The Australian indiepop family tree is such an affliction of incestuous relationships. If you try to trace it, during the 90s, names like Bart Cummings, Mia Schoen and Andrew Withycombe, are repeated many times. Everyone has played together at a certain moment and everyone has helped each other making this scene flourish. I was unaware Super Falling Star was part of the Melbourne revolving door scene till Saturday when Teresa asked me if I knew them.

To be honest, I knew I had a record by them but I couldn’t remember what the Searchlight 7″ sounded like. I didn’t recall when was the last time I played it. Strange. Because for music I do have good memory, for other things, not really. But, what I do remember was that I got it when Drive-In Records made a huge sale, 25 7″s just for the postage price. What a deal, right? But then, at that time, I didn’t have a turntable. And the question immediately arose, maybe I had never played it?

If so, Saturday was the first time I played it and it was love at first sight. Teresa had already gave me a taster. She sent me “Love is Blue”, which is such a fantastic song. For the collectors inside us, this song appeared on the Melbourne Holiday 7″ and the Clover Club CD, both on Clover Records from Japan, both compilations. Time for me to get those? Indeed. But, back to this wonderful 7″, that I’m sure you can find dead cheap in many stores, it has a stunning B side! No wonder why Teresa made it clear to me before playing it, “Closer to the Sun is my favourite Super Falling Star song, I couldn’t care less for the A sides”.

And it’s true, both Searchlight and Full, the two songs on the A side, get eclipsed by the precious and uplifting Closer to the Sun. Why had I missed such a lush song? And it was here, in my room!

Super Falling Star started in 1993, when Vicky Barker and Rod McQueen placed an ad at their local music shop looking for a female guitarist. Not female, but a guitarist, Ian Finlay gave them a call, taking the risk of being turned down. He got on board. The band was soon completed when Julia Caluzzi joined them to play drums. After nine months Rod and Vicky called it quits, though they did participate in the recording of the first release by the band, the Someday single. This one appeared on 1994 on Quiddity Records. The B sides are Falling Girl and Shipwrecked.

After four years, in 1998, the band releases some new stuff, this time on Drive-In Records (which was run by Mike Babb, who also ran Quiddity, so more or less, the same thing). Now it was Natasha Dragun in charge of vocals and, with her, they released the “Searchlight” 7″ that I’ve been praising and also a split 7″ with Detroit’s Fuxa. A new band on my list to check out, though Detroit does bias me, “Detroit Rock City” anyone? On these recordings is Andrew Withycombe who joins to play bass. Maybe you know him from Hydroplane, the Cat’s Miaow and Huon? Such a jet set star!

There was one last release under this formation, it was the single “Dead Letters” on Basingtoke’s Roisin Recordings. The B side is “The Fading Light”. The date was 2000. After releasing this single, changes happened. On 2001 Emily Fullerton and James Dean (who plays on Tugboat, the Australian band, not the Canadian one) joined the band to replace Julia and Andrew, respectively. That was the last time we heard from Super Falling Star. And even though there hasn’t been an official break up, I would guess the band is over now. But maybe not? Anyone has any news?


Super Falling Star – Closer to the Sun


Thanks to Andrew Everett for the interview!

++ ” Described by those in the know as a ‘vanity project that got out of control” what do you mean by that?

Basically I had the money to make some records but not the fan base to justify making them.

++ How did the band start? How did you all meet? What was the music direction you wanted to follow with The Blue Smarties? Why did you decided to make pop music?

The band started in early 1990 in Leicester when Gary and I started jamming on our guitars, I knew Andy who was on the same course as me and played bass and we did our first 3 song gig in Feb, Karen joined some months later after we had done about 10 gigs, she knew Gary, initially she was on flute until it turned out she could sing when she started singing along to ‘Nothing Compares 2U’ at her first practice. We never had a drummer, cause we didn’t know any, so we used a drum machine that was available on the course Andy and I were doing and we used to mix the drums onto a cassette tape with some samples between the drum tracks and plug that into the PA using Gary’s cassette deck and play along to it. We didn’t worry about the type of music etc, just played whatever people wrote.

++ What were the influences of the band?

I guess Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine were an influence as they used a taped backing and I saw them live and saw how it could work but otherwise we all liked different things.

++ Why having always people helping with keyboards, kazoos and other instruments, you always had a drum machine and not a drummer? Was that on purpose?

As things developed and we all ended up living in different places, it was easier not to have a drummer as it was one less thing to worry about. If you wrote the song, you sorted out the drums!

++ Your relationship with Cordelia Records main man Alan Jenkins comes a long way. He had produced and recorded both albums. How did this relationship start and how big was his influence? Why didn’t you end up releasing on his label?

We met Alan and Ruth when Ruth’s Refrigerator came to watch one of our gigs. Gary already knew Alan and so we all got chatting. Alan was a big influence in terms of the fact he released his own records and was willing to help us with recording stuff and also that he was positive about our music. We didn’t release anything on his label because we had no fans so no one was going to buy our CD so I paid for it to happen, hence the ‘vanity project’ tag.

++ The other important label and person in Leicester was Rutland Records and it’s Ruth Miller. What did having this people around you mean? This is a scene that has been overlooked by many popkids, but bands like Po!, Ruth’s Refrigerator, The Originals and The Ammonites are all GREAT! Did you feel part of a scene?

Not at all.

++ I don’t have any clue about the “File Under Spoon” tape. Can you tell me a bit about it? Was it the first release?

It was our first release and was on Rutland on cassette. It was a collection of demos we recorded in 1990 and 91, basically it’s the ‘Teeth Like Sheep’ tracks.

++ Were you involved in other bands prior or after The Blue Smarties?

Sort of before but nothing much was ever recorded and after the BS I started The Shandy Express. Gary has played in PO! The Freed Unit and Thurston Lava Tube.

++ The Blue Smarties came to life in 1990 but it wasn’t till 1994 that you had your first proper release, the album Teeth Like Sheep. Why did it take you too long? What were you doing during those years?

From August 1990 I was working in London in retail, Gary was working in Leicester, Karen was working in Scotland and later Andy was working in Bristol. We weren’t really functioning as a band by the time we recorded the album but I had the money to do the album and was keen and the others were up for it too. We had the demos as templates so it wasn’t too tricky to do.

++ This first album was released on Grape Star Records. This is the only release I know on this label. Did they do anything else? Who were they?

It was a label I created named after a type of lipstick. ‘Teeth Like Sheep’ never had any distribution although I did sell a few copies by putting an ad in Select magazine and selling it for £2.00

++ Teeth Like Sheep is such a fun record, I bet that same enthusiasm happened at gigs! What was the usual Blue Smarties fare for a gig? How long would your sets last? Any particular gigs you remember?

We were pretty good live and played over 20 gigs altogether including Leicester, Hereford and three times in Edinburgh once supporting Swervedriver. We used to throw smarties at the crowd till they started throwing them back! My personal favourite gig was when we played a pub called the Royal Mail in Leicester not long before I went to work in London, a good crowd showed up and I met Alan Jenkins that night as well.

++ The band started being a four piece, with Andy, Gary, Karen and you. For the second album Fruit Tree Feeling it was only Karen and you. There was a seven year gap between both albums as well. What happened in between?

Basically the band split up in about 1994, though I continued to do some recording with Alan and then in 1999 I decided it would be fun to record a vinyl single and the others were up for it. Karen was keen to do her Ian Beale song which we had demoed in 1994, see Myspace page to hear it, so that was included, Steve Lamacq like it, so we did another vinyl ep but by this time Andy went off to work in Australia for a while, so missed that. With the actual album it was basically down to Karen and I and some people who helped us out and many thanks to them.

++ Fruit Tree Feeling is a true gem! The song “I Feel Like Ian Beale” was praised by Steve Lamacq. Was that the biggest highlight of The Blue Smarties?

Not for me as I didn’t write it or even play on it and was jealous at its success although it was very exciting hearing it on the radio. The highlight for me was completing the end section of a song called ‘Rewire’ and hearing it for the first time and also some very nice fan letters I got from someone called Clare – thanks again.

++ There were two singles, plus the Fruit Tree Feeling album, on Sorted Records. Also there was a compilation appearance. Is that the full discography? Why did you change labels? Who were Sorted Records?

Sorted records still exist and are a Leicester label. They had a distribution deal and I was keen our music had distribution so we ended up funding the releases but they came out on Sorted so they got distributed. I was very grateful to them and liked this arrangement as I still own the copyright to my songs and recordings.

As far as I remember the BS are on:

  • Rutland Records – A compilation tape (a couple of tunes from ‘File Under spoon’
  • Rutland Records – ‘File Under Spoon’ A collection of demo
  • Grape Star Records ‘Teeth Like Sheep’ 16 track CD album released in 199
  • Sorted Record ‘A chimp can dream’ 4 track EP 199
  • Sorted Records ‘Nodding Dogs’ 4 track EP 200
  • Sorted records ‘’Left hand side of Egypt’ 3 track vinyl compliation EP (BS has one track on it
  • Sorted records ‘Fruit Tree Feeling’ 13 track CD album 200
  • Sorted Records ‘Havock Junction’ Compilation CD (BS has one track on it) 2001

++ Why did you stop making music as The Blue Smarties? Btw, why did you call the band like that? I just read that the blue smarties have just being reintroduced again last February. Did you miss them?

Communication between Karen and I was never great and eventually dwindled away. I haven’t spoken to her for at least four years and I have no idea what she is up to but with the BS you can never say its over……………….!! We were originally called The Blue Smartie Syndrome in reference to the strange additives they used to put in the blue ones.

++ “Only Smarties have the answer”, so, what’s the answer Andrew?



The Blue Smarties – I Feel Like Ian Beale


New York 2007. The Baskervilles, one of those underrated bands in indiepop, is playing their Popfest gig. They are doing such a fine job, Rob, with his new wavy haircut, is singing “I Danced With Kate Moss” and I’m dancing wishing Kate Moss was there. They decide it’s time to end their set. They will cover the TVP’s “I Remember Bridget Riley”. I’m thrilled. The Delancey is as hot as a cauldron but that won’t impede me to keep singing and dancing a brilliant song. And I keep going while the New Yorkers try to find a place to sit down.

New York 1965. Bridget Riley arrives to America and she is featured in the ‘Responsive Eye’ exhibition at the MOMA. Her work arouses suspicion. Her optically disorienting paintings had critics complaining of an unfeminine aggression. Abstractionists accused her  ‘opticality’ of being just pure gimmickry. But people embraced her, her motifs migrated onto dresses in shop windows. And god knows how pretty a girl can be wearing one of this.

Miami 2008. The Art Basel fair. Jennifer and me are going to the main event, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. It’s a huge festival. There are so many tourists from all over. The amount of artwork under this roof is really overwhelming. Post-modern art has taken over. It’s all about the concept. The prices for any of these pieces is exorbitant. We stop at a Rauschenberg painting and Jennifer doesn’t like it. We stop at a Bridget Riley monochromatic illusion. Jennifer wants a dress with the motif. And I think she is totally right. She does understand art.


Television Personalities – I Remember Bridget Riley


I didn’t want to end up as a soothsayer when days ago I wrote in the Anorak forum:

Eventually most of the blogs will disappear, people will get bored and stop writing, later not paying for the domain and all that info, again, lost.

Call it destiny, those lines were an answer to Trev. He used to contribute in Indie-Mp3. This blog, maybe the most important and influential, has just folded. It’s sad news indeed. For five years this was the column where Tom Bartlett and his contributors have been recommending and championing indiepop. Some was good, some was bad. Some I loved, some I thought ‘what are they thinking about’. But this didn’t matter at all. What they did for indiepop is what matters. Their taste became an authority: what they recommended ended up as a snowball, all the other little blogs would follow them. They were trend setters. Pretension wasn’t their flag, their input was real and trustworthy, even if you didn’t like what they recommended. The total opposite that Pitchfork does. And they were inspiring. Mirroring their enthusiasm, I started to blog back in November 2004.

Things can’t last forever, I know. But the question is: who will take their place? Small labels and new bands appreciated the support from Indie-MP3. As I said, it triggered a domino effect after you were showcased there. No other blog has had that same power. This, I tell from personal experience. Who will take a chance to start something as dedicated? Something as decent? Mind you, they weren’t looking for personal fame as bloggers, as many others do, offering immense amounts of MP3 downloads as rapidshare links or unauthorized mixes just to be read. No. They supported and respected labels and bands. And that’s the spirit of indiepop.

They are moving all the information to a blogspot account. I’m scared of these things though. I was hacked once and four years of blogging went down the sink. Important knowledge, information, interviews, all gone. I’m afraid that that could happen to Indie-MP3 or any other blog out there. Then is when you see the fragility of blogs compared to the paper fanzine. Same thing with mp3 and records.

I really wish the best to them and to their new projects. They are continuing their label LostMusic which will release a split 7″ with two good friends of mine, The Morning Paper and Moscow Olympics. This will be out now in January. It should be great. I mean, how could a single with these two bands go bad? Great choice.

But now is time to say goodbye. I want to send a big thanks to Tom and his contributors for doing Indie-MP3 all these years, for their immense contribution and for spreading the holy word of indiepop. THANK YOU


The Pooh Sticks – Indiepop Ain’t Noise Pollution


During the early 90s there was a considerable amount of small American pop bands on both coasts. They didn’t send and promote their stuff on the BBC. Some of them got played on the infamous college radio across the country, but that doesn’t matter as none of them made it big. College radio were all about making you big or not. As expected not many remember these bands today and there’s nothing similar as The Leamington Spa series for them. Most probably a compilation of this kind won’t ever happen as music sales keep sinking but also because it is almost impossible to find any information about them online.

Citrus Groove was one of these bands. They were a bit luckier though, they got a 7″ out on Marineville Records from Brighton, England. This is from where I’ve ripped the brilliant Mesmerized, a hypnotic guitar pop song with traces of psychedelia. The B side was the bouncier Merry Go Round. A very fine record on Andy Parker’s stable. This was their second single. The first one was “Hit the Ground / Beautiful Thing” which was the first release on Honeychain Records. They had a CD-EP later on this same label called “Sunswayed” and it included 7 songs (2 of them are the singles A sides). I haven’t got around the Honeychain releases yet. I will make a wild guess that the label was run by the band, as it seems they were their whole catalog. The label was based in Los Angeles, California. Most probably, the band was based too in this sprawling metropolis; which was home of Aberdeen, Poastal and The Summer Hits. Seems there was a thriving scene maybe a bit similar to today’s Yay! Records scene?

Citrus Groove was Gordon on vocals and guitar, John on guitar, James on vocals and bass and Phil on drums. Any other information would be appreciated as always. I can’t even find a photo of them to post!


Citrus Groove – Mesmerized


Thanks to Perry Groove for the interview!

++ I’ve googled The Grooveyard and there are almost no results! So I think I should ask the basics, where and when did the band formed? who were The Grooveyard and how did you meet? And why start a band?

First of all i should say that i wasn’t in the band at the beginning or at the end but was in it during the middle section of 2 years and play on all the recordings.

The Grooveyard supported a band i was in at the Clarendon in Hammersmith. in 1986. We had some mutual friends. A few weeks later they asked me to join as drummer which i did as i liked them personally and their music. The gigs could be chaotic but there was loads of energy and improvising. Steve Bennett was on vocals; Justin Spear on bass, guitar and vocals; Mark on guitar and bass; Simon on flute and guitar, Perry Groove on drums. Justin, Mark and Simon would all swap instruments all the time. They were very good musically and all had great characters. We were based in Kinston, we would rehearse in Justin’s attic (Justin’s dad was in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band) There was also a big Brighton connection as Steve and Justin went to college there.

++ Where does the name The Grooveyard comes from?

Grooveyard was just a pun on graveyard.

++ You released a collector item, At Home with the Grooveyard. I guess at the time it wasn’t. How do you feel that the record is sought after and people paying lots of money for it on ebay? How many copies of that 12″ were made?

I had no idea that there was any interest in the band and any people wanted the record ‘At Home’. I have no idea how many copies of “At Home” were pressed. I guess about 1000

++ You released a flexi on the same label where you included the song Summer which is the only one I have ever heard. And I think it’s great! Which bands influenced you at the time? Any favourite ones that you played with at gigs at the time?

All the band were big music fans with a massive range of interests and styles between us all the band though loved Love, The Byrds, West Coast Pop Experimental Band, REM and The Smiths. Other faves at the time were The Chills and McCarthy.

I loved playing live with the band, very entertaining and musical. I was a few years older than them so a sort of father. Gigs that stand out in 1987 are supporting The Wedding Present at Brighton Pavilion (recorded for BBC Sussex). Playing at a sort of happening at the Kew Steam Museum (we just hired it and organised it), hundreds of people, loads of bands and light shows, etc. And supporting The Chills in Brighton.

Oddest gig was supporting Mud in Farnham.

++ Why didn’t you release more records? Do you have any unreleased songs?

We only went into the studio twice in Brixton. We did 3 songs: Summer (ended up on flexi), Peter and Whiskey Whirlpool. Then in Brighton we did the “At Home”. Very odd atmosphere as on way down to record it, Steve and Justin had a horriffic car crash, I think someone was killed, they were really shaken up. We recorded it basically live except for vocals) and everybody kept making mistakes on the first one we did (he said) we all got fed up and it got quicker and quicker! By the time we came to Whiskey whirlpool, we just played it once and that was it.

I have tapes of rehearsals and live gigs but buried away.

++ What happened to the band members after The Grooveyard was over? Were you at all involved in other guitar pop bands before or after?

I have no idea of what the others are doing now. Mark mainly wanted to split the band and it happened in 1988. They reformed with a friend Greavsie on drums a few months later. Then shortly later Mark left and they stayed as fourpiece after that. Rat Scabies managed them for a while and they did record a few demoes including “Speedball”. While they were in Grooveyard, Justin and Greavies were also in a Brighton band ‘Blow up’, they recorded an LP for Creation. I have only been in touch with Justin in the last few years. He does some djing and recently was on Radio London filling in for Danny Baker with Martin Freeman.

I played in loads of bands before and after Grooveyard, most lost in time. Before The Grooveyard I was on The Oddhits and Nantuck Five. And after on Perry Combo, Maybellenes (singer was Wendy may from Boothill Foot-Tappers).

++ What does indiepop mean to you? Do you follow the scene today?

I still love indie-pop but the problem with being my age,most of it sounds generic. It’s hard to have an original sound. That’s why I like Hard-Fi and The Killers.

++ Thanks so much! would you like to add anything else?

You should get in touch with Justin Spear (I most surely will!), he was Mr Grooveyard. Really, he was the bus driver, I was just a passenger and back seat driver for some of the journey.


The Grooveyard -Summer


What are the chances to meet half of The Bats in Hamburg? What if that half is also one half of Minisnap? Do the chances get thinner if you are DJing in a small bar a couple of blocks away from the Reeperbahn, the red light district? Bear in mind, The Bats live in far away Christchurch, New Zealand. I live in Miami. Right, the probabilities are almost down to zero.

I met Kaye and Paul on a chilly Wednesday Hamburger night. I have just finished my set and I headed to the farthest room. I left the decks on good hands: Peter from Coast is Clear. And while I was walking where my friends were, Jens popped up. “I want you to meet someone”. And I see these two familiar faces having a beer. It was Kaye Woodward and Paul Kean! Two of my heroes! The kiwi-pop legends, the Flying Nun blueprints, the ones that made a song as monumental as Claudine. They were there and I was saying hello. A thrilling moment. So unexpected.

I must have been so nervous that I couldn’t remember Robert Scott’s first name. I could only remember the Scott part. We talked. We laughed. I told them how big of a fan I was. That I had uploaded to Youtube the “Too Much” video and how much I loved their songs, from Made Up in Blue to Block of Wood. But the conversation was also about Minisnap. I have really liked what I had heard from their new band on myspace. I haven’t got around getting the Bounce Around album yet. But I remember playing Crooked Mile at the highest volume possible at home making the windows shake. Somehow we were talking about releasing a Minisnap 7″ in the future. I was so honored just by talking about it, even if it didn’t happen. Just the idea of releasing these heroes of mine on plastic was too much of a dream!

Waking up didn’t seem like an option. Friday night I was back in Hamburg after a day in Berlin. I remember being happy, drunk, chanting and shouting Claudine as loud as I could. Stomping the dancefloor, while Jens and Marco were playing it on the decks at their Hit the North party. On my last night in the city, the Grüner Jäger club was pounding like Paul Kean’s bass. My heart was pounding too. And it was incredible.


Minisnap – Whistler


Thanks to Steve King for the interview!

++ You only released the “That’s Where Caroline Lives” single. With such a strong debut, why didn’t The Candy Darlings release any more songs?

– Well basically, Little Stu, who ran Teatime Records (and was the singer in Mousefolk) offered to release a single, which he did and then didn’t offer to do another one – and we weren’t exactly inundated with other offers. Essentially, being in a band was fun for us and I don’t think we ever viewed it as having any particluar longevity but we really wanted to make a record – mainly just to have something tangible to prove we had actually existed. I remember just staring at the sleeve (we were adamant with Stu that we wanted a proper sleeve rather than a plastic bag) – amazed that we’d actually made this thing. And when it got reviewed in the NME (they thought it was rubbish – particlulary my singing) that was all we were really after. After that, we didn’t really have the impetus to chase after a follow-up, though if anyone had offered, I’m sure we’d have taken them up on it.

++ It also strikes me that the band formed in 1985 and the debut didn’t come out till 1990. Why was that? What happened in between those years?

To be honest, it took us five years to achieve the required basic level of competence on our chosen instruments. In between, we played the odd gig, recorded 4 track demo tapes (largely for our own amusement) and made each other laugh.

++ How did the band start? I read that there were 4 Candy Darlings in the beginning.

We were friends at the same school (a posh one in Bristol) who all liked the same sort of music. If I may be permitted a digression here, I still remember my first interaction with Dom. In my first year at school, I loved Adam and the Ants and, in the custom of the day, had drawn a Warrior Ant logo on my school folder. This attracted Dom’s attention and (much to his evident delight) afforded him the opportunity to belittle the fact that I was unaware that the Ants had actually released another album before Kings of the Wild Frontier. This competitive musical one-upmanship did, however, set the tone for our entire 25 (and counting) year realtionship.

Anyway, the 4 of us (including another friend, Jerry) just decided we’d form a band and sort of fell into roles by default. Dom actually had a guitar on which he has mastered at least 4 chords – so he was the guitarist. Chris also had a guitar, on which he hadn’t mastered any chords – so he played the fattest string as a bass. I’m not sure how Jerry ended up being the drummer as I think we clubbed together for a second-hand snare but he could make a reasonable fist of keeping time. I had nothing and I couldn’t really sing but I was their mate so I was in. In the beginning, Dom and I both “sang” but I was a bit of a spare part really. In fact, in the middle of the first recording we made of ourselves, we captured Dom’s mum asking the tricky question, “so what do you do Steve?”. Anyway, we were a ‘band’ and that’s all we cared about. We lost Jerry when we all left school. Dom, Chris and I all kept in contact but, for some reason, Jerry didn’t. So we pooled our grant cheques and bought a drum machine.

++ Where does the name Candy Darlings come from?

We loved the Velvet Underground and extensive background reading lead us to Candy Darling. It also had the word ‘Candy’ in it, which fitted nicely with the JAMC orthodoxy of the mid-eighties.

++ During those years Bristol had become home of Sarah. How important was the influence of the label on the city scene? Was it inspiring at all for you?

We all bought the early records on Sarah but a greater influence on what actually went on in Bristol was probably Subway. Martin Whitehead and Rocker were much more active in terms of organising things and putting bands on. In the end, records are great but actually having somewhere to go, drink and watch bands play was much more fun than sitting at home and playing 7″s. The first Brighter single was the end of religiously buying Sarah records for me. I remember playing it and just thinking that they were a parody of a generic Sarah band – so that was it, apart from Orchids records (because the Orchids were great).

++ Did you have any favourite venue in town?

The Tropic Club. It was a fantastic place, legendary on the Bristol indie scene. we had many great nights drinking, dancing and (in Dom’s case at least) puking in there. Also the place where we played our first real gig – supporting the Fizzbombs.

++ Did you play many gigs? Which bands were your favourites that you played with?

Given that we weren’t exactly proficient musicians (and that we had to re-load the drum machine by cassette after every 4 songs) playing live was something of a fraught affair and we rarely ventured beyond the Bristol borders (and our sets never lasted more than 8 songs). Our one ‘tour’ consisted of two consecutive nights supporting Mousefolk in Nottingham and Goole. Nottingham was kinda OK, but Chris wanted to get back to Reading University the next day to study for an exam so wasn’t drinking, whilst Dom and I were, which made our performance somewhat disjointed (and probably explains why Chris got a good degree and is now Head of Money at a major high street bank and Dom and I didn’t and aren’t). Whilst Chris headed back down the motorway to further his academic career, Dom, myself and all of Mousefolk stayed at the drummer (I think) out of the Fat Tulips’ parents’ house – where I rather let myself down by making some lewd remarks about sex involving the wearing of a Mousefolk t-shirt to the drummer’s girlfriend who may, or may not, also have been in the Fat Tulips but, in any event, was wearing a Mousefolk t-shirt. The next day we headed up to Goole, Dom and I showing Mousefolk’s bass player Phil the basslines to a handful of our songs in the back of the Transit van we were all travelling in. I believe that our performances that night constituted the first (and probably the last) indie-pop gig staged at the Violent Bikers Arms in Goole. Sparsely furnished and brightly lit, it didn’t give off the warmest of vibes nor did our first interaction with the propriator – “how long do you play for?” he demanded. “What’s normal?” we queried. “Most bands hold down about 2 hours” he informed us. “Oh dear”, we thought. In front of the small, yet menacing collection of bikers and psychotic locals that constitued our audience that night, calling ourselves the Candy Darlings suddenly felt ineffably twee, and asking for a punch in the face, so we announced ourselves as “Axe of Fury”, played the 4 songs we’d taught Phil and an endurance testing 10 minute version of Pablo Picasso and ran for the door.

++ You were rejected by Sarah for being too challenging and avant-garde. That’s unbelievable!! I think your music would have perfectly fitted in their catalog. How did this happen? Maybe you didn’t send Caroline to them?

Unfortunately, we did send Caroline to them. In fact we sent them pretty much everything we recorded and our rejection by Sarah was the most painful chapter in the Candy Darlings story. Matt and Clare had always been gently encouraging, always writing back in response to our tapes (thinking about it now, this must have been such a pain for them as every pointless little indie band in the country – and I include ourselves in this – must’ve been raining tapes in on them) saying mildly positive things but without actually saying “and we’d like you to release a record on our prestigious label, please”. We held a band meeting wherein it was decided that we would (I will swear to this day that I was against it but was out-voted) write and ask them straight if they would, please, put out a Candy Darlings single. No, it turned out, they wouldn’t. In the end, they didn’t actually think we were that good.

++ Your only single came out on a Bristol label, Teatime Records, home of great acts like Mousefolk and The Driscolls. How did your songs end up being released by them? How many records were pressed? Where was it recorded? The quality is much better than the other songs I’ve heard from you (especially the two other ones that were released on tape compilations).

Fortunately little Stu wanted to branch out from just releasing Mousefolk records and offered to release one of ours. We recorded it at a proper studio in 2 days – the first time we’d ever been in one and we didn’t really know what we were doing or how to ask for the sounds we wanted. We all thought the songs sounded OK but Chris’ bass got completely lost in the mix. 1000 were pressed and I think most of them sold (though at least a few were made into handy ash-trays). Everything else we recorded was for our own amusement on a variety of cheap 4-track cassette machines.

Interesting fact: my brother James was briefly a member of the Driscolls as second guitarist. See him in action on You Tube (search “Driscolls Brittle Beautiful”) – he’s the one with the floppy fringe.

++ Who is the girl doing backing vocals on Caroline? Who wrote the songs usually in the Candy Darlings? I really enjoy the lyrics, and the guitars on the single are precious!

The girl doing the backing vocals on Caroline is, actually, Caroline – who was Chris’ girlfriend at the time. The initial basis of a song was usually written by either Dom or I and then we worked it up into something passable between the 3 of us. I think I may have mean-spiritedly wanted “Caroline” credited to just me on the record but conceded to a more democratic “King, Hall, Strange”. I don’t think Coldplay are planning a cover version so we won’t have to worry about arguing over royalties. Actually, I wanted ‘Bright New Morning’ to be the a-side but, again, I got out-voted (looking back, I seemed to get out-voted a lot).

++ What were you doing back then? were you pop fans back then? Did you follow any bands? maybe wrote a zine? going to university?

We were doing school and university. We liked a lot of bands but I recall that, for some reason, we all had a particular fondness for the Three Johns.

++ The last years of the Candy Darlings see the band changing their musical direction towards indie-dance. Why was the main reason for that? Did you all feel comfortable making that music?

This was all Dom’s idea (I was probaly out-voted again somewhere along the line). It was decided that we needed a new singer (don’t think I was even permitted a vote on that one) and that we needed to get hip to that funky drummer back beat. We quite enjoyed doing it but when Dom left to move to London, Chris and I formed a new line-up and dropped the ‘dance element’ like a sack of sh!t.

++ On Last.fm there are many unreleased songs, many of them great jangle tracks. Will you ever release them? A retrospective album is due!

I don’t think the world is clamouring for a Candy Darlings retrospective. No-one’s ever shown any interest in doing one and, as you point out, most of the recordings (other than the single) are really low-fi as they were recorded on cassette.

++ How do you see the indiepop scene today? Any big differences to the one of the late 80s? Any similarities?

To be honest, I don’t think any of us are really aware of that scene these days. I go to the very occasional gig when I’m up in London but we’ve all got families these days and that’s where all the time goes. So I can’t really comment on any differences but I do know that the scene in the late eighties was loads of fun and that the 3 of us had such a laugh being in the Candy Darlings. That’s really my over-riding memory of being in the band – p!ssing myself laughing with my two best mates.


Candy Darlings – That’s Where Caroline Lives


Thanks to Torquil MacLeod for the interview!

++ On Twee.net it lists that you released a 7″ called Arse Parsley Correcto. It even says Stephen Pastel appears on the B side! I’ve never heard of it or even come across with it. In any other Reserve discography it doesn’t appear. Does this really exist?

Mmm, yes, Arse Parsley Correcto.   What can I say?  It may exist, in much the same way as Bigfoot may exist.  Alternatively, it may have its roots in a late-night visit to an internet cafe after one cocktail too many in a small mountain town in Panama in 2000.  I’m afraid that I couldn’t possibly say.

++ How did the band meet up? As far as I know Reserve was mainly a solo project when it started, right?

Well I started writing songs in that sort of style, with the idea of putting a band together, in 1985.  I’d been playing in other bands dating back to 1979, but this was my first stab at being principal songwriter and singer.  Johnny Johnson was looking for musicians at the same time to form what would end up being the Siddeleys – I was hanging out with her and helping get her songs down on tape – so I used the same methods to get people for my band: ads in the Rough Trade shop in Notting Hill and approaching people who looked right at gigs.  So Reserve was never meant to be a solo project, although obviously a lot of it involved me sitting at home writing and recording songs.  The first couple of line-ups I assembled were pretty hopeless, but then I bumped into Ian Gregg at a Microdisney gig and Simon Armstrong at a 1000 Violins gig and recruited them on guitar and bass respectively.  I also stumbled across Phil Powell somewhere and persuaded him to hit a couple of drums.  So that was the first line-up to perform in public.

++ The first show was supporting The Wishing Stones in 1986. What memories bring that gig to you?

That was in a room above a pub in King’s Cross in London.  I think it was in September.  I remember it as being a bit of a shambles, but a lot of the bands around then were a bit of a shambles – more to do with a lack of talent than a deliberate aesthetic.  I was just singing at this stage, not playing guitar as well, and I remember feeling rather naked without a guitar to hide behind.  The audience seemed quite enthusiastic, but then most of them were our friends.  A tape did exist but its whereabouts now is anybody’s guess.

++ After that gig two of the members left Reserve to form The James Dean Driving Experience. Why did this happen? Was it a hard decision to keep playing under the name Reserve?

Well, that’s not quite how it happened.  I think that line-up played another couple of gigs before Ian announced that he was leaving to form the James Dean Driving Experience.  This was about two days before we were due to go into the studio to record a demo.  I was a bit pissed off to be honest, but mainly because Ian had come up with a better name for his band than I had for mine.  So Simon, Phil and I went off to the studio and I played guitar instead of Ian.  Phil left to join Ian in the JDDE after I asked him if he could learn to play drums properly.  So Simon brought his multi-talented Bob bandmate Richard Blackborow in to play drums (properly) and that line-up lasted for nearly a year.  As for keeping the name Reserve, it was still me singing my songs, so as far as I was concerned it was still Reserve.  Simon and Richard had their own band which was, naturally, their first priority, but it was great having them along for the ride.

++ Oh yeah, why did you call the band “Reserve”?

Thinking up band names can be such a pain.  I knew I didn’t want a name that began with ‘The’.  At one point Captain Lust & The Pirate Women was a possibility – I saw that outside a porno cinema at Piccadilly Circus.  But it didn’t seem quite right for the indie ’scene’.  I’m not sure where Reserve came from – I think I quite liked the ambiguity of ‘reserve’ as in holding something back and ‘reserve’ as in a place where something precious or rare is kept.  To be honest I think it’s a bit of a naff name.  Oh well.

++ Back to 1987, the band now counts with Richard from Bob and the flexi “The Sun Slid Down Behind the Tower” is released! That’s a fantastic song Torquil! And I have to say that this is my favourite version of it. Even more than the polished version on the 12″. How did you come up with such a good tune, full of ramshackling guitars and and that solo (it’s glorious! isn’t it?)!!!? Is it the Big Ben tower by the way?

Wow!  Thanks for your enthusiasm – it’s much appreciated.  The version on the flexi is from a session recorded at the Bob studio out in the Somerset countryside in April 1987, which is probably my favourite of the five Reserve sessions that exist.  We recorded seven songs – Simon on bass and vocals, Richard on drums and vocals and me on guitar and vocals.  The arrangement of ‘The Sun Slid Down Behind The Tower’ is pretty much identical to the home demo which I’d recorded either late ‘86 or early ‘87, including the guitar solo which I wanted to have that West Coast, Byrds sort of feel.  As regards how I came up with it, it’s just that thing of messing around with a guitar at home, coming up with some chords that sound good, humming a tune over the top and suddenly there’s the song.  You record it, listen to it and you’re not quite sure where it all came from.  I’m singing about the tower of All Saints Church in Notting Hill – I spent several afternoons sitting on a nearby roof in the summer of 1984 in a ‘cheap wine and lipstick haze’.

++ Where you a fan of the Sha La La label before releasing the flexi? How did this release happen? What did Matt told to you?

To be honest I’d never heard of Sha La La before the flexi came out.  I was never much of a fan of flexis – they seemed so disposable and always sounded crap.  Having said that, it was obviously great to have something released and we even got a very enthusiastic review in a magazine called Record Mirror  with a picture and everything, just below a piece about the first single by a band called The Stone Roses.  I wonder what happened to them.  I never had any contact with Matt, all the business was conducted by the mighty David Payne of Troutfishing In Leytonstone fame.  From what I gather, Matt didn’t like The Siddeleys or Reserve and was very reluctant to release the flexi in the first place which is why there were only 1000 pressed compared to 2000 for all the other Sha La La releases.  Which is great because it means it’s rarer and worth more than any of the others.  Thanks Matt.

++ This flexi was released along the “Troutfishing in Leytonstone” fanzine. How involved were you in the fanzine culture?

I loved fanzines.  Troutfishing In Leytonstone was a particularly fine one, but I also have fond memories of Rumbledethump which was written by Sharon from the Hobgoblins and The Legend’s fanzine (can’t remember what it was called).  There was something genuinely exciting about these little bits of paper which were soaked with love and enthusiasm.  I have to confess that I myself produced a fanzine with Johnny Johnson.  It was called Blah de Blah and was absolute rubbish.  There wasn’t a single interview in it, just blasts of ill-informed opinion, a few pictures stolen from kids’ magazines and a very poor short story (mine).  In its favour, it was printed in three colours – white, red and green – which was probably the best thing about it.  It was the result of a Faustian pact with the government – we got paid for a year to produce the shoddiest fanzine I’ve ever seen.  I blame Thatcher.

++ Did it ever go through your mind that 20 years from then, all this music will be almost legendary? Did you feel there was a scene happening at the time?

Yes, there was a real sense of scene.  Certainly in London anyway.  I was going to about three gigs a week and seeing the same people there – it was great.  Much fun was had.  Having said that, I think some people were getting a bit too overexcited about the importance of what was happening and have subsequently mythologised it to a faintly ridiculous degree.  At the time there was this whole ‘once every decade’ notion – in 1957 rock and roll had exploded, 1967 was the summer of love, 1977 saw punk’s bleak winter…  So there was this bunch of badly dressed kids who couldn’t dance and thought that Morrissey was some kind of Messiah who decided that a handful of bands who couldn’t play very well and no one had heard of were the equivalent in 1987.  Yes, it was a breakthrough year, but in house music, not British indiepop.

++ Two Hearts Beat in a Hole. Your 12″ on Sombrero, that sells for very high prices on eBay! Was this single the biggest highlight of Reserve? Any anecdotes while recording this record?

It’s crazy isn’t it?  People are paying $100+ for this little piece of vinyl.  There are 2000 of them out there so if you want one you can probably get one.  I lost mine so I had to steal back the one I’d given to my mum.  Obviously it was absolutely thrilling to finally have a proper record released.  I would wander down to the Virgin Megastore in London’s Oxford Street and gaze with wonder at the Reserve section, nestling between REO Speedwagon and Revolting Cocks.  What more could a boy want?  As for the record itself – hmmmmmm.  As I said earlier, the best stuff we ever recorded was in the beautiful surroundings of Richard Blackborow’s 8 track studio in the picturesque village of Banwell in the weird and wonderful county of Somerset.  Going into a 16 track studio situated in an industrial estate in west London was a bit of a different matter.  By this time the line-up of the band had changed completely – me: guitar and vocals, Jason Ellis: bass and vocals, Michael Harris: guitar and vocals, Jonathan Sim: drums.  Simon and Richard had made it clear that, much as they enjoyed playing music with me, they really had to concentrate all their energies on Bob.  To their great credit they carried on playing in Reserve until I’d found replacements.  Jonathan came in first towards the end of 1987.  At this stage David Payne had temporarily joined the band, playing a rather handsome Hohner semi-acoustic.  It was thanks to Alan Kingdom from the Siddeleys that Jason and Michael came on board.  He was sharing a house with them and suggested that they could be what I was looking for.  They certainly were.  I think that playing with Jonathan, Jason and Michael was the most fun I’ve ever had playing with other musicians.  Anyway, back to June 1988 and Triple X Studios.  We were recording an EP to be released on David Payne’s Sombrero Records label.  Initially ‘Cut You Down’ was going to be the A side, but after recording some demos in October 1987 I decided that ‘Two Hearts Beat In A Hole’ sounded stronger.  The record was produced by Steve Parker who I’d known for several years and worked with before.  He’d worked with The Fall, Wire and Microdisney among many others.  He was mixing some songs for the Rolling Stones when we recorded the single and was generous enough to take three days off and lend us his services for free.   So what could possibly go wrong?  Pretty much everything.  I didn’t know what I wanted the record to sound like.  Or, at least, not in a way that I could communicate to Steve.  He did the best that he could, but I think that the result sounds puny and antiseptic.  ‘Two Hearts Beat In A Hole’ wasn’t a good choice for the A side – it doesn’t have a proper chorus or anything resembling a hook.  The vocals are feeble and underpowered throughout the record.  Guitars sound awful – the guitar solo on the A side is a Telecaster going through a Marshall stack but it sounds like a wasp farting in a jar.  Again, I have to say that none of this is Steve’s fault – this is the man who produced ‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’ – I simply didn’t have a sufficiently articulate idea of how I wanted the record to sound, or sufficient studio experience to impose any character on the result.  But, hey, it got played by John Peel, so who cares?

++ How did a guitar pop band managed to live in London during those years? Did gigs pay good or did you had to have different jobs?

Without going into a lengthy exposition of British economic policy in the 1980s,  suffice to say that the Thatcher government decided that the best way to spend the once-in-a-lifetime revenue from British oil was to pay a record amount of people not to work.  While this brought real hardship to countless families who had depended on coal, steel and shipbuilding for their livelihoods, for feckless young twats like myself who just wanted to stay in bed till lunchtime and strum a guitar, it meant that  British taxpayers were co-opted into subsidising some very average indie bands for a decade.  Once again, I blame Thatcher.  Gigs paid very badly – the low point of what I laughingly refer to as my musical career occurred downstairs at the Clarendon Ballroom in Hammersmith when I was paid 20 pence (about 30 cents) to split between the four of us.  It would have been marginally less insulting not to have been paid at all.  Needless to say, I pocketed the money and said nothing to the others.

++ What was your favorite spot in London during those years? Were would you see the Reserve gang hanging out a Saturday night?

As I didn’t have a job, life was one long weekend and every night was Saturday night.  Bay 63 in Notting Hill had loads of great bands on.  The Enterprise in Camden Town.  The White Horse in Brixton. Some other places which I can’t remember the names of.  Essentially I went to loads of gigs.  And when I wasn’t at gigs I was up to all sorts of capers with Simon and Richard in Finsbury Park (the area of north London, not the actual park).  I blame the cheap sherry.  And Thatcher.

++ You recorded demos for a second single. Will they ever pop up in some kind of form? Why wasn’t that single released? I can’t believe that no label was interested back then! Was Butcher’s Daughter part of that demo?

Yes, ‘Butcher’s Daughter’ was supposed to be the A side of our second single. If you want to know what it sounds like you can find it on The Sound of Leamington Spa Vol 2.   We recorded the three songs we had lined up for the next record at Grant Lyons’s studio in Brighton.  He’d already released a version of ‘Last Train Home’ on his Hoopla  compilation.  The other two songs were ‘What People Say’ and ‘Postcard From Paradise’.  Sombrero had kind of folded by this stage, so I sent the demo round to some other labels but there wasn’t any interest.  In retrospect, I think the band might have been more successful if we’d had a manager because I really hated that side of it – phoning round to get gigs and that sort of thing.  But, y’know, I don’t think the destiny of Western cultural history has been too badly derailed by the failure of Reserve to become an over-arching, global force.

++ Then the band split up. What happened? What did Torquil MacLeod do during those years before forming The Atom Miksa Reservation?

OK, so it’s 1990.  No one’s interested in releasing ‘Butcher’s Daughter’ and I’ve moved from London down to Brighton so that I can carry on being a drain on the state’s  resources while watching the tide go in and out.  I did manage to drag myself back up to London for the occasional rehearsal and gig up until the summer, but then it kind of fizzled out.  It was exactly how I didn’t want the band to end, but that’s the way things go, I guess.   That same year I started working in radio down in Brighton and by 1993 I was a radio producer at the BBC in London.  And that, dear reader, is what I’ve been doing ever since.  I won the Sony Gold award for Best Speech Radio Programme of the year in May 2008 – hoorah for me!  Of course, music being like some kind of congenital disease, I carried on making sounds in the back room, like some weird, etiolated plant, in the intervening years.  And then, in the summer of 2007, I treated myself to a 16 track digital workstation and discovered this curious thing on the internet called MySpace and that’s how The Atom Miksa Reservation came into being.  Through the wonders of technology it transpires that there are a handful of people around the world who quite like what  I’m doing, which, frankly, makes it all worthwhile.

++ Anything else you’d like to say to the popkids out there?

Ummm…music is a truly wonderful thing.  It’s been there for me ever since Bowie,T.Rex, Slade and the Sweet burst upon my consciousness in the early 70s.  It still has the power to move me, to astonish me and to comfort me…and make me dance round the kitchen like someone demented.  The notion that at some point in my life I may have made a piece of music which has made just one person out there feel a little bit better for 3 minutes in their life is a very humbling thought.   Oh, and Roque, I think what you’re doing with Cloudberry is fantastic and I’m enormously touched and grateful for your support.  Thanks.



Reserve – The Sun Slid Down Behind the Tower (flexi version)


I find Sunday nights the best time to listen to music, especially vinyl. I rip them to mp3s, clean them a bit, there are no hurries. I have a beer. I have some pizza. I turn off the cell phone. A chess game against Emma, which for unknown reasons ends up as a draw. Around 7:30 p.m. I have my senses bright and acute. And when I play this song, it comes drilling through my brain. What a wonderful noise I say.

Today being noisy is the status quo. Especially if you come from the Pitchfork confetti-plumped Brooklyn. I wonder if the hipsters would rejoice if they listen this wonderful ramshackling, noisy and dreamy band. Most probably they won’t. This is too pure for them, they need some music critic filtering, they need some artsy haircut, they need some comfort zone, tell them that it is the RIGHT thing to like.

I wonder what happened to this band. Their first 7″ was Grip / Frances and was released on the Fluff label. If my memory doesn’t play tricks on me, the Leicester label released the first Boyracer 7″. Also they released Hood and a band I haven’t heard but always been curious about, Liechtenstein Girls. I’m pretty sure there was a split flexi with Boyracer and Hula Hoop also. More info, of course, would be appreciated. The insert of the single doesn’t give that much information either:

honey one is grip and frances. the players are stuart on skins, neil on strings and gogs on a fuzzy lump of wood. seagate studios housed the noise, stuart and chris processed it, we re-invented it. thanks to the foreman, paedo strangetrouser and the ones who haven’t loved or loved us. this vice will not release until I release myself and as soon as I can do that you’ll be free as well. you forgot you were an atheist. stay beautiful norm. bee.

Their second single appeared on Lust Recordings (home of the Lavender Faction and St. James Infirmary). It was a 7″ with a giraffe on the cover. It was a four track EP that included the songs Sunrise, Stunned, Happy Sunday Stories and Ignite. I still haven’t got around to get or listen this one.

Twee.net doesn’t list their third release. It was another 7″ and it was released on Fluff Records again. This one included the songs Demand Better Protection and Cradle. This release seems to be the rarest one to find. And they also contributed, with a cover version of James’ “Come Home”, on the tape compilation Bobby Stokes Salutes The Fall Of Manchester. This was released on  the exquisite Ambition Records.

And I believe this is it. I ask to the whole wide web, is there anyone out there?



Aspidistra – Grip