Thursday, 6 March 2014
"Well they say "Brian is back", but in my heart he's always been around" The Beach Boys-Brian's Back
"Mums with pushchairs outside Sainsbury's/ tears in their eyes/They'll never buy a Gibb Brothers record again/Their old 45s gathering dust..." Saint Etienne-Teenage Winter
Imagine, if you will, a world where the media gets itself all excited about a beer revival. The BBC makes programmes about beer, full of hazily recreated shots of a heavily side-burned young man entering a 70's pub and wistfully buying a pint in a handled glass. The great and the good trip of themselves to comment about how great buying beer is. "You never forget buying your first pint" says one. "There's that silence, then a clink of glass" chimes another "then you get your first sip. It's like magic". The press flies the flag for beer. 'The Beer Revival' screams the Mail headline. "An online poll of 1,700 beer buyers found that 86 per cent of them said it was their favourite ale format. A third of today’s beer fans are aged under 35. 'Beer is back' says another. "The first half of 2013 saw sales of beer increase by over 33%, based on the previous year’s numbers.' Great, you may think to yourself, I like beer. But hang on a minute, I've been buying beer since my late teens and have never stopped, how can it be back if it never went away?
Of course, the above quotes are not about beer, but about vinyl. It would appear that thanks to an Arctic Monkeys LP an increase of sales of vinyl occurred to the tune of 33%. The only people really trumping this are the major record labels. We should perhaps remind ourselves that we owe these people no favours. In 1979 Sony and Phillips united to introduce a new digital storage disc. The CD (a kind of mug coaster invented by Metal Mickey) was a disaster for LP's and 45's and killed off the cassette tape. The marketing campaign for CD's in the late 80's and early 90's was a simple one: the vinyl record is obsolete, this new shiny disc is all you need. Strangely, the record buying public acquiesced, with 400 million compact discs being produced in 1988 alone. People where getting rid of their weighty, cumbersome, scratchy, space consuming LP's and buying into the slick new age. Then, just as the record companies were doing an Arthur Daley-esque trade in pushing you to buy a record you already owned, it all went horribly wrong for them. After enjoying the Britpop boom of record sales (once again kids where spending pocket money on records in Beatlemania proportions) the 2000's saw the internet triumph. MP3's and file sharing was the new thing daddio. Your music lover could askew the nasty business of having to actually buy recorded music and could simply download that tune they wanted free, or if they couldn't find the songs they wanted, they could buy the ghostly essence of a song from Itunes for 79p. This development pretty much killed of popular music as we knew it in the UK. We lost Tower, Virgin. Our Price, MVC to name just a few. We lost Top of the Pops and 90% of independent record shops. We lost the act of buying a record. It was the Sony wot dunnit.
During all this though, did you actually stop buying new records on vinyl? The other formats all had flaws (tapes chewed, CD skipped, MP3's, well, pretend records hardly constitute a record collection do they? You don't even own it. Your collection of songs downloaded from Itunes remains the property of Apple, and is theirs to take back once you die) but vinyl when looked after can last forever. Don't get me wrong, I own an ipod, I have bought tapes and CD's, but I prefer listening to vinyl. It's my format of choice. I like vinyl. I love buying records more than I love buying socks, but we should remember they are very much the same act.
For my money, there are two kinds of people who buy their records on vinyl. One is the collector, the person who is a bit older and has a bit more spare cash and must have every release by an artist or label, even if it means shelling out £50 for a record they already own because the font is slightly different on the label. This is vinyl as fetishism. Sawdust Caesars building their own little empires of taste. The spotlight was shone on these kind of collectors by Nick Hornby in his book (and eventual film) High Fidelity. In the book, one record shop worker sells a Dylan LP to a gullible customer on the grounds that people will mock him if doesn't own it. It made an A&M pressing of the God Save the Queen 7" the pinnacle of the desirable record collectible and as a result the price of the 45 rocketed. It is perhaps easy to sympathise or even feel empathy towards these fellows. In a harsh and uncaring world, a record collection is a sane beacon of light, one to cherish in mutual understanding. But make no bones about it, these are lovers of vinyl not music. Their purchases are based on their heads rather than their hearts. They buy records as an act of tribalism rather than love, the same way football fans show their allegiance not by going to games but by buying the new shirt every season and any mug, car air freshener, socks, or wallet with the team logo on it. Records are not be played and enjoyed, but bought, filed away and stored, like a stamp collection. A very recent example of this is Pristine Christine by the Sea Urchins, the first release on Sarah records suddenly selling in excess of £200. It's perfectly possible the new owner is spinning it regularly and drinking in it's chiming indie tones with an ear to the speaker and a feeling of warmth all over them, but I somehow doubt it.
The second type of vinyl buyer is the music fan. They love nothing better than to discover a new band or a new label. They can be very easily identified, they play the same 7" over and over again and gently sway the pub conversation towards the new band, song, album, label that you simply MUST listen to. These are music's bread and butter, the reason the world of music is still thrilling and wonderful. There's nothing quite like that buzz of finding something new to fall in love with. It, of course, doesn't have to be a new release. One of my favourite record shops is Beatin' Rhythm Records in Manchester, but it was really special when it was on Tib Street. It was a room full of 45's and a couple of decks with headphones. You could pick up a pile of 7" records, give them a spin and buy the ones you liked the sound of. There was something lovely, beautiful and exciting about that. You may have picked up a record that you will still playing when you're sixty, or it may be a load of shit. I love that gamble. (Through digging there I picked up a copy of Tainted Love by Ruth Swann for a fiver and a copy of Let the Music Play by Didi Noel for two quid. I sill play these records in pretty much every DJ set I do). Of course, you could buy the prettily packaged CD set of 100 best Northern Soul records, with extensive sleeve notes and pictures. But really, where's the fun in that?
Perversely, the nostalgia thing has gone full circle, with people trying to replace the LP they got rid of when they bought the CD. "I used to have that on vinyl" they say, and drift off into a warm daydream, then find themselves shelling out silly money on Ebay. There is a rather confusing quote by head of BPI Geoff Taylor. "The LP is back in the groove. We're witnessing a renaissance for records - they’re no longer retromania and are becoming the format of choice for more and more music fans." he says "This year has been a treat for vinyl aficionados with releases from Daft Punk, David Bowie, Arctic Monkeys and Black Sabbath". I'm not sure how buying a Black Sabbath record isn't 'retromania', but there we are. One thing the majors have got wind of is the genius idea of having an MP3 download code included when you buy a new LP, an idea nicked wholesale from the indie labels the BPI ignore. It means you can enjoy your new LP at home, have it on your ipod when you walk to the pub or burn it onto CD for the car. One thing the BPI cannot smooth over, is where someone wanting to buy the new Daft Punk, David Bowie, Arctic Monkeys and Black Sabbath LP's can do so. With HMV now effectively a t-shirt and DVD shop, how can the BPI trump a vinyl revival when it's impossible for people outside cities to actually physically buy them? Even indie labels who specialise in vinyl releases are feeling the pinch, with the price of mailing them out getting giddily higher and higher, making it virtually unsustainable to ship records over seas. Maybe the resurgence will see the comeback of record shops, but I wouldn't hold your breath.
Look, there is no vinyl revival. People have never stopped buying it they way the stopped buying cassettes. It's always been a format of choice. However heavily glossed up for the press, an increase in sales of LP's is a good thing, but can only be sustained if people go on buying it. Maybe someone buying an Arctic Monkeys LP can buy a key to the wonderful world of buying records. Or maybe their loan foot square purchase will sit in a corner gathering dust. One thing is for certain, every year there is a new label, a new band, a new LP to fall in love with. Your only job is to discover it.
Tuesday, 18 February 2014
Faringdon’s The Yearning are a studio band that specialise in daydreamy retro-pop, kind of like a classy All Saints to the Pipettes’ sassy Spice Girls. They delicately dress up 50’s/60’s pop (Brill Building, Peggy Lee, Spector, The Shirelles, Brian Wilson, all the best bits) in a de-mob suit and take it to the caff for a frothy coffee.. Judging by their short films and photographs, they have more in common with Max Bygraves than My Bloody Valentine, but are far more likely to steal your heart away.
Whether you enjoy The Yearning, I think, is more down to your attitude than your ears. A cynic may say it’s akin to hearing The Shirelles played on the piano by Nicholas Lyndhurst in Goodnight Sweetheart, but I’m rather charmed by them. The songs swell with brass and sway squiffy with strings but the best bit is it feels like singer Maddie Dobie (17 years old, voice as vulnerable and warm as recently awoken kitten) performs directly to you, the listener. A rare skill indeed. You get the feeling that what the band are trying achieve is not recreating their favourite records, but creating something beautiful, magic, timeless, personal and special. And they do achieve it.
In another universe, If You Were my Boyfriend (lead single off Elefant 10” mini album Still in Love, out now on mint green vinyl) would be the biggest wedding song in the country. It sounds like a aching hearted teenager watching the drizzle make little rivers on a window pane. The songs are hardly tomes of arch feminism (quite the opposite) but even arch feminists feel like day dreamy teenagers in love sometimes. And The Yearning capture these moments with impressive aplomb. They knocked my Bobby socks off.
Thursday, 7 November 2013
“I think there’s something wrong with the world really. To get enjoyment from life in your teens and twenties, people do have to build a more or less alternative society just to enjoy themselves.”
Wigan Casino regular Dave, speaking in Granada’s This England, 1977
The debut of our club night, Just Like Honey, was a massive success. We got exactly what we wanted, a floor full of people dancing to records they would not hear anywhere else (certainly not in Shrewsbury anyway). We we’re also quite struck that the two most popular records of the evening. Judging by the whooping, hands in the air and feet on the floor, the two 45s that really caught people’s attention were This Charming Man by the Smiths and Tainted Love by Ruth Swann. On paper, you could not get two more dissimilar records. One was designed for the brain, a record for the intellectual romantic who stayed bedroom bound a lot of the time, the other 7” a two and half of minutes of hand clapping, foot stomping dance floor nirvana. I could not figure out the duality.
But the more I thought about the more it started to make some kind of sense. The pre/post Brit pop indie and the Northern Soul scene have much in common. Both are fiercely independent and underground, both music based and strongly unmacho, both fuelled by cheaply manufactured seven inch singles. Whilst indie came from bands making softer, more melodic and focused records with the DIY culture they had learned with punk, Northern Soul where tiny American labels and artists trying to recreate the Tamla sound, pretty much always failing but with their top heavy, thunder drummed take on Motown created a sound all of their own. Both scenes rarely troubled the charts, but both created some incredibly beautiful and inspiring records.
“I think clubs have been mixing northern soul and indiepop for years. Track And Field would do it, DJs at indiepop shows back in the day would play Shangri-Las songs between the bands, I think it's part of the history of indiepop. It's certainly not something we've invented. Possibly the only difference we've made is that we've upped the ratio to be roughly 50/50, indiepop and soul, whereas perhaps before the ratio might have been 75/25. I put together a gallery of posters from indiepop gigs and club nights in the 80s for one of our recent C86 specials and the music mentioned on the club posters would include girl group stuff and indie. It's just part of indiepop's DNA, as far as I'm concerned.”
Ian Watson runs the hugely popular ‘How Does It Feel to be Loved?’ in London. It’s more than fair to say without HDIF? There would be no Just Like Honey.
Ian sees indiepop as a very different beast to the indie I was listening to as a teenager
“I was a fan of indiepop in the 80s and of the Mega City 4/Senseless Things/Snuff scene too, and they were totally different things, populated by different people, who had different tastes. Put simply, indiepop has pop at its heart, hence the connection with northern soul and girl groups, whereas that fraggle scene, for want of a better term, was a punk thing really, a pop punk thing but a punk thing nonetheless. Snuff mixed in the mod influence, of course, and were brilliant at it but we're going off on another tangent with them.”
Was he surprised as I was how well indie and Northern mixed?
“I don't think indiepop aligning itself with northern soul and girl groups is a recent thing - it's always been there, from day one. I guess in terms of the history of indiepop you just have to look at the bands mentioned in On Tape by The Pooh Sticks - along with Mighty Mighty and Orange Juice and The Pastels, there's The Ronettes and The Velvet Underground and The Monkees. 60s pop and indiepop have always gone hand in hand. it's definitely there in the music too, from the Shop Assistants covering the Shangri Las and the Pleasure Seekers and Talulah Gosh referencing girl groups, right up to Belle & Sebastian being inspired by northern soul”
Ah, Belle and Sebastian. When Brit pop got a bit lads and lager for my tastes, I went off on a different slant, attending funk nights and dancing myself dizzy to the sweet sounds of NorthernSoul. It was the softer, less macho records of B&S that pulled my back towards indie music. How did they end up getting their kicks on the floor?
“I lived in Colchester in 1992-3 and my friend Did, who was the drummer in my first band, had been a scooter boy and had tapes of Northern stuff he'd play in his camper van. I remember the DJ at one of the gigs we played spinning "The snake" and being quite excited by it, as a lot of people are the first time they hear it, if not the 1000th!”
Says Chris Geddes of Belle and Sebastian, resident Soul head and writer of those sensuous B&S Hammond grooves. He goes on...
“The following year I was back in up Glasgow and soon started going to Divine at the Art School, where the DJs Andrew and Alan would play a mixture of Northern, 60s psych, indie, exotica, and some acid house and big beat. The night is still going, concentrating almost exclusively on 60s and 70s stuff these days, but still with a mixture of soul, psych, funk, reggae etc.
The first night I went to that was all Northern would probably have been Good Foot, which was a really popular club in Glasgow around the same time. It was run by young guys from Paisley and it was a pretty hip crowd that went.
Over that period I started buying Kent compilations and then Andrew Divine hooked me up with a couple of dealer lists when I expressed an interest in collecting original 45s.
I went to a couple of all-nighters at the Ritz in Manchester but although the venue and the music was great I preferred the nights in Glasgow from a social point of view; you'd go to the club and see all your pals and the music was new to us even though it was old whereas at the nights down south it was an older crowd. Probably the age I am now!”
But surely he was into indie too?
“I don't really like indie as a genre. I know that sounds daft as I'm in the quintessential indie band, but it can mean anything can't it? I love loads of indie stuff, The Pastels, the Fanclub, Primal Scream, the Stone Roses, Vaselines, Husker Du, Sonic Youth and Dinosuar Jr were huge for me when I was young, and I got turned onto loads of great 60s stuff as a result of those bands' interviews. More recently I've got more into early Rough Trade stuff like Kleenex and have loved records by Beach House, Dirty Projectors, Melody's Echo Chamber. But as a genre "indie" is really vague and includes a load of rubbish as well as stuff I like so I'd shy away from calling myself a fan in case it gave the impression I liked really dull guitar music.”
“Whereas with Northern Soul I can pretty much say I like most of it, or at least I like the essence of the genre; uptempo danceable soul records. From big label things with massive arrangements to more lo-fi indie label stuff the general standard of performance and arrangement on the records is pretty uniformly high. I mean there might be the odd tune where a shaky vocal lets it down a bit, and some of the cheesier 70s cash in stuff obviously hasn't dated very well but that still leaves thousands of amazing records.”
But does indie and Northern mix?
“Well, I would say if you were at club that played stuff like Primal Scream, Stone Roses, Charlatans then 60s stuff like the Beatles, Stones, Small Faces or Dusty Springfield would fit in pretty well, and if you play that then classic soul like Otis, Aretha or the Supremes wouldn't be out of place either and then it's just a matter of time until you hear Bobby Reed "The Time Is Right for Love", which takes you neatly back to St Etienne for another indie segment!
I mean, they're not that disparate musically are they? It's all 4/4, mostly made with guitar, bass and drums, all traceable back to some hybrid of gospel, country, tin pan alley and R&B.
guess DJs like the Chemical Brothers and David Holmes really opened things up in the 90s in terms of playing different styles of music together, but if you look at playlists from David Mancuso at the Loft, or the early hip-hop guys like Kool Herc and Bambatta people had been doing that 20 years previously anyway.”
Does being in Glasgow help being into what is essentially black music?
“Yeah, probably. Certainly Manchester always has(had places to listen to black music), London, Liverpool too. The mod thing is pretty big in Glasgow at the moment, has been forever really but there's a new generation coming through although a lot of the nights are playing more psych and garage than black music.
I've seen some things come and go over the years, back around the turn of the millennium there was a funk night in Glasgow used to get a few hundred people every month, Good Foot was the same at it's peak. To be honest I've not gone out to a soul night for a while so I couldn't really say how numbers are at nights up here now. I know from reading stuff online that there's still plenty of people in the north of England going strong who've been doing it since back in the day although those nights aren't necessarily tied to student centres.”
So if it’s easy for a white audience to appreciate black music in England, then it must be easy for a non white to be accepted, right?
“I used to go to the Lord Raglan in town with my brother, and a more biker place which had a tree growing in it, cant remember its name, but this was not every week, by any means. It was ultra rare to see Asians at such places, but I was lucky enough to know some girls from school that may also be there.“
I first caught an ear to Cornershop years ago via the much missed ‘indie’ section. I caught a picture of Tjinder Singh with the legend ‘CORNERSHOP/DAYS OF THE FORD CORTINA EP‘. I’ve been listening to Cornershop ever since.
Tjinder Singh is an indie fan. No, sack that, Tjinder is a MUSIC fan.
“ I started off with Punjabi Folk music, and devotional music, so had to build up on the western musical catalogue which my parents never had. my eldest brother liked Zeppelin to Rainbow, my youngest i.e. 2nd eldest, then went into indie, and I followed in his footsteps, but I liked reggae and electronic music like Kraftwerk prior to that. So I was indie but quickly filled in the gaps of musical historical knowledge when I could, mainly through collecting records.”
But is Tjinder still listening to indie as much as pre-Brit-pop?
“In those days I was probably yearning for all music to be played out of a night, but nowadays that freedoms reality means nobody really cares about the craft of a song in any respect. I thought the 80s and 90's was a war to get what you want musically, and now that that war is over people are getting away with murder in everyday civilian life. The Hurts for example, made me want to be sick when I sadly happened upon them at a festival, real weak piss. “
I’ve always wondered how non white indie kids reacted to the views of Morrissey. In a scene often chastised for being to white, middle class and twee, it must have been hard to sallow Stephen Patrick’s questionable views about race, Englishness and immigration. One thing Northern Soul and indiepop scenes share, is a level of camaraderie and acceptance regardless of sex, colour and gender. As long as you loved the music, you where in. Perhaps Soul music lacked(lacks) a figurehead like, say, Chuck D in hip hop or Rotten/Strummer in punk. Could it be indie’s spokesperson is less enthused to cross genres?
“My uni days were spent in indie clubs and at indie gigs. I didn't matter who you were or your background, the Brit-pop movement was there for everyone. Cornershop and Echobelly were fabulous prominent indie bands in the early 90s but they wouldn't fall into the stereotype of "white pale middle class kids".
Dickie Felton is an uber Morrissey fan, author of two books centred on Morrissey fan culture. It’s pretty much his job to understand Morrissey and his fans. Does he see his charge as racist?
“Morrissey's comments about not liking reggae were made nearly three decades ago.
So I'm not sure that's still his view. I'm aware of him liking some so called "disco" records. I don't think the comments he made about a type of music in 1984 had any bearing whatsoever on people deciding if they liked The Smiths or not.
Morrissey has had pretty strong views on almost everything. That's part of his appeal. But I think ultimately its been the music and lyrics that has appealed to people - not his views on the pop charts. “
(Chris Geddes: “I'm not really a fan of Morrissey but I don't think that one person's opinion should put you off a whole genre of music. Some reggae artists and rappers have said some pretty objectionable stuff about gays and women but I don't write off all reggae or hip hop as a result.
He's said some stuff which has come across badly but I don't really think he's racist, he just likes to stir up a bit of controversy and he's got a pretty huge Latino fan base in the US who obviously don't have a problem with it.”
Tjinder Singh: “We were big Smiths fans, and Morrissey once had the indie kids ear, but not any more. The way his music has gone, i.e. more duck arse in attitude and sound leaves me thinking that The Smiths was a great four piece outfit, and all contributed to the sound - Morrissey was good but the band better, Man is good but the woman smarter.”)
So has Dickie Felton lost it back flipping on a dance floor to Judy Street’s ‘What?’ ?
“I've always been a fan of indie. Northern soul passed me by.” he says.
Does indie and Northern Soul have a future together? As long as people still want to dance to indie and Northern records, we will always play them at Just Like Honey. It’s still music that excites me. As both scenes are underground, it’s still a thrill to unearth a new record to fall in love with, be it recorded in Halifax last Tuesday or in Detroit in 1964. If you strip away all the barriers the powers that be put up to divide us (sexuality, religion, race, gender) underneath are we all not music fans? Do we not all deserve to get our kicks out on the floor? It’s for all of us, right? I’ll leave the last word to Tjinder.
“I think indiepop is northern soul uniform, with modern guitar bands that sing about love and loss - which is a lot more than modern day hipsters that dress up like grown ups and sing about credit cards. Neither have had much black faces in them, unless they happen to be friendly with some white girls from school.”
Monday, 30 September 2013
Being a doddery old duffer (seriously, I have no idea what Twerking is and the other day I found myself wishing the Golden Girls was back on the telly) my pop crushes these days are far more likely to be aurally based than aesthetically. I was somewhat bewildered, then, to read the fairly recent Guardian piece about The Spook School. Though clearly well meaning, the article tripped over itself trying to explain gender in popular music. I love music, and to be absolutely frank (and possibly a bit selfish) , whilst the gender, sexuality, race, or favourite Simpsons episode may be of the utmost importance to the listener, I’m less than convinced that it should matter that much to the person putting the needle on the record. I’m not terribly concerned if a songwriter has eight dicks, a ton of Bristol’s and an arse as tiny as a flute hole, as long as they’re happy I just want them to make records for me to fall in love with.
I first fell hopelessly for the Spook School when the song ‘Here we go’ got to the line ‘I know it can get lonely'. The songs itself is dizzyingly lovely tale about wearing frocks (What? With my knees? ) , poo-pooing mean bosses and listening to Orange Juice, good pastimes one and all. Actually, Orange Juice are a very good reference point for the Spook School. Both bands give off an air of art school mischief and write songs that shy away from an intellectual autopsy that beg to be simply enjoyed, danced to and adored. There is something about them that makes me feel almost impossibly romantic. A lot of that, I think, lies in the band’s natural charm. (That and writing pretty, pulsating, poignant, and plucky pop songs). Like a lot of great bands, they are a gang you want join. Instead of hanging around scaring old ladies, though, they are the kind of bunch that want to paint the park a prettier colour and furtively slip a paperback of the arse pocket of an unsuspecting Luddite. Their point, I think, it’s cool to be yourself.
The band release their debut LP on Fortuna Pop this month. There is a launch night at Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh on October the 12th. If you are in the neck of the woods, go see and fall in love. But be warned, Niall WILL sweat on you.
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
“And you like shine like a star...” Wolverhampton Civic Hall 1995. Tim Burgess preens and pouts to a rapturous crowd, all anorak, lips and B&H. Behind him, Jon Brookes belts out the rhythm, sweating but with a huge grin on his face. We WERE all little stars. All my best mates where at the same gig, at the same time, as me. Only we didn’t know each other yet.
This morning, I learned on Facebook (where else?) of the death of Jon Brookes. He died of a brain tumour aged just 44. I was, and am, pretty devastated. Jon was a fine drummer (check out Feel Flows, The Bell and the Butterfly and Thank You. You won’t hear better drumming anywhere). He was also a genuinely great human being, funny, sweet and totally without any rock star bullshit. Some of his last work was teaching kids in drum workshops around the Midlands. You won’t find many rock stars doing that.
And he was a rock star, number one albums, huge gigs, hit singles, Top of the Pops, the lot. The Charlatans get something of a raw deal these days. Not as hip as the Roses but not as unhip as the Inspirals. One thing I am proud of is we have always stuck by The Charlatans. We (me and John Kertland, who met Jon and has nothing but great thing to say about him) played The Only One I Know at our club night just Friday night. The record is seen as a bit naff these days, a bit ‘indie disco’. It’s an OK record to like, but only on the quiet. Luckily, John and I are bit long in the tooth to worry about cool these days.
We played The Only One I Know because it’s a fucking great record. It still sounds amazing and people still dance to it. It’s an evergreen, like Satisfaction or I Want You Back or This Charming Man or Babies or Emma’s House or whatever. When Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys died, people started playing the Beastie Boys again, lighting the flame in tribute. To us, the flame of The Charlatans never ever went out.
The Charlatans have a long line of bad luck and horror stories. I have no idea if the band will carry on after the set back of the death of another original member. One I thing I do know is the thought of never seeing Jon Brookes do the drum solo for One to Another fills me with sadness.
We all need love, we are doing the best that we can, but some of us are still looking for the orange one. Rest in peace Jon. x
Wednesday, 17 July 2013
"When she said "Let's just go and look for twigs as pegs" I knew it was the beginning of the end." An interview with JUST JOANS
The pride of Motherwell Just Joans are playing an acoustic set in the Indietracks merch tent on Saturday. Brilldream caught up with Katie and David to talk Indietracks, Weepop!, The Smiths and T'pau.
Your Indietracks appearance seems to be something of a secret. Are you scared of breaking the sacred 'not two years in a row' rule?
David- yeah, we've managed to slip unnoticed through the tight indietracks security net. if you see me n katie with our hands bound and sacks over our heads being huckled off towards a waiting helicopter you know why!
Katie- It's not so much that it's a secret, I think the fact that nobody knows it's happening, is more to with the fact that we are an incredibly disorganised bunch of Scots. We never really bought into that sacred 'not two years in a row" rule anyway, as our handsome bassist Fraser Ford or 'Fra-jazzle' as he's affectionately known around the Glasgow chippies, has appeared in various guises with various bands for the past five years running. We fully expect him to have his own burrito stand this year.
Are you surprised by how people have taken your music and lyrics so warmly to their hearts?
David- Yeah, it's been really lovely to get such warm feedback from people. i guess we can't take too much of the credit tho...since all our best tunes and lyrics have been shamelessly purloined from other bands. it hasn't all been positive feedback either. My favourite response was a comment on youtube under a video of our song "Bellshill station". the guy wrote "Bellshill station reeks of piss...just like this song". ha ha!
Katie- Indietracks is such a special festival for us in that regard. We always receive an amazing response here. Watching hundreds of bedraggled, smiling festival-goers in raincoats singing along with us to "What Do We Do Now?" last year was genuinely special. I think it's something to do with our stage in life, a lot of of us are relics of the Britpop era, and that particular song about life moving on, seems particularly resonant for people. Thanks Sleeper.
What's the best thing about festivals as a punter and an artist?
Katie- We have met so many friends through Indietracks, other bands like Allo Darlin', The Smittens, Standard Fare, The Bobby McGees and loads more, not to mention all those other darn sexy indie kids who attend every year without fail. I also like the burritos, the very strong ale, the array of pretty dresses on display, the late-night bar on the campsite, the year Darren Hayman brought his wee dog along, was a vintage Indietracks.
David- Hmmm, good question. i think i'd have to say...the sweet sweet poonani. that is obviously a joke but i did meet my girlfriend ,Faye, at Indietracks 4 years ago as well as a whole bunch of other lovely folks over the years. the best thing about indietracks is undoubtedly the "people", with the exception of MJ Hibbett. that man is the devil incarnate!
At the 1995 Phoenix festival, I saw a portaloo topple over with a girl trapped inside it. What's your worst festival memory?
Katie- My Mum, for some bizarre reason, let me go to T in the Park when I was sixteen with only my friend Lisa for protection. I remember we got the bus from Buchanan Street, the aisles were swimming in man-pee by 10am on the Friday morning. Lisa was in charge of the tent, she forgot the waterproof outer-layer, the ground sheet and the pegs. When she said "Let's just go and look for twigs as pegs" I knew it was the beginning of the end.
David- Worst festival memory eh? Maybe t in the park in 1997. The britpop bubble had burst and the dark cloud of HEROIN hung heavy over Kinross. I've never seen carnage like that Echobelly encore before and i hope i never do again.
Be honest, how long do you spend worrying about what you're going to wear?
David- i usually spend upwards of 3 hours...and that's only selecting which Pastels badge i'll wear.
Katie- I'm partial to a new dress for a festival. It's tricky matching the wellington boot footwear though. Last year I sneakily got Elizabeth from Allo darlin' to wear one of my homemade Just Joans t-shirts, during her set on the main stage, by giving her a freebie in the merch tent, then guilting her into it. Smooooth.
Are you aware there is going to be a sing along (featuring lots of Just Joans songs) in the train at 2pm Saturday? Are you tempted to pop along?
David- yes, i've read about the sing-a-long on anorak forum. of course i'll be there! who do you think posted all those requests for our songs? i shall be the one at the front heckling and booing loudly whenever they try and sing a song that wasn't written by me." BOOO...more ME"!
Katie- Absolutely! I love a sing-along on a train, as I'm sure anyone who has ever caught the 23:41 train out of Glasgow Central, on a Saturday night can testify! Can we do China in Your Hand" by T'Pau?
I think the first time I 'got' Just Joans was when I saw the quote from the book All Men Have Secrets (which I got for my 18th birthday of an ex girlfriend). Do you think you would have looked at music the same way if you had not read it?
David- love that book! we try and add a wee story from it in the artwork to all our releases. i think that the wee testimonies definitely capture something of how much a band like "the smiths" meant to some people at a certain point in their lives. i was probably one of those people and discovering "hatful of hollow" probably changed the themes i felt music could address.
Katie- I don't think the band would exist without The Smiths full stop. I first got into them when I was 15, just before David left for University (David is my big brother. Yes actually my big brother, we're not The White Stripes) and I was so upset because he was taking all his records with him. He said I could choose one and I took Louder that Bombs. He looked and me with an expression that said "I have taught you well, child." The Smiths have been a massive influence on both David and I, and on my paintings too. Making art about what and who's around you is key to us."The rain falls hard on a humdrum town, this town has dragged you down".
Is it fun working with Camila at WeePop! ?
David- working with Camila has been a wonderful experience and Weepop has been the perfect label for us. the amount of care and time that Camila puts into every release is amazing and it's clearly a real labour of love. we love you Camila!
Katie- Camila is an absolute angel. I wish Prince William had chosen her to marry and impregnate. She is the people's princess.
On the Edge by Katie Pope
A know a lot of people (myself included) who are huge admirers of you art. Do you plan to exhibit it in the future?
David- over to you katie...unless he's referring to the cover art for "hey boy..." ep.
Katie- Aw, thanks. I have always painted and I have a studio that I work from full-time in Glasgow City Centre. There has always been a link between our music and the paintings. In my Art School degree show, my show was about my hometown, being a teenager, growing up and leaving home. I played "Back to High school" on a loop along with my paintings for the whole month they were on display. I think the other art students were going a bit mental by the end! Yeah I'm currently working on a large solo show, so my new work will be displayed soon. I also have an updated website coming very soon atwww.katiepope.co.uk. Go look.
When can we expect the next Just Joans LP? Will it be about the post uni years?
David- We're actually releasing a new ep/mini-album on weepop next month. it's called "6.9 love songs" and deals with every single aspect of love, from "unrequited love" to "lost love" and all the way back to "unrequited love" again. even if you hate the songs, Camila's packaging is bound to be exquisite.
Monday, 13 May 2013
The Smiths are the best band ever . By reading that sentence you instantly fall into two camps. Those who agree with me (hello, love the quiff) and those who disagree. To paraphrase Tony Wilson, you are entitled to your opinion, but your opinion is wrong. Stop your internal dialogue, you are, I’m afraid, mistaken.
They are the greatest because the simply did not write a bad song. Not one. Which ever band popped into your head when you read the opening nine words, they released a stinker at some point. The Beatles? When’s the last time you sat down and enjoyed Polythene Pam? Bob Dylan? That one about the Pillbox Hat. (And while we’re here, should protest songs be there to nod and drink coffee too? Really?). Elvis? Never wrote a word or a chord. Bowie? Laughing Gnome and that comeback one everyone got excited about that actually sounds like the song Ozzy Osbourne did with his daughter. The Smiths? Impeccable record of, er, records.
They are, of course, those who would disagree. Those are they kind of people who hear the word Morrissey, and suddenly say ‘Ooh, Morrissey!’ in a camp voice and/or do the wrist slit mime. This has always struck me as a very odd way of reacting to art. Imagine if you told someone you liked the film ‘The Green Mile’, and the person reacted by exclaiming ‘The Green Mile! The Green Mile!’ in the manner of Quentin Crisp and doing a mime of boo-hoo crying and chair based electrocution. You would think this person a tit of the highest order, and rightly so.
Smiths fans, however, are lovely. It’s easy to have a crush on a Smiths fan. If you’re a fan of football team, at some point a friend will say to you “ Oh, you should meet Keith, he supports Team X too”. When you meet Keith he turns out to be a borderline racist who watches Man Vs Food and has read one book, which turns out to be Bravo Two Zero. But if someone says “Oh he/she likes the Smiths” you are almost certain to get on with them. Perhaps that due to The Smiths, between the four members, cover all bases. They are as funny as they are sad. As sexy as they are virginal. As cool as they are daft. As rock and roll as they are shy. It’s hard not to fall for a band like that.
Also, The Smiths are enjoyed by people who really love music. There are people who use music as pleasant distraction. A CD put on in the car, a radio switched on to accompany the washing up. And of course there’s nothing wrong with that. But for others, they see music as not just as an escape but another world to run away too. To believe in. A light to look for to prove that their heart still beats. The Smiths are that kind of band. They really are.
There was a documentary on The Smiths on the BBC last night. It was OK (it must be hard to cover a band that fans know the story of back to front and inside out), but a bit Morrissey-centric I felt. There is a danger, I think, of the cult of Morrissey pushing the Smiths horribly over-ground. Remember when Top Shop started doing Joy Division T-shirts? If a band as darkly life affirming as Joy Division can be made so mainstream and inoffensive it can happen to The Smiths. Maybe it already has. The Salford Lads Club pictures and the conventions are wonderful and healthy (How I longed for those when I was sixteen). But listen to the records. This is where the band really, truly live on. These are the albums and singles that won our hearts and held them so gently for so long. This is where they truly belong to us, uniquely and unshakably our own. The Smiths are mine, and they owe me a love bite. I wont share them.