Thanks so much to Suzanne Muckley for the interview! I knew Blue Summer from the great tape compilation “You Can’t Be Loved Forever vol.3” but they were so obscure and there was no information whatsoever online. So it was great to find a bit more about them at last! Enjoy!!

++ So let’s talk about Blue Summer! I really want more people to hear and know your tunes! When did the band start and who were the members? How did you all meet each other?

I met Tina Lusher at college in 1984 doing a Art Diploma course in Harlow, Tina showed me some of her music and songs she had written but had never performed, from this we did some of her songs for Rag week in the Harlow town centre, I was probably the more confident and did a lot of singing in church but nothing other than that, but I like to think i gave Tina the confidence in her song writing to pursue it.

From Rag week some how we got together with my friend Tony Bennett (drums) and Angela Black (trumpet) also on the same course, and started gigging at college, as people saw us and liked us our venues got better mainly in and around Harlow with the exception of Exeter university which was great fun. We entered the Harlow Rock contest twice and i think we got through to the semi finals both times if i remember rightly.

++ What about the name Blue Summer? Where did it came from?

The name Blue Summer came from me and Tina i remember one night in the pub the Jean Harlow we was thinking of a name and it came from us both loving the summer and the colour blue!

++ On the Harlow Bands page it says that you had some sort of relationship with The Pharaoahs, The Neurotics, The Pillage People and Travis Cut. What was the connection?

The Pharaoahs, The Neurotics, The Pillage People and Travis Cut are all bands that we played with or supported probably mainly at The Square in Harlow, some were also in the rock contest, Tony Bennett (our drummer) went on to play with The Pharaohs and they still play once or twice a year still now so tony tells me mainly abroad they are a rockabilly band, I also used to be friends with some of the players.

++ So what were you listening at the time?

Music wise we was probably mainly into indie music at the time, although Tina loved Haircut 100, we loved Everything but the Girl, The Go-Betweens the list could go on.

++ So who wrote the songs? What was the creative process in the band?

Tina wrote all the guitar music in the band and most of the lyrics I remember I wrote two of the songs lyrics, the trumpet and drums were made up by Tony and Angela.
We didn’t have a bass player for some time, and then we met Paul Howard who was in various bands and very talented and is still a musician today, he became our bass player for quite some time while still doing other stuff of his own, Paul was older than us and more in the know and was a great inspiration for Blue Summer.

++ And why didn’t you get to release a record? Or at least record more songs?

I wish in some ways that our time was now as I think its much more easier to get a demo or some sort of deal than years ago and I think in them days you didn’t have that reality that you could be famous that people do these days, if you get what i mean.

++ The only song I know from you is the fun and poppy “Listen to Me”! What were the other songs on the demo tape? How did they sound like?

The song Listen to Me is one of the songs that was after my time and I wish you could hear some off our old songs as some where great, everyone’s favorite was “Beach boy”, people always remember that one and another one we did at the end of the end of the sets was “Now your going away from me’.

The band carried on and did a demo tape which we had been saving up for with our gig money unfortunately for me i never got to do this which i know regret. They gigged for a while but then Tony left the band to go into the Pharoahs and the new drummer was my sisters husband (at the time) Simon Thomson. I don’t really know why the band split after this but I guess they drifted apart, i will ask Tina.

++ What about gigs? Did you gig a lot? Any in particular that you remember?

We did a lot of gigs and loved it, I think i was the main organizer of the band that’s just the way i am but we all had input and a lot of the times we got asked to gigs either as main or supports, The Gamekeepers was a band we played with a lot as I was going out with Anthony Sullivan at the time so we either supported them or via verso depended who organized the gig.

++ When and why did you call it a day? What did you all do after? Are you all still in touch?

We were together for a long time it must have been about 5 years all in all, of which Paul left the band to pursue hes own stuff and that’s when it all went down hill in my eyes, we got a new bass player who i never got on with personally and the feelings where mutual and at the time as life does my life was changing and getting a career and also I bought a horse which took a lot of my time, I then split from the band which at the time was a bit messy but we stayed friends but had drifted apart and for some time went different ways.

I work in Repro and am a retoucher on magazines, Tina of whom I am really close with works in the shoe fashion industry and still plays her guitar but just for pleasure, we still have a jam now and then, but as we live 100 miles away from each other that’s as far as it goes.
Angela moved to Indonesia and is now married and lives there and is a English teacher, she came over and stayed last summer so still in touch and good friends.
Tony runs hes own business and i speak to him on facebook occasional, and still plays with the Pharoahs.
Paul Howard is still doing hes music and has made records and does gigs, I speak with him also on facebook and hes says we should get together one day for a gig.
The other bass player cant remember his name so don’t know about him and Simon, my sister divorced him some years back but as far as i know hes not doing anything musically.

++ Looking back in time, what was the best, the highlight, of being in Blue Summer?

I think we all loved our Blue Summer days and loved being in the Rock contests and gigging.

++ Thanks again very much! I hope the demo can be found and rescued one day! Anything else you’d like to add?

When I see Tina next I will speak to her about if shes got any music I can forward to you, I know the Rock contest was videod but we never saw it wish we could get hold of it.


Blue Summer – Listen to Me


Thanks so much to Bart for the lovely interview! Don’t think Bart needs an introduction as he has been in bands like The Cat’s Miaow, The Shapiros, Pencil Tin or even Girl of the World. Nowadays he has been releasing under Bart & Friends, and later this month, well, in a couple of days, we’ll be releasing a 7-song mini-CD part of the Cloudberry Classics series. It’s hard to cover everything Bart has done, so this time we focused on Pencil Tin, but here’s hoping for more interviews later this year!

++ Hello Bart! How are you doing? How is Melbourne’s summer treating you?

Its been kinda wet. As in floods. But for the most part summer has found me working in the garden. Not very rock n roll but it’s the life I lead these days.

++ For those who don’t know, we are releasing a new little CD this month under the Bart & Friends name. What can people expect from it?

It’s sort of like a concentrated or distilled version Bart & friends. Its 7 songs in a bit over 8 minutes, all from the 90’s, all with me singing lead vocals. All were on the long list of potential inclusions to my live sets last year and some even made it all the way.

++ On one interview you said that The Shapiros, Pencil Tin, and Bart & Friends, are all the same thing. In the end they are you plus some good friends collaborating. And I thought, it would be cool to learn more from some of these “obscure” projects of yours, I say obscure because everyone associates you with The Cat’s Miaow as soon as they read your name. How important and how satisfying are these “side-projects” to you?

I guess more accurately I should have said what I do in each of those bands is the same and its what the other members bring that sets each band apart. The thing with all those bands and also the Cat’s miaow is that they each include another really talented song writer which stops me from getting too complacent and inspires me to try and lift my game. They were all pretty well of equal importance to me. It was never a case of “ooh, this song is pretty good, I better save it for the Cat’s miaow”. There’s this quite manic period from 93 to 95 where I probably wrote 90% of my back catalogue spread across the Cat’s miaow, Pencil tin and the Shapiros.
Pretty much all the bands ran to a natural conclusion with no unfinished business with the exception of the Shapiros. I think if the Shapiros had of continued for more than 6 weeks it possibly would have become the band I’m best known for. There was still a lot of untapped potential in that band, it would have been interesting to see what we could’ve achieved over 2 years.

I don’t mind being “Bart from the Cat’s miaow”. I’m flattered that the band is remembered at all. I’m quite surprised how the band is increasingly being referenced, with lyrics being used as titles of blog posts or even blogs themselves, and used as a point of reference in reviews. It’s quite gratifying to have become a small part of the lexicon of indie pop.

++ So how did Pencil Tin came about? What triggered you three to start recording together?

Rob was playing bass in the Sugargliders and I knew he wrote songs so I nagged him into forming a band with me as outlet primarily for his songs. I think you need to put this in the context that the Cat’s miaow was still only releasing cassettes at this stage and the Sugargliders were on Sarah, so there wasn’t any real advantage for him to play with me.

++ Why the name Pencil Tin?

I liked the way at school everyone customized there pencil tins with stickers and thought it made a good band name… sorry.

++ Your first release was the Poignant 7″ on the Quiddity label. You had already released with them a Cat’s Miaow 7″. And it seems you had a good relationship with them. I believe I bought lots of Library releases through them when they were Drive-In. But how did your relationship with them start? Did you ever meet personally?

This may not be correct as it’s such a long time ago, but I think Mike may have got in touch with us to buy a Sugargliders tribute cassette we had put together for their last show. Or possibly thru Dave Harris, we met a lot of people thru him. We were the first band on the label so he must have contacted us rather than us sending a demo? I may have been in DC at the time so the initial contact could have been with Andrew which is why I’m so vague about it. I never did get to Grand Rapids but I’m sure Andrew did a couple of times. It’s not too big a claim to say without Mike I’m pretty sure no-one would have heard of the Cat’s miaow and definitely Library records would never have happened.

++ So yeah, perhaps Poignant is the most known Pencil Tin song. So, what is the story behind it?

That’s one of Rob’s songs so I can’t say with any certainty but I always thought it was about him and Bianca. I do know that I wanted to give recording in a studio a try after a couple of years of home recording. As it turned out I hated the whole process but I loved the results. I’ve only done home recording ever since.

++ And it also has a video, was that Embassy Cafeteria your favourite place to hang out?

That was the only time I ever went there. It was near where Rob and Bianca lived. I’d forgotten we’d even done it until I stumbled upon it on youtube a couple of months ago. It was fun to make as I just had sit and eat a donut which was about the full range of my acting capabilities. I generally hate posing for photos but I can actually watch this without cringing. I really wish I still had that shirt.

++ How did the creative process work for you three by the way? Who did what?

It was either Rob or myself writing the songs, we’d bring finished songs to the band and whoever wrote it, sang and played guitar and the other played bass. Bianca didn’t get much of look in she was so quiet. Initially it was just me and Rob, it took us ages to find a drummer, by which time we’d already written a dozen songs. Early on Rob and I would rehearse once a week and each practice we’d each bring a new song.

++ That makes me wonder, how did you all get to know each other?

There was a circle of friends centered around Dave Harris (Munch videos, he made that Pencil tin video) which included amongst others, Josh (Sugargliders) Rob (Sugargliders, Earthmen) Andrew (Cat’s miaow) Ian (Super falling star) and myself. There were loads of other people as well, it wasn’t like an exclusive club for members of indie pop bands only. There were probably more dentists than anything.

++ And did you ever play any live shows with Pencil Tin?

No, we were meant to play at a party at Dave’s but the others got cold feet, so the Cat’s maiow stepped in and made a rare live appearance (third and last, there’s a distinct lack of ambition becoming evident here) as a 3 piece. You can hear it as the live songs at the end of Songs for girls to sing.

++ Going back to that 7″, it says on the back cover “all songs by Pencil Tin except the bits we pinched from The Smiths”. What are those bits? Or is it just a joke? 🙂

No, it’s true. The last few lines of In dreams.
“And I want the one I cant have, and it’s driving me mad, it’s written all over my face”
I want the one I can’t have – Meat is murder

++ Next release was the “A Gentle Hand to Guide You Along” album on Bus Stop. How did you end up signing with them? And how do you feel about the album 15 or so years after, do you think it has aged well?

See, I always think of them in the order they were recorded rather than released. This was recorded in June 1994, a year before Poignant was recorded and probably came out 2 years later.
By early 1994 Rob and I had about 12 songs written and as both of us were abut to embark on separate and hopefully lengthy overseas adventures (mine turned into the Shapiros) I thought it best if we recorded them for posterity. At this stage we hadn’t played with Bianca, so she heard the songs for the first time the afternoon we recorded them at a rehearsal studio down at the docks in an old warehouse. They were recorded really quickly with a near enough is good enough approach to the playing. I don’t think we imagined them ever getting beyond a cassette release. We must have sent a copy of to Bus stop along with the Cat’s miaow’s From my window as Brian offered to release both on CD. Unfortunately between then and the CDs being released the label ran out of steam and they sat in limbo for ages before finally coming out a few years later and I don’t think they got much distribution and probably no promotion. Which was frustrating at the time but having run my own label I know what it’s like so I don’t hold a grudge (which is odd, cause I usually do?)
I don’t think many people have heard this CD, Brian gave me big wad of promo copies a few years later which I was giving away to people who bought the Cat’s miaow re-issues just so people would hear it.

How does it hold up 15 years later? I think it’s got some really good songs on it but its let down by the playing and singing which is pretty rough around the edges. There’s only so much you can pass off as “naive charm”.
Even now I still find it hard to believe we were on Bus stop. I feel quite privileged to have been on the same label as 2 of my favouirite bands from that era, Veronica Lake and Rocketship.

++ Favourite song on the album?

The first one, Friday. One of Rob’s, it’s got a good groove to it.

++ You mostly recorded in 4 track right? What do you like about it? What are the advantages you think?

I like the control. You can do it inhouse (ie get Andrew to do it) and not have to try and convince someone else about what you’re trying to achieve. My limited experience with working with engineers in studios is that it’s really hard to translate your ideas thru someone outside of the band who doesn’t know what your frame of reference is.

++ And last release was a split, on your own Library Records along with another project of yours, The Shapiros. I’m kind of curious of those drawings you included in the sleeve and the record labels. Where did you get them? Oh! and why make a split of it, instead of just calling it Bart & Friends?

Good question. The drawings I pinched from a book of fashion illustration, possibly on the history of Vogue or something. I never had a great deal of respect for copyright. Seeing as I only wrote one of the Pencil tin songs and Pam wrote the lyrics to the Shapiros songs, to try and claim them all as mine is a bit of a stretch. I guess the difference between the other bands and Bart & friends is the others have some semblance of democracy while Bart & friends is more of a benevolent dictatorship.

++ And then what happened? Why no more releases? Are there still any unreleased Pencil Tin recordings?

It ended because Rob and Bianca had begun writing songs together and had formed their own band Paparazzi and wanted to focus their energy on that. What they were coming up with was infinitely better than Pencil tin. Sort of a Saint Etienne / Boo Radleys hybrid, Bianca it turned out was an amazing guitarist. You get glimpses of it on Rob’s solo album and they recorded lots of demos but never got it together to have anything released unfortunately.
I rehearsed with them once playing bass with the purpose of putting together a live incarnation but they couldn’t find a suitable drummer so it never really happened.
No unreleased Pencil tin songs I’m afraid, the cupboard is bare.

++ Do you still see Rob and Bianca often?

No, unfortunately. Rob moved to London and then I moved to the country and we’ve lost contact along the way.

++ Last time, and first time, I saw you was in Berlin. How did you like that city? And the crowd? You were monopolized by our dear friend Christos most of the time though!!

I loved Berlin, despite nearly getting run over by bicyclists twice. It’s somewhere I’d definitely like to visit again. The crowd was amazing, there were some down the front singing louder than I was. I’d never experienced anything like that before. It was quite touching, nearly brought a tear to an old man’s eye. Christos probably didn’t talk to me for more than half an hour which was barely any time at all. It’s not everyday I meet a fan as thoroughly charming as he is and it did my ego no end of good. I really should have talked to him more about the Sunny street tho, they’re easily my favourite band of the past 12 months.

++ Thanks Bart, and so looking forward to the release date, anything else you’d like to add? Any future projects coming up? I heard a Bart & Friends album is around the corner?

There is a CD of new songs tentatively scheduled for around April, we just need to do some minor finishing touches and mix it. Scott from the Summer cats sings on quite a few of the songs I’ll possibly also play live with the full line up around that time as well for the first time which I’m really looking forward to. Me playing live solo is a bit of dancing bear act, it has some novelty value but in the end bears can’t dance and I can’t sing and play at the same time.


Pencil Tin – Poignant


Thanks so much to David for the interview! Sirens only released one flexi and they remained in obscurity. I found some time ago a video of theirs on youtube that sounded great. I was lucky enough to contact David from the band to learn a bit more about this long lost Exeter band!

++ Hello David! Thanks so much for getting in touch! I was really curious for long time about the video you posted on Youtube from your old band. Care to tell me how did this video came about?

Hi, Johnny (drums), Steve (guitar/vocals) and myself (bass) were studying film at Art College and we shot this video on 16mm Newsfilm and got the local news station to tag it onto their developing reel for free (in those days C86 the news was shot on film). I filmed it in my student bedsit. Simon Pledger was in the band at the time and it’s him in the video.

++ So let’s go back in time, when did Sirens start as a band? And how did you all knew each other?

We met at art college where we were studying fine art. That was 1984-1986. Exeter Art Colege has closed down now – but it was a great time. We were allowed to do anything!

++ Was this your first band?


++ So how was Exeter as a scene then? Any other good bands that you enjoyed there? Which clubs did you hang out at?

There wasn’t much of a scene in Exeter at the time, although a band called The Visitors had featured on an Are You Scared To Get Happy flexi disc. But the local scene was many pub acts and covers bands… there were no decent venues but we used ton put on a few bands at the local Arts Centre including the likes of The Flatmates. Also bands like The Wedding present and The Wolfhounds were playing at the time. Mainly we used to go and see bands in Bristol which had a great indie scene, I remember a club called the Tropic and something called Big Rock Candy Mountain where we saw bands like The Pastels, The Groove Farm, Mighty Mighty etc.

++ What about gigs? What were your favourites? Any anecdotes you could share?

I remember we played with I Ludicrous – a great band – at the Sir George Robey in London. What was that song – Preposterous Tales In The LIfe Of Ken MacKenzie? There was an exciting scene at the time with bands like The Sea Urchins, The Shop Assistants and many more. We were also really into bands like LOOP and Spacemen 3… although the band Steve and I always followed around when they toured the UK was The Cramps.

++ There was a flexi release, right? I’ve never heard about it. When was it released? Was it only that song from Youtube released on it? Was it self-released?

Yeah we self released that Flexi to be used on a ‘zine. Of which the name I have now forgotten. It was our only release although there are more recording knocking aound somewhere.

++ Why and when did you decide to split?

I think we split up when Steve moved to Bristol. Johnny went on to play on a band called Moose and I joined Mad At The Sun (which later became Annalise)

++ After the break up, you went to form a punk band. Usually it’s the other way around isn’t it? That’s cool! Anyways, what big differences were there between Sirens and Annalise?

Yeah shortly after Sirens split I met a guy called Martin Edmunds in Hendersons record shop on Exeter Fore Street and we had a mutual love of the US hardcore scene of the time (Minor Threat, he Minutemen, Black Flag and Guy Picioto’s band Rites Of Spring. MArtin said they needed a bass player and I went to a practise right away. We then decided to bring a bunch of bands from the DIY scene to Exeter and started putting on bands like Snuff, Senseless Things, Fugazi, Verbal Asault & Victim’s Family.)

++ You also started a club in Exeter, The Cavern. Tell me a bit about the story behind the club, and perhaps which have been the best nights that have been hold there?

After a while putting bands on in local pubs got to difficult. In those days pub landlords saw bands as a guy with a hammond organ playing covers, so when bands from the hardcore scene like Cowboy Killers turned up to take over their skittle alley it wasn’y long before they decided to pull the plug!. We realised we needed our own venue and approached the owner of a closed down bar called The Hop And Grapes to see if we could do shows there. That was the start of The Cavern. Our first ever show there was on St Valentine’s Day 1991 with a US punk band called QUICKSAND. At the time we set up a loose collective known as Hometown Atrocities and released a couple of split EPs. One of them is extremely rare now because it features the first recorded performance of Thom Yorke. He was part of the Hometown Atrocities Collective and was in a band called Headless Chickens with Shack from Lunatic Calm and Flickernoise.
We have done ten of thousands of bands since then including the likes of Sick Of It All, Muse, Coldplay, LaRoux, Samiam etc etc. Its the Cavern’s 20th anniversary this St Valentine’s Day….

++ Let’s wrap it here, thanks again for the interview! Anything else you’d like to add?

The Exeter scene has a few strong bands in it these days. Pippa (who owns the Cavern with me) manages a cool punk & roll band called the Computers who have just signed to One LIttle Indian and there are also OK PIlot, The Cut Ups, Iko, and loads more…who have grown up seeing shows at the Cavern.


Sirens – Running Round the Garden