There are two Andreas in Hamburg. One is my friend Andreas Hering and the other one is the pop mastermind Andreas Dorau. Ok, maybe if I look on the phone book there’s more, but does that really matter?

I met Andreas at Eldorado, a small club/bar in Hamburg four or five blocks away of the main street of the Red Light district. I was DJing some indiepop tunes thanks to the fantastic help and organizing skills of Nana and Henning. They had arranged this small happening so all popkids could receive the 1st of June here, which is a holiday in Germany. We could stay till late, drink lots of Astra, no one had to work next day. It was all perfect. On top of that, it was promoted really well. I met many friends that I only knew online or by name. The only familiar face was the great Peter Hahndorf. But in a matter of minutes all of the crowd became familiar faces and good friends.

I met Andreas after DJing almost at the entrance door. It was below the street level, a couple of stairs down. He was carrying some black and white posters for the Liechtenstein concert he was organizing for his “Adventure Playground” night some months later. I got a couple of those posters, one is now scotch-taped on my wall. I believe he has booked the fantastic Swedish all-girl band a couple of times more including the Hamburg Pop-Weekender he has organized along other friends. This is happening now in April and I’m totally ashamed of missing it. If you can make it there, I totally recommend going. The lineup is really to die for, including: Days, Northern Portrait, Horowitz, The Manhattan Love Suicides, the aforementioned Liechtenstein and many more. Even they’ve got The Motifs to come all the way from Australia! This is what the indiepop community is all about. And Andreas knows it. Since the day he made that legendary tape Everlasting Happiness when he was just a kid to organizing the Pop Weekender, he has been committed to indiepop.

On another dimension, Andreas Dorau was singing ‘From Jupiter comes Fred, the marvellous Kosmonaut. All the girls feel enthusiastic about him and want to keep him here forever.’ It was 1981 and he was only 17 years old. Die Doraus und Die Marinas recorded this fantastic single for Mute Records. And it was a big hit in Germany. A blissful slice of electronic pop, shambolic choruses by Die Marinas, and a fun, fresh and naive vibe that electronic pop has lost many years ago. This is one of my favourite songs, even though I only understand four or five words out of it. And what about the video for this song! The children morning tv show kind of look, Dorau’s face painted green and Die Marines having a blast throwing out some of their best dance moves, brilliant! And it doesn’t matter if Mr. Dorau had some other hits like Girls in Love more recently, nothing can compare to this song. Also there I find that there is something about the German language that also fits and suits this song perfectly, proving that pop music is universal.

Werner Herzog went to look for El Dorado in Peru on his movie “Aguirre, The Wrath of God”. I, humbly, went to Germany to look for Eldorado. Andreas Dorau brought Fred from Jupiter to Earth. And Andreas Hering will take indiepop from Earth and, I wouldn’t be surprised, take it to Jupiter one day. His love and energy is, indeed, everlasting (happiness!).


Die Doraus Und Die Marinas – Fred vom Jupiter


Thanks again to Harvey!

++ Did the Tender Engines form immediately after the breakup of The Odolites? What was the main reason to put a band together again?

When the Odolites split I had a few songs stored up and had a creative burst so wrote a bunch more. So the tascam 4 track was put to good use and I probably recorded about 20 songs in that initial period. So really the band was just a vehicle for the new songs and I didn’t have too many plans beyond that.

++ Why did you choose the name Tender Engines?

Andy’s son Scott was a young tacker at the time and watched a lot of Thomas & the Tank Engines. I think it was Ringo Starrs dulcet tones that drew him in! So I think Andy suggested it as a name. I like the paradox one word soft and delicate and the other dark and gritty! The name is also a good reflection on the lyrical content as I tend to teeter between between portraying a fairly normal everyday life but with some darker overtones because I read too much Jim Thompson & George P Pelecanos.

++ On the band there was only you, Harvey, and Andrew, recording as the Tender Engines. Was it easy to record this way? How did you work out playing the instruments?

Andy and I started out together in Noddy’s Revenge back in Tasmania in the early 80’s. At the time the Odolites formed Andy was out of town so wasn’t around to play bass. A year or so after we moved to Melbourne Andy also moved over with the band the Fish John West Reject. So he was living around the corner and I’d get him around to play the bass parts on my four track recordings.

On our first trip to the studio though we got a few other friends around for some quick rehearsals and then pretty much recorded it live in the studio. After the drawn out process of recording the Odolites album I really wanted to get back to basics and just bang it down as live as possible. The studio was a little 8 track place called Phantom Tollbooth based in a warehouse.

From memory the other players on that session were Andy, Mark Narcowicz from the Fish John West Reject (guitar and backing vocals), Paul Stothard (organ) and Tim Gleeson (drums).

We recorded A Legend Never Fails & Clinging To The Wreckage in that session plus songs that would later be used as b-sides Under The Same Roof, Final Kiss, A Night At The Fair and Leaving Town. There is one unreleased track called Candyhouse which is a re-record of an old Noddy’s Revenge song.

++ I bet it must have been tough to play live with this lineup, right? How many gigs did you play? Any particular one you remember the most?

Yeah we only played a handful of shows, usually just when other Summershine artists offered us a support. I doubt we played with the same line up twice. It’d be Andy and I plus whatever drummer & second guitarists was around. We supported the Sugargliders (or was it the Steinbecks?) a couple of times. We also supported Ripe. That was a good show from memory. I think we had Ted (from the Odolites) on guitar for that one.

++ All of your discography was released by the legendary Summershine Records. How do you ended up there? Did you send a demo? How do you remember Jason Reynolds? Any anecdotes with him?

I first remember Jason as a bit of a boy about town. He had a program on the local radio station and ran club nights playing all the latest indie singles. He started coming along to Odolites shows and he’d always come up for a chat after the show. He purchased a record store called Exposure and as luck would have it he offered me part time work in the store. Summershine started during the period he had the store so he kinda had to release my records because I was working for him!

Jason was a big fan of Postcard and Creation and I think he wanted to be one of the Alan’s. Did he refer to himself as the President at one stage or am I just making that up??

++ What was the regular record deal with Summershine, was it with contracts or was it just the usual indiepop fare of having a beer together and saying, let’s make it happen!?

More the later, although Jason didn’t drink, so I had the beer and he sipped on a mineral water and did most of the talking! I don’t recall there being a contract but maybe there was. It was fairly casual though. I gave him the finished recordings, his girlfriend put the artwork together, the distributor tried to get them into the stores. As time went along most of the singles sold on export rather than locally. Unfortunately the label didn’t get the kudos it deserved here in Australia at the time. I think the great thing about Summershine was that Jason would track down overseas bands like East Village and Velvet Crush and this helped gain international attention for the Australian bands on the label as well. There aren’t too many other Australian labels as highly regard and as collectable around the world now as Summershine so full credit to JR for what he did with the label.

++ The first single “Clinging to the Wreckage” has that wonderful B side, “A Legend Never Fails”, what is this song about?

I look on it as a double A-Side single and there’s a lyrical link between the two also. Clinging To The Wreckage is part one of the story where a gravediggers son from a sheltered home meets up with a wild girl from the big bad city. She gets him do bad things like listen to the Sex Pistols! Eek! But then in part 2, A Legend Never Fails, he meets the same girl 5 years on. She’s mad as ever but she tells him she’s mended her ways, found God, and tries to preach to him. Part of her method of preaching is to recount her former deeds, which to him, are far more enticing than her current life anyway. “See her eyes shining bright, as she tauntingly describes, all the times that she had, when she was bad, oh how she woo’d them”. Both songs are 9 parts fiction 1 part fact. Well, okay, maybe 50/50!

Musically I was really into Felt at the time and insisted on having an organ on the songs for this reason. I was looking for that kinda Dylan Basement Tapes organ sound that Felt had on the Ballad of the Band EP and Forever Breathes The Lonely Word album.

++ “With Regret” was released on 7″ and CD. The CD was released months later with four exclusive songs. The 7″ included “Under the Same Roof” which wasn’t on the CD either. Was this a label move? I ask cause, say a song like Girl from the Hinterland could have been such a fine single by itself!

The EP was designed to be an EP in its own right rather than a single with 4 b sides. I think the reason to do the 7” was just that Summershine’s reputation was built on 7” singles and the CD Single was seen as a bit of an extravagance at the time. I’ve still got a boxful of them so someone got that one right!

This recording session was recorded at a decent studio, a place called Whirled, and produced by Ted, my old partner from the Odolites. He played guitar as well. I’m glad you like Girl from the Hinterland. In hindsight it was one of our best songs and lyrically has that dark but delicate blend that I referred to earlier.

++ The “Ex-Pop song” and the “Something Wicked” singles included demo versions of songs. Was that on purpose? Why wasn’t the finished recordings included?

EX-Pop Song and Something Wicked were both recorded in the one session also at Whirled with Ted in the producers chair again. We wanted to spend a bit more time on these and I think the finances were all put towards getting the 2 tracks right and there was no money left for b sides. Ted also plays guitar on these recordings and plays a killer solo on Ex Pop Song. I think Ex-Pop Song is one of the strongest things I’ve written and Something Wicked one of Andy’s best. The demos are actually left over recordings from the Wreckage/Legend sessions. Not sure why we called them demos. Probably thought they were of inferior quality! I’m pretty sure both singles were released on the same day in another cunning Summershine marketing ploy!

Ex-Pop Song also appears on Just A Taste the Slumberland Summershine compilation but under the name Pop Song 1. From memory this was the working title and we must have just finished the recording and not settled on the song title when we sent the track in. Just A Taste is a great compilation and credit to Mike at Slumberland and Jason for putting it together. It’s the only American release I’ve been on and I’m sure it’s a major reason why people in the US know of the Summershine label!

++ I know the existence of thirteen songs, the same that are listed in the Twee.net discography page, are there any unreleased stuff from the Tender Engines?

Thirteen, was it that many? Let me see now, recordings released on Summershine…..

1. Clinging To The Wreackage
2. A Legend Never Fails
3. With Regret
4. Under The Same Roof
5. Girl From The Hinterland
6. By His Side
7. Before She Met Me
8. Waiting For The Rain
9. Something Wicked
10. Ex Pop Song
11. A Night At The Fair
12. Final Kiss
13. Leaving Town Again

We also did This Girl Black Girl for a Go-Betweens tribute album called Right Here. That would be the last thing that was released actually. The Go-Betweens are one of my favourite bands ever and I begged Hippy Knight (the label that released the comp) to include us although most of the other bands were better known and a lot more active than we were.

Early on we also had 3 tracks (Leaving Town Again, A Night At The Fair and the otherwise unreleased The Last Party) on a fanzine cassette called Sparrows, A Melbourne Pop Compilation. Other bands on the cassette are Captain Cocoa, the Fish John West Reject, A.D., Ripe and the Sugargliders.

There are heaps of unreleased things if you count all the 4 track and (now that I’ve stepped up) 8 track recordings. I prefer to look on it as work in progress rather than unreleased though! I can only find one song that we recorded in a studio and didn’t release and that’s “Candyhouse”. There was a more serious attempt made to get something happening with the band after the EP and we actually started recording an album. All the tracking was done but then the studio we were recording at had to close because a ballet school opened next door and complained about the noise. It wasn’t us surely! So the studio disappeared and unfortunately so did the master tapes. It was a shame because that line up of the band actually rehearsed regularly and, to my ears at least, was sounding really good. It was Andy and I, a guy called Ed on drums, a guy called Tim on organ and Andy’s cousin Mark BJ Austin on 2nd guitar. Shortly after BJ joined the Paradise Motel, yet another bunch of Tasmanians trying to crack the mainland. They made a better fist of it than most and were based in London for a few years.

++ I read that “Ex-Pop Song” had a limited run of 500 copies, I guess that’s why it’s hard to come by! What about the other records, do you have a rough idea on how many copies were pressed?

I’d be surprised if there were more than 500 of any of the 7” singles. Most releases on Summershine were kept to one pressing only so unless a band was big enough to justify a bigger initial pressing I think it’d be 500.

++ As an Australian guitar pop fan, how did you see what was happening in New Zealand. Did you enjoy the bands from Flying Nun?

Yes, loved those early Flying Nun bands. If I was to name my top 3 all time indie labels it’d be Postcard, Creation and Flying Nun. I started getting the Flying Nun singles in the mid 80’s and I think the first ones I came across were the Chills “Pink Frost”, Verlaines “Death & the Maiden” and the Clean “Getting Older”. It’s hard to think of 3 better singles on any label!

++ What was the biggest highlight of the Tender Engines four years life?

If there was one highlight it was probably hearing that John Peel played the first single on his show! I used to tune in to his ½ hour weekly show on the BBC World Service (Short Wave) and he turned me on to so many bands.

++ Why did the Tender Engines decided to stop making music? Where you involved in any bands after?

Did we break up?? I really don’t know where the last (err) 15 years disappeared to. I’m really proud of all the things we released and disappointed that the daily grind took over and music fell by the wayside. I haven’t done anything else so I guess you can say I’m still a Tender Engine! Dozens of songs half written but don’t know what to do with them! Andy has a band called the Dunaways with Mark Narcowicz (who played on the first Tender Engines recordings), Martin Witheford and Graham Rankin (ex Odolites drummer). They have released a couple of albums that are worth tracking down and they play live occasionally. Ted, Andy and I get together every few months for a counter meal at the pub and talk about old times! We should probably talk about making some new music, but it seems easier to talk about old times!


Tender Engines – Girl from Hinterland


Thanks so much to Lucy and Chris for the interview!

++ When did the band start? How did you all come together as A Craze?

Lucy: It started in 1982. Chris & Lucy had both been working with other bands but were looking for song writing partners and a mutual friend introduced us.

Chris: David Stephenson ( the mutual friend ) brought Lucy round to a flat I was living in Queens Park London – I knew of Lucy in Cambridge before moving to London – She had a unique style…

++ What’s the meaning under the name A Craze?

Lucy: A fad!

++ How did you end up on Paul Weller’s Respond label?

Lucy: Chris sent him a demo.

++ Were you big fans of his music? How do you feel about his socialist views in running the label? If I remember correctly he even wrote on a sampler album, something like “Business is a polite word for dipping your hands in shit”

Lucy: Both of us were big fans and both loved the idea of the label, it seemed a really exciting opportunity, something fresh and innovative.

Chris: Didn’t really think about it… Or see it in the running of the label…

++ Paul also produced the first song of the 12″ “Wearing Your Jumper”. What anecdotes do you remember while recording this track?

Lucy: It was all done in one day! Vocals & guitar were put down first. Great, friendly atmosphere.

Chris: I recall we played Paul the song – we’d recorded on a cassette tape machine and he said it reminded him of Dionne Warwick and so we booked a studio in Victoria London and went in and did it

++ How was the experience of working with Mick Talbot (Dexy’s, Style Council)? What did he bring to the sound of A Craze on these recordings?

Lucy: Mick was a lovely guy to work with. Very easy going. He added an extra jazzy feel to the song.

Chris: Mick was always very friendly and had a great feel to his playing on the Wurlitzer keyboard – Steve White was on percussion.

++ Maybe my favourite song of the 12″ is the catchy “She is So”! What a fantastic track! Is this a real story? I really identify myself with lines like: “I’d give her books to read / I wanted her to grow / Not that I wasn’t learning to”… fantastic really!

Lucy: Yes, it is partly made up from a friend that I had when I was at school and partly taken from an experience that had happened to me!

++ What was the creative process for A Craze? How did songs shape up for you?

Lucy: I wrote the words and Chris wrote the music, then we would put the two together and create the melody.

++ What bands influenced your breezy and POP! sound?

Lucy: Motown, Michael Jackson, Chic, ….. etc

Chris: Pop from the 60ts Pop from everywhere !!!

++ Your only other song released aside from the ones on the Wearing Your Jumper 12″ was “Keeping The Boys Amused” on the “Love The Reason” compilation LP. Did you record any more songs? And if so, why didn’t they see the light?

Lucy: Because we never managed to get another recording deal.

Chris: We defiantly had more songs…

++ How did the re-release of the 12″ on CD in Japanese label Trattoria happened? There are some liner notes there that I can’t understand! More or less… what did it say, you know? :)

Lucy: I don’t know the answer to this.

Chris: I only found out it had been released when I started getting emails from Japanese to my myspace saying how much they loved the A Craze CD

++ Where the band members involved with any bands involved prior or after A Craze? Tell me a bit about them?

Lucy: I was in The Hearththrobs, a student band that played in the colleges in Cambridge.

Chris: I was in The Users – who had one of the very 1st UK punk 7″ entitled “Sick Of You” although we were just trying to be a proper Rock ‘N’ Roll band. This year a compilation CD was issued entitled The Users Secondary Modern 1976 – 1979 on Bin Liner / Detour Records.

++ Why did the band call it a day? What are you all doing nowadays?

Lucy: I left because I wanted to earn some money !!! I am now an HR Advisor and also I make mosaic sculptures of bottoms & bosoms.

Chris: If Lucy left – I guess I must have left too !!! I now run – buy the clothes – take the photos for www.cxlondon.com – Independent Pop Fashion, Gifts & Accessories. I’ve also started writing and playing again after being inspired after singing and strumming at the inspirational Granchester Meadows Memorial for Syd Barrett in 2006.

++ Anything else you’d like to tell all the pop fans out there?

Chris: Looks like there will be an A Craze Compilation CD full of buried treasures… release this year… a must for all true Pop believers…. Check google in about 3 months time

Twitter… Join Me… – http://twitter.com/chris_free


A Craze – She is So


I was asked to write an article for a South Korean magazine. As it turns out, Yeongene and Linus’ Blanket are far too popular for the magazine and they declined to publish this small piece. I thought maybe you’d enjoy it :)

When I was younger my Korean knowledge revolved around the automotive industry. My home town was plagued by these little Daewoo cars. The model was called Tico, not sure if they ever sold these in Seoul, but, in Lima they were multiplying in exponential numbers. All the cities’ arteries were dominated by yellow Tico taxis. They were like ants, believe me, they were all over. Hyundai was also quite popular but second came those Kia buses, these were the main public transport for many people during the 90s. I was never interested in cars and so, I wasn’t very fond of these Korean machines swarming my city.

When I tried gui for the first time I started to enjoy Korea. I loved grilling my food and the great taste of bulgogi and dakgui was enough to make me fall in love with the food. In recent days I’ve been a bit surprised about eating live squid not sure if I’ll try it, but I don’t find nothing wrong with that. Food is food my friends. So it wasn’t true love. There was the up and downs of a common relationship. What about the football team? I liked Korean national team indeed and enjoyed the run in 2002 World Cup! And I always liked the name Daejeon Citizen for a football team. I think I would be their hooligan if I lived there. But the only time that I fell in love with Korea, the one and only love, the one that happens at first sight, that was when I heard Yeongene’s fragile voice. I was wrapped by Linus’ Blanket and since then I slept dreaming the nicest dreams.

Some years ago I got a copy of the “Labour in Vain” EP. Can’t remember how it found me or how I found it. It just happened to be there. And this beautiful pop, that reminds me of the classy Swedish pop of the 90s and to the cutesy bossa influenced J-pop, came straight as an arrow to my heart. I was thrilled that Minsung, the original guitarist of Linus’ Blanket, played at the Japanese outfit Miniskirt, an underrated band that wrote such fantastic tunes as “Woody Allen Likes Japanese Noise Rock” or “Her Blue Contact Lenses Make Me Crazy”. Now Yeongene also contributes with international artists. What about working with Dugly Stewart! With him and his BMX Bandits, Yeongene released “Savoursmiles”, a fantastic record that should have been a winner on the year end lists everywhere… well if it was in a world were sites like Pitchfork clueless reviews didn’t influence people. Sadly bad taste put up on topp stupid bands as Vampire Weekend. Anyways, honey wasn’t made for the pig’s taste indeed.

I’ve stalked Yeongene and found her on Myspace. “Save Our Smiles” is playing but I can’t save my smile. The upbeat music doesn’t let me save it. I smile, because her voice makes me happy, because of inertia maybe, because pop is what puts my heart in motion, and this is POP! The way it has to be done, with sincerity, without any formula, just what comes out from your guts. And it seems our heroine has some very sweet guts right? Born in 1981 and waiting for the person who will be her husband she says. Lucky the person who wakes up everyday next to her candy-coated voice. That is pop heaven, and it only happens in Namyangju. Must be thanks to Gorosei.


Yeongene – Save Our Smiles


Thanks so much to Seori Burnett for the interview!

++ Hello Seori! Summerhill starts after the Snakes of Shake break up. What had happened? Why do you decide to start a new band?

The Snakes of Shake had been going to record an album for Stiff Records. this was shelved but a company called Making Waves came in and we recorded the same album ‘Gracelands and The Natural Wood’ for them. Shortly after the release of the record they went bust which made promoting the record difficult. The whole process had become a bit disillusioning and I felt the band had probably run its course. The guitarist at that time was Neil Scott who had previously played with Everything But The Girl and was Living in London, I was still in Scotland. As so often happens it seemed time to move things to the centre so I relocated to London and Neil and I worked on starting a new band together.

++ Why did you call the band Summerhill? Is there any reason behind it?

The name Summerhill came from our original bass player Isabel Monteiro who later went on to have a more successful career with her own band Drugstore. We were aware of the Summerhill school started by alternative educationalist A.S. Neil and empathised with the ethos of free choice and a truly democratic set up. The name seemed to sit well with our new inclusive and collaborative venture.

++ Was it easy to gather people to form Summerhill? I noticed you changed drummers quite often!

The drummer situation seems Spinal Tapesque doesn’t it. It wasn’t always easy to get the right people because at the beginning Neil and I had a very strong vision of the feel and sound we wanted to create. Basically at the core of Summerhill # 1 was Neil Scott, Keith Gilles on bass and myself and when we reformed it was Tom Crook on guitar with Keith and me again. Some people left some were asked to leave but thankfully there’s nobody I wouldn’t talk to anymore.

++ Were any of the band members involved with bands before Summerhill?

As I’ve mentioned Neil had been in EBTG and our drummer on Lowdown Iain Shedden had been in the eponymous Australian band The Saints. My brother also played drums with us and he had previously played in Scottish garage rock outfit the Primevals who continue to record and play to this day.

++ What was the aim of Summerhill’s music? What were your influences, I think your music has as much of country and folk as of pop!
Originally I was into American garage punk, Shadows of Knight, Standells, Electric Prunes as well as the Stooges, Velvet Underground, Neil Young, Television, Patti Smith, the Ramones etc. a lot of late 70s New York in other words. Neil and I shared many influences and particularly the more experimental edge of the Byrds, Murmur/Reckoning REM and the self styled ‘Cosmic American Music’ of Gram Parsons. Deep in my psyche things as diverse as the Incredible String band and Sun Ra were also at play.

There was always a tension between the more experimental and the straighter melodic approach of country and folk. I had started to feel that folk and country with its links to Scottish and Irish music had more resonance for me than the blues based side of rock’n’roll. I guess our aim was to fuse a more experimental visceral guitar sound with the melody and harmony of folk/pop music. It’s probably more evident on our first album Lowdown rather than West of Here where the workings of a major label smoothed off the edges before the experiment was developed enough.

++ As a Scottish band, how influential was Postcard’s ‘Sound of Young Scotland’ sound? Which where your favourite Glaswegian bands to share a gig with or maybe to just go and enjoy a gig from them?

I think that the influence of Postcard cannot be underestimated. The other night there was a documentary on UK tv about Rough Trade which made the claim for that label kicking off Indie Music in the 80s. We can debate whether this is the case or whether the ethos had already started with the Punk labels in the late 70s but for my money Postcard and particularly early Orange Juice epitomised what later became accepted as Indie with their homemade slightly amateurish but free approach to making music.

I was just starting to play gigs at that time and it was exciting to have something like Postcard going on in your home town attracting all the London media attention. I saw all the Postcard bands at the time but my favourites were Josef K who were from Edinburgh and another Edinburgh band on Postcard’s rival Fast Pop called the Fire Engines.

++ Did Summerhill gig a lot? Any particular gigs you remember? and why?

We did four UK tours and numerous other one-offs. We played a lot at a tiny pub backroom club run by Geoff Barrett the man behind Heavenly Records. The club was called the Phil Kauffman Club after Gram Parson’s infamous roadie, the gigs there really helped build us up. This was before the days of smoking bans, there was no ventilation, one narrow exit from the room and a deafening PA, a classic rock’n’roll dive, brilliant.

The best gigs were all on the way up, we played Dingwalls a famous old London venue and that’s when I realised something was happening. We were still driving our own van and didn’t have any roadies, it was a great gig and afterwards the promoter came up to us with me expecting the usual “we can only give you £50″ instead he said here’s your share of the door £400. On the way down it was a lot harder there were still some good nights but the thrill is gone and the audience gets it too.

++ You released in a couple of indie labels as Demon or Rocket 5 but also on a bigger one like Polydor. What was the difference between working with them? How did you get a deal with them and was it much harder to work with them than with an indie?

Youv’e done your homework! We released one ep on Rocket 5 a label started by a friend of ours in Scotland and then signed up for a mini album, ‘Lowdown’, with Demon. Lowdown received great reviews and as the gigs improved the major labels came sniffing around.

At the end of the 80s there was a financial bubble much like the one which has just burst. Majors were offering large advances so you tended to take the best deal on offer rather than critically evaluating the company and the people. We signed to Polydor which in retrospect was a mistake. We naivelly thought it was obvious what we were about, you only had to read our reviews but majors often buy something and then try to turn it into their own product to shift as many units as possible. REM were still to break big and they couldn’t see how to deal with or develop a left field folk/rock/pop crossover. They spent too much in production, got cold feet, the baggy seen exploded and we lost our way.

In comparison indies were where music fans lived, they could be fickle, purist and skint but in retrospect we should have done another record for Demon instead of grabbing the cash.

++ You released a single convering “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones. Did you do any more covers?

We covered ‘It happens each day’ and ‘Don’t make Waves’ for a Byrds tribute album under the pseudonym of Static. In the latter days of Summerhill we used to do ‘Song For You’ by Gram Parsons in our live set.

++ I’ve heard mixed reviews about your second album “West of Here” and raving reviews about “Lowdown”, your first album. How do you feel about both albums? Which release of yours is the one you are more proud about?

I guess I’ve covered a lot of this above. The songs on West of Here are just as good and in some case better than on Lowdown but the arrangements and production are too safe, and the prolonged recording process sapped the energy from our performance. Lowdown is an imperfect execution of a strong vision and West of Here is a one legged affair. When I occassionally do listen back there’s lots to be proud of on both but I also have ambivalent feelings about both. If I had to nail my colours to the mast Lowdown.

++ How political were the Summerhill during those tough last years under Thatcher’s rule? How was Glasgow during those years compared to 2009?

In a public way apolitical, in private very much against what the Thatcher years had done to Britain and angry about the lack of compassion. I can’t really speak for Glasgow then or now as I left in January ‘87 but I know that when I went back the prosperity in London and the South East was not reflected in my home town where it wasn’t hard to find areas with fire bombed houses, security meshes inside shops and communal stair wells with needles blood and human waste. It appears to me that Glasgow has steadily improved since the late 70s but there are still bad pockets of deprivation.

++ Out of curiosity, what is the best Scottish beer and the best Scottish dish for you?

My current favourite is Fraoch which means heather in Gaelic. It’s a light golden sweet hoppy ale. Best Scottish dish, Cullen Skink which is a chowder type soup made with Smoked Haddock, potato, milk and onion.

++ Why and when did the band call it a day? What did the Summerhill members do after?

The last time Tom, Keith and I sang together was at my wedding in 1998. The last record was a CD ep ‘No Matter What You Do’ in 1994. Of the Lowdown lineup. Iain Shedden lives in Sydney Australia plays in a couple of bands and is the music editor of the Australian newspaper, Keith still lives in London and teaches music business and production and does standup comedy. Neil returned to his home in Hornsea near Hull and still plays locally. Of the last incarnation, Tom as you know, is still in music and does a few things including his own ‘Band of Hope’. Our last drummer Ben has a musical project called Bonobo Banjo, check out their myspace site. Me I’m a crofter (very small traditional Scottish farm)in the northwest highlands of Scotland with my wife three children, sheep pigs, chickens and friut and veg still harbouring ambitions t o make more records when I get time.

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

When Neil and I were plotting the rise of Summerhill and writing together we’d take a break and clear our heads by watching films like the Terminator and laugh out loud. I’ll be back!


Summerhill – Don’t Let it Die


“Even if I had the world between my hands, even if I could make you happy, I don’t know if I could get where you want to be, because you’ve always turned me down.”

I remember long discussions with my friend José many years ago. We were roommates at the time and we were devouring everything the Spanish scene had to offer. We had been exposed to some of it, to the tip of the iceberg, when we were kids back in Lima. Then, when we were living in a tiny studio in Miami Beach, around stray cats, raccoons and possums, we found out a big world to discover. There were amazing sounds coming since the 60s from the Iberian peninsula. But what had happened in South America? Why wasn’t there such a big scene down south as in Spain? And then we turned our eyes (and ears) to Argentina, the other country our teenage years FM radios exposed to us.

What happened in Argentina? We grew up under the sounds of Charly García and his different facets, from his folky Sui Generis, to Seru Giran, to end up in his eclectic solo outings. Soda Stereo were huge, a stadium band. The band leader, Gustavo Cerati, was already releasing solo records and the press was acclaiming him. The third big band from Argentina were the only ones that defined themselves as pop, the underrated Virus. The radio also exposed us to throwaway pop from Los Enanitos Verdes (the green dwarfs) or Los Rancheros, none of them I would recommend listening now unless you have a deep nostalgia crisis. Our curiosity lead us to many other bands like the pop magic of Bristol, to the energetic and fun El Otro Yo, to the obscure Don Cornelio y la Zona, among others. But we noticed that, while in Spain pop was always the way of the underground scene, in Argentina, it was rock. To push a button, the Argentinean main website for their music is called rock.com.ar.

“At what precise moment had Peru fucked itself up?” Mario Vargas Llosa asks in the first line of his “Conversation in the Cathedral” novel. I ask, “At what precise moment Argentinean pop fucked itself up?” Maybe these are strong words, but I can go back and pinpoint the fathers of the Argentinean scene, to Almendra, to look for an answer. Almendra, which means almond, was formed in 1967 when four friends got together: Luis Alberto Spinetta, Edelmiro Molinari, Emilio del Güercio and Rodolfo García. A year later, 1968, they release their first single, Tema de Pototo with the fantastic B side that is El Mundo Entre Las Manos. A great pop bliss that surprises compared to the rock-ish, garagey sounds of these years. The delicate and refined style of Almendra’s was so refreshing! But, what happened to them after this single? Where did all the pop go? You can find a bit of it on some tracks like “Campos Verdes” but it is fair to say that they lost their pop sensibility. They became bigger, I mean, they became HUGE, and they toured a lot. Maybe that was a reason? Maybe, like many 70s bands they were trying some new drugs? I don’t know. What is a fact for sure, is that they became rock and roll, they were all about their difficult and skillful guitar solos, long hairs and celebrity attitude.

And it is at this moment when their music becomes popular. Rock tracks as “Rutas Argentinas” or the Hendrix-like “Color Humano” totally teared down the Argentinean pop scene. Almendra embraced rock, Argentina embraced rock, and that fantastic pop single was found in trash bins. What if Almendra continued the path, the route of their first single? Would Argentina had been a pop country through the eighties and the nineties? Maybe. It is a wild guess. But not a wild guess to say that Almendra fucked up the pop scene back then. After Almendra pop was a rara avis in Maradona’s country.

During the last decades there has been some nice pop bands like Entre Ríos or the aforementioned Bristol, so maybe all is not lost.


Almendra – El Mundo Entre las Manos


The fourth split 3inch CD is out now and comes courtesy of two bands that I wanted to release for over a year: Ferns and The Shandy Express.

I have been in touch with Warren from Ferns for a long while. I remember falling in love with his band when Fruit Records released the Peachy Little Secrets compilation in 2006. Not long after the Singapore label was putting out “On Botany” the debut album by the Malaysian pop wonder-band. On Botany must have one of the strangest and most curious packaging ever. The front cover has artificial grass! Even today, when looking at it, it always strikes a chord in me, it always surprises me and makes me smile. I have to save it in a different box. It cant go along the other CDs as Im always scared this little piece of art would break. Playing that album felt the same. Fragile songs of perfect pastoral jangle. Some influence of long forgotten Harvest Ministers and the jangly perfection of Another Sunny Day when they want to be upbeat. Ferns are truly a discovery for me and maybe the world. According to them there is no other band in Malaysia making indiepop. I haven’t found any by myself either. Hopefully they inspire other kids to grab their guitars and make perfect pop!

Their side includes two songs: Miss Stormcloud and Anti Social Scene. I can’t stop giggling with the first track, because it’s great, but also because The Stormclouds were a favourite band of mine and still are. Two brilliant songs that Im very honoured to have put out.

Helena Lindén contributed with the columns photograph for the CD cover. The columns, one after the other, stop being objects to become a beautiful pattern and so The Shandy Express, Andrew Everett’s solo outing after The Blue Smarties, brings the patterns and blueprints of the kind of pop he loves: quirky, fun, upbeat, very English, and why not, whimsical. The bouncy Muffin Top opens the Shandy Express’ side. Catchy is the word that comes to mind when listening to it. And when the kazoo comes you can’t stop dancing to it! But I do really hope the song is about a real muffin, and not about a girl’s “muffin top”! Even though, good humour is always welcome ;)

Surfing in Love’s Wave is The Shandy Express’ happy song. A hopeful shout to falling in love. Of that moment when you and your partner are on the crest of happiness. Yes, just in top of the wave. And even though it is the introspective song, it still is upbeat and catchy. A fantastic tune, one of my favourites Andrew has ever recorded. Just as a curious note, the master Alan Jenkins produced these two tracks. Who? Well, the Cordelia Records main guy, the Deep Freeze Mice gentleman that was also in the brilliant Chrysanthemums. The Shandy Express is not stopping, the fast steam engine is now almost halfway to release their new album ‘I’ve met the Man in the Street’. This will be their second after the ‘L~Songs’ that you can download freely from their website.

The CD is out now and you can preview two tracks here and get it by sending US$ 5 (includes postage to anywhere in the world) to shop [a] cloudberryrecords.com

Thanks again for the fantastic support!


Ferns – Miss Stormcloud
The Shandy Express – Surfing on Love’s Wave


The last day of February was the release date of the latest 7″ on the label. It’s a fantastic 2 track record by the fantastic Play People out of Derby, England, including their catchy hit “Goes Out” on the A side and “Just Don’t”, the introspective piece, on the B side.

This is the second time we worked together, first time was on the sold out compilation “Ever Get the Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?” that came along the Bottle Rocket fanzine. On this team effort they opened the 3″ inch CD with the great “Meet Me Saturday”. Since that day we planned to make a 7″. It took a while indeed. Problems with delays on the pressing plant (it was sent to print at the same time as Hari and Aino) made it to come a bit later than expected! But those things don’t matter, now Play People are on what suits best for them: on plastic, on a black round bit of plastic. The elusive Playmobil gang, who may be the invention of one person, or maybe ten, have a great single in their hands. But will this be the end of the mystery of who really are the Play People? Seems not, maybe the wait will be over when they play their first gig? But none is programmed. I don’t even know their real faces! Maybe the story is true and they were born in a cold German factory? Seems there are not many answers around.

What we do know about them comes from a small press release:

Play People are Ralph, Clint, Nancy and Keith. They were formed in a dark German factory in the spring of 2008. Clint’s the lead singer and plays some guitar, Keith’s on drums, Nancy and Ralph share the rest between themselves, depending on what they fancy doing. Maracas or Rickenbacker? What do you fancy? They live in middle England, deciding the dark German factory was too dark and they settled for cold and rain. They don’t go out much but there’s not much outside, anyway. In September 2008, they released their debut single, “oh what a life…” on This Almighty Pop. They teamed up with Cloudberry Records and the track “Meet Me Saturday” was released on the ep “ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” “Goes Out” is the new single released on Cloudberry records, and this popkids, comes out on 7” vinyl.

But of course, what speaks best about them are their songs. So check them out, grab the single, listen to their songs on myspace, show some love. Don’t Stop Indiepop!


Play People – Goes Out


Thanks so much to Paul Dackombe and Peter Higgins for the interview. Check out their retrospective album “The Ones That Got Away” on Fastcut Records!

++ I’ve done a search on the internet, on google, and most, if not all, the results came from Japan! Have you ever been there? Do you get many fan mail from there?

No we have not been there, although we hopefully will at some point. We seem to have developed a decent size and loyal fan base across several cities in Japan where they like English music from the 80’s. We do admire their taste!

++ Not surprisingly the album “The Ones That Got Away” was released in the great Fastcut Records from Japan. Why the title of the album? What would you like the listener to get from it?

These songs were written and recorded over a relatively short period of time while we were listening to some great 40’s and 50’s Be Bop stuff from the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, Miles Davis etc. The jazz influenced material was nothing like the songs were were writing before or since, so in a sense they were of their time and to some extent forgotten. You could argue a bit like 40’s Be Bop is today. Yet we still think there are some great tunes and well crafted songs there with interesting arrangements. The title of the album seems to sum that up nicely.

++ You said, on your myspace bio, that you stopped playing live in the late 80s and concentrated in writing. Why was that? Are these songs the ones that appear in the album?

We had a large band, of around 7 or 8 players including a 3 or 4 piece brass section and simply the logistics of trying to keep all that together when live music in the UK was on the decline (and boy band pop was coming into the mainstream….eeuugghhh) was very tough. So Pete and I decided to go into a period of concentrating on writing and recording. Most of these songs did get a decent amount of live play towards the end of our live appearances, but a few, notably never Gonna say and Come Into My World, got very little, if any.

++ So let’s go back in time… how did the band start? what were those things that made you want to be in a pop outfit?

Pete started the band and went through a few players before he and I met. I was brought into the band by the bass player, with whom I’d played in another outfit with. Pete and I instantly hit it off and quite soon after he and I were writing all the material and running the band, changing personnel where we though right for the sound and image. That’s the way it has been ever since about 1980 / 81..ish!

I would say the things that made us want to be in a band are the same. A need and desire to write and play music coupled with growing up in the same part of the world and being influenced by the same sorts of music:

60’s British pop / rock (Kinks, Beatles, Faces)
70’s rock (Who, Bowie, Roxy)
Punk / New wave

Then throw in some Northern soul and you have the sounds that influence our writing and production.

++ Why did you decided to move from Warrington to London?

The North West of England was not the liveliest of places at that time, the Manchester scene would emerge a few years later. We had just won the north west battle of the Band competition (beating Rick Astleys outfit – International rescue who went on to win it the year after and from which Rick got signed to SAW) and despite that were very disappointed to find there was not much live work around in the area. Pete’s brother Tim (our sleeve designer) was at art college in London and we though, let’s just go. So we piled everything we all had (6 band members) into the back of a transit van and moved home…never to look back.

++ Why did Explained Emma wore 50s style suits? How many pairs of them you had?!

We had so much 50’s clothing it was not true. We were professionals in the art of Saturday morning jumble sales which is where we got most of them. There were some import shops in London like Flip and Covent garden market that also sold 50’s American clothing, but our brand of de-mob style suits were best found in local church hall jumble sales, so that’s where we would go most Saturday mornings. We always believed you have to look different to your audience, you just can’t get up in jeans and T shorts, so we always made an effort on the image side and that was style we liked. It was different to what everyone else was doing at the time (80’s shoulder pads and luminous shirts!).

++ One of my best friends is called Emma, so I have to ask, why did you choose the name Explained Emma?

It’s from a line in a book…we think Emma by Jane Austen…. Pete just liked the alliterative sound of it. He came up with the name.

++ You played in bars, clubs and even warehouse parties, you even played at The Hacienda. Which gigs do you remember the most and why?

We remember most, if not all for different reasons. Sometimes the emptiest where you have 5 people show up are memorable, but the Hacienda was a great couple of nights. We played on the same night that Madonna was on the dance floor doing Holiday on roller skates (at the time we though, what the hell is that all about!) that was memorable and we played a great show. There are many other shows that stick in the memory, mostly when we played really well and had a great crowd or some unforeseen event occurred. A few include the Rock garden in Covent Garden, London. Warwick University, Edinburgh and Oxford Universities. All memorable for different reasons.

++ Your music is quite varied, from be-bop jazz to indiepop. from swing to post punk. Did all these styles happen at the same time or they happened in specific time frames of Explained Emma’s career? What were your favourite bands at the time, those that influenced you?

Influences were as I mentioned above. Our writing style did evolve over time, we were not writing Jazz and indie / new wave all at the same time, but there was some overlap. I guess we tried to bring a different way of playing to all the styles we write in. We try and treat each song as a stand alone thing, rather than copy a formula. It’s not easy though, try as hard as you can and similar themes will come out based on your influences.

++ When was the original “Unnecessary Strain” single released? What label was it on? Any anecdotes you remember from those recording sessions?

It was released in 1985. There is so much we can remember anecdotally about the release of that single, from the way in which we financed it, through to it being released on the BBC Oxford Road Show (a major music Friday night programme at the time). To do it on our own label at the time with very little money and then to have it played on prime time radio and TV was a huge buzz.

++ Did you release anything else prior the “When My Heart Rings” on Fastcut?

No Naoki approached us asking to release some material. We sent him a few songs that we though might work and he chose When My Heart Rings.

++ How was your appearance at the BBC Oxford’s Road Show?

Great fun. The entire filming process was memorable. They were doing a small 3 minute documentary on what bands do to promote themselves and liked our approach, so they cam and filmed us for 3 or 4 days to recreate the making and pressing of the single, from rehearsal, through recording, mixing, mastering and production. The we went up to the TV studio on the night the show went out and got some great press and radio as a result.

++ What was the best thing of being part of Explained Emma? What is that that you miss the most?

The best thing is clearly the songs we have written and the guys we played with. Some great musicians and great guys. I won’t say too much about how great the songs are! Pete and I remain close friends today and we still see a few of the others, most notably Dave Molyneux the bass player (with whom we are working on a new album). We both miss playing live the most, but let’s see how things go in Japan and who knows.

++ When and why did the band call it a day?

We haven’t and I guess we never will. As I mentioned in the last question, Pete and I together with Dave Molyneux the bass player are working on a new album which we will release in late summer this year. Dave Formula of Magazine is producing and playing keyboards and we have brought in a couple of new guys on vocal and lead guitar. We are very pleased with how the songs sound. More on that in due course.

++ Thanks so much for doing this interview, anything else you’d like to add?

Our pleasure. We would just like to add a big thank you to Naoki and all the people in Japan who continue to show an appreciation of our songs. That is truly fantastic and has been the springboard for several things.

Paul and Peter.


Explained Emma – All Chewed Up and Spat Out


Put your seatbelts on. Be prepared! The new volume of the fantastic series will be out in around a month! Again, after almost ten years of the first volume, we’ll have a new chance to listen and discover some fantastic pop slices from the heyday of indiepop. It’s all thanks to the lovely and friendly people from Firestation Records in Berlin. They, together with Clarendon Records and Billbery Records, have compiled a twenty one track CD that no one should miss.

Some familiar faces of this blog, as our pop trobadour Kevin McGrother, the Wee Cherubs and their magic, Mighty Mighty and that elegant jangly (who are announced to play at Indietracks festival!) and Home and Abroad’s introspective and classic indiepop. Opening the CD is Ala Pana Fuzo who I have interviewed and will be on the blog soon. A great band who I can’t wait to learn more. The Ferrymen is another band that will soon show up on this blog, especially as they have also just released a retrospective album titled “Tunes for Saturday Boys” on the Firestation label too. I recommend this one too, of course. And there are some new names for me as Huge Big Massive, Screaming Silence and Feline Jive to name a few.  But better look yourself what treats will show up on volume number seven.

01. Ala Pana Fuzo – Friend
02. Huge Big Massive – Here To Stay
03. Whirlpool Guest House – The Plumber’s Daughter
04. Screaming Silence – Same Old Story
05. Wee Cherubs – Dreaming
06. Endless Bob Brown – Be Good To Your Blood
07. Mighty Mighty – Emile
08. Home & Abroad – Back Were I Belong
09. Fire Hydrant Men – Baby I’m A U-Boat
10. The Dadas – Mercy Mercy
11. Irony Board – No Ties
12. The Gits – JK Rent
13. Reflection AOB – Only In My Dreams
14. Borgnine – Everything You Need
15. Hookling & Silverfish – Christine
16. Feline Jive – Blue Dawn
17. The Ferrymen – Summertime
18. Don’t Feed The Animals – Wealthy Man
19. Penelope’s Web – The Gap
20. Elephant Noise – New Town Tom
21. Kevin McGrother – You’ll Never Know

Looks great doesn’t it? And Uwe doesn’t stop, he is already working on Volume 8!

I’ll share with you another track by The Irony Board, an early nineties band, were Charlie Big Time’s Matthew and Broken Down Lorry’s Jon played. Hopefully an interview to them soon!


The Irony Board – Gullible’s Travel