ulterior motive (plural ulterior motives): An alternative or extrinsic reason for doing something, especially when concealed or when differing from the stated or apparent reason.

Still quite busy working on freelance which means I haven’t had any time to write more interviews. I’m kind of missing doing that. I hope in a couple of weeks my schedule returns to normal. The good news is that I have purchased a plane ticket to attend Indietracks this year. I am all set. And excited! I feel a bit sad that I had to turn down an offer to DJ there this year as when I was asked I wasn’t sure that I was attending. I would have loved to do so. Now it is too late and even today the DJs for this year were announced. I do know Big Pink Cake, and I know Matthew and Heater play great stuff, so that’s the one I will definitely assist to.  Shame it’s in the marquee though, because there it’s more like evading all the stones on the ground than dancing. It makes me grin to see who gets a spot on the shed, the London politics. Anyhow, I’m still waiting for the band announcements that are coming up next week. I feel they have something great in store. May it be the Acid House Kings?

I’ve kept listening to the mix CDs my friend Satomi sent me from Japan. As I said before there are many great songs that I have never heard before. One of them is by a band called Ulterior Motives. The song is called “Heart Won’t Let You Go”. The sound of it tells me it’s definitely pre-indiepop times. It’s much more power pop and mod than jangle pop. My first research stop happens to be at Discogs. There I find that this song was released on a compilation LP called “Spit ‘N Finish”. This slab of red 12″ vinyl was released by Toucan Records in 1983. It’s catalog number 002. All of the bands on the record are unknown to me, names like Red Flag, The Dodgers, Dark Harvest or Perfect People don’t ring a bell at all. Wonder if they are as good as this tune by Ulterior Motives. But was this all they ever released?

I keep digging and I go back in time, to 1979. This year the band released their one and only proper record, a 7″ with two tracks: “Another Lover” and “Y’ Gotta Shout”. It was released on the Motive Music Records label, being the first release on their catalog. It’s not a wild guess to say this must have been the band’s own record label, meaning it was self-released. I see that in March the record sold for a pound on eBay. I feel kind of defeated. Why didn’t I knew about it then? Some stores do have it on “Buy it Now” for 12 dollars. I’m never too keen to spend that much on a 7″, even more if I haven’t ever listened to the songs in it, like in this case. They might be as good as the ones on the “Spit ‘N Finish” compilation, but they might not. Does anyone know?

Now I find a name on google: Nick Toczek. I found some sort of resume of him, it seems he is a poet/writer. Among books written there are poetry tapes he has released. One of them is called “Nick Toczek Ulterior Motives”(1985). I keep on searching and I find this piece of info that reveals a second member:

Susan Fassbender (1959 – 1991) was an English singer, songwriter and musician, best remembered for the single “Twilight Café” which reached #21 in the UK Singles Chart in February 1981.

Born Susan Whincup in Wibsey, Bradford, West Yorkshire in 1959, Fassbender began studying classical piano, clarinet and timpani (later also playing synthesizer) at age 13. Eventually, she met up with guitarist Kay Russell who would become her songwriting partner throughout her career. Both girls wrote lyrics and melodies together. Prior to their collaboration, Russell was with poet Nick Toczek in a Bradford based New Wave outfit called Ulterior Motives.

Soon signed to independent record label Criminal Records after impressing their future manager Alan Brown at a musical instrument shop, Fassbender and Russell wrote “Twilight Café” which was released in early 1981. Two appearances on BBC Television’s Top of the Pops followed in January 1981, with a band also consisting of drummer Gary Walsh and bassist Mike Close. By this point ownership of the single had passed from Criminal to CBS Records owing to popular demand. In March 1981 Fassbender appeared on German television programme, Disco.

Two other singles followed soon after; “Stay” and “Merry-Go-Round”. “Stay”, the second single, was promoted by an appearance on Cheggers Plays Pop, a children’s programme. Both tracks were collaborations between Fassbender and Russell. In January 1982, Fassbender and Russell appeared on another British TV show, Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, to promote “Merry-Go-Round”.

After the release of the latter singles, Susan Fassbender and Kay Russell both retired temporarily from the music industry, to marry and have children. Further songs were written, separately and together, by both women, but unfortunately no further interest was shown by the music industry in releasing the new material.

So we’ve got Nick Toczek and Kay Russell so far. And we know what happened with both after, one went to continue his writing career and the other to be on Top of the Pops! I keep digging around. I find some biography of a band called The Negatives written by Toczek. It says:

The Negatives, Bradford’s first punk band, was formed in the summer of 1978, practising at Coda Music on Church Bank.  Pete Stobbs played guitar, Tino Palmer drummed, Bob Robinson played bass and Dave sang.  After two try-out gigs, one at The Royal Standard, the other in a marquee on Horsforth Playing Fields as part of Metro ’78, they did their first proper publicised gig at Chicago Express. Singer-guitarist Kay Russell played support, with me on congas and doing some poems/vocals during her set. Soon after this, Kay and I formed our own band, Ulterior Motives, and did our first gig, again supporting The Negatives, at a Rock Against Racism gig at Queens Hall on 25th May 1979.

So 1979 the band formed, same year as their first and only releases. My search continues. I suddenly find a blog post about a fanzine called “Wool City Rocker” made in Bradford by both Nick and Kay. It’s a super interesting text that I recommend having a read. There are lot of great scans of this zine and many MP3s from unknown bands waiting to be discovered. It even links to a an MP3 to “Another Lover”. First impression? It’s a fun tune, but I still think “Heart Won’t Let You Go” it’s their best so far. “Another Lover” actually kind of sounds like a different band. Maybe it is? But also keep in mind “Heart Won’t Let You Go” was released 4 years after, which could mean in a more tight band which seems to be the case. But still the doubts are there, the mystery is there. Maybe there were two Ulterior Motives incarnations?

Luckily in this fantastic blog post there is a link to download the first Wool City Rocker fanzine where there is a band profile of Ulterior Motives. And this mainly solves the whole “who are the Ulterior Motives?” question. I’ll transcribe:

Ulterior Motives
Voc + Gtr = Kay Russell
Voc+ Perc = Nick Toczek
Bass + Voc = Rick Green
Dms = a Roland 77 Rhythm Unit

A case of self-writeousness (!) with both Kay and myself in this group. The two of us have been in various mixed-media groups (notably ‘Stereo Graffiti Show’ with which we did about 250 performances between ’75 & ’77). We moved to Birmingham (Kay’s hometown) to Bradford (my hometown) in summer ’78. Kay did solo gigs around the area for about 8 months & we then ask Rick (a friend of my brother) to join us in a new band. We wanted to try using the drum machine from the start.
The Motives’ first set was 5th on the bill to The Negatives at the Queen’s Hall on 25th May ’79 – a Rock Against Racism benefit.
In August we set up Motive Music as a recording co. jointly owned by the 3 of us and went into The Communication Centre on Chapel Street, using their 4-track studio to record 11 titles – from which we selected 2 numbers to go on our first single. “Another Lover” c/w “Y’ Gotta Shout”
was released in mid-November on Motive Music Records. As we had set up a distribution deal with Red Rhino of York (& through them, other small label distributors) we were able to increase the number of copies pressed from 1,000 to 2,500. We’re now lining up gigs round Yorkshire to promote the record. We’re also auditioning drummers – though not to completely replace the drum machine which we’ll still use on some numbers. If this single goes well, we’ve already got a follow-up in mind.

Lots of info there, right? But as always, this indiepop detective needs some help clarifying and confirming all the facts. Any sort of help, facts, information, recordings, will be greatly appreciated. Oh! and if possible a copy of the 7″! For a pound!


Ulterior Motives – Heart Won’t Let You Go


Thanks so much to Tom Hilverkus for the great interview! The Happy Couple is still a band I listen often, very very often, and I really like every single song they recorded, and I have very good memories hanging out with Tom and Jane. So this is a very special interview for me. Hope you enjoy!

++ Hi Tom! How are things? I know you travel lots because of work, so where’s the next stop?

I am very well, thank you. I am just about to set off to Rome. Earlier this month I went to New York for a couple of days, and in between I went on holiday to Bath!

++ And you were here not so long ago, we even had some Peruvian food! What did you like the most of South Florida, or what surprised you the most?

The Peruvian food was fab, but I also liked what we had in the Cuban restaurant! That’s what I loved about this place. I’ve never been to the Caribbean or South America but in Miami you get a very good taste of what it is like. The best thing I brought home was this Cuban coffee you recommended. To be honest, I found the City of Miami itself a bit depressing, all those white skyscrapers reminded me of being in a holiday resort. Downtown Miami isn’t very attractive. It’s rather small actually. I liked the fact you have a mono rail which gave it a bit more charm. But then you showed me round Miami Beach, a City in its own right, I really liked it, especially the art deco architecture.

++ So, of course The Happy Couple was a German band, based in Hamburg, but these days you live in Brighton. Why did you move?

Because my then girlfriend and future wife is from England. We first lived in Edinburgh but after getting married in New York we decided to go to the South of England, which was mainly because of the job I accepted, but since we first met we always had the dream of moving to Brighton anyway.

++ Would you be up for a possible reunion of The Happy Couple? What would that require? A record deal? 😀

Jane and I live in two different countries and we completely lead separate lives. Besides, I think Jane still doesn’t have a computer, so I’d say the chances are close to zero!

++ So ok, I know the answer to this question, but surely it’s the question most people would ask. Unless you want to keep it a mystery forever, were you ever a couple?

No, we weren’t and that was clear from the start. She’s always been like a sister to me so that was out of the question. We were simply “music mates” as someone in the US once put it in review of one of our records. We hung out quite a lot so we must have looked like a couple, so Jane once made a list of all the married couples who make music together, you know, like Stereolab, Sonic Youth, Damon and Naomi, Broadcast… It’s more related to this than anything else. We thought it sounded cool but I wouldn’t choose hat name again, just google ‘the happy couple’ and you know why.

++ Let’s go back in time, where and how did Jane and you met? Did you have the same taste in music?

It must have been 1998, a mutual friend introduced us at University as she knew both me and Jane were into the same stuff. We met up for a formal “Musikabend”, a “music evening” as we called it. I remember the first one, she played a lot of Slumberland stuff which I didn’t know back then. Then we started to go to gigs and clubs on a regular basis.

++ You started as a DJ duo, not as a band. How did it all developed from DJ to band?

I think it was 1999 when I was asked to dj for a party at Brunswick School of Art. I panicked a bit and asked her to help and to bring a few records. That worked out well and we decided we should do this on a regular basis as we disliked the music scene in our town, so we made a mix tape and sent it to the local club we used to hang out. It was called Brain Klub and they actually said yes straight away. We did the same in the next biggest city, Hanover. There was a club called Glocksee. So we said, ok, we are DJs now, what’s the next step? We should make music together. At the beginning, we just joked about it but one day Jane came round my place and said she had written a song which was “Boyfriend of the Week”.

++ And why didn’t you ever get more people in the band? You know, drummer and keyboardist, that’s stuff?

Well, it was really just a personal thing and we knew that we could do almost anything with a guitar and a MIDI keyboard. We never thought of playing a live gig, it was more a sort
of project. We loved records and we wanted to release one. But along with that we also founded our own label, Félicité.

++ And then you start a label too. Which I think we should do another interview to cover all the great releases you put out. But in a nutshell, what was the main reason to start it?

Initially, we wanted to do our own club. We even found a location in downtown Brunswick but it failed because of planning permissions so we had a bit of money to spend and we thought the next project should be a 7″ record, but really, there are so many anecdotes and you’re right, we should do a separate interview for this.

++ What indiepop thing did you miss to do then? Maybe book gigs or make a fanzine? Or perhaps you did that too?!

Well, most of our nighters always involved gigs. We organised one for our local band and first band on Félicité, Les Aspiratuers, and then there was the Félicité label launch nicht in Glasgow where Roy Moller and The Catalysts performed live. I think the best DJ night we had was with Stereo Total. We also djed after a Fuzztones gig and they all came to see us and check out our records.

++ The Happy Couple released 3 singles and some compilation tracks. Was there ever plans for an album?

Actually, there was a plan for a proper career in music, and of course a proper album. The one thing I regret is that there is no 12″ vinyl – we only released 7” vinyl and CDs. Jane actually has a drawer full of songs she’s written but we never got round to record them.

++ There is of course the Quince compilation with all the tracks you recorded. But are there any unreleased tracks? I heard this rumour of a cover version of Heavenly’s “Shallow”…

That’s right, before we played our first gig in Athens we did a sort of warm up gig for a selected group of people in Jane’s flat the week before. We did “Shallow” as encore and one of the guys in the audience filmed it. It pretty much sounds more like a studio than a live recording because there were only ten well behaved people in the audience. We also did a cover version of a song by a 60s band called Twinn Connexion. I won’t tell you the name of the song which, mastered from the video tape, as it is due for release on a Félicité label compilation on Edition 59 this summer. Speaking of cover versions, the only other one we ever did live was “Nothing Can Compare To You”, a Northern Soul song by The Velvet Satins. Unfortunately, we didn’t record it.

++ What about the “Northern Altona Demos”?

That was simply the name of the demos for our 2nd EP which ended up on Matinée Records in the US. It includes demo versions of all the songs on the “Fools In Love EP. “Another Sunny Day” made it has hidden track on the Japanese compilation you mentioned. I don’t even have mp3s of the songs and must have lost the tape. Anyway, those songs are actually not good enough for a release but I always thought the demo of “Another Sunny Day” sounded alright because of all the reverb, that’s why we put it on the compilation.

++ On the first release you are Tom Sparkletone, what was that all about? And why was Jane, Janehoney?

As I said, at the beginning we didn’t take the whole thing serious. I can’t even remember why I choose that name, I guess because I was into the Sparkletones at that time, a band on an 80s indie glamour label called Compact Organisation. I dropped that name very quickly and actually hate it coming up, I saw it is even listed on Discogs. Jane also changed her names a couple of times, from Jane Zapp to Janehoney and then Jeanneaulait at one point.

++ How did the creative process worked for you two?

For most of the songs, Jane would come up with the lyrics and a basic melody, I would then record her without anything and work out a chord structure on my own. She would then come back for me to record a demo. The best composition was the final one, “Song for the Troubadour”. She had written the lyrics, I played a chord progression I liked and she just sang to it. It was composed in just 5 minutes, just a day before we had the “Fools in Love” recording session in Glasgow. So, there was no demo for this song.

++ Let’s talk about the releases? First one, was the Four Seasons EP. What was the idea behind the title of the EP? Each song represents a season maybe?

Spot on, a love song for each season. “Boyfriend of the Week” was spring, then we had “French Cinema Summer Love”, “Treason”, a song for autumn and finally “All the Time”, a song set in the bleak midwinter.

++ What’s your favourite season then? And why the orchids on the cover? Not a nod to The Orchids I assume 😉

I prefer spring as everything is fresh and in. As regards the sleeve design, Jane found that picture in a book and just thought it looked beautiful. It’s a sort of homage to other records with flowers on, “The Girl Who Runs The Beat Hotel” or The Wake’s “Crush The Flowers” single. Of course we also thought of The Orchids but I personally see it as homage to my late father who used to be a breeder of rare orchids.

++ And actually, Treason, is the only song were you sing, right? Why didn’t you do this more often?!

Back then I didn’t have the confidence to sing. I had never sung before and it was a big deal singing in front of Jane and Göran, our producer. And then I had to sing this bloody song at every single gig… Jane wrote it as duet, kind of Nancy and Lee style, so I had to go along with it.

++ What about the artwork for the Matinée EP, who made that drawing ? How did you end up releasing with the Santa Barbara label?

The artwork was based on a still of a 1950s German movie which name I forgot. Of course Jane came up with the idea and she made the drawing. She used to be the Creative Director of Félicité. I was just in charge of operations and kind of a graphic designer who puts everything together with Photoshop, the internet, contacts etc. But art direction, that was clearly Jane, the Peter Saville of Félicité, as it were. After the success of the “Four Seasons EP” it was clear that we wanted to record another EP professionally. I think there were only Matinée and Shelflife on our short list. Slumberland must have been still in hiatus so we sent Northern Altona Demos to Jimmy Tassos and he simply brought it out. We insisted on the spine. Did you ever notice the older Matinée cardboard sleeves don’t have a spine? A shame though that it never came out as 7”. Many people have asked me for that.

++ The songs on this EP were recorded by Ulric Kennedy (ex-Golden Dawn) & Dannie Vallely (ex-The Fauves). How was that experience?

They were great to start with: brilliant musicians, kind Glaswegians and they contributed a lot to the recordings but in the end we ended up arguing about the final mixes and even potential royalties. I mean, it was clear that we weren’t the next Beatles but they thought they were George Martin. Quite frankly, we fell out over this which was another reasons we called it a day with the band.

++ Then there is the “Song for a Troubadour” 7″ that had Stevie Jackson playing harmonica. How did he guest appeared on this release?

We knew him through Roy Moller who is one of his best mates. We released his debut single, Stevie produced it so we got to know him. On one occasion, I think when Belle and Sebastian played Hamburg, we just asked him.

++ And is this really a song for Jens Lekman?

Who told you that? Yes, that’s right. The whole song is based on real events, even the flower and stuff. We played a gig with him in Sweden, I think it was Rundgång Festival and after that we spent some time together with him and the band, that was in Karlskrona in May 2004.

++ The last release was actually a song on a split 7″ on Slumberland. I hear that’s your favourite version of “Song for the Troubador”. Why is that? And how did this release happen?

Mike Schulman wanted to do this “Searching for the Now” 7” single club and asked a couple of people via MySpace I think. It’s as simple as that. Roy Moller also replied, so there you have two Félicité artists on the first two releases of that series. Actually, it was the only release where we hadn’t been consulted on the artwork, but then it was a Slumberland split single. What more do you want to finish off your band when it started with a Slumberland Musikabend? Yes, as just mentioned, I didn’t like the final mix of “Song For the Troubdadour”. Jane’s voice sounds flat, it lacks volume and reverb, the intro is a bit too cheesy. I prefer the raw version.

++ Hey, there’s a very close relationship with Glasgow here. Why is that?

In 2002 I befriended Andreas Hering which I think you know as well, he used to live in Glasgow in the 90s and introduced us to Roy and Ulric. Besides, I spent quite a long time in Scotland because of my wife who I also know through Herr Hering.

++ Who were Cookie Bay publishing by the way?

We thought we needed a publishing company. In the end, that’s how you can make a bit of money, just look at Cherry Red and their company Complete Publishing on Incomplete in the US. But anyway, it was impossible to administer it and the rights should really be with the artists, so we switched to standard Copyright Control even for our own releases. As regards the name, Cookie Bay was the name of the club that never was. It’s a song by The High Llamas.

++ What about gigs, you didn’t play many did you? Any anecdotes you could share?

As mentioned, the first one was in Athens which was quite a big deal. Just think of these small bands coming out of the German hinterland, having to play a hundred gigs in their youth club before they play the next biggest city. I think we played more gigs outside Germany than actually within! In Germany, we only played Bremen supporting The Ladybug Transistor and the Marsh Marigold festival in Hamburg at Echochamber on Reeperbahn. The gig in Sweden was a bit of a nightmare as we had to play along a CD with pre-recorded drums and keyboard and Jane forgot the lyrics halfway through the songs. The best gig ever was the final one at Pop Revo 2004 in Ǻrhus, Denmark, with Pipas, The Clientele and Gary Olsen on the same night. In terms of performance it was the best gig and the other bands were great of course.

++ How was the Hamburg scene then? I really love it there, Altona and Sankt Pauli. Where there any other cool bands? What about your favourite places to hang out?

We always used to go the Revolver Club which back then was at Schlachthof and Echochamber I think. They played sort of Britpop and indierock which was of course very dance orientated but once or twice a night one or two good indiepop singles we were waiting for. An alright club if you are drunk, there were 200-300 people a night, I’d say. The people in Hamburg are very stiff and almost hostile so you would just stand there, smoke 20 cigarettes and talk to the same people whereas in other German cities you won’t come across this snobbism. Then there was the Molotov for Northern Soul nighters called Spellbound. One of the DJs was Lars Buhlnheim who was going out with my flat mate. He is in a band called Superpunk which was one of the best on the Hamburg scene. They play a kind of Mod and Northern Soul inspired pop. Their singer is Carsten of Die Fünf Freunde which I bet you know and which nicely leads on to Marsh Marigold, another indiepop label coming out of Hamburg. I went round to Oliver’s house a couple of times, that was always fascinating. And then there was Marina Records which was a different league. Like Félicité they were very internationally orientated and even Glasgow focused. You wouldn’t think they are a German label. They released albums by Paul Quinn, James Kirk, Teenage Fanclub, Josef K. We sent them “Song For The Troubadour” and asked if they would release it as a single. They rejected it because they only release albums.

I think the most interesting German band for you to discover is Blumfeld who also hailed from Hamburg. Me and Jane liked them a lot and regularly saw them live or bumped into them. They started off very Sonic Youth like in the early 90s then turned cheesy and even mainstream but in a very cool way. Have you heard of the Hamburger Schule? In the late 80s Blumfeld was one of the band that basically started a movement in of alternative German indie pop and rock. Most of it is pretty dull. I think my favourite band from that era is Kollosale Jugend which means Colossal Youth. The second or third generation, depending on how you look at it, that was around at the time Jane and I were making music is around labels called Tapete and Grand Hotel van Cleef who we loathed. There was this band called Kettcar, we really hated this sort of music. I think they are rubbish and they can tour Germany and Austria until they are in their 50s. Really, if you compare it to the stuff coming out of the US and UK most of the German stuff is pretty crap. German is simply not a good language for pop music.

And thinking of more locations of course there is Mutter bar where we would go for a warm up. All the local musicians would hang out there, even the ones touring. And hey, the first time I spoke to my future wife Jennifer it was there. Then there’s Saal Two in Sternschanze a place where you can meet up for a coffee. I used to live in NorthernAltona and later Ottensen, which simply is beautiful and a world of its own, sort of Bohemia. Well, Jane still lives in Hamburg so you gotta ask Jane what the scene is like nowadays. There is a sort of bar called Kleinraumdisko, with a tiny, tiny dancefloor and she has a regular night there called the Shoop Shoop Club. Then there was a bar between Reeperbahn and Elbe river, not sure if it still exists, I used to dj there a couple of times, once with Erlend Øye. And lastly, there is Meanie Bar. Me and Herr Hering once djed there!

++ The Happy Couple never split, but it’s been a long standby. In this time, have you made any music?

I occasionally record music with my wife; we are just doing a cover version of Calvin Johnson’s “That Was Me” and I am currently working on a track with Christian Flamm, you may know him, he is an artist and also is also a German who lives in UK. He published this book on Felt last year, it’s called “Foxtrot Echo Lima Tango”. Whenever I meet Göran, who recorded the “Four Seasons EP” we also make some music together.

++ Your favourite Happy Couple song? Best thing about being in the band?

“Song for the Troubadour”, then “Don’t call it”. That was the direction we were going, the early stuff is almost a bit too twee for me. The songwriting got better as I just said, the lyrics were more grown up. Last year Jane sent me a couple of lyrics and they were way better than the usual “I fancy that boy but I stay in bed all day, la di da”… I personally think we could have been bigger than… emm, let me think… definitely bigger than this Danish duo that sounded like The Jesus and Mary Chain, a couple of years ago, what were they called again? The Raveonettes?

Best thing about being in a band? You get to see places, make music and of course make friends. I am still in touch with many of the people from back then.

++ One last question, I’ve asked you so many already! English food or German food? Astra or Jever?

Jever! I wish they would sell it here in the UK. It’s a shame you can’t get Jever all over the world – unlike Beck’s. There is something very special about Jever the Germans call it “herb”, the best beer in the world. Astra is good for gigs, its cheap, tastes cheap but then you get used to everything. As regards food, I have no preferences. Like with everything else, there are advantages and disadvantages when moving to another country.

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

Well, thanks for asking me to do this interview, Roque, its been a few years now since the days of Happy Couple so it’s always nice to see that many people still remember the band. And many thanks for showing me around Miami and the Keys. I admire you are doing your label in these times after even CDs seem to be dead, Congratulations on 20 vinyl releases. We only did eight with Félicité!


The Happy Couple – Song for the Troubadour


Here’s another band I’ve discovered thanks to Satomi’s mix CDs and it’s one that seems to be impossible to google thanks to, of course, Belle & Sebastian. But I’ve managed to collect some information, sadly it seems that it is quite impossible to find a physical copy of the album “Blue” which seems to have been there only release! What is most exciting about this discovery is that the band was from the Czech Republic of all places!

Sebastians were formed according to the CD inserts by Ian Von Czechticky on bass, Stephen Young on guitar, DL Beauty on guitar, Paul Penal on drums and David Wrdisty on vocals. According to last.fm Sebastians were formed by Dusan Lipert (today Colorfactory, Ohm Square), David Volenc (vocals, Colorfactory) Jan Čechtický (bass, Ohm Square), John Lukes (guitar) and Dan Mrlík (drums). Lukes was later replaced Stephen Tuma (Liquid Harmony), and Pelan Mrlík Paul. Wonder which is the right lineup!

Their first release was a demo tape called Romanian Songs and their first proper release was the “Blue” album that was released in 1993 by the Bonton Music label out of their home country and it was produced by Colin Stuart  who had produced some singles for Kirsty MacColl. In this album there’s also a collaboration by some of the members of the Ecstasy of St Theresa, arguably the Czech Republic’s most well-known indie band, like Jan Gregar doing some “bass space” & “feedback vibrations” or Jan Muchow doing some “ambient vibrations”. Overall the album is a beautiful sun-bleached shoegazy 10-tracker, with the high point, for me, their indiepoppy “Am I the One” that reminds me to the more recent Long Beach band Silver Screen. Another fantastic track you don’t want to miss is “Our New Kind of Love” that may as well be a lost Venus Peter song!

“Silversurfer” the first song on the album, which is perhaps the most experimental of the bunch, appeared on two compilations in the past decade. In 2000 it appeared on the “Czech that Sound!” and in 2003 on “Hurá, Kytary!”. Both of these compilations were samplers of Czech indie music. Wonder if any of the other bands in it were as good as Sebastians!

So as I love going through tangents, I looked up where the name Sebastian comes from to learn:

Sebastian is a masculine given name. It comes from the Latin name Sebastianus meaning ‘from Sebaste’. Sebaste is the name of a town in Asia Minor (present-day Sivas), derived from the Greek word σεβαστός (sebastos), “venerable”, which comes from σέβας (sebas), “awe, reverence, dread”,[ in turn from the verb σέβομαι (sebomai), “feel awe, scruple, be ashamed”. Sebastos was the Greek translation of the title Augustus, which was used for Roman emperors. Sebastian became a widely used name because it was the name of Saint Sebastian, a third century Christian martyr.Saint Sebastian in Ilpendam North-Holland.

Interesting, right? Anyways, aside from what I’ve written above, there seems to be no other information about the band. The CD seems very had to find but who knows, maybe it’s easy to grab one at a record store in Prague still? I haven’t had any lucky finding any of the band members. And even less luck finding any sort of other releases by the band. Listening to this soothing record I start questioning again how the music crowd works, what if Sebastians had been British? I’m sure I’d find their album on ebay or amazon, Im sure they’d be remembered and would have played a reunion gig already. That’s how it is. The way of the world.

If anyone has any more information about the band, or how I can get a copy of their Blue album, please let me know!


Sebastians – Am I The One


Some days ago I got a couple of mix CDs from Satomi, one of the members of the Twee Grrrls gang from Japan, and before part of the Remember This club (whose setlists should make them the best indiepop club in the world ever). Actually these two CDs were given away at the Remember This club. One on the 9th edition of the club and the other on the 10th anniversary of it. I believe both nights happened in 2008. Anyhow, I’m thrilled and very thankful to receive new music, especially obscure tracks from the 80s that I have never before heard of!

I’m quite busy these days to write new interviews but will try to keep updating the blog with short posts – short for my standards – about “lost bands” ready to be (re)discovered. So, as I will do some research on the bands on these mix CDs, I thought sharing whatever I find here on the blog. Sounds good?

First track on the #9 CD is a track called “Wishing” by the band New English. It’s a lovely upbeat track, full of trumpets and pa-pa-pas, not much in the style of classic C86 but more in the vein of bands like A Craze, Friday Bridge or Big Outdoor Type. How do you call that style? I like to call that kind of music neo-aco, though I know for the Japanese that is a much broader term!! So what could New English mean? Let’s check on our dear Wikipedia:

The Old English (Irish: Seanghaill, meaning “old foreigners”) were the descendants of the settlers who came to Ireland from Wales, Normandy, and England after the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169–71. Many of the Old English became assimilated into Irish society over the centuries. Some were dispossessed in the political and religious conflicts during and after the Tudor conquest of Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries, largely due to their continued adherence to the Roman Catholic religion. The so-called New English otherwise known as the settlers of the Protestant Ascendancy had largely replaced them by 1700. (…) the New English, that wave of settlers who came to Ireland from England during the Elizabethan era onwards as a result of the Tudor conquest of Ireland, kept their English identity, as well as their English religious, social, and cultural traditions, and, unlike the Normans and the Old English, remained distinct from the native Irish and Old English, at least for the first few generations. The new settlers were more self-consciously English, and were largely (though not entirely) Protestant, and most looked on Ireland as a conquered country that needed to be “civilised” and converted to Anglicanism.

I wonder if they had any Irish connection?

This song, “Wishing”, was actually released in a compilation LP called “Expose It!” which is terribly hard to find! The last time it was up for bids on Ebay in 2008(!) it went for 120 dollars. That because this compilation included also a song by a band called “No Man is an Island” (they later changed the band name to No-Man) which is a pre-Porcupine Tree band that featured Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness. That song was called “Screaming Head Eternal” and was recorded on the first day of these two guys working together. Ok. This doesn’t sound important to me, as far as I know Porcupine Tree is not something I enjoy listening, but I guess there are many crazy fans willing to pay this price for their first ever recording! I guess it makes sense, I know some people paying crazy money for Sea Urchins and the like.

Well, back to the compilation. It was released by a label called GI Records (catalog number GILP002) and it states that it features material from bands that were local to the Oxford area. So yeah, probably no Irish connection. The other bands in this compilation were: Passion of Ice, Bordello, Gadgets, Pows, Revolution, Kick Ass, Cybernauts, Tall Americans, Sinister Family and The Keatons. The only one I know is of course the last one, The Keatons. Wonder if any of the rest of  the bands played guitar pop! The LP was released in 1988 and was priced 4.99 pounds!

So here comes the surprise, on the black and white sleeve it does say that the band was from a place called Oxshott, in Surrey. South from Oxford, even further south than London! An interesting fact of this place is that it is situated in London’s stockbroker belt and the area consequently has some of the highest property prices in the UK – it was voted as the most expensive suburb to live in, by the Daily Telegraph on 26 December 2007 and, in 2010, they called it “the village with most footballers” in England. A very strange place for underground music to flourish!!

As always, if anyone know anything else about New English please share, I’d love to hear any other facts or even more songs if possible!


New English – Wishing


It’s been the busiest week so far this year. I’m kind of glad it’s over, though I still have a couple of projects to work on. Freelance work. The bright side is that things are shaping up and I may be able to go to Indietracks after all. The lineup is 30% or so up to my taste but I’m sure the next announcements will win me over. Anyways, Indietracks is more than just bands, it’s the community, it’s the atmosphere and of course the warm beer. It’s what indiepop is all about. So who cares what bands play. It’s going to be phenomenal either way.

The good news this week is the release of The Sunny Street’s sophomore effort “Hidden by Decades”. We’ve released it under the Plastilina imprint. We are very proud of this album and hopefully you’ll get a copy in your hands soon. You know how much I love them, they are among my best friends, so it’s just very heartwarming to be able to finally put this out. On top of that, Americans will get the rare treat to see them play live at the NYC Popfest next month. Oh! And I think Rémi is playing some acoustic songs at the train at Indietracks. Not to be missed!

Staying with Plastilina Records, I can confirm too that The Sound of Starke Adolf Vol. 1 compilation will be out May 1st. This is probably my most ambitious project up to date on the label. I try to document the great Swedish underground scene of the early 2000s. I plan 2 more volumes, which I can’t wait to start working on them. This first volume includes Action Biker, Dorotea, Strawberry Fair, Nixon, and more. Pre-order now as I think this one will go fast!

On the Cloudberry side, I’ve been working a bit on the fanzine and on the CD that will come with it. The “pink” fanzine will include interviews to The Garlands (who grace the cover), Very Truly Yours, Gold-Bears, Persian Rugs, Strega and My Laundry Life. The CD is titled “There is Peace in the Surging Prow” and the cover star is Rita Tushingham. One of the songs included will be “Fishing for Moonlight” from a new band from Canada called Sleuth. I recommend heading to their bandcamp and listen to some more songs by them. They are really ace. You can order their songs on tape too. Other confirmed bands on the CD are Very Truly Yours and Persian Rugs. Also, if you haven’t noticed yet, you can check the tracklist and the artwork  for the upcoming 7″ by Very Truly Yours. I’m hoping it will be out in July or August as the latest. And coming after is the long awaited debut and goodbye 7″ by Alingsås’ Youngfuck with the tracks “Black Tulips” and “204,7”. On the merch side, I have plans to print new t-shirts and finally some tote bags this summer. So keep your eyes peeled.

But now let’s get into indiepop mystery solving mode. Anyone know anything about The Jerks? I got in touch once with them through their myspace and asked them to do an interview with me. I sent them questions but never heard from them again. A shame really. Would have loved to learn more from them.

I have been a fan, for some years now, of a song of theirs called “Waterskin”. This track appeared on the Kite tape that was released in 1989. Jangly perfection! I hear this track appeared on their 3rd demo tape. It’s just a great track: chiming guitars, heartfelt vocals, and great lyrics! That was the first clue for the indiepop detective in me. Next stop was their Myspace page. First things I notice is that they sometimes dropped the “The” from their name, they took lots of photos of themselves, and they made some Jerks t-shirts. I’d love to own one!

There are some great tracks on their player, all I assume unreleased: “Beyond the Pale”, “Across the Sun”, “Clean”, “Happy Comedown”, “King of the Wild Banjos (Live)”, Life Slips By (live)”, “Manmade” and “The Lens (live)”. I listen to them time after time today and I get that dream (that comes back to me all the time) of releasing compilations of long lost bands on beautiful digipacks with lots of photos and memorabilia. Though of course, reality comes back immediately, and I wonder if there are more than 100 people interested in such a thing.

So they were from Oldham, north of Manchester. It seems Oldham rose to prominence during the 19th century as an international centre of textile manufacture. It was a boomtown of the Industrial Revolution, and among the first ever industrialised towns, rapidly becoming “one of the most important centres of cotton and textile industries in England”. At its zenith, it was the most productive cotton spinning mill town in the world, spinning more cotton than France and Germany combined. Oldham’s textile industry began to fall into decline during the mid-20th century, and its last mill closed in 1998.The demise of textile processing in Oldham depressed the local economy. Today Oldham is a predominantly residential town, and a centre for further education and the performing arts. It is, however, still distinguished architecturally by the surviving cotton mills and other buildings associated with that industry. The town’s population is of 103,544. Do you think they still live there?

I just saw a flyer online where it says they played along Spacemen 3 and Inspiral Carpets on the 4th of September 1987 at The Hurricane Club in Oldham. Does this place ring a bell to anyone?  Or what about Butterflies? It seems they played there as well.

Next clue. On Last.fm there’s a small bio saying: Oldham-based indie band active in the late 80s and early 90s, no releases of their own except self-released cassettes, tracks included on compilations include “Didn’t Quite Make It” and “Waterskin.” Changed singer and became Rubber Orange. Then I find the Manchester District Archives website were there’s another bio: Oldham band. Line-up: John Reed – Vocals, Guitar, Lee ‘Drany’ Dransfield – Guitar, Warren Wrigley – Bass, David ‘Dids’ Gill – Keyboards, Andy Price – Drums. Before Andy Price joined the ubiquitous Chris Goodwin played drums for them for some time. Several demo tapes recorded at The Mill by Clint Boon. ‘Waterskin’ released on the compilation tape ‘Kite’ and ‘Didn’t Quite Make It’ released on the Bop/Joe Bloggs compilation Hit The North. After John Reed left Lee Severin from Too Much Texas replaced him and they replaced their set, soon afterwards changing their name to Rubber Orange.

A quick search for Rubber Orange and I stumble upon their myspace. A nice discovery! I’m enjoying their songs. But  then again it’s been a while since anyone logged in. But wait, there’s a myspace for “Dranny” who was part of The Jerks.And he seems to have logged in not so long ago. Wonder if he’ll solve this indiepop mystery! Would be so great to learn more about the band and finally interview them. And why not, listen to more songs by The Jerks! The ones available to stream are fantastic!


The Jerks – Waterskin


Thanks so much to Richard Starke for the interview! Jane Pow were a fantastic Southampton (and later Brighton) band that was quite modish! Maybe the band from the period that was influenced the most by 60s sound. They released records on many great labels as Ambition, Marineville, Target and Slumberland. Actually, you can still buy their CD on Slumberland that included both “Love it, Be It!” and “State” albums here.

++ Hi Richard! Thanks so much for being up for the interview! What are you up to nowadays? Still making music?

Hi. Thanks for the offer ! Well not anything too exciting or glamorous but i keep myself kinda busy. I’m still trying to make music though not in the serious or intense way I did back with Jane Pow. I live just outside of Seattle, WA USA. Moved here 15 yrs or so ago.

++ Let’s talk about Jane Pow, was it your first band or were you involved with other bands before it?

No I was playing since I was about 14. Played bass in a band with a friend, started playing with other people in variously dumb titled bands, The Kinky Boot Beasts, The Metric System, F Yes Bubble, Sunset Strip (With Mike from the Music Liberation Front).

Jane Pow came about from meeting various people that seemed to want to do something a little more serious. Greg McDermott was the only other constant member of the band. He is a great player and always kept me in line. He was the musician in the band. We started off playing this droney Spacemen 3 rip off . We would project Pop Art over ourselves (Bridget Riley I think) our gigs and make a huge racket. (The cover of “Safe” is actually a picture of one of our gigs that has been made super low res) It was pretty cool and the first time we met Mark who would start Ambition. We played at his “indie” nights. He spun records and we would play. I think he got other bands to his nights as well after a while. From there we started playing other venues and eventually other towns.

++ So how did the band start? How did you all knew each other?

We were just friends of friends and played in bands around Southampton. We were all about 16 or 17 so we would hang out and party and you just meet! We got it together pretty quickly. Me, Greg McDermott on drums, Rupert Hanna on Bass and Vincent Kellet on Guitar. We all kinda liked some of the same music and I think we all wanted to play in a serious band.

That first line up recorded our first few singles and the first full length “State”. Vincent is an accomplished classical guitar player and I think he got bored with me asking him to play one chord for 5 minutes ! He left after we did the first album. So at first we were all in school and just practiced when we were meant to be studying. At that point it kinda took over my life and I think everyone’s. We started to play bigger places and got a good following in Southampton. We were a pretty good live band. Loud and aggressive. We played fast and noisy !!

++ What’s the story behind the band’s name?

That’s pretty simple. We had to think of a name the night before our first gig and we sat around all night trying to agree. It got more and more silly and we ended up with Jane Pow. The name of a girl the 3/4 of the band went to school with! I though it sounded pretty Mod! It just stuck!

++ How did you like Southampton back then? What were the places were you usually hanged out? Was there a healthy scene there?

Yeah I think it was good. The place has changed alot. The scene was pretty underground. “Indie” is so mainstream now, it doesn’t mean what it did back then. Indie was everything from Goth to punk to folk music. It was a way of conducting yourself as a band and a fan. We were looking for something away from mainstream culture. It felt at the time like it had more integrity, I think that was cause we were young though. Now I’m so jaded !!!!!!!!!

We played at and watched many bands at The Joiners Arms. Its still going strong ! We supported Ride there and Primal Scream to name some big names. A good few others and also some great local bands. We played at the Labour Club at Mark from Ambition’s night. It was a club affiliated with the Labour Party. It was in the wrong end of town near the docks and had subsidised Beer !!!! You could get very drunk on not much money and have a great time jumping around to noisy indie music. There were always a few die hard OAP Labour Party guys there looking at us like we were crazy ! I remember some other pubs and clubs but its all a little hazy ! I lived in a small village on the outskirts of town called Netley. I remember some very long walks that seemed to last all night coming back late from shows. I also just remember hanging out at parks and by the water after staying up all night. We had a great time even though there was a lot of angst going down !

There were a lot of good local bands that i cant remember the names of !!!!!!!!!!

++ From the period, what we can consider the indiepop heyday, you must be the most 60s influenced band, at least you sound like that. What were you listening at the time? And just out of curiosity, which bands from those late 80s, early 90s, did you like or felt closer to what Jane Pow was doing?

Yeah it’s funny that it seems like a heyday ! I think there were other bands as into the sixties thing as we were. There were so many splintering groups of sub cultures that its hard to generalize. I remember being pretty frustrated with being lumped in with bands from say Sarah Records or such stuff. I never saw Jane Pow as in that group, we never seemed to go down so well with their audiences ! I remember bowl cuts and pointy boots being pretty big at Creation around that time ! Primal Scream, Razorcuts, Jasmine Minks Biff Bang Pow, Mary Chain etc etc We all seemed to look like cast offs from a Velvet Underground bio pic !

I used to like and still do Felt, Primal Scream, The Wolfhounds, Momus, McCarthy, The Jasmine Minks,Jesus and Mary Chain, Microdisney, The Chameleons, China Crisis, 808 State, The Blue Aeroplanes , Julian Cope, My bloody Valentine . You know the list goes on !

I always loved older stuff to and we became more and more obsessed with trying NOT to sound like an indie pop band. In the nineties it all got very britpop that never really did it for me. By that time I was more musically educated and preferred to listen to older guitar music. I did start to get into hip hop and electronic music . I had a bit of a Blue Note and early 70’s jazz phase!

++ Your first two singles came out on Mark Pearson’s “Ambition Records”. How do you remember signing to his label? How did the deal work out? Any anecdotes you can share about Mr. Gnome? 🙂

Mark : Lets make a record, ill put it out !
Us : OK !
Contract negotiations over !

I don’t think there was a deal as such. He paid for the recordings and the pressing and all and we got a record. We got to sell some at gigs and made a bit of cash. I don’t remember it being a big thing just cool. I honestly don’t have many memories of that time. I mostly spent my time being all angsty in the corner and writing songs!

++ You then released one single on Marineville, the Sanitized 7″, which is really great. I find Andy Marineville to always be in the shadows, doesn’t like much promotion though he has been quite a supporter of Cloudberry! Which I’m very thankful. Did you ever get to meet him?

Oh yeah. I think Andrew was friends of the Marineville guys and we hung out a little bit. This was when the band had relocated to Brighton, along the coast in the south of England. We had our own label called Target Records. We put out the Jane Pow album “State” and “Love It Be It”.

We also put out a few other bands, Arthur, Studio 68, High Llamas, Prescriptions, Monoland. We were always open to people putting out tracks as singles or on compilations. We were on the Slumberland “One Last Kiss” comp and a few others.

++ And also on this single you come up with what will be more or less your design aesthetics for the next records. Who came up with that look? Oh! and what is this song about?

Most of the design was done by Andrew. It was great to have total creative control over covers and music. It was our own label so we could do pretty much anything we wanted ! Also though we were responsible for all the mistakes !

We were very into late 60’s underground art and that stuff was influenced by a Richard Neville book called “Play Power” . He had been a leading light in the underground scene in late 60’s London. His book is great. We carried on the artistic style with the rest of our releases. Andrew spent a lot of time working on those covers. We were doing it by hand, cutting out letters and pictures to make the final cover art. This was way before we had Photoshop on our computers !

++ Then you suddenly release a 7″ in the US, on Slumberland. It wasn’t that common then for a UK band to release in the US. How did that happen?

Hmmmmm ! Cant remember to be honest ! I think he heard our stuff somewhere and just asked to do it. Pretty informal. Warm Room seems to be a song people liked. If I remember that was mainly written by Rupert the bass player in the band. We were not as connected as we are today so maybe fewer bands did it cause of that . I remember some other bands putting out 7 inch singles in the states on labels like “Bus Stop”.

We met Mike from Slumberland in DC and hung out with him for a night if I remember. He was very cool and into the music so we saw a like minded label.

++ Then two albums on Target Records from Brighton, listening to them today, how do you think they have aged? What are your favourite songs from them? What do you remember from recording them?

I think I like the “State” LP best. It seems more of a product of things rather than a copy of things. By the time we did “Love It Be It!” we were very conscious of NOT being an indie band. I was listening to pretty much all old music with a few bands like Felt and early electronic music like 808 state. We recorded “State” in a small 8 track studio with Peter Dale. We would have 3 guitar parts and a horn section on one track. Mixing the record was like playing the mixing desk. It was a fun record to make. Pete was a great engineer and into helping us with our sound. I felt like we had made a good record and was proud to have it out.

“Love It Be It” was harder to make. We tried recording in a 16trk studio but it didn’t go too well. We ended up recording 4 songs in our basement apartment ourselves ! I had a definite sound that I wanted and couldn’t get !!!! It was frustrating. There are some good songs on that record. I like the fact that “Sanitized” is mono until the last 30 seconds or so! but I don’t think the recordings do them justice.

As for favorite songs, I’d go for “Through”, “Latitude” and “Take”. On “Love It Be It!” I’d say “Sanitized”, “90’s”, “Playpower”, “It’s on Its way”.

As to how they have aged! Well sometimes I find it unbearable to listen to them!!!!!!!! They are badly played and sometimes badly recorded but they have a certain something! They were played from beginning to end, no computers chopping and re tuning. Just 3 or 4 or 5 blokes making a noise! I wondered how I played some of those guitar parts too! Thinking about it Greg did moist of the hard bits!

++ These same albums were released around the same time but on 1 CD on Slumberland Records. Why was that?

Well just cause Mike wanted to put them out and it all fit on one CD ! You couldn’t get our LP records in the USA at the time and it was cool to have them on a CD. We also put a few extras on there like “Sophia Green” and “Morning side”. Those are not on the vinyl version of the albums.

++ Ah! I have to ask, one of my favourite tracks of yours is “Sophia Green”, I always wondered who was that Sophia you sing about?

Well ask Mike Evil!!! I don’t know!

If I could change the world, I guess I would. /
If I could see what I need to see then you know I would /
But you gotta keep telling me now what to give /
wheres my independence oh wheres my hope. /
so i live my life in harmony /
try to stop my ideas getting chopped down with me /
cause there everything, yes there everything to me /
and Sophia.

Sophia Green to me was always that mythical Girl that was your ally, your love and your hope for life. Who you needed to be with cause they are everything, but who, of coarse you lost, or maybe never found.

++ Also you had that song 90s, which makes me wonder, which decade did you enjoy the most, the 80s, the 90s, or perhaps this one, the 00s?

I suppose they all were so different from each other. In the 80’s I was growing up and getting into life and music. I was 14 in 1984 when I heard the Jesus and Mary Chain, The Smiths, etc, etc, and it blew my mind. I loved listening to Peel and started playing music.

In the 90’s I struggled with playing in Jane Pow and trying to make that a success, ultimately fleeing the UK for the USA. I got married and that was another part of life.

In this decade I have worked at a few record labels and a few web companies, had 2 amazing kids and met some great people here in Seattle, I have also missed England and lost my Dad so its a toss up.

I always think that the next one will be the best until you are far enough away from the past to gain perspective.

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

Yeah we did. We played a lot in Southampton at first but then all round the UK and got as far as the USA and Germany. I remember the German tour being good. Playing Hamburg was great. There’s at least one show in the USA that I remember very well and changed my life for ever!

I remember supporting Primal Scream , playing at the Labour club at the Gnome’s night. I also remember playing to 4 people and a dog at various London venues, those gigs were the worst. Hoping that some wanker from the NME was gonna review the show or some A&R dude was meant to come down. I hated all that stuff. I loved playing at the Joiners Arms to a sell out home town show !

++ When and why did you call it a day?

When I moved to the USA I suppose. We had recorded a 3rd LP with myself and Greg as the only original members. It got screwed up and was unusable. There are a few tracks floating around from that time. We had gotten signed to a sub label of Acid Jazz but it didn’t work out so decided to do it ourselves on my old 8 track machine!

We had a new bass player Andy Jackson, Rudy on the congas, Paul Sutton on sax and my big bro Andy singing. The songs were sounding great and then we had some technical issues that screwed the whole thing up. After that it just kinda stopped. I have never played in a band since!

++ What did you all do after the band’s split? Are you still all in touch?

Ive been in the USA since then. Ive been to college, worked at a college radio station, a commercial station , some record labels and an internet company. I’ve made music under the name Firingbullets. Its pretty sporadic right now though.

Greg is back in the UK and has played with a few bands most notably Fiel Garvy. Rupert moved to Norway and Vince teaches guitar! Andy was in the Regular Fries for a while and now makes movies. We are still in touch. Everyone is on friendly terms!

++ Alright, let’s start wrapping the interview, but before, what was your guitar during those Jane Pow days?

A couple. I had a Fender Jaguar that I loved . A big Hofner semi acoustic and a red Telecaster. I had a 12 string acoustic as well. Rupert played a Fender Jazz bass. We also used a Korg ms10 , a stylaphone, Hammonds and an occasional synth horn section!

++ And one last one, what are other stuff do you enjoy doing aside from music?

I have 2 kids 8 and 10 so they take up a lot of time. I’m a soccer dad ! I help out on my kids team and generally potter around the house. I like the usual stuff books , UK TV and radio but to be honest if you take music out of my life you loose a huge chunk of it !

++ Thanks again Richard! Anything else you’d like to add?

No problem! Not much just that its amazing and gratifying that people remember Jane Pow. I put alot of emotional energy and time into the music so its good to know that someone enjoyed it!


Jane Pow – Sophia Green


Thanks again to Bart for the fantastic interview! We’ve talked before about Pencil Tin and Girl of the World, and now it’s the turn of this short-lived band that included the great Pam Berry on vocals. I guess The Cat’s Miaow interview is around the corner then? Anyways, sit down, read and enjoy.

++ Hi again Bart! Always lots to talk with you! Let’s cover The Shapiros this time, sounds good? First thing that I wonder is how did the communication between Pam and you started?

We had a mutual friend (Dave Harris, Munch videos) who sent Pam a Cat’s Miaow tape and me a Glo-Worm tape. we were all “love your band” “no i love YOUR band”

++ On the Girl of the World interview you were telling me that originally you came to the US, to the West Coast, to play at a festival. Was going all the way to the East Coast already planned? You didn’t do a road trip did you?

The idea was that I’d come over to DC afterwards and we’d record a single. I flew. It’s practically the same price to get an around the world ticket as it is to get a return flight to the US from Australia. so after DC Iwent onto London

++ And how was meeting for the first time with Pam?

Pretty cool. We’d already corresponded quite a bit so we kinda knew each other fairly well. If she wasn’t so nice it might have been a bit intimidating meeting a living legend.

++ Did you experience any sort of cultural shock in the US?

For me the biggest difference was the lack of a social security network, the poverty, the homelessness. those things exist in Australia as well but not to the same extent.

++ Which city did you enjoy the most in the US and why? When was the last time you visited this country?

I had the best time in DC but that was more to do with the people than the city itself. I liked New York and Boston as well. That’s the only time I’ve been to the us.

++ By the way, when you stayed in DC did you get to do any touristy stuff, I don’t know, like The White House?

not a lot, mostly just haing out with pam and her friends. i did a little, i went past the white house and visited some of the museums. i probably did more touristy things in new york like the empire state building and statue of liberty.

++ Why the name The Shapiros? Who were you nodding?

Helen Shapiro. We actually had a lot of trouble trying to come up with a name, nothing seemed right for what we were trying to convey. I think the Shapiros was the one that sucked the least and we needed to decide on something as we were playing at CMJ.

++ And I guess you experienced some gigs in the US, right? And you met people involved in the scene and the community here? How different to Australia was it? Any anecdotes you can share?

I remember seeing the Magnetic Fields a few times, holiday and charm of the highway strip had just come out and the live band sounded nothing like i expected. i expected a synth duo like yazoo but got something so much better. we played in New York with them and Lois which was a pretty cool bill in hindsight. when we came off stage i bumped into Jason Reynolds from Summershine. He was like “what are YOU doing here?” = “what’s a loser from Melbourne doing playing in New York?” He didn’t sign us obviously. I think that sums things up, in Australia i operate very much at best on the periphery or outside of things whereas with Pam being Pam and being involved with Chickfactor it did seem to be a bit closer to the center and connected to everything

++ So you recorded 12 songs in a span of two weeks, is that right? You recorded with Archie Moore, correct? How were those recording sessions? With so little time it sounds stressful, but I’m sure it wasn’t!

The recording was done really quickly in Archie’s and Trish’s basement were we rehearsed. Archie had a small window of opportunity between velocity girl tours. I don’t remember it being stressful, but towards the end trying to finish it got a bit rushed. And I’m not much of a team player when it comes to mixing. That’s all I’m saying

++ The Shapiros also included Trish and Scott, how did they become part of the band?

Friends of Pam’s, how else! Originally it was going to be Scott and Chip Porter who were both in Veronica Lake along with Pam. I cant think of a band that influenced the Cat’s Miaow more than Veronica Lake, it was going to be the perfect line up. Unfortunately Chip had to pull out so we got Trish in who was playing in a Belmondo with Pam. Still a pretty cool line up.

++ Looking at the compilation tracklist, first thing that pops up is that “When I Was Howard Hughes” was also released by Hydroplane. So I wonder, this song was intended for which band originally? Shapiros or Hydroplane? And of course I have to ask, was Howard Hughes an important figure for you?

Howard Hughes was the last song recorded, it was more of an idea rather than a song and we had never rehearsed it. I’m the only one on it apart from Skooter playing some tambourine. For me songs are a fairly transferable commodity not tied to any particular band. I do prefer the Hydroplane version, its a bit more fully realised, tho i was hardly involved in the recording other than the guitar solo. It’s more the notion of Howard Hughes as a metaphor, for what I’ll let the listener decide. He was as mad as a cut snake but i do find it interesting to see what people do when unlimited finances are at there disposal

++ Also you recorded three covers. You’ve told me before you were a big Beat Happening fan so “Cry for a Shadow” makes a lot of sense – is that your favourite Beat Happening song? – but what about “Cut” originally by the 14 Iced Bears and The Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow “, whose idea was it to record these songs?

I think Beat Happening are incredible and because of their minimal instrumentation it provides a lot of scope for their songs to be re-interpreted. I thought “Cry for a Shadow” was a great song to cover that a lot of people had overlooked in favour of “Indian Summer” or “Cast a Shadow”. Pam is also probably as big if not a bigger fan of Beat Happening than me. I picked The Shirelles as i think I was trying to evoke a sort of 60’s brill building vibe. Pam picked cut and “Bright Coloured Lights” by Crash. I think in hindsight we should have only released “Cry for a Shadow”.

++ And how did the creative process work to write the 9 original songs you penned with The Shapiros? Did the lyrics just came naturally while recording, or maybe you had them ready before coming to the US?

No, all the songs were written while I was in DC. Before I left we had discussed recording a single together so i had tried to write some songs in Australia but hadn’t come up with anything. I’d just finished recording “A Gentle Hand…” by Pencil Tin and “How did Everything Get so Fucked Up” by the Cat’s Miaow so the song “Cupboard” was well and truly bare. I did write “Smitten” in my head on the bus between Portland and Olympia which the Cat’s Miaow latter recorded. I don’t know why the Shapiros didn’t do it, it would have suited them perfectly, I cant even remember showing it to them.

Most of the Shapiros original songs could have a writing credit of words Pam, music Bart. Pam wrote the words and music to “Makes Me Smile” and “Cross your Mind”. I wrote the words and music to when I was Howard Hughes. It has been the only time I’ve written songs with someone and they’ve been sitting there in the room at the same time. Usually it’s been one person writing a finished piece of music and it gets handed over to write some words later on. I don’t remember us spending a lot of time writing songs. I do remember a lot of thrift store shopping, Ethiopian restaurants and hanging out with Pam’s friends.

++ So alright, what is your favourite song of them all?

Any of the first 4 on the CD i m still really proud of. The cover of “Cry for a Shadow” I really enjoy. The guitars at the start of “Gone by Fall” are probably the best guitar sound I’ve ever got so I still enjoy that a lot. When Pam and I played in London last year we did “Cry for a Shadow” and “Month of Days”. The Shapiros are only a relatively small part of my back catalogue but it comprises a high proportion of my personal favourites

++ What about releasing with Fantastic Records and Popfactory? How did these releases happen?

Pam organised these, I think it was bit of word of mouth mostly. We were talking to Popfactory while I was still in DC. The original idea had been to record a single and it just kept growing. I don’t think we viewed the songs as an album that couldn’t be broken up so we were quite happy to have the songs spread across what ended being 5 different releases.

++ I know you’ve recorded some more songs with Pam, as Bart & Friends, but that was not so long ago. Is it silly to ask why it didn’t happen before?

We were living on opposite sides of the planet and the technology of the day didn’t really lend itself to long distance recording. We did record one song around 1999, another version of Blue Moon which ended up as a bside to a Japanese single that Bart & Friends did and then after that I stopped playing music for about 10 years. We are talking about recording some more songs later this year. It’s pretty cool to write a song and think “this would sound great if Pam Berry sang it” and be able to make that a reality.

++ So Bart, what other hobbies do you have aside making brilliant songs? Do you collect anything in particular maybe?

Between my family and work I’ve barely got time to squeeze in writing songs (I try to spend at least 15 minutes each day writing). Does watching the History Channel count as a hobby? I’m into very nerdy things like megalithic sites, ancient Rome, electronic music from the 50’s & 60’s, The Wire, Deadwood…the winter evenings just fly by in our house.

++ Thanks again Bart, looking forward to our next interview! Any other anecdote about The Shapiros you’d like to share?

I got a tattoo of the guitar on Beat Happening’s dreamy album while i was in The Shapiros. it still hasn’t washed off


The Shapiros – Gone By Fall


It’s hard to think of today. Even more difficult to think about it ten times.  My copy of The Andersen Tapes’ “As I Write ‘Today’ Ten Times” has the word written ‘today’ written and numbered 10 times by Amanda. It feels more like yesterday than today. The memory of a perfect gig fumbles in my head, but happily the album lives up to day.

My review is as biased as it can be. I adore Amanda and I believe everything she has made so far, from the Free Loan Investments, to the Busy Band and now The Andersen Tapes is just gold. Solid gold. Back in the day, when Roger Gunnarsson pointed me to the Andersen Tapes myspace, where two songs greeted me with shyness, I knew there was something special here. With skepticism I wrote Amanda as it seemed as no one was logging in to her myspace. Happily she answered and we ended up releasing a small 3″ CD with three tracks: “Smartypants”, “The Problem is the Solution” and “Turn to Speak”. The little CD sold out fast.

We teamed once again including the song “Cross Country” on compilation CD called “Ever Get the Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?”. This CD was released along the Bottle Rocket zine. What is funny and quite a coincidence is that on the cover of this CD you can spot Jörgen Svensson, head of Fraction Discs, who would release The Andersen Tapes album a year or so after.

I consider myself very fortunate. If my memory doesn’t play any games, The Andersen Tapes have played a grand total of 3 gigs. From those 3, I’ve attended to 2. First one in Stockholm, back in October 2009. Where a cold Swedish night became warm and bright when Amanda played perhaps 8 songs accompanied by her bluegrass and fellow medicine student friends The Mississippi Preachers. An intimate gig were she dazzled the small crowd that made the right decision to be at Debaser Slussen that night. She was even able to make everyone so happy after just mere hours ago Sweden had lost against Denmark in the World Cup qualifiers. Not many can pull that off! Quite a charmer!

I’m just re-reading a short and sweet interview we did just after that gig. I grin with happiness. I ask her if she knew she was the best dancer in Stockholm. She said that it was perhaps she was the only one dancing to what I was djing. There’s also the question about doing a 7″ of The Andersen Tapes some day. She agrees. I hope it happens. I could make 10 7″s out of each song of the album though, and would make a lot of sense. The interview was published on the last fanzine, the black fanzine. We also talk about the then upcoming album, she tells me:

“I think it might be 10-12 songs. We’ll see what songs go together and do some selecting. I’m so excited! I love Fraction Discs. The album has a working name on my computer: “A house in new ordeals” – but I don’t think it will be the name on the record because I don’t think what it means! People can expect me singing and playing instruments badly, (I love DIY). Some fast popsongs, and some ballads. A mix of old songs that’s been collecting dust and some very new ones. So it shows a history and my songwriting of five-six years.”

So she settled with 10 songs, mostly ballads, and a different name for the album. And believe me, it’s not badly played at all. It sounds great as it is. It is in any case something to champion, that she recorded all these songs by herself in Hallandsgatan.

I’ve been listening to the album quite a lot after coming back from London Popfest. The Andersen Tapes played their last gig there, on a Friday, in Brixton’s Windmill. This time it was an all-star band. The sound of the band was fuller and richer. The two guitars gave the songs another dimension with Isak giving some fantastic jangle. On top of that, they got Jesper, of the best drummers in indiepop history. The vocals harmonies between Amanda and Christin were heaven sent. And Renée picking up the bass for the first time and proving she could handle it with no problems. Amazing! I had already a taster, I didn’t miss the sound testing, but as soon as the first words came out from “Clap, Clap, Clap”, and the gentle guitar playing of Ms. Aldervall, the time stopped for me. On the course of the 9 songs they played it was hard to even feel my heartbeat. Was I alive? It was the best gig by far during the festival. The best band. They took the stage, the venue, they made it theirs.  It was just perfect. Magical even. You know, I still get flashbacks in dreams of that gig. It was hauntingly good!

The last song of that gig was a true footstomper. On my setlist it says just “Baby”. It’s not on the album, but I hear it’s from a secret new project. We’ll have to wait and see. But it already promises so much knowing who is involved in it. But I can’t say more!

Writing this today, suddenly it feels like today when it was a cold night in Stockholm back in 2009 when I felt a bit lost taking the tunnelbana for the first time and when arriving to Slussen station getting directions from Amanda to the venue under the bridge. A huge buffet in there were everything seemed vegetarian. When she tells me the best of Stockholm is just walking around and crossing it’s bridges. Getting my Free Loan Investments 7″ signed. It feels like today when I saw Amanda across the street in Tottenham Road Court and looking for that elusive vegetarian Chinese buffet that Christin loves. Laughing about that we thought each other were vegetarians, when of course we aren’t. It all feels like today. Today like today ten times. And on the background “All You Need to Know” is playing here at home, far away from Sweden, from England. And I capture the words from the songs, bit by bit, and I wish on a shooting star all these things were happening again. Wishing for it all to repeat.

Tenderly the songs flow, one after the other. I’m reminded not of Talulah Gosh or Heavenly as some people would, but of the mighty PO! An underrated band that penned some of the most beautiful and haunting albums during the heyday of indiepop. Ruth Miller was ahead of her time maybe, and maybe Amanda is too. Or maybe it’s not about time. It’s about sensibilities. Or brains. It would be a crime to dismiss and underrate this work of love. I find silly to make year-end lists but I could do an exemption just to champion this record one more time.

The wrapper of the mint filled Aero lies on the floor and the bottle of Stella is half full. Everything is closed and it’s pitch black. Today for the tenth time. And “Riksgränsen” spins on the deck. It’s hard to imagine a popkid doing crazy winter sports in this ski-resort. For some reason it feels very natural to imagine Amanda doing that. Same as going “Cross-Country”. If there’s anyone full of life, that’ her. And the album gallops like that, like if there’s no time to lose. Perhaps that’s why she acknowledges that maybe later in life “You’re so Lonely When You’re Old”, that this is the time to make things happen. I can’t agree with that more. This is the time. It’s all about today. Opportunities come and go. Even music comes and goes. Though I can say that this record is timeless without the risk of being wrong. There’s always an exception to the rule.

I’ve been obsessed with the past and have been fixated with patience for the past years for different reasons. Perhaps the best advice is that of the “Problem is the solution”. I’m sure that when this unfinished business I have is done, finished and kaput, things will start to shape up. Listening to this record is like having a friend speak me, it’s a good company in these humid and sunny Miami evenings. Just open your heart and give it to the honest words of The Andersen Tapes. It’s a modern indiepop classic. Warm, moody and heartfelt. Thanks for the inspiration.


The Andersen Tapes – Visual Explanations


Thanks a lot to Simon Court for the interview! A couple of months ago I interviewed Peter Stone from The Sweetest Ache but there were many gaps that needed to be filled in. Thankfully Simon got in touch not so long ago offering to fill in some of these gaps. So here it is! Also I’m very happy to learn that their will be Sweetest Ache reissues!

++ Hi Simon! Thanks for getting in touch and willing to fill in the gaps of the previous Sweetest Ache interview I did with Peter Stone. My first question is of course, whereabouts in the UK are you and if you are still making music?

I am still based in Swansea , South Wales. I am still making music

++ I remember asking Peter about The Spirals and him telling me straight away that I had to ask that question only to you. So care telling me about The Spirals? Who were they? Did you record any tracks? Do you remember the names? Any chance we get to listen to them? What about gigs?

The Spirals were Myself , Staurt Vincent, Mike Alman, Mark Box & Paul (who later joined the pooh sticks). We never got into the studio but recorded several 8 track home demos. As most kids starting out we mainly played covers at first. Spacemen 3 (od catastrophe) , Stooges (I wanna be your dog), Vaselines (teenage jesus superstar) & Loop (head on) were amongst the ones I remember. We did a few of our own , Something’s got to break & Come together were a couple I recall. We mainly played locally but did branch out to Cardiff & Bristol. In fact our first gig was In Cardiff at a place called the square club.

++ So what happened, why did you change the name to become The Sweetest Ache?

It wasn’t really a name change , more a band change. Stu & Paul joined Pooh Sticks & things just drifted after that. Stu got together with some mutual friends in summer ‘89 to form The Sweetest Ache. Staurt – vocals & guitar , Leigh – guitar , Dai – bass & Luke – drums. They played a couple of gigs , but I think Stu felt uneasy up front & initially just called it a day. After a month or so He got Dai back in to play bass , recruited a guy he worked with , called Rik & then approached me to sing. We recorded a few demos using drum machines , these were the same demos we sent to Sara with tracks like tell me how it feels & If I could Shine . of course , we could play live with a drum machine , so we needed a drummer. Not sure where we Found Geraint, it was Stu that knew him , anyway that was that & he rest is history.

++ And why did you chose the name The Sweetest Ache? Where does it come from?

It was chosen By Stu, it’s origins are unknown but I think it refers to the bitter- sweet nature of love.

++ Some of you went to the same school, right? Were you all in the same class? Do you have good memories of those years?

As far as I know Only Stuart & David when to the same school & as there is a 3 year age difference , they wouldn’t have been in the same class.

++ What about that rumour about you being part of Inspiral Carpets? Is it true?

That was something we told a local newspaper who were running an article. we were mocking them a bit but it stayed on the rumour mill.

++ How was the Swansea scene back then? Did you like any other bands from town? What were your favourite spots there?

The Swansea scene was rather rock & punk orientated . We were somewhat unique in some respects as Swansea’s only resident indie band.

++ I have to ask this question again too, what’s the story behind: “If I Could Shine”? That song is a classic!

It was one of only two songs I didn’t have any part in writing so I can’t answer that , really . I agree , that it is a top tune & most peoples favourite track by us

++ Also I was very curious about why you called one of your songs and first album as Jaguar, why was that?

Again , it was us being a little bit cheeky. Our songs weren’t exactly Screaming rawk tunes , so we decided on an ironic rock sounding title for a bit of a laugh really . We almost called it “Straight Outta Uplands” in mock reference to “Straight Outta Compton” by NWA

++ When and why did you leave The Sweetest Ache? And why didn’t the band split then?

I left the band in late 1992 after Stu’s song writing had taken a very different direction. I didn’t like the music so I walked. The band continued as we were under contract to Vinyl Japan to produce an album

++ What happened with you after that? Were you involved with music?

In musical terms I did nothing for quite a number of years . In 2000 I got together with Stuart to release an EP for American label Sunday Records under the name Mumbles. I have been in a band called Shooter for about nine years& Stu is part of the current line up . We have released a couple EPs for Northern Star Records. We are currently recording an album which is being produced by Tim Holmes from Death In Vegas. We have some tunes up on myspace , it’s very different to Sweetest Ache , but have a listen.

++ In retrospective, what was the best of being part of The Sweetest Ache?

Getting signed to the legendary Sarah Records was quite special.

++ Was there something you wanted to do or achieve with The Sweetest Ache that never got to be done?

Would have loved to have recorded another album , c’est la Vie.

++ And what are the songs you are most proud of? and why?

For the ones I co wrote , “Tell me how it feels” & “Capo” are my favourites

++ Best Sweetest Ache gig?

The Adelphi in Hull was the one I enjoyed most. The Swansea gig we did at the end of our tour was the one I feel we performed best.

++ The past years most of the Sarah bands have re-issued their songs. Will The Sweetest Ache do that?

We have been approached by two record labels & are currently in negotiation with Cherry Red Records , so yes.

++ So one final question, the not-so-serious one, can you make laverbread? Who was the best cook in The Sweetest Ache?

I believe it is simply flat seaweed , washed chopped then boiled. lightly seasoned with salt & pepper. Heat in a frying pan & serve with cubes of fried bread & bacon . Yum

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

Only thanks for liking our music, please listen to our new stuff as Shooter & do buy the compilation when it comes out.


The Sweetest Ache – Tell Me How it Feels


A big thank you to Hitoshi Oka for the interview. If you haven’t checked yet “With Kisses Four”, the debut album by Sloppy Joe, you are missing a rare treat. It sounds timeless! On top of that it contains all the right indiepop influences mixed together. There’s no distribution yet for the record outside of Japan, but definitely try to get it, you will enjoy it! You can check more of their stuff either on myspace or bandcamp.

++ Hello Hitoshi, how are you doing? I know it’s a difficult time in Japan but how positive are you about things getting back to their normal pace?

A big earthquake hit Japan, and has caused a large disaster. I think that the recovery is going to be a long process because Tohoku and Kanto received a large damage. We will support them. I’ve experienced severe earthquakes and was very shocked that there was no big damage in Tokyo where I live. The electricity shortage continues because of the nuclear plant accident, and even the companies and the individuals are saving electricity. The railway company has suspended it’s service Tokyo is gradually regaining it’s usual pace, but still everyone is confused. The aftershock uneasiness continues.
The club business has also stopped to save power. Therefore, the gigs in Japan of Edwin Collins were canceled and it was regrettable. However, we, Sloppy Joe, will play some gigs in April as it is in schedule.

++ I notice you have three gigs planned for the upcoming month, do you always play this often or is it because of the album promotion? Which of these gigs you are looking forward the most?

Usually, we have a gig once a month or every two months. This April, there is three gigs. One gig in Kyoto, one party for promotion, and one gig is to support the visit to Japan of “The
Monochrome Set” and “Friends”. It’s very exciting for us, because we love “The Monochrome Set” and “Friends”.

++ And what about past gigs, what has been your favourite one so far? And why?

We supported the “Television Personalities” and “The Lotus Eaters” last year. It’s still one of my favourite ones. And we have supported some bands we love like The Starlets, The Pearlfishers, Nice Man, Amber Smith, and more. I think the gigs with them were great!

++ So yeah, I was telling you on email that your album is perhaps my favourite one so far this 2011. It’s fabulous! I hear so many great influences, from Happydeadmen to Friends, passing by The Jazz Butcher and The Orchids. Are you a big indiepop fan? If so, can you tell me what are your favourite five songs and favourite five bands? Did indiepop inspired you to make music?

Great!I’m honored that you felt like that. These bands are my favourite bands. Especially, I love The Orchids. I got very excited because I saw their gig at Indietracks Festival last year.

I love 80’s bands like Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, The Pale Fountains, The Monochrome Set, Felt, etc. And I’ve listened lots of indie pop band’s songs from around the world. When I was twenty two, I helped writing the book “Neo-acoustic”. It’s the disc guide book for 80’s-90’s indie pop fans.

My favourite bands and their songs are:
Orange Juice / Love Sick
The Orchids / Apologies
The Monochrome Set / I’ll Cry Instead
Gangway / Out On The Rebound From Love
The Man From Delmonte / Water In My Eyes

And I want to choose several tunes with trumpets. Today’s my favourite songs with trumpets are:
The Groovy Little Numbers / Happy Like Yesterday
Die Fünf Freunde / Jetzt!
Great Scott / You’re Off Again
The Brilliant Corners / Oh!
The June Brides / Every Conversation

And my favourite indiepop from flexi discs are:
These five songs are on the flexi disc!The flexi disc is so Independent.
Today’s my favourite songs on flexi disc are
Brighter / Airhead
The Potting Sheds / Unsaid
Hope / Suffocate
Ever / Sleepyhead
The Cherry Orchard / Built it up

And indiepop from more recent releases also inspire me to make music. My favourite songs from recent releases are:
Northern Portrait / Waiting For A Chance
My Teenage Stride / Cast Your Own Shadow
Hari and Aino / A Considerate Kind of Home
Crystal Stilts / Shake The Shackles
Catwalk / Past Afar

++ Alright, let’s go back in time. I knew you were on My Coffee Moment before, and hopefully we should try to cover that on another interview, but when did Sloppy Joe started as a band? What happened in between both bands?

My Coffee Moment played for five years. In five years, many changes happened between us and we decided to stop. The members of My Coffee Moment are still good friends now. My Coffee Moment split in 2002, and I started making some songs for my solo project. My first recordings after going solo are in a cassette that was given away along a free paper at DJ party which was organized by Takeyoshi (drummer of My Coffee Moment). It included three songs: “Silent Dream (demo version)”, “Sloppy Joe” and “The Raspberry Field”.
After that I tried my friend Hisashi on bass and Takeyoshi on drums. At first I thought I’d play solo, but I I realized I wanted to continue as a band. Not so long after, after some changes in the lineup Sloppy Joe was born.
Now, we don’t have a trumpet player. We want to have a trumpet player again.

++ Tell me a bit about the members of Sloppy Joe, including you. How did you all meet each other? What instruments you play? Who writes the songs?

Sloppy Joe are
Hitoshi Oka: vocals, guitar
Riichiro Sato: guitar
Hisashi Iwabuchi: bass, backing vocals
Ryuji Kimura: drums, backing vocals

Riichiro was a member of My Coffee Moment. My friend introduced him at an indiepop party to me. I’ve played with him for over 10 years. Hisashi plays bass on some other bands like “Boyce” (great mod style band) and “Clandestine”, which is also a great band. Ryuji plays drums on a band named “Coleslaw”. He has played for about three or four years with us in Sloppy Joe. I play guitar and sing. And I wrote all the songs . The songs were arranged by all members though.
We love indiepop. However, it is not only that what has influenced us. We’ve been influenced by soul, jazz, and a lot of other music.

++ And why did you choose the name Sloppy Joe? Do you love sloppy joe sandwiches by any chance?

I like meat, but I’m not a fan of sloppy joe sandwiches because I’ve not been at a sloppy joe’s bar.

I chose the name as it means “loose-fit sweater”. I think our band should not be focus in just one style.

++ Your first release was the “Trying to Be Funny” single which I have on CD. I know there was a 7″ version too. This was in 2006. The CD version was released by Rosemary Records of the lovely Toshiko Matsumoto. I feel she has given so much to Japan fans with her enthusiasm and passion for music. What do you think about that? How did you end up doing this single with her? Must be a privilege to release with her!

I agree with what you say. At that time, her shop ‘Apple Crumble Records’ was very important for indie-pop fans in Japan. Of course it still is. I respect her motivation and passion for music.

She has been my good friend for a long time. She also supported the disc guide book that I was talking of before. I’m grateful that she gave us the chance to release and that she supported Sloppy Joe.

++ And the 7″ release happened on Cubbyhole, which I don’t know much. Care to tell me a bit about this label?

Cubbyhole Fabrication is my own label for releasing Sloppy Joe. I don’t plan to release any other band.
But I might release the songs by my solo project with it sometime.

++ Then second single, “Portrait”, was released last year, again by Cubbyhole. It included a fanzine and a CDR, right? What was the fanzine and the CDR about? Which makes me wonder, are you a fanzine fan? Have you ever done one?

That’s right. The CDR includes a remix version of “The Country” by Pegasus. You can listen to this version on iTunes. Thre is also a version of “The Who Talks About Someone” remixed by HNC. We released a limited single “The Who talks About Someone” on iTunes too.

The fanzine is brilliant. It contains interviews to Stefan Larsen (Northern Portrait), Grame Elston (Love Parade), and me. It was made by Satomi. She is a member of Twee Grrrls Club and my wife.

++ And also for this song “Portrait” you recorded a video! How fun that must be! Any anecdotes you could share about filming it?

Yeah! It’s a cool video! My friends Tomonori Midorikawa produced it. He loves 80’s indiepop too, so it came out as a good video as he could easily tell the atmosphere and the feelings of our songs. “Portrait” is a song about painful feelings that cannot break the husk of the mind.

++ On March 9th this year you released your first album called “With Kisses Four”, which is a gem of jangle pop! First thing that comes to mind is what does the title of the album means? And who made the beautiful artwork?

It is a song that sings about the sorrow of parting. “The boy said good-bye to his girlfriend kissing four times”. I think this feeling of painful desire is all over most songs included in this album. And so it became the best title to represent these songs..

The owner of the White Lily label is YUPPA. He designed the artwork of the album. It is a wonderful artwork and I think that the design also matches to the atmosphere of the album.

++ This album was released jointly by Cubbyhole and White Lily Records. Why was it a joint effort? And who is behind the White Lily label?

White Lily label is ran by YUPPA and GIKYO. They have their own music acts: YUPPA plays as HNC and GIKYO as a pegasus. They are my old friends. Because they had liked our single “Portrait” released on Cubbyhole Fabrication, they said that they wanted to release it on their label as well and wanted to put the logo of Cubbyhole by all means.

++ How is the album doing in Japan by the way? Are you getting any sort of distribution abroad? It deserves so!

If that was to happen, we’d be very glad. If more people listen to Sloppy Joe I’d be happy.

At the moment I’m very glad to have received a lot of good reviews in Japan. I’m surprised that our album reviews have been published on some major magazine.

++ I wanted to ask you about my favourite song on your album: “Sometimes”. What is the story behind it? This song should is a modern classic I think!

Perhaps, “Sometimes” reminds you Friends or Die Fünf Freunde, right? Yes I love them.
There is no perfect man. Everyone occasionally get depressed. However, these feelings are over as the rain cloud passes away the next day. And the clear trumpet was necessary to dispel the bad feelings.

++ Now it’s your turn, what are the songs you are most proud of in this album and why?

“Portrait” and “The Boy Who Talks About Someone”. A groovy rhythm and shining guitars are my favourite style.

++ How long did it take to record? What do you remember of the recording sessions?

Most tunes were finished recording two years or more ago. There was no chance to release them then, and it might be one reason that our trumpet player left. We decided to release the single ourselves finally. It was in December last year that we started recording to add three songs more to the album. It don’t regret not being able to release it earlier. I am satisfied with the timing of the release.

++ I have a curious question, do you ever write songs in Japanese? Why did you choose English for Sloppy Joe?

I have not made any songs in Japanese. I think that singing in English is a important thing, because I think that it makes you feel the same style as the indiepop bands in the 80s. I hope everyone feels the sensitivity and pain from our sound and melody instead than the message delivered straight from our words.

++ What is coming up for Sloppy Joe now, perhaps another single? Maybe time to play abroad?

We will play some gigs for the promotion of the album. And I think we have to make some new songs. I hope to release our new songs on an indiepop label overseas.
And I want to play abroad. We are planning to play abroad. I think that I can surely inform you of it soon.

++ So tell me what are your favourite places in Tokio to hang out? And to party? Best record store?

I often go to Twee Grrrls club’s DJ party. There are a lot of DJ, organizers, musician around the party; it feels that the indie scene is active.
I love record shops very much. I like Jet Set Records and Big Love. A lot of new records can be found in those shops. And many used records can be found at Disk Union.
Also, even if it’s website only, Apple Crumble Records is a wonderful record shop as you know.

++ And what about Japanese food? What are your five favourite dishes?

Sushi is my favourite one. Besides that, I like simple Japanese food like grilled fish, yakitori, miso soup, and Japanese-style barbecue.

++ Last question, the nerdy question, do you like anime?

I have not seen anime so much recently though I saw anime when I am a student.

++ Thanks again Hitoshi! I’ll keep enjoying the album and recommending it around, it’s a keeper! Anything else you’d like to add?

We love indie-pop of all over the world forever! Thank you.


Sloppy Joe – Sometimes