Molesworth Records? Newleaf Records? Does any of these names sound familiar? Not to me. But today I pulled out from my collection this fantastic 7″ by The Nightjars which is catalog HUNTS 06. So there must have been 5 previous releases on this label(s). At least I can tell that this 7″ shouldn’t be too hard to find on ebay or other online stores for a good price. Now what about the other records?

So the band took the name from Nightjars, which are medium-sized nocturnal or crepuscular birds with long wings, short legs and very short bills. They are sometimes referred to as goatsuckers from the mistaken belief that they suck milk from goats (the Latin for goatsucker is Caprimulgus). Some North American species are named as nighthawks. Nightjars usually nest on the ground. Sounds interesting?

Actually, yesterday I was visiting a friend that is a bird watcher. He goes every Saturday at 5am to the Everglades to photograph different birds. Even though there are no nightjars in this swampy, grass river, you can find a diversity hard to match with birds like ospreys, hawks, mockingbirds, etc. But for me it’s hard to go and wear those huge boots and be target of all the thousands of mosquitoes that live there. But on top of all, I couldn’t wake up that early to go there. Impossible! Oh! And if you are into alligators and crocodiles, this is the only place in the world were you can find both living close to each other.

But far away from here, in Wistow, Cambridgeshire, there were five guys that were The Nigthjars back in the early 90s (and maybe in the late 80s; I couldn’t tell, this 7″ is dated 1990). Don’t know if they were into bird watching or not, but they were John Lindsell (vocals), Michael Green (guitars), Tim Slater (guitars), David Wick (bass) and David Fletcher (drums). This 7″ includes on the A side the song “Acid in Your Face” and on the B side “Hang Me out to Dry”. Did they release any other records? No clue. Google doesn’t seem to know much about them. I did find out that it was an NME single of the week.

And this is no surprise as Acid in Your Face is a burst of C86 style pop, very much in the vein of The Soup Dragons first singles. Yes, if you like teenage, fiery and distorted guitars, this is for you. And why not, if nowadays you like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, this should be up your alley. Although, expect it to be more shambolic! The B side is quite different I think. It’s a bit slower and it’s haunting… the intertwining of the two guitars is brilliant! The vocals are a bit darker while the song is still poppy and catchy, like a mix again of the Soup Dragons and early Mighty Lemon Drops. I really, really, enjoy it!

On the liner notes:
Recorded at the Flightpath, Cambridge
Produced by Tim Harding and the Nightjars

All songs written, arranged and performed by the Nightjars.
All lyrics by John Lindsell.

That’s all the information there is. And of course, maybe you know more about them and you can share. I would love to get in touch with the band if possible, would love to know if there are more songs recorded or if there were any other releases.


The Nigthjars – Acid in Your Face


Not very sure where the name Watt Government comes from. Not very sure about who were the Watt Government or if they released any other records. The only thing I know existed, the only thing that you can google, is this 7″. And maybe if you are lucky, like me, you can find a copy for a fair price. I’ve seen some Japanese stores sell it for good money, but it seems in UK it’s still not very well known so that’s your best chance to get hold of this fabulous single.

Among the people that carry the Watt last name and were related to some kind of government, I could find the Australian politician William Watt. But seems a bit strange that they would name the band because of this person. There’s also this news article from 1982: “Govt. auditors reported accusing Interior Secretary James Watt and wife of misuse of government funds; details given. Case noted involving their use of the Custis Lee mansion.” The headline for this news article was Watt / Government. Strange. Still doesn’t make much sense. Maybe the name is something much more obvious and I can’t figure it out!

Among some facts that are pretty clear to me is that the band was from UK and the record was released in 1986, our favourite year. Also, this 7″ has two songs, one on each side, my favourite being the A side, the catchy “Working My Fingers to the Bone”. The B side is good as well and it’s called “Waiting for a Phone Call”. It was released by Volume Records and this is number 18 in their catalogue. There’s not much liner notes but if it helps:

“Recorded at Lynx. Engineer Mickey Sweeney. Produced by Watt Government. (Special thanks to Martin Brammer, Dave Brewis). Re-mix at Fairview Studio by Mike Chapman, Roy Neave and Watt Government”

So what does it sound like? Japanese people would immediately label it Neo-Acoustic, and if that rings you a bell, that means that it sounds fantastic. Ok no, I’m kidding, it does sound fantastic, but that’s not a good answer. It’s what indiepop pre-indiepop sounded like. It does remind me to bands like A Craze, Tralala, Big Outdoor Type, Friday Club or The Moody Elevators. Very upbeat pop, with trumpets, horns, classy keyboards. And of course a girl singing. “Working My Fingers to the Bone” is without doubt, one of the best “discoveries” I’ve done in eBay this year. Yes, I bought it blindly, and Im happy that it was such a wonderful round plastic full of surprises, with fun arrangements like that whistles at the end or that “pop-pop-pop” sound at the start. What makes that sound? you tell me. I don’t have a clue what instrument it is. Then the chorus comes and I want to start dancing. The song continues it’s upbeat march: a very positive vibe even though the lyrics are not that positive. Gee! working your fingers to the bone? Maybe it’s a good message for these times of economic crises? Now it’s time to work work work! No vacations allowed because next day you may or may not have a job! Oh dear!

Please, if anyone knows anything or even a bit about this band, please share. I’m always eager to know more about people who made my day, who make life a little bit nicer everytime I put their music in my turntable.


Watt Government – Working My Fingers to the Bone


Thanks a thousand to William Jones for the interview! Get Friends releases at the Summerhouse website!

++ Hi William! I was doing some research, and as you’ve done quiet a couple of interviews, I don’t want to repeat the same old questions. So let’s talk first about the future. How did you end up playing at Indietracks? What can popkids expect from Friends in this big festival? Are you looking forward to any of the bands from the festival?

How we ended up playing at Indietracks was through a random sequence of events, which went like this:

  1. Someone called Sam reviewed our singles compilation Single Friends on his blog A Layer Of Chips
  2. Someone called Jennifer added a question asking how she could hear some of the songs before committing to a purchase
  3. Shortly afterwards someone in Chicago called Jennifer ordered a copy of Single Friends
  4. Using my powers of guesswork I emailed Jennifer to ask if this was a coincidence. It wasn’t and we got into an email conversation via MySpace
  5. Jennifer strongly recommended us to the Indietracks promoter
  6. Indietracks asked us to play

So most of the credit goes to Chicago Jennifer, the remaining share to Indietracks of course (who did in fact know of us already) and a little bit to ourselves!

I don’t want to spoil it for those popkids, so let’s just say we’ll be playing a 40-minute set covering songs from 1987 to our most recent album Spangleland.

I don’t know a lot about the other bands, but I like what I’ve heard of Camera Obscura. I’m ready to be impressed by the rest on the day!

++ You told me that in the near future there will be two new Friends albums. Care to tell a bit about both of them?

Not so sure about the ‘near’ future. But anyway, this is the plan. There is a very very acoustic album called The Zen House, which is nearly complete. It just awaits keyboards on three songs and final mixing. In 1995 we released a fairly acoustic album called Folk Songs (which aren’t folk songs, of course!) and fancied doing something even more minimal again. So most of the songs are just voice and acoustic or Spanish guitar, with percussion, double bass, keyboards or string quartet on three or four songs at the most. Several of them were recorded in a single take ‘live’ in the studio.

The other is the next album with the full-on band throughout, which we’ve started rehearsing. It’s all written, we just need to narrow it down to around ten songs, and then of course record them, which will probably happen next year. It doesn’t have a title yet.

In indieland time is a very flexible commodity which usually stretches out much further than I’d like it to.

++ One of your favourite things in life is running marathons! How many marathons have you run? Which was your best one? When is the next one you’ll run?

Eight marathons so far, and still getting faster! I’ve done New York four times, London three times and Edinburgh once. Each one is a great thrill. I think my favourites were my first London marathon in 2004, simply because I proved to myself that I could do it; and my most recent New York marathon in November 2008, because I finished in under four hours for the first time and beat my personal best by 16 minutes. After the first couple, the challenge for me is always to improve on my finishing time, because the initial novelty factor has gone. But it’s a great experience every time.

I like New York the best, because it’s so spectacular, the streets are so wide and the noise and excitement are the greatest. At the start, running over the bridge from Staten Island and seeing Manhattan rising up in front of you is a breathtaking moment, and the last couple of miles through Central Park are always very emotional, as I’m so close to the finish but also feel so close to tears and collapsing! When you’ve finished you feel like a hero, and it’s great walking back afterwards with complete strangers in New York saying well done or giving up their seats on the subway to a smelly, sweaty foreigner. I’m hoping to go back this autumn but it’s getting very expensive so I might have to miss a year.

++ Are there any other activities William Jones is passionate about?

I love wine, especially Chianti and Soave, although I go for long periods without drinking any. Other things? Siamese cats – at one time I had four of them, incredibly elegant and entertaining creatures. Going back to North Wales, where my family comes from. Films, my all-time favourites are Midnight Run and Walkabout. Anything with Robert De Niro will do. I do cryptic crosswords in the Guardian newspaper with our guitarist Richard. I wouldn’t say it’s a passion but it’s great fun as we both enjoy messing about with words. I love Indian music and listen to it a lot. And I’m a keen follower of the political scene, in fact last time I did the New York marathon I was there the day before Obama was elected so I caught the last few days of the campaign. I envy you as I think he’s a truly great man.

++ Friends have seen lots of lineup changes, why do you think that happened? Who is in the band nowadays?

The early line-ups were particularly unstable, but since the early to mid 90s it’s been pretty much constant. Many of the early changes were due to my propensity for sacking trumpeters, usually for serious crimes against music. Back in those days the band was made up of five or six full members, who would hang around a while to see if we’d make it big, and eventually fly the nest when it became clear that recording for Summerhouse Records wasn’t going to pay for that yacht in the south of France. So we did a bit of a business restructuring and organised the band so that it was a core of myself and Stewart (later Martin Parker from 1991). But the other musicians, Richard Buckton, Jon Kirby and Katherine Dow Blyton, have been with us since 1992-1995. Edwin Pearson, our bass player, was actually in the very first line-up in 1986, and rejoined when I bumped into him in the street nearly ten years ago in Walthamstow, London, where he was working as a session musician. Kath, our backing singer, records with us and works with us live when she’s not acting. We’ve gone for quality of musicians rather than constant availability, and it’s turned out well this way, although it does have its frustrations sometimes.

++ You are a music graduate, right? So how do you scene the music business today? Do you think there’s any way to save it? What do you think of blogs that offer full album downloads for free?

Yes, I studied music at King’s College, London University, and then did a postgraduate degree in what used to be called ethnomusicology, specialising in Indian music. The degree didn’t really deal with the music business in those days, it covered music analysis, composition, the development of Western classical music, and what they called ‘stylistic studies’ which was about learning to write in the styles of other composers – incredibly useful for understanding their music by going through the same processes. The other most useful thing I learned was writing music accurately straight from my head onto paper, so being able to score for a string quartet, for example, without having to try it out on piano or guitar as you go along – just like writing words really, but developing the ability to hear the exact sounds in your head and turn them into notation.

The music business? Well, that’s always been about delivering music to an audience, in return for a slice of the action. At different times there has been a greater or lesser need for the ‘business’ as an intermediary. These days of course bands can do a lot more for themselves, but I think there will always be some kind of infrastructure to facilitate the things that bands can’t do or can’t afford. So I don’t think it needs to save itself – it will adapt and survive by meeting the needs of listeners.

Free album downloads on blogs? Outrageous, unless it’s done with the permission of the copyright holder. I’ve seen tracks of ours appearing on different websites and if people are smart enough they can pretty much pick up the whole album for free. Which really pisses me off as the band and label are trying to pay their way by selling it.

Like with illicit file-sharing, I hold the old-fashioned view that music has a monetary value. After all, who goes to work for free, and why should musicians? There will always be people who take what they can get without paying. But I really can’t understand how anyone who cares about music would take it for free when it’s easily available at a very reasonable price, as downloads anyway. I think the record business has done a very poor job of arguing the ethical case, and just concentrated on wringing their hands and prosecuting a handful of idiots. As well as the creators of the music losing out, there’s a whole infrastructure of studios, producers, musicians, engineers, designers, who are increasingly being deprived of a living because money is no longer finding its way down the chain. Labels like ours are struggling to survive because so many people think we owe it to them to give them our music. People who are happy to pay £3 in a pub for a pint of beer or the same for a cup of foam in Starbucks, which will last them ten minutes, won’t shell out the same amount for an EP which they can play for years. But I’m powerless to do anything about this except shake my fist and argue the case – and appreciate the people who think our music is worth a price, and buy it.

++ I read that you first started in a friend’s band playing viola, harpsichord and a bit of guitar. What was the band name? What happened to it?

That’s right. The band was put together by my old friend Carl Green, later of Whirlpool Guest House and Shandy Wildtyme, and more recently of The Close-Ups. It was called Love The Bulbs, and I think Carl called it a ‘project’ rather than a band. At that time, which was around 1985, Carl had got thoroughly sick of playing live and trying to secure record deals, so he reverted to doing much more experimental things. I could play all these different instruments from my days as a music student, when I used to play in chamber music groups and orchestras, and I could play by ear quite well, and just pick up very quickly what he wanted to hear. He’d often sing the parts to me, and I’d reproduce them on whatever instrument he wanted. We did a tape of four songs. They were good songs. When it became clear that we were both songwriters with our own approach, and each wanted our own band, I set up Friends and Carl started Whirlpool Guest House. It was a very amicable ‘split’ and we both ended up releasing records on Summerhouse.

++ Most of your recordings have been done with John Spence. How did you meet him and what is that that he brings for Friends that no other producer can do?

We came across John through a friend of mine called Steve Skinner, who had a band called International Rescue, and later joined the final Orange Juice line-up and then Edwyn Collins’ band on guitar. We’d done our first single at a very expensive studio, and now needed something a bit more ‘appropriate’ to our level. Steve recommended Fairview in Hull, where he’d done a lot of recording with John Spence. We recorded our second single Far And Away there, then did our next few albums in Darlington, where our drummer had his own studio. When I moved away from the North East we were looking for somewhere new, and it seemed natural to go back to Fairview, where we’d got a really good sound with Far And Away.

John has many great qualities as a producer. Most importantly he’s got a good pair of ears, and he’s easy to get on with. The way we record, we don’t need a producer to give us a ‘sound’, or change our sound, we just want someone to run the session, get good performances from us, make a judgement about the quality of the takes, and mix the results to get the best possible sound. In other words to give a fairly ‘live’ representation of what we do. John can work in other ways too, and one of the good things about him is that he’s very flexible and always puts the music and the band’s vision first. He’s not unique in that, but when we’ve thought about the next album we’ve never yet felt the urge to change the producer.

++ Why did you call the band Friends? I really like the name but do you find that the internet era has made it difficult to search for more information about Friends? It’s quite hard to google Friends and find the band’s stuff!

Oh dear. Big mistake. If someone had told me in 1986 that there was this big internet thing just around the corner, and the name would be a major problem, I promise I would have listened.

The intention of the name wasn’t intended as a statement of ‘we’re all Friends’ in any wimpy way (and we weren’t anyway!), it was meant to suggest something solid and positive, like the Society of Friends, the original name for the Quakers. But it’s asking a lot to expect people to read that into it, I know. I’ve never explained the original inspiration for the name, but it came from a pair of banners I saw with a band supporting The Chameleons, I think it was Balaam And The Angel. One just said ‘family’ and the other ‘friends’. I just thought ‘that’s it’, it seemed very strong and bold.

The internet has been great in many ways, but for our name it’s a nightmare, as are those people on the TV who turned up with our name well after we’d started. In fact I remember seeing the programme in the TV listings early on and thinking ‘how interesting, someone else has got our name’. The thing is now, though, that within our industry, or sector, the name has been there too long to change it, and after 23 years I can’t face going through the process of choosing another one. And then maybe finding out that it’s already out there too! To anyone who has wasted hours trying to find us through search engines I say ‘sorry’. But you’ll always find us quickly via Summerhouse Records, and the Friends area of the Summerhouse website includes everything about us.

++ Why did you move from Stockton-on-Tees to London? Do you miss anything from that town? What do you like best about London?

I actually didn’t move straight to London, but lived in a small town in the midlands called Worksop for about ten years in between. I moved from there to London to become Head Of Marketing at the Barbican Centre, which is Europe’s largest arts and conference centre – quite a big job.

I miss Stockton-On-Tees enormously. I love the place and have very happy memories of nearly eight years there, which really formed me as a person. I miss the Arts Centre where I used to work, which has now been demolished to make way for something bigger and newer. And I miss many of the people I knew there. It’s an area where the people have a quality or a character I’ve never encountered anywhere else. I still have some good friends there, like Carl Green, and our old soundman and driver Geoff Walker. I went back in late 2007 for the first time in nearly 15 years and it was a very strange and emotional experience, seeing my old house again and the places I used to go. Not much had changed in many ways.

Everything moves on, and I wouldn’t go back. I love living in London and wouldn’t live anywhere else except New York. I like the vastness of it, the parks, the character of its different districts, the convenience of being able to get pretty much anything at any time, the quietness of my street, feeling at the centre of things, lying in the sun on Primrose Hill, my old school, the National Theatre, the museums and galleries, old friends, new friends. Quite a lot really.

++ With such a vast discography, what is your favourite of all of your releases? Do you have any favourite song that you have to play in every gig maybe? Or maybe there’s that one song that means everything to you?

My favourite release is usually the most recent, that’s been the trend since the early 90s anyway. And it’s not just the novelty of the newest recording, it tends to remain my favourite too, certainly until the next one. I’m still very fond of the first two albums, I do like the purity of the sound and the fact that the style of the songs was still fairly embryonic. My favourites releases are the albums Spangleland and Beautiful You. There are a few very long songs on Spangleland that I’m particularly keen on.

Yes, there are a couple of songs we play live every time, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone going to Indietracks! Generally the live set is very powerful and punchy, songs that work really well live because of a particular groove or riff. Just standing at the front of that glorious sound is a wonderful feeling, being part of the flow of music coming out.

One song that means everything? Well, many of my songs are about just a couple of people, who have very generously and unknowingly provided subject matter over the years, and who have been very important in my life. My all-time favourite Friends songs are Beautiful To Me and Day By Night.

++ You told to the good Tommy Gunnarson on an interview that you don’t listen to any new indiepop anymore? Why is that? Or perhaps nowadays you do listen to some indiepop?

I think I said I was very out of touch, and listened mostly to older things. I certainly don’t have an aversion to indiepop as such, it’s just that there’s very little that sounds strikingly different from anything else, and if you hang around as long as I have you start to hear the same things coming back 20 years later.

That interview was six years ago, and since then I’ve come across some bands I like very much, often through being approached by them on MySpace or by playing last.fm. I used to love Dolly Mixture and I’ve managed to catch up with what they’ve done since then, particularly Debsey with Birdie, who are (or were) brilliant. Also Shy Girl and Warm Morning who I’ve listened to a lot on MySpace, and I’m very keen on Lily Allen, although she’s not exactly indiepop! Showstar, the Belgian band on our label, are also excellent. So maybe I’m a bit more in touch than I was, and my ears are still open to anything new that comes along. But the things I still go back to again and again are The Chameleons, Strawbs, Steely Dan, Renaissance, Martin Newell, Bob Mould and Nick Drake, who I only heard for the first time a few years ago.

++ One thing I never understood, why a band like Friends, one of the best bands that has appeared in UK (or to be more fair, in the whole world) is not more known, so so underrated! A friend once told me that you should have been more popular than The Smiths. And I thought there was some truth in that. Why do you think you’ve been under the radar all this time? Do you like the title “cult band”?

I’ve no idea. It’s not for want of trying. I try not to let our lack of commercial success frustrate me, or to become bitter. But thanks for your comment, it’s very gratifying, and when I read that, and messages like one we got from someone from the other side of the world describing our music as ‘a soundtrack to his life’, then I know we make a connection with people. Of course I’d like more of these connections, I’d like more people to hear our music, and I’d like to make a decent living from it. But in many ways we’ve done alright. We’ve sold more albums than Nick Drake did in his lifetime! Although a lot fewer than since he died. There are some very deserving bands that didn’t make it as big as they should have done. The Chameleons, who I love more than any other, and who had a massive and passionate live following, reached a certain niche level and then never went further.

There is probably something about the music which isn’t universal enough to have more widespread appeal, is maybe too personal, but then the upside of that is that it feels so much more special to the smaller numbers who appreciate it, who really feel it’s ‘theirs’.

I generally think that if you have major commercial potential someone will find you and help you to capitalise on it. But I’m happy with the life and career I’ve had, and after all we’ve released eleven albums and six singles of my music, which sound pretty much the way I want, and we’ve reached thousands of people round the world. That’s OK!

++ What will there be for dinner today at William Jones place?

That’s a difficult one. Big decision. I get bored cooking, so I tend to make a very big meal and do a big fruit salad once a week, and eat it for as long as it’s still healthy! This weekend I think it’s going to be a very large spaghetti bolognese. I recommend sticking some mushrooms in, readers.

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

Keep popping, kids, and one day you’ll grow up to be like me.



Friends – Let’s Get Away From it All


Thanks so much to Martin Boone for the interview!

++ The band was formed from the remnants of The Thin Line, why did you decided it was no longer a good idea to continue with that band but it was better to start a new one? Who were the original lineup of Hookline & SIlverfish and how did you all meet?

The Thin Line were the next step on from the original band The Trees which had recorded a couple of demos and played a few local gigs around Twyford in Berkshire. The Trees were a four piece and the Thin Line had the same personnel with the addition of my sister on backing vocals and violin. The band used to play with a back drop of `there is a thin line behind madness and genius` and end sets with a frantic version of Talking Head’s `psycho killer`!

Song arrangements were becoming a little more sophisticated and poppy and I guess the lead guitarist we had at the time had a pretty fixed `bluesy` style which did not really fit with the direction the band was taking. He had also been a contributor of songs until this point and so we decided that it was time to break off and look for another guitarist and thereby change the name of the band. At this time we also wanted to embellish the sound of the band with the introduction of keyboards.

The original members of Hookline & Silverfish were:

Martin Boone, guitar, vocals
Kevin Martin, bass
Chris Knill, drums
John Kay, keyboards
Brian(?), guitar
Susie Boone, backing vocals, violin
Nikki Brock, backing vocals

Brian is credited with much of the guitar work on the `5 Good Deeds` single, however no one has a record of his surname and he left the band shortly after the single was recorded. He was replaced by Jim (James) Carter who became the recognised guitarist in the band and who played guitar on all subsequent recordings. Kevin Martin also left the band mid way through Hookline & Siverfish`s brief history and was replaced on bass first by Will Barker and then Fee Shaw who went on to play in all subsequent reincarnations of the band.

++ What’s the meaning of the name Hookline & Silverfish?

From what any of us can remember of the time, we didn’t want an obvious band name which would give the music away too easily. We liked the idea of hookline and the wordplay around Hook Line and Sinker. I also loved the song `outdoor miner` by Wire which talked about silverfish…….

++ 5 Good Deeds is such a fantastic song! What are people talking at the intro of the song? How did you get inspired to write it?

I guess the song is very English and deals with English themes and images. The conversations in the intro were meant to reflect normal life of teenagers/students of the time, i.e. coming home from the pub, boiling the kettle for a brew and girls slagging off another guys girlfriend….nothing too deep I’m afraid! I loved Orange Juice (still do) and the influence of Edwyn Collins can clearly be heard in the lyrics of the song.

The slamming down of the phone signals the start of verse one. We recorded the intro in the kitchen at Basement studios in Wokingham. Martin Nichols the engineer set up mics and fed it back to the control room two floors up (if my memory serves me right). It was a lot of fun and there was a lot of energy and optimism in the band at the time….

++ Was the creative process easy in a band that had 7 members?

There were many different influences in the band and I have to say at times there were forces pulling us in different directions. Whereas the song writing had been pretty much democratic up until this point, it was obvious that someone had to steer the direction we were taking. I wrote the majority of songs, however John’s classical training and his `perfect pitch` opened up a world of possibilities. Once Jim (James) Carter joined the band officially, he too had a hand in the writing and penned `I believe` which was a live favourite. Normally songs would be presented to the band at rehearsal and developed to suit the band’s live performances. These live workings often ended up in the final recorded versions.

++ What do you remember from the recording session of this single at the Basement Studios in Workingham?

I remember the session like it was yesterday! We had such a great time in the studio and were really developing our sound at this time. Martin our engineer would often come up with little production ideas and normally we would go with them (like the speeded up vocal on verse two….very Prince!). I can’t believe that the session took pace over 20 years ago. We were young, fresh and having fun. From a personal point of view, our various recordings at Basement studio really got me interested in sound and each session became more involved and experimental.

I can remember sitting back after the final mixing session and hearing it played back at volume and thinking we had really progressed. `Hope` was a song I had written many years previously and I felt we had really done it justice! It was to be re-recorded a few days later as part of the `time like these` EP by Applemountain.

We knew we wanted to release a single and these two songs seemed to be the perfect choice.

++ You pressed 500 copies of the single, but only 100 with picture sleeves? Why was that? Did you release anything else on your own Shubbery label?

We were gigging a lot around this time in the local area and were starting to get a bit of a `following`. We struck up an arrangement with a local independent record shop in Maidenhead to sell the single and others were sold at gigs. Most were housed in a box in a house I was renting at the time and when I moved out, it was left behind! Years later the owner of the house and a friend of mine returned the box of unplayed singles to me and they remained in storage; until that is I spotted a copy of the single going for ridiculous money on ebay last year. I then made contact with Uwe at Firestation Records and discovered the interest in the C86 genre of which we were a part.

No other recordings were released on the Shrubbery label, however I intend to release a few `vinyl only` singles on the label in the coming years. This will cover songs recorded by Applemountain (1989), Palava (1995) and possibly two new songs recorded by a temporarily reformed Hookline & Silverfish later this year.

++ Many copies were lost and destroyed, right? How did that happen?!

Many of the singles were missing or were damaged during storage and only 100 sleeves were printed. I really don’t know how many are out there, but certainly it is a rare item. I have sent some of the remaining records to Firestation Records and most of these have picture sleeves. A handful of the original release had a hand painted silver guitar on the label.

++ You played a lot of gigs around the Reading area. Any particular gigs you remember the most? Which other bands were fun to play with in your area?

I remember playing a charity gig at the Majestic in Reading with a host of other local bands including Sometimes Sartre and International Resque (not sure if that is how they spelt it). It was towards the end of Hookline and we were starting to evolve and were playing a few new songs which would later be reworked as S.O.B and then Applemountain. I particularly remember manic version of `Take me to the river` (a hybrid of the Al Green and Talking Heads versions). The event was hosted by Radio 210 and there was a real camaraderie amongst the bands. There was quite a local scene and the place was packed.

The Arts Centre in Windsor was also a favourite haunt of the band and we played many very enjoyable gigs there. Probably the most unusual venue was in the bar of the Fox hotel in Bourne which was famous for being filmed as the exterior of the Fawlty Towers television series! I also vividly remember the Pied Horse in Slough, which was a pub at the wrong end of the high street (I am not sure if it still exists). I remember the band playing there three or four times and entertaining an intimidating crowd of bikers and drunks. Our brand of breezy pop (including our interpretation of `beep beep love` by Gruppo Sportivo) seemed to go down really well!

We often gigged with the Larkins in the early days who were friends of ours. They are fondly remembered for their reworking of the Tom Jones classic `its not unusual`. Occasionally we ventured further afield and once supported a fledgling The Shamen at a venue in Bristol…

++ What was the biggest highlight of Hookline & Silverfish?

We also played a number of gigs at the Nags Head pub in High Wycombe and as a result were offered at least three gigs at the legendary 100 club in London. These were probably the best gigs the band performed and we even bused our support in from the Home Counties. We have a very ropey video of the band performing on one of these dates and though the sound quality is poor, certainly the vibe is exciting and fresh….We put a lot in to our live performances which I think often eclipsed the recorded work. Around this time Hookline & Silverfish was gaining interest from a number of record labels……but nothing ever came of it.

A short set recorded in the foyer of Radio 210 and broadcast live was also a highlight around this time. I think the station is now part of the `Heart` empire….shame!

++ On the upcoming Leamington Spa Vol. 7 Hookline & Silverfish appear with the unreleased Christine! I haven’t heard it yet, but care telling me a bit about this song? Is there more unreleased material from the band?

`Christine` was recorded on three separate occasions and the version appearing on Leamington Spa Vol.7 is the very first one, again recorded at Basement studios in Wokingham. It really sums up the band at that time, fast, jangly pop delivered with a great hookline! A lot of people at the time thought we should release it as a second single, but we never got round to it. It is fantastic that it will now get a new lease of life, thanks to Firestation Records.

There were more songs recorded as demos by the band during 1986 and 1987. None have seen the light of day but recently I `remastered` the original beta mixes and restored them for posterity!

++ Why did you call it a day? What did you do after music wise?

A band will always have a natural shelf life and it always amazes me that so many bands don’t realise or wish to acknowledge when the time is up. We had achieved everything we were likely to achieve given that we were very much a local band. The core of the band was hungry for a wider audience. The arrival of Prince’s `sign of the times` album signalled a new world of possibilities for myself, John and Susie in particular. We went in to a mode of frenzied writing and it was obvious that these new material were not Hookline material. The band split up barely two years after its conception.

S.O.B was then formed and played extensively in and around London and after a Radio one session and a single released on Rough Trade, we became Applemountain. Applemountain had a number of white label e.p`s released on Protocol Records which were critically well received and `yes yes yes` was featured on `Movin` on 2` released on Rumour Records. The band also supported Curtis Mayfield at the Town & Country in Camden before his untimely death.

++ What are you all doing nowadays?

Applemountain `hung up its boots` around 1993. Three songs were recorded under the name of Palava in 1995 by the core of the band (Martin, John, Fee and Susie), but that was the last time we were all in the studio together.

Most of us have other responsibilities these days but still have a great love of music and very fond memories of our musical past. Jim (James) Carter works as children’s poet/guitarist touring primary schools around the UK. John sings in a Chamber choir and heads up a voluntary organisation helping people with learning difficulties. Susie worked as assistant editor for Top of the Pops magazine and was instrumental in the naming of the Spice Girls, posh, sporty etc!!!! She is now editor of a parenting magazine. Fee went on to play `stand up bass` with Bob Geldof and is always waiting for the next reunion gig and works for an airline in her spare time! I am a partner in a travel company for my sins which takes up a great deal of my time but I still have plans to make music (there is so much unrecorded and so little time!).

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

It is great to hear the interest in the music scene in the UK in the mid to end of the eighties. It has really taken us back to a time when music meant more to us than anything. It was a time when you had to practise hard and motivate yourself as there was no easy way to get your music out there (no internet, no mp3 players). We met some great people and shared many dreams……


Hookline & Silverfish – 5 Good Deeds


Thanks so much again to Jon Clay for another interview!

++ Hi Jon! Tell me how after The Ferrymen you decide to start Barny? And was there more people in the band or was it just you?

Barny started pretty much straightaway after The Ferrymen ended. The band consisted of all The Ferrymen except for Chris (The Ferrymen keyboard player), and the only change in line-up was Nathan (The Ferrymen’s trumpet player) took over playing keyboards. Most of the songs were written quite quickly, so we had a full set ready to be played at gigs within a month or so.

++ Why did you call the band Barny?

Barny was the only semi-respectable name that we could think of that hadn’t already been used! Another favourite was Boyracer, but there have been at least two other bands called that, and at the time one of them was a band who lived in a town nearby, so we couldn’t call ourselves that! We played our first “Barny” gig as ‘Starboard’ but when someone announced us on stage we all cringed at the name, so it got scrapped in favour of Barny!

++ During the time you were in Barny you were living in small Paddock Wood, right? Why did you move from Doncaster and how did you find this new town? Did you like it? Where are you living now?

Yes, shortly after The Ferrymen ended I decided to move down to live in Kent with my girlfriend at the time. Doncaster is a very big industrial town with lots of people and lots of pubs and clubs, whereas as Paddock Wood was very small. At first I wasn’t sure that I’d like living there but I soon settled in and I got used to the quieter way of life! I did commute by train to work in London every day, so I did have the busy side of life too I suppose! The only problem was that the rest of the band still lived in and around Doncaster, so I had to travel up there every fortnight to rehearse with them. Nowadays I am living in a suburb of North London called Highgate, which is most famous for the Highgate Vampire and Karl Marx’s grave which is in the local cemetery.

++ How many songs did Barny record? And how many did you actually had?

Barny only ever recorded three songs – Take Me Away, Undisputed Beauty Queen and Liquid Satisfaction, although a live recording from a gig in London does exist. Altogether we had about 10 songs, so just enough to play a decent length live set!

++ Undisputed Beauty Queen is the only song I’ve heard by your band and I find it fantastic! Is this a real story? The sound has changed too from the “Northern Pop” of The Ferrymen to something more “mod-ish” I’d say. What were you listening at this time?

Thank you! Yes, it is quite likely that Undisputed Beauty Queen is a true story although I’ve never actually asked Wayne! The line “Around the town Saturday afternoon, the girls are hard and the boys think they’re cool” is definitely true of Doncaster… ha ha!! Yes, the sound did change quite a lot from the Northern Pop sound as Wayne has been listening to a lot of the current English indie bands of the time such as Oasis, and he wanted the band to sound a bit more like those sort of people. At the time I was listening to lots of Northern Soul and Britpop, pretty much the same stuff I listen to now.

++ Barny was showcased in two compilations “25 A Silver Jubilee” and “Breeze C”. Care to tell me a bit about the compilations and how you ended up on them?

To be perfectly honest I can’t really remember exactly how we ended up appearing on those compilations. However, The Ferrymen also appeared on them, so it’s quite likely that someone wrote to me asking about The Ferrymen and I sent them tracks back from both bands.

++ Did you play gigs as Barny? If so, which ones do you remember the best? If not, why not?!

In total we played around 10 gigs as Barny – 1 in Brighton, 2 in Leeds and the rest in London. The best gigs were probably the ones in Leeds, as Nathan (the keyboard player) was at University there at the time and he managed to bring along lots of people. All the London gigs were organised by me, and because I’d only been living and working down there for a month I didn’t really know many people, so most of the gigs were quite badly attended. The last gig that we played was the one that I have a live recording of – Water Rats in Kings Cross, London. I worked there at the time so it was quite easy for me to get a gig there!

++ Highlights for Barny?

Well, the band was so short-lived that I don’t really think we had any highlights. However, I’m glad to say that we played at a couple of semi-legendary venues which have now closed down – The Laurel Tree in Camden Town (very small but quite famous during the Britpop era of the 1990’s) and the original Mean Fiddler in Harlesden, North West London.

++ When and why did you call it a day? Did you continue making music with another band?

The band ended at some point during 1998 although I can’t remember the exact date. At the time it just seemed pointless to me to keep playing in London to almost no-one and having to bring the rest of the band down from Doncaster (4 hours by car). So, after the Water Rats gig everyone went back to Doncaster and I didn’t call them and they didn’t call me! Yes, that’s what happened!!! We’re all friends again now though, so it’s OK!!! After Barny ended I played in a few bands with friends although we only ever played 1 gig (the band was a punk band called Blacklist Brigade). Nowadays I’m in a band called The Platers with a friend of mine called Chris. Currently it’s Chris, me and a drum machine! We’ve only recorded 2 songs so far but are hoping to record some more soon. It seems that whenever Chris is free I am not and whenever I am free Chris is not!

++ I heard your favourite city is Berlin! I really liked it there as well! I bet the Firestation Records guys would be proud that you like it there! Why is Berlin your favourite city? Tell me what are your favourite spots there?

Yes, without a doubt my favourite city is Berlin – I just love it there, especially the district of Kreuzberg. The last ever Ferrymen gig took place at Trash in Berlin in 1997, and I’ve loved the place ever since. I’ve been back there on short weekend breaks 3 times since then, and I’ve also been there lots of times with other bands as a sound engineer. I really keep trying to meet up with Uwe from Firestation Records when I’m over there but we haven’t managed to meet up yet for various reasons! I’m going back there later in 2009, so I will hopefully meet up with him then! My favourite things in the city are the entire district of Kreuzberg (!), White Trash Fast Food, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Herberge, Mr Dead & Mrs Free Record Shop and the Brandenburg Gate!

++ So… fish and chips or wienerschnitzel? What are your favourite 5 dishes? What about favourite beer?

Oh, most definitely fish and chips…. and I can definitely recommend Fishbone in Fitzrovia, London and Bipsham Kitchen in Blackpool as the two best fish and chip shops in England! As for my favourite 5 dishes…. oh, this is difficult…. 1. any kind of risotto 2. vegetable vindaloo curry 3. salmon pasta 4. fish and chips 5. salad cream and black pepper sandwiches…. ha ha! Wow, that was quite difficult! I’m not really much of a beer drinker to be honest…. my favourite tipple is Whiskey or Sailor Jerry Rum!

++ On myspace you say you like zombie movies and blaxploitation movies, I have to say that I do not know much about these. So give me some tips!

Well, as for Blaxploitation movies anything which contains Pam Grier is good for me! Also stuff like “Across 110th Street” and even more well known films such as “Superfly” are great. I just love seeing the urban sprawls of (usually) 1970’s New York, LA and Detroit in those kind of movies… As for Zombie movies, well the older the better, and the more low-budget the better!

++ Was does Jon Clay dedicates his time nowadays? Any other hobbies you are passionate aside from music?

Nowadays I work as a live sound engineer for bands. I work at a venue in Central London but I’m also the sound engineer for various bands including Palm Springs (www.myspace.com/songspalmsprings), Songdog (www.myspace.com/songdog1) and The Subterraneans (www.myspace.com/subterraneanswasere), so I go wherever they go. The last time I was in Berlin was when Palm Springs played at The Privat Club in Kreuzberg…

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

I’d like to say thank you to Roque for offering the interview and for taking an interest in the band. I’d also like to say that I’d be happy to send a CD of the Barny studio recordings and live gig recording to anyone that wants a copy – just email me at fuzzyjonclay (a) gmail.com


Barny – Undisputed Beauty Queen


Thanks so much to Janie Nicoll for the interview! Check more songs at their myspace!

++ Who were The Vultures? How did you knew each other and how did the band start?

The Vultures were myself, Janie Nicoll (vocals), Allison Young (Bass), Anna Watkins (Lead guitar) and Ian Binns on Drums. Anna, Allison and I were all at Edinburgh College of Art in the same year. Allison and Anna, had persuaded Ian to be the drummer and a bit later asked me to join the band, and we started practicing in the practice rooms off Blair Street, sharing with Jesse Garon and Rote Kapelle and various other bands. We didn’t have a drum kit, amps or any equipment so we used the other bands’ equipment .

Ian Binns was in about 4 other bands (including Rote Kapelle, The Thanes, the Stayrcase) at our first gig at the Onion Cellar, he was in at least 2 of the other bands playing that night.

Later we had Andy Clements on drums, and when Anna left, David Nicol played lead guitar.

++ All of you were art students, right? What was your major? How close of a relationship was there between the art you studied and the music The Vultures were making?

Allison and I were in the Tapestry Department, which was and still is, a very forward thinking department, more about installation than weaving. Then I changed to Painting. We both had a fairly punky approach to our work. Allison used make up the posters, just collaging images together in quite a spontaneous jokey way, that worked really well, and she also designed the cover for the EP, so it was influenced by that sixties Psychedlic look, but in quite a tongue in cheek kind of a way. Very rough and ready, but we were all into the sixties garage sound of the Sonics, and the do-it-yourself quality of the music. Anna dropped out after 1st or second year I think but we ended up sharing a flat together and we used to go to a mid week club called the Snake Pit, that played grungy sixties tracks.

++ Why the name The Vultures?

Allison and Anna chose the name, I think they wanted something that sounded a bit aggressive even though we were a “girl band”, but we were always fairly embarrassed by the name. Embarrassment was quite a major feature of being in the band!!

We first did a demo on a 4 track porta-studio with the help of Angus McPake, who was in Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes, and later the Fizzbombs. The demo seemed to end up getting bandied about in London and getting a good reaction, probably because we were 3 girls of a certain age. We played the Black Horse in Camden with Jesse Garon, and we got an enthusiastic review in Sounds. The Happy Mondays had played the bar 2 weeks before! Also I had met up with My Bloody Valentine, as they stayed at my flat after they supported Sonic Youth when they played the Edinburgh Venue. I gave them a copy of our demo and they really liked it. When they next played in Scotland we supported them in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

++ You recorded a 12″ for Narodnik Records. How did the deal happen? Were you good friends with them? Or they were loyal followers of yours? The label seems a bit obscure even though they released indiepop luminaries as Jesse Garon and The Desperadoes, care telling us a bit more about the label?

Narodnik records was run by Eddie Connelly who had been in Meat Whiplash, a band from East Kilbride, who had an early Creation single, and who were pals of the Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Shop Assistants. Eddie was going out with Alex, and Paul from MW was going out with Sarah from the Shop Assistants and they went on to form the Motorcycle Boy, after Alex left the Shop Assistants. Eddie had set up Narodnik records on one of those government schemes for setting up a business (Enterprise Allowance). He had already put out singles by Jesse Garon and the Fizzbombs and I think they thought we were a bit raw-er and less twee, nobody was keen to be labeled as twee back then it wasn’t very cool.
We were all quite friendly as it was quite a close nit music community.
Eddie and Alex ended up sharing a flat with my then boyfriend David Scott, who went on to play lead guitar in Motorcycle Boy. It was all very incestuous!

++ What do you remember from the recording sessions of the Good Thing EP? Any anecdotes you can share?

We first recorded the four track EP at Jamie Watson’s old Chambers studio, below Avalanche records, just down the road from Edinburgh College of Art, with Douglas Hart from the Jesus and Mary Chain producing it. He had produced one of Jesse Garon’s singles and wanted to do ours, which all seemed quite glamorous as the JAMC were pretty huge at that time. Unfortunately it wasn’t up to scratch and that got shelved. We then re-recorded it at Jamie’s new studio in Portobello and it worked out a lot better. That went pretty well except for the maracas on “You’re Not Scared” which Jamie ended up having to do himself because none of us could get it right. He made me promise not to tell the rest of the band so that’s that cover blown…

We also made a video, with a photographer friend of mine. It was really arty with us dancing on our backs in Princes Street, photographed from above on top of massive photos and doing a pre Stone Roses paint splattering session in a studio but unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate a copy of that for our Myspace site.

++ How many copies of the 12″ were released? Maybe I haven’t looked well, but I can’t find a copy for myself!

I think we had a thousand made but we never knew if they were particularly well distributed. We imagined they were just sitting in boxes in a warehouse somewhere. You can get them on Ebay and there are specialist shops in Britain and the US that stock it, so it is still available. The single got good reviews apart form some “feminist” female writer at the NME (which for me was the only record paper that mattered) who took objection to the Jack the Ripper track, so we were a bit down hearted about that.

++ Also you have many unreleased songs, right? How many demo tapes were recorded? Why wasn’t there more releases from the band? Will there be some kind of retrospective release one day

We only recorded one demo of six songs but we recorded the 4 track EP and we did the Janice Long session, we had a couple of new songs and various other tracks that I only have as live versions. I have a taped copy of the gig we did at Barrowlands with MBV’s on one side and us on the other. But there is a lot of feedback from the guitar so it’s a really bad recording. I think Eddie gave up on putting out records after our EP and they went full steam ahead with Motorcycle Boy, front page of the NME and a tour with the Jesus and Mary Chain.

++ You gigged quite a bit, supporting great and important bands like The Pastels or My Bloody Valentine! Which were your favourite Vultures gigs and why?

Most gigs are a blur as we were always so nervous that we just raced through each tune as fast as we could. Our sets only lasted about twenty minutes! The most memorable ones were supporting my Bloody Valentine at Rooftops and Barrowlands Revue Bar, as the MBV’s were starting to get well known and also Motorcycle Boy at Potterrow and the Venue. I think the Venue was a great place for gigs I went there a lot to clubs like Splash 1, etc. The Pastels were always quite shy. I still see Steven around in Glasgow at gigs. Also playing the Black Horse in Camden was a highlight as it was only about our 5th gig and we got a really good response which we didn’t expect, and we got an enthusiastic review in Sounds.

++ Do you still live in Edinburgh? How do you remember the city back then? What was the coolest place to hang out and what was your favourite restaurant in town?!

I live in Glasgow now but Allison still lives in Edinburgh. The best pubs were the City Café, the Kangaroo Club, Thunderball, Sneeky Petes, the Hooch, the Venue for bands, Wilkie House did good clubs. My favourite restaurant at that time was Viva Mexico on Victoria Street, for Mexican food, I think its still there.

++ The sound of The Vultures is now quite trendy, don’t know if you’ve noticed. There’s a very popular band that kind of sounds like you called Vivian Girls. Of course I like you better, but are you aware of this scene happening in New York? Do you think you were ahead of your time?

Its funny to think our sound has come back into fashion again… things obviously go in cycles. I look back and think that the Shop Assistants were a great sound – perfect pop. There were lots of other great bands operating that eventually gave up. It’s a shame that the indie labels at that time were run on a shoestring and weren’t able to promote the bands. There wasn’t much of a support structure especially in Edinburgh I think that’s why very few Edinburgh bands had the success they deserved. Also there seemed to be a reluctance to get involved with the mainstream as that was seen as selling out.

I have heard of the Vivian Girls, and they played in Glasgow a couple of times recently, but I haven’t managed to see them. I think their sound is more like the drums and guitars of the Shop Assistants and the Fizzbombs, or like the vocal style of current Glasgow band Camera Obscura. I think the sound of the Vultures was more garage and less shoe gazing, more of a nod to the Sonics, and we were also compared to The Pleasure Seekers and to punk band The Cravats. Bands like the Thanes, who were producing authentic sixties sounding music were quite an influence on Allison and Anna. We had more of a Psychadelic sound, and we seemed to be a bit more rough and ready than other bands around at the time. We did a version of “Lets take a Trip” by Kim Fowley but through listening to a version by some obscure 60’s female garage band. The other cover we did was “You Drive Me Ape” by the Dickies, who were also pretty punky.

++ You also recorded a BBC session for the Janice Long show? How was that experience? Which songs were recorded?

We recorded a session for the Janice Long show at BBC Maidavale studios in London. We were booked in to do it on a Sunday, so I borrowed an art school minibus under false pretences pretending we were going on a research trip and then we drove down to London. We got to the studio on the Sunday morning, to find that the drum kit we had borrowed was unusable as it had a burst drum skin. We had to phone round all the music equipment shops in London to find one open and wait for a courier to bring us a new skin before we could start recording anything. We wondered if that was possibly a sabotage attempt by whoever leant us the drum-kit! In the end we were only happy with 3 out of the 4 songs we recorded. They were “You Drive Me Ape”, “Something New”, and “Kill That Girl”.

++ Why and when did you call it a day? Were you involved with any bands after?

We were offered 9 gigs in London but we were going through a rough patch confidence wise, with what seemed like not much success with the single. Also Allison and I felt under pressure at Art College and I also had my degree show coming up, it was time to make that decision about concentrating on getting a degree or heading down to London in a transit van and sleeping on people’s floors. We decided to cancel the gigs, which seems a bit crazy now when you look back, and that was pretty much the end of the band. I think we were lacking in confidence and it was quite tough to be in a band back then, the music business was really male dominated. We had the odd fan letter but overall we felt like we had very little feedback about what we were doing. Now there is direct contact through MySpace, I’m sure it must be much more rewarding now.

++ Are you all still in touch? What do The Vultures do nowadays?

I have a career as a visual artist, I exhibit and curate exhibitions and I have 2 children, so I am pretty busy. I got more into House music and the club scene in the 90’s but more recently I’ve been going to see a lot of bands again and I’ve also started doing a bit of DJing. www.myspace.com/janienicoll

I still see Allison every so often at exhibitions in Edinburgh, she paints landscapes now. Anna moved down south and I’ve not seen or heard from her since and I haven’t seen David either. I met Ian Binns at Glastonbury one time. Andy, the second drummer is down in London after living in Glasgow for a few years. I still see Fran from Jesse Garon, and Andrew Tully is married to someone I know. Angus McPake was working for BBC Scotland as a sound engineer, and I don’t know what happened to Alex and Eddie. I met up with Kevin Shields and Douglas Hart a few times backstage after Primal Scream gigs, and also all of the MBV’s when they played 2 gigs in Glasgow last year! It was great to see them, and none of them have changed!

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

We had a good time while it lasted !


The Vultures – You’re Not Scared


Thanks so much to Chris Yeamans for the interview! Watch the video for “Take it All” here!

++ How does Friends of Harry start? Who were the members and how did you all knew each other?

Friends of Harry came about when parts of two Newcastle bands joined together. Those bands were ‘Pop, Dick and Harry’ and ‘The Bats’. FoH were Chris Yeamans, Sav Scatola, Zoe Lambert, Phyll Scammell and Rob Brown. Newcastle is quite a small city and we new each other through the local music scene. Pop Dick and Harry (PDH) and The Bats did a few gigs together. When both bands split up around the same time, it was an easy choice to make to join the two bands together.

++ Why the name “Friends of Harry”?

We kept the ‘Harry’ from Pop Dick and Harry . Funnily enough, I’d been reading an article about some shadowy organisation called ‘friends of harry’ who were these group of politicians/businessmen planning for in the event of nuclear catastrophe (which seemed quite likely at the time) by hiding machinery /food etc at the bottom of some deep mines around the world. I just stole the name !

++ You gigged quite a lot around Europe and you say Switzerland became a second home for you! Which other countries did you play in and how come you were so well known in Switzerland?

Newcastle had a swiss connection from the mid 1980’s when a Newcastle band called ‘The Ground’ were touring in Europe. They made friends with some people from Aarau, near Zurich. These people had some friends who were film makers who wanted to make a film involving English bands. By the time they got round to making the film, ‘The Ground ‘had split up. 3 Newcastle bands were chosen to be in the film, PDH luckily happened to be one of them. The filmmakers came over to England to film the bands in Newcastle, then a tour was organized for us in Switzerland, and we were filmed on tour. It was very exciting at the time. PDH split up before the film was released, so FoH went back to Switzerland to do another tour to promote the film. The film was shown in bars and venues , then FoH would perform after the film. The film was also shown at the cinema and later on TV. As you can imagine it was great publicity for us and we became quite well known because of it. This lead to further tours around Europe and a few TV appearances. We played in Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Poland , Czechoslovakia (as it was at the time).

++ What was your favourite way to travel around Europe? car? train? plane? and why?

Van, without a doubt . We had a transit van with room for a bed in it. We spent so many hours in that van it became like a second home to us.We had a tape deck in it so we would all make compilation tapes of our favourite songs to listen to while we toured. We were nearly going to call our album ‘Stand by Your Van’ in homage to our wonderful Ford Transit. Occasionally if it was for a one off gig, we flew to Switzerland, but generally it was in our white van, packed to the gills with guitars drums and amps.

++ Which are the gigs you remember the most and why? Tell us some good anecdotes!

There were a few standout memories

1. Playing at Reading Festival on my birthday was pretty amazing. We played quite early in the day, so it meant we could spend the rest of the weekend relaxing, getting drunk and watching lots of great bands.It was one of those lovely hot weekends.perfect
2. Playing ‘live’ on radio 1 in Newcastle. Radio 1 used to have huge listening figures. every summer they would go out on tour on the ‘Radio One Roadshow’ We got picked to do the Newcastle show in a huge park in the city. There was a massive live crowd watching us and an estimated 5 million listeners on the radio . Got interviewed by some famous DJ and did a couple of songs live.
3. Doing a live gig in Czechoslovakia. It was an outdoor folk festival (it appears on the ‘take it all’ youtube clip).The Czechs had just had a revolution and got rid of their communist government. Apparently up to that point, folk music was one style of music that was ‘rebel’ music. During our first song, a lot of the older audience left because we weren’t playing pure folk music..but all these young people got up and started dancing. They came on stage and danced around us as we played. The look of joy on their faces was amazing. It was as if they had finally been let off a leash and were reveling in their freedom. It was a really profound moment in many ways.
4. This one was with Pop, Dick and Harry. We had gone to Amsterdam for a few weeks to do some busking and have a holiday. On the first afternoon, after we had finished a song, a man came up to us and asked us if we fancied doing a gig because their support band had cancelled. He gave us an address and asked us to turn up at six. When we got there it was a huge hall in the centre of Amsterdam. We came out on stage to an audience of a few thousand people. We didn’t realize we were supporting Crowded House.

++ You started in 1988 as a folk/roots revival band but then you evolved to an indie pop sound. How did this progression happen? What bands influenced you in getting this new sound?

The folk roots thing came from PDH. PDH started off by doing covers of American country boogie songs..usually about trains…night train to Memphis, mystery train, that sort of thing. When I joined PDH, I started writing songs in that style. It was a great live style to have and at that time it was completely original. Audiences responded really well to it. When FoH started , we carried on with that style because it was still quite new and exciting. Then all of a sudden, that whole ‘Madchester’ beat thing happened and very quickly our sound sounded very dated. We all got into that Happy Mondays, Stone roses, Inspiral carpets music. Listening to that stuff all the time obviously influenced what I was writing. Also it was the heyday of the Pixies, so they were a big influence too. As a band it gave us a whole new lease of life cos it gave us all much more scope musically to try different things. Unfortunately, the first album was released just as we were going from one style to another, so it was a bit of a musical mess. Also we had performed hundreds of live gigs , so we were great live but had very little experience of trying to capture our strengths on record. The album was a big disappointment in that sense.

++ What’s the full discography of the band?

The band always had a do-it –yourself ethos so a lot of our songs were recorded onto tapes and sold at gigs.Our one proper album release was

‘Six Days of Madness’ on Roundabout records plus

‘Take it All’ which was released as a single from the album

++ Do you have many unreleased songs? if so, will one day we”l see them finally released?

Yep quite a few of unreleased songs. We had a whole new album ready to record. Because we financed everything ourselves, we had to decide, if we were to record a second album, that we would have to commit another 2 to 3 years of FoH to pay the record off by selling it at gigs. A few people in the band didn’t want to do that, so we decide to quit while we were ahead. There are still 2 or 3 songs that the girls sang that I think would make great pop songs for other bands to perform

++ Your song Messing About the River appeared on the tape compilation “Sailing Home”. Care to tell us a bit about this compilation?

We got to know Ray Laidlaw from a famous Newcastle band called ‘Lindisfarne’ who had the job of putting an album together for a special event in Newcastle. There was a ‘Tall Ships Race’ being started from Newcastle to some other European country that year, so a nautical themed album was brought out. We were asked to perform ‘Messing about on the river’ for the album Its an old song from the 60’s .We just went into the studio one morning, learned the song and recorded it in about 3 hours. It’s a bit of a daft song, but I actually quite like the version that we did.

++ What happened to the covers of the Take it All 7″ that they had to be hand painted? What do you remember from those days recording this single?

When we recorded the song , one of the band came up with a brilliant sort of mosaic colour picture for the front cover . Just before pressing, we found out we couldn’t afford full colour , so we had to pick just 2 colours instead. We didn’t have chance to check it out before printing. On the way to Switzerland, we stopped off in Leicester to pick up the single from this record factory. When we got the cover , we all burst out laughing. The picture of the front was totally unrecognizable because it was a 2 colour mosaic that didn’t work at all. So we stopped at the nearest art shop, bought some gold, silver and black pens and coloured the sleeves in by hand…all the way to Switzerland.I was driving so I didn’t have to colour any. All the rest of the band had sore wrists by the time they arrived in Switzerland. Each cover is unique.

++ What was the biggest highlight of Friends of Harry?

There’s so many to choose from but probably our first trip to Spain was the most memorable highlight. FoH hadn’t been together that long, but before we knew it, we were being flown out to spain, staying in nice hotels with a van and driver provided. We appeared on a TV show. As we left the building, the car was mobbed by hundreds of people trying to get autographs. It was the first(and last) time that had happened to us. We were only there for six days, but it was ‘six days of madness’ . That’s where we got the name for the first album

++ Do you still live in Newcastle? Has it changed much compared to those early 90s? Do you still follow the music scene there?

Yep I still live up here, I had kids and they grew up here. The music scene is pretty good at the moment. There are a few bands like the Futureheads who are doing really well. My girlfriend is close mates with these lot so I’ve got to know them . Also bands like ‘The Week That Was’ who are also highly acclaimed and maximo Park, who are now a huge act.

++ When and why did you call it a day? Did you keep making music after?

As mentioned previously, it was a tough choice, stop or carry on for another few years. We did it for 5 years. That’s quite a long time to spend with the same group of people. Being in a touring band is a quite intense situation…..i think we were a bit burned out. In hindsight had we taken a few months off we might have come back refreshed and carried on, but 5 years constant touring takes it toll. It drives you slightly insane.

I started in a new band in Newcastle about a year after that. There’s a homemade video on youtube ; ‘Honey Locust – Buzzer’ . I really loved this band, musically a lot more intense and more my style of music. We were described as somewhere between ‘the pixies’ and ‘the doors’ and had a good local following. It was at the time though, when guitar bands were out and hip hop was in. After that I packed in for a while but then got back into composing stuff using my PC as a home studio. there’s one of my songs on youtube ‘ Anyway by Earworm

++ Are you still in touch with Friends of Harry bandmates? What are you all doing today?

Funnily enough we’ve been in touch recently because someone had heard ‘take it all’ and wants to try and get it ‘placed’ for an advert, film, TV programme or something like that. Apparently the song still gets played on Greater London Radio. Some guy who owns a promotion company heard it and decided he might be able to do something with it. I’m not holding out great hope, but you never know, you may switch on your TV one day and ‘Take it All’ might be on.

As for the band, Sav the guitarists became a 3D designer(computer graphics), Phyll bassist, lives in France and still performs all over the world, Zoe vocalist/accordion player is an actor. she appeared on ‘Emmerdale Farm’(a UK soap) regularly a while back. Rob drummer works doing sound/stage stuff for a theatre company , and me, well I’m just qualifying as a media teacher. I teach kids how to make music videos.It’s great fun.

Looking back it was a great 5 years with Friends of harry, we got to see a lot of places and meet loads of great people, whilst doing something that we all really enjoyed. I’m glad we got out when we did.


Friends of Harry – Take it All


Thanks so much to Pete Major for the interview!

++ So tell me how did the band come together? How did you all meet? Why did you decide to start a band?

Well, thanks so much for asking for an interview … it’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these … this will test my memory!

The Holsteins were formed when Belfast band Firehouse burned out in 1991. The band re-formed as the Holsteins having recruited singer Niamh Rooney via the traditional “advert in the music shop” method. She was the first to call my number (well, her friend was actually … she was too shy!) and so we got together with the band and once we heard her fantastic voice we knew we need look no further.

Strangely enough, we hadn’t really imagined having a female singer (Firehouse were an all-male 5-piece) but most calls responding to the advert were from girls.

Anyway, getting Niamh was the best thing that could have happened to us, and also made us somewhat unique in what was an almost totally male-dominated local music scene in the early 90s.

I’ll cover how the rest of us met in the next question …!

++ Were any of band members involved with bands before The Holsteins? If so, care to tell me a bit of these bands?

James Elliott (who became Firehouse’s lead singer) and myself decided one day during a boring Chemistry class in school that we should form a band and call it “Big Pink Things”. This amused us greatly. What was initially just a joke actually came to fruition when we played, now under the name “Sod This … I’m Off!”, at our school “Battle of the Bands” competition. We had about 12 people on stage and played the Undertones’ “Jimmy Jimmy” plus, for some bizarre reason, which even to this day I cannot understand, “House of the Rising Sun”. We were of course terrible and didn’t win, but I think at that point the spark had been lit for myself, James and Stew McDowall (who became Firehouse & Holsteins bass player) … we wanted more!

Having recruited my friend and neighbour Davy Burton to drum, we started writing songs and practicing. The songs were good, and James had an obvious talent for great lyrics, but in truth our musical ability was very limited and Davy really wasn’t keen on the drums, so we called it a day after a few months.

However due to a chance meeting with a “proper” drummer while gardening (really), we eventually reformed (in 1989) as Firehouse with James on vocals, myself on rhythm guitar, Davy “promoted” to lead guitar, Stew on bass and Mr Brian McNamara on drums.

Everything clicked from the first practice, and Firehouse quickly became regulars on the local scene, receiving radio airplay with our 2 demos and even managed to support Echo and the Bunnymen when they came to Belfast in November 1990.

However following the recording of our 3rd demo, James left the band and went on to form the fantastic “Emily Ryder” … I remain great friends with James to this day.

We then advertised for a new singer and the Holsteins were born when Niamh joined.

++ Why did you choose the name? Was it really because of the cows? I guess you weren’t vegetarians?

I was sitting upstairs in my attic contemplating the band name when I glanced at a postcard stuck to the wall which James had sent me while on one of his many round the world adventures. It featured a Gary Larson cartoon entitled “the Holsteins visit the Grand Canyon” … the shortlist of names that I took to the band were the Holsteins, Fine, Gloria and QFL (Queue For Love) … wisely we picked the Holsteins, and I’ve always thought it was fitting that James had (albeit unwittingly) inspired the name of our new band.

++ Tell me about those two early demo tapes you released? Were these songs released later? Maybe one day we’ll all have a chance to listen to these songs?

“Plastic Poems” (1992) and “Black Recordings” (1993) were both expertly recorded by Belfast music legend Johnny Grant (he told me to say that) … terrific fun and they became remarkably successful locally, with many plays on radio and vying for the top spot of the local top ten chart with the likes of Ash, Therapy? and the Divine Comedy.

The actual demo tapes are no longer available, but the 7 songs were featured on our debut album “Angel Train” along with 3 new ones.

++ What would you say were the main influences of The Holsteins?

This is very hard to answer as the 5 individuals in the band had an incredibly diverse range of musical tastes. Niamh loved Maria McKee / Lone Justice, whereas Brian’s favourite band was Rush!

I always have and always will love the Undertones, but at the time we were playing was probably influenced more by the likes of the Pixies, Julian Cope, Jonathan Richman and the Fall. However when anything was written about us we’d usually be compared to either the Cranberries (which wasn’t that flattering) or Belly (which was fantastic!)

++ I read that listening to a Northern Irish compilation tape, Bullet! Records got in touch with you. Care to tell me a bit about this tape? Was there any other good band in there? Also, who were Bullet! Records and how was the relationship with them?

You are absolutely right that I said that in our biography, but that wasn’t strictly how it happened. Guy Trelford wrote the Official Underground Scrapbook, a local music fanzine, and had sent a copy of our first demo to Stefan Ehret of Bullet! Records in Germany who had been corresponding with Guy for a while. He loved the songs, got back in touch with Guy and then wrote to us asking if we’d like to be on the label … it was that simple. We hadn’t been actively looking for anything like this, so it came as an absolute shock … and of course we jumped at the chance.

Shortly after this, a track of ours (Death By Chocolate) was included on a compilation tape given away with the fanzine called “New Teen Idols”. Other bands on it included Resurrection Joe, Not Freudian, Collectors A.K.A., In-decision, Peppermoth, Fuss, Aquabucket, Jobbykrust and Dirty Noise as well as bands from England, Germany and Slovakia.

So Guy was the man who give us our big break, albeit unintentionally.

Recently he wrote and published a fantastic book on the history of punk in Northern Ireland entitled “It Makes You Want To Spit!”. Worth getting a hold of that one, it’s a great read.

Anyway, back to us! … the day I saw our vinyl-only debut release “Angel Train” was probably one of the greatest moments of my life … it absolutely bowled me over.

Stefan flew over to Belfast for the album launch (personally delivering boxes of albums crammed into his suitcases!) and it was an unbelievable night.

By the time our second release on Bullet! came out, vinyl records had all but disappeared, so “Pop-Gun Riot” was our first CD release. Again, it sold fantastically well locally, as well as in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

We can never thank Stefan enough for all he did for our wee band.

++ How do you remember the scene of Belfast in the early nineties, who were your favourite bands? How do you see that scene compared to the early 2000s when you call it a day?

In the early 90s we played with a variety of great bands including Alumni Feedback, Tart, Flying Saucer Cult, Buzzkill, the Norwegians, Watercress etc. who all had lots of local success without ever getting too much further than that. Still, it was an exciting time to be in a band, and the Thursday night gigs at the Limelight and later the Saturday nights at the Duke of York were wonderful places to be, run by two giants of the local scene, Shep and Johnny Hero (Belfast’s John Peel). They were always big supporters of the Holsteins and that really helped us too.

When we called it a day in 2005, there were still many terrific bands around. However the biggest difference was that in the early 90s (as I’ve mentioned before) it was almost 100% all-male guitar bands … Niamh was a bit of a novelty to be honest. However at the time we quit there were many females playing in bands, which is fantastic and how it should be.

++ You gigged quite a lot, which are the gigs you remember the most and why?

Firehouse- first gig in the Limelight (the most happening venue in the city at that time). We were held up by police checkpoints all around Belfast, and just made it to the venue on time, stumbling on stage with James dedicating the first song “I was a bouncing bomb” to the RUC traffic branch.

Holsteins – album launch at same venue. The place packed to capacity (including many people we didn’t know!) and albums selling by the box load. I remember signing copies of the LP and thinking “how the hell did this happen?”

Holsteins – Robinson’s Bar. Niamh becomes increasingly “chatty” as the gig progresses, thanks to the effects of second-hand smoke emanating from a discarded “herbal” cigarette in an ash-try beside her.

Holsteins – Queen’s Student’s Union. With Davy sent by his work to live in some caravan in Russia (don’t ask) and Chris unavailable, our numbers were severely depleted, but we had a couple of mates step in to help us perform the gig as “the half-steins”.

++ What was the biggest highlight of The Holsteins lifespan?

Strangely, even though the band called it a day in 2005, the biggest highlight for me happened only a few weeks ago. Thanks to a Google search, I discovered the rumour that we’d been played by John Peel was in fact true. Some guy has created a website with an extensive range of Peel playlists, including Saturday 12th November 1994 when Sir John played “Drugstorm” from “Angel Train”. For me, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

++ Your discography is quite large, many released and also compilation appearances, care to tell us your full discography for the collectors out there?

Okay … you did ask! Here it is …

  • PLASTIC POEMS E.P. – 4-track cassette (1992)
  • BLACK RECORDINGS – 3-track cassette (1993)
  • N. IRELAND ROCKS! – 1 track, “Remembered it Glows”, M8 magazine compilation cassette (1993)
  • ANGEL TRAIN – 10-track vinyl only album, Bullet! Records (1994)
  • NEW TEEN IDOLS – 1 track “Death by Chocolate” on O.U.S. magazine compilation cassette (1995)
  • LITTLE WHITE KNICKERS – 1 track “Remembered it Glows” 25 Records compilation CD (1996)
  • POP-GUN RIOT – 5-track CD, Bullet! Records (1996)
  • …..OFF! -1 track, “Faith in Time”, 25 Records compilation CD (1996)
  • LIVE AT THE EMPIRE – “I Could Never Love You” live on compilation CD (1996)
  • SUB ROSA – 8-track CD, Shiny Records (1997)
  • OBVIOUS – 1 track, “You Leave…I Bleed”, 25 Records compilation CD (1997)
  • 7” SPLIT SINGLE (with “die Blumen des Bosen”) – 2 tracks “I Could Never Love You” and “Count the Stars” on Kaktus Records, Germany (1998)
  • A SILVER JUBILEE – 2 tracks “A Year and a Day” and “Count the Stars” on compilation CD by Meller Welle Produkte, Germany (1998)
  • OOER MISSUS – 1 track, “Medicine”, 25 Records compilation CD (1998)
  • OLIVE’S ARMY – 1 track, “Done and Dusted”, 25 Records compilation CD (1999)
  • COVERS AND OTHERS – 2 tracks, “They Don’t Know” and “Done and Dusted” on Immortal Records compilation CD (1999)
  • BELFEST ’99 – 1 track, “Done and Dusted” on compilation CD (1999)
  • DODGE THE GROUND – 6-track CD, Shiny Records (2003)

++ Why do you think you had more success in Germany than in UK? I ask because most of your discography was released in the Teuton country! Did you ever got the chance to play in Germany?

All credit to Stefan on that one. He promoted both releases really well in Germany, leading to a lot of requests for interviews and compilation appearances.

Stefan was keen to set up a tour of small venues around the country playing alongside some local bands, but we never got it organized for various reasons.

++ What is that that you miss the most of those days? If you were born again, would you be in The Holsteins again? Would you change anything?

Perhaps in hindsight we should have been a bit more confident in ourselves and tried to take that next step, beginning with the gigs in Germany mentioned above. We still couldn’t really believe that people believed in us (if you know what I mean) and were hesitant about committing to something on that scale. We were just young guys having fun playing pop songs in local clubs, after all.

But of course, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It was the biggest thrill of my life playing in that band.

++ When and why did you call it a day? What are The Holsteins doing nowadays?

A little while after “Pop-Gun Riot” Stew left the band and was replaced by Chris. The band then recorded “Sub Rosa” which was released by ourselves, although Stefan kindly sold many copies for us using his contacts. Again we had many positive reviews, great gigs and was probably the most fun we’d had in the brief history of the band, but I also think that by that stage we’d decided that this was very much a hobby and nothing else … there was no big push to become famous pop stars!

Our final release in 2003 was “Dodge the Ground”, probably our best recorded/produced set of songs, but my songwriting had all but dried up at this stage (thankfully Davy and Niamh helped out on this CD), and there was an underlying feeling that the old songs were much more fun to play than most of the new ones. We trundled on until 2005, playing very infrequently and to be honest most of the latter gigs were just social get–togethers for the band members with a quick 20 minute run through some old tunes just for a bit of fun.

Then, in 2005, Brian got married and moved to England and that seemed a good reason to finally call it a day.

However I’m positive that the 5 of us will perform again one day … maybe when we’re 50, or when Cloudberry Records invite us on an all expenses trip to sunny Miami!

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

My profound message to the popkids out there is exactly the same as it was 15 years ago ….”please buy our records!” (there’s plenty still available!)

And of course as they will know, being in a band and creating songs that at least some people will enjoy is just the biggest high you could ever experience, and great fun too … so DO IT!


Holsteins – A Year and A Day


Many years ago I stumbled, I believe in soulseek (Twisterella room maybe?), with some songs belonging to a band I had never heard about before: Boys Like Charlotte. I’ve been googling for years now and always the only entry I could find was a best of list in Twee.net where someone had voted for the band. I didn’t know where they were from, when were they around or who were they. I assumed there were no releases. The songs I had were tagged as demos. The song names were:

+ Cry Myself
+ I Say it’s True
+ Hiding in the Sun
+ Now That You Are Gone
+ What You Say
+ Through the Rain

These songs sounded very British, like those late 80s pop band demos. You know, these tapes that many bands recorded back then and now are totally forgotten or lost. Well, happens these sounds came from Sweden and Tommy Gunnarson, Heavenly Pop Hits factotum and future writer of the definitive book about indiepop in Sweden, solved the mystery for me.

Not so long ago I was talking with Tommy about the future Sound of Starke Adolf compilation. We were talking about Aerospace and their great songs, and that there was an unreleased song that for some reason didn’t end up in their EP. I told him how talented was Toby, that I loved his previous band Stevepops as well. We kept talking about Swedish bands and somehow the name Boys Like Charlotte popped into my mind, I asked Tommy if he had a clue who played in that band. “That’s Toby from Aeorospace as well” was his answer. Wow!

I’ve got in touch with Toby and asked him in a couple of emails about this fantastic and obscure band. Toby was very kind to fill in the blanks and share with me the story about the band. Here are some bits and bobs of what he told me:

As I recall the best songs are actually missing from your list; the fuzzy “Down, Down, Down” and three tracks of jangle that really want to be Happydeadmen songs.

Well, the reason there is no information about Boys Like Charlotte is because I didn’t have a clue about what I was doing at the time.

Boys Like Charlotte existed in two eras actually – the first one being from about 1988 to 1990, basically between two versions of Stevepops (with or without a drum machine actually, as well as in Swedish and in English) and then there was another era as stevepops folded about 4 years later.

The first Boys Like Charlotte stuff was done just as the Swedish indie (jangle/wimp/shambling/anorak/take-your-pick) scene was taking its first few steps. There was very few bands around; happydeadmen were the only ones that had released anything, and The Wannadies and This Perfect Day were still unknown to anyone living south of Skellefteå, all other bands were leftovers from the drab goth stadium era of Echo & The Bunnymen and (early) U2. The fanzine Sound Affects had done their first few issues and Marcus Törncrantz had advertised the sale of Grimsby Fishmarket. Red Sleeping Beauty and Acid House Kings were still in the bedrooms. There was one record store in Stockholm that stocked Sarah/Subway records 7” and I think they used to order 5-6 copies of each release; most often that would mean one copy each for Marcus Törncrantz (Grimsby Fishmarket), Niklas Angergård (Acid House Kings), Mikael Mattson (Red Sleeping Beauty) and I although I doubt that we even knew each other at the time and god knows who bought the remaining few stocked records.

We would nod at each other at Happydeadmen shows (as they were the only band that ever played live, we saw each other at the most strange places such as punk rock squats and dive bars) but that was about it.

I had no idea what to do with the stuff I put on tape – I probably did give one copy to John Boqvist who later went on to play keyboards in Aerospace and somewhere along the line he must have passed the songs on to someone else. I just put the finished songs on tape and then put them in a drawer and moved on. They were never properly packaged, there was no demo or anything, just one or two copies of the original mixes – and I just found some of those tapes a few months ago, so god knows who even transferred them to any digital form. So the fact that anyone, at all, even knows about the band is a complete mystery to me.

I think I might have done about 10 songs over those two years, all stolen from what I was listening to at the time; it’s just blatant rip-offs of The Darling Buds/Flatmates/Primitives/Shop Assistants done with borrowed guitars played through a minimal guitar amp set at 10 and an Alesis sequenser to power the drums and bass off a Roland MT-32. After seeing happydeadmen enough times I got myself an acoustic 12-string and proceeded to rip them off as well (and stealing unashamedly from McCarthy). I used go to the UK on my own using a eu-rail pass and pick up the NME/Melody Maker at Victoria Station and then just travel the UK for a week or two to see any jangle/wimp/shambling/anorak- band that was playing at the time (I don’t think I even talked to that many people at all during those travels, I was just too shy, but I did get to see The Sea Urchins, McCarthy, This Poison and The James Dean Driving Experience among others and they are still some of my favorite bands of all time) and when I came home I just redid the songs that I’d heard (as well as bought) to my best ability.

Most of the songs were total rip-offs; I stole the melody and lyrics from The Flatmates I Could Be In Heaven (“I wanna hang around with you”) for a song called Down, Down, Down. Looking back it was more like an academic course in indie songwriting than anything else.

In the spring of 1990 we (re)formed Stevepops and the anorak/jangle was democratically kicked out of the sound for our more punkish roots – the anorak thing was dying and we felt more at home with the sound of Mega City Four/Wonderstuff/Decendents/ Odd Numbers thing anyways. From a career standpoint it was probably a really bad move as the Swindie scene exploded (with The Wannadies, Popsicle, This Perfect Day, Brainpool, Cardigans etc) and we were on our own way star struck by skateboards and a very distant following of the US post-hardcore scene. Stevepops did their third ever show opening up for Fugazi and I still have the note given to us by Guy Piciotto (with the words “here’s the address to a friend of mine, he’s got a great label and would love your stuff”) with Calvin Johnson’s address. We never even though about sending him anything, we were more focused on getting a show in Gävle. Any interview stevepops did at the time was marred by miscommunication and a lack of shared culture. Indie fanzines would ask us questions about our favorite bands and look like question marks when we went off on the brilliance of Black Flag, Minor Threat, Big Drill Car, Hüsker Dü or the Descendents. And all the hc-kids ignored us because we played indiepop. As stevepops folded I got back to doing solo stuff, but it was a different era; there were tons of great lo-fi stuff coming out on K/Kill Rock Stars/Homestead etc, so the only thing that stayed the same was the name.

The second coming of Boys Like Charlotte was slightly more public – I played two shows (one in a corner of an apartment at a party way past midnight and the other opening up for Stereo Total) – and even managed to give away a song to my friends as a Christmas card (so there was a proper cover for that one song). The sound of Boys Like Charlotte 2.0 was the sound of Elliott Smith and The Softies only done really badly.

Then I formed The Shermans with Mikael Mattson, quit after doing 6 songs and 3 shows and formed Aerospace as a direct consequence to going to The Bowlie Weekender in the spring of 1999. The rest is more publicly known I assume. Thanks a thousand Toby! Hope I get to listen those 4 songs! I bet they are fantastic!


Boys Like Charlotte – Now That You Are Gone


Thanks a lot to Matt Jones for the interview! Get their new album Trojan Hearse here or here.

++ You have just released a new album “Trojan Hearse”. Tell us a bit about it, what can we expect? Does it continue the line of “Something Worth Stealing”? Any funny anecdotes while recording it? Why the change of labels?

If you’ve heard a Hepburns albums before then you’d probably be expecting some guitar-based pop songs with half-happy, half-sad lyrics and an album that sounds as if it’s cost a few hundred quid to record in portable accommodation in the shadow of a slag heap in a remote Welsh village.

The Hepburns became known for well-written songs with a lo-fi sound long before the term ‘lo-fi’ entered common parlance. Our ‘homemade’ sound was due to a lack of cash, mainly, but also the ‘junk’ aesthetic of punk and post-punk. We grew up in the 60s and 70s, made our first records in the 80s, and were influenced by the original ‘indie’ bands like Orange Juice, so the point for us was always the tune, the lyric, the passion and energy with which those were delivered, with production values on somebody else’s list, probably a band from down the road who were into Zappa or something.

“Trojan Hearse” isn’t like that, though. We recorded it in the fabulous Music Box Studios, Cardiff, with a friend of ours, Charlie Francis, who is a brilliant producer and who we knew would get the best out of The Hepburns, take us to new places in the studio – such as the amazing vegetarian Indian restaurant on Penarth Road…seriously, Charlie had worked with one of our heroes, Sean O’Hagan from the High Llamas, and has an incredible way of getting inside the minds and the work of the musicians he records. We thought this more thoughtful – more expensive! – approach to recording was long overdue after 25 years of just whacking it down.

Any interesting anecdotes? The Super Furries had been rehearsing the week before in Music Box and as we arrived their stuff was being loaded into a lorry. We felt elated and deflated – not unusual for The Heps – sort of like “Hey, there’s the Super Furries’ amps!” then realising how pathetic that was. There was a Vox AC30 amp that used to belong to the Webb Brothers which Charlie let us use so my guitar may – may! – have come out of the same amp as ‘Wichita Line Man’. Also, Martin Carr had been recording there and I’d like to state now, for the record, that there is absolutely no truth in the rumour that I recorded half the album on the Gibson semi-acoustic he wrote “Wake up Boo” on.

The change of labels was like any other change – to do something different, fresh, exciting. The Bendigedig Recordings headquarters are in Nantgaredig, a small village in the Towy Valley, which in a way is a bit more us than San Francisco – where Radio Khartoum is – although I like both places to be honest. The label belongs to our old friend and mentor, TV’s Simon Wright, although his son Jamie was heavily involved with artwork and stuff, so it was good to do it in Wales for once.

++ You say this album is for drunks, cyclists, and drunk cyclists everywhere. Why is that?

Drunks and cyclists? Well, no need to harp on about drinking, it’s what most people do, isn’t it, the Welsh might do it more often and with more of a vengeance than others, but it’s pretty boring though, getting pissed, being hung-over, getting pissed, being hung-over…when we went to the States on tour me and Mike (bass) got pissed every night for three weeks, that’s no way to see a fantastic country like America, is it? The worst was going to an after-show party in Seattle and waking up still half-cut in Salt Lake City. What a weirdly beautiful place that was, like a moonscape, but frankly I didn’t know where I was – I could have been in Port Talbot for all I knew. What a waste. I almost felt sorry for the Scandinavians on tour. We were relentless. In Fredrikstad, Norway, we went to this Film company’s xmas party where there was a free bar! The Norwegians like a drink but we drunk the place dry – literally – then ate taco mince with our hands as the sun came up. We were like a plague on the town, I should apologise now for the hurt we caused. Childish it is.

During the summer I cycle between 120-150 miles a week, weather depending. Every year I do the London-Oxford ride, 60 miles through the Chilterns. Anyway, on the London ride last year I was joined by an associate of mine, Ken Garrington – we met in a Smiths gig in Swansea Uni back in the 80s – he’s a bit of a drinker, cider being his beverage of choice. Trouble is with Ken is he’s known to start early – or finish late, same difference – so no surprises when he started off around about 5 am with a pint of white wine and two cans of Strongbow. Fortunately he was accompanied by his girlfriend Emily who’s a computer programmer but who acted as his personal nurse on the day. I’d have left him for dead myself, spread-eagled on the pavement 2 miles out of Oxford, begging for a can of pop. For her dubious reward Ken’s marrying Emily next year. The song ‘Breakfast of Champions’ is dedicated to him and his ilk.

++ What are the future plans for the band now? Do you feel you’ve accomplished all you wanted with The Hepburns?

Future Plans? We’re going to record some more material with Testbild! in Malmo. We started doing a record with them last year, such a great time, Testbild! are one of my favourite bands, so it was a huge thrill working with them. Their music is wonderfully intricate and fabulously constructed and I’m hoping some of that care and consideration to writing and especially recording will rub off on us. Apart from that – nothing really. Our criteria for success have always been very basic – provided we’re writing good songs and making good records we’ll carry on. You’ve got to live your life to be able to do that and the songs are just records of a time and a place and the things which happen to you. So – living and writing, that’s all I want to do.

++ Which is the strangest place you’ve ever played a gig? What about the farthest place from Wales? And your favourite gig?

Strangest place we ever played a gig was in a basement in Olympia, Washington. The roughest place you ever saw, singing through guitar amps, surrounded by young Olympians singing their heads off and their hearts out to our tunes, totally wonderful – roughest, strangest and best. Farthest place is either Seattle or Monterey, I guess, somewhere on the West Coast, anyway.

++ I have to ask this question, even if it is kind of silly, did you name the band because of Audrey Hepburn or was it for some other Hepburn like Katharine?

We named the band after two beautiful, stylish, female filmstars. Incredibly, I think we must have known what we were doing. It’s a good name. It’s belonged to several other bands, too, since we borrowed it from Katherine and Audrey, but like an old 50s dress, nobody wears it quite so well as us, not even ‘Hepburn’ and they were women. Just goes to show that gender is a state of mind.

++ Your first two releases came out on Cherry Red Records, two sought-after records on ebay, “Goalmouth Incident” and the “The Magic of the Hepburns” LP. What happened after? Why didnt Cherry Red support you? I heard there’s an unreleased “lost album”, is that true? Will Cherry Red re-release these recordings?

Yes, there is a lost album called ‘Road Movie’. The songs are fragments of life so I quite like the idea of some of those fragments being scattered to the wind. As for Cherry Red, I’m glad they took us on, of course I am, it’s unlikely I’d be talking to you if they hadn’t. They can’t be held responsible for the disappointment we felt when the music business didn’t meet our expectations – I mean to say, what did we expect? Three young boys with absolutely no clue about anything except how to write a song. Being dumped is the same whether it’s by a record label or by your girlfriend or boyfriend – kind of painful but you gradually become aware that nobody’s to blame and that life goes on, most importantly of all, that there’ll be another label – someone else – out there for you.

What happened after Cherry Red was, unfortunately, the 90s – then after that Alexander Bailey and Radio Khartoum. Bailey is our Clem Greenberg, our John Ruskin. If Cherry Red helped to kick things off then Bailey has kept us going – him and Simon Wright. It just goes to show that one person to hold your hand is all you need. By the time we made our first Radio Khartoum record I was 37 years old. Okay, so Ian Dury was about that age when he recorded ‘New Boots and Panties’ but the idea of old people making pop music had already become absurd by that late-90s – it probably seems even more foolish ten years on. If you were being cynical I think you’d say that we appealed to collectors from various parts of the world who’d bought ‘The Magic of The Hepburns’ and who wanted to ensure their collection was complete. RK was also, whether by design or not, catering for the ‘twee’ indie pop market that survived – still survives – the C86 thing. But if that’s all it had been – sort of our own Hepburns tribute act – then it wouldn’t have worked, not for us or RK.

I don’t think I’m deluded when I say that the point of the Hepburns – our skewed, slightly melancholic view of the world filtered through pop influences such as Jake Thackray, Orange Juice and Burt Bacharach – is just as valid, just as interesting, as it was 25 years ago. I think it’s one hell of a claim but I think it’s true. People say we sound like Belle and Sebastian when the point is – they sound like us. We were amongst the first people to realise that smart, grammar-school boy lyrics with references to literature, film and 70s sitcoms but also detailing the cracks of a broken heart sounded great to a John Barry-style backing. You may hate all that stuff – in which case don’t buy our record. The point is that it’s just as relevant or irrelevant as it always was and that we’ve earned our insignificant place in the history of small things.

++ Twee.net lists a release called “Electrified (From Countryside to City)” which was a private release. I’ve never seen or heard this record. Care to tell us a bit about it?

‘Electrified’ was released on our own ‘Magic’ label. We were assisted by Scott Longley, ex-Cherry Red, and sponsored by his dad, Brian, who died before we were able to press and release ‘Road Movie’. We did however release ‘Electrified’ which featured the frenzied guitar stylings of The King of Wales, but also a drum machine, our drummer Les Mun had found Jesus and Pharmacy in and lost his enthusiasm for playing live drums. You see, we were always disintegrating. Maybe writing songs and being in a band is 90% just trying to hold it together with the help of a few angels like Bailey and Wright.

++ What about that shared flexi with the great Waltones? Do you remember anything about how did this happen?

The flexi disc was stuck to the back of ‘Zine’ fanzine which was edited by Iestyn George, yet another of the Hepburns admirers who became much more famous than the band. I don’t recall any other recyclable tales except that we did a Welsh-language version of ‘Where You Belong’ called ‘Croseo i M&S’ or ‘Welcome to Mars & Spencer’ (‘Mae bwyd yno’n blasus ac yn fres’/ ‘The food there is tasty and fresh’).

++ The Welsh scene from the late eighties seems undocumented as compared to the one from England or even Scotland. When you started as a band were there any good bands you enjoyed from Wales? What about now, any good bands you’d recommend?

The only other band from the ‘Welsh scene’ was The Pooh Sticks. I’m still friendly with ‘Huw Pooh’ who’s a lovely bloke, always a lot cooler than me, now as then. The best new Welsh act at the moment is probably The Boy, saw him and his band in Swansea Milkwoodjam recently, thought they were very exciting.

++ Do you speak Welsh? Have you ever thought in writing music in that language?

Despite the ‘Croseo…’ song I don’t speak Welsh fluently – so I couldn’t write in Welsh even if I wanted to. I despise Nationalism. If it’s grounds for exclusion from a culture than I will quite happily be ruled out. You’ll find me sitting on a plane somewhere between continents reading Salman Rushdie’s ‘Imaginary Homelands’ and plotting the downfall of nationalists everywhere. I may not know who you are but I’m pretty sure where you live…

++ I read in another interview that one of your biggest passions was cooking! What are the latest specialties of Matt Jones?

Cooking wise, I’ve gone back to Uni to study English and creative writing, so at the moment I’m living on Beef & Tomato Pot Noodle which I make by placing the tomato sauce on top of the noodles then holding the lot under the hot water tap, thereby saving on electric. Beans on toast when I’m feeling flush – or a something from Jenkins the Bakers on my birthday.

++ Just wondering, why did you write a song for Velma from Scooby Doo? Was that your favourite cartoon? What other cartoons did you like?

I loved just about all the cartoons when I was a kid: Marine Boy, Whacky Races, The Hair Bair Bunch, although Tin Tin was, it has to be said, a bit rubbish. I wrote ‘Song for Velma’ about an ex-girlfriend of mine who was a scientist. There were echoes of the shrewd and perceptive Velma in her, or at least, I found the comparison amusing.

++ Thanks so much Matt, anything else you’d like to add?

Whatever makes you happy, I suppose.


The Hepburns – Andy & Valerie