuit   interview by Ged
How did the band come together? Iain, lisa and matt moss went to school together, always talking about doing something but seldom doing it. matt moss was the only one who owned, let alone knew how to play, an instrument. but the coffee got cold and we buckled down and gave up everything to move to the centre of the musical universe (norwich) where we met jan, cerian and matt hutchings. luckily they COULD play instruments, so we latched onto their talents and ate their sandwiches.

Are you a traditional (guitars, bass, drums) band who added brass, keyboards and extra percussion or did you always have that bigger sound in mind? When we started, iain and lisa's intention was to sound like the pixies, so there wasn't much space for anything other than guitars bass and drums. but how boring is that? the songs iain started making up required something less obvious, so we had to recruit people who knew what they were doing, and decided to try and sound like no other band. ocarinas, marimbas, electronic rulers etc. we’re still trying...

Who’s responsible for the visual side of the band – cartoons and sleeves?All of bearsuit contribute. we're all in the polaroids on the back of our singles. we all take turns to do a single cover. our original drummer, emma, did the sleeve for 'hey charlie, hey chuck'- a design classic. iain did ‘drinkink’ and cerian did ‘stop what you’re doing…’ drunken people at discos do our sleeve inserts.

You’re based in Norwich but is it true that you’re not from there originally? lisa, iain and matt moss are from sussex- the hell of bognor regis and chichester to be exact. jan's from doncaster, matt's from london and cerian's welsh but grew up in burton upon trent. all pulled to Norwich by forces we can't explain.

Where does the band’s name come from - is it from ‘Hotel New Hampshire’(i.e. Susie the Bear, “the woman in the bearsuit”)? One day we will have enough pennies to construct a full bearsuit for use in the field. our disguises will be complete. until that day, merely our arms and feet are hidden by fur.

How did you feel when you found out you were number 4 in the Festive Fifty? Do you get advance warning or is it a total surprise? And if you voted, who and what did you vote for? Total surprise. incredible shock. that people remembered even hearing that song. still can't take it in. must have been a fix.

Iain:

3) camera obscura- 80s fan

2) mika bomb- supersexyrazorhappygirls(maybe wrong year?)

1) ladytron- he took her to a movie

What influences Bearsuit, in terms of music and other media? Our daily experiences in the conquest of space and the foreign films and cartoons they show on the flight deck

You’re not playing live from March to May. What are you doing instead? Recording the rest of the album; a singles collection of the four singles and their b-sides called 'in charge of meats', should come out late summer. it's hard work because we're not very professional and we're recording it in a number of front rooms rather than in an actual studio. a studio is 'not very bearsuit'. 3rd single 'stop what you're doing what you're doing is wrong' is out 10th june. we're also rehearsing new material and fixing our ropey equipment in time for gigging in may and june.

What are your ambitions for the band? it's essential that we keep putting out as much material as we can before our small following turns against us and lynches our bearmobile in disgust at our new nu-metal direction. we've just got to be better. it can be done. stay alive. no matter what, i will find you...


top  The Workhouse   interview by Tone
The Workhouse are a 4 piece who hail from Oxford and London. The band have been making music for about 3 years and have released records on Emmas House, Rocket Girl and a fierce Panda spin off label. Their new single Nancy is released soon. The music they make is somewhere between The Kitchens of Distinction, The Chameleons, and Slowdive meets shoe gazing and Post rock. I spoke to frontsperson Mark Baker.

TO DATE YOU HAVE ONLY RELEASED MATERIAL ON VINYL, ANY REASON FOR THAT? Apart from having a track called Peacon on the Rocket Girl Compilation yes all of our releases have been on vinyl. No label has proposed a CD release for us and because offers of releases are few and far between we are glad of any format to get the music out there.

IS IT THE SAME LINE UP?Well we have a new bass player who joined last Autumn. Chris brings more creativity to the band and a decent quiff. We have the big fella (Andy) and mark on guitar duty and peter on the drums.

A LOT OF YOUR MATERIAL IS INSTRUMENTAL DO YOU THINK THIS GIVES THE MUSIC MORE ROOM TO BREATH?Yes of course. We are into sounds as much as songs and some of our melodies sound better on the guitar than sung. Although we are not adverse to singing or getting someone in to sing the thought of auditioning lots of megalomaniac front persons scares us. Songs based around vocals tend to be formulaic so having no voice allows the verse/chorus yelling thing to be broken.

YOUR MUSIC REMINDS ME OF SLOWDIVE/KOFD/CHAMELEONS. ANY INFLUENCES? Yeah the chameleons were a common liking in the early days and was a pre-requisite of band member adverts. If you don't like the chameleons your'e not in sort of thing. Kitchens were brill too, the sounds and great songs almost make them the perfect band. Live they were awesome. Slowdive too but not as much as the other two. We like all sorts of stuff but these bands and the likes of RIDE, BOB MOULD, JOY DIVISION, MBV, inspired us to get off our arses and do something.

HOW DID THE BAND GET TOGETHER? Good old NME classified pages, but of late we just ask friends to help out. Mark put an add in the paper in 1992 for a whole band really and prompted peter to get involved. We spent years doing bedroom stuff before big fella joined again through the NME.

THE USUAL SUPPORT IS ONLY 4 SONGS ANY PLANS TO EXTEND THIS? Yeah I think we usually play at least 5 or 6 these days. Its all about the impact you achieve by playing a short varied set. Theres nothing worse than seeing an instrumental band going on and on it gets a bit much and self congratulatory. As we get older our memory goes too, so we can only remember how 5 or 6 songs are played!

WHY THE WORKHOUSE? When we first formed alot of music was doom laden and the name fitted perfectly. Songs like WORK IS DEATH which we don't do anymore. The name has stuck since then although we hope the music is more uplifting these days.  People don't expect us to play the kind of music we do based on the name so it is good to undercut peoples expectations. Anyway its good to remind people that the workhouse was the most depraived exploitation of working people ever and we must not go back to that.

A US COMPILATION ALBUM IS DUE SOON WHEN WILL WE GET THE NEW FULL ALBUM? When we have some cash available to do it. Its bit of an uphill struggle sometimes as most labels do not say record this and we will release it. Its usually down to us to record upfront and hope someone will release it.

FUTURE PLANS? We release another single in the spring. This is a split single with fotomoto on Jonathan Whiskey Records and is called Nancy. We have the singles coming out on CD in the US also this spring. We are also looking to release something in the UK aswell. Along the same lines with the singles and a few remixes, looks like we will be doing it on the vacuous pop! label. After this, well gigs and recording of the new stuff and who knows.


top  Stephen Hero  interview by Tone
Stephen Hero is the new moniker for ex-Kitchens of Distinction frontman and bassist Patrick Fitzgerald.   From 1989 to 1994 KoD produced three classic albums for One Little Indian.  While still in KoD, Patrick started his first solo project Fruit, who produced one 7” for Rough Trade’s singles club back in ’94 before releasing Fruit’s only album ‘Hark At Her’ and the single ‘What is Fruit’, both for One Little Indian.  KoD finally split in 1996 after releasing the ‘Feel My Genie/To Love a Star’ on Fierce Panda, which was the only record to be credited to Kitchens O.D.  Between KoD and Stephen Hero he formed another band The Lost Girls with Heidi Berry.  Stephen Hero have released two mini albums ‘Landed’ (now sold out) and ‘Lullaby’.  A joint single for Track & Field with Cane 141 and a new album for Artful records ‘Darkness and the Day’ have just been released.  For   more information go to www.stephenhero.co.uk.  Tony Strutt met up with Patrick before his gig for Track & Field at the Arts Café in Commercial Street in March 2002. 

Stephen Hero is, I believe, your fourth band unless there was anything before Kitchens. Yes, there was something before Kitchen but it doesn’t count.  We didn’t make any records. 

Just out of interest, what was their name? The Surrogate Mothers! (laughs).

I believe the Stephen Hero discography includes the mini-album ‘Landed’ which is now deleted.  Will you make that re-available? What we would like to do at some point is to do ‘Landed’ and ‘Lullaby’ as a one-album CD at some point.  We will wait and see really how the new album does and if it goes well.  Then we will go for a re-press/re-release.

Because I believe it was a bit of a hush-hush release and no-one knew who you were.   Absolutely.  I was being hush-hush, it was like here is something that’s small, it’s just a little thing and it’s grown and it’s done well, so I’m excited again.  So there you go.  

Your name is Patrick Fitzgerald.  How pissed off are you that you can’t use your old name because of some punk guy from 1978? Well, he was there first!  I can’t complain.  

But it’s your name. Yeah, it is my name but I didn’t want to confuse people.  He came to a show I did under my own name, the first time I ever played on my own, and he said “please don’t” so I stopped.  I just thought: fair enough.  I don’t want to be confused with him so now people have started to call me Stephen, so now I have changed my name, which is quite exciting!

I thought the only other way round it was to do it like an email like “The Patrick Fitzgerald Tens” or whatever? Yeah.  But because it was usually a band set up, I thought I’d go for a band name. 

Fruit was a solo project.  And now Stephen Hero which you write most of the material for.  All of it.

And with the Lost Girls you wrote with Heidi Berry.  Has the way you write songs changed from Fruit to Stephen Hero? For Stephen Hero stuff it’s been really different, because I didn’t give myself any limits.  I tried to go back to what I was doing at the beginning of Kitchens, which was to become unfettered by the expectations of record companies and try to enjoy the music again, for exactly the reason why I did it in the first place.  I think it was a long process of deconstructing my head and trying to get back to what thrilled me.  And ‘Landed’ was just such an experimental thing for me to be able to do, with ‘Lullaby’ on its heels.  I was so free to be able to do what I wanted.  I love it but with the new record ‘Darkness and the Day’ I have made a pop record but I have done it because I wanted to do it and I didn’t feel any constraints.  I just enjoy myself, which is really nice because at the end of the Kitchens career it was really horrible because we were being harassed by the record company to come up with material like: we need this, we need that.  It just wasn’t what we wanted to do.  We did what they wanted, we thought we did, and it was just awful! (laughs).  

How did Stephen Hero develop after The Lost Girls? It was going at the same time.  What happened was that the Stephen Hero stuff all started with an arts concept that I did with this New York artist.  I did music for his pictures and I called it Stephen Hero music, it was all instrumental, it’s on the website, and it came from there. And I started writing songs that didn’t fit in with The Lost Girls things and ended up with a collection of songs. 

The Lost Girls sets were 40-45 minutes long.  Are there any songs from that period because there are only three tracks on the single.  Have any turned up on Stephen Hero records? One on the new record “New York City”, that’s it.  But I’ve been talking to Heidi and we are still keen to release a lot of the stuff we had recorded.  It’s just the ways and means to do it.  We loved it.   We did about 18-19 tracks.

I was going to ask if Stephen Hero will turn into a band but it looks like you have one.  Da da! (points to band on stage).

I know Dave Morgan (drummer) from years ago, Weather Prophets days, but I don’t know Kim (bass). Kim Smith.    I know her because she was a Lost Girl.  

I was told that you did something at the Riverside Studios.    I did music for a play for a theatre company in Wales called “Volcano”, the second production I’ve done for them and I’m working for them again.  Now I’m writing a musical (laughs) which is good, it’s fun, completely different from this, and I’m scoring a movie so it’s very hectic at the moment.

I was going to ask is this full-time? t’s more full-time than it’s ever been and I’m enjoying it in a way that I’d forgotten.   I think the last time I enjoyed myself this much was 1989-90, the first Kitchens album, when it was all exciting.  It’s great again.

You’re now on the same label as the Chameleons, and Kitchens of Distinction were always branded in the same way. Strange, strange times.

Very strange times. Were they ever an influence? You know, I never heard a Chameleons album till the second or third KoD album.  Dan our drummer liked them.  I didn’t know them at all, which was bad because I’m from Manchester so I should have known them.  Then I heard it and I thought: I do like this.  Bought all their records, I really like them.  I didn’t see a connection between the two bands.

It’s the jangly guitars. I don’t hear it.  Well, a little bit.  

You haven’t met them yet?No, went to see them though in Manchester, at the Ritz. 

Future plans? Another single coming out in May which is off the album, scoring the movie.  Should have a video of it today. 

What’s it called?  “A Bridge three times around the Sun”.  It’s a 40-minute short directed by John Hardwick who does Travis and James videos.  It’s cool, very nice. 


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 Neil Halstead  interview by Tone

Neil Halstead has just delivered his 7th album, called “Sleeping On Roads” (4AD). He is the main songwriter of 4AD’s country-tinged Mojave 3 and three of the members of Mojave 3 were in Neil’s previous band, Slowdive.

Why did you choose at this point to make an album? It just seemed like the right time to do it.  I suppose because I had a bunch of songs and I just wanted to do something different from Mojave 3 and that was just the way I felt, I didn’t just choose the time, it just felt….

 …the right time!   Prior to Slowdive, what was your musical history?  Were you a bedroom troubadour, is this how you started? I suppose like most people, I started playing guitar when I was 13 and the first thing you do is to try and play other people’s songs like Beatles stuff and basically went through my parents’ record collection, Beatles songs, Dylan songs.  The first time I went on stage was with a band called ‘The Pumpkin Fairies’ and we basically sounded like the Jesus and Mary Chain. So I had never played acoustic guitar live.  By the time I got to the point where I was in a band and ready to play outside of a bedroom, I was sort of into noisy music. 

How did the original Slowdive get together?  Were you at university together or did you know each other? None of us went to university.  I was at school with Rachel and we were in the band ‘The Smashing Fairies’, which was me, Rachel, this other guy and this guy called Adrian Solos (?) who was the drummer, and we got a different bass player in and at some point we changed the name to Slowdive. Then we got another guitarist in called Christian.  Christian actually joined the band because he wrote us some nice letters because he knew we were looking for a guitarist and he had seen us play a few times in Reading.  At that point, he was doing a fanzine for My Bloody Valentine and I guess he liked us because we sounded like them. So he wrote these letters but we were looking for a female guitarist so he offered to wear a dress if he could play in the band!   So we were like: fuck it! Come on in.  And that’s how we started.  We did a demo.

You got signed really quickly as well?  Yeah, we did a gig supporting 5:30 and basically the guy who signed them knew Alan McGee and gave him a tape and McGee phoned up a few days later and offered to put out an E.P.

You told me before that Slowdive were trying to sound like the JAMC/MBV.  But with Mojave 3 were you trying to sound like Nick Drake and Tim Buckley because the style is different?  No, I think when we originally started Mojave 3 we were into Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Cowboy Junkies but I don’t think we knew what….when we went into record the first record, it was just done, we didn’t have a deal or anything, we just went in to record a few songs. We went in there open-minded and I had written the songs on an acoustic so I thought I’d play them on an acoustic and there happened to be a piano in the studio so Rachel’s husband, Chris Andrews, came down and played piano.  It was put down in a couple of days and we had six songs and we thought we would go away.  We didn’t know what to do with it and I guess we might have put loads of stuff on top of it.  But we didn’t and we put it out without any changes.   But I suppose I was listening to a lot of Nick Drake and a lot of Patsy Cline and Hank Williams and stuff, you know, really minimal. 

I think as you get older your musical tastes do change.  Do you miss the loudness and ambiance of Slowdive?  Yeah, sometimes I do.   It’s nice really, the good thing about Slowdive was it was nice to kick out live.

I noticed, on the second Slowdive album you worked with Brian Eno.  Was that a good experience? Yeah, it was pretty entertaining.  I worked with him for about a week.  The first thing he did when I walked in the studio with him was to rip the clock off the wall and put it by the mixing desk and he said “you’re going to play guitar and I’m going to record it.  I don’t care what you’re going to play, just play something and after an hour we’ll work on something different”.  So it was a weird working method.  He was a fascinating bloke, he was very funny, very clever.  I was completely in awe of him, I was 19 or something. 

Were there many songs from that period, apart from the aborted second album, that have gone missing or never got released?  There is quite a lot of stuff that never came out and there is a whole film soundtrack that never came out.

Mojave 3, live and on record you do sound different.  A lot of people say that there isn’t enough of Rachel on record, is there a reason for that?  I think there are a lot of different reasons for all of that.  Rachel does tend to sing a lot but I suppose I write most of the songs, I tend to sing most of them.

I believe that in Slowdive you and Rachel wrote everything? No, I wrote everything.

There were a few things credited to her? There were a few tunes written by the whole band but I wrote 80% of the Slowdive material but at that point I didn’t sing. 

Onto the solo album.   Writing these songs – was it easier or harder? No, it wasn’t difficult, I don’t think I had a different approach when I wrote the songs. All it allowed me to do was to play a different style of guitar, which I can’t really do with Mojave 3 because there’s not a lot of space in the songs to have that sort of guitar going through them.  So that was nice and it was nice to do something in that style. 

Did you know how different you wanted it to sound because live it sounds like you and on record, to be honest, I could say it sounds like someone else.  But you could be aiming at a different market or want new people to hear it?  I just wanted to make a record that was me, that’s where I’m at on my own.  I guess when I’m playing with Mojave 3, I sing the songs, I play the songs but really there are six other people doing their thing as well and the way we sound is where the group is.  This record is me and I suppose the things that are on there are the things I’m into personally.

Is the end result better than you expected?  No, not at all.   It’s not quite the record I was expecting but I was pleased to get it done, certain things I’m really pleased with.  It was a fun record to do. 

Would you do another solo record? I hope so. 

I’ve noticed that all three Mojave 3 albums have 9 tracks and each is 38 minutes long but the solo one is 11 minutes longer.  Do you think this is the ideal length for an album?  I do think there is a certain amount that your brain can really deal with in one sitting.  I grew up with records and I have always been into two sides, an A side and a B side.  And for me, 40 to 50 minutes is as much as I can take. 

Your opinion on the Strokes?  I love the Strokes, I think the album’s great.  Never seen them live.  I think they look cool. And if I was 16, I’d be totally into the Strokes.

Your album: on the whole it’s more Nick Drake sounding than Tim Buckley sounding.  Would you agree?  Yeah.  I’d definitely say so. I don’t think it’s Tim Buckley sounding. 

On “Two Stones in My Pocket”, there’s a distorted vocal, is that just mucking about with the vocal?   I think it’s just the way it was recorded.  It was recorded at home. 

“Driving with Bert”.  Is that Bert Jansch?  Yeah, that was what inspired the title. 

I think that’s the one that’s a bit twee because of the violins, etc.  I think that sounds like early stuff by Love.   Yeah, I guess so, it’s got that slightly Mexican trumpet.  We were going for a spaghetti western vibe. 

“See You On the Rooftops” – this one sounds more like the Velvets or Slowdive with a freakout at the end.  Would you like to do more of this?  That was a lot of fun to do, the idea was to do a more surf-style Dick Dale ending.  It didn’t really end up that way.


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