The most exciting part of running a label, at least for me, is discovering a new band and offering them a release. Sadly, I don’t do that much these days. It was much easier when I was putting out the 3″ CDs as they were homemade mostly and it wasn’t an expensive ordeal. It was also much easier 4 years ago when people were spending more on records and it was a bit more steady the way I recovered the costs of the vinyl records I was putting out. Though this doesn’t mean that I’m not discovering new and exciting bands every so often, it does mean I can’t offer the release. So it’s only half of the excitement I was talking about, and actually the least exciting part of the two if you were to compare it.

And that’s because when offering a release you start a new plan. From the basic ‘which songs are going to be released’, to deciding the RPM of the record by acknowledging how many songs we’ll be including. From then on it’s a get to know the band phase, exchanging emails, knowing their hopes and expectations. At some point I may even interview them for my fanzine. We decide about the artwork for the record. We talk about setting a release date. We work as a team in every little detail. And that’s what I enjoy the most. Getting the product done. I read once on an interview to Roger Gunnarsson on how was his experience running a label and he mentioned that the fun part for him was exactly what I’m telling you. Then the records would arrive home and that was like the best moment. Piles and piles of boxes of vinyl, with beautiful color jackets. A success. He then said that after the records arrived home the excitement started to die out. And that is true for me too, it is not fun the next piece in the process of releasing a record, it’s not exciting at all to promote, or send them to distributors, writing press sheets, etc. Having to deal with that bureaucratic sort of system can’t be any fun. It’s not a creative experience, it’s not even rewarding. A lot of times it even ends up as nerve-wracking!

During the past 6 years I’ve been running the label I’ve released a lot of records. A LOT. And most especially I’ve worked with with so many bands. But the fact is, there’s been a bunch of other bands that I’ve contacted and for a reason or another I never got to work with them. I would have loved to have put something out by them, a CD, a record, but due to them or myself, it never happened. One of the bands I was interested in putting out at some point was The Arctic Circle.

Truth is I only contacted them once as far as I remember. It was on Myspace. Those days when it was the preferred platform for finding new music and being in touch with your favourite band. If I remember correctly I had just started releasing vinyl. Myspace with it’s new upgrade and faulty behavior won’t allow me to pull up the email exchange with the band. What I do remember is asking them if they had any interest in releasing a record with me. Their answer I believe was a yes. Thing is, I never heard again from them after that. I may or may not asked them again to see what was going on. But I never heard from them, years passed, I lost track of the band and only recently I have been rediscovering them.

Okay, that’s not completely true. There was a compilation called “Piece of Cake!” that included them. This compilation was released in 2009 as the first release ever by Big Pink Cake. As many of you might know, Big Pink Cake was originally  a club, an indiepop club, that booked bands and had disco nights in Bristol. The good readers of the blog would know that I have interviewed Matthew, half of Big Pink Cake. The other half is of course Heather. With Big Pink Cake I have a very nice relationship for many years now. They were one of the few clubs that gave away the Cloudberry 3″ CD compilation “Where are the Supremes Tonight?”. After that I’ve joined Matthew a couple of times on the decks, DJing music for some cool crowds. And it has to be the first time I met him, in Hamburg 2009, when he gave me the CD compilation “Piece of Cake!”. In this compilation that includes many favorites of mine like Horowitz, The Hi-Life Companion, The Parallelograms and more, the Arctic Circle contributed the song “Meanwhile Gardens”.

So yes, I was reminded of their existence. Why didn’t I try again to contact them? Probably I assumed they were no more. Or that they didn’t have any interest. I didn’t know much about them. I remember seeing some gig listings and their name on there. I’m pretty sure they played How Does it Feel? and many classic London venues. But as I said I lost track. I don’t remember even which songs I might have asked them to release with me. A good guess would be “Loofah Mitt” and “Prancing Pearl”. Though who knows, maybe “Mothers Ruin”? The title of the song makes me grin. The Mothers Ruin of course is the pub where Big Pink Cake used to happen at. I only visited once. I think in early 2010 after London Popfest. What a fun night that was!

On Discogs The Arctic Circle has another compilation appearance. With the song “Trawler” they appeared on the 2005 comp ” Oh Sew & Tell: A Stitch-Stitch Compilation” on the Stitch-Stitch label. My only knowledge about this label was thanks to Ray Rumours. But it seems I need to dig a little bit deeper with their releases. Maybe there’s a surprise or two. In the meantime I ordered the one and only release that is listed on Discogs, directly from the label. A 7″ with “Prancing Pearl” on the A side and “Mothers Ruin” on the B side. This was released on October 2008 and has the catalog stitch013.

There’s a small bio about the band in the label page, but I found a much better one on Last.fm:

Beginning in Edinburgh in 1999, Arctic Circle, now based in Bristol, were formed by Matthew Cheney, a singer/songwriter steeped in psychedelic folk and early 90s electronic sounds. With a fluctuating line-up, a sideline in social politics and establishing The Forest Cafe in Edinburgh, Cheney turned down label offers and set about managing the band himself, bringing in visual and collaborative art components. The songs remained acute observations about urban planning, social dynamics, instrumentals about natural Arctic phenomena and communication in relationships.
Once in Bristol, Cheney brought in an all-new lineup which currently includes Nicole Artingsall, Rozi Plain, Kaspar Lurcock, Francois Victor, Ladybird, George MacKenzie, Nina Wylie, Rose Clark, Hog, and Liam Kirby. The band completed a tour of Canada and the US in 2006 and became regular fixtures at the Green Man Festival. Arctic Circle are currently working on their third album. Previous releases Volume 1 (2004) and Volume 2 (2006) were released through Forest Arts Publishing. The first single Prancing Pearl/Mother’s Ruin were released on the Stitch-Stitch label based in Bristol and showed a far more band-oriented approach to songwriting.

I’m not sure if they are still going. As you see, they’ve been around for such a long time, and I didn’t have a clue. I thought back in 2008 they were kind of newish. But that wasn’t the case clearly. If you head to their bandcamp you’ll notice that there are recordings from 2003 all the way to 2011. All of the songs seem to be available for free download.

Something to check out is that they made some videos too. Seems they made two, “Meanwhile Gardens” and “True to the Trail”, though sadly the links seem to point to the same video, the “Meanwhile Gardens” one.

Also there are a bunch of links to live gigs.

For me the recordings that you can’t miss are the ones called 2009 EP. These are their best songs for me. They are top! This is the sound I remember loving, the songs I wanted to release. I’m happy that eventually someone put their songs out. Shame it wasn’t the whole EP, there 7″ could have easily have included “Shipping Forecast” and “Loofah Mitt”, as they are just fantastic!

I read a comment around saying that Stuart Murdoch was a fan. I can see that. There’s some sort of Belle & Sebastian influence, sure. But I think the band that reminds me more to them is another band I used to love back in 2004 like Tales of Jenny (who probably deserve a post in this blog), or even the later Zoey Van Goey, with their boy-girl vocals. You know, beautifully crafted melodies, crispy guitars, sort of folkish and literate lyrics, subtle keyboard arrangements, and sing-a-long choruses. Just beautiful!

But back to their biography, it says that they released two albums already and were working on a third. So the question is, where can one get the first two albums? And was their third album ever released? I wonder whatever happened to them. It’s surprising they didn’t become a well known name in indiepop, that they never played Indietracks or any Popfest. The songwriting quality was just brilliant. It’s a shame most of my friends don’t know it. Hopefully this little blog post makes them some justice.


The Arctic Circle – Prancing Pearl


A public address system (PA system) is an electronic sound amplification and distribution system with a microphone, amplifier and loudspeakers, used to allow a person to address a large public, for example for announcements of movements at large and noisy air and rail terminals.

So this is definitely not a public address. No sound here. But here we I am, ranting, wondering, and discovering new sounds. The usual. What’s been going on since last week? Of course, I need to give everyone an update. That’s how I proselytize here. Trying to convert everyone into indiepop militants against the hate of the Shoreditch hipsters. Kidding. Anyhow…

On the Cloudberry page I’ve added a pre-order button for The Rileys retrospective. I’m hoping to send to press the record by early November, so it’s out by Christmas time. That’s the plan. There’s also a new 7″ that will be released pretty soon by Spanish band Lost Tapes. On Tuesday check the website as well as the Cloudberry facebook page as there will be announcements there. There will be a video for the A side “War in the Netherlands”, as well as a downloadable MP3, and the beautiful artwork made by Marta Llumbart Jambert.

Last weekend I got to see The History of Apple Pie on Friday at The Living Room in Manhattan and Joanna Gruesome at Baby’s All Right on Saturday in Brooklyn. I got to chat with both bands, and I was happy to see them giddy about playing in New York. Both bands told me that the crowds here had been very good and very into them. I’m always skeptical about this of course, because usually indiepop shows in New York only gather 10 or 15 fans at the most, but I guess, because they were part of the CMJ thingie, and the lineups were quite mixed in musical styles, they got some new listeners and fans.I was especially surprised by Joanna Gruesome’s crowd. I saw people pogo. Dance. And some even knew the songs. That’s surprising as their album is pretty recent. When was it released? A month ago? Also I was thrilled by their new vocalist. I had seen them before at Indietracks, and I remember someone different. I had read too that Lan had been part of Evans the Death but when I saw them, she wasn’t there either. So that was all new. And she was a great front woman I have to say. Great addition to the band, she brought a lot of energy, excitement, and attitude. The terrible part of the gig was that we had to wait for like 40 minutes because they were missing an amp. Gladly Mr. Fortuna Pop was around, being a fantastic roadie, and fixed the whole situation. It was really heartwarming to see Sean -Fortuna Pop- taking care of the band like a true manager, taking care of every detail.

About The History of Apple Pie I was really surprised they never saw the girl behind Cool in a Crisis, that defunct label that put out their first tape, a split with Sweater Girls, a bunch of years ago. She lives in NYC. I guess, I was quite right that it was just a fad. There were a bunch of hipsters that jumped into the indiepop bandwagon around 2008-2010. Of course, I was told that I was mean and hateful and all those things. But hey, you know, time proved me right. The band has a new 7″, that I’ve really enjoyed, and they sound much better than the first time I saw them, at the London Popfest of 2011 I believe. I still have their setlist of that gig somewhere. I still think “Mallory”, their first single, has to become an indiepop classic in the near future.

And that’s how my indiepop week ended. I took some “groupie photos” with the bands and that was it. Now I don’t see any exciting gigs coming up. I guess it will be pretty quiet until NYC Popfest. Saving energy until then.

Talking about saving energy, next weekend I’m going to the Catskills, to a wooden cabin in the middle of nowhere just to relax and drink with a bunch of friends. It looks pretty exciting. The owner of the cabin told us to beware of leaving food out as bears can show up. I doubt I’ll be hiking, though my friends seem to be keen on that idea. For me the plan will be to disconnect. Barely be online. Get to play some board games, or card games. Drink. Maybe visit Woodstock. Something like that. A relaxing weekend. Okay, this is more like replenishing energy. But it works, right?

Oh! and before I forget, on Plastilina we have a new release coming up, a co-release with Fortuna Pop. It’s Cocoanut Groove’s new album “How To Build a Maze”. You can pre-order the CD from the Plastilina website already. It will start shipping not later than November 15th!


Lately I’ve been in touch with a great Portuguese indiepop fan, Joel. He has sent me and introduced me to a thousand new bands. All of them obscure, exciting, jangly, the kind that I like. Some of these bands he had shown me I knew by name, others I’ve heard one song, and others were totally new. I’m very grateful to him for it. Today I’ll try to solve the mystery of one of these bands, a band I had heard one song “James Dean” on Youtube ages ago, and that thanks to Joel I heard the B side, and eventually made me curious enough to track some more songs of them online.

So, let’s start this way. Head to ReverbNation. Here you’ll find 7 songs by Public Address. These are “James Dean”, “Why Does My Heart Ache” , “Goodbye From Her (demo)”, “Can You Hear Me Now? (demo)”, “She Don’t Remember (live)”, “Katherine’s Kite (live)” and  “Rescue (live)”. The first two were part of the one and only 7″ they released.

Of course, this is not the first James Dean song by an indiepop band. From the top of my head I can think of the one by James Dean Driving Experience, “Dean’s Eleventh Dream”, and My Favorite’s “James Dean (Awaiting Ambulance)”. But this one is truly great too! Could have been a classic if more people knew about it. Great jangly guitars, great melody, great lyrics, great vocals, great everything! Just the kind of pop I love here in Cloudberry!

According to the ReverbNation page we know that the band was around 1985 and 1987. The only other piece of information is that they came from Worksop. Strange, as usually bands fill in their band members, and some bio, on these sort of pages. But hey, I took this job as a detective, so let’s keep digging.

Worksop is the largest town in the Bassetlaw district of Nottinghamshire, England, on the River Ryton at the northern edge of Sherwood Forest. It is about 15 miles (24 km) east-south-east of the City of Sheffield and its population is estimated (mid-2004) to be 39,800. Worksop is included in the Sheffield City Region of England. It is also twinned with the German town Garbsen.  Worksop is known as the “Gateway to the Dukeries”, so called for the number of ducal residences in the area.Sherwood Forest. I’ve always wanted to go there. I always liked Robin Hood you know. I’ve been close. In Nottingham, but never for more than a couple of hours. The longest was that time with Nana and Andreas when we were given a tour of the city council. What a fun day that was.

The record doesn’t seem to be listed on Discogs. But I found it on 45cat. There are scans for the sleeve and the labels. And so we learn that the band was formed by:
Derron Rafter – Drums
Stuart Smith – Lead Guitar
Glenn Day – Bass
John O’Sullivan – Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Mick Ellison – Keyboards

The two songs on the 7″ were recorded and mixed at Input Studios, on December 1986. It was produced and arranged by Public Address. Engineered and mixed by Nick Wild.

The label that put it out was called The Fabled Stable Records. It was released in 1987 and the catalog number is SLS 101. I assume this was the first and last release by this label. Most probably a self-release.The credits for the songs are quite simple. “James Dean” was written by John O’Sullivan, while “Heartache” was written by Public Address. And this is were I hit a wall. I keep googling but nothing else shows up.So this is the time when I ask you people out there. Do you know anything else about this band? If you ever saw them live? If you happen to have any spare copies of this record? I’ve never seen it on eBay, and only seems to be listed once on Popsike.Please, help solve the mystery. This is a Public Address.


Public Address – James Dean


Thanks so much to Chris Blunkell for the interview! It waas through The Leamington Spa series with their song “Sebastian” that I discovered The Black Cillas. I loved that song. Fast forward, Chris and me get in touch through Facebook as I had DJed one of his songs in London and  I had to ask if he would be up for an interview and tell the story of the great Black Cillas! Classic indiepop at it’s finest!

++ Hi Chris! Thanks so much for being up to be interviewed for the blog! How are you doing? Is there any Black Cillas’ news by any chance?

Hi Roque! I’m fine thanks, and hope you are too. Black Cillas are getting together next month in London, as we do pretty much every Autumn. We’re going to look at the Sarah Lucas exhibition at the Whitechapel gallery and then go for a curry in Brick Lane. We’ll probably have a few beers as well.

++ I want to talk about a lot of things, but let’s start from the beginning! Were you involved in any other bands prior to the Black Cillas?

My first band was The Aged, so called because Ben the bass player’s mum had access to a quantity of ‘Help the Aged’ button badges, and it was the work of a moment to scratch off ‘Help…’. Ben, of course, was also Black Cillas’ bass player. I was also involved with the Alternative Alternative, which welded a rather vulgar punk ethic to a kind of incompetent and uninformed country and western sensibility. We made the national press when our turn didn’t go down so well at the local carnival club talent show, so we enjoyed a few minutes in the sun.

++ So when and how did the Black Cillas start as a band? How was the recruitment process?

Ben and I moved on to do other things in other locations, but in the early 80s circumstances allowed us to do more music together, which was what we wanted. The group went through various incarnations as we wrote and played, and we settled on both the name and the line up in I think 1985. Ben and I had been at school with guitarist Nick Appleton, and Ben also recruited drummer Andrew Maltman, although I can’t really remember how. Andrew has published some of his diaries from that period on www.blackcillas.co.uk, so that may help. We were also surrounded by good people: Jim Warren who has worked with Radiohead since ever recorded us and often did live sound, as did Angus Cameron, and Matt Ambown, Maxine Kempster and Isabelle Crean were a huge part of the whole thing.

++ And even though is obvious I think, what’s the story behind the name of the band?

We were conscious of the need for something that worked with what we were trying to do, and (to me anyway) Black Cillas seemed nicely contemporary and tongue in cheek – I think it was Nick’s idea. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the under-employed in our circle spent for more time than was healthy watching a TV programme by the name of Blind Date hosted by Cilla Black that, at that time, seemed hell bent on further lowering the tone of public discourse.

++ Some days ago on the Cherry Red Youtube channel they had uploaded two live videos of you. What do you remember from that gig? And are there any other videos by the Black Cillas waiting to see the light of day?

I remember feeling nervous – it was a big crowd and a really good line up, and we’d never done recording for TV. I remember attempting a wink to camera that I deeply regret to this day.

++ So yeah, tell me about gigs. Did you play many? Which were your favourite gigs and why?

I think we played somewhere between 50 and 100 gigs – many in London, but elsewhere too. Playing The Marquee as support to heavy metal band Waysted was quite an experience – their fans had every reason to hate us, but actually were really lovely. Somebody shouted “60s disco!” after one song – it was probably meant as an insult, but we liked the idea.  My evening was rendered complete when Philty Animal Taylor – Motorhead’s drummer – called me a wanker.

++ What about your favourite venues to hang out or play? Were there any that you felt at “home”?

The Bull & Gate in Kentish Town – we played a lot there, and spent a fair amount of time watching other bands too. It was run by Jon Beast, who still takes his clothes off for the benefit of Carter USM fans. Mick Mercer, ex-Melody Maker, has produced some great stuff on the B&G – his photo collections are stunning, and available to buy.

++ In those late 80s there was an explosion of guitar pop bands in the UK. What do you think triggered that? And did it ever felt like there was a scene? Which other bands from that period did you like?

In London I think Jon Beast and the Bull & Gate were pivotal. You were never going to make a fortune there, but if you had something he would put you on, and it was a magnet for journalists willing to stray from the usual. It was very much its own scene.  Of course, there was lots going on musically at that time, and we’d had a period in which synthesised sounds and big production had come to the fore. I think the guitar thing was a bit of a backlash against that, but also people wanting to write ‘small’. Half Man Half Biscuit took this idea to absurd lengths, of course, with their lyrical focus on football, for example. Ben was very into New Order, Andrew Kraftwerk and Nick Echo and Bunnymen. We all adored The Smiths. I got very into early REM and the Go-Betweens. Of the bands that we played with, I really enjoyed a group called ‘The Doctor’s Children’ who used a Hammond organ and sang sweet harmonies.

++ You only released one single, already a classic for indiepop fans, “Sebastian”. Care telling me the story behind the song?

In those days songs would come to me quite quickly, which now seems extraordinary. Sebastian was one of those – inspired by somebody I thought rather self-regarding at that time, and with an ambiguous twist lobbed in for good measure. As tended to be the case, I just blocked the song out on guitar, and then it would start to walk (or not) in the rehearsal studio. I still think that one of the most exciting things you can do as a musician in a band is to play a new song together, properly, for the first time – with intro, proper ending, and all. With regard to songwriting more generally at that time, I think I wrote good lines or couplets more often than I wrote good songs. You need to know more, to have done more, and to have read more than I had at that time. Looking back, I can see that I was maybe working towards a songwriting voice – later I concentrated on character and situation driven songs, and the rather novelistic idea of the ‘unreliable narrator’.

++ What do you remember from the recording sessions of the single? Any anecdotes you could share?

We recorded at the Jumbo 16 track studio in west London over a weekend, with Jim Warren producing. Again, Andrew’s diaries will tell you more than I can recall, although I do remember nicking a guitar lick from Safe European Home by The Clash whilst we were in the process. It was all quite exciting – this was proper with high end gear, whilst we had been used to recording on a Portastudio in squats. We made the sleeves ourselves – designed by Nick and Neil Cowan, screenprinted, and cut by hand. We then handled all of the mastering and pressing, which was done on the Isle of Sheppey. The NME reviewed it twice – the first time it was panned, and the second time they liked it. Such is life…

++ There are a bunch of other Black Cillas recordings. So I have to ask, why didnt you get to release more records? And if ever you thought of putting together some sort of retrospective album?

We recorded a second single in Deptford, with the session generously funded by Stephen Harris and our manager Ben Challis with Angus Cameron producing. ‘Falling Down’ was very spare, and lyrically I like it a lot. The putative ‘b’ side – ‘My Wild Obsession’ was a long and dramatic festival of reverb, largely because we ran out of time. Sounded great –  however, when we played back the master on the evening of the day we finished, we found a great bass rumble that wrecked ‘Falling Down’. By the time we got in touch with the studio engineer to tell him we needed to go back and do a repair he had recorded over the multitrack. We rerecorded ‘Falling Down’ with Jim warren at his studio in Reading, and made a really nice job of it – you can find a slightly wobbly cassette version at https://soundcloud.com/chris-blunkell/falling-down. However, the wheels has started to come off by then, and so we never released it. Shame, as I think it might have done something.
I’d love to put together a retrospective album if there were sufficient interest – we could waste weeks sifting through tapes and the like. Some of the demo stuff is really quite exciting – the portastudio squat-recorded version of ‘Sebastian’ is  pretty frenetic piece of work. If a record label with an interest in that kind of thing were to approach us, I imagine we’d be receptive…

++ Was there any interest from big labels by the way?

Go Discs were interested for a while, and we used to get record people come to see us from time to time. However, news of that used to make me feel very anxious and I used to drink too much before we went on stage.

++ I read on your page that you’d wished that you were a better vocalist. Why do you say that?

Listening to old live recordings I hear a really tight and powerful band let done by some rather approximate vocals. Ben, Nick and Andrew deserved better that I sometimes gave them. I got better in the recording context, however, and I’d like to think that I have got older and more experienced I’ve dealt with whatever needed dealing with it. Some of it is really simple stuff about knowing your range, writing in appropriate keys and writing words and phrases that are possible to sing: it’s about writing as well as singing, and possibly drinking less.

++ So then what happened to you guys? When and why did you call it a day?

We’d been slogging away and, despite getting the kind of support and attention that some bands dream of, I think we were frustrated at we saw as a lack of progress. Also, I wasn’t getting on so well with Ben and Nick – I suspect I wasn’t that easy to be around at that time. It was heartbreaking when we split up, mind, which we did in, I think, 1988. of course it was also at around that time that the Stone Roses turned everything on its head, and I think the writing was on the wall for lots of people from that point.

++ Are you all still in touch? What are you all up to these days? Any chance for a Black Cillas reunion you think?
We’re very much in touch, which is source of great joy for me. It becomes increasingly clear to me that this was a truly precious experience, and I think Ben, Nick and Andrew would agree with that. A few years back we recorded a song that we performed in the 80s and like a lot, but never recorded. ‘Inclement Weather’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UP_bD2NHRwY), was recorded in Reading with Jim Warren, and I love it. Can’t see us performing any more, although I’d be up for it.

++ And looking back in time, what would you say was the biggest moment, the highlight, of the band?

For me, the highlight was possibly being told by the Only Ones old road manager that we reminded him of Perrett and co. I’ve always loved the Only Ones. However, I think that ‘new song’ thrill is the enduring thing.

++ These days, you are still recording music. Tell me a bit about these new songs you are making.

At the moment I’m tied up with another project, and so music has been on hold for a while. I’ve been pretty active over the last 10 years, however, largely through my group Waspjuice. Songs don’t come to me so fast these days – in fact its all a bit torturous. I like what I’ve produced however – there’s some on Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/chris-blunkell), and I’ll put some more up. I’ve got more material in the pipeline, and I’ve added a few bits of kit to my rather odd little home studio so that I can hit the ground running when I come out of hibernation.

++ Aside from music, what other hobbies do you enjoy doing?

I’ve just had an exhibition of my paintings, which has been immensely gratifying.

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

Yes, there is. We are all stunned and delighted that people are still playing and listening to our songs – thank you, sincerely, for your part in that. All power to you, kind sir.


Black Cillas – Sebastian


Thanks so much to Tim Mortimer for the interview! Some time ago I wrote about his band The Mandelbrot Set in the blog and Tim was kind enough to get in touch and answer all these questions I have about his band. The Mandelbrot Set released two CDs, “A Place in Kansas” and “The Mandelbrot Set”, both on Ra Records, and then disappeared. They hailed from Adelaide, Australia, and should have made a bigger splash! Just listen to their songs! But now, sit back, read, and enjoy!

++ Hi Tim! Thanks a lot for being up for this interview!

Hi Roque. No problems. Happy that the “Kansas” EP sparked your curiousity to know more about the band.

I apologise however if you have wound up with more than you bargained for, this has ended up quite long….

I don’t get asked to talk about the band very often, so when I do it becomes something of an exorcism.

I hope you & your readers therefore enjoy the story, & hopefully a few people from the bands’ past will get the word that this information exists here, & can add their thoughts or comments.

++ What are you up to these days?

I’m doing a horticulture trade certificate this year while I “tread water” for a bit & think about my next move.

But prospects on the whole look fairly dire in terms of generating any income in this part of the world at present, unless you design military hardware or dig mines.

I guess the good news however is this might, hopefully, give me some more time next year to work on some music…

++ Is it true you haven’t been involved with music for a long time? When was the last time?

I haven’t played in bands for over 10 years, but I still work on music in my spare time, & am probably more passionate about it than ever.

The last 10 years or so I’ve been using the PC, in one way or another, to explore lots of different ideas & directions in my music making, that simply weren’t available to me before things like home PC recording & the internet arrived in my life.

Essentially, I am now trying to write instrumental music for as close to “full orchestral forces” as I can organise effectively, via my PC
using MIDI & samples.

I got to this point via a few years of exploring digital sound manipulation stuff (using things like Python, Max MSP, Csound programming – think Fennesz, 12k label etc, that kind of experimental digital aesthetic), but I think my songwriting roots saw me craving a way to engage with something more structured, & using tonality & “changes” to create that structure (as much as I am drawn to “stasis” & “wallpaper” in music). A lot of private study & research ensued, & this is where I have sort of wound up.

But I definitely was & am over writing songs for the most part. Apart from anything else, I always hated writing lyrics! ; ) Not to mention all the crap aspects of being in a band: booze, late nights, ringing ears, lugging amps…

It’s not something I am doing out of any sense of professional aspiration, but simply as a result of 20 years of accumulated interest & development in writing music, & an opportunity to indulge the more “academic” side of my tastes that were always there, but untapped, uncultivated, & without an outlet.

The dream would be a kind of hazy impressionism like Charles Koechlin or something, perhaps a bit more German, a bit more Bruckneresque, that sense of radiance & transcendence…

So all you indie kids reading this, go listen to a recording of Bruckner’s 8th symphony! (there are plenty on Youtube…) ; )

++ Was The Mandelbrot Set your first band? Or had you been playing with other bands already?

No, Mandies was my first band.

++ So how did The Mandelbrot Set start as a band? Who were the members, what did each of you play and how did you met each other?

Brian (guitar) & I were school friends, & the band really began with me “roping him in” to my dream of checking out of the reality of finding a shit job, & into super-stardom ; ).

Plus his brother had a guitar & an amp! & I knew he was passionate about music of course, but first & foremost, a good friend.

Adam (Bass) I met through a girl (Kylie Folvig, metal chick, Lita Ford etc. That’s kind of cool now really…) who shifted from my school to his.

He switched from guitar to bass to help us put the band together, hopefully based on the catchiness of some of my songs, & the fact that from the outset, unlike most other Adelaide bands of the late 80’s era, I had a vision that I wanted us to be “popular”., rather than “turgid with beer”, or worse, “clever”.

Mike the drummer I was jamming with when I joined another “practice room” band (concurrent to Mandies) as a bass player. Mandies had a drummer (Rob Davies), but Mike was far & away the best musician of any sort that I knew, so one day I took the opportunity to invite him to practice with us.

It was obvious to everyone in the room that all of a sudden our racket had a lot more going for it in terms of togetherness & appeal.

Christie was a part time member of the band essentially, & sister of a good friend of the band Nick. I had scratched my way through a small amount of violin on one of our first demos (got a lucky take essentially…) & she could play violin a little bit, so we got her on board. Plus it was nice to get a bit of gender equity into the band.

++ And where did the name of the band came from?

We had our first gig 6 weeks after Mike joined us on drums. We needed a name, & Mandelbrot Set was on my shortlist, in fact, it was probably the only one we had on the list to be honest.

We discussed it at practice, & reached our usual apathetic state of “no objections”.

I went home that night, flicked on the TV & there was a documentary on Benoit Mandelbrot screening, so I saw that as a bit of a “fate” thing at the time.

Fractal imagery was increasingly common as a pop “meme” at the time, & I chose the name in part because I wanted that sense of “pop”, much in the way that I believe Tom Verlaine selected the name “Television”, for the same reason.

Of course, this backfired a bit – whilst most people had seen images of Mandelbrot Set, they didn’t necessarily know what the name of it was. & 1 or 2 other bands of the same name have subsequently cropped up around the globe…

& of course, there was a general “psychedelic resurgence” happening at the time (late 80’s into early 90’s) which I was happy to associate with.

Aldous Huxley, “Doors of Perception” for the win! ; )

++ What were you listening back then? Who or what would you say influenced your sound?

An enormous amount of stuff.

Primarily, being a miserable, bored teenager growing up in what you could probably reasonably accurately describe as “middle America”, but with kangaroos…

Musically, I grew up a big 80’s jangle head (Church, REM, Rain Parade etc…I taught myself guitar mainly by playing along to “Reckoning” & “Fables of the Reconstruction”) also Television & even some of the weird 80s Tom Verlaine solo stuff.

Adam was the one who brought a lot of the more British influenced sound to the band, & MBV & Ride, & the whole shoegaze thing impacted on the sound of the band quite heavily at this point.

But Adam & I in particular were rabid cultural consumers of any sort in those days. Which wasn’t always easy, from the arse-end of the world in the pre-internet age. I remember films like “Blue Velvet” & “Santa Sangre” being constant points of band discussion. “Twin Peaks” was big at the time. I remember dragging the band along to see the first screening of Pasolini’s “Salo” in 20+ years. Just to add insult to injury, I had glandular fever at the time…

My listening was of course also a bit broader. By the time the band kicked off, I’d kind of moved on into 70’s & 80’s minimalism, Philip Glass etc. The David Sylvian 80’s stuff, Wagner’s “Parsifal” was probably the start of me starting to take any sort of interest in classical music.

But once the band did take off, obviously I began listening to a lot more indie music again, largely under Adam’s guidance.

&, of course, Janet Jackson’s “1814 Rhythm Nation”! & I’m still a sucker for quality commercial RnB.

++ And how would you describe Adelaide during those days? Has it changed lots? Where there any other bands in town that you liked?

The Adelaide I grew up in was basically a proliferation of grunge bands in the mid 80’s. & I use the term quite deliberately, as I think & see a lot of the influences that led to the “grunge” explosion in the 90’s being bred & cultivated in the Adelaide (& probably Melbourne) pub scenes during the mid – late 80’s. Cosmic Psychos etc etc…

Of course the whole lineage is pretty much a continuum back through punk anyway, but there was a lot of kind of “post MC5” / heavy garage kind of stuff (some of it actually pretty good, like early “Nest of Vipers” era Exploding White Mice…) but also just a lot of general “beery sludge rock”.

I set out to start the band with some pretty clear objectives, & having absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with what I saw around me as an endless vomit stained carpet of alcohol fuelled musical self destruction was pretty high on the agenda.

Our mission was simple: be catchy, be cool, be popular. Reach out & try & speak to people directly, in a way that the music we grew up on reached out & spoke to us, & gave us some sense of hope, rather than despair.

A band that did pave the way for us however was an Adelaide band called The Artisans. Adam knew these guys, & we played some of our first gigs with them.

I notice that you have a different band called “Artisans” featured on your site. I recommend finding an EP “Love & Sleep” by the Adelaide band if you can – as with many records of this type from the era (including our own) it only hints at the glories of the band in full stride, but will give you a taste of what was essentially a heavily Wedding Present influenced “hit-machine” / “indie jukebox”…

The Artisans had a revival of late, & Adam (our bass player) did play guitar in The Artisans during various incarnations.

As for the rest of your question, well, I could probably write a book about Adelaide for you, if you have the budget. Only the first 4000 words come free …. ; )

++ What about gigs? Did you play a lot? Which other cities did you visit? What were your favourite venues to play?

Adelaide is a relatively small & isolated town, so we risked over-exposure if we played too frequently.

At our peak, probably only once a month. Again, this attitude completely flew in the face of Australia’s accepted “pub rock wisdom”.

& Australia is a big country. The closest town is 900 miles away, & flights were a lot more expensive back then, so touring was very difficult.

++ And if you could pick a gig as your best, which would that be?

Definitely any of the first 5 or 6 gigs we played.

We didn’t have a vocal PA in our practice room, so at our first gig there was a degree of nervousness as no one had ever heard me sing, nor any of the vocals to any of the songs. Fortunately, it went OK.

I was very blasé about it in the early days, more or less threatening to “chuck it in” if we didn’t start pulling a crowd after 5 or 6 gigs. As it turned out, things did take off for us pretty quickly, & within 6 months or so we had generated enough hype for me to start receiving telephone calls at work (at my day job) from record labels, despite
not having sent out a demo tape …

But basically, as soon as drug dealers started coming to our gigs, well, the crowds really took off. When drug dealers like your band, it’s a greater career boost than any form of critical approval can bring. Although the venue owners constantly complained about not selling any booze to our fans.

Once we had a bigger budget, we got into having heavy club style light shows & smoke machines & what-not. Again, largely as this just completely went against an established pub rock culture that we were walking into. ‘Audiences’ were obviously over it too, as eventually, they started turning up in sizeable numbers.

Playing for free wherever possible also helped, & again, flew in the face of conventional wisdom on the subject.

++ You released “A Place Called Kansas” in 1992. What do you remember of the recording sessions? Any anecdotes you could share?

I remember being disappointed with the guitar sound, as we were always striving for something a bit heavier.

It was also very typical of our experience, in that by the time we got to record that EP, the material was 2 years old & we weren’t even really playing any of it any more, & had moved into more “shoegazey” territory. There are quite a few phases of the band that went undocumented…

++ This CD included 7 songs. Which is your favourite and why?

It’s difficult to say. I have never really listened to the record after it was made. All I really hear is a lost opportunity to do something better.

“Lush” was a good song – I was going for the whole Television 2 guitar duel in the big out solo. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much lost in the mix on the record (a familiar complaint…)

++ Mine is of course “Landslide”, what a fantastic song! Should have been a classic. Any chance you can tell me the story behind this song?

Thanks for the kind words of appreciation.

All the songs on the EP were written in the second half of 1990. Adam wrote “Massive”, & I wrote the rest. I wanted to credit the whole band at the time because I felt it was important to present a “unified creative front” as it were.

Lyrically it’s all pretty much dissatisfied adolescent whining. Chris Martin & I therefore have something in common, virgins with record deals. Although thankfully, the band did eventually help me to find a girlfriend! At least briefly…

EDIT: Tim later recalled that Adam had originally written “I Swan” for the Artisans, but it was reworked with the new middle section & outro, & new lyrics & melodies for The Mandies…

++ Tell me about Ra Records. How did you end up signing to them? And how was your relationship with them?

Unfortunately, that really is kind of a long story.

We had been contacted by the label (the one demo we did send, after a tip off) & flew over to Sydney to meet them.

I was working in a mailroom with, co-incidentally, a guy Don Morrison who had previously had some success in the States & Australia with a blues / rockabilly type band called “The Bodgies”.

He gave me the number of a guy named Richard Ortner, as I was desperately at this point trying to find someone (anyone) who could help us deal with this new stage in our development (dealing with labels & what not) & we were in a position where we were getting on a plane to go to Sydney to record for them 24 hours later.

I rang him & he said “just tell them I’m your manager”.

It turns out that Richard, unbeknownst to me, was one of the original founders of the label, originally set up as a bit of a development (“tax dodge” probably) label by INXS management. So once Richard was involved, that kind of biased our future direction. He’d previously managed a couple of fairly mainstream, “MOR” female performing artists
in Australia.

But as it happens, from before we had even played our first gig I had identified this was probably the label I wanted to sign to. Unlike comparable Australian “mainstream indie” labels (like Mushroom) Roo Art only had a small roster of bands, & once you signed, you generally got some level of support. For a period at least….

The rest of this very long story cut short is that the label eventually completely changed management teams. We were signed by a guy named Craig Kamber, manager of an Australian band worth checking out (kids) called Underground Lovers.

Unfortunately, Craig went to Festival or some other label shortly afterwards, signed Underground Lovers there, & Roo Art was taken over by Todd Wagstaff & co, managers of You Am I (which, in retrospect, carries a rather unfortunate similarity to will.i.am…).

You Am I then became the label darlings effectively, were Sydney based, & were prepared to drag their arses up & down the east coast playing out the “Pub Rock Fantasy” the label expected them to. Unlike us, who would have rather sat in the studio & be packaged & waited to appear on the cover of “Smash Hits”. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work like that in Australia…

There was a disintegration beginning within the band anyway probably around this time, but this certainly didn’t help or boost our already sapping confidence. I went into this adventure with a high degree of confidence & self belief, & probably my major regret, as it all unfolded, is that I didn’t have the faith to keep it.

Someone wrote a book about this period of OZ indie rock called “The Sell In” I believe. I’ve never read it, & don’t think we are directly mentioned in it at all, although we were silent extras in the portrayed drama, from what I understand about the book…

I remember being at the label & one day Ivo Watts from 4AD came in for a meeting re: Australian distribution. We desperately wanted to run into his meeting & plead “save us!”.

++ With them you also released your second EP. I have never heard to it, but I’ve read that you changed your sound into something more electronic. Is that so? If so, why the change of direction?

The sampler, initially, was Adam’s idea, (forever the progressive…)

An Adelaide muso by the name of Mike Gordon created the sample based intro to “Massive” on the “Kansas” EP for us, & we decided to blow a large slice of our publishing advance on a sampler (now dwarfed in capabilities by the average phone of course…), in the hope of expanding the musical avenues of the band, who, with stars in its eyes, had moved beyond any notions of wanting to remain “guitar purists”.

Obviously as indie kids in the 80’s, Adam & I had both grown up as New Order fans, so this was an obvious point of departure for us. More specifically, the first Electronic album had come out, & in a way this was more directly a template for where we saw that the band might head.

Hip Hop was also a bit of an elephant in the room for a lot of indie groups at this time (the MBV influence after Glider / Soon etc…) but the album that concretised this for me ironically was St Etienne’s “Foxbase Alpha”.

Let me say once & for all that the cultural abomination that is “Australian Hip Hop” is not something even we, in our naivety, remotely contemplated. But what “Foxbase Alpha” said to me was essentially (without wishing to too overtly play into dangerous “race card” territory) here was the production & aesthetic of De La Soul’s “3 Feet High & Rising” re-invented as a piece of quintessentially British 60’s kitchen sink nostalgia.

Listening back now, the album is nothing special, (the 1 or 2 singles aside…) but like all ideally fertile grounds for plagiarising ideas, the original did indeed, suggest possibilities way beyond that which it realised.

However the Pandora’s box was definitely opened once the sampler arrived, my girlfriend basically never saw me again, & I locked myself in the bedroom &, not for the last time, became a mad scientist.

The EP ended up a huge mush of possibilities, with the band then layered on top for good measure.

Originally, the label, having heard the demos & been impressed enough to give us the go ahead for the second EP (after a 3 hour phonecall from me where I ad-libbed them my mission statement…) wanted to put us in a warehouse for 3 weeks with newly emergent digital recording technology (remember the ADAT machine?) & let us record it all & sort out the mess & make a record out of it.

This would have been a MUCH more sensible option, but they eventually saw it as too risky, threw us into a conventional 5 day studio setup, with 2 days to mix.

There were times when the EP was partially recorded, where parts of what we were doing were sitting in a fairly sparse isolation (strings, drum loops, a few stabs etc) when I genuinely sat back & thought “This is it. We’ve cracked it. We sound like fucking Chic!”

However in the end, the band exhausted (&, to be honest, pretty wasted), the record was mixed down in a hurry by the production team, everything, including the kitchen sink just stayed in there, & we ended up with what essentially boils down to a big fat crappy electro mess.

Which is a shame, as fundamentally, there was a strong possibility of 1 or 2 singles there that I think could have opened us up to wider audiences…

I would like to take this opportunity however to thank anybody who was involved at the label for giving us the opportunity. (In a previous piece I wrote about the band, I did vent a little on the subject, but that was more to offer insights into some of what we were collectively feeling at the time, rather than any attempt to apportion blame or inject malice. For what it’s worth, I apologise if that was ever the case, & if anything bilious ever did reach any targets.)

++ And it was just after releasing it that you split up. What happened?

In a word, nothing.

The second EP sold about half as many as the first, & I think everyone (including the label, not sure I ever spoke to anyone there personally ever again) I think just really couldn’t be bothered anymore. & drink & drugs then started seeping in a bit more than they should have ideally.

That & the fact that the band was constantly developmentally about 2 years ahead of the rollout schedule, & got to the point where the production & performance ideas really became, for 1 reason or another, impossible to execute. There was no such thing as home PC recording in 1992/3 after all….

The band never really ‘split up’ as such. One day, we all just stopped turning up essentially. No one had to say anything really at this point.

I started going out & listening to a lot of House Music, & then drifted into doing an Architecture degree for a bit, but I dropped out & moved to London in ’97.

I kept getting like $20 royalty cheques for many years after from places like Eastern Europe. Rock & Roll baby!

++ Are you all still in touch? What are the rest doing these days?

Not really no.

Sadly, Mike Bajer passed away in December 1999 (& I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if I throw in the obvious Spinal Tap joke here about dearly departed drummers…). He was a good friend, & is very much missed by all who knew him.

Brian has a business that he has done quite well out of doing posters & promotions, visual merchandising stuff etc. for record labels.

Adam still plays but is something of a mystery man these days, but always immaculately dressed.

I believe he is in a band called Swimsuit I saw a few years ago, as well as playing with Artisans intermittently. He lived in London for a period, as did I (for 4 years…), but he more or less arrived the week I left…

Christie is married, has her own business & a couple of kids approaching their teens.

Nick (honourary member & Christie’s brother) lives in Sweden with his wife & child.

++ What about more songs? Are there any other recordings by The Mandelbrot Set that never saw the light of day?

Demos & stuff. Adam has a box somewhere. To be honest, I listened to some of it a few years back & a lot of it was rubbish. ; ) . I’d like to get our very first 3 track demo up & into circulation however.

I have a Soundcloud page, but Soundcloud reorganised their site, & for me it was a real pain, as it’s very difficult now for me to isolate my “pop” demos directly away from some of the other sketches & experiments, which are mostly a few years old now anyway.

None the less, this link should do the trick, if people are interested. But I’m not really active on the site & would like to find somewhere else to host my music in future.


1 or 2 of the tracks I think definitely represent a direction Mandies eventually could have gone in (“Ticket to Ride” in particular).

Some of it however is songs I wrote for the band that, if I were to put one together, would be the only type of thing I’d like to do now – a straight ahead, power pop trio or quartet, ideally situated somewhere between the Smithereens & the Bangles. (the choice of overtly commercial examples of the genre being, ideally, deliberate) It aint going to happen though.

As “once we were young & beautiful, but now we are old & withered”…

++ Looking back in retrospective. What would you say was the biggest highlight of The Mandelbrot Set?

Being young, & living with a sense of hope & opportunity that you might not have to spend your life as a paper shuffling debt-riddled wage slave.

Meeting people.

Playing music with my friends. Some of the early practices we had with Mike in the band we actually fell apart mid song laughing because we couldn’t believe how fucking good we sounded. This is not an experience I have ever relived in 20 years of music making since. Maybe, on a good night, some of the people who used to come & see us got a glimpse into that.

Free drinks.

Having your friends sister cut your picture out of the newspaper & stick it on her fridge…

Having people believe in you & what you are trying to do.

Having the arrogance & the audacity to rail against mediocrity from the middle of nowhere, even when doomed to failure.

++ A couple of last questions, just out of curiosity, what would you say is your favourite Australian band ever?

Easy. The Church – in the period from 81 – 87 .
“Tear it all Away” – youtube it now kids! – The perfection of indiedom.

Also a lot of time for the Go Betweens (“Liberty Belle”, “Before Hollywood”, “Spring Hill Fair”).

Stems / Someloves, early Died Pretty, first Hoodoo Gurus album, Sunnyboys (esp. “Individuals”).

A couple of EP’s & bands from the era you may not have heard of:

‘Ups & Downs’ were a really good band from the late 80’s. early stuff was very Church influenced, but very good. They made a shoegazey EP in the early 90’s, & then became “Big Heavy Stuff” with some kind of success….

& there was a Sydney band called ‘Jupiter’ who put out a full tilt Shoegaze 3 track EP in the early 90’s. You’ll never find it, but keep looking… I’ll have to dig it out & record it sometime.

Glide (Sydney) were a band we played with a lot, & stayed with in Sydney a few times, & are worth checking out if you’re a diehard indie person…

Hummingbirds were good, when they were good…

Falling Joys were another band who predated us slightly, but who we played with a few times.

++ Aside from music, do you have any other hobbies or passions?

Not especially.

My hope for the future is to have a little house away from the neighbours that won’t fall over in a strong wind, do some gardening & work on my music for at least a few hours a day…

I like to go on day bushwalks & stuff…

I watch a fair bit of NFL: it’s like this exotic alien fantasy world to me, but very entertaining. Go Colts!

++ And one last one, what’s the best thing to see, do and eat in Australia?

I don’t eat out much, I can’t really afford it.

But food here is generally very good. This is the country that produced “Masterchef” after all, which is simply to suggest that a large slice of “middle-Australia” is obsessed with food as an expression of their petit-bourgeouis credentials.

To see? I haven’t been there yet, but I hope to make it to the Tarkine forest in Tasmania soon. Flinders Ranges is awesome. Australia to me is all about the grandeur & expanse of the country.

After all, you can go see crappy globalised (sub)urban hipster culture anywhere…


The Mandelbrot Set – Landslide


If you are familiar with the blog, you might have noticed that there are like two or three album reviews. That’s not many. I don’t usually like to review albums. It requires me to become a bit more scientific when listening to music, use stupid words, and get myself in the same league as a lot of morons out there that write a lot of bullshit. I prefer to avoid that, I don’t want to be an album reviewer. But, sometimes, some albums come by, and they are just fascinating, and those times, which are few, I think, “most people” need to hear this. I’ll try then to convince you that Los Directivos only release ever is worth your time.

“Por amor y jerarquía” can be translated as “For love and class” or maybe as “Because of love and class”. Either or, it works. That’s how Los Directivos only album, and only release so far, is named. The terrible part is that it was released in 2010 and it has slipped from everyone’s best of lists since then.

Well, here I am, not trying to make justice, because the CD makes itself justice by painting the Spanish society with such honest music. I can’t remember the last time I felt a record expressed so clearly, so sincerely, the whole idiosyncrasy of a generation. A generation of Spanish people, that we know, are not having it easy in their own country. We read about that in the news all the time. But there’s something intrinsically interesting about it, about the Spanish culture, that even in the worst times they are able to laugh about their misery. And I think this is where the record excels, in their lyrics. And of course, it’s no surprise that that is the case. I’ll tell you why.

I wasn’t aware of this record until earlier this year. It all happened while I was visiting Madrid Popfest. One of the bands playing and that I was actually looking forward to see after a lot of correspondence and after working together, was Los Lagos de Hinault. Those who aren’t familiar with this fantastic Spanish band would know that they released a split mini-CD with Cloudberry, and then an album and a split 7″ with El Faro on Fikasound. As I’ve written before on the blog, their show was among the best of the festival. I love every bit of it. It was even great to see people singing along to some of their songs. Because their lyrics are fantastic as well.

Make the connection. Carlos Ynduráin, is part of both bands. But of course I haven’t heard of Los Directivos yet. I didn’t  have a clue they existed. I did know about Portonovo, Carlos’ previous band, who released a soon-to-be-classic album on Jabalina many years ago. That record I did buy on the time it came out. But as most of the times I find about things through friends, through recommendations. It’s funny though that some people say silly things that they can’t recommend me anything, that I will probably know it or that I would hate it. You can’t imagine how I love good recommendations and even better when they have people that make music with class and love. It was like that that I learned of the existence of Los Lagos de Hinault, through one of the most passionate fanzines in recent history, Aplasta tus Gafas de Pasta. How did I learn from Los Directivos? From the one and only, the incomparable, the most interesting (as well as the loudest!) person in the Madrid pop scene: Miguel Stamp.

Next year I admit I will miss seeing him at Madrid Popfest -because I’m not going, he most probably is- but the thing is if you meet Miguel you better listen carefully to everything he recommends. Because it will be a lot. Also, he will dislike every single band you have released on Cloudberry. Well not all. But a bunch. And also many of the ones playing at the festival. Fair enough. I’m the same. I like people that are not afraid of calling things by their name. And Miguel is like that. And Carlos is like that. I can tell. Funny thing, I was telling Miguel after Los Lagos de Hinault show that I really loved their show, and he immediately asked me: “Have you heard Los Directivos, Carlos’ other band? son la ostia“. I had no clue. He said that I had to listen to their album, that it was by far one of the best records released in Spain in the last decade. So, let’s find Carlos in the Sala Siroco and ask about it.

Sadly Carlos didn’t have any copies with him during the festival. But he promised me to mail me one soon. That was March and I still had some time left in Europe, visiting after Spain, Estonia and Sweden. Good times. Celebrating my birthday. So I kind of forgot for a bit. One day though, when I was already back in the big apple, I received a yellow envelope stamped by Correos de España, and it doesn’t require much effort to guess, it was Los Directivos album.

Of course on the album his name is not listed. On the band photo his face is covered. The same as his bandmate. Their names are listed as Claudio McKinsey and Iñaki Andersen. Clearly those are not their original names. I still don’t know the name of the other half of Los Directivos. There is some interesting facts on the credits. The album was recorded and mixed during the months of January and March in 2010 at three studios: GDM, Vilanova and La Geltrú, in Barcelona. It was produced by David Rodríguez. Mixed and mastered by Pere Serrano.

The credits are as follow:
Claudio McKinsey: vocals
Iñaki Andersen – bass, drums, keyboards, synths, and backing vocals
Ana Fernández Villaverde – backing vocals
David Rodríguez – guitars, backing vocals and some keyboards
Don Pimpón – drums and percussion

Of course, for those who follow the Spanish indie scene will find Ana Fernández Villaverde a familiar name, that’s because she is kind of famous under the moniker La Bien Querida, releasing a bunch of albums on the Elefant label.

From the day I received the album and on, for at least two weeks I listened to it non-stop on my cd player. Maybe for you two weeks is nothing. But for me, that I’m listening new albums ever single day, and changing the CD from the portable player after 3 days after it’s first play in average, two weeks is a very long time. I’m 100% sure that I haven’t listened a record this year more than this one. It would definitely go to the end of year list if it wouldn’t have been released 3 years ago!

It’s a big shame that a lot of people will get turned off because the album is in Spanish. Not understanding the lyrics is not the best situation, I agree. But for all the other people, that do get the charm and the intelligence behind them, well, we only can feel the awe for such great penmanship. It may also  have to do that it is a record done by 30 year old guys telling their experience as 30 year olds. And I’m reaching that age, and I feel it talks to me. I happen to identify myself with so many of the situations that appear as little vignettes on the 12 tracks of this album released by Islam Records.

I’m fast forwarding to song number 7, “La Tortura” (the torture). This song could be a hymn against the hipsters perhaps, claiming with a line that says “in my times, this didn’t happen, indie was indie and the rest was the rest”. This is the torture about bands like Beach Fossils or Craft Spells, who I would clearly put them in the “Rest” pile. But of course, not every one out there is wise enough.

Rewind to track 5, “Rojo y Nieve”. This is the straight jab to Spain’s face. With another fantastic line, “love in Spain doesn’t shine in red and yellow, it shines in reds (communists) and bitches” (of course in Spanish it rhymes with brilliance!), they claim a new decadence in Spanish society even mentioning that in places like Switzerland and Austria are civilized countries, unlike their own Spain.

For me, the beauty of the album is discovering and rediscovering the lyrics. They are captivating. They are smart.

You’ll ask me then, what about the music. The music is great! It’s a mix of guitars and drum machines. Some effects here and there. Nicely produced. It’s a beautiful marriage of brilliant songwriting and musicianship! There’s black humor, there’s bright ideas, there’s this thing that not many albums give you. It leaves you thinking. It leaves you trying to solve and understand what inspired the band to write it. You know this is just not play entertainment, this is not music to go out dancing. There’s a commentary here. This is deeper than your regular ukulele indiepop album. This has guts. It has passion of course too.

One can also wonder if this album is just full of cynicism . And the answer for many will be probably yes. There’s this defeatist sort of vibe in the songs. But for me it works in the opposite way. It points out what’s wrong, it makes fun of it, and tries to open our eyes to what’s happening out there. It doesn’t ask anyone to change, because that’s not what it is about, that’s not their job. It is for us to understand, to make the change.

If you want to laugh, if you want to wonder, if you want to have a record on repeat, I urge you to discover Los Directivos. I’m not sure where to buy their record, but they do have a Bandcamp. You can of course stream the album there, but way better is to really own it, don’t you agree?

This is the proper Spanish indiepop, the one that has taken the cue from the La Movida in the 80s, mixed with the C86 vibe. The real indiepop, the one that sadly Elefant has obscured with all their 60s happy-go-lucky stuff (aside from some exceptions of course!). I wish there were more bands like Los Directivos. In the meantime, we can look forward to Los Lagos de Hinault next album.



Los Directivos – Rojo y Nieve


How is the state of indiepop today? That’s the first question I ask myself every time I sit down to write a blog post. A lot of times, like today, I have absolutely no clue aside from some bits and pieces that I get from Facebook. Like the Berlin Popfest this past weekend. I would have loved to be there, but I couldn’t afford it nor I had any more vacations days to get myself to the German capital. I saw on Youtube, with the happiest smile, how Amanda from Alpaca Sports joined The Brilliant Corners to sing “Why Do You Have To Go Out With Him…”, what a treat the popfesters enjoyed!

So I wasn’t there. I was in Providence, Rhode Island, this past weekend. I went on a road trip with three of my New York friends. It was quite a nice adventure, with almost perfect weather. I was impressed by how young this city feels. I barely saw people over 30 years old I think. The town revolved and was catered for the Brown University and Rhode Island School of design students. It must be great to have an education in a town like this. Party after party. Not surprisingly we ended up crashing a house party on Saturday night. That was fun. Sadly what matters the most in this world, record shopping (kidding!), was a total failure there. Visited two record stores and found perhaps 4 or 5 7″s I would have bought, indiepop records, if they weren’t over $5. Come on. The Hope flexi for $20? I got that one for like a pound in London.

Here in NYC we have CMJ around the corner too and some bands are coming to town. I know I will check out Joanna Gruesome, a band many of my hardcore indiepop friends don’t like, on Friday 18th’s night. I think they are alright! Not the bee’s knees probably or deserving too much hype, but quite a nice band, fun to listen and who have a bunch of catchy tunes. I missed them a year ago at Indietracks for a reason I don’t remember, probably watching another band, so will check them at 285 Kent, the venue with the worst restrooms in Brooklyn. Then on Saturday 19th I will see for the second time, after London Popfest 2011, The History of Apple Pie. To be 100% honest I haven’t followed them in the last couple of years. Especially because their records cost crazy money to purchase from the US. Anyhow, I just love their song “Mallory”, so that’s good enough for me to check them out this weekend. Hope they have more tunes like that!
Everyone is raving these days about The Proctors CD. I still haven’t gotten it, so I can’t rave about it. Hopefully I’ll get it from Ed the next time he visits NYC. What I have been planning though is a new European trip for next year. Around Easter I want to do this sort of trip, Paris-Oslo-Gothenburg-Uppsala-Stockholm. Though there’s a chance I do Barcelona instead of Paris. I’m still in early stages of planning. It doesn’t come out as a very expensive trip though to my surprise and I’ll get to see some new cities, meet friends I haven’t seen in years, and visit one of the places that always makes me happy, Stockholm.

That’s more or less where my state of indiepop is right now. Not that much happening but not totally dead like the revamped indiepop list seems now. I guess the excitement only lasted for a week or too. On the Cloudberry side of the spectrum things are very quiet after the two 7″ releases last month. These days it’s all about raising money for The Rileys CD. The art has been finished and approved so we are very ready. I should start working on a new fanzine too, for next year. What colour should it be? That’s always the interesting question.


“Genius ! from 1987 the brilliant Fish Hildas single on Fish Disc Reputedly the worst selling single via Rough Trade/Cartel (that can’t be so!) …rumour has it The Stingrays may know more !”

That’s the legend on the Youtube link to The Fish Hildas’ “How I Itch To Stitch My Pitch” song. The A side of their one and only 7″.

A comment then appears on the Youtube link:

“I’m married to the drummer. She played it to me on our first date and it blew my head off completely. It sounded (and still does) to me like it should have come from around 1981. It’s got that lo-fi Postcard/early Teardrops vibe. Among a bunch of great lost 80s indiepop singles this is right on top of the pile. I’m glad I’ve got the drummer. Thanks for posting.”

And then the uploader replies:
“EXCELLENT NEWS ! Yes it certainly sounds more post-punk than proto-indie ! I was working for Rough Trade in the late 80s and a colleague flagged it up for me…blew my tiny mind wide open too ! It’s got a lot of fans around my friends. Give her my best wishes, Cheers !”

How I ended there, I can’t remember. It was a couple of weeks ago. I was lucky enough that a Dutch seller on Discogs had this record listed, and bought it immediately as it seemed the right thing to do. It wasn’t listed in any Popsike listings, or musicstack, or eBay. So perhaps it was really rare, so paying $11 for it plus postage didn’t hurt too much.

I liked the song. That is pretty obvious. It’s one of those indiepop tunes that sound like proto-indie (here I disagree with the uploader!). A tune that could have sat nicely in those Messthetics comps. It has those rough edges, with fun and poppy music, and dislocated vocals. It’s a rarity.

Where did they get their name from? That I don’t have a clue either. But it may have to do with this?
“The name Hilda (Pronounced: HIL-də) is originally a short form of names containing the Germanic element “hild” (battle). And the meaning of Hilda is “battle woman”. It was used for both English and continental Germanic names. The name became rare in England during the later Middle Ages, but was revived in the 19th century.”

I do know though that the record was released in 1987 on their own FishDisc label (catalog F1) and the B side for this 7″ was “Big Fat Gun”. And both songs are credited to a Felix.

I keep digging and I stumble with issue 13 of the Underground magazine that was published in April 1988. That one with The Flatmates on the cover. On this mag there is a small review of the record and I read it out loud:
So, who are The Fish Hildas, and where did their record come from? This mysterious seven incher, “How I Itch To Stitch My Pitch”, sounds like a wide-eyed Kerouac crooning over a Spike Jones jazz track. It’s strange  and no mistake and if seen should be grabbed and cherished.”

And then I suddenly find a worthy clue. I find Bongo Debbie’s old Myspace page. There she states that she was once part of this band. That’s the first name I see linked to the Fish Hildas. The cool thing is she has been involved in so so so so many bands during the years that I hope one day she might tell the story about this rare 7″! Among those bands you can definitely mention Creation’s own The X-Men, The Armitage Shanks, The Earls of Suave, The A-Lines, Baby Birkin, The Dutronc, Buffets, Thee Headcoatees, and MOST importantly my beloved Would-Be-Goods.

So there’s that. Who were the rest of The Fish Hildas? Was it really the worst selling 7″ in Rough Trade history? Did they record more songs? Did they play any gigs? So many questions then, waiting to be answered!


The Fish Hildas – How I Itch to Stitch My Pitch


Last week I counted the amount of posts left for this year, not counting interviews. That’s 12 more posts including this one. I assume it will be 11 as I will be away for a week in November. So 10 more after this. I wonder then if this has been my most prolific year as a blogger. I ask myself too if people still consider themselves bloggers. Are there many blogs left? I feel many bloggers these day feel more like columnists, working for newspapers, magazines and such in their digital platforms. I saw though in the last couple of days the return of a favourite blog of mine though, 7 Pulgadas. When did his blog start? 2004? A long run from Alex, right? After a long standby as most of his records were in boxes thanks a very long move between houses in Madrid he is back. And it makes me happy that there are people who care about sharing their indiepop knowledge in the world, who respect bands and artists and who get involved in making this scene a better one. People who know Alex know that all of what I’m saying is true, not just because of his blog, that’s certain, but also from being part of the great Madrid Popfest, a regular indiepop festival attendee, and a good friend.

I started blogging in 2004 too. I had a Spanish language blog called Mira el Péndulo. The name came from a song by a Spanish band I was really in love then, El Niño Gusano. I still like them, but perhaps not as much. I started to blog inspired by the Indie-MP3 blog that was pretty popular then. That one was Tom’s blog. It closed some years ago and I wrote a big blog post about it I remember. As I was saying, I was inspired by it because they would offer an Mp3 from some new-ish band, or sometimes even an old classic band, with a link to their Myspace or to their website, and a little review. I thought that was the perfect format to introduce a band. And so I set up a blogspot, even with the same design and look as Indie-Mp3, and started blogging in Spanish because at that time there was nothing like it in my native language.

That’s the time when I discovered a couple of like-minded bloggers, all of them based in Spain. Their format varied, some wrote longer pieces, some shorter. Some wrote about old bands, some about gigs. Some preferred sharing many songs, some not even one song. But we all read each other, we all respected each other, and so a little community of indiepop bloggers was born. It’s funny that after many years I have actually met many of them, especially three that I always love to see at festivals together. That’s Alex of course, Manolo and Javi. Manolo had one of the best blogs in my opinion when it came to reviews of albums. His posts were long and he never shared an Mp3.  The blog was called 360 Grados de Separación. It is still online but he hasn’t updated much in recent times. He is missed. Javi in the other hand, the biggest Go-Betweens fan in the world, had his blog Lost and Found where he introduced to all his readers, this time in English, lots of obscure indiepop gems from the 80s. It was him, and of course the Leamington Spa series, that influenced me on what to recommend and showcase in this blog. Because, for new bands, there are TONS of other blogs and pages.

Then of course Mira el Péndulo was hacked by who knows who. The wordpress was hacked and there was no way to bring all posts back. Everything was lost. Not just what I wrote but also what my collaborators wrote. Because at some point I shared my blog with other friends that wanted to write some indiepop related posts. I remember Romina, from Argentina, that would correct my terrible grammar and write amazing posts about the sweetest sounding bands. Then there was JC, from Chile, who wrote smart posts that questioned the established taste of indiepop kids. One of my best friends José Emanuel, who I had a band with once and who was lately in Eva & John, wrote a bunch of posts about very weird and quirky indiepop bands. Then also Carlitos, from Peru and Eva & John, wrote a bunch of posts of the tweest kind. All those posts lots. I didn’t know what to tell them. I felt ashamed. I should have kept a backup, but I didn’t. I believe that’s the moment where I stopped believing in digital formats. That’s when I knew an MP3 collection was nothing, not even dust, it was nothing. Because all these things don’t really exist.

After a year without blogging I came back in 2008 with this blog, and then the rest is history. This is of course the longest blogging career I’ve had. As a Cloudberry cake chef. I didn’t think this was going to last this long. I came back because I was bored but what I was reading and because I couldn’t find any information about the bands I wanted to read about. Those days I was very close to my friend Emma. I thank her for pushing me to write again. She insisted I had to do it, and she even used to help me in writing interview questions. There’s one that is a favourite of mine, to the band Pink Noise. She wrote all the questions. It’s quite whack. She also answered all the questions a fanzine sent me as a Cloudberry interview. The questions were so boring, the usual questions people ask, so I let her be wild with her imagination. I think the Twee As Fuck crowd weren’t pleased with those answers about monkeys and razor-blade vinyl records. But well, that’s another story.

Anyhow, the thing is that I started blogging in Cloudberry Cake Proselytism in October 2008. It’s October 2013. That’s 5 years, right? Well, Happy Birthday to Me!!


Have you ever heard The Candy Dates? Probably not. But they have an album that is a gem of indiepop. Fun, bright, smart, bouncy, and a treat to the ears. Sure, some of you might say they remind one to Throw That Beat in the Garbagecan!! And that might be true, these fellow Germans have that same taste for great pop music. But who cares, the Candy Dates are great in their own league and I recommend you getting their album Yep! that was released in both LP and CD. And trust me, it’s not that hard to track down!

The CD version was a sole release of Twang! Records (catalog TCD 5899) while the LP was a joint release between Twang! and Semaphore (catalog 27 777). I believe Semaphore was a Dutch label with an office in Germany also. Twang! was definitely a German label and had some nice releases.

The tracklist was:

1 Downtown Park
2 Six Tambourines
3 Big Big Kiss
4 Happy Hills
5 My Absolute Favourite Girl
6 Honey
7 Marlene
8 Top Ten Idol
9 Sophisticated
10 Brian On The Roof

The CD has an eleventh track, but it’s a 2 second one. So don’t worry about it! It’s a hidden track. Both the album and LP were separated in half, the first five songs were under the side called Cake One, and the last five songs were in Cake Two.

The album was produced by Andi Jezussek who was in a band called Breeder I believe.

The Candy Dates were formed by Gunnar Berndorf on vocals, drums and tambourines, Tobi Friedrich on vocals and guitar, Jockel Staron on vocals and guitar, and Lothi Berndorff on vocals and bass.

The band, as the label, were based in Berlin. The record was released in 1992 and the artwork reminiscing Roy Liechtenstein was made by the band themselves with help from Pat on Riesen for the layout. The photo of the band on the back cover was thanks to Frank Wegener.

There are some thank you notes on the CD. It says:

Thank You:
Robyn Wills, Andy, Frank, Pat, Manu & Uwe, Daniel Sprock, Herr Hanich, Hopek, Ralf Bieneck (DT 64), Antje Tiemeyer (RRB), Malum, Peter Perett, Raymond D. Davies, Joe Nolte.

Cool thing on the CD is something a lot of people are missing these days. All lyrics printed so one can sing along!

But let’s get back to that Thank You list. Is Uwe the Uwe from Firestation records? Probably but probably not. But Herr Hanich. That one we know. That’s Matthias Hanich who was also in Angry Flowers and later in the Groovy Cellar. But most importantly Matthias Hanich had been in a band with Gunnar Berndorf in the mid 80s. Yes! In 1984 they had been together in a band called The Artpress.

A little bio found on Facebook says:

The Artpress, whose melodic and beautifully constructed power pop made the band an instant success in Lower Saxony and other parts of Europe, released their one and only piece of vinyl under a long term deal with Worldcup Records in 1988(?). Due to management and distribution problems the single entitled “Mystery Girl“ c/w “Get Smart“ only reached 101 in the pop charts. Both numbers are up-tempo, guitar-fuelled with a wonderful 60s mod feel. This is your second chance – so don’t miss it.

They were based in Göttingen and the band members were: Harald Fischer, Matthias Hanich, Gunnar Berndorff, Ronald Kruschak
(Carsten Richter, Ralf Fricke, Jörg Waltje).

I also tracked down that Tobias Friedrich had a band afterwards called Viktoriapark who released an album in 2008 called “Was Ist Schon 1 Jahr?” and also another album called “In Teufels Küche”.

I also found out that Gunnar wrote a book along two other authors, Barbara Berndorff and Knut Eigler. This book is called Musikrecht and shame on me that I don’t know much German so I cant tell what it is about!

And that’s about all I could find about this fantastic band, that I don’t know much about, but did record this one fantastic album! I really recommend tracking it down if you can. And if you know anything else about them, if you ever saw them playing live, if you happen to have any more unreleased songs or anything, please share. There’s a nice comment section right here!

Edit: Andreas again comes to the rescue with some new insights:
Regarding your blog entry for The Candy Dates (and The Artpress), Gunnar Berndorff is also the drummer for The Groovy Cellar who’ll play Berlin Popfest on Saturday (and whom, along with Most Wanted Men, I’ve put on as supports both in Berlin and Hamburg in the past). He’s actually a colleague, i. e. a lawyer, and “Musikrecht” translates into “music law” (part of media law). A very nice guy, too.


Candy Dates – Six Tambourines