When Ignacio told me, during the Friday night shows, that Tiny Fireflies was his favorite band ever, I was a bit surprised. I asked him again if he meant ever. And he did. The main man of the new label Cerillas Garibaldi was totally charmed by them and for the first time he was going to see them live. I lost track of him as soon as the gig started. I wonder if he was one of the many that got the new split with Lily of the Valley and got it autographed by Kristine and Lisle. I know there were many humble fans in Spain who got the signatures of the pretty Tiny Fireflies.

I’m not sure exactly which songs they played that night. I can remember that they played all the songs they have released, but no Club 8 cover. I didn’t get their tracklist this time, not because I didn’t want to, but because Jorge was collecting them for the Madrid Popfest archive. So here’s a tip for bands, make at least 3 tracklists. Because  I need one for sure.

The gig was beautiful, as always. The fragility and tenderness that Tiny Fireflies evoke can’t be compared to any band these days. I don’t think anyone comes close either. Their sound is just way too dreamy, and deliciously sweet. Kristine’s angelic voice blends so perfect with the electronic beats and Lisle’s jangly guitar. One only wonders how this sound was achieved in Chicago, three blocks away from the Division subway station on the blue line. No, it doesn’t make sense.

All the copies the band brought to Madrid were sold. Success for a tour that started in their hometown a week before and later spanning some cities in Wisconsin. Their first Tiny Fireflies tour. Though last year they did play a couple of gigs in the UK, but the main tour then was the one by Very Truly Yours, their “other” band. I remember clearly the gigs at the ROTA, opening for the Sunny Street and Amor de Días, and the one at Indietracks. By this time they had their first release out, the magical 3″CD on Cris’ label Little Treasure. I got my copy that sunny Friday in Nottingham, when a big group of Indietracks’ goers met at the Ye Olde Jerusalem Inn for lunch. These memories make me want to go so much to Indietracks this year. Time to break the piggy bank?

I’ve seen Kristine and Lisle play so many times, even more than Allo Darlin’ or The Smittens, which is already something.  I am a declared fan of their musical talents, and their sensitivity to write songs. Moreover I consider them great friends. Can’t wait to see them next month here in New York to hang out and attend the Chickfactor 20 gigs. To which I ask, why were these gigs scheduled on weekdays? I’ll be dead tired, exhausted, trying to wake up the morning after to go to work. And I will have to control how many beers I can drink.

We met Tiny Fireflies on Wednesday, outside of Alonso Martínez station. Along with Zipper, we all headed to a very cool bar whose name I have forgotten. There we had wine and beer and tried the classic tortilla de patatas. Kristine was impressed by the fluffiness of it and asked for the recipe. Among laughs, and “getting to know each other”, as it seems Zipper and Tiny Fireflies each missed their gigs at last year’s Indietracks, we had a great time. That’s when we decided to hop to another bar, a more traditional Spanish one, you know, one that serves sausages and other treats along your drinks for free.

The next days I would become Tiny Fireflies official translator. Was it an upgrade from last year’s Very Truly Yours roadie? We would meet around 1pm, a bit ashamed of looking for lunch that early for Spanish standards. And so, we would go looking for restaurants that served a daily menu, something we really enjoyed. For around 10 or 11 euros we could eat well, a proper meal consisting of an appetizer, an entree, dessert, and a drink. Plus bread. A really good deal. And so Kristine and me tried many different things, mostly thinks done with pork. Alexandra stuck to having salmon, while Lisle enjoyed “bocaditos” made of ham or the brilliant “roman” style calamari. I would translate the menu and they would always laugh when we would find “gallo” which is rooster on the menu. It wasn’t an easy task to translate as I didn’t know the meaning of many things, the Spanish from Spain, when it comes to food, differs a lot from the one I know from Peru.

We traced every room of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art. We got in for free, just by chance, as they were having a free entrance that day because of some sort of women related celebrations. Was it international women’s day? Could be. And then we also visited and took some Tiny Fireflies promo pictures at the Madrid Botanical Gardens, where I ended up being asked by many tourists to take pictures of them. There was this couple that asked me to take a picture of them with the “tree of love” as a backdrop. As it wasn’t spring yet, the tree was gloomy, very far to convey any sense of love. More of a Halloween picture if you ask me, not very romantic. And then we also enjoyed riding up and down, many times, the clear crystal elevators of the Reina Sofía museum, to get beautiful, panoramic views of Madrid. And there we also went for free, as there’s a nice deal on Saturdays after 3 pm. While at Reina Sofía we ended up speechless upon finding the impressive Guernica by Picasso. Stunning really.

Meeting on Saturday at Puerta del Sol, taking pictures under the “bear and the tree” statue, symbol of Madrid, and walking around and bumping with Miguel Navarro, guitar extraordinaire of The Felt Tips, we waited for Cris and Madidi to arrive, for one last lunch in Spain (at least for us). When we were altogether we headed into one of these menu restaurants I’ve been raving. We loved the name of it, “La Soberbia” (The Arrogance), and we enjoyed some beers to start. I remember trying that day Salmorejo, a delicious cold soup made out of tomatoes, and the delicious Solomillo made out of pork. Cris had the same as me, Kristine got the Solomillo and a salad, Madidi got the paella, Alexandra went for some peppers filled with fish that she didn’t like much, and Lisle a ham bocadito. Then Cris had to run for sound check, as he was in charge of making The Close Lobsters sound good for their historic show later that night. And then, when we asked for the check (or the bill as you say in the UK), Kristine had the best idea of getting rid of all her Euro change. And so we paid the check mostly on coins, and coins, and coins. Brilliant.

It was just a couple of weeks back since we released the Tiny Fireflies split CD. And now I hope that in the not so distant future we’ll get their songs on vinyl. At least that’s what I would love to do.

And now onto some obscure band, and to make it a bit more relevant, a US band that doesn’t sound American at all: Mouse Boy, Mouse Girl. Well, I’m not very sure if they were a band or not, but I do know this one song that I’ve really been enjoying for the past week since Alexandra e-mailed to me. I wonder how such a pretty song have been unattended, unexplored, unheard, by me. I will blame it to my anglophile-ness when it comes to indiepop. The song is called “Make Like We’re Not Sad” and it’s such a delicious slice of fragile indiepop.

The song was part of a compilation put together back in 1998 by the now sleepy indiepop-list. The compilation was called “The Family Twee”. The idea behind the compilation was to have songs by the members of the list. Not surprised to see Mario’s Zapato, Chris’ Suretoss, in their for example. But I wasn’t around in the list back in 1998, so I’m unfamiliar with many of the bands, and the people behind them. A little research and I found out how this was organized by “Skippy”:

September 1997 – An invitation is made to members of the list to submit a song/whatever, that is under 2 minutes long. We will create 2 cd’s filled with their tracks upon getting enough people to do it (60!) and it will become a ‘snapshot’ of the current state of the list. A postcard if you will.November 1997 – By this time, we’ve had 85 people say they definitely want to do it. We await the first 60’s tracks and then open it up to the remainder.

December 1997 – We’ve received only 46 of the promised tracks. People flake, that’s life. I have list members Jim Curran and Anne Zender over for a holiday cocktail and to ‘sequence’ and ‘rate’ what we have. January 1998 – I moved everything I own from Chicago to NYC. I get the track total up to 60, pulling teeth, but this also means that some people haven’t ‘contributed’ if you know what I mean.

March 1998 – I give the 60 songs to pal and Kindercore cat, Ryan, who will inexpensively master the thing.

April 1998 – Apparently there are some problems with a track or two and we need to get the original from the person.

June 1998 – CD is mastered and prepared for pressing. Skippy loses artwork that Andy Blanchard so generous drew because he didn’t have a ‘song’ contribution. We await Andy’s duplicates.

August 1998 – The two CD set arrives here in spindles (the state of CD manufacturing took 7 weeks!). As soon as we whip up some art, we can package these babies up and get them out. Of course, I seem to have underestimated the costs of the project and am now in the hole for about $600.September 1998 – I receive the plastic booklets we will use. Artwork is shipped to a friend who can do it ‘cheap’. I haven’t heard from him since. November 1998 – I decide enough is enough, make some ‘bootleg’ style artwork and begin the arduous task of packaging 1,000 double CD’s with inserts in my spare time (with my girlfriend’s help)

December 2, 1998 – All systems go! The CD’s are ready to ship. Problem is, some of you have changed your home address and your e-mail addresses. I have saved enough money to ship these (there’s quite a few international ones, y’all), but I don’t want to start sending to addresses that you gave me back in November last year because I don’t want to get it returned.

After a bit of investigation to find out at least one name behind Mouse Boy, Mouse Girl. It seems it was Tony Gauslin who was behind this precious song. This was prior the days of him making songs with Laura Watling under the name of “Color and Shapes”. And that’s really all I know. Did they make any more songs? Did he ever receive a copy of the Family Twee CD (he complains in 1999, a year after, of not having received a copy!)? and did they release any songs? maybe on other compilations? And what is he up to? I’m sure the talent is not gone!

Any clues, hints, or anecdotes you want to share, you know what to do in the comments section!


Boy Mouse, Girl Mouse – Make Like We’re Not Sad


Back from Madrid Popfest. Back from Spain and the many cities I visited. Back to New York. Back to work, to the label, to the routines. I’m still in the process of figuring out how to put in words what happened in Madrid. It is one of the best times ever. Indiepop-wise and not. In the next couple of weeks I will review it, hopefully convince you to go next year. It’s worth it. And having attended many Popfests I can truly say that when it comes to fun, when it comes to camaraderie, to admiration to the bands, to fans that give their heart out every night, Madrid is the best. And they get some damn fine bands too.

I got the best company during the trip. And she knows. To Toledo, Avila, Segovia, and more, we traveled. We visited a handful of cathedrals, castles and ruins. We walked on top of medieval walls, ate the town’s specialties, and took hundreds of pictures. The “Cercanías” trains were great and cheap. And at night we had beer, and danced, and met with friends. A haze, a blur, it all so seems so far away but so close too. I need another festival soon to put Madrid in perspective. Around the corner is the Chickfactor one. Will that make me sane again? I don’t want this happiness to go away though. But there’s plenty of news for Cloudberry. I really want to go through them, let’s talk about Madrid next week. Promise.

First of all, there’s a couple of new releases out:

– The Time Capsules : this is part of the Cloudberry Classics releases. It includes 6 wonderful songs in the vein of The Jazz Butcher, Lotus Eaters and Jim Jiminee. The Time Capsules were a Japanese band active during the late 90s. They only released a tape back then. This release includes all their songs (but their demos, though you can download one of them from the Cloudberry page). These days Kouishi Ono, the lead guy behind The Time Capsules goes under the name Alvysinger and he still has it. Great stuff!

– Tiny Fireflies / Lily of the Valley : please don’t mistake them with “My” Lily of the Valley who were Swedish and appeared on Cloudberry’s 100th release. This Lily of the Valley hails from Japan and they make great shoegazy tunes. And what to say about Tiny Fireflies who are making a splash everywhere. From New York to London and then to Indietracks and now Madrid. Seen them four times and everytime they get closer to pop perfection. Delicious vocals by Kristine, two perfectly penned songs, with hooks, dreams and reveries. This is a split 3″CD!

Also you might have noticed that most prices on the store have been raised by a dollar. Even though I didn’t want to do it, I had no better option. The postal service has raised their prices. Nothing we can do about it. It’s been 5 years keeping the same prices on Cloudberry, but now there’s no way for me to cut expenses on other things and keep the prices the same. Hope you understand.

On the 7″ front the Cassolette 7″ is almost ready. This week I should be announcing the release date. It should be in the early days of April. It’s been a long wait, but it will definitely be worth it.

And then the Cloudberry Cake Kitchen is also ready with a new baked goodie: The Deddingtons album. All the artwork is ready and will try to send it to press very soon. There will be more info about this release later on the Cloudberry site.

Also I feel it’s time to start working on a new fanzine. Any ideas on who to feature? What color ink to use?

But now it’s time for our obscure band of the week: Ostrich Cult.

Ostrich:  is one or two species of large flightless birds native to Africa, the only living member(s) of the genus Struthio. Some analyses indicate that the Somali Ostrich may be better considered a full species apart from the Common Ostrich, but most taxonomists consider it to be a subspecies. Ostriches share the order Struthioniformes with the kiwis, emus, and other ratites. It is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs and the ability to run at maximum speeds of about 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph), the top land speed of any bird The Ostrich is the largest living species of bird and lays the largest egg of any living bird (extinct elephant birds of Madagascar and the giant moa of New Zealand did lay larger eggs). The diet of Ostriches mainly consists of plant matter, though it also eats invertebrates. It lives in nomadic groups which contain between five and fifty birds. When threatened, the Ostrich will either hide itself by lying flat against the ground, or will run away. If cornered, it can attack with a kick from its powerful legs. Mating patterns differ by geographical region, but territorial males fight for a harem of two to seven females. These fights usually last just minutes, but they can easily cause death through slamming their heads into opponents. The Ostrich is farmed around the world, particularly for its feathers, which are decorative and are also used as feather dusters. Its skin is used for leather products[6] and its meat is marketed commercially.

Cult: The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a new religious movement or other group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre.  The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices. The word was first used in the early 17th century denoting homage paid to a divinity and derived from the French culte or Latin cultus, ‘worship’, from cult-, ‘inhabited, cultivated, worshipped,’ from the verb colere, ‘care, cultivation’. In the 1930s cults became the object of sociological study in the context of the study of religious behavior. They have been criticized by mainstream Christians for their unorthodox beliefs. In the 1970s the anticult movement arose, partly motivated by acts of violence and other crimes committed by members of some cults (notably the Manson Family and People’s Temple). Some of the claims of the anticult movement have been disputed by other scholars, leading to further controversies.

With my head daydreaming of Sweden, I have no better idea to write about this band, an obsession of mine. An obsession for two reasons. First because I don’t have their 7″ and have never heard the songs on it. And second, they were the predecessors of one of my favourite bands, Happydeadmen.

The only song I’ve ever heard from them is the one posted here on the blog. I heard it for first time on Youtube, and it seems it’s from 1986. I think someone translated it to English for me once. I can’t remember.  I will go through my emails and see if I can find that. I know the song name means “A Dying Man”. Magnus Karlsson is on vocals.

The sound is different to Happydeadmen, though you can already hear some great guitar riffs. The jangle was about to come. Still I enjoy this song a lot. But this song is just a demo, this song wasn’t properly released, which probably means that the two songs that were released on the 7″ might be superior. I don’t know, just an educated guess here.

The 7″ was a private press, 500 copies as usual. The catalogue is MOK-S-01. The song on the A side is “Skymningsland” which means ‘Land of Dusk’ and on the flip side we find “Resa Utan Mal”, ‘Journey Without End”. The sleeve artwork reminds me a bit of those by Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes, offset print in blue.

I don’t have a clue where to find a copy, and I’ve been trying for some years now. If anyone cares to help, please let me know. Or at least MP3s of these two songs, I would love to listen. Worst case scenario, if you happen to have more songs from the demo, please share. This band is a true mystery to me and would love to know more. I love Happydeadmen, knowing more about Ostrich Cult is imperative!


Ostrich Cult – En Döende Man


Thanks so much to Warren Chan for the interview! Ferns, the great Malaysian band, have just put out their second album, “Fairweather Friends”, and it’s just GREAT. I suggest everyone to check it out. On this interview we cover their beginnings, their new album, Malaysia, and the future. Also there are still some copies of the split 3″ on Cloudberry, don’t miss that one too!

++ Great to see you back! This second album is really beautiful, I’m enjoying it lots. It’s been some years since the first album and I’m wondering how do you think the band has evolved? What is different in Ferns these days?

Much obliged. Well, myself and keyboardist Abby are the only original members left from the 1st album, so the band dynamic changed quite a bit. While I am the primary songwriter, I usually just bring in a sketch of the song into the studio for the rest of the band to apply their own special touches. I’ve never been in favour of stamping a ‘one true vision’ on the band because that’s just limiting and plain un-fun. This is why I really value all the different musicians that have collaborated under Ferns all this while. Because for me, it’s kinda like having the chance to sample of all the best dishes at your favourite restaurant – for almost a decade now! These days, I’m working with a group of different, but no less exciting musicians to play with. We’re a lot more loose and carefree than previous incarnations, and I think that kind of reflects in our new album.

++ The second album is titled “Fairweather Friends”. What’s the story behind this name?

There wasn’t any real plan for thematic cohesion. After recording the album, we took a listen, and a number of the songs happened to reflect the same lyrical motif – weather. I guess I find it rather ironic that even while living in a tropical country such as Malaysia, people still have this romantic obsession with the four seasons – which we don’t ever get to experience. It’s just hot or wet here. That’s actually what the song “I Should Be Having More Fun” is about. Making the best of our meteorological destiny.

++ Which is your favourite song on the album and why?

Personally for me, I’d have to say “Miss Stormcloud.” It was actually the first song I wrote for the new album, and stylistically it sort of charted the direction for the rest to follow, at least in spirit. The music was recorded live with minimal overdubs, so there’s this unreproducible relaxed vibe. The stars aligned somehow, allowing that performance to sound really special to me. It was a point of time when I said, “forget it!” – “I’m going to stop being obsessed with chasing perfection, put away my reverb and delay pedals for abit and start writing back-to-basics pop songs”. If we didn’t get “Miss Stormcloud” right, I think the album would have sounded much different. Less fun, for sure.

++ Are you avid indiepop fans? Who would you list as Ferns influences?

I wouldn’t say avid per se. We’re definitely familiar now with the indiepop legacy (e.g. Sarah Records, C86), but this wasn’t always the case. I’d say that our sound is actually a happy accident derived from not actually having any indiepop influences originally. This is because all that great music was really difficult to get access to while we were growing up. And by the time we got to it, the “hey-days” were already over. Our 1st album (“On Botany”) was actually an interpretation of what we thought a mashup between psych-folk pop (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) and shoegaze (Ride) might sound like. For some reason, fans around the world started identifying us as twee/indiepop.

Our new album “Fairweather Friends” actually benefited from greater familiarity with classic / newer indiepop stuff. Its hard not be influenced by all the newer generation of pop musicians such as The Lucksmiths, Pelle Carlberg, Camera Obscura, Jens Lekman and of course the mighty Belle & Sebastian – all of whom we have the pleasure of watching live in SouthEast Asia these past few years (Ferns opened for Pelle Carlberg and Club 8 for their Malaysia show back in 2008). But in the spirit of diversity, I still hold a special place in my heart for psych-folk and country rock tinged acts such as Wilco and Grandaddy as well.

++ Tell me about the recording of the album? How long did it take? Any funny anecdotes? What beer did you all have while at the studio?

All in all the album took about 3 years+ to record. It was actually meant to be a quick-n-dirty EP after the rather laborious process of “perfecting” the 1st album. But life got in the way and from an EP, an album was born song-by-song. We just couldn’t stop ourselves! After that initial batch of 4 songs, we kept writing and adding on “just one more killer song” that had to be an the album. We ended producing the album ourselves, recording at two different professional studios and bits of home studio additions.

We all don’t really drink, but food is a particular obsession for all Malaysians. Might do a culinary-themed one in the future!

++ And who is releasing the album? Is it self-released? Why did you decide to go that way?

The album is completely self-released with some distribution help within Malaysia from Soundscape Records. It’s a particular quirk of the local industry where independent bands in the middle don’t really benefit from being under a record company. Better to be in charge of your own destiny, as all the tools are readily available for you to promote your music. Although we’d to say, it really is like having a second job, at times! But it really is a satisfying experience at the end of the day. It’s like the production process – I think every band should at least attempt producing an album before rushing to throw money at big-name producers.

++ The artwork for the CD is amazing. Im a sucker for illustration. Care to tell me a bit more about the artist behind it?

The artwork was created by an amazing and talented artist called Shieko (http://shiekoreto1.blogspot.com/) She’s pretty well known in the local pop art scene, and her style skews towards the irreverent and quirky – which was a perfect fit for us. We were basically looking for an artist with a flair for storytelling and fuzzy-edged social commentary, so we’re really happy she agreed to work with us. We basically just told her to do whatever she wanted. With a few basic concepts from her, we mixed and matched elements of what became the final product.

++ Let’s go back in time. When did you start as Ferns? How did you all knew each other?

Ferns is an offshoot of an earlier band called This Body Broken in the early 2000s, which played melodic indie rock at the time. I was originally roped in as just the guitarist. After some time, members kept dropping out until I ended up (somewhat reluctantly) in the frontman / vocalist role. This was actually my first experience writing and singing songs in a proper band. It really was a learning experience, which I somehow muddled through and got better at it, thankfully 🙂

After a few years, we decided to drop the This Body Broken moniker, because well, we were just sick of playing heavy rock music – and low-key has always been closer to my temperament. Our only criteria for the new stuff was that it was to be poppy, catchy, played without distortion and swathed in reverb! You’d be surprised, but at the time we started, there were practically no other bands within the indie scene with that kind of sound. Everything had to be loud, for some reason.

With the stylistic shift, it also made sense for us to go with the “Ferns” moniker. All members of the band have been friends for some time now, and we met through various means. Though, our guitarist Johan was actually found through an online classifieds ad. He was still in Uni when we auditioned him, and we were just blown away at his versatility and sensitive approach to working melody into songs. So he was definitely a rare find, because a lot of guitarists tend to overplay. He’s definitely a big part of the melodic backbone of the new album.

++ Care to list me the members of Ferns and what do they play?

Ferns are Warren Chan (vocals/guitar), Abigail De Vries (keyboard/vocals), Johan Fariz Tan (guitar), Adrian Yap (bass) and Rudy Frank (drums).

++ And if these Ferns members are not making music, what other hobbies do they have?

3/5ths of Ferns are huge football fanatics (Johan, Adrian & Rudy), so conversations on footie tend to dominate among them. I’m into technology and videogame culture in general. Abby into cooking, feminism and radical politics.

++ And how did you all agree in calling yourself Ferns? Where did the name come from?

Our basic criteria for a band name was only that it needed to be short and nondescript, and “Ferns” certainly qualified.

++ How is the indiepop scene in Malaysia? Are there any other bands worth our attention?

There is no indiepop scene in Malaysia. At least not in the traditional sense of bands directly tracing influences from 80s UK indie, right down to the Swedes and whatnot. As mentioned, that kind of music wasn’t accessible back then and even now with the emergence of new wave indiepop, it hasn’t quite caught on, unlike say, with our neighbours Indonesia. So being the only indiepop band in Malaysia has been a rather lonely journey, but does help us stand out a little, I guess. And the response from fans from around the world has been quite phenomenal, encouraging and touching. We never expected that what we were doing really had an audience. So, not to overstate things, we do feel that we have a responsibility to keep doing this for as long as we can.

We’re still a big fan of pop music in any form however, so within that milieu we really like Liyana Fizi (a bossa nova-pop-tinged singer songwriter), OJ Law (one-man production and songwriting genius who goes from Beach Boys to Curtis Mayfield at the drop of a hat) and Couple (the only purveyors of authentic power pop (think Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, The Posies etc) in Malaysia).

++ And where are the places were you usually hang out? Are there any cool record shops or bars that have good music on the background?

Record shops and social hangouts conducive to creativity are a little lacking here. We do have a vibrant arts scene, but we’re not really part of that. So we’d like to say that our primary hang outs are a) the practice studio and b) eateries. 🙂

++ Do you play live often? Which have been your favourite gigs so far and why?

We play quite regularly these days, especially in support of the new album. We’ve played extensively in Malaysia and Singapore at various festival and smaller events, but would definitely like to go explore the region in places such as Indonesia and Thailand.

One of our favourite gigs was actually during in 2008 for the Labrador Records showcase in Malaysia where Ferns actually supported Pelle Carlberg and Club 8 in concert. It wasn’t just that they were amazing performers, but also that we learned a lot from their stagecraft and were honoured by their sheer humility. We also recently played a couple of small scale gigs in Singapore at an arts cafe and pub respectively – and what struck us was the support of long-time fans who knew our songs and were generous with encouraging words. Not quite sure if its a “grass is greener” situation, but we seldom get that kind of response back home in Malaysia.

++ For many years I’ve been wondering, and I guess now it’s time to ask, about your first album package design. Who came up with that crazy idea of having turf on the CD cover?!

I credit the idea to both our keyboardist Abby de Vries and drummer at the time Dave Wong – who is also a very talented designer / artist. Dave basically turned the idea into reality – he just went to the hardware section of the local shopping centre and bought huge rolls of astroturf. The CD printers took care of the rest (though they sure were surprised at the time!) Not sure if it’d be done before or since, but it’s always been a cool talking point for people. It has been some cause for concern when bringing it cross-border through immigration though because the “grass” resembles a certain illicit substance 🙂

++ On that first CD you worked with the great Isman from Fruit Records. How important was him for Ferns in the early days? And how close do you feel to the Singapore scene? It seems they have something small but nice going on there.

Isman and Fruit were hugely important. Because without his efforts in reaching out the global indiepop community – we might not even be doing this interview with you now! So in spite of limited resources, I really do give him credit for helping to expose us to a larger audience than we ever thought possible.

We have some really great friends in Singapore, though unfortunately as with Malaysia, there seems to be no active indiepop band scene. There are however, unlike Malaysia, a small number of dedicated fans there who grew up with the classic stuff – some whom probably even managed to see the legends in action during their heyday. So we do get lots of encouragement from them, as well as younger fans who’ve discovered the music. It’s a real treat for us and them whenever we get to come down to play.

++ And after that first CD we worked together on a split CD some years back. We included two songs that are included in the new album as well, “Miss Stormcloud” and “Antisocial Scene”. What’s the story behind these two songs?

Well, Miss Stormcloud and Anti Social Scene were two of the earliest songs recorded for the new album. They were part of the “quick-n-dirty” raw live sessions, which we kind of ended up sitting on for a long time and didn’t know what to do with until you came along kindly to ask to work on the split CD together with Shandy Express. That’s why we’re still fondest of those tunes, even though we didn’t have as much time to polish them up as we might have. But I think the tunes really benefited from the self-enforced limitations.

If you notice, both of the songs are departures from the style of the of the first album. We wanted big, upbeat rhythms and wide-open melodies, kind of like our version of arena rock anthems. Except, we can’t really rock, so that’s basically what you get.

++ A couple of weeks back I tried Malaysian food for the first time here in NYC. So good! I was wondering if you’d recommend me your favourite dish, perhaps they have it and I can try it next time!

Malaysian food is rather unique because of our country’s multiracial make-up (Malay, Chinese, Indian, Native, Eurasian). Though it appears the ones that most commonly get exported are either Malay or Chinese cuisine. You probably paid a premium for what we might consider to be street hawker food over here 🙂

My favorite dish is something called “char koay teow” – which is basically stir fried rice-cake strips garnished with prawns, egg, cockles and bean sprouts. Think “pad thai” but a more intense and primal flavour. It’s difficult to get right because a large part of the flavour is derived from something called “wok hei” which is a slightly charred taste you get from intense heat. That kind of blazing fire cannot be replicated with gas stoves, which is why the really good cooks use charcoal to heat up their woks with.

(PS which restaurant did you eat at? Was it called Penang by any chance?? Cos Abby is from Penang)

++ And if I was to visit Kuala Lumpur, which are the sights or places I shouldn’t miss?

Brickfields, it’s a “Little India” of Kuala Lumpur. Alor Street, lots of good hawker-style eating along the street. Petaling Street, street shopping at its finest – though vendors do tend to try to rip-off foreigners so do be careful.

++ And now what’s next for Ferns? Already working on the third album?

Not yet actually – we’ll definitely be pushing Fairweather Friends for as far as we can. Definitely looking forward to opportunities to play outside of Malaysia, around the region – especially Indonesia which has a huge indiepop scene and the Philippines, which has a lot of great like-minded acts. We actually do already have new songs in the pipeline and performed live, so those might come out as singles or EPs soon. Check out a new song live here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnfraIzoh6k

We’re REALLY excited though, about the music video for our new single “Hey OK.” It’s our first proper music video, done by the talented trio of Fairuz Sulaiman, Sarah Ameera and Shieko (who also designed the album inlay). It’s a fully hand-animated affair, no stop-motion or any form of computer-aided animation. Check it out here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuUqLNZ_O-I

++ Thanks a lot again. You can promote now the new album. Where to buy it? 🙂

Fairweather Friends can be obtained via Bandcamp (ferns.bandcamp.com), iTunes, direct mailorder from us, selected webstores in UK (Pebble Records), Japan (Apple Crumble Records), selected record stores in Malaysia and Singapore. The full list of channels is here http://on.fb.me/u9yAGf

++ Anything else you’d like to add

“Keep on poppin’ in the free world?” Probably been used before, but seems appropriate 🙂


Ferns – Miss Stormcloud


Thanks so much to Bernd Donner for the interview! I wrote about The Mirror Images some months ago and Bernd was kind enough to get in touch and clear my curiosity about his band. Enjoy!

++How are you doing? Still living in Essen?

Bernd is doing fine, but living in Recklinghausen, Jan lives in Christchurch, New Zealand and Marque is still living in Essen, but sadly not in Borbeck.

++ I’ve been to Essen a couple of times, so I’m wondering which are your favourite spots in town? What to visit? And if there’s a special dish in the region that I somehow forgot to try?

Madame Chocolat and Panic Room are good places for listening to live-music. The Rot-Weiss-Essen-Soccer-Stadium is the Sports-Olymp of Essen-Borbeck. If you tried Pommes-Currywurst, you tried everything.

++ What about Essen bands? I feel you are the only one I know, in the style I like. Would you recommend any other?


++ So tell me about The Mirror Images! How did you know each other and what sparked you all to start a band?

We met back in 1983 in a youth club and started a band because there wasn´t another band in Essen to recommend.

++ Was The Mirror Images your first band ever? In what year did you form?

The Mirror Images were our first band. They were formed in 1983.

++ And where did the name The Mirror Images came from?

The Mirror Images were named after the song “Private Hell” by The Jam.

++ You already answered many of my questions and doubts on the comments section of my post about you. But I still wonder about some things, for example, what about your label? Who released your records?

The records were produced and released by ourselves in cooperation with Rough Trade.

++ And what about gigs? Did you play often? Which were your favourite gigs?

We played about 200 Gigs in front of 5 to 8000 People. Our favourite gig was in the “International Student Club” in Bern (Switzerland). The people went from traditional extreme phlegmatic to astonishing ecstatic in 45 minutes. So we got the double money and lots of beer, whiskey and chocolate-bars by the Organizer.

++ During those late 80s and early 90s there were many great jangly German guitar pop bands. Did you feel somehow part of a scene? Were there any bands of that period that you like?

We liked Marilyn’s Army, Stunde X and Family 5, just to name but a few.

++ And which bands would you say influenced your sound?

The Jam, The Who, Beatles, Beach Boys and Small Faces.

++ After splitting in 1993 you said you were together again in 97 and 2001. How come?

In 1997 we played our “Farewell-Gig” and in 2001 our “Revival Gig”. After that we didn’t have the time yet to play together.

++ I still have to listen to most of your songs, but it strikes me how good the song titles are. Seems you were very careful about it. Same as with the album titles and the meaning of some of the artwork. I feel there was a concept behind the band. Am I wrong? What was the intention?

You’re right we had an intention. We wanted to be more fresh, interesting, entertaining and inventive than the precocious and dusty rockists around us.

++ And so, which would you say are your favourite Mirror Images songs?

Like Nick Hornby taught us, we name here just a list of 5 titles:

1. Borbeck Riots
2. Once Again
3. Anyhow, It´s Now
4. The Distance
5. Why Do Only Kind People Die

++ What about unreleased songs? Are there any?

Yes, many. We made about 200 Songs in those years.

++ Also, I’m kind of curious, why write songs in English and not German? Any particular reason?

English is our musical native language.

++What would you say was the biggest highlight for The Mirror Images?

Touring through Germany in the late eighties and early nineties.

++ When and why did you decide to stop the band?

We didn’t really stop the band. We just didn’t have the time yet to play together any longer.

++ And what did you do after The Mirror Images called it a day? What other hobbies do you have?

We are doing our jobs and in our free time we are ambitious being idle.

++ One last question, would you do The Mirror Images all over again?

Never say never.

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

Not now.


The Mirror Images – Eight Hands to Hold You