25
Sep

How to start this new week? Perhaps it is a good idea to do so by the Kickstarter campaign Julia Parnell has created so she can make a project everyone will love, “The Chills Film – A Theatrical Documentary“. Wow! A documentary about one of the best bands ever. Of course this has to happen. All the information about this project, as well as a video teaser, are on the Kickstarter page. I hope this gets done and they raise the money. And hopefully too I get to see The Chills live once more. I can only boast saying I’ve seeing them twice, plus another time when Martin played solo at Rough Trade.

Gingerlys, the top New York band, for sure one of my favourites of this city, will be releasing finally their first album this November 17 on Babe City and Topshelf Records. It will be self-titled and will be released on 12″ vinyl limited to 300 copies, cassette and CD. So all formats covered. One can’t complain. The album comes with some beautiful artwork it seems if the art that appears on the Bandcamp is the album cover. To promote their upcoming release they have unveiled a song from it and what a gem of a song it is. The song is called “Turtledoves” and contains all the ingredients the Gingerlys have made us used to. If the rest of the songs are as good as this one, this is definitely one record no one can miss!

Anida, Peter, Suki and Ages form the Jakarta, Indonesia, band Sugarsting. They started as a band in May 2006 and they have just published their first song on SoundCloud. It is a demo for the song “Chasing Pony” and I’m loving it. I especially love Anida’s vocals, she has a tone I’m not that used to I guess, but that sounds really cool here. This is superb jangly and upbeat pop. I hope to hear more from them soon!!

Bodega Sisters are from Stockholm but they seem to really like NYC. First because of the name of the band, second because the only song they have on SoundCloud is titled “Btwn. 1st & A”, and you know those are two avenues in Manhattan. Thirdly the lyrics are all about New York, from Tompkins Park to Duane Reade pharmacies and nods to the popular Bedford stop for the L train, and more. I don’t know much more about this band, but definitely this song has left me with a big big smile on the face. I guess familiar names, familiar places, will do that to you, especially if the music is also fab!

The Osaka band Ether Feels has a new song on their SoundCloud and it is pretty good! The band, if you are not familiar with them, is a shoegaze project by Tomo, Yoko, Yoshino, Kita and Takuya, and were formed in 2015. I don’t know if this song will be released in any other way, there is no information about that, but you should check “Moonshine” for sure. You will enjoy it!

Lastly the Brooklyn duo called No Kill have a very sweet new song streaming on their Bandcamp called “Eddie Vedder”, but that’s not all, they have actually made a a video for it. It is the first time I hear from this band even though we are in the same city. I wonder if they play live or are they a studio project. The band is formed by Jamie Cougar on guitar, drums and vocals, and Andrew Trouwborst on guitar and vocals. They have even more songs on their Bandcamp, so check them out.

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Before there was Pia Fraus and its label, Seksound, in the indie scene, Estonia wasn’t a country anyone associated to indiepop music. That is very true. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t pop bands before even if there were just a few.

I think the first band that I heard from Estonia was Bizarre. But I wanted to dig more, I wanted to find more bands. What I had heard wasn’t enough. I was sure there had to be more songs I liked from Estonia. And happily I was going to stumble, thanks to a recommendation on the indiepop-list, with a tape compilation called “Sue Darling is Back to Meet Forwards”.

I believe it was Alexander Bailey from the label Radio Khartoum one of the first to champion Eestipop, pop from Estonia. In fact, I’m sure I discovered Bizarre thanks to his recommendations. On the indiepop-list he was to recommend this tape compilation saying: “not as consistent as the Bizarre album, but there are a few tracks here which shouldn’t be missed, and as I expect that the prices for both are quite low by Western standards, it’s probably a good risk.”  And when he describes Isadore Flore’s song on the compilation, “Make Up & Martini”, he says it is a ” lovely pop song, not quite cocktail, but classy all the same.”

I had to listen to this song. I was beyond curious. It was going to take many years for me to finally find the song, and it was going to happen through Kohviradio.com. Kohvi Radio, if you must know, is an online internet radio and mixtape download site based in Tallinn, Estonia. They have a big back catalogue of Estonian indie music and more, so it is definitely a good tool for exploring sounds from that country.

So I heard the song, and I loved it. It was sort of a Siesta Records, él Records, kind of sound. Classy. So now I wanted to know more about them. Who were they? I checked out the tape compilation on Discogs. I notice it was released in 1997 by Sally Cinnamon Music (catalog SAL006M.C.). Interesting, a label named after a Stone Roses song. The label was based in Tartu, Estonia, and was founded by Lauri Liivak. Laurii seems to have been a winner of 19 Estonian Music Awards. The label would later be renamed to Forwards. I check their catalog, I’m familiar with Bizarre, but there are other bands like Pedigree or Nyrok City. Will I like them? I also notice that there was a 1993 cassette compilation called “Sue Darling”. So this was the first volume, and “Sue Darling is Back to Meet Forwards” was the second?

On Discogs a note kind of answers that last question: “A logical follow-up to the “Sue Darling” (released in 1993). At that time another bunch of Estonian unsigned bands were recorded for the “Sue Darling 2”, but due to the financial problems Sally Cinnamon Music couldn’t release it. “Sue Darling is back to meet Forwards” includes eight bands recorded in 1993 (Sue’s Side) as well as eight bands recorded in 1996/97 in Forwards Studio (Forwards Side).”

Isadora Flore’s song appear in the Forwards part. Might this “Forwards” also have helped the label to be renamed to that name? Possibly.

Then I head to Rateyourmusic where the tape is listed. Here I notice that they have two band members listed for the band, Lauri Tikerpe on vocals and Marek Talts on guitar. Lauri Tikerpe had done vocals for “Fantawine” a song of Bizarre’s “Café de Flor” album. Also I could see listed some guest vocals on a single by Rainer Jancis in 2008 and lyrics credits for a Metro Luminal song. But no other band of his own it seems.

When it comes to Marek Talts there seems to be much more music involvement. He had been part of the band Ro:Toro which was a folk band that released an album in 2006 called “Estonian Bagpipe” . I see also credits for guitar playing inSitimaan, Tiit Born, InBoiler, Rull’s Royce Orchestra, Hedvig Hanson, Liisi Koikson, Ootus and more. Very busy.

But still no information about Isadora Flore. Why? Perhaps because they didn’t release anything. But this song, “Make-Up and Martini”, where did it come from? Didn’t they record a demo perhaps? There have to be more songs from the same recording session or not?

I was to find some more details on Facebook, and again thanks to Khovi Radio. They had a small post where they were publicizing the Isadora Flore song, that they have streaming for free. What does it say? “To begin with, we dust off the track Make up and Martini (1997) by the 1990s indie-band Isadora Flore from Tartu. The song, created in the spirit of the ROMO movement started by the Melody Maker magazine, features vocals by Lauri Tikerpe who is currently known as the nightingale of the band Väljasõit Rohelisse. The band featured Karl “Monodire” Kermes on drums, Indrek Sooniste on bass and Marek Talts on guitars. The latter is also the author of the song. The track was recorded at the Tartu Päikeseraadio (Tartu Sun Radio) for the indietape Sue Darling. “

Finally, the whole band lineup. And we know now they were from Tartu.

Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia, after Estonia’s political and financial capital Tallinn. Tartu is often considered the intellectual centre of the country, especially since it is home to the nation’s oldest and most renowned university, the University of Tartu. The city also houses the Supreme Court of Estonia, the Ministry of Education and Research and the new impressive building of the Estonian National Museum opened to public on October 2016. It is also the birthplace of Estonian Song Festivals. Situated 186 kilometres southeast of Tallinn and 245 kilometres northeast of Riga, Tartu lies on the Emajõgi (“Mother river”), which connects the two largest lakes of Estonia.

The only Estonian city I’ve visited is Tallinn, and I thought it was beautiful. Been twice there. Not Tartu, not yet. Would love to visit.

I couldn’t find any information for the two other members, Karl and Indrek, on Discogs. I did find that Väljasõit Rohelisse, Lauri’s band, released a 10″ in 2012. Probably not indiepop.

Not much more information on Isadora Flore. I keep asking myself about the band name. Who is Isadora? And why are there no other known songs by the band? Or no releases at all? A true mystery of Eestipop in the 90s.

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Listen
Isadora Flore – Make-up and Martini

21
Sep

I’m exhausted to say the least, the past days I’ve been waking up at 6:30am every day to get to work and cover for my boss as he is on vacations. I’m not a morning person at all, so this is really hard. I can’t fall asleep early and a couple of hours after I finally do, I have to wake up to catch a subway to the city. For me this is as tough as it gets. I don’t mind working, but having to wake up at these uncivilized hours is a torment to me.

While I work I listen to music and try to find new sounds, new music that might be worth recommending or who knows, maybe good for the label. Especially at this new schedule where my football radio shows don’t start until later during the day. So the mornings end up being a good time to discover bands and hopefully they keep myself awake.

So what have I found the past few days?

There’s the band Beautyness from Minneapolis, Minnesota, who have two songs on their Bandcamp. The songs “Cynics Bliss” and “Spell” are free to stream and also free to download. They are both upbeat indiepop songs and I’m left curious to hear what the band has in store for the future. The guitars on the songs are really nice I think. The band is formed by David Martini, Scott Martini and Matt R.

Peruvian band Dan Dan Dero have already enjoyed good reviews on the blog, but as it is the case with this blog every time a current band has some important news, worthy of talking about them again, I will recommend again. On Monday the band released the first video for the first single from their upcoming album. There are no details about this album, aside that it will be released in October. The band is right now touring abroad for the first time, in Colombia, and so this news come in a great moment for the band. Check out the video for “Detonador” and try not to get a seizure.

Cat in the Case is a Taiwanese band who released three songs on Bandcamp last June. The songs being: “Summer”, “Bog Down” and “Something New”. They are surprisingly really good. Girl vocals over distorted guitars and superb pop melodies. Of course I check out their Facebook to look for more information and aside the numbers, they formed in 2015, I can’t understand Mandarin, so yeah, not friendly for the rest of the world sadly! But that doesn’t matter if the songs are this good, right?! Speaking of which, I do have to feature a Taiwanese band on the blog sometime soon, right?

Fourth entry for this post comes from Manchester. The Breaks only have one song uploaded (and with lyrics!) on Bandcamp and it is a fine slice of noisy shoegaze/pop. There is no other information about the band or the song, or anything, we only know the song title, “Honey”. EDIT – Actually there are four songs. I don’t know how I missed that. There is “Honey” of course but also there is “I Need”, “Biscuit Factory” and “Misery”. Also I was pointed to a promo video for “Honey” on Youtube! And even found out they hail from Burnley. 

And lastly, I have just discovered the Glaswegian band Life Model who released a tape last July with 4 really good songs. The “Lucky EP” came out on Frux Tapes Records from Durham, UK, and it seems that there are only 6 copies available of the limited edition of 50. If it wasn’t a tape I would hurry and buy this, but you know how much I dislike tapes. So yes, I’m streaming the four songs, “Skin and Bones”, “Lucky”, “4ever” and “Together” on repeat now. I would like to know more about them though and I see on their Bandcamp that they have songs dating from 2012! The band is formed by Sophie Evans, Chris Smith, Joanne McCafferty and Michael McDonald. How come they haven’t played Indietracks yet? An unsolved mystery indeed.

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I visited France for the first time last year. I had such a good time and hope to go back as soon as I can. There are still many castles and cathedrals to visit, and more. I didn’t get around to have much indiepop in my trip but to me, France, has a long tradition of great indiepop bands that even though is not huge in numbers, there’s always been quality.

This weekend there’s Paris Popfest, it will be its first edition. I’m going to miss it but there are many friends going. I’m sure it will be a lot of fun and there is of course that Field Mice sort of band with Michael Hiscock that I think will be a treat for everyone.

So yes, France is important for indiepop. There are many fans and there’s even a great record store, Hands and Arms, that carries indiepop from all over. The last release on Cloudberry was a 7″ by a French band, Pale Spectres. So really, it makes sense to stop in France for our next featured band in this indiepop world tour.

I own the two proper releases of Les Poissons Solubles but in due honesty I don’t know much about this band. I thought then, while thinking of many French bands that I like, that it would be interesting to find out any details that could paint a better picture of the band.

Then what about the soluble fish? That’s what their name means, right? Fish that can be dissolved in water.  Let’s see what there is to be found.

As it is become a norm in these investigations, my first stop to find any hints and details is Discogs. Here to my surprise I see a demo tape listed, this one I don’t own. It has no catalogue number nor artwork. It only says that this demo was on a Sony C60 cassette and dates of 1993 or 1994. On it there are 8 songs, “Here Comes the Summer”, “Can’t We Start Again”, “Ne Passe Plus #1”, “My Small Red Sun”, “1 2 3”, “Perfect Day”, “Le Canal du Midi” and “Ne Passe Plus #2”.

Their first proper release was a split 7″ that came out on the great Waaaah! label. The band contributed two songs, “Can’t We Start Again” and “My Small Red Sun” to this 7″ that was shared with the Snowbirds in 1994 (catalog BULL 27-0). The Snowbirds had “Love Will Come My Way” and “Impossible Dream”. I can see that the two songs were included in the demo.

Then it seems there was a long period where there was no releases by the band. It was going to be 5 years later, in 1999, that the band was to release its first 7″ on their own, the “Here Comes the Summer” 7″ on the very fine label Plastic Pancake (catalog 008). “Here Comes the Summer” was indeed in the 1994 demo and also the closing song, “1 2 3”. The only “new” song would be “Mathilda Jane” that opened the B side.

There are also a few compilation appearances listed. The song “Can’t We Start Again” was included in the “Summer 93 Hits” tape in that same year. That means the band and this song was already around 1993, prior to the demo. This tape compilation came with a 32 mini-booklet, I wonder if in there there’s any information about the band.

They were to appear too on the tape “Etreinte & Tempo” released by Disco 2000 (discompil 01) and JMS Records in France. The song they had on it was “Perfect Day” and it says on a note that the majority of the bands on this tape were from the Toulouse area. Were Les Poissons Solubles from there? Quite close, they were from Montauban as the Anorak City blog confirms.

Montauban is a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Occitanie region in southern France. It is the capital of the department and lies 50 kilometres north of Toulouse. Montauban is the most populated town in Tarn-et-Garonne, and the sixth most populated of Occitanie behind Toulouse, Montpellier, Nîmes, Perpignan and Béziers. In 2013, there were 57,921 inhabitants, called “Montalbanais”. The town has been classified “Ville d’art et d’histoire” (City of art and history) since 2015. The town, built mainly of a reddish brick, stands on the right bank of the Tarn River at its confluence with the Tescou.

Lastly, they had the song “My Small Red Sun” on the tape compilation “Superqualifragilistic” released by Nessie Records (NESS587).

Now, have you heard their songs? The girl/boy vocals that I die for? On Last.fm they are likened to the Fat Tulips, Heavenly and Ruth Miller. I also see that there is a hello to a Nathalie. Was Nathalie the vocalist?

Of course my friend Alex from 7iete Pulgadas wrote about the band when he featured the split flexi with the Snowbirds. Sadly he doesn’t know any other details. I can see some people commenting how good the song “Can’t We Start Again” is, and I can only agree! What a gem of a song!

I can’t find any more information about the band. No band members, no other releases, no other compilation appearances or gigs played. This is a question to my French friends, who were Les Poissons Solubles, and what are they doing now?

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Listen
Les Poissons Solubles – Can’t We Start Again

18
Sep

Three posts in a row, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Two interviews and now featuring new indiepop bands and an old forgotten one. At this pace the Cloudberry Cake book is going to consist of 30 volumes!

Where to start this week? Bandcamp perhaps? Let’s do it. Why not start with the explosive Sharesprings from Indonesia? Wow! They have two new songs on Bandcamp, “Trush!” and “Ivory Tower” and I’m hooked immediately! Wow, how can they make such a racket with their anorak-style pop! Ardhi, Putriani, Rusli and Yehezkiel are on it again. Totally recommendable this digital single. Hope to see this on a physical release and not on a tape!

Swimming Tapes hail from London and they have a new EP out on B3 Records. It is a 12″ titled “Soft Sea Blue” with four songs, “When We Can Hide”, “Alison”, “What’s On Your Mind” and “Queen’s Parade”. I don’t know much about the band so I had to check their previous releases which include a digital EP, “Souvenirs EP”, and a sold out 7″, “Set the Fire/Souvenirs”. The band seems to be playing a bunch of gigs in the coming months at top places like The Lexington and Rough Trade East. What else I know about them? A quick look and I see that they are formed by Robbie Reid, Jason Hawthorne, Louis Price, Paddy Conn and Andrew Evans and they have management.

Speaking of management, I contacted a band last week because I really like their music and of course they directed me to their manager. Maybe in that sense I’m too DIY, I can’t work/deal with management. They have such high expectations, and I feel their priorities are wrong (or at least they don’t coincide with mine). I understand they want to make the band big, huge, but I feel many times they just create obstacles in the way. I don’t know, what is your take on them? For me, in my experience, “trying” to work with someone in the middle, between label and band has always been a hustle. It is like I give a message, then it goes through the manager filter and ends up in the band many times with the message distorted. And it is the same way back. In the years running my label I must admit I have avoided bands with management 100% of the times.

That said, I still love the the music and the bands. Moving on, I continue digging for new sounds and find out about a Phoenix, Arizona, dreampop band called Citrus Clouds. Their last release, “Ultra Sound”, has 7 songs and seems to be only available for streaming. Actually, only two songs you can play, “Ocean Eyes” and the worthy “Life Happens”. The band has been around for some years now, they started in 2014 and they are formed by Erick Pineda, Stacie Huttleston and Angelica Pedrego. Ah! Always nice to see Spanish last names playing indiepop, makes me terribly happy. Oh! and all their previous releases are all streamable.

Unhappybirthday from Germany do sound good. I only discovered them and I see a bunch of my friends are already fans on Facebook. Always late, always late. I’m now listening to their album “Kraken” and it is quite a surprise. There are 7 songs but originally it was released as a 5-track EP on Night-People Records in 2013. This 7 song release is actually out on vinyl, on a 12″ by Wave Tension Records. Now, will there be copies still when I can order it when I move? I feel I’m going to be so poor when I’m at my new place with the many records I need to buy!! I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Maybe I shouldn’t recommend any music so no one of you buys the records before I do?!

Justine Never Knew the Rules is a new band for me as well. They are from Sao Paulo in Brazil and they play some noisy pop. Their latest song is titled “Polar Bear (Hibernation Song)” and is actually great. They seem to have been around for some time, their first release uploaded to Bandcamp is a demo dating from 2013. I should explore the rest of their discography when I have some time, definitely. The band seems to be formed by four friends, Marcel Marques, Maurício Barros, Bruno Fontes and Gabriel Wittemburg. And they are signed to the most important Brazilian label probably? Midsummer Madness.

Even as We Speak, please please don’t sell out your record until I move in two weeks so I can order it. They are promoting the “Black Forest” EP now with a video for the song “Clouds” and it feels timeless. Like if the band never stopped playing. And that’s not all, the band is playing gigs and all. Will they come back to New York? Last year was magic. I hope they do. This record is not to be missed by anyone, me says.

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So we take a plane now from Changi Airport in Singapore and land at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to continue our indiepop world tour.

It must have been around 2005 or 2006 that I heard of Lu for the first time on Myspace. Those were really good years for indiepop, Myspace became one a great tool for finding and connecting with bands (and then releasing them too!).

At that time I was still running Mira el Péndulo, an indiepop blog written in Spanish. We covered bands from all over the world but I always tried to find good indiepop from Latin America and Spain. That was the audience, and also I thought if we introduced these bands to them maybe, just maybe, they will get influenced, inspired, and start their own indiepop bands. I hoped for that.

I can’t recall exactly how I discovered Lu. By chance probably. A lot of times you’d just check out the friends of bands you liked and that way you’d find similar bands. I think it must have been that way. I stumbled on Lu’s Myspace and found two songs that were part of their demo: “Los Poderes de Sandra” and “Los Pulmones de las Nubes”.

I remember loving “Los Poderes de Sandra” very much at that time, and I didn’t waste any time to write about them on my blog. I had no clue who was behind these songs, or if there were any more songs. It was a mystery. Today I can’t recall clearly how “Los Pulmones de las Nubes” sounded like. I think it was an instrumental but I’m not sure. As usual the song doesn’t play on the old, forgotten, Myspace. Actually none of the two songs stream there.

I think that it was thanks to the blog that I got in touch with the person behind the band, Ignacio Aguiló. I believe this was a solo project, kind of a side project to his band Hacia Dos Veranos. This was a proper band, with releases and all. They were an instrumental band but you could see on their jangly tracks many nods to indiepop. They even covered an instrumental of Brittle Stars. But as you know, when it comes to me, I can enjoy a bit some instrumentals, but generally speaking it doesn’t connect with me. I need lyrics. So I was never into them. But it wasn’t a surprise that both bands had Ignacio, you could tell he had a good music palette.

When in touch I think I remember him telling me he had many more Lu songs, that he was going to send them to me for a possible release at Plastilina. That would have been nice. We wanted to support indiepop in Latin America and here was a brilliant sounding band. I never received those tracks and with time we lost touch. I believe Ignacio is now living in the UK and I’m not sure if he is involved with any bands there. He should.

I believe the only proper appearance of Lu was on a CDR titled “Granada 2”. This was a compilation released by Molecula Records in Mexico in the mid 2000s (I couldn’t find the year). On this compilation the band appears with “Los Poderes de Sandra”. I see some other good bands in this compilation like the Spanish Linda Guilala or Nobel.

The band didn’t make a splash and was quickly forgotten. I couldn’t find any information on the web if they ever played live in Buenos Aires. I lost touch with Ignacio long time ago, he was one of the people who say that Facebook is for close friends only, and so I don’t know more about his music. A shame really as I really loved what he was doing with Lu and I always hoped to hear more songs, at least an EP worth of songs. There had been indiepop bands in Argentina but it is hard to find one with the sort of preciousness and fragility that Lu had. In any case, I leave this post for posterity, to make sure people know this beauty of a song existed.

What other Argentinean indiepop bands do you like?

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Listen
Lu – Los Poderes de Sandra

17
Sep

Thanks a thousand to Patrick O’Sullivan for the interview! I wrote about the Irish band So She Said knowing very little a few weeks ago. Somehow Patrick got in touch with me through Twitter and the rest is history. Now at last I learn a bit of the story of the Dublin band that even though didn’t release a proper record released a few songs on compilations. And how good those songs are! If you haven’t heard them before, it is now a good time to discover them!

++ Thanks so much Patrick for the interview! How are you doing? How was the summer? When was the last time you picked up your guitar?

Hello Roque

I’m fine, thank you. The summer was a bit weird – personal stuff – but life is good and I’m enjoying it!

I last picked up my guitar yesterday. I’m writing a song at the moment and I love to pick up the guitar and see how the song has progressed since I last played it. It’s coming along grand.

++ Let’s start from the beginning, what are your first musical memories? What sort of music was heard at home while growing up? What was your first instrument?

First memories…my mother had been a professional singer before she got married so there was always music in the house. I was listening to Andy Williams and Johnny Cash as a young child (and I thought it was great that they enjoyed a surge of popularity years later when I was an adult). When I was 8 we lived in Zambia for a while and I had two cassettes with me – Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash. I got to know every moment of those records. Sometimes we would go to a cabaret in the Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka and my sisters and I would sing (separately, not together). I remember singing ‘A Boy Named Sue’, ‘Bimbo’ and others. I thought I was very clever for interchanging words from the songs with the local parlance, so “dollars” became “kwacha”, etc.
But my first ‘wow’ moment was probably when I was about 13 and heard The Beatles and it blew my world apart. I knew then I had to be in a band. Shortly afterwards I was playing out on the road and my next-door neighbour was playing The Kinks in his house and I was mesmerised – the guitar sound and beat and voice – it was like stepping into a totally new world where the rules were all different.
My first and only instrument was the guitar. After that Beatles introduction I bought a guitar off some chap from school for something like £4. It was an awful thing. But I started to teach myself and practice with a friend on the road. I got some lessons but I was mainly self-taught.

++ Before So She Said there was The Delegates. Care telling me a bit about this band? Any recordings? What was the lineup? How did you sound?

The Delegates was more an idea than a real band. I had written a couple of songs and was playing guitar with my friend. Then at 17 my father got me a summer job in Vienna and I was away from my friends and my girlfriend. So I wrote lots of letters and set up a fan club for the band that didn’t really exist. We even got written about in some music fanzine! We did have a couple of public performances – at my sister’s wedding and another time in our old school. I got back to Dublin and started writing more and more songs and then I formed So She Said with Anto Healy and Brian King. And now I was in a real band!

++ Aside from So She Said and The Delegates, had you been involved with any other bands?

No. Although I’ve been recording some of my songs in recent times with a variety of musicians and for the moment I am calling that loose collective The Stuts.

++ How was Dublin back then? What were your usual hangouts? Your favourite venues to go see bands? Were there any like-minded bands that you were friends with?

Dublin was home and it was great. But when I look back on it the city was extremely quiet compared to nowadays. I grew up on Cedarwood Road, the same road as Bono, Gavin Friday, and Gugi. Bono obviously was in U2, while Gavin Friday and Guggi were in The Virgin Prunes. Around the corner, Alan Downey was in Aslan. It was amazing really ‘cause this was just one road on Dublin’s northside. There were bands everywhere. There were three or four bands among my friends. I don’t recall too much about Bono but I clearly remember seeing Fionan Hanvey (Gavin Friday) walk up the road in a dress and I was … amazed! And to me Derek Rowan (Guggi) and his brothers were the long-haired lads near the shops with the motorbikes. But they always seemed friendly!
The place I remember most about going to see bands was The Baggot Inn. That was quite a legendary venue on the Dublin circuit. And the band of the moment was The Blades. Watching them live in The Baggot was an experience. But you were brought back to earth by the rush for the last bus from O’Connell Street, which was more than a mile away and left at 11.30pm sharp (the idea of a taxi didn’t even enter our heads).

++ How did the band start? How did you all know each other?

I can’t remember exactly how it started but I know that I was completely intent on starting a band. I met Anto through my girlfriend and we got on well.
About the same time, some mod bloke from the club we used to frequent (Bubbles) decided to try starting a band; the result was a room full of people, mostly standing around looking at us, in a rehearsal studio called Furlongs on Capel Street in Dublin. I can’t remember how I came to be there (‘cause I didn’t know these people) but I was there and so was Anto. He played guitar, but at some point in the session he was messing on the drum kit, playing ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’ by The Jam. I was impressed and asked him to join my non-existent band as drummer, despite the fact that he had no kit and could just about play.
I think I then persuaded one of my school friends, Brian King, to play bass. Anto got us cheap rehearsal space above Walton’s, the famous music shop in Dublin, and we were off.

++ Why the name So She Said? What’s the story behind it?

It was the title of one of our songs. I suggested it to the lads one Saturday afternoon after band practice, in a pub on Parnell Street called The Ivy Rooms.

++ And what would you say were the influences in the band?

Initially Anto and I had similar influences I would say – The Jam, The Beatles, Style Council, The Blades, a lot of 60s RnB. Brian’s taste was probably funkier but he also liked heavy rock and metal. I got more into bands like Prefab Sprout, The Smiths and Elvis Costello as I began to write more.

++ How was the creative process for the band?

I wrote the songs. I brought them into the rehearsal room and played them for the other two. I was probably a bit of a control freak about the arrangements as well.

++ Two songs of yours, “So Happy” and “Let Me Out” appeared on the compilation “Swimming Out of the Pool” on the Danceline label. How did you end up there? Were you familiar the rest of the bands on the compilation?

I think that was organised by two music aficionados who were well known on the Dublin music scene – Pete The Roz and Steady Eddie! They just asked me if we’d like to go on the record. We were gigging around town at the time and had probably been in a newspaper or two.
I think I knew a couple of the bands. I think I knew The Outpatients, just from playing the same venues.

++ And what do you remember from the recording session for those songs?

I remember the excitement of going to the studio on a Sunday morning in March. I remember being very impressed with the fact that the sound engineer had worked on U2’s albums. I remember him getting us to play acoustic guitar under the electric guitar and thinking that was very clever.

++ “At Home in June” was a song that won the Hot Press/Murphy’s song of the month in 1989. What did that mean? What was the prize?

I’m not quire sure of the sequencing but I remember Hot Press beginning to take an interest in what we were doing. Hot Press was the only music magazine in Ireland and was read by every musician and fan so it was great to have them on your side. I remember the general manager of Hot Press, Jackie Hayden, coming to the studio to sit in on the session when we were mixing ‘At Home In June’. I know the prize included some art work by the Hot Press graphics designer for our record/cassette. Arthur Matthews was the designer from Hot Press. He later went on to find fame and fortune as the co-writer of the comedy series Father Ted. We may have been interviewed by the magazine. I really can’t remember what else we got apart from the publicity.

++ Those are the 3 recordings of yours I know. Were there any more? Maybe some demo tapes?

Yeah there were a few more demos but I wasn’t very happy with them. In fact one of them – ‘Lost And Found’ – is one of my favourite songs from the era but I really wasn’t happy with what happened to it in the studio. I think I’ll rerecord it some day.

++ I really like those 3 songs, was wondering if perhaps in a sentence or two, you could tell me what they are about?

‘So Happy’ – being a teenager in Dublin at that time.
‘Let Me Out’ – An early foray into writing a love song.
‘At Home In June’ – this song chronicles a sort of mini break down I had. When I listen to it it’s like watching a movie of my falling into a ditch and then scraping and crawling to get back out. Something strange happened in the writing of that song, something I hadn’t felt up until then. I was losing all control and it terrified me. I was being physically sick – and these words just spewed out of me. The music too…it was different to what I had written before. I’m quite proud of that one!

++ And from your whole repertoire, which would be your favourite song and why?

I think most songwriters will give you a different answer depending on what they most recently worked on. I have a soft spot for ‘So Happy’ and I think my writing went up a notch with ‘At Home In June’. The song I’ve just recorded recently with Anto pleases me a lot – ‘Come And Go’. I wrote a song for my little girl – ‘Carry Me’. There’s another one ‘Eternity’…there are a lot of songs in the repertoire at this stage and thankfully I have a small place in my heart for most of them.

++ Was there any interest from Danceline to release you? What about other labels? I find it strange that you didn’t get to release a proper record!

I don’t know if Danceline were into releasing bands on their own. I think they were just there to give bands some exposure. No, there was no activity from other labels. I think there may have been an enquiry from a publishing company at one stage but nothing that ever went anywhere. I suppose the fact that there were so many bands in Dublin at the time meant it was hard to really stand out. I don’t know. But also, we broke up right after we had made a bit of a breakthrough with Hot Press – song of the month – finalists in the national band of the year, etc. In hindsight that wasn’t a clever move!

++ What about gigs? Did you play many? What were your favourites?

We played a lot of gigs, mostly in Dublin. We seemed to revolve between three venues in particular – The Baggot Inn, The Underground and The Earl Grattan. But we played everywhere we could. I loved the residencies we had in those venues. But there were two gigs that really stand out in my memory – both in Dublin City University (DCU).
The first was RAG week when basically lots of events are planned and all the students party for the week. We were due to play at lunchtime, open air, outside the canteen. We set up and started and all the cool students were standing around and there was a bit of toe tapping going on. And then it started to snow. And my girlfriend and manager (now my wife) and a friend of ours started to dance. And then a few others joined them…and the snow came down heavier. More and more people started dancing and the snow fell down and the buzz grew and eventually they had to stop the gig ’cause it was getting dangerous with the snow and none of the audience, which had grown considerably by now, wanted it to stop.

The second was in a lecture theatre the night DCU was granted university status. We came on and I strummed the first chord and the place erupted. That was a pretty special gig.

++ Were there any bad gigs? Or any fun anecdotes you could share?

Some student threw sandwiches at us in another college one time ‘cause we wouldn’t play Bohemian Rhapsody! Our roadie threw them straight back. It could have got interesting but instead it was very civilised (it was a teacher training college).
There was one 24 hour period that sums up the highs and lows in an interesting way: we played in Sir Henry’s in Cork as part of the Hot Press Band of the Year gig. It was really cool to play in such a well known venue outside of Dublin and we had a ball – partying afterwards, etc. I don’t remember getting to bed or even where we stayed but I do know that very early the next morning I flew back to Dublin and got a taxi directly from the airport to sit my college exams. And when I got there the exam hall was empty – I was in the wrong place! I made it to the exam eventually but don’t think I did terribly well!!

++ Did you get much attention from the music press or the radio?

As I said, Hot Press were on to us and we were interviewed in one of the national Sunday papers and had some other bits and pieces in the press. We were played on national radio a little bit.
Actually, you’ve just reminded me, ‘So Happy’ was played on the radio recently – the national station was having some vinyl slot on one of the talk programmes and my wife was a guest with that Danceline record under her arm! And a local radio station on Dublin’s northside interviewed me a while back – the subject of that conversation was my playwrighting but they also played ‘So Happy’ and two other songs of mine (‘Eternity’ and ‘Kids Can Crawl’).

++ When and why did you split? What did you do afterwards? Did you continue making music?

We split in 1989 I think. I’m not quite sure of the exact date – probably at the end of the summer of 1989. Just after we were beginning to get attention!

I recall this row erupting out of nowhere and suddenly the band was no more. Basically Anto was unhappy. There was a lot going on in his life but at the time I didn’t understand it. To be honest I think I was shocked or traumatised or something. I stopped writing songs for a few years. Well, except for one children’s song I wrote for a pantomime (which starred the girls who went on to form the girl band B*Witched – they were very young at the time but really liked the song and asked me all about it a few times – it was called ‘Two Friends’).

I was having a pint with Anto recently and we got talking about the split and it turns out that there was a lot of stuff going on for him at the time that I wasn’t aware of – personal stuff – and it came to the surface and was the chief cause of the band splitting. But that’s life. Our recent chat was very therapeutic. We’re recording music together again and it’s great.

++ And today, what are you up to? Are you all still in touch? Speaking of which, I found a Soundcloud for Anto Healy’s project Cabin, is that the same Anto?

I am writing songs and am recording with Anto again. He has a recording studio and is an excellent musician. I am also writing plays and had a short play tour nationally last year. I’ve been mentored by Fishamble Theatre Company which is Ireland’s new playwrighting company. Through my playwrighting I have been approached by one or two film directors and am currently writing a feature film with a really talented director/actor TJ O’Grady Peyton. I am also working on a short film adaptation of my play Fairview’s Finest Dancer with director Keith Farrell. Another short screenplay of mine is due to be produced this coming winter in Dublin. So creatively I’m busy and happy.
Yes that Soundcloud Cabin link is indeed by the same Anto Healy!
And yes I still see Brian as well – in fact I was just out with him tonight for a pint. We were trying to get tickets fro the All-Ireland Football Final this Sunday (go on the Dubs!!). Brian got one, I didn’t!

++ Aside from music, any other hobbies you have?

Aside from all the creative stuff I love traveling with my family (back to Vietnam for the sixth or seventh time next summer), I’ve walked across Ireland with my dad and other members of the wider family, and I follow the Dubs (Gaelic football and hurling)!

++ Looking back in time, what would you say was the highlight of being in So She Said?

Filling dancefloors.
Sitting back the first time we recorded in a studio (which happened to be ‘So Happy’) and thinking “Wow”.
Sitting back listening to ‘At Home in June’ and thinking “Wow”.

++ Are you still based in Dublin? Has it changed much since then? What would you recommend doing, seeing, eating, drinking, if one was to visit your city?

Yes I’m still in Dublin. I live in Fairview which is only 2km from the city centre. I love living here. It is unrecognisably more cosmopolitan than when I was growing up on Cedarwood Road. One example that comes to mind when speaking about the band is this: we used to rehearse in Temple Bar Studios and one night I remember going to a quiet little pub around the corner with Anto and Brian after rehearsal to watch a football match. Nowadays Temple Bar Studios is like some sort of music Mecca and the little pub around the corner is the Temple Bar and packed every opening hour with tourists.
But despite that anecdote it is a great place to visit. Things to do: walk the hill of Howth, drink Guinness in a real drinker’s pub (not a tourist trap), sit in the back room of The Palace Bar on Fleet Street, go for a hike in the Dublin Mountains, go for drinks, food, music in the Camden Street area, go to a play in the Gate Theatre. And give me a shout and I’ll guide you though any or all of the above!

++ Thanks again, anything else you’d like to add?

Pleasure talking to you Roque. I will send you a link to ‘Come And Go’ very shortly – we’re just mixing it at the moment. More info can be found at www.mentalmagpie.com and on Twitter @OSuilleabhainP

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Listen
So She Said – So Happy

16
Sep

Thanks so much to Lyndon Morgans for the interview and Jon Clay for getting me in touch with him! I wrote about Sad Among Strangers a long time ago on the blog after buying their “Taking Off the Breaks” 7″ which I thought was fantastic. Of course, as it is the case with many bands from the period, there was little information on the web about them and I wanted to know more. So I thank this opportunity to learn their story and their music. Hope you like it too!

++ Hi Lyndon! Thanks so much for being up for this interview! How are you? What are you up to these days? Still making music?

Sad Among Strangers spilt up in the fall of 1987 and then I concentrated on the theatre for about eight years, winning the Verity Bargate playwriting award in the early 90s. I formed the Jellymoulds around 1996 (featuring two ex-members of Sad Among Strangers, Karl Woodward and Malcolm Phillips), we made one album “Zen Jukebox”, then we launched Songdog in 2000 (Karl Woodward stayed on, another ex-Sad Among Strangers member, Robert Lesniewski, joined for just the first album. We’ve now made seven albums and Malcolm Phillips came back to play on the latest one but is now gone again. I regard Sad Among Strangers and Jellymoulds as the aperitifs, with Songdog very much the main course. The music we play now is very much how I’d like to have done it then but when Sad Among Strangers formed in the fall of 1978 it was very much ‘play punk or else’ as someone once scrawled across an early gig poster of ours …….

++ I wrote about Sad Among Strangers after I found the “Taking Off the Breaks” 7″ and looked for information on the web. I couldn’t find much. So why don’t we start from there, with that brilliant song. What’s the story behind it? What is it about?

The Sad Among Strangers thing seemed to fall into two distinct periods, firstly the fall of ’78 until spring of 82 and then from the spring of ’82 to the fall of 87. “Taking Off The Brakes” I suppose was the musical highlight of part two. Arista paid for some demos in 1985 and it was recorded as part of those sessions with Steve James producing. After Arista passed on us Freddie Cannon replaced the original drum part with the one that ended up on the record that came out on Broken Hill and claimed the producer’s credit. I guess the song’s about a guy trying to overcome his reserve and telling a girl how he feels about her. I remember still trying to finish the lyrics as we were in the studio and just about to record the vocal.

++ On the B side there was the song “I, Salamander”, which  is a bit darker, less poppy. I wonder what sort of style of music you liked best? And what were your influences at the time?

Freddie booked us into the old Pye Studios at Marble Arch to overdub the drums on “Taking Off The Brakes” but gave us carte blanche to put whatever we liked on the B-side, so we chose “I,
Salamander” and produced it ourselves. I haven’t heard either track in decades so I can’t comment on which I prefer!

++ Let’s go back in time for a bit, was Sad Among Strangers your first band? Had you been involved with other bands too? I know you were on Songdog after being in Sad Among Strangers, how different were these two bands?

When I was a teenager in Wales I’d played in a couple of local bands but we did only covers — wonderful years, though! When we came up to London in the early summer of 1976 I started writing the songs that would become Sad Among Strangers’s early repertoire and I’ve played only my own material ever since, via Jellymoulds and Songdog. There’s a big difference in approach between the Sads and Songdog, the former’s first period was super-fast tempos, angular guitar riffs and lyrics gleaned from my reading bawled out like newspaper headlines. Songdog is acoustic-based with often glacial-paced tempos, a lot rootsier and the lyrics much, much more considered! But to me, I can quite clearly identify a ‘through line’, a thread running right through the songwriter’s persona in both bands. In fact the very first line of the very first track on the very first Songdog album I’d lifted from an old Sads track, I meant it as a kind of statement-of intent and I’ve often re-used bits and pieces from Sads’ stuff over the years — – snatches of lyric, a chord sequence or whatever.

++ What are your first musical memories by the way? What sort of music did you grow up listening to? And what was your first instrument? You were based in Wales, right? Whereabouts? And how was it growing up there? Were there any good bands in town?

I grew up in a place in the South Wales valleys called Blackwood: the Manic Street Preachers came from there too but nothing great or genuinely important so far (but for Songdog!). I was a music fanatic from the age of about ten — – the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Dylan. The stuff that had the most bearing on what I was to do later was mid-60s folk-rock and the baroque-pop stuff of ‘66-’69 combined with the early 70s singer-songwriter boom, and that’s what I would’ve loved to play from the time I first started writing songs, but in London in 1977 and the years immediately following anything that wasn’t ‘punk’ or new wave was anathema. You just wouldn’t have got any gigs whispering away behind an acoustic guitar! My father bought me a guitar for Christmas when I was twelve and right from the very start I wanted to use it as something to sing to and write my own songs on. After I’d learned the basics I had limited interest in working out other people’s stuff. I wish I’d learned piano too.

++ I couldn’t find the band lineup for Sad Among Strangers on the web. So who were Sad Among Strangers and how did you all meet? What’s the story of the band’s name? Your first release was in 1980 on the Brave Tales label. Who were behind this label? This record has three songs, “Sparks Fly Upwards”, “A Better View of Baxter” and “The Gongs”. I really like the opening track the best, and I was wondering how was your experience working with Ian Dinwoodie as the producer, what did he add to the sound of the band? And how was the creative process for Sad Among Strangers? Where did you usually rehearse?

The first line-up was myself on guitar and vocals, Karl Woodward on guitar, Robert Lesniewski on keyboards, Malcolm Phillips on bass and Steve Prescott on drums. Me, Karl and Sig (Robert Lesniewski) came up from Wales together with the express intention of forming a band and met Mal and Steve after they answered an ad we’d placed in Melody Maker for a rhythm section. Later on Mal left and was replaced by Ruari Macfarlane and we headed in a pretty different direction musically. The name came from James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses” which I was reading at the time — — “Who loved you, Stephen, when you were sad among the strangers?”. We used to rehearse at Woodwharf Studios in Greenwich, Dire Straits would be in one room and Kate Bush and her band in another. Another time we were in a place near London Bridge when Queen’s and Public Image’s roadies ganged up together to see off a bunch of skinheads causing trouble outside! We met Ian Dinwoodie when he caught us at a gig in west London in 1979, he worked in EMI’s post-room at the time and he steered us through to the spring of ’82, producing our first three singles and managing us too. We did that first three-track single in a posh 24-track studio in Wimbledon, south London: Cliff Richard had booked it for daytime use and once he’d left mid- evening we’d creep in and do our stuff through the night — – the house engineer was a friend of Mal’s, had an amazing porn collection. Brave Tales was our own label. Ian gave a sense of purpose and direction to all the chaos, I’d say he was vital to us throughout those early years, he booked all the gigs, designed the sleeves, the lot, we did four shows a week, every week for years and years, in the process conquering all the venues you needed to play in those times, from the Marquee down, we did many shows there.

++ Your next release was the “Here Come the Caesars” 7″. The B side, “I Know Nothing of the Jungle” was covered by the band Jellymoulds in 1997. What do you think of it? “My Kind of Loser” was your next release. I notice here that the record was being published by Cherry Red Music. What was the deal you had with them? Why didn’t they just release the record on their label? Was there any interest from other labels? So there were 4 releases, four singles, but no album. How come? Are there any unreleased Sad Among Strangers songs? And from all those songs from your repertoire which one would you say was your favourite and why?

With Jellymoulds we re-did “I Know Nothing of the Jungle” out of nostalgia for the old days, I suppose. I prefer the later version just because it’s better played — – the Sads had all the passion and energy in the world but we didn’t pay too much attention to the nuts and bolts, the musicality of the thing — – we could do a six-minute track in about 2:45. By the time Jellymoulds happened we were better musicians, that’s all. As regards “Here Come The Caesars” and “My Kind of Loser” I remember Iain McNay of Cherry Red coming backstage at a gig at the Rock Garden and offering us a deal but I honestly don’t remember what happened, I think they ended up with the publishing, that would’ve been Ian’s department. We were so cocky that another time we turned down the chance to do an album on the Virgin barge because we didn’t like the trousers the guy offering us the deal was wearing: we also said no to a tour opening for XTC, I remember. We were doing so well as a live band I think we figured we could just pick and choose when we felt good and ready. Years later a guy from Virgin told us that we eventually had the reputation as the band that didn’t want a deal! Not true! There’s a whole pile of unreleased material. And many of the gigs were taped too, though that’s all very lo-fi stuff, purely of historical interest only. I liked quite a few of the songs but didn’t always like the way we did them: as I say, we didn’t really do musical finesse and as a songwriter it sometimes felt like watching your babies get mangled in a car-wreck. A lot of the ideas from that era I only got to re-do properly with Songdog.

++ Someone commented on my blog saying that by the mid 80s you decided to go commercial. Is that true?

By the time Mal left and Ruari joined in mid-1982 the New Wave thing was over and the fucking synthesiser was mainstream music’s favoured instrument of torture, and in the course of those following years although we had some fantastic times we lost our way musically. Trousers got baggier, hair bigger, it felt like we were just following whatever the latest trend was, a kind of pop-funk thing that certainly wasn’t what we were about in our hearts. Karl wanted to leave years before we called it a day and I was enormously relieved when we finally did. So I can understand why some people preferred the earlier years: so did I. ‘Going commercial’ is a quaint way to put it but I know what the guy means. It was partly just the times, even my greatest heroes did their weakest work in that era. I left music alone until songwriting came back in in the 90s and the rediscovery of the likes of Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake made acoustic music viable again for the first time in twenty years. I was just a victim of bad timing, I think!

++ Something that I could find on the web was that you were support of A-Ha on a European tour of theirs in 1981. How was that experience? How was your relationship with them? Which cities did you play? Which were your favourites? Any fun anecdotes you could share?

We did the A-Ha European tour of late 1986, they were huge then and the tour was quite an experience, they were doing massive venues and the audiences loved us — — though I’m betting they’d have loved whoever was up there! We did Lyon, four nights in Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Dusseldorf, Munich, Mannheim, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Brussels, Rotterdam and Copenhagen — – I don’t know if I’ve missed any, it lasted about a month? We got on well with them and in fact a few years ago Songdog went back out opening for Morten Harket on one of his tours, our manager rang his people, he remembered the ’86 tour and invited us on. We had many, many memorable times on that tour but I suppose the incident I remember the clearest was after we’d come offstage in Nuremburg (?) I swallowed a few pills some guy’d offered me and then downed a bottle of wine and collapsed, got locked in a toilet somewhere and had to be ambulanced to hospital to have my stomach pumped. Happy days, eh? I remember being chuffed to have done a venue in Munich that the Beatles had played and that Paul Simon was to be the next attraction at our Paris venue. The trouble was that when the tour was over we found it just so demoralising to have to return to the London pub circuit and we limped on through most of 1987 becoming less and less committed to what we were doing. We should’ve packed in about three years before we did, but then, of course, we’d have missed that A-Ha tour! My favourite shows were the Paris ones, once we’d left the venue we’d be up in Montmartre drinking half the night away because we didn’t have to set out for the next city, we had four nights to do at the same place.

++ And in general, which are the gigs you remember most fondly and why? Did you get much attention from the music press and radio?

Gigs-wise I loved the early years best, when we were chalking up venues we’d read of back in Wales and knew you had to do if you were to be counted as any good. In the very earliest days we also had a residency at a place on Clapham High Street — – the Two Brewers — – that lasted over two years and we had some fantastic times there, we built up a hell of a following due to that place. John Peel used to play us but that was really it, radio-wise. The music press mostly slagged the shit out of us! When we began to get good press for Songdog I thought someone had made a mistake somewhere, I was so used to getting hatchet-jobs done on us.

++ When and why did you call it a day? What did you do afterwards? And whereabouts in the UK are you these days? Aside from music, what other hobbies do you have? One last question, what would you say was the biggest highlight of the band? Anything else you’d like to add?

As I said, the end was overdue and merciful. The drummer announced his imminent departure and we used that as an opportunity to not to have to carry on: there was no announcement of our splitting up, we just didn’t bother looking for a replacement, didn’t book any more rehearsals, etc. I then got involved in playwriting for years until the musical tide turned back to songwriting in the mid-90s. Thank God for it, I finally had a chance to make the musical statement I was born to make, but Sad Among Strangers was a hell of an apprenticeship, I have to admit that. I’m still based in London — – though I have a place in Wales too — – and I focus completely on my work with Songdog, I have to keep writing and recording until I can’t any longer, I couldn’t live at all if I had to just give all this up and I’ve had so many great things happen with Songdog, so many experiences I couldn’t have got with the old band, but Christ, still, with Sad Among Strangers, we had some adventures, didn’t we!

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Listen
Sad Among Strangers – Taking Off the Breaks

15
Sep

Thanks so much to Kevin Lagan for the interview. I wrote about The Chairs not so long ago on the blog and Kevin was kind enough to get in touch and answer all my questions! I discovered The Chairs with the Leamington Spa series and after I’ve been collecting their 4 records on their own Pink Halo Records, which I recommend them all. If you are not familiar with them, or if you are a fan, I’m sure you will enjoy this great interview!

++ Thanks Kevin for being up for this interview! How are you? Whereabouts in the UK are you? Essex?

Yep, I live in a small town near a river. Its called Maldon and its very old and a very nice place to live.

++ And do you continue making music to this day? Are you all still in touch?

Only make music now for my own pleasure. My son Tom completed a degree in Music and is a Bach of Jazz and can play so wonderfully – I get more enjoyment from seeing home and other amazingly talented young people play. I still listen to a whole lot of music and it’s an important part of my life.

++ Let’s go back in time then, but even way before The Chairs. Like, what are your first music memories? When did you know you wanted to play in bands? Were your parents supportive perhaps?

My late mum and my dad (who is still here ) were fantastically supportive of me playing music. So much so, I had a toy drum set at about 5 and then around 13, I purchased a small Pearls 4 piece and played that to death! It fitted in my room at home and mum and dad still live in the same house. You can see the cracks in the ceiling still I caused form all the vibrations! They were / are great parents.

I didn’t know I wanted to be in a band until I started following the Accidents (which I later played in). I really wanted to be in this band, and one day that actually happened!

++ What was your first instrument? how did you get it?

Drum kit forma small shop in Colchester called ‘Keddies’. It was a kids set but at 5, didn’t need more! I also play the guitar and have had these since around 13.

++ Was your first band The Accidents? Or had you been involved in any other bands previously?

No, the Accidents was the first band and I loved the music. When they split and Paul went off to join the Americans, Terry and Mark recruited 2 new members – Max on drums and Simon on Bass. They were ok , but never had the feel that the original line p had. When Paul and Terry came together and formed the Accidents again, I sat in and as I learned all the songs years back, it was easy. I was never the best drummer but we sounded like the accidents. Paul was back playing guitar not drums, and Mark Robins (one of the planets best guitarists) and Terry, well , it had to happen. Trevor Richardson came in after Nick Fisher and we had that sound back. It was great to be involved.

++ After The Accidents you were in The Gene Tryp and only after in The Chairs. Had you been involved in any other bands?

I did record an album I Austal with a 17 year old singer called ‘Charlotte Emily’ and did some gigs which was great. I was able to play in a band with my son Tom who played bass and then drums ion the songs that needed refinement rather than me banging out a rhythm! I enjoyed it, but it was not a long term thing.

++ What about the sound of each band? How different were they? And how did you end up evolving into The Chairs?

Now there’s a great question. The Accidents were very melodic and I felt told naive songs about love and disappointment. Very well crafted songs, wonderful sound and harmonies. ‘Trigger happy’ has one of the best guitar solos in my option! The Tryp was more a wall of sound – cleaver songs, great guitar solos, but feedback and speed and power. Lots of leather and image was important. The chairs were , well, the Chairs”! Early on, lots of jangly 12 string but we got rockier as we evolved. Paul really came into his element with his song writing and penned great songs ofr us. Each band was unique I feel. Love them all.

After the Accidents morphed in to the Tryp, Paul wanted to do more on his own as the front man, and I went along with him as did Trevor. It didn’t mean we didn’t want Mark or Terry but that sound had been and gone. It was time for something fresh.

++ I believe throughout these bands you shared the same members mostly. How did you all know each other? How did you meet?

Terry, Mark and Paul had been in bands together for years. I lived on the same road as Mark and very closer to Terry. I went drinking in the same pubs (The Queens Head and The Carpenters Arms) and we became friends. Im 5 years younger so a bit of underage consumption was undertaken!

++ What sort of music were you listening at the time you started The Chairs? Who would you say were your influences?

Elvis Costello, XTC, Elvis Presley, Blondie , Pistols, Madness, the Jam and the Accidents! All played a big part in my musical evolution. I listen still to all these guys and more!

++ And who came up with the name of the band? Firstly you were called The Domesday Chairs, right? What’s the story behind it?

No idea! That’s a Paul thing. I can only remember us being the Chairs. Its the quote from Lennon, and Paul is the Beatles fan and we liked it!

++ How was Essex then? Or where you in London by then? Where did you usually hang out? Were there any good venues to catch bands you liked? And were there any like-minded bands around?

I lived in Essex in the early 80’s and spend time at the students union at Essex Uni SU. Saw heaps of bands, REM, The Icicle Works, Cherry Bois, Aztec Camera, XTC, U2 (at the Lyceum in 1982/3) and on and on – heaps of great bands. In those days , pubs had bands playing and all my mates were in bands. It was a great time to play toilet venues!

++ Your first record was “The Likes of You” who you recorded with G. Chambers. I was wondering how was that experience? I noticed he has worked with mainstream names like Robbie Williams. What did he add to your music?

George was friend of Paul’s and he was just a pleasure to be around. He smoked a lot too so the sessions were sometimes ‘relaxed’! I was young then and just happy to be in the band and in the studio. He made sure that the recordings captured the essence of the band and he did a great job with what technology we had back then. He added his experience but without stifling how we really sounded. Good bloke.

++ By the way, how did the creative process work for The Chairs? Where did you usually practice?

Paul would write and demo his songs on a 4 track. In the early days we rehearsed in Holloway Road London, and then as we needed more professional sets up, we went to Hackney Road. We always rehearsed all together for 4 hours on a Saturday and then when n we had big gigs, we would often do a Wednesday evening too. We would go to each other’s house and work stuff. We all had an input, but it was really Paul’s band so he led us – and led us well.

++ This first record had a cool drawing as the artwork and it is credited to the band. I wonder who was the illustrator, the designer, within the band?

Paul and Dave for sure. I can’t draw a pair of curtains! Trevor was creative too and his then girlfriend (Claire) was arty.

++ You ran your own label, Pink Halo, to release your records. How was that? Was it easy to get distribution? Dealing with the pressing plants? Did you like that part of it?

Not really. I enjoyed the live work but didn’t enjoy recording and all the stuff that goes with it” Jim Wallace did most of the other stuff. I just t wasn’t really interested. Jim is owed a lot of credit.

++ And why did you name your label Pink Halo? And what about that design that became your trademark for the labels?

Pink Halo was names after a certain part of a woman’s anatomy” nuff said. We wanted a simple but stand out label – always a different colour for each record. We knocked around the art work and all liked the one we used. We all played a part.

++ “Size 10 Girlfriend” was your second release and I love this song! Was wondering if in a few lines you could tell me the story behind it?

Its about a train journey from Liverpool street to Southend where Paul saw a really hot girl and tells a story of that and many journeys. I liked playing that but it was always one that knackered me as I hit my drums very, very hard!

++ This time you worked with Howard Turner, who worked with more indie bands at the time. Was it much different than the first time around at the recording studio?

Yep, he has a very nice place and it was very civilised. It was in Norfolk were we recorded Honey, and we stayed in the cottage surrounded by fields. He had very good facilities only I wasn’t allowed to play my Gretch Kit as it was too lively. I played a silver sparkly thing from memory! Every engineer we worked with were great – all different but great.

++ Your third release, “Honey I Need a Girl of a Different Stripe”, was perhaps the one you had higher hopes with? I ask this because I notice you released it in both 7″ and 12″ formats.

Hell yes. We had started to get attention after the likes of you, and then Size Ten. Honey was a bigger sound and people were interested. We decided to fund the12’ and 7’ with picture sleeve. The shirt was one Paul wore a lot and sort of became our image focus. When we were on Radio 1 and Elvis loved it – we thought – we have done it.

++ Your last release, “Crestfallen”, didn’t get proper art, how come?

No money unfortunately. I think interest had gone at that point.

++ On the web I could find a couple of mentions saying you were really looking to sign with a bigger label. Was that true? Did you get close to it?

It was our dream to be signed to a major. Paul may say different but that’s the truth of it. We wanted to bring what we had to the millions. I still do – I think the later stuff is greater than the earlier and stands up today. Pink Halo was ours but it was only supposed to be a stepping stone.

++ Why do you think you didn’t get the chance to release an album? Uwe from Firestation Records told me that you had an unreleased one titled “Al Green is My Valet”, what’s that about?

We just never had the money to be honest. We paid for the singles ourselves and funded from within. Jim was great and did get some outside cash for demos etc., but we never had enough. I really wish we did have as we would have made one hell of a record.

++ And are there any other unreleased songs by The Chairs?

Shit yes! One on the best is Half way up a hill – absolutely Top song. Sycamore ridge was another. I have recording of rehearsals and gigs and a couple of live sets are great. Paul’s song writing pedigree is still top notch. There are loads.

++ From all that repertoire of songs, which would be your favourite and why?

Halfway Up Hill; – because its rocky, powerful, has great licks and interesting drumming. Size Ten, Honey and Daze are close to it though, as is the likes of you.

++ I read that there’s a tape of your first ever gig at the Blue Boar in Southend. Who recorded it? Were copies sold? And what songs did you play? Did you have a big repertoire then or you played songs from your previous bands too?

Paul didn’t like playing back catalogue stuff but we dd a few. He was writing for the Chairs so we did new stuff and old. I have a recording of that gig somewhere – its pretty awful I remember!

++ What about other gigs? Are there any that you remember in particular? Any fun anecdotes to share?

What goes on tour , stays on tour. We did get beaten up in Leicester which was horrible but also quite funny looking back!

++ And what bands did you like that you played with?

The Icicle Works were really great. I liked all the bands really but I preferred the small unsigned ones. Neil Robert Herd was also a great guy.

++ On Facebook, a The Chairs page was created, it seems, mostly to promote a reunion gig, but it never happened. How come? Has there been any other reunion gigs by the band?

We realised that we would all be in the UK in August 2015. Paul put up the page but hadn’t asked us if we wanted to play together again. Part of me wanted to , but I and Trev decided that its not going to happen. For me, the memories of the Chairs are precious and were a moment in time. Im never going to play with the guys again – not because I don’t love them, but because time moves on and we are not those people now. Paul lives in Worthing, Tex in NZ, Dave in the Stares, and I lives in Australia until a few years ago.

++ You did a radio session for Simon Mayo. How did that invitation happen? How was that experience? Which songs did you play?

There is a tape of it – ill find it and send it to you. We recorded in the Holy Grail at Maida Vale studios west London. We stood where the Beatles, Stones and all the greats have been – it was awesome. The engineer completely flattened our sound and I’ve never been keen on the end result. We were so close to breaking onto the mainstream and Radio was interested. I loved being there , but as I said never really enjoyed recording. I think we played, Boys form Slumberland, Shakespeare’s Motorbike, Neck of The Woods – I can’t remember the other (I’m getting old!)

++ Did you get much attention from the music press? What about radio?

We had a plugger and also were featured in loads of music process and radio plays. To this day, ill never understand why we were not signed. We were bloody awesome when we were on fire.

++ You did get some good promotion by Elvis Costello, he praised your music. Do you know how did he end up hearing your tunes? Did you ever meet him?

Honey was on a Radio Show playlist called ‘Round Table’ where new releases were provide and talked about . We were played on it and he loved it. We thought that was it – here we come, but…………………………………….

Never met him but still love what he does.

++ What’s the story about Tim Burgess from The Charlatans stealing Dave Reade’s suede jacket? When and how did that happen?!

I think he just picked it up and walked off with it when we were on stage in Islington,. They were not the most welcoming of bands at the time.

++ In the end what happened? When and why did you call it a day?

Dave Hubbard our friend ad roadie, stepped away, and I didn’t want to be in the band anymore. I needed to move on. The others did play a bit together after with the great Mick Frangu on drums. Just sort of had enough of it an knew we had missed the boat.

++ What did you do after? You were involved in The Liberty Takers I think?

No, I stopped playing for a short while and then joined a local band called ‘The Falling’. We played one gig in a pub, and I thought, nope, don’t want this anymore. I sold my drums, brought a pram for my new borne and started life a s a dad – it’s a fantastic life. My wife , son and Daughter are my life.

++ And what about today? What are you up to? Any other hobbies aside of music that you have?

I like listening to music and walking, cycling and jogging. I’m a big lad but enjoy a peaceful life. I love the sky and the country side. I went back to uni in Australia at the age of 44 and obtained a Post Grad Dip in OHS , which was the area of specialism that I moved into years ago. Being in the Chairs and reflecting on how we could have been better managed (from a business perspective) actually helped m, as I studied Business and Commercial management and qualified in that field and then OHS. I travel all over the work and have been to so many countries, its opened my eyes up to how some people are forced to live. We have it good over here.

++ Looking back in time, what would say was the biggest highlight of being in The Chairs?

Just being one of 4 who made a difference in the world of music. I know what we were and how good it could be. Playing at the Old and New Marquee Club and the Town and Country Club stand out, but in closing, I’m so grateful and proud to have been the Drummer in the Chairs., so many great memories that will also be with me.

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Listen
The Chairs – Size 10 Girlfriend

14
Sep

It is quite stressful not being able to buy new records. As I’m moving at the end of the month I don’t want to order anything that may arrive at the address I’m living now when I’m not there anymore! That would be awful. At the same time, seeing new records coming out and not being able to buy them, scared that they may sell out is not the nicest of feelings. For example the new Even as We Speak record. I want it very much. And I see posts by the band saying that it is selling so good here and there. Will I manage to get a copy? I just need to wait until the beginning of October to get it, that and some other records, sure the Alvvays one too, but that one won’t sell out, surely they’ve printed thousands and thousands of copies.

Speaking of Alvvays, the video for “Dreams Tonite” has been released. There is not much more to say about their “Antisocialites” album, for many it is the best record of the year and that might be true. I’m very bad to make lists and remember what has been released this year, but definitely this is one of the bests if not the best. Anyhow, we’ve played the song many times, now it is quite lovely to put some imagery to it, tricky imagery where the band has been superimposed over old footage.

The Spanish Amanda, the fantastic English bedroom band of Huw Darling that once released an album on Firestation Records titled “Brave New Girl” and who I interviewed on the blog now has BandCamp presence. “The Ballad of the Spanish Amanda” is a collection of favourites and rare recordings by the band and it is thoroughly enjoyable. But that is not all, there are also recordings by Huw Darling before The Spanish Amanda. We find the band London Fields which was a short-lived alias in the mid-90s before developing into The Spanish Amanda, and I can only say wow, wow, wow!! Hope the 6 songs on there get released in a CD or something. But what about The Spanish Amanda, what was Huw doing? It seems he formed a band called The Chickpea Darlings alongside Jo Darling (ex-Abstinence & Sensibility) and Freddy Darling (ex-RSPCA). They have an album streaming on Bandcamp titled “Poet’s Day” with 10 songs. The band is self-described as middle-aged bedroom miserablists with C86 tendencies. What’s not too like?

Lost Film from Easthampton, Massachussetts, is unknown to me. The band formed by Jimmy Hewitt on guitars, vocals and synthetizer and Ben Husk on drums, has been releasing songs since 2014 when they recorded their first demo. As I’m not familiar with their music I start exploring. I see that their only proper physical release was a tape album in 2015 titled “Imago”, then the rest of their output seems to  have been only in digital formats. Their latest is brand new, the “Broken Spectre” album is set to be released in October. At the moment only one song is streamable, “Burn”, and it is quite a beauty.

This past week we’ve also seen Shelflife promoting the new Airiel record and that is definitely a good thing. The label has uploaded two of the album’s song to their SoundCloud and I’ve been playing them time after time. The first one to be uploaded was “Painkillers” and yesterday, “Your Lips, My Mouth“. As usual, top tracks by the shoegaze/dreampop Chicago band.

It is no secret I’m a big fan of Brisbane band Major Leagues, I’ve championed them for years now and how I wish I had worked with any of the many cool bands that appeared in Brisbane 3, 4, years go. For a reason or another that didn’t work out, but I have been a fan of Major Leagues, Go Violets, Babaganouj, Tempura Nights and many more. It was really exciting then when I stumbled this week upon Poolshop, which is the name Jaimee Fryer from Major Leagues is using for her dreampop bedroom project. There are a bunch of songs here, my favourites being “Can You Dream”, “You’re Alright Alone”, and “How Long”.

And it is time to close this week of recommendations with Strawberry Runners, which I’m quite surprised to see they hail from New York according to their Facebook (or Connecticut according to Bandcamp). Of course, I live here and I have never heard about them until now. Well, I do see they play a show in Ridgewood in October, but that’s like the end of the world for me. So far. But maybe I’ll get myself together and make it. I’m very curious. I heard the song “Garden Hose” today and thought it was really good and I see that it is part of the album “In the Garden, In the Night” that will be released on the 20th of October on Salinas Records. It seems though that previously the band had released a tape 3 years ago, one titled “Hatcher Creek EP” that had two songs, “Hatcher Creek” and “When We Were Good”. It seems this one is still available on Bandcamp. Anyhow, their new one that coming out in October will be released on vinyl and it will include 5 songs, “Garden Hose”, “Brother”, “Dog Days”, “Trouble” and “Your Bed Was Tall”. The band is formed by Emi Night on vocals, guitars and mandolin, Davy Timm on trumpet, vocals and keyboards, Sam Kelley on guitars, Tyler Morse on bass and vocals, Max Barcelow on drums, vocals and Rich Goldberg on keyboards. Definitely a band to keep an eye on, especially because they know how to add trumpets to their songs, I’m a sucker for indiepop songs with trumpets, what can I say!

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Time to continue the indiepop world tour and it is time to return to Asia and visit Singapore. There were a few bands I was recommended on Facebook by Wayne Tan like The Oddfellows, Pagans, Padres and more, but there was one, that I was already familiar with, as I own their one and only album, that I figured would be pretty interesting: Serenaide. Interesting because I know their songs, but I really know nothing about them.

In 2005 I was already running Plastilina Records with Jalito, at the time we were reaching out to several smaller labels around the world like Music is My Girlfriend from Sweden or Fruit Records from Singapore. We would exchange our releases, we would send a small stock of ours and we would receive a stock of theirs. That way we could sell small amounts of each other records in our home countries. Of course, I would keep a copy of each of their releases for my collection.

As I said Fruit Records was one of the labels we were in touch and had a good relationship. They appeared in the indiepop stage around the same time as us. Isman and Elisa, Fruit Records label owners, were very passionate about indiepop especially about South East Asian bands. Their label was to release Mocca from Indonesia or Ferns from Malaysia for example. But the first release the label put out was from a Singaporean band, Serenaide. For me it was a total surprise, I had never heard a band from that small country, I wasn’t even aware that there were many indiepop fans there. Now I know Vernon in real life and some others through Facebook and I know how passionate they are about music too!

Anyhow, the first package of Fruit Records we received included the album “The Other End of The Receiver” by Serenaide (catalog FRUIT001) which was released in late 2004 if I remember correctly. Of course at that time we all used Myspace and I friended them there. I also believe that I wrote a post about the band on my old blog, but that memory is hazy, maybe that didn’t happen. I just knew that I liked the record, it was unexpected, and my favourite song in the 10 track album was “The Girl from Katong”. Of course, I’ve never visited Singapore, it is on my list, so I had to find out where or what was Katong.

Katong, also known as Tanjong Katong, is a residential neighbourhood in the Central Region of Singapore, located near the seafront. It used to be located by the sea, but land has been reclaimed all the way to East Coast Park to provide more land for housing and recreational purposes due to the shortage of land in the late 1960s after Singapore gained independence. Katong was the location of many villas and mansions of the wealthy elite in the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries. They made their fortunes in the Far East and built seaside resorts, villas and manors along the beachfront of Katong, beginning from Katong Park to the end of the East Coast. Katong’s rich cultural mix has contributed to its unique cuisine. Katong is well known for its restaurants serving Peranakan cuisine and particularly, a spicy Straits Chinese noodle soup called Katong Laksa.

Okay, I suppose the day I visit Singapore, I’ll visit Katong, at least to try the Katong Laksa. What else is there to see there? I play their album once again and I listen to the songs in order, “The Sweetest”, “The Hands of the Doctor”, “Furry Animal Fury”, “The Girl from Katong”, “Lonely Bedroom Encounters”, “190 – Confession”, “Sofa Series”, “Midnight”, “Would You Like to Hear it Too?” and “Cameo Appearance”.

The band was formed by Pheyroz Yusuf on vocals and guitars, Zuremy Ibrahim (later replaced by Remy) on guitars and vocals, Mimi Yahya on bass guitar, Shakir Samat on drums. On later lineups we’d also find Natalie on violins and Eugene on keyboards. On the credits I notice that all songs were written by Pheyroz except “The Girl From Katong” and “Would You Like to Hear it Too?” which was written and sung by Zuremy. On the album Natalie Soh is credited for violin (I guess she wasn’t still in the band) and Kevin Foo on keyboards.

Kevin Foo also produced the album which was recorded and mixed at The Loft Studios. The record was mastered by Jeffrey Lam.

But this album wasn’t their first appearance on a physical record. They had already appeared with two songs on a 2003 compilation titled “The Show Must Go On…” which was released by Soundschemers as a sort of Singaporean band sampler. The songs Serenaide contributed were “The Sweetest” and “The Girl From Katong”. Were they the same recordings as the ones in the album though? Other bands on this compilation were Seven Sundays, Radium Rags and The Marilyns among others. I don’t know any, but I know The Marilyns played at least one gig together with Serenaide.

In 2004, when Fruit Records was being born, the label released another sampler. This time was a mini-album titled “Fruit Records Pop Cuts” (catalog FRUIT00) and it had three songs by Serenaide, “The Sweetest”, “Sofa Series” and “Hands of the Doctor”. There were also three songs by Mocca and two by Homogenie. Mocca did release on Fruit Records afterwards, but Homegenic didn’t. Who were they?

Lastly the band was to appear one more time on another Fruit Records compilation. The band contributed “The Girl from Katong” on the very recommendable “Peachy Little Secrets…” CD (FRUIT003) that came out in 2006. On this compilation you will find top tracks by La Casa Azul, Little Name, Annemarie and Mocca ft. Karolina Komstedt.

I found their Bandcamp, but there’s no information there. At least you can stream for free the whole album there. But from there I end up in their Facebook. Here I learn a few interesting bits about the band. It is shocking though that the band started in 1999! That really is a surprise. They were already a band 6 years before they released their album. That is not that common these days. Maybe there were no labels in Singapore ready to support local bands until Fruit appeared? It might be the case.

I look in their Facebook, which hasn’t been updated since last year, for more info. I start from the bottom, and see that Indonesian band Brilliant at Breakfast covered this same song I love, “Girl from Katong” on July 29 of 2011. How cool!

Then I see that the band played the Mosaic Music Festival in 2013. Then another interesting detail is that this brilliant song, “Girl from Katong” was on a movie! The song was included as part of the soundtrack of the Singaporean movie Sandcastle that was released in 2010.

I keep googling. I found a lovely and detailed post dating from last year, 2016, on the blog City Youths. On  it I learn that the band split at some point after their album and reformed in 2011. Does this mean they are still active? Another find is that of the blog 360 de Separación from my good friend Manolo. His review of the album is written in both English and Spanish. Oh the nostalgia! These years were so great for blogging, making many friends, such great memories.

On Bandcamp I found another cover of “The Girl From Katong“.  This time by another Singaporean band, Elektone. It is interesting with its electronic beats, it is really lovely but I prefer the original! And yet another one, by Ashruff from Admiralty in Singapore, on SoundCloud.

My next find is even better. It is an interview with the band on BetaMusic. I finally start to get to know the band. From this interview I learn that the band toured Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur, that they were big fans of The Smiths, Pulp, Lightning Seeds and more and that in 2005 they were hoping to become known in Japan. Did they get to do that?

Another interview dating from 2013, when they reformed to play the Mosaic festival is up on Music Weekly Asia. There aren’t really many details here, it is quite short, just a couple of questions but I learn that “The Girl from Katong” was actually used in a sex scene on the aforementioned movie Sandcastle.

At this time, after seeing that the band actually received some praise by mainstream media I start wondering if the band was popular among Singaporeans, if they got some recognition at least? Were their songs played on radio perhaps? Or on TV?

What is strange too is that there is very little information about the band members. Did they make music with other bands? What are they doing now? Why are weren’t there more recordings, not even from their second period when they came back? As I said, I don’t know much about Serenaide, and there’s really few information about the band. There is information about the record, but that’s all. Would be interesting to know the story behind them.

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Listen
Serenaide – The Girl From Katong

11
Sep

Another week and the move is happening very soon. A bit stressed about it I must say. Thankfully some of you have helped getting some records from our stock and I hope the trend continues. That helps me, and hopefully helps you with new and exciting records at home. Do check our website for these “moving” deals.

Last week was quite busy, didn’t have much time to gather the same amount of indiepop news I had previously. I’m sure I’m going to be missing a lot of new stuff that you probably are aware of. In that case, please let me know what I’m missing, maybe I can recommend it in the next post.

Remember some weeks ago I raved and raved about Verandan, Ville Hopponen’s new band? At the time there was one song. Then a new one was released. But we didn’t have a clue what was going to happen to these songs. Happily it has been announced that this October the Finnish label Soliti will be releasing an EP for the band that will include six songs, “Short Dream”, “Gold in the Hills”, “Inland Sea”, “Follow the Money”, “A Pleasant View” and “Sands are Shifting”. This one I think, no one should miss.

I think I haven’t been alone when I had doubts about Club 8’s return. Their last single was a bit strange, of course it had the breezy vocals of Karolina but the music was definitely not easy to digest. The band now has released a second song, “Breath“, that will be part of their upcoming tenth album. Again, the music is not as poppy as Club 8 used to be. But I definitely like it better. This album is a true mystery to me, I know that I will buy it, I’ve always been a big fan of the Åhus band, but will I like it through and through?

Another band I love that has filled me with doubts is La Bien Querida. The Spanish songstress released “7 Días Juntos” as a video/single not too long ago. That song was going to be part of her new album “Fuego” that is to be released on October. It feels the band is heading into a more mainstream sound. And then it is no surprise her new song and video, “Recompensarte“, follows that trail. But with an exception. I do find liking this song much easier. This is pop. What is also a nice surprise there is J from Los Planetas joining in vocals. The album will be out on Spain’s most famous indie label, Elefant, who may or may not want to become proper mainstream now (?).

German label A Turntable Friend has had a comeback. One piece of news took my by surprise last week. They are re-releasing Bradford’s “Thirty Years of Shouting Quietly”. When? How? No other details have been announced. Hopefully we learn more about it soon.

Another news that really made me happy was that Firestation Records has announced that they will start working on The Sound of Leamington Spa 8!! Wow, I thought Uwe was tired of doing these compilations, but hey, if he gets his energy back and excitement, this is the best news. Hopefully we’ll discover some new obscure indiepop this time too!

And as I see there’s not much music today, mostly news, I have to introduce you to a band that I fell in love immediately, The Blue Dress. The band is yet another project of Jesús Sandoval from Mexico. Jesús, you might know, runs Emma’s House Records and is involved in several bands, maybe Pure Morning the most known of them all. Anyhow, The Blue Dress is perfect indiepop, heavily influenced by Sarah and the smaller bands of the late 80s. I love it. Check out a cover of Another Sunny Day’s “Anorak City” or their own “All the Rainy Days” for pop perfection. And speaking of Mexico…

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Continuing with the world tour, and missing still many important countries in the indiepop world, it is time to visit Mexico, our second Latin American country in this exercise of showcasing bands from different prominent indiepop countries. In the last few weeks I’ve covered some obscure bands from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Japan, Philippines, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand. What countries am I missing?

Mexico has always been an important pop factory in Latin America. Mostly when it comes to mainstream pop. For some reason their indiepop bands haven’t really got much attention from the rest of the world. I wonder if the only exception was Hello Seahorse that got to release an EP with Magic Marker Records at some point. Lately there has been an interesting revival with Emma’s House Records and their bands. But not too much. Back in the early 2000s though there was a booming scene that was heavily influenced by Elefant Records that flew under the radar of indiepop fans.

Elefant Records was pivotal at that time. They had distribution within Mexico (I don’t think they do now), and also some bands from Spain started to play live gigs in Mexico. Mexico already had a history of great pop, from Los Caifanes and Size in the 80s and to the blissful Volovan in the 90s. These bands weren’t exactly indiepop but had that something, and an independent spirit. It is not surprise then that the indiepop sounds of bands such as La Casa Azul, La Buena Vida, Los Fresones Rebeldes and more found love in many Mexican cities. And so bands started to pop up.

At that time I was running the Mira el Péndulo blog, covering indiepop around the world, and as the blog was written in Spanish I got to know many people and many bands from Latin America and Spain. In 2004 I was to put together a compilation for a Peruvian magazine called Revista 69 and I decided it had to feature up and coming indiepop bands from all over the world, and so I included a few from Mexico: Niña, Piscina, Abeja and Robotril. I feel for a lot people that got the CD compilation, titled “¡Es Pop, Mamá!” (named after an Ella y los Neumáticos song), their favourite song was Robotril’s “Ya No Quiero Volver Contigo”.

According to Discogs the compilation came out in 2005. I’m pretty sure it was released in 2004. But my memory might be a bit blurry, it was a long time ago. And as it is a long time ago I can’t remember much about Robotril. I know I liked the song, the boy/girl vocals, but can’t remember my conversations or emails with the band. Time to find out on the web whatever happened to them.

Robotril hailed from Monterrey, in the Nuevo León state of Mexico.
Monterrey is the capital and largest city of the northeastern state of Nuevo León, in Mexico. The city is anchor to the third-largest metropolitan area in Mexico and is ranked as the ninth-largest city in the nation. Monterrey is located in northeast Mexico, at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The uninterrupted settlement of Monterrey began in 1596, with its founding by Diego de Montemayor. In the years after the Mexican War of Independence, Monterrey became an important business center. With the establishment of Fundidora Monterrey, the city has experienced great industrial growth.

I start doing a search on the web. I don’t think they released any records when they were around. The band was formed around 2000-2001 by Adrián on drums, Gilo on guitars, Mario on vocals, Claudio on keyboards, Dámaris on keyboards and Tony on bass.

The hits on Google are few. Some small details I could find where that they played at Cafe Iguana and Tianguis Cultural del Chopo. Claudio Oviedo and Adrián Oviedo, joined the band Animalismo after the band split. The band wasn’t around anymore by 2005.

The better find was the keyboardist Claudio Oviedo’s Soundcloud page. Here he uploaded a bunch of Robotril recordings. There is “Peligro (rehearsal)”, “Super Furry (rehearsal)“,  “Hazme Feliz“, “Increíble“, “La de Mario“, “Renacimiento“, “Ya No Quiero Volver Contigo“, “Último Minuto (live)“, “Salamanca“, “Nebulosa (rehearsal)“, “Luces Perfecta” and “Hago Pop“. There is another song by a band called Super Millonarios Vagabundos, this was another project that had Tony, the bassist and Claudio.

That’s not all. Dámaris Gurrola, the other keyboardist of Robotril, also uploaded 4 years ago some songs to SoundCloud. I could find “Peligrosa” which is the last song the band recorded, “Untile“, and “Super Furry“.

I could find another mention of Robotril on SoundCloud. This time I see that “Ya No Quiero Volver Contigo” was included on a compilation by Molecula Records out of Mexico. The compilation was titled “Ruido Amarillo” and it seems it was the first release on the label (catalog MoleCD001). This CD is not listed on Discogs, but I could find some info about it on the label page. It is of course sold out, but I could see many bands from that period were included like Delicado Sónico, Payola or Jaduken. You can listen to the whole compilation here.

Time to look in Youtube. Well, there’s a house party! Robotril are playing “Increíble“, “Luces Perfectas” and a cover of Daft Punk’s “Fragments of Time” on the porch of some house. Very DIY? Then two more songs “Tutu Tu Tu Tantan Tan Tan” and “Electronics in My Head” at the launch party of the Ruido Amarillo compilation at the Hard Rock.

I could find an old Robotril website on Tripod. Remember Tripod? Wow. That was so long ago. On the website I see more gigs, in Mexico City, Puebla and Cuernavaca. Also in Monterrey at the venues Roche, Congolab and Plaza Jardín.

The band lived in between of straight up indiepop and synth-pop/technopop. I was a sucker for that sort of sound at the time. I loved the playfulness of it. I read comments on the Youtube links and the band had fans all over Mexico, all agree they were among the best bands of that time. No one understands why they didn’t get further. And I don’t think they mean mainstream recognition but releasing a record or something like that. What happened to them? What are the members up to now? Did they continue making music?

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Listen
Robotril – Ya No Quiero Volver Contigo

07
Sep

Seems I’m going to have a very busy week ahead covering Hurricane Irma. When I lived in Florida I was lucky not to have to experience such a dangerous hurricane. I lived through Katrina and Rita, but they were quite “nice” to Florida. This time it seems it is going to be rough. Hope all my Florida friends stay safe.

The Proctors are back with a new song and it is damn glorious. “You and Me and the Sea” is right now streaming on Soundcloud. I believe this will be a new 7″ in the near future on Shelflife. The band has also uploaded another song, I just noticed, titled “Silhouettes” and even though I like the first one best, maybe because of its immediacy, this one is also very good. Wow. They had been quiet for the past year or so, but this is quite a comeback!

It has been a while since I discover a new good Swedish pop band. Well, here is Lilac from Stockholm, with their new digital EP “Sun”. Four dreampop, shoegazy songs, just out of the oven: “Daydreaming”, “Sun”, “07.07.97” and “Toucan”. Which is my favourite? Maybe “07.07.97”, it has some beautiful jangly guitars all over carrying the song. Though be sure to check out “Sun”, that even though it is an instrumental, the guitars chime and chime the way we love.

Also it has been some time since I recommended a Hong Kong band on the blog, maybe since the comeback of Fantastic Day. Today I discovered the band Foster Studio on Bandcamp and even though so far they have only one song on their profile, it is a pretty good one! The song is titled “Houston” and they share the lyrics for it if you want to sing along. Not much information about the band, only that it is a 3 piece and that they try to blend indie dance, guitar and synth pop.

Disney Tabbilos, originally from Baguio City in the Philippines, relocated to Anchorage in Alaska. That must be a first I thought, Alaskan indiepop! Under the name Slow Blink he has recorded 5 lo-fi poppy songs: “Stage 2”, “Cold Hearts of Summer”, “Sense of it All”, “The Wind Never Blows…” and “Take it Slow”. The “Momentary Bliss” EP is a bit of a ramshackling fine mess , and that’s the allure of these songs. Lo-fi in all of its honesty.

And if anyone was feeling some nostalgia for the 90s, Oklahoma City’s The Lamps bring American twee pop from that decade back to live. The band formed by Audrey, Nora and Drake have 5 songs streaming on their Bandcamp and they bring to mind to Pop American Style bands, think of The Receptionists, Sissy Bar or Holiday Flyer. And this is a first one too, first time I hear an Oklahoma indiepop band!

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The world tour continues. Some important countries are still missing in this summer revision of indiepop bands from different countries. The time comes now for the Netherlands and the band Formica or was it Formica 2000 (?!)?

Indiepop bands from The Netherlands are not that common. Maybe even less common is to see an indiepop Dutch band releasing records on English labels. That was the case of Formica in the mid and late 90s.

The mystery about their name has to do with these two releases. On the first one they appear as Formica 2000 (?!). On the second they are just Formica. It made more sense the simpler name. But I’m still curious why the name and why the change?

Both of their releases were 7″ singles. The first one came out in 1996 on the fab label Spirit of ’86. This record had the very good “Johnny & Anita” on the A side and “Wire” on the B side. The catalog number was SOES 7. This label is great by the way if you are not aware of it. Bands like Pastel Collision and Modesty Blaise were part of it!

There are some credits on the back cover. The songs were recorded at Vuurland and Sandwijck. The artwork is credited to Noortje Bergmans who also played guitar and sang. Edske played bass and did backing vocals. Burt played drums. Marjolijn Hoelen played guitar and backing vocals and is also credited for the photography and the art. Tom also is credited for photography. Michel was the producer and the songs were recorded by Guus Van Der Heijden and Hans Blieb. V.D. Woude who is credited for writing the songs alongside Gregory. V.D. must be Van der. That’s a Dutch thing.

I check out Burt, he is one of the few on Discogs that has more information. His real name is Michel Van Der Woude. Strange. He is credited as Burt for drums, Michel for production but his last name for the songs. Why? I notice he has been involved in many bands like International Language (who put out the “Rodney’s English Disco” song that Helen Love would later cover), Avengers, Beatle Hans & The Paisley Perverts, Dangerous Pyjamas, Ron & The Splinters, Sweet Faces, The Daxls, The Kliek and even The Pooh Sticks! Even more amazing I see that he had produced the most brilliant single perhaps to come out from The Netherlands, the “Go Eliza” 7″ by The Nightblooms!!

Then why not check out who Gregory is? Here is a big surprise. It is Steve Gregory, co-founder of the classic label Fierce Recordings. Also he had been involved in The Pooh Sticks, Crash Action Winners and What To Wear as a musician. How did this connection happen, Michel Van Der Woude, Steve Gregory and The Pooh Sticks?

Two years after, in 1998, Formica was to release their second 7″ on Damaged Goods (catalog DAMGOOD 147). This time there were four songs, two on each side. On the A side there was “No Doubt About It” and “Look At Your Game, Boy” while on the B side “Cross My Mind” and “Encore”. I notice now that there are new names on the credits. Hoelen, Van Der Woude and Bergmans are already familiar names but I see that the bassist is new. The first two songs has Hard Cor playing bass, while “Cross My Mind” had Ron and “Encore” had Hanneke. Hard Cor is the alias of Cor Van Ingen, a bassist from Utrecht who had been in bands like Implosions, Speed 78 and more.

The artwork is credited to the band and someone named Yves. The photography on the sleeve was taken by Kathalijne Van Zutphen and the producer was The Inflatable Pill. The songs were recorded by Hans Blieb and Sylvia Vermeulen, who was a producer and engineer at Studio Moskou in Utrecht. Does this confirm my suspicion that Formica hailed from Utrecht?

Utrecht is the capital and most populous city in the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation and is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands with a population of 330,772 in 2017. Utrecht’s ancient city centre features many buildings and structures several dating as far back as the High Middle Ages. It has been the religious centre of the Netherlands since the 8th century. It lost the status of prince-bishopric but remains the main religious centre in the country. Utrecht was the most important city in the Netherlands until the Dutch Golden Age, when it was surpassed by Amsterdam as the country’s cultural centre and most populous city. Utrecht is host to Utrecht University, the largest university in the Netherlands, as well as several other institutions of higher education. Due to its central position within the country, it is an important transport hub for both rail and road transport. It has the second highest number of cultural events in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam. 

I look for the rest of the members, I know quite a bit about the bands Michel Van Der Woude was involved with, but what about Noortje or Marjolijn? I find a Noortje Bergmans that is involved with Greenpeace who lives now in Switzerland. Is she the same person as the one in Formica? I can’t be sure. I do think I stumble upon the right Marjolijn, a LinkedIn profile comes up, she is a professional photographer. That makes sense, she was took the photographs for the records.  Then I find her website. This must be her! There is no email though, but a contact form. I never liked those. But maybe it is the only way to find out more about Formica. I’ll give it a try.

I couldn’t find much more about Formica. Strange. They didn’t participate on any compilations? That’s odd. In the 90s there were so many indiepop compilations!! No other releases but the 7″s. Why not an album? Why did they call it a day? Did they play live much? And did they make more music under other names? There’s nothing written about them on the web. No blog posts. Not even in The Netherlands are they remembered or what?

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Listen
Formica – Johnny & Anita

04
Sep

I keep writing posts way ahead. I’m a bit surprised of how organized I’ve become when it comes to keeping a tab on any new find that comes my way. I wasn’t that meticulous months before. I wonder what has changed.

Alvvays album is not out yet but they are making a fuzz. We know that. The promotion for their sophomore effort continues and now the whole album is available for streaming on NPR. I didn’t doubt about buying it, I’m sure you had no doubts either, but if you needed a little push, well you can listen to “Antisocialites” completely now. My verdict?  It is really good and they even dedicate a song to Jim Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain. 10 songs that will make any indiepop lover happy (and probably thousands of hipsters too).

Saint Etienne’s “Home Counties” album is already out and on September 26th I will see them in New York. What else is there? A new video of course for the song “Dive“. The song will also be released on a couple of different singles, it is like we are back in the 90s. It will appear on a four track CD EP (with 3 brand new songs), a three track remix CD and a 4 track 12” single. Wow. The video was filmed in Scarborough. One day I’ll visit I hope!

The Stammer is a Philadelphia band I really like. At one point I think they were going to play NYC and I was going to go, but then they cancelled that show. Or am I dreaming this? At least I remember it that way. The band formed by Brian Brotman on guitar and vocals, Gavin Landesberg on bass, Ted Quann on guitar and Zachary Zimmerman on drums have a bunch of very fine songs! Right now I’m listening to “Over and Over” that wasn’t included in their album that was released earlier this month. Why? I don’t know, it is a fantastic song. The album, “Face in Peril”, still has many good songs,  so don’t worry! It is available in CD format.

It has been a while since I hear some jangly pop from Germany. I found The Catherines randomly on Bandcamp. The one-man band from Hamburg makes sweet simple jangly songs.  His latest is “How Could This Get Any More Complicated?” and before he has uploaded a bunch, one even with a very funny title, “Is Your BigMouth Girlfriend Really So Charming?”, if you get the joke.

Did I ever mention Dayflower on the blog? If I hadn’t I’m very sorry. Please do listen to their latest song, “Sweet Georgia Gazes”, it is hit of swirling jangly guitars, upbeat melodies and catchy chorus! The Leicester band has bene a favourite band of mine for some time, and still is a mystery why they have never played Indietracks and why they haven’t released a proper record!

And lastly, as it seems even though I’m very organized and all I still miss the important news, I found out about Novelle. And this is very important. Novelle is the new project by Paul Stewart and Martin Rose from Feverfew and Blueboy. That means, that even without listening the songs, you know they are going to be good. And of course, you listen to “Boy Oh Boy” and you feel the reward of confirmation. The songs are great. The band is completed with Noelle Vaughn who sings beautiful. On the songs the trio get the help of cellist Hilary Insall and pianist/violinist Andrew Lim. Wow. Really. And then you can listen to “Back to Brighton” their only other song so far on the web. I look forward for more by them! And hopefully it is soon!

Hopefully more indiepop news this week!

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On this pilgrimage through the countries that have produced indiepop in the past decades I had to make a stop in Brazil. Most specifically in the city of Blumenau.

Blumenau is a city in Vale do Itajaí, state of Santa Catarina, in the South Region of Brazil. It is 130 km (81 mi) away from the state capital of Florianópolis. The city was founded on September 2, 1850, by Dr. Hermann Bruno Otto Blumenau along with seventeen German immigrants. Later arrivals include biologist and early proponent of Darwinian Evolution, Fritz Müller.

There was a band there that I loved in the early 2000s called Soda Caffé. I wanted to sign them to a label I was running with a friend in Peru, Plastilina Records. I believe I discovered the band through Myspace and was immediately in love with one of their songs, “A Grande Fuga E Os Monstos Em Blumenau”.  I had never heard a Brazilian band playing this sort of pop, playful and honest. Maybe no other band in South America sounded like this at the time. It must have been around 2004 or so.

Eventually I convinced my partner, Jalito, to get in touch with the band and offer them an EP. At that time we wanted to be important within Latin America, support bands that were making indiepop, maybe that way, if people saw the support, that there was a label championing indiepop, more bands were going to appear.

As far as I remember the band agreed to do this EP. We had the band listed as one of our artists on the label website. I don’t know what happened, why this EP was never released. I can’t even remember the tracklist, which songs were going to be included. I suppose the song I loved was to be included, it only made sense. I even believe that the artwork was designed.

In 2006 we decided, in Plastilina, to release a CDR to promote our releases and future releases. It was titled “Nice Try, Sunshine!” (PLAST000), a nod to Second-Hand Furniture who we put out a retrospective album. I love this compilation, I think the artwork is one of my favourite of the Plastilina label. It is true that this CD is very rare, that it was only released in Peru. It was just a sampler and came along a music magazine called Freak Out. Here we did include the Soda Caffé and their song. I notice we wrote the band name altogether, Sodacaffé. What was the correct spelling?

I lost touch with the band. But Jalito continued in contact and in 2009 he included the song again on yet another compilation. “Has My Heart Gone to Sleep?” (PLAST014) was released that year and most of the songs were from records we had already released.There were two exceptions to the rule, Soda Caffé and Kawaii. Jalito compiled the songs through many months and I did the artwork. I remember this compilation was dedicated to Jalito’s aunt, who was a big supporter of the label, even letting Jalito to borrow her offices (a medical export/import business) for Plastilina.

Maybe still in 2009 we were hoping to release Soda Caffé? I would like to think so.

Now I’m trying to back track, trying to remember the band, who were they, what songs did they record. I hope the internet helps me.

The band was born in 2003 and was formed by Marcelo Luz on guitars and vocals, Bruno Beckmann on keyboards, Leandro Pimentel on bass and Diogo Micheluzzi on drums. They listed Yo La Tengo, Club 8 and Harper Lee as their influences.

A good find was that the band put together a Soundcloud page 4 years ago. On it I could find many more songs by the band. Were these the ones that were going to be on the EP? I can’t remember. I listen one by one, “Guerra de Botões”, “O Astronauta Em – O Reencontro”, “Batlha Entre Herois”, “O Robo e a Rainha”, “A Grande Fuga e os Monstros de Blumenau” and “Bomba Colorida”.

I find on the blog Mofo Novo that the band disbanded in 2009. Then I see that the band played a festival called Tschumistock in 2007.

Also on September 8th of 2007 they played a mini-festival at the Curupira Rock Club and a gig at the Old Music Bar in Joinville.

I could see many hits on Fotolog. Remember that? Sadly I can’t open those addresses. Maybe there were some gig photos?

I can’t recall much more. I don’t know what happened to the band members. Did they continue making music under another name? Maybe with other bands? Were the songs on Soundcloud all their recordings? And how come there were no physical releases in the end? They were pretty good, much better than many Brazilian bands at the time who did release some CDs. Maybe our Brazilian readers have a clue? Whatever happened to Soda Caffé?

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Listen
Soda Caffé – A Grande Fuga E Os Monstros Em Blumenau