It’s “Heaven When You Smile”. It is. And I’m waiting for it. ‘Waiting for the sun to shine, waiting for you. Waiting for a rainbow, waiting for the rain, waiting for you’. I’m in heaven when you are by my side. ‘Waiting for my moon to rise’. ‘Waiting for the stars to sing’. The song plays and paralyzes me for a moment. ‘Waiting for the clouds to dance’. The lyrics, simple but evocative, set a mood immediately in my room. A sunny Sunday outside my bedroom, but inside, the rain seems to be pouring and the grey clouds start pushing the ceiling onto the ground.

Melancholy and nostalgia vs. happy-go-lucky. A discussion that springs up often when talking about indiepop. There seems to be two different schools, one that celebrates the first, and one that does the same for the second. The first one seems to be rooted in the days of C86 Britain, whereas the second, in the twee 90s of American indiepop. Which one I prefer? The first clearly, but I do enjoy the second when done correctly. But then, I know many people that can only do one or the other. And that’s when the discussion starts.

I’m transported back to those days in Spain, where I was in heaven. The train rides crossing uncivilized lands of emptiness. And empty trains as well. Tourist on Monday. Tourist on Tuesday. Weekdays. And then under the shadow of Segovia’s aqueduct, feeling the weight of past history over my shoulders, things started to make sense. The candy stores, which I avoid religiously, made her smile and giggle. For me, it was walking through medieval streets in Toledo, where every store display had swords for sale. And before everything, I waited. I waited hours, at Barajas airport until I got a tap on my shoulder. Everything was going to be good from then on.

I saw the record sitting on Uwe’s shelf. Grace Kelly’s photo printed in color on the sleeve. Grace Kelly over a black background. Angry Flowers on the top left corner and an evocative name for a song “Heaven When You Smile”. Uwe asked me if I know about this single. He says it’s rare now, but five years ago it wasn’t hard to find in record shops in Berlin. I have never seen this record ever. But I recognize the label, Exile Records. I have a Tumbling Hearts 7″ on this same record label. And it’s great. “There’s a TVPs cover on this 7-inch” – Uwe tells me. Sadly it’s the only copy he has left and he has already sold it on eBay, to a rich Japanese customer probably.

My Grace Kelly walking through fountains in Parque del Retiro, taking photographs in the royal gardens at La Granja de San Ildefonso. Circumnavigating Avila on top of their medieval walls, tracing the whole old town while we stopped to gaze the horizon from each tower that raised towards the sun. And climbing even higher on the tower at El Alcazar de Segovia, among photo-frenzy Japanese tourists. We kept getting closer to heaven.

Museums, cathedrals, churches, we went to them all. We went to Cervantes’ house and took pictures with two of my childhood heroes, Don Quijote and Sancho Panza. We were in awe at El Escorial. And later in Madrid we ended a week of smiles at the Popfest, ending brilliantly with The Close Lobsters, on a comeback that was nothing but glorious. And then I DJed. And we danced. I played Hormones in Abundance and Patrik danced to it. And TCR. God, if I will ever get the chance to play their songs for people to dance again. My favourite band for years.

And then it was tears in Barajas after a sleepless night. And now we end up again in the “waiting” situation. 2 months and counting for Wales. For a tap in my shoulder at Stansted airport. And then a train ride, one that I know well by now, to Nottingham. Then to Mansfield. Never been there, but my beloved Travelodge, with it’s picturesque Little Chef, is already fully booked. Every year it’s harder to go to Indietracks. It may as well be my last. I want to visit new countries, new places.

I play the next song on the record. The B side of this record is indeed a fabulous rendition of the Television Personalities classic “Painting By Numbers”. And the A side is a wonderful slice of pop. “Waiting for Heaven” has the growling of the Wedding Present, the romanticism of The Wild Swans and the urgency of Yeah Jazz. It rapidly became a favourite of mine. Since that day. With the chiming guitar all over the song, and the beautiful and simple solo that jangles and jangles. It’s a love letter, it’s a hymn to any who has ever fallen in love.

The Angry Flowers hailed from Göttingen, Germany, a university town in Lower Saxony. Across town, the river Leine river runs through, and it still fondly remembers the days when it was part of the Hanseatic League. The population in 2006 was 129,686. This release is from 1986, wonder how many people lived there then. Less than 100,000 for sure. The band was formed by John Rose on vocals, Matthew (whose real name is Matthias Hanich) on bass, Harry on guitar and Ralph on drums. I suppose they had German names and just for the occasion they had their names in English, as it’s the case of Matthias. The release was recorded in autumn ’86 at Beton/Kassel and it is dedicated to Miss Grace. Of course. Some other credits on the sleeve include cover design by Ted Baxter and the back cover photo by Alaska. The engineer was Roland Platz and the record was produced by the vocalist of the band, John Rose.

And that is all I’ve could find about this GREAT 7″ record. Did they have more songs? Whatever happened to them? It seems Matthias ended up studying in London, maybe he stayed there? And did they make music after? If you know the wheareabouts of the Angry Flowers please let us know!

Today I finally managed to buy a copy of the 7″. From Uwe. Of course.


Angry Flowers – Heaven When You Smile


I should be taking a nap but instead I decided to keep my promise of a blog post every weekend. Well, every weekend that I’m in town. I just came back from visiting the MOMA PS1 museum here in Queens, with Scott B from Summer Cats. I got in for free as I’m a Long Island City resident. To prove I’m a resident I showed an invoice on my iPhone to the clerk of my latest CD order on Amazon.com, a Rudolf Rocker album. My name was printed there along the shipping address, my address. Prior to that we went for brunch at a cozy place called LIC Market. Hash, red peppers, eggs and duck for me. And toast, always toast, and butter on it.

We talked about the usual, indiepop. Something I learned today, that I didn’t know at all, was that James Turrell, an artist I studied in university, and who has been converting Roden crater into an amazing work of art, is Jen Turrell’s (Rabbit in Red, Boyracer) dad. How cool is that. Now the Flagstaff, Arizona connection makes so much sense. We chatted about the Melbourne scene, Summer Cats, The Motifs, The Zebras, and he tipped me that Hugh from Summer Cats is starting a band with the guys from Audiobooks. Promising. Oh! and Scott is building a music social network, much better than last.fm. Just wait and see!

Waking up early has never been a skill of mine. But yesterday I did it. Even earlier than on weekdays. At 7am. I know, many of you think that’s normal, and I’m complaining for no reason. But for me, it is very hard. It takes a big effort to get out of bed. But I managed. The reason: Princeton Record Exchange. On Record Store day.

I went there with two friends from work, one that is very much into classical music, and the other who has a very eclectic taste but knows quite a bit about indiepop. On the way to Princeton he had Comet Gain playing on the car, and on the way back he had Gold-Bears. It feels strange when someone not connected to the scene is into this music. I don’t mean it in an elitist way, but it feels everyone that loves indiepop eventually gets sucked in and gets involved with the scene, releasing records, promoting, blogging, doing something.

Princeton is such a pretty town. It’s a shame we didn’t have much time to explore it. The university buildings had a varied architecture and there was a good vibe to the whole town, even though it’s in New Jersey. Upon arriving to the record store, greeting us with a shocking yellow sign, we noticed a long line of people waiting to get in. As long as two blocks. It was a terrible idea to come here on record store day, was my first thought. I wasn’t interested in any records from record store day, and making that line seemed unbearable. But if I was going to be there, I wouldn’t mind picking some stuff and then selling it on eBay. Why not. If I don’t do it, someone else will. Maybe pick up a Bruce Springsteen?

But luckily things turned out better than expected, people that didn’t want to purchase any record store day special release didn’t have to make the line. So we went in and got lost among thousands of records. Most of them were crap, as usual, but there were some good finds. Especially on the CD section, where for $2 I found many late 90s and early 00s indiepop albums. On the vinyl section there wasn’t much to be found. Not much second-hand, and very little 7″. But still, it’s fun to browse and dream that you’ll find a hidden gem, one that has been waiting patiently for you, one that other people doesn’t even know what it is.

It really gets me when people at the record store, other shoppers, try making conversation with you. There was this guy, long-haired, wearing jean shorts and Timberland shoes, who was browsing records next to me, being very loud on the phone. He seemed proud that he was spending hundreds of dollars. I felt bad for him. He clearly doesn’t know about eBay. Anyhow, at some point he grabs one of the box sets on the shelf above the 12″s. And he turns to me and asks: “Have you heard this box set by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers? Any good?”. I was puzzled. I only answered, “No, sorry”. I mean, do I look as someone who would listen to that? But wait, there’s more. Ten minutes later another long-haired guy, with beard this time, asks me, “Have you seen any Ozzie?”. So now, people expect me to browse records for them? And also, browse bad music? I should stop wearing black t-shirts and black jeans. Clearly I should become some sort of traffic light, more colorful, more “poppier”.

And today, having internet back at home (it didn’t work for 2 whole days!! it was awful, a nightmare!), I started designing some ideas for a new Cloudberry website. It’s shaping up nicely, but will probably ask some friends to test the UI and give me some feedback about the design. Alexandra was telling me that there was no reason to change the old one, but I feel, after 5 years, the site has kind of grown old. It’s not really visually striking or anything like that. I feel it serves it’s purpose, but it’s funny, I dedicate my life to create websites and interactive packages, and I haven’t done some sort of ‘top’ design for Cloudberry. What do you think?

Also the totebags are being made as we speak. Hopefully I can pick them up this week. I’ll keep you updated about that. And when it comes to releases, well, The Deddingtons tracklist is up on the site (and now just waiting for the band to decide which song they’d like to give away as a freebie)/ The CD album, part of Cloudberry Cake,  should go to press shortly. And that’s not all, people who are fans of Cloudberry on facebook got the chance this week to listen one of the upcoming songs on the Nixon 7″. The response was fab, everyone is loving it. For this release we are just waiting for the final mixes and then we are set. Exciting times ahead for the label.


On to our obscure band of the week, Scissor Fits, who were from a time where indiepop didn’t exist, 1978. But they were really indiepop. And they have a strong connection with the music we love, and with a label I love. So on to that.

As a curious cat that I am, I wondered about this:

It is most likely that scissors were invented around 1500 BC in ancient Egypt. The earliest known scissors appeared in Mesopotamia 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. These were of the ‘spring scissor’ type comprising two bronze blades connected at the handles by a thin, flexible strip of curved bronze which served to hold the blades in alignment, to allow them to be squeezed together, and to pull them apart when released. Spring scissors continued to be used in Europe until the sixteenth century. However, pivoted scissors of bronze or iron, in which the blades were pivoted at a point between the tips and the handles, the direct ancestor of modern scissors, were invented by the Romans around AD 100. They entered common use not only in ancient Rome, but also in China, Japan, and Korea, and the idea is still used in almost all modern scissors.

Anyhow, the Scissor Fits were a band that played often at Snoopy’s in Richmond, London, a venue that Mike Alway used to promote. And not only that, Mike Alway was a part-time member of this band. And occasionally their manager. Yes, the same Mike Alway that will later start a label that would redefine music, el Records.

Wikipedia has a few lines for the band:
The Scissor Fits were a post-punk English band founded in Hounslow in 1978. They are best known for their classic DIY punk single “I Don’t Wanna Work for British Airways”, which was recorded before they had appeared in public. A part-time member and occasional manager was Mike Alway, later famous for his A&R work with Cherry Red Records and el. They also released a live EP titled “Soon After Dark” which contained the pre X-Files classic “The Government Knows about UFOs”. The band comprised Nick East (vocals), Simon Ives (bass), Colin Roxborough (rhythm), Bud Drago (drums) and Vic Watson (lead) in the early days. When Drago returned to his native US he was replaced by drummer Pete Garrard.

And I’ll tell you a second connection with indiepop, the vocalist, Nick East, was going to be in an el Records band years later.  Can you guess? I could by the melody and the vocals. Give it a shot. Yup, you are right, The Gol Gappas.

Not so many years ago one of their tracks appeared on the Messthetics compilations, and there’s a little text about them there:
The Scissor Fits hailed from Hounslow, barely two miles off the main runways of Heathrow, so “I Don’t Wanna Work for British Airways” takes to heart the DIY maxim “write what you know.” Their debut EP was recorded before they’d ever played in public, and ‘dedicated to the Soft Boys.’ Mike Alway was a songwriter and part-time guitarist-and-general-inspiration who actually went on to manage the Soft Boys: he had the ‘Fits open for them several times during the Underwater Moonlight era. (Alway later managed the Monochrome Set and launched the Blanco y Negro, Reviere, …If, él and Sound of Chartreuse labels.) Yank drummer Bud Drago put out a (remarkably American-sounding) EP on the same Dubious label but soon headed back Stateside (he’s now in Character Z, and running www.listening-post.com), while the ‘Fits went on to record a live EP for Tortch that featured a couple of DIY’s finer, longer, more psychedelic numbers. The band-name? “a Don Martin cartoon in MAD magazine depicted a woman with a long cigarette holder accidentally stubbing her cigarette out in a man’s eye. The resulting sound effect was ‘SIZZZA – FITZZ’ or something like that…”

I was in touch with Nick East some years ago. I wanted to interview him about The Gol Gappas. I believe he was working in Leeds University then, he probably still does. He seemed very nice but sadly I never got back any answers to my questions. I’m a big fan of them. I did ask him if Cherry Red had any plans to make some sort of retrospective of all their songs, which are not too many, but it seems that Cherry Red won’t do it. Do you can never say never.

They released two 7″s as far as I know. The first was “Taut? Tense? Angular? And Other British Rail Sandwiches” and it included five songs:
A1         I Don’t Want To Work For British Airways
A2         A Small One
A3         I Wish I Hadn’t Shaved My Pubic Hair Off
B1         D.H. Lawrence Wasn’t A Mexican
B2         Waiting For Your Love In The Shower

Did they work for British Airways at all? I have never traveled in BA. It’s usually Continental or Virgin Atlantic when I go to London Heathrow. Is it that terrible BA? I wonder because that is probably their best song, a catchy popsong that pre-dates what the TVPs would so sometime after. It should have been a hit, it should have been bigger than the Beatles maybe. And if anyone has a spare copy, you know, I’m looking for it! This 7″ was released by Dubious Records and the catalog is SJP 793.

The second 7″ was released by Tortch Records in 1979. Catalog number was 005. This one seems easier to find, I’ve seen a couple on Discogs, but at the moment I’m a bit broke! But I do plan making up to it soon. All the songs were recorded live at Covent Garden, Rock Garden on September the 7th of 1979. The songs included were:
A         The Government Knows About UFO’s
B1         Who Wants To Live Forever?
B2         Aniseed Trail

The also appeared on some compilations. They included “I Don’t Want to Work for British Airways” on the Cherry Red comp “Labels Unlimited – The Second Record Collection ” and “Radio Teeth” on the 1,000 Only Records release “The Snoopies Album: The Last Remains Of A Richmond Venue “. The latter one seems very rare, there’s one listing going for almost $100!

Here are two scans from their first 7” that tell the story behind the members of the bands. Really interesting stuff! Scan 1 | Scan 2

And that’s about all I could find from them. They were clearly ahead from their time, and I feel it’s not crazy to say that the Gol Gappas picked it up from where the Scissors Fits left it. I do wonder if they had any more songs recorded. I wonder what happened to Nick East in between these two bands. I wonder what are they doing now. If you know anything else, please share. You know what the comments section is for 🙂


Scissor Fits – I Don’t Want to Work for British Airways


What a busy week this was! I guess I will have to get used to going out many days in a row, during workdays, if I’m going to live in New York.

As many of you know this past week was the Chickfactor 20th anniversary, with shows in DC, New Jersey and New York. 3 nights of 90s nostalgia, bringing back to stage the likes of Black Tambourine, Small Factory, Honeybunch, The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group, The Aislers Set, Pipas, and more. Two of these NY nights were sold out, packed, with not many hipsters to my surprise. It was mostly these nostalgic people, a half generation older than me, with their own indiepop stories. Stories I was a stranger to. I wasn’t around the heyday of the Chickfactor ‘scene’, so at first I did feel a bit displaced. But eventually, things kicked in again. It’s only indiepop you know.

So on Sunday, our first international friend arrived: Vernon from Singapore. A little group of us joined him and Alex who was just passing by that day in New York from Melbourne, via DC and Chickfactor, on her way to Malta. We had some thai food, which I found a bit bland, but nonetheless it was a great evening, talking and catching up. It was almost a year since the last time I saw them. I stayed up late that night. On Monday I would stay up late again after a long day of work. Kristine and Lisle were arriving to New York and I was hosting them at my place. Their plane from Chicago was delayed, which is no surprise. And of course, we stayed up late chatting and chatting. I don’t really know where Kristine got their energy from, she had attended the DC shows already and she was craving for more in NYC. I must becoming an old man, because I can’t figure this out.

And then of course it all started. Taking the R train all the way to the Bellhouse in Brooklyn. On that dirty and old train with it’s yellow and orange seats. Never a good ride on the R. And finding a place to eat around the Bellhouse, that’s another problem to solve. Not my favourite venue at all, the Bellhouse seems to host many indiepop gigs for some reason. The lightning of the stage is terrible, so hard to get good pictures, or even shoot video. So against all odds, as I use my camera as a bona fide machine gun, I took around 10 pictures total in 3 nights. Not very me.

Hoegaarden pint in hand, I didn’t raze the merch table either. Prices were not from the 90s but from the 00s. I guess that makes sense, but I was expecting $2 7″s instead of $5. That’s what they cost back in the day, right? Maybe I’m naive, but why raise the price 15 years after? Anyhow, I already had most of these records, but the ones I didn’t have, I bought, which were a few. I did get a Softies t-shirt. Though I’m not a big fan. But I like Tiger Trap and Go Sailor a lot. So, why not support Rose Melberg?

I didn’t get to meet the 90s luminaries of American indiepop. No one new in my book. I did get to finally meet Brian and Yvonne from the Tartans and they were great. But from the older generation, no. I find that those jangly heroes of mine from UK  or Europe are way more friendly, more reachable, than the American ones. I can’t grasp why yet. But one day I’ll write a whole discernation about it. This is something that puzzles me.

The festival was well organized, you could tell they took care of every detail, and having someone to ‘host’ each night, to present every band with some little background story was a great idea. My only complains of course, and I assume many would agree, was that it was hosted during weekdays, from Tuesday to Thursday. Not very inviting for people that live and work in New York. And the other complain I have is the overpriced tickets. 80-90 dollars for 3 nights is a bit too much in the indiepop world. NYC Popfest, a true New York analogy, charges 50 dollars for 4 days and more bands. And during a weekend. And bands that are as good. Can we agree on that? I think so. And my last complain the special guests. They weren’t really special. I mean, it’s great to see Franklin Bruno or the guy from Love True Always, but come on, let them play with the whole band. Just a guy and a guitar doesn’t feel like a special guest to me. That was a bit boring to be honest.

But after that first hour of special guests everything turned upside down, so many great bands that made every night worth it! I can’t thank enough having the opportunity to see The Aislers Set live. I thought it was never going to happen. Or another favourite of mine, The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group, who share my last name and wrote two of my favourite albums ever. Or seeing Pipas again after 6 years! True, as you can see, it was the Wednesday lineup the one that I enjoyed the most. That was the big night for me, for my taste. I know everyone was head over heels for Tuesday, with the mighty Black Tambourine headlining. I may say something here that won’t please many, but Black Tambourine is my least favourite Pam Berry band. I think “Throw Aggi from the Bridge” is a monumental song, but the rest of their songs are just alright. For me Pam Berry’s best are either Glo-Worm or The Pines. And hey, The Pines did play Chickfactor, on Thursday, and that was pure bliss. They even covered Aurora by The Cat’s Miaow as I requested Joe when I saw him the prior Thursday while we walked over the High Line Park.

And as soon as it all ended, I slept eleven hours straight. And I booked a plane ticket to London, to attend Indietracks. There was an empty hole to fill and I didn’t found a better way to do it. So, even though I’m not invited to DJ anywhere in the UK this time, I’m heading to Indietracks! And after Indietracks I’ll spend a week in Wales visiting castles with my favourite girl. Can’t ask for more at this point. It’s all perfect.


Let’s save the Cloudberry news and label stuff for next week. Let’s move to our obscure band of the week: The deBuchias.

I actually was in touch with Justin Salmon, one of the members of the band, not so long ago. Asked him to do an interview and he was up for it. But still haven’t heard from him. Probably life got in the way. It happens. Thing is that last week I finally managed to get a copy of the one and only 12″ The deBuchias released and that song on the A side is so so good, that I need you all to know it. It’s called “Introducing Jane” and it’s beautiful.

The band was formed by John Bramwell on vocals and guitars, Tig on bass, Steve Perry on drums and Justin Salmon on harmonizing electric guitar. You might have heard the name John Bramwell. He would later from the well known band I Am Kloot. On this 12″ the band is introduced to us as “The deBuchias featuring Johnny Dangerously”. This Johnny Dangerously is John Bramwell of course, and he had already released a 12″ on his own, the “You, Me and Alarm Clock”. I still have to manage to track a copy of that one, but having head the songs I say, if you see it, snatch it.

But the deBuchias single, on Village Records, catalog number 111, with it’s yellow jacket and mysterious black and white photographs of women putting on make up, is something else. And you can still find it for reasonable prices on Discogs especially. This record included two more songs on the B side, “Tearing it Down” and “Subway Life”. The first one was already released on the previous 12″ Johnny had released, and “Subway Life” was a track that had already appeared on the “Manchester North of England” compilation. The record was engineered by Graham Massey and Jez at Real to Rell in Macclesfield. And the photographs of the sleeve were courtesy of Michele Jones.

The only other bit of information I could find was the the band played a couple of important gigs like the Glasgow Mayfest, the Green Room and the Manchester International. They supported Tom Robinson and Billy Bragg at Nottingham Festival as well. And that was 1990. The nostalgic era I didn’t get to see.

And that’s all there is about this band. Who was this mysterious Jane they sing about? Did they ever record more songs? Why did they split? And what happened to them? If you know anything else, please share! Would love to know!


The deBuchias – Introducing Jane


Thanks so much to Todd Shuster for the interview! The Impossible Years were a great band from Philadelphia who released only two singles. First a self-released 7″ and later the first ever release by Dan Treacy’s Dreamworld label. And that was a 12″. Great pop songs that if you don’t know them yet, it’s time for you to discover!

++ Hi Todd! Thanks a lot for being up for the interview. You know, for some reason I thought you were British, because you know, you released on Dreamworld Records. Does that happen often?

No, you were the first.

++ So yeah, let’s go back in time. You started as The Jags, right? What made you change your name? And why The Impossible Years?

The Jags were born during the excitement surrounding the CBGB’s scene and the English punk bands, both of which inspired  the name and sound.  When our original bass player, Charles Bright, left and Tony Marsico joined us, the sound changed and the name The Jags didn’t seem to fit anymore.  Our manager suggested The Impossible Years and it seemed right.

++ Talking about movies (The Impossible Years), care making a top 5 movies by Todd Shuster?

I’d really love to, but it’s hard choosing five.  Certainly, A Hard Day’s Night and West Side Story would be the two movies that provided a soundtrack to my childhood.  I guess most of the later choices would be predictable:  The Godfather, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver…hmmmm, maybe someone should make a movie about a lovable pop group who commit extreme acts of violence.

++ And what sparked you all to start a band? What bands were you listening and loving at the time?

The Jags started because we were all huge Ramones fans.  We were also listening to a lot of English bands at the time who were also rewriting the rules of pop:  Buzzcocks, Gen X, Jam, etc.   We were also looking back to the early Who;  A Legal Matter was one of our first covers.

++ What about Philadelphia bands? Was there a nice scene in town? Which were the places and venues were you would usually hang out and see other bands? Do they still exist?

When we first played (July 4, 1978), we weren’t aware of anyone else playing this music.  At the time, you were really an outcast among musicians/bands who didn’t take punk/new wave bands seriously.  After we became involved in the local scene, which at the time was mostly a club called Artemis on Sansom St. in Philadelphia, we still only met a few other bands and each band sounded totally different.  The only thing linking the bands together was the fact that there were only 2 or 3 places to play, so we were all contained.

++ So who were The Impossible Years and how did you all get to know each other?

Seth Schweitzer (drums) and I met in fifth grade when we discovered that we were both hooked on Dark Shadows (the gothic soap opera).  A few years later, we were reintroduced by a mutual friend and in eighth grade we found ourselves in a band together.  We played together again in high school and, this time, the group included a very talented piano player by the name of Charles Bright.  A year or so after we left high school, I heard the Sex Pistols,  took a trip to NY, checked out CBGB’s and Max’s and was ready to start playing again.  Seth and Charley were listening to the same bands and hot to play again, so in March of 1978, The Jags were formed in Charley’s parent’s rec. room.

++ You self-released a single, “She’s No Fun / Baby Baby”, first. I haven’t seen this record. Is it hard to find? How many copies were made? And what made you decide to go through the self-release way instead of looking for a label?

The record is pretty hard to find at this point.  We put it out ourselves at a strange time in our history.  We were between bass players again and Charley joined us for a second, short period. Charley recorded the single with us, but by the time the record came out, Howard Luberski replaced Charley and that became our final line up.  We released the single because there weren’t really any local labels around and we had almost never traveled outside Philadelphia.  We wanted something out there that could represent us. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the best choice for a single or the best decision, but…

++ And then you contributed to two compilations: “I’d Rather Be In Philadelphia” and “Battle Of The Garages V II.”. What’s the story behind these two records? Do you remember who put this compilations together? And how did you get in touch with them?

We had recorded a three-song cassette at a local 8-track studio.  When we were approached by the people who wanted to release I’d Rather Be In Philadelphia, we gave them Flower Girl from the cassette.  The Battle of the Garages V. II is a longer story.  We were fooling around one night and made an effect-laden over-the-top version of Attraction Gear on our TEAC 3340 reel to reel four-track.  Our manager sent it to Greg Shaw, who we didn’t know, but knew of.  He liked it, asked that we rerecord it for the next Battle of the Garages comp.  We did and he included it on V. !!.

++ So how did Dan Treacy got in touch with you? Did you know who he was then?

There was a review in Sounds about the Garages LP and the writer focused mainly on Attraction Gear.  Dan saw the review, contacted us and asked us to be his first release on his upcoming label Dreamworld.  We knew of the TVP’s, but we didn’t know him.

++ Did you ever meet him? On pre-internet times, how did you work with him? The phone bills must have been very expensive!

True.  Dan paid for all the phone calls, but our manager always had funny stories about calling with special rings, etc.  I guess there were calls Dan DIDN’T want to pay for.

++ What’s the meaning behind the EP’s title “Scenes We’d Like To See”? Is there any scene you’d still like to see?

We got the title from a regular column featured in Mad Magazine.  We liked the double meaning.

++ “Attraction Gear” is such a beautiful song. What inspired you?

Seth wrote that one;  it fits his abstract style.  It’s certainly one of my favorite Seth songs.  He didn’t write a lot, but when he brought a song to us, it was usually great.

++ Which would you say is your favourite The Impossible Years song?

Hard to say.  We wrote a lot of songs and, since we didn’t record much, we sort of dropped songs every so often for new ones.  I think my best early ones are I Agree and Denise, that date back to the beginnings of the Jags.  I like a lot of the songs on My Report Card.  I still have a special place for our earliest Jags songs.  It’s one of my biggest regrets that we never made the Great Lost Jags Album.  That’s why I rerecorded a group of them and posted them on YouTube.

++ And what happened after? Why didn’t you release more records?

There wasn’t any interest from the indie labels.  We decided to buy a four-track cassette machine and I had this idea that we would just record good demos, release our favorites ourselves and not care about the fidelity.  This was before we had heard of GBV and the lo-fi movement.  It was a good idea, but by then we were sort of spent and it didn’t happen.  I inherited the four-track, spent a few years making a lot of demos and then released them as a solo CD, My Report Card.

++ What about gigs? Did you play many? Any anecdotes you could share?

We played a lot, mostly around the Philadelphia area.  We played up and down the east coast on the Battles tour after that was released.  It was fun getting to play with a lot of the bands we liked.  Standouts include X, The Cramps, The Mumps, 999, Violent Femmes, The Three O’Clock.

++ When and why did you split?

By 1987, we were sort of finished.  Howie got married, Seth went back to school and I got married and went back to school to become a teacher.

++ Are you all still in touch? What do you all do these days? Still involved with music?

Seth and I have known each other forever and we’ve always stayed close.  I’ve run into Howie a few times since, but we’re not really in touch. I’m still teaching, Seth got married and became a teacher, Howie works for the IRS and still plays in bar bands. I play for school events with a band I put together there.  We play for fun, mostly cool covers.

++ In 1997 you  put together a CD called “My Report Card”. What was included in it? And more importantly, are there copies available?

My Report Card is a home-recorded 20 song CD of songs that would’ve been the next Impossible Years set.  In fact, two of the songs are from our last live demo and we were already playing a few others live when we quit.  I don’t think any of the distributors have any left, but anyone who is interested can contact me at shusters@comcast.net.

++ Aside from music, what other hobbies does Todd Shuster has? Do you collect anything for example?

Aside from music and guitars, I sketch, create videos and I do many things as an extension of my teaching.  I run a guitar club at school and mentor children.  I also do extra technology services for my school district and we run a daily TV news show from a makeshift studio that goes out to all the classrooms.  Teaching is a wonderful career that fosters creativity.  It’s the best place I could possibly be post-Impossible Years.

++ I do plan to visit Philadelphia soon as I’m close now! So maybe I can ask you some tips on what to see? Are there any sights or places that you would recommend visiting?

If you’re a history buff, we have a lot of things to see and do within walking distance in Olde City.  From Betsy Ross’ House to Ben Franklin’s Post Office to the Constitution Center, Liberty Bell, etc.  We also have great restaurants and the Rittenhouse Square area.  It’s a great city to visit.

++ And what about a Philly Cheese-steak? Where can you find the best?

Ah, I’m a vegetarian, but anyone will tell you that Pat’s Steaks in South Philly is the best.  It’s easy to find, just ask anyone.

++ So, what are the plans for the future? I heard a rumour that you might be covering a Television Personalities song soon?

I recorded a version of Someone To Share My Life With and it will be included in V. 4 of the TVP tributes released by The Beautiful Music label. I still play and record and my options are always open.

++ One last question, what would you say was The Impossible Years biggest highlight and why?

Just having the opportunity to play our music was a privilege.  Releasing the E.P. with Dan and being included on Bomp’s Garages comp were certainly exciting.  Ours was only one of 16 songs, but we heard from a lot of people all over the world.  The late 70’s, especially, were an incredible time to be involved in the new music scene.  We saw amazing bands and had incredible fun.  It was like being invited to a private party.  Luckily, we still have the music and it’s still great.

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

Just thanks to you for keeping the buzz alive.  I really appreciate that there are people who still care and are devoted to the scene.  Be well.


The Impossible Years – Attraction Gear


A couple of days ago Yago, one of the nice guys that took care of my merch during Madrid Popfest, asked me about Velasco, an almost forgotten band from Spain. He had seen a blog post, dating July 2009, were Adrià, one of Papa Topo’s half, was raving about this obscure duo. On that same post Adrià mentions my name, alongside Felipe Fresón’s…

It might be one of the few times were my name is going to be written next to one of my indiepop heroes; it seems both me and him shared the second demo CD-R with Papa Topo’s black rimmed glasses frontman, and he was thanking both of us. Yago, smartly assumed that there is only one Roque involved in what we call indiepop, and got in touch with me. He did his detective job. Now it’s my time to try to solve this mystery.

Back in 2004 I was already dreaming of starting a label. Those were days of indiepop discovery for me but my ties were still closer to the Peruvian music scene than to the indiepop community. My connections to the worldwide indiepop community revolved to the few friends I knew on the Twee Folks and the Viajeros Polares channel on soulseek. Those were rather uneventful days too. I was living in San Antonio, Texas, a place not known for their great indie acts but for some iconic landmark called The Alamo, which is such a disappointment when you finally see it. It’s tiny. And looks like any other catholic church in the Peruvian highlands. I skipped classes often, I wasn’t motivated, and in the end, the exams were pretty easy for me to get straight As. If this was literature, then I didn’t need to go to classes, really, I thought. And I had a writer’s block. And of course, my grammar was never something to be proud of. But let’s say they were “literary licenses” I took. Anyhow, I was pretty involved in the Peruvian scene as I said, and I spent hours and hours chatting with bands and fans back in my home country.

There were a couple of indie magazines back in Lima. There was “Interzona”, “Freak Out” and “69”. The most popular was the latter, and not because of it’s terrible name. They had evolved from a prior magazine, one called “Caleta” that had reached cult status among the music fans in Lima. Music fans that spent their hours in the seedy stores of the Galerías Brasil mall in the Breña district. Small stores that specialized in different genres, stores that had the latest bootlegs, CD-Rs of Elefant Records releases, and overpriced vinyl records. In this same mall you could find fanzine stores, emo clothing stores, and even porn dvd stores. On the first floor there were stores where you could rent a Playstation and play some Pro Evolution Soccer against other people. I miss doing that, especially in those days when PES was such a great game and it didn’t try to resemble to the FIFA titles. Also you could find a small cafe with cheese and ham sandwiches and Inca Kola, print shops and also some electronic stores. I read this week that this mall was closed by the city not so long ago.

So the “69” magazine. People who wrote in that magazine were snobbish, and didn’t have the best taste I’d say. Third world country taste, you know. But the editor, Percy, had better taste than the rest of the writers. He was a big fan of La Buena Vida I remember. And also he loved All Girl Summer Fun Band. We chatted quite a bit on soulseek and exchanged emails during that 2004. By then I had already started my blog Mira El Péndulo that turned out to be quite successful among Spanish speakers. It astonishes me that people still remember it. Just a few weeks ago in Spain, during the Popfest, there were some guys that were really excited to meet me, not because of the labels, but because of that damned blog. How can you explain that? Many of them told me they had bought the C-06 tape. I’m so flattered.

The “69” had already released a CD compilation with Peruvian bands and it turn out to be the best selling issue in their short life. So I had no better idea than to pitch Percy an international indiepop compilation. I didn’t want anything in exchange, I would contact the bands and put together the compilation. Ok, I did ask for some complimentary copies, but that was it. I didn’t have money to start my own label then, but I thought that it would be a rewarding experience, to showcase some international bands in my home country. The “69” would have to fund the CD pressing, which back then was dirty cheap in Peru, and I would get all the songs for a very fine record. On top of that I was asked to write an article for the magazine. That was my first published piece, and it wasn’t very good. I had to explain what indiepop is and how much of a worldwide phenomenon it was.

I titled the CD “Es Pop Mamá”, nodding to the great Christina y los Neumáticos song that was later covered by the so amazing TCR (with Felipe Fresón on guitars).  Some “bigger” names included on the CD were those of Tullycraft or Pale Sunday to name a few. Most of the bands were from Latin America though, but there were a couple from Spain as well. And Velasco was one of those Spanish bands included.

I didn’t know much about them back then. I remember listening to their two demo CD-Rs and loving them. Actually, not listening them from the actual CD-Rs, but from MP3s. A shame that I never managed to get proper copies of their demos. I should have asked back then. But I wasn’t that indie savvy when 20 years old. The first demo included the songs: “Recuerdas” (You Remember), “Estar Contigo” (Be With You), and “Agosto” (August). It was recorded on the summer of 2002 and the artwork is really nice, with a floral design. The second demo, titled Bijou (French for jewel), included the songs “El Viento” (The Wind), “Tú” (You), “Velasco”, “En Mi Ciudad” (In My City) and “La Luna” (The Moon). The artwork for this second demo is a just married couple. The couple seems familiar but I can’t pinpoint who they are. Any clues? The song I finally included in “Es Pop Mamá” was “En Mi Ciudad”. A pretty and naive song.

Velasco (also Belasco or Belasko) is a Spanish family name and masculine first name derived from the Basque bel- meaning ‘raven’ or ‘crow’ and the diminutive suffix -sco.

The last name Velasco is associated with an evil dictator in Peru. The only left-wing dictator in South America during the 70s. He ruled from 1968 to 1975 and screwed the country, taking the country through dark times. Music-wise, Peru, famous for it’s 60’s garage legacy with Los Saicos, Los Yorks, Los Shains and more, went into a halt. Everything that was somehow “American”, which of course includes rock, pop or garage, was not supported or approved by the dictatorship. The exciting music scene from those years died silently. I guess the only good thing from that period was winning the Copa America with Cubillas and Sotil for the 2nd time, something our Chilean brothers who think so highly of themselves still haven’t been able to achieve.

My emails with Velasco are long lost to my hacked email account. I can’t recall them clearly, but a safe guess was that they were short and sweet. We must have agreed on a song and that was it. I remember that I emailed with Maite, who was the vocalist in Velasco. The only other member was Paco, who played guitars. Where they a couple? Could be. I believe this appearance on the compilation was their only proper “release” aside from their demos. I don’t think they appeared in any other record. A real shame if you happen to listen to their sweet songs. You wonder if they were too early or too late, 2004 wasn’t really a good year for indiepop. Not many things were happening there. No such thing as Popfests back then.

That is all that I remember about this cute and small band. I don’t remember where they were based in Spain? I want to say Valencia, but I would probably be wrong. And what happened to Paco and Maite? Did they stop playing music? It’s hard to believe. I wonder if they made more songs. Where are they now? If they ever played live?


Velasco – En mi Ciudad