Thanks so much to Hideshi Hachino for this fantastic interview. b-flower was part of that amazing generation of pop bands that appeared in Japan during the late 80s and early 90s, releasing a couple of singles on Sugarfrost, gaining recognition by the likes of the NME, signing for a big label like Toshiba in Japan, releasing many albums and gone on hiatus in the late 90s. Fantastic pop that transcended the barrier of language. Please enjoy, and if you understand Japanese (or want to use Google translate) please visit his blog too!

++ Hello Hachino-san! Thanks so much for being up for an interview.  It’s hard to cover your huge discography, but let’s take it as an introduction to your music. Alright! I hear you have a new band called Livingston Daisy. Are there any releases coming out? Care to tell me a bit about this new project of yours?

Nice meeting you, Roque-san.  So flattered that you’re interested in a band which has barely been active.  Thanks for asking me for an interview – Yoroshiku.
Yes, I’ve just resumed releasing songs with a band called Livingstone Daisy – for the first time in just about a decade.
It’s a three-piece band.  I’m with Sakana Hosomi, who co-produced b-flower albums and did gigs together from 1995 or so and has been active on his own as keyboardist, arranger, producer and ambient musician under such monikers as ‘hosomi’ and ‘maju.’   The other member is Okabe from b-flower.
We’ve digitally released “Tokyo Snowscape” in October 2010, “This World of Sorrow” in February 2011 and “June Song” in September, and are currently planning to put out an album as CD before too long.

++ So let’s talk b-flower. First thing I want to know, as I’ve been curious about it for years. What does the name mean?

My favourite American poet Richard Brautigan once wrote a beautiful poem in which he likened roadside drunks to flowers of foreign origins, which inspired “Brautigan-Flower” developing into “b-flower.”

++ Back in time. When did the band start? And how did you all knew each other and decided to start a band?
In 1984 or 85, I believe.
We started in strong sympathy with the sound of bands which belonged to such UK independent labels as Rough Trade and Cherry Red.  The other members were my uni friends, save guitarist Suzuki who came to an audition we held at a studio where we practised.

++ Was b-flower your first band?

From 1980 or so I went through a real trial-and-error period in search for the best style of vocals to express myself, by following various vocalists in various copy bands, ranging from one copying The Crash and The Jam, another The Rolling Stones to one doing Roxy Music and Duran Duran.

++ On myspace I see some demos from way back, from 1986. What’s the story behind them? These are fantastic gems that I guess never saw the light. Are there more of these? Have you ever thought releasing them at some point?

It was around the time when cassette 4-track MTRs became abound and we recorded those demos just eager to see how they would shape up.  None of them are of quality decent enough to be heard, but I decided to upload them on my Myspace in line with what I’ve been putting out in my blog, which I call my music chronicle.
There’s loads of unreleased songs in which I sang nonsense as they were yet to have proper lyrics in Japanese… yes, it might be fun to release them one day.

++ Your first release was “Nichiyo-bi no Mitsubachi” and it was self-released. How was that experience? And how different was it compared to working with Toshiba EMI for example later?

The first release was all handmade and loads of fun.  But we were way too inexperienced in playing, singing, sound making, recording and mixing down to achieve the sound that we were aiming for.  Based on that experience we decided to hire a producer at Toshiba EMI, by which we gained some and lost some, but the very experience is now a truly great asset.

++ Did you ever consider singing in English as many other Japanese bands did?
I would have tried writing lyric if I had had a command of English good enough to express my emotions and landscapes on my mind exactly as I wished.  Having said that, as I believe the Japanese language is very fit for expressions of nuance and subtlety, I might as well use it as a main vehicle even if I could speak English well.

++ I know your band from the Sugarfrost singles, one of my favourite labels ever. I have both your singles with them of course. I wanted to ask how did you end up in that label and if you ever got to meet Akiko-san? And if you did, how was that?

So glad to hear that you have those singles, thanks!  At the start of 1990’s we self-released an EP “日曜日のミツバチ (Nichiyo-bi no mitsubachi or, Nothing On Sunday)” and I took its copies to Django in Osaka (now in Nara), a record shop dedicated to UK/US indiepop – such a rarity those days – and asked them to sell on our behalf (I discovered later that Nelories too had their cassettes on sale there).  The staff of Django and Akiko-san knew each other and that’s how she came to know and took to b-flower, as I understand.  She later asked us in for a compilation album she was making at Sugarfrost.

Akiko-san is an amazing woman, equipped with tremendous power and will to get things done, whilst blessed with a great deal of good common touch.  I went to Liverpool to see Akiko-san and John when they lived there.  This year too I met her once in Kyoto when she came to Japan.

++ The NME praised your single “Stay Still” in 1993 comparing you to REM and Nico. That must have been on of b-flower’s biggest highlights? A Japanese band, singing in Japanese transcending frontiers. How did that feel like? I do think though thhttp://www.cloudberryrecords.com/blog/wp-admin/post-new.phpat your influences were much broader than REM or Nico, right? More neo-aco stuff?

If honest, I was taken aback by the reactions in the UK.  Upon the UK release Akiko-san and John maintained, “Language makes no barrier,” whilst in Japan what we were often hearing was, “This kind of music should sound better when performed in English.”  It was more so than not that our standing was that of an outsider from the small circle of Japanese indiepop.  That’s why it meant loads to us when the Brits appreciated our sound, the music per se, all the more they spoke a different language.  Truly grateful to Akiko-san and John for backing us up on the release.
My main influences are the UK/US rock, pop and folk in general from the 60’s to 90’s.  I was also inspired by the pop and rock in Japan, including Kayou-kyoku (standard or Showa-era Japanese pop), which themselves have taken inspirations from their western counterparts.

I love the 80’s neo-aco, of course, but funnily enough, any song, no matter how hard rock, gets labelled ‘neo-aco’ when I sing it, ha ha.

++ And how did you get into the indiepop/neo-aco stuff? Did you ever go to the UK to see bands?

I got into it with “Pillow & Prayers” in the early 80’s and soon immersed in it to my neck with artists and compilations from Cherry Red and Rough Trade, ending up spending the mid 80’s buying vinyls non-stop from Creation, Sarah and el.  I went to the UK in 1986 or 87 and spent a couple of weeks in and out of London going see gigs one after another.
The bands I still remember well are East Village, Summerhill, The Jasmine Minks and Woodentops.  In particular, East Village’s youthful and refreshing play was wonderfully impressive.

++ By the way, who is the little kid on the “Stay Still” 7″ sleeve? You?

Oh, no, ha ha, the little boy is the son of a friend of Akiko-san and John, I gather.

++ I also need to ask you about the b-side of this single, “The Last Snow of Winter”. This is one of the favourite songs of one of my dearest friends, Nana from Germany. Do you think you can tell me the story behind it? What inspired you?

Nana, thank you, glad you like it.  Bassist Miya-kun came up with melody first, which brought to my mind a landscape in which pure white snow kept falling on over a forest of conifer, which in turn inspired lyric from me.  I remember its recording session – we gathered at a studio and with “Say-no! (Ready, steady, go!)” started to play altogether and that was it.  One take, more or less.  We got so excited when playing out loud its second half.

We later recorded a different version of it, which we put on a mini-album called “Clover Chronicles 1.”  The recording took place at a studio by Lake Yamanaka-ko (the biggest of the five lakes in the foothills of Mt.Fuji).  During the recording it started to snow, which I could see out the window of the studio, and it filled me with a sense of serene beauty.

++ After the stint with Sugarfrost you released many albums and singles that most of us on the West haven’t had the chance to listen. If you were to pick one of your albums as an introduction to your band which one would you choose and why?

Could I first make a point of saying this – what I would like to have listened to now is first and foremost my latest releases, those three songs by Livingstone Daisy.  That said, when it comes to an introduction to b-flower, the best album to start with would be our first, “In The Penny Arcade,” after all.  As the sound quality of its mixdown is real bad, should it be possible at all I would love to get it re-mixed, re-mastered and re-released, but I would believe that at the end of the day it’s the first album that represents what’s the core of a band in the most straight-forward manner.

The b-flower members, with myself included, do take most strongly to the ’98 album “b-flower,” though it might not be exactly what indiepop fans would find instantly on.

++ What about gigs? Did you play lots? Any favourites?

We did gigs whenever we released CDs, mainly in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.  There was once a Sugarfrost event where Graeme from Eva Luna (Pure), Jun-chan from Nelories and I did Aztec Camera’s “The Birth of The True” by acoustic guitar, which I still remember well.

++ Also you made some videos for a couple of your songs. Do you have a favourite? I think mine is “蛍 “. Is there any other song from your back catalogue that you would have loved to have made a video of?

So is mine,  “蛍 (Hotaru, firefly) “.  It’s done by a woman director who had an artistic flair for producing extremely beautiful visuals.  I really wanted and asked her to make a video for the next single “地の果てより発つ (Chi no hate yori tatsu, depart from land’s end), but things didn’t work out, which was a huge disappointment.
Other songs I would have made a video of if I could are “日曜日のミツバチ” and “太陽を待ちながら (Taiyo o machi-nagara, waiting for the sun)” from the earlier of our catalogue.

++ During those early 90s in Japan there were many great bands that played fabulous indiepop. Did you feel there was some sort of community/scene going on? Who were your favourites during that time?

Indeed, there were a variety of great bands doing “indie pop” in its truest sense.  Major labels tried to shape up a scene by incorporating them (including us), but owing to the sudden break-up of Flippers Guitar who were seen as the nucleus of all, it didn’t translate into a sea change big enough to transform the whole music scene of Japan.
Flippers Guitar, Bridge, Venus Peter, Nelories, Rotten Hats (Great3) and Sunny Day Service were cool, though all of them belonged to a much younger generation than us.

++ Suddenly, at the change of the century you became very quiet just to come back later. Was this a ‘decision’ by the band or did it just turn out like that in hindsight? What did you do in that time?

That b-flower went on a hiatus is almost 100% owing to that the contract with EMI ended and we as a band couldn’t make both ends meet any longer.  As you can see when you have a listen of the album “b-flower,” we were no longer content with such simple sound making as our earliest efforts.  We wished to make an album to follow at a proper studio by investing time and money making all sorts of trials and errors on sound production.  But the sales figures  didn’t allow it to happen.
After that we self-released simple, stop-gap sort of works by such side projects as Five Beans Chup and Humming Toad, whilst putting out a 60’s-retro work called “Paint My Soul.”
But I was deeply hurt by that my music was not accepted by the public.  Over the last decade I steered clear of listening to music, let alone of touching my guitar.

++ And how did it come about your recent comeback? What ambitions do you have in this second time making music?

Sakana Hosomi contacted me, saying “Hachino-kun, I want to make music with you again.”
Attached to this message was his ‘music’ – it was that which awakened me.
The advancement of the internet is another big factor.  It dawned on me that there’s now means by which we could send out our music to all over the world, which led on to the feeling that I might be able to do something.

++ You are from such a beautiful city like Kyoto, I would love to visit one day. So many great buildings there to visit, so many sights. Which ones do you recommend visiting for sure, the ones that one is not allowed to miss?

We’re “a band from Kyoto” simply because Kyoto is our base, but whilst bassist Miya and guitarist Suzuki are indeed from Kyoto, drummer Okabe and I are from Osaka.  But I do know a lot about Kyoto as that’s where I spend the longest time.  Though a bit cliché, I love Kiyomizu-dera Temple.  “As if going to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu” is a phrase which we the Japanese use when we make a rather drastic decision.
Another is the bamboo forest in Sagano – there, get the feel of Japanese wabi and sabi, please.

++ And what about food? Is there any Kyoto specialties? What did you guys used to have for food and drink while practicing?

The Kyoto speciality around this time of the year is Tamba-guri, sweet chestnuts from the Tamba region (which is the stage for the lyric of “蛍”) – they’re so big and so sweet!
What I was drinking when practising was Coca Cola or Oolong tea from China as I’m not very fond of green tea.

++ I think I could go on and on asking you questions, but let’s wrap it. Wen you are not making music, what other hobbies do you have?

During the time when I had lost the passion for music I kept about 500 stag beetles (adults and grubs both).  Every day I got in among them and just watched them.  Real geek (Otaku in Japanese).
Now all the beetles are gone and music is back as the hobby.

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

Thank you, Roque-san.  The first album of Livingstone Daisy will be out in several months’ time (as CD, too).   I would love for you to have a listen too, Roque-san.


b-Flower – グライダーと長靴


Thanks so much to Andrea Reid for the interview. I’m really thrilled to at last be in touch with The Wilderness Children as ALL their records are among my favourites. It all happened thanks to David McLeish who put me in touch with her after he had uploaded some videos by the band including a live performance!! After that The Wilderness Children have also set up a facebook page with lots of photos and memorabilia, so you should all become fans! And now just enjoy the interview!

++ Hi Andrea, how are things going? I see some Wilderness Children videos have been unearthed and are already on Youtube! How did this come about? I’ve been looking for more stuff from you for ages!

I’m kind of bemused to see Wilderness Children videos on Youtube. Someone from Dundee who runs a club, had been collecting bits and pieces over the past year and found the videos, talked to Phil the drummer and stuck stuff on Youtube. It turns out he lives near our old house in Dundee and had been intrigued when he bought a single off a website to see the address on it. Kind of a walking the same streets thing….. It’s been really nice to see the stuff again and also pretty funny as I’m not sure anyone else even knew we existed at the time never mind now!

++ So let’s go back in time. Was The Wilderness Children your first band? How did the band start? How did you all knew each other?

We had all done different bits and pieces with other people before. I remember Fraser getting in touch with the Wildhouse (another band from Dundee) – Fraser then met up with Ian and Billy, John Weir was involved at points, Peter Moog and Susan Henderson.
We finished up with Phil on drums, me singing, Fraser alternating on guitar and bass (bass live) and Mike Kane on guitar.
Lots of people were involved in different ways, at different times. Laura Walker for instance doing art work, back drops, posters and things, or Sandy who did videos, another guy organized slides and film stuff we projected when we were playing, others did photos, we had a guy who drew cartoons for us. Then we had people like Joe driving us around, or others who just turned up and contributed just by being who they were!
In some ways when I think back it was more about having something to do and people to be with who knew they wanted to do something creative with their time. None of us had any money and so I think what we did was create our own entertainment out of nothing. There were places that we could use to do this like the Grey Lodge or the DRCU where we could go, practice, put on gigs.

++ And what influenced you or sparked you to start a band? Did you have any music heroes then?

We all liked music that’s pretty much why we played, and we didn’t see why we couldn’t do something good – it didn’t really matter to us if anyone else liked it or not as long as we did. We all had different bands, musicians we liked – pretty varied I guess – I seem to remember I was pretty obsessed by the Jesus and Mary Chain around then. I think me Mike and Fraser agreed we all liked My Bloody Valentine. I couldn’t speak for the others on musical tastes.

++ Where does the name of the band come from?

Was never greatly keen on the name but at the time it was the only one we had and I guess we were all too lazy to think of something else. Billy came up with it from a song.

++ How was Dundee back then? Where did you usually hang out? What other like minded bands were around? I think you and The Wildhouse are
the only bands I’ve ever heard from your town!

I think I usually hung out at home…. We practiced in the Grey Lodge, went to the DRCU, drunk in nearby pubs but didn’t have much money to do much more… We didn’t get on very well with some of the other bands in Dundee… We all had hugely exaggerated opinions of ourselves and spent a lot of our time thinking up stuff to say about each other. People would then write stuff up in a fanzine, which would set off another round of outrage.

++ What about gigs? Did you play many? Any favorites?

We constantly gigged. We played Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, London etc etc. We played anywhere we could which sometimes pissed Mike off to be honest. I seem to remember playing at the end of a jumble sale somewhere, there was still bric a brac lying about when we were setting up.
Favourite gigs – as a highlight playing with Strummer was something as he was a hero of mine. Really enjoyed when we played in Ayr at different points and anytime we played with Blam Blam YC who liked a drink too. Also we supported Dinosaur Jr – it was a plus as they gave me a couple of t-shirts. I really enjoyed when Phil’s brother drove us round England.

++ Most of your releases appeared on a label called Doss Records. Who were they? Care to tell me a bit about it?

We just put the records out ourselves and that was the name we called our pretend label!

++ And what about Magic Bus Records?

Magic Bus was Andy Wood who was one of the few people who clapped enthusiastically at any gigs we played He also did a lot of fanzine writing and helped organize gigs, flyers and the like.

++ First I want to ask you about the only release I’m missing from you, the flexi. As I have never heard it before and it was your first release, I was wondering how different does it sounds from the rest and if you could tell me the story behind it, how was that experience of recording your first single?

I think we might have recorded that under the floor in our flat in Dundee, we cut a hole and made a basement practice area. I’m not entirely sure though.

++ After that you released the fantastic 7″ “We’re A Council House Punk Rock Band”. I like the title a lot. But it makes me wonder, did you feel closer to punk than to pop? And also, who is this Mrs. Susan Spence you sing about?

Pop wasn’t really part of my life.
Mrs Susan Spence was a dentist who nearly murdered Fraser when taking out his wisdom teeth. The song wasn’t about that but we her name was good.

++ Next release was even more fabulous, the “If You Love Him, Let Him Go” 7″. By now I start wondering, was there any major label interest at some point? And what’s the story behind this great song?

We were from Dundee, no-one knew we existed! Any bands at that time that sounded a bit noisy with a female singer weren’t exactly in high demand!
The song was about depression and arguments. Life wasn’t a bed of roses for any of us.

++ And then the last 7″ is an indiepop classic for me, “Plastic Bag From Tescos”. Is that your favourite place to shop Andrea? And again, please, tell me the story about this song. This should have been a hit I think!

Tesco isn’t my favourite place to shop, in fact I pretty much avoid it!
Fraser had a plastic bag from tescos with cards and stuff from a previous girlfriend in his Mum’s shed. I told him to toss it. That’s what the song was about!

++ I was checking that you recorded your stuff in Edinburgh, at Chamber Studios. That city I do know and I really liked it. How do you like it in Edinburgh? And why did you have to go all the way there to record?

We went there to record with a guy called Jamie as he had a good reputation and it wasn’t too expensive. We had very little money so that was always pretty important. Edinburgh isn’t all that far from Dundee.

++ And then one last release. A 12″ at last. It’s the “Paint For Me a Picture” EP. And that was your goodbye. I was wondering, have you ever thought in putting all your releases together on some sort of retrospective album?

I’m intrigued that anyone now has even heard of us! So the answer would be we’d given that no thought!

++ And what about unreleased tracks? Are there still more songs by The Wilderness Children waiting to see the light of day?

We had a whole lot other songs, probably tapes of bits are mouldering away in our attics

++ Well, so 1990, last release. And then what happened? When and why did you split?

Last release. Fraser and I moved to another town. We all did other bits, People like Mike have been doing loads of stuff in other bands etc. Jobs, lives, children… the usual things!

++ Were you involved with music after?

Yep did other recording with other people. Mike has been done a lot of stuff – just works away at it.

++ Are you all still in touch? If so, what are The Wilderness Children up to these days?

We talk over facebook, and have been laughing and thinking recently since these videos were unearthed. Last time I saw Mike and John was at Fraser’s funeral so its been nice to get out old photos and things at a happier point now.

++ I do have to ask you, in general Scotland produces so much great music. Why do you think that is?

No idea!

++ Looking back in retrospect. What were the best moments for you with the band? Any anecdotes you’d like to share?

The best moments were when we played gigs. It was just good fun – lots of drinking, laughing and arguing.

++ One last question, tell me about Dundee, I’d love to visit some time. What are the sights to see? And is there any particular Dundee dish you can’t miss?

Sights in Dundee – well I’m thinking you’d just wander and see where it took you. New V&A museum opening there soon. Visit the Rep Theatre.
Food – who knows what’s a speciality in Dundee – Dundee Cake…. All I know is I miss white pudding suppers as I can’t get them where I stay now (some kind of greasy oatmeal thing with chips and lots of vinegar).


The Wilderness Children – Plastic Bag From Tescos


A week that things have had a normal flow. Any worries or doubts concerning the past weeks are left behind. I feel that what’s coming up is really exciting. Can’t believe than in a mere 5 months Cloudberry will be 5 years old, and that next month this blog will be 4 years old. That’s more or less what my old blog lasted before it was hacked. Hopefully this one doesn’t get hacked. I save a copy of every post these days, and it also gets copied to the Cloudberry facebook page. So I think it’s safe.

I had plans for traveling next month to Europe, but for one reason or another I couldn’t make it. So next stop for me will be Toronto in November. Hopefully it won’t be too cold and I can make it all the way to Niagara Falls. I’d love that. As for Europe goes, I’ll make sure to go to Madrid Popfest and travel around Spain. For sure I’d love to go to Toledo and Segovia. I might be there for a week there and another in Sweden, hopefully this time going to Goteborg at last. That’s what I’m planning.

As for Cloudberry news, the Youngfuck 7″ has a release date now: October 10th. So pre-order now! Sadly the pressing plant has raised the price of making vinyl and I believe this Youngfuck 7″ will be the last that will be 4 dollars plus postage (domestic =$7, international =$10). The next 7″s will be a bit more expensive, probably around 50 cents more. I wish I didn’t have to raise the prices but at least I have to break even. But for now, let’s not worry about it. Just giving the heads up.

Now we have Japanese illustrator Reiko Kimura working on the Cassolette artwork and it’s looking great. Hopefully this one will be out by the end of the year. Also keep your eyes peeled for the Nixon 7″ which now counts with the fantastic vocals of Christin from The Garlands on one of the tracks.

On the new Cloudberry Cake series of retrospective releases, we have some fantastic news concerning some great bands from the 80s. But for now let’s keep all our attention on the Feverfew release. We are looking into a November release. Masters are ready. Now it’s just a matter to get everything else sorted out. I think during this week there will be a pre-order button for the album!

Among non Cloudberry news, for me the best thing was that at last the Pushy Parents single was unveiled. I’ve been loving and listening this song for many months now but I had promised to keep it as a secret, it was hard as it was so good! Anyhow, happy to let you know that it is released on Elefant Records and it’s the new project by dear Amanda and Roger. Please check it out here on this video (note: these people on the video are NOT them, just actors!). The release date for the single is October 3rd.

And before moving on to our obscure band, here’s what I’ve been listening on the CD player this week:
1. The Relict – Tomorrow is Again (Vegas Morn)
2. The Vaselines – Sex with an X (Sub Pop)
3. Various Artists – Abracadabra (Richmond)
4. The Incredible Blondes – Where do I Stand? (No Strings)
5. Playing For Time – The Unreleased Sessions 1984-1989 (Firestation)

Wise: having or showing the ability to make good judgments, based on a deep understanding and experience of life

Acre: One acre comprises 4,840 square yards, 43,560 square feet or about 4,050 square metres (0.405 hectares). The acre is often used to express areas of land in the U.S and in countries where the Imperial System is still in use. As of 2010, the acre is not used officially in the United Kingdom. In the metric system, the hectare is commonly used for the same purpose. An acre is approximately 40% of a hectare.

Put that together and that’s The Wise Acres? Not so sure. The name doesn’t make much sense but I feel it’s a good band name. Maybe it means something totally different, maybe they were quoting something. No clue. The information about them is absolutely none on the internet. We only know there was one 7″ released by Cherry Red on 1986 and that’s about it. So let’s grab that record and see what else we can find.

First mystery for me. There’s a big butterfly as the cover artwork. Or is it a moth? I don’t know. If it’s one or another, what species is it?

The catalog number is Cherry 095 and as far as I can tell there was no 12″ version for this EP that included 4 fantastic songs. On the A side we find “So Finally Sweet” and “One Day” and on the B Side “Stay” and “Glow”. Simple names for the songs, they don’t tell us much. The record was released on the heyday of indiepop, 1986. The four members of the band are listed but doesn’t say what they play on the band. The names are John White, Sharon Bain, Robert Mitchell and Margo Strachan. We know that John White wrote the songs, so most probably he was the guitar player.

The songs are a bit like the Shop Assistants or The Vultures, maybe a bit rockier than them on “Stay” though, but great still. Catchy. The guitars usually have some exciting distortion that would make the hipsters today love them. On the other hand “Glow” is the melancholic piece, and it’s just precious.

A friend told me about two other songs “David” and “Cuts Me Deep”, but I’m not sure where he has listened to them. Were they on another release? Or maybe on a compilation? Don’t know. It is fair to think there were more songs than those 4 on the 7″, at least on demo form I’m sure. I wonder where they were based, if they played live often, and why did they break up. Also I come to think, how come there is nothing on the web about them,  aside from Bruce including them on his podcasts back in 2008!

So if you know anything else about them, please give me a shout! I’d love to learn more about them!


The Wise Acres – One Day


Thanks so much to Richard Farnell for getting in touch and for the interview! I blogged just some weeks ago about them and you can read that here and also make sure to check the comments as the Peel Session plus some demos are available to download thanks to the band. In this interview Richard clears up some questions and mistakes on the write-up I did. Enjoy!

++ Hi Richard! Thanks so much for getting in touch! So you were telling me you were from Stocksbridge and not from Huddersfield. Do you still live there? Was there any kind of scene there back then?

Stocksbridge is actually part of Sheffield but it’s out on a limb from the rest of the city – there’s not much there except a large steelworks, some pubs and various housing estates but it was a good place to grow up as there’s loads of wild countryside to go wandering in.  I left there in 1989 to live in other areas of Sheffield, before moving to Manchester back in 1995 where I still live today.
There wasn’t really at all.  Back in the mid-80’s my older brother played in a band called Flexible Penguins who played many gigs at the Leadmill and the Limit – (the best known indie clubs in Sheffield at the time). There were some lads from my school in a thrash metal band called Amnesia (ironically they’ve been forgotten!) who played in local pubs and in Sheffield..they were actually quite good if you like that sort of thing.

Many years later I was surprised to read that some members of Arctic Monkeys were from Stocksbridge as are a recent alternative/grindcore band called Rolo Tomassi – both have been given much more attention than we ever got!..mind you I don’t think these youngsters were even born when we were around!.

++ And two of the other Suncharms lived in different cities, right? Which makes me wonder, how did you get to meet each other? And was it easy for you all to practice?

Marcus and myself were in Stocksbridge. The other members lived in other districts of Sheffield whilst John the guitarist was based in Bamford which is a small village just outside Sheffield-a mere 30 minute drive out of town-in the peak district national park. We mostly practiced in his attic – but early on in Marcus’ garage.

++ So the band started under the name The Eunuchs. Was this your first band? And how do you remember that chance encounter with David Gedge when he told you to change the name?

Yes – this was our first band..we chose the name partly as a response to the ‘cock rock’ posturing of a lot of the bands around in the eighties and Marcus and me were big fans of The Dead Kennedys and McCarthy who promoted a strong left wing/pro feminist political stance. I suppose looking back it was a ‘punk’ name but punk was one of our early influences…Pistols / Buzzcocks / D.K’s / Husker Du in particular.  It was Marcus and Matt who met with David Gedge…I’m pretty sure they just gave him a copy of our first demo tape and he said something like – ‘You might need to change that name lads!” – maybe Marcus will remember but I wasn’t there myself.

++ Did you record or release anything under that name? I do know you released a song under the name Charming Seed, why didn’t you stick to that name?

We released nothing as the Eunuchs. The reason we used ‘Charming Seed’ was that the bloke who released a Sheffield bands compilation called ‘Rubberoid’ took so long about it that by the time this early song appeared we felt like we’d moved on. We changed the name to hint that it was The Suncharms but that it was a ‘secret’ track almost. I actually like the song now but at the time it felt like old news.

++ I’ve never tasted the Sun Charm soda, how does it taste? Is it your favourite soda?

It’s well over 20 years since I tasted it but I recall it being pretty cheap and nasty!..a bit like ‘Panda Pops’ which your British readers will probably know!.

++ You were around in the early 90s, just after the big wave of guitar pop bands in the UK, the so called C86. How much did that influence you?

We were hugely influenced by C86 – that compilation turned us on to loads of favourites. Marcus and myself in particular bonded over the sounds of such bands as The Pastels, Sea Urchins, Field Mice, Wolfhounds, McCarthy etc whilst newer bands such as Pale Saints and My Bloody Valentine were coming through and exciting us. Many hours were spent in Marcus’ bedroom listening to indie-pop records – he was also a big collector of Sarah records too.

++ So how did you end up signing with Wilde Club Records? Was there interest from other labels as well? Any majors?

We were hugely naive in this respect – a thing common to most indie bands of the 80’s/90’s We sent out several copies of our first demo tape and kept our fingers crossed! – a good friend from Stocksbridge called Daniel had recently bought the first Catherine Wheel single and noted the address on the sleeve-he was tasked with the job of sending out the tapes and to be honest Wilde Club were the first to ring up!. They wanted to release our demo as it was-with no re-recording or overdubs so we just thought – “great – we’ll be able to have a 12″ EP out without much effort”.  There was no major label interest but we were so fiercely indie that we’d probably not have signed with a major anyway. Major labels had a terrible reputation and I do remember being shocked when The Wedding Present signed to RCA.

In around 1992 Slumberland records from the U.S wrote to ask if we had a track they could release but due to our own disorganisation it never happened – we still regret this as it would have been great to get a record out in the States.

++ You recorded a Peel Session. I always wondered how the process for it worked. Did they call you on the phone or what? And then what happened? Any anecdotes you could share?

To be honest doing the Peel session was both a thrill and a disappointment-here’s why:-

I think a BBC researcher phoned us up to say they wanted us to do a session – obviously we were thrilled and began to rehearse for the recording-I think we got a couple of weeks notice. On the way down the motorway our van broke down for a couple of hours so we had a real panic that we would miss our session – however thanks to Matt’s driving skills and Chris’s map reading we made it to the famous Maida Vale studios. I’d been listening to the John Peel show for years and I always assumed that he was in the studio whilst the bands played live but I was disappointed to find that the tracks were recorded live in the afternoon and mixed by an engineer for broadcast the following week!.  I do have fond memories of the studio itself – a large room with a grand piano in the corner and wires, amps, mics and headphones everywhere. It was great to be recorded live but it was a shame we couldn’t meet the great man himself.

In the Peel Sessions books we are annoyingly listed as The ”Sunchalms” and my name is mis-spelt too so our brush with broadcasting fame was rather frustrating in some ways!

++ First release included the fabulous Sparkle. This song is big! Care to tell me how this song came about? What’s the story behind it?

I don’t remember too much about the writing process of this one but I think it was a catchy riff that Matt came up with that we then fleshed out in rehearsals.

++ And what about the creative process for The Suncharms? How did it usually work?

Usually Matt or John would write the initial riff or basic tune then me and Chris would work out the rhythm section. We were never precious about who wrote which parts – I can remember Matt showing me a bass line he had in mind on more than one occasion and I was happy to play that if it worked for the song.

Marcus would scribble away with his note pad and craft the lyrics whilst we worked out the tune…we often only heard the full words at a much later date as his vocals were often buried in the mix as was the style of the day I suppose.

++ Then there was another EP, the one that included Space Ship. For this song you even recorded a promo video. How was that experience? Why did you choose this song?

I suspect we chose to do the video for ”Spaceship” as I think we felt it a stronger song than ”Tranquil Day”. I do know that Matt was studying film at college in Batley – (near Leeds and Bradford)-so we filmed it at the student house he was renting and any visual effects were added later..he would tell you more I’m sure but I think it was a case of him learning camera techniques for his course and making a pop video was a good way to learn whilst being a good experience for the band. He directed it himself and had a friend on camera duty.

++ You also played many gigs, especially after the first EP. Which were your favourite gigs and why?

Early favourites (as The Eunuchs) were supporting The Brilliant Corners as I was a big fan and also a support slot on a Sarah records acts night with The Orchids and St.Christopher.

One gig which I remember with both joy and horror was when we supported the mighty Television Personalities at Nottingham Kool Kat club-which was a thrill as me and Marcus are big fans. The TVP’s wanted to borrow our drumkit which we were more than happy with but we hadn’t bargained on them playing an inspired but sprawling set which lasted about 2 hours! – the problem was we’d organised a bus load of our Sheffield fans to come down and everyone had to wait with us whilst we waited for the drums…that in itself was fine but my girlfriend at the time was drinking all night and proceeded to throw up all over the walls of the venue and then collapsed!…by about 1am I just wanted to go home.

++ And how was the Sound City festival gig? Did you play any other festivals?

I can barely remember this festival except that we played the Leadmill – (where I worked on the bar) and PULP played it too-though possibly the next night. We were also featured in the NME in a souvenir pull out page to promote the festival.  This might have been the gig when our lead guitarist John nearly died on stage with a serious kidney complaint and as soon as he played the last note of the gig he was taken to the hospital by ambulance. I’d been so concerned before the gig as he looked so ill that I got blind drunk and walked on stage to promptly fall backwards over my amp – it made a great noise though!.

++ In 1993 you started recording tracks for an album. Was it for Wilde Club? Why didn’t it get released?

The recordings were to be for an album but our relationship with Wilde Club had ended by this point.  The only tracks I can now recall were those featured on the Peel Session..”Magic Carpet” etc. We started to record some tracks in a studio near Bramhall Lane (the Sheffield UTD football ground) but I honestly don’t know if we did more than two or three rough sketches of songs.

it was never released because it barely even got started!.

++ And what happened to those songs? Are there many unreleased tracks? Have you ever thought putting together some sort of retrospective release?

I don’t know of any unreleased tracks – there was a live video of a full gig at Sheffield’s Library theatre -(some of which formed the basis for the Sparkle video now on you-tube) but sadly none of us have seen it since and as far as I know no copies have survived. I’d love to see a retrospective compilation but I don’t know if there’s enough interest out there..hello Cherry Red?!

++ So what happened with The Suncharms? Why did you split? Were you all involved with music after?

I sadly can’t recall why it all came to an end – I think it just fizzled out during 1993 with band members moving town, changing careers, getting married etc and maybe we all started hanging round with different groups of friends not connected to the band. I suppose with no record label and no-one but ourselves to push us along we just gave up the ghost.

The good news is Marcus and myself remain best friends and we see Matt and Chris occasionally for birthdays or whatever-so we’re mostly all in touch. but I’ve not seen John since we had a reuinion in a pub 10 years ago…so if you read this John – hope you are well and do try to get in touch!.

++ What are you doing these days? Do you still pick up your bass?

In 1995 I moved to Manchester to work in Vinyl Exchange records which I now co-own

In 1998 I joined Screen Prints after answering an advert on the shop notice board which mentioned my all time favourite band FELT…one mention of them and I just had to join the band.  We released several 7″ singles but then around 2001 this band too seemed to call it a day – though happily we too are all still good friends. I do still pick up my bass but not often enough – I tend to play along to old 80’s indie videos on You-tube..this is terribly sad isn’t it?

++ Looking back in time, what was the best moment of being part of The Suncharms? Will you do it all the same way again?

The best part was the comeraderie of being in a band with close friends and playing gigs with some of our favourite groups…if I could go back in time I’d rehearse more, play more gigs and hold out for Creation records to sign us!!

++ One last question. I’ve never been to Sheffield, so I was wondering, when I go, what would you recommend seeing or doing there?

Go up the arts tower, drink in the Washington pub and put some Henderson’s relish on your fish n’ chips!…(Anyone from Sheffield will relate to that)

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

Just thanks for the opportunity to ramble on and if you want any more info don’t hesitate to ask.


The Suncharms – Sparkle


The days of youth are over. Forgive the lack of updates on the blog on the last couple of weeks. After coming back from a great Labour Day weekend traveling around Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria, I ended up at the hospital. I was diagnosed a chronic disease. After five days I was discharged and started adapting to a new routine. I’m not ready yet though; I had to cancel a New York flight that I had scheduled this weekend, but I feel more comfortable each day that passes. I will be fine, and I look positively to what comes ahead. But I can’t deny that time has been a bit of a luxury this past week. Anyways, the world won’t halt its spinning for me, and nothing can make my projects and dreams crumble. So let’s make some good use of our time, let’s continue celebrating the music we love! Let’s keep up the fight! Nothing can stop indiepop!

As expected I haven’t listened to many CDs in these two weeks. These are the ones that have been on rotation at home:
1. Amor de Días – Street of the Love of Days (Merge)
2. Various Artists – Too Good To Be True: The Very Best of El Records 1985-1988 (Cherry Red)
3. The Cherry Orchard – These Restless Days (Firestation)
4. The What Gives – Up All Night With the What Gives (Bus Stop)
5. The Mondo Crescendo – Young, Naked and Happy With It (Blackbean and Placenta Tape Club)
6. The Kick Inside – Ever the Optimist (Promo CD)

Now onto some Cloudberry news. I have started working on the artwork for the Feverfew reissue. I feel a great excitement to work on a new format. The release will be part of a new series of records that I hope turn to be a success. Probably on next weekend’s post I’ll have the cover artwork and the tracklist to show. We are hoping for a November release. I’ll be keeping you updated. On the 7″ front the Youngfuck test pressings should be arriving this week. We are on schedule. Also artwork has been started for both upcoming 7″s by Nixon and Cassolette. And that’s it for now. Starting this week things will start moving faster again.

Many moons ago when I was in university I had to put together a portfolio with my work to graduate. As many as you know I was studying graphic design and ended up, trying to be overtly creative, a huge Victorian tin cookie box as my portfolio. It looked great and classy. It looked more like a treasure box than anything else. In there. I glued a folder binder onto the back side of the top flap and set up my printed works on there. Inside, as there was so much space in it, I could also transport the magazines, brochures, CDs, and more. It was perfect. Every time I went to an interview with it, the interviewer was fascinated about it. It felt good, nonetheless these days, I would rather just show a website with my work instead of carrying this huge box around! So I have my huge Victorian tin stored in one of my closets alongside scarfs and jackets that barely see the day of light in humid Miami.

Today I look tanned. Swimming in the Atlantic alongside some jellyfish has been my kind of fun this weekend . Lonely days ahead as my father has just left today after being with me for the past week. During the afternoons it always changes. Around 6pm it becomes rainy weather. It pours and the stray cats hide under the cars. These are the days of youth, my last ones. But I’m sure I’ll always be young at heart. And now I daydream of moving to Sweden in a year or two. And that’s where the obscure band of the week comes from, from that great country of lingonberry and pancakes.

Victorian Tin were from Karlstad, Sweden. A city that derives its name from the King Charles IX, and that lies on the river delta of Sweden’s longest river, Klarälven, which runs into Sweden’s largest lake, Vänern. It was a two piece formed by Erik Bergqvist and Christian Gustafsson. There were no proper releases but a 7 song tape that was distributed by Everlasting Records from Cambridge, UK, the same label that released the likes of Emily or A Riot of Colour. The story says that the band sent them a demo tape and the label suggested them to put a tape together with their best songs. There was a catalog number for it, “Bait2”. I wonder what was “Bait1”.  This may also mean that there were more recordings than these seven songs. And that would be great news!

The songs on the tape were: “Agony Flower”, “Alienation”, “Lonely Days”, “Fragments of Roses”, “Silvery Mouths”, “In My Rainy Weather”, “The Days of Youth”. And I believe this tape was put out at some point in 1990. The guys will later get involved with a band called “Searching for Beatrice” which you can listen on myspace. Other bands they were involved with were Scapegoat Palace, Phone a fish, Popetree, Stoker, Recidius Catonium, Emelies Garden, Baren med Vin & Josefin, and The Wonder Boys. I can only hope, feeling very curious, that they they continued making great jangle pop in the same tradition as Victorian Tin.

The last news from the guys were from 1999 when they formed Ephemeron. They have a myspace set up for this band as well but they haven’t logged in a couple of months. Who can blame them. Myspace is the messiest mess.

Supposedly there was a couple of years ago a Swedish fanzine that interviewed them. I believe the name of the zine was Billig Underhållning. If anyone has a copy of the interview and would be kind to translate to English, please do! I’m sure I’m not the only one interested in it.

And that’s about it. Six great songs, and one fantastic song that should have been an A side of a 7″ back in the day: “The Days of Youth”. Perhaps listening it many times works as the fountain of youth or something. I feel great when the first chords start chiming, a big smile on my face, and I think, nothing is lost, there’s so much to hope still.


Victorian Tin – The Days of Youth


Thanks so much to Bea Colin for the interview! April Showers only released one single but what a single! Considered an indiepop classic, “Abandon Ship” is one of those songs you never forget. Thanks to my friend Jessel I got in touch with her and learned a bit more about this great Glaswegian band.

++ Hello Beatrice! Thanks so much for being up for this interview. It’s really an honor as your one and only single is such a classic on my book and also for many others it has reached cult status. How do you think your songs have aged?

Thank you for asking. Abandon Ship still sounds pretty good to me. My children even quite like it.

++ So let’s go back in time. April Showers was formed by you and Jonathan Bernstein, right? When and how did you knew each other, and what sparked you two to start a band together?

I didn’t really know Jonathan that well. He worked in a record shop in Glasgow. I was in a band called The French Impressionists when I was 17 and was fired. Soon after I got a call from Jonathan. We used to have band rehearsals in his bedroom and he used to sing these warbly but incredibly catchy songs to me. I thought he was really strange and quirky. He is also very funny so that helped.

++ Was April Showers your first band? And where does the name come from?

As I said, I was in another band who were sort of jazz-inspired – basically a piano and voice. I wrote the lyrics. We were doing quite well but the piano player decided I wasn’t good enough and hired two new singers.

I’m not sure where the name came from. Jonathan thought of it.

++ Talking of April Showers, what would you say is your favourite month? And why?

I like most of the year. Except maybe the depths of winter when it gets dark at 3.30 in the afternoon.

++ You only released that one single, in both 7″ and 12″ on Big Star Records which was a subsidiary of Chrysalis, a big label. How did you end up signing with them?

Someone from Rough Trade heard a demo we’d recorded in Jonathan’s bedroom with my then boyfriend, James Grant (from Love and Money). He paid for us to do a proper demo – which we recorded backed by members of Orange Juice. It seemed pretty easy to get record deals in those days. They formed a new label for us, Big Star, which Del Amitir eventually signed to.

++ The single included two fantastic, fabulous, songs: “Abandon Ship” and “Everytime I Say Goodbye”. Care to tell me the story behind these two songs?

Jonathan wrote them. They’re just classic pop songs that he scribbled down on a piece of paper. Although I think Jonathan a hugely talented person, I don’t think they have any deep and profound meaning.

++ The record was produced by Anne Dudley from Art of Noise. How was the experience with working with her?

She was very nice. A bit like a school teacher, but very organized and rather strict. I love the string section she orchestrated.

++ Then there was a 7″ that was almost ready but never got released, the “While the City Sleeps” 7″. What happened with it? That was prior to the “Abandon Ship” one, right?

We recorded that for a Belgian label, Crepescule. It was before and I can’t remember why it wasn’t released now.

++ From what I’ve read you had many other songs like “Any Wednesday”, “Don’t Stay Away Too Long” or “All Of The Stars In The Sky”, were these recorded? Maybe in demo form at least?

I only know the first one. I don’t recognize the other two. Are they are songs? I heard something on the net once which claimed it was us but wasn’t. We recorded about eight songs in demo – they were all pretty good.

++ And how come you didn’t get to release more records?

We were going to record an album but in classic rock and roll fashion had a huge fight, fell out and split up. Short and sweet.

++ Have you ever thought about releasing some sort of retrospective CD with all your stuff? I think it may do well!

We did think about it but nothing of any playable quality exists, unfortunately. We looked into it a few years ago – I had a few cassettes but sadly they were copies of copies so no one could do it.

++ What about gigs, did you gig a lot? Any particular ones that you remember?

We never played live. We couldn’t – there were only two of us and Jonathan didn’t play an instrument. No, wait, we might have done once, with members of Friend’s Again, a local band. I can’t remember what we played. It was possibly ‘Wild Thing.’

++ Being from Glasgow and around the early 80s, I was wondering how influential was Postcard Records for you?

I loved Postcard and we knew most of the people involved. I really wanted to be a singer/songwriter and so went off after April Showers and formed my own band, Pale Fire. Glasgow had been really fashionable in the early eighties. By the time I had my band up and running, the spotlight had moved on and being from Glasgow was the kiss of death. We played lost of gigs but didn’t get anywhere.

++ And what other bands from the time did you enjoy? How was the scene back then in Glasgow? Where would go and hang out and watch bands?

The scene was really exciting. Everyone used to go and see each other play live – the French Impressionists were on the fringes of Postcard. The bass player from Aztec Camera eventually ended up playing in my band, Pale Fire. We used to go to a bar called The Rock Garden even though we were under-age.

++ Are you still in touch with Jonathan? If so, what is he up to these days?

I saw Jonathan a couple of weeks ago. He lived in LA and writes novels for children and screenplays. He’s really successful.

++ You have published a couple of novels and also many short stories. What are you working on these days? Maybe your third novel?

Yes I’m working on another novel.

++ I’m always impressed by professors, I would love to be one in the not so distant future. How was your experience teaching creative writing? And is there any similarity or anything from being in a band that you later used as experience as a professional?

I wouldn’t say there are any similarities, no. You are, in a sense, on a stage, but that’s as far as it goes.

++ Aside from work and music, what other things do you enjoy? Do you have any hobbies?

I have two kids, who take up a lot of time. I love the cinema and am about to start writing a screenplay. Hobbies? Er, swimming?

++ I’ve been in Glasgow twice now, and I love the city. I haven’t done that much tourism, but have seen some sights around town. I was wondering what are your favourite places in Glasgow, and if there are any sights you’d totally recommend me seeing next time I’m around?

I love the Art School. I also like Tramway in the South Side and the Botanical Gardens and Byres Road in the West End. It’s a great city even in the rain.

++ Also, this might sound silly, but I got a crush with Irn Bru. Do you like it? What about the haggis, tatties and neeps? Are there any other Scottish favorite of yours?

I’m afraid I don’t like any of it. I like Scottish strawberries and raspberries in the summer and there are some really great seafood restaurants serving local produce but no, I’m not a big fan of traditional Scottish food. I do, however, eat porridge in the winter.

++ Let’s start wrapping the interview now Beatrice, in retrospect, what were your favourite moments being part of April Showers? Would you do everything the same way again?

April Showers came out of the blue. I was 19, at university and all of a sudden we got a record deal, were being flown down to London and going to parties with pop stars like Wham and Duran Duran. It was very strange and sort of unreal. What I did learn very quickly is that your shelf life in the business is very, very short. We were there and then we were gone. Afterwards, I failed all my exams at university and had to spend a year catching up. After university I tried to reach the same level of success with my own band but it didn’t work. Then I became a journalist – and later a writer. I am grateful for the experience but glad that I gave up when I did and didn’t keep chasing elusive pop-stardom.

Jonathan and I sometimes talk about what it would it have been like if we hadn’t split up. Who knows if we would have had any lasting success and where we would have ended up? April Showers were a short moment of my life. We were very lucky to have got so far and I’m really thrilled that people still remember the song so fondly.

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

Just thanks for your interest. It seems slightly bizarre to me that the single is still talked about at all.


April Showers – Abandon Ship