26
Jun

After the good two weeks of releases, Pale Spectres 7″ and The Potting Sheds CD, there’s a little calm now at Cloudberry. But that doesn’t mean the excitement disappears. There’s a new 7″ ready to go to press and it will be announced later this week through our Facebook page. That’s not all, we are already talking to a band we love for a retrospective CD, to be the 10th Cloudberry Cake Kitchen release. But wait, there’s even more. Just got four songs to be mastered by a new Swedish band. Yes, that will be yet another 7″, as we start getting closer to the 50th 7″ release on the label. Here at Cloudberry we don’t stop loving our indiepop!

This week I have even more indiepop news, some a bit older now, but maybe you’ve missed them. So let’s start!

Teenage Superstars is a new documentary that was just screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The film is directed by Grant McPhee, same person behind the Big Gold Dream documentary we all bought DVDs not so long ago! On this documentary Grant covers the time after Big Gold Dream, the time of bands like The Pastels, BMX Bandits, Soup Dragons, The Vaselines and more. I can’t wait for it to be released on DVD or screened somewhere in NYC.  There’s a Facebook page for the film.

Desperate Journalist, a band I’ve raved and championed many times in the blog, have a new video out for the song “Why Are You So Boring?“. This is the 4th single taken from their second album, “Grow Up” and I’m very happy about it as it is one of my favourite songs in there. The video is a collage of the band at different gigs and other snippets of videos, and it includes the lyrics for singing along. Great stuff!

Andreas Dorau is releasing his 10th studio album “Die Liebe und der Ärger der Anderen” on July 7th. To promote the record (which comes in either double CD, double vinyl, as a box set including the album and a flexi disc and tape), Dorau has put together a video for the song “Ossi mit Schwan“. Now, how to get myself a copy on this side of the Atlantic? I’m sure it won’t be easily found here…

Peruvian band Almirante Ackbar also has new videos. They are promoting their new album “Sonidos Ultrasónicos y Audibles Para Callar al Perro del Vecino” which will be out on July 14th. In the past three weeks two videos have appeared on their Facebook. The first one was for the song “Fiebre de la Amplitud“, a song I actually played on my podcast a long time ago. The second song was just published today and it is called “Alquimia Espiritual” and sounds ace. Hope the album gets released in physical format!

Jetstream Pony is the new project of Shaun Charman from The Fireworks (and previously Wedding Present and The Popguns) and Beth Arzy fr0m The Fireworks/Luxembourg Signal/Trembling Blue Stars. They have so far 2 demo songs on their Soundcloud, “Out of Reach” and “Not the One”, and as you can expect by the people involved, they sound brilliant. The Croydon/Brighton band is preparing alongside the fantastic Augsburg label Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten a 7″ that will include two other songs, “Like You Less” and “Had Enough”. This is very promising, hopefully the band keeps the songs coming!

Lastly a band I discovered before I traveled to Finland. I was looking for any gigs while I was going to be there and well, couldn’t find any. But I found a poppy band that I thought sounded quite nice, The New Tigers. It seems they’ve been going for some years now and have a couple of releases. Their latest, the “Vindications EP”, dating from 2016. You can check them out on Bandcamp of course. The band hails from Turku, a town I actually visited for a day and really enjoyed the vibe alongside the river, and the castle of course. To my surprise Ville, who I met once upon a time in NYC when he was playing with Cats on Fire, is the drummer of this band! I didn’t know this connection, I really liked all the music he was involved with, and at some point we talked about some project he was making with his then girlfriend. I think some recordings were made, but I never got to listen to them. I’m sure I would have loved them. But it is good to see that he continues making music with the New Tigers but also solo with his new project Verandan. Soliti, their label, has a song available for streaming “Gold in the Hills” and sounds classic. Loving it!

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This week post comes courtesy of the Fanning Sessions blog really. Last week he sent me a message saying that a reader was compiling a radio show and asked him if he wanted to request any songs. He picked “Road of the Lonely” by Bam Bam and the Calling,  and then he shared it with me.

I had no clue who they were. First time I heard their long name. The song sounded good. The quality and the style told me it was from the 80s. They were definitely Irish, Fanning Sessions only deals with the Irish. But what else? My first instinct was to check out Discogs.

There I would find immediately a small biography and thanks to that I was going to get some perspective:

From Derry, Northern Ireland, Bam Bam and The Calling were formed in 1983 by Paul McCartney, ex of late 70s punk band Graffiti, with Tom Doherty. They are best known now for That Petrol Emotion taking their name from the title of one of their songs. The band split sometime towards the end of the 1980s, although they reformed in September 2000 for a one-off charity gig in aid of Derry City Football Club.

Paul P J McCartney: Vocals & Guitar
John McCloskey: Guitar
Joe Brown: Bass
Thomas Doherty: Drums

Three releases being listed. The first one from 1987 is a single that came out on both 7″ and 12″ format. It was released by Great Records (catalog GREAT 01) and included the songs “Scraping Off the Shine” and “Colum McKeever Sings“. The 12” also included on the B side another song, “Presley”. The producer for this record was Sean O’Neil from That Petrol Emotion. David Ros was the engineer. The record was recorded at Greenhouse Studios in London.

In 1988 the band was to release another single, again in both formats. The same label, Great Records (catalog GREAT 02), released it. The songs on the 7″ were “Neck Tattoo” and “Cautious Navigations”. The 12″ added on the B side the song “Glory”.

The other release listed is a split flexi shared with the band Man Ray. The song Bam Bam and the Calling contributed was “New Surroundings”. It seems this flexi came along the Helden Magazine (catalog HL03).

My next stop ends up being the great website Irish Rock. On it there are some cool old photos and flyers. They have an extended biography there, one that says that That Petrol Emotion took their name from a song of Bam Bam and the Calling. There was a link, an early lineup of Bam Bam had Raymond Gorman who was to join That Petrol Emotion. When this happened Bam Bam split for a while. That was around 1983 or 84. Only in 1985 the band reconviened.

The band appeared on “Channel One” on BBC NI in 1986 performing two songs, “New Surroundings” and “Talking Aloud” live at The Venue in Derry.

It seems there was a live tape recorded at the Gweedore Bar in 1986 that was probably sold at gigs or as a bootleg.

The band split just before 1990. Paul McCartney at this time briefly joined Rare, the post That Petrol Emotion band as he is credited in the 1990 single “Set Me On Fire”. Afterwards Paul formed The Deadly Engines and released records with Setanta.

Here also there’s a little more info about their reunion gig in 2000. They opened for The Moondogs and The Undertones. Since then the band has performed occasionally.

Irish Rock also includes some extra discography. For example a dateless demo tape that included the songs “Scraping Off the Shine”, “Secret Meeting”, “Presley”, “Neck Tattoo”, “Talking Aloud” and “Day 15”. Also a Radio Foyle session from February 1986 with the songs “Bad Getting Bigger”, “Give the Wings Back to Bird”, “I Call To You” and “Kitchen Dogs”.

Next up I stumble upon an old Myspace. There are a bunch of songs but the only one I can seem to stream is a demo version of “Talking Aloud”. The only other song I haven’t mentioned before is “Fencewire (live)”.

Then a sort of Wiki. Here I find that Paul had also been involved with a band called The Rural Felini where he was joined by his brothers Gavin and Rio as well as David Doherty. Also that John McCloskey, the guitarist from Bam Bam, was involved in the establishment of The Nerve Centre in Derry and in his guise as writer, director animator was nominated for a BAFTA award in 2008. Wow.

I found out too that Joe Brown is now involved in a band called The Gatefolds.

Well well, Fanning Sessions have a lot of information on Bam Bam and the Calling. The first post they did was in 2009. Then four songs were posted from the demo, “Talking Aloud”, “Scraping Off the Shine” and “Neck Tattoo”. Then there are a bunch of posts promoting gigs for the band, from 2011 and 2012. But the last post on the blog about them is one dating from 2013 and it is a Fanning Session from 1987! The songs here are “Road of The Lonely”, “Only Sing” and “Scraping Off the Shine”.

My last stop is Facebook. Yes, I could find a Facebook page for the band. Perhaps I should have started there, sent them a message, see if they could tell me the story. But maybe this way works too. Maybe they can fill in the blanks left by this post. Not much information or songs on their Facebook, but it does promote their gigs and the band seem to share videos of their influences. From it I stumbled upon a Soundcloud page with recordings of different bands the band members have been involved with.

Which is the song then that That Petrol Emotion took their name from? Were there any recordings from that first lienup of the band? Why didn’t they get to record more songs? Did they play in England perhaps? Many questions still to be asked. Does anyone remember them?

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Listen
Bam Bam and the Calling – Road of the Lonely

 

19
Jun

Hello! This is a very exciting time for Cloudberry!! Last Friday we released the long-awaited and ultra brilliant 7″ EP by the Pale Spectres from Paris. This Friday too we have yet another release, The Potting Sheds retrospective compilation “Leaving By the Back Door”! Both releases are the perfect soundtrack for this summer. And you can already order them both from our website.

Now onto more indiepop news all around the world. Remember the band Sea Blite whose video for the song “Cerulean” I recommended some weeks ago? Well the band was kind enough to send me a download code for their first EP. The self-titled 4 song EP is released on tape by Death Records but now you can also stream all four songs from the band’s Bandcamp. Now I can be sure to say that the band hails from San Francisco and that it is formed by Lauren Matsui on guitars and vocals, Galine Tumasyan on vocals and bass, Andrew Bush on drums and Jen Mundy on lead guitar. The songs are fantastic, I still like “Cerulean” the best but “Pretend”, “Woolly Sweater” and “Skeleton Couch” are no fillers, but proper good songs in their own right!

Kocliko Records is a new label from Bera, in Spain. Bera seems to be a small town in Navarre. Never heard of it but looks nice on photos. I should go sometime. This new label has made a splash in the indiepop world the last few weeks announcing a couple of releases. The first one is the Tomiji EP and it is a cracker. Who is Tomiji? Well, a good friend of mine, Thomas from Pale Spectres. Yes, Tomiji is his solo project and on this 7″ there are 4 fab pop songs that are not to be missed. The 7″ is not out yet (I’ll let you know when it is), but for now the four songs, “Let’s Flip a Coin”, “Home”, “I’ll Love You Forever” and “After All” are available from streaming on Bandcamp. A great debut that no indiepop lover should miss!

The second release the label has announced is by the band Business of Dreams. On the Bandcamp it doesn’t say much about this release or the band. On Facebook I find some information. The band is the solo project of Corey Cunningham from Los Angeles, CA. There are 10 songs  on the album and they sound pretty good! It is not straight-up indiepop, not the classic sound. But it is dreamy, elegant, classy pop, driven by synths. It sounds very 80s too. I like it. Another good release, so far both choices in Kocliko are pure gold.

Who are Port Sulphur? I don’t really know who are behind this band. I couldn’t find a Facebook page. But I found two songs on Bandcamp, part of a split single on The Creeping Bent Organisation. “Orient Express” is the song I love here, it even features James Kirk (!!) from Orange Juice, who actually co-wrote this song (and it shows!). It is just WOW! The second song is “Hope / Less”and features Alan Vega. This one is not really up my street. But I tell you, “Orient Express”, is there, a contender for my favourite song at least for June.

Last news for this week, and I still have a lot more to share, as I have said before now I’m keeping tabs on everything I see on the web that I feel is worthwhile! The label Discos de Kirlian from Barcelona, Spain, have a new 7″ out now by the Stockholm band We.The Pigs. The band is formed by Veronika and Martin, with Fredrik, Niklas, Johan and  one Cloudberry friend, Charley, who released a 3″ with his older band The Mare almost 10 years ago! Anyhow, this new 7″ EP has four songs, “Start Over”, “Too Young”, “Wake Up” and “Go Away”. And as usual you can stream the four tracks on Bandcamp. The band is actually playing a release show on July 5th at PSB alongside the band Venetian Blinds. Here is more info for the event. Wish I could be there!

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For this week I decided to do the same thing as last week, look into the archives of the fantastic series of the Sound of Leamington Spa. This time I picked up volume 4, and because I’ve been lately on an Irish sort of run on the blog, I decided to see what I could find about Beethoven’s Kiss.

First of all I must say that I don’t own their 7″. I don’t know how many copies were pressed. They only released the one. But from the liner notes included on the booklet I was going to learn a bit more about this band, which I thought was pretty obscure, but it isn’t so:
“The Wonder of You” was the last single release of Belfast band Victim in 1988. The band went under the name Beethoven’s Kiss for the one single because the recording was a departure from their normal punk style. The name was taken from the famous incident in classical music history when the master Beethoven kissed the young Franz Liszt during a performance to confirm his acknowledgement of his brilliance. The band pressed up the record themselves and it was never officially released, with copies going only to radio stations and record companies. The band comprised of Wes Graham on bass/vocals; Joe Moody on guitar/vocals; Kev Williams (formerly with Mick Hucknall’s Frantic Elevators) who joined the band on drums when Mike Joyce left to join The Smiths, and Toni Isaac on keyboards/backing vocals. The B-side of the single, “Don’t Break It” was a song Victim had been playing for years and features on a CD compilation of the band’s material released in March 2003 on Overground Records entitled “Everything”. It features Victim’s three singles and 15 previously unreleased tracks. Victim emerged from the burgeoning Ulster punk scene in 1977 and their first single “Strange Thing By Night” was released on Belfast’s Good Vibrations label. Victim were the first punk band to play the legendary Harp Bar in Belfast and moved to Manchester in 1979. There they signed to TJM Records and released two more singles. They toured the UK extensively and filled a six-week support slot supporting The Damned. Mike Joyce, who plays on several of the tracks on the new CD release, went to gain international fame in The Smiths. The band broke up in late 1988 a few months after recording “The Wonder of You”. Founder members Wes Graham and Joe Moody are currently recording new material for release later this year under the name WEBCORE.”

Ok the record was never officially released. That explains a couple of things. I check on Discogs the information for this release. According to this site it came out in 1989 and not in 1988 as the band says. Who is right? And the only interesting information here is that the songs were recorded at Square Studios in Bury, Lancashire. The record was released by the band’s own Akashic Records (catalog AK0001).

This name, Akashic, made me Google for their meaning and I learned a thing today, in theosophy and anthroposophy, the Akashic records are a compendium of all human events, thoughts, words, emotions and intent ever to have occurred, believed by theosophists to be encoded in a non-physical plane of existence known as the etheric plane. There are anecdotal accounts but no scientific evidence for existence of the Akashic records. Akasha (ākāśa आकाश) is the Sanskrit word for “aether” or “atmosphere”. Also, in Hindi, Akash (आकाश) means “sky” or “heaven”.

I look now into the Irish Music Database website. Here there are family trees for several bands. There are more connections with other bands. Already mentioned were Victim and The Frantic Elevators, but for example Joe Moody was in The Androids and Wes Graham and Joe Moody were in Emergency.

My next stop is a Victim biography on the Spit Records website. On it there is a whole paragraph dedicated to Beethoven’s Kiss:
In the ensuing months Wes and Joe set about recruiting a permanent replacement for Mike and had to debate whether or not to stick with the name Victim. Mike had been a close friend and his departure hit hard. After toying with the name Victim A.D., they opted to continue as Victim, occasionally going under the name Beethoven’s Kiss when they wanted to try out new material which was a departure from traditional punk. They brought in Kev Williams who had been drummer with The Frantic Elevators before Mick Hucknall split that band to form Simply Red. The recorded four tracks in 1985 for a promotional four-track cassette EP that attracted considerable interest and almost clinched a deal with Chrysalis Records. Next they recorded a single ‘The Strangest Stars’, which sadly was not released. They recruited Toni Isaac on keyboards – she was the girl leaning on the lamppost on Jilted John’s single of the same name! Victim then recorded ‘The Wonder of You’ (not the Elvis song) and ‘Don’t Break It’ in 1988 at Square One Studios in Bury, where Black were mixing ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ the same week. The songs were pressed up as a self-financed single released soon after on the band’s own Akashic Records and went out under the name Beethoven’s Kiss. The label on the sleeve states that the single was released in 1989, but according to the band it was released in 1988! The band were anxious to showcase the new melodic acoustic songs the band was developing, combined with the raunchiness of old Victim songs. The A side was a new song while ‘Don’t Break It’ was an old song Joe had written in Belfast some years earlier. Some months later the band recorded five new songs, which they felt confident would attract record company interest. However it was not to be and in 1990 Wes and Joe shelved the Victim/Beethoven’s Kiss project and brought the curtain down on the life of a band which had been in existence for just over a decade. For the record, a few other musicians who very briefly played in Victim were John Hawthrone, Simmo and Dave Goodlad.

So 4 songs were recorded at this session. Only 2 were released. Where are the other two songs?! I would love so much to hear them!

I looked for Webcore, to see if I could find Joe Moody. But I found no information about this band. Did they record anything? I did find a Youtube channel of his and it seems from it that he is still making music with the band Joe Zero. I just heard the song “Rock n’ Roll Wars” which is a preview of their upcoming album and it is a lot of fun!

Not much more to add about Beethoven’s Kiss. It seems it was just a one-off that left at least one fabulous song (I haven’t had the chance to hear the B-side yet! so I can’t say if I like it or not!). There are 2 more recordings at least but I cross my fingers there are more from this period. Why did Victim change their sound? Why did they decided to change names? Why wasn’t the record officially released? Why no one picked up this record and release it? So many questions, very few answers. Did the band play live as Beethoven’s Kiss at all?  Any of you remember them?

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Listen
Beethoven’s Kiss – The Wonder of You

14
Jun

Thanks so much to Richard Hall for answering a bunch of my questions! I got in touch with Jo Bisseker, the vocalist of The Love Buttons, a month ago. She kindly got me in touch with Richard who was able to answer me many of my questions about this Ambition Records band that released one classic (and in my book legendary) 12″ record. A fabulous record indeed that leaves you wondering why they didn’t release any more records.

++ Hi! Thanks so much for being up for this interview. I’m really thrilled to interview you as I really like the songs you released back in the day. Your 12″ is one of my favourites from the period. I guess we could start by who were The Love Buttons? What instruments each of you played? And how did you got together? What year was it?

Basically….the band was invented in my HEAD. I was living with Pete Briggs. I’d played bass a bit in covers bands and Pete was/is a tip top drummer. We pretended to be a band called The Buttons (in reality just an IDEA) and put up an ad at the University in Southampton. After a while Jo replied. She came round with her guitar and her fantastic songs. After about 10 seconds I realised that she wrote great songs. Really great!!! We laugh about it now but I was shy in those days and I was jumping around saying ‘you’re IN!!”. We were a 3 piece to begin with. We used to do a cover of ‘So Sad About Us’ by The Who.  Breeders copied our idea!!

++ Who came up with the name of the band? I think originally you were called The Buttons. What’s the story behind it?

We changed our name from The Buttons to The Love Buttons because we thought it was a bit edgy!!!

++ You were based in Southampton. How was it growing up and having a band there? Were there many venues to play?  Were there any other like-minded bands?

We played lots of gigs…a lot of times at the Joiners…we supported some cool bands…The Family Cat. Jane Pow.  After a time Paul (known as Rita) joined on guitar. He was obsessed with Manchester scene….bands like Happy Mondays and Inspiral  Carpets….and attempted to make us ‘jangly”.

++ And what would you say were influences for the sound of The Love Buttons?

Probably the sound we were going for was The Popguns/The Primitives. We loved 10,000 Maniacs and Throwing Muses, as well as R.E.M. Lots of 60’s stuff.

++ Mark Pearson from Ambition Records told he feels he disappointed you, that he let you down, on an interview. At the same time he said you were really keen to be on the label. How was your relationship with him? 

We never ever felt let down by Mark from Ambition….quite the opposite. We practically stalked him to get on his cool little label!!!

++ And what do you remember of the recording sessions for the EP? Why did you record at S.A.M. Bristol? Any anecdotes you could share?

The great 12 string you hear on our 12 inch is Mark, the singer of The  Steamkings. Around this time Jo treated herself to her own 12 string Rickenbacker.

++ Speaking of gigs, did you play live a lot? what were your favourite gigs and why? Were there any bad gigs that you remember?

The best gig we ever did was put on by my cousin at a college in Chichester. They hired an ENORMOUS PA and we sounded like we were playing Wembley Arena….the 300 students went MENTAL!!!

++ Why didn’t you get to release more records? Was there any interest from other labels?

Apart from letters of rejection we never came very close to signing a record deal. We’d have loved to have been on Sarah.

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

I think we split up because I moved away to Swindon after uni for a 3 month job. I ended up staying there for 6 years! But I did form a band there called Eva Luna. We went on tour and did a demo tape and some great punky indie songs. Then I returned to Southampton and set up the band Snaffler with other local pals. We produced a CD called Bingo Knickers which was great!

Sadly, after my second child, I could’nt face the hassle of dragging my equipment, amps etc off to smeggy recording garages with no toilet facilities, rehearsing, then packing it all away again – it was just too much!

++ I saw on Youtube a clip of you rehearsing again last summer. The video titled, “The Love Buttons are Back”. How did this happen? Did you make any new music? Did you play any reunion gigs?

The video you’ve seen on Youtube is when I held a garden party….I was turning 50!!!!….all 4 members of The Buttons were there. There was a friends covers band playing and after a tense standoff we all got into position. Call me immodest but I think the magic was still there!! It sounds TERRIFIC!!!

Jo was totally responsible for The Buttons being any good but she’s too busy/she can’t be arsed for us to ever do it again. Unless someone is willing to pay big bucks!! I think we’re just biding our time so that the public are in a FRENZY!!

++ What about today, what do you do? what other hobbies aside from music do you have?

Lately I’ve taken up playing drums (not very well) and play in a covers band with Paul (Rita), Nick (who was in Jo’s  NEXT band, Snaffler)…and Justin….lead guitarist in The Steamkings…and Dave who also played guitar for rage Buttons when Paul went to Uni in Manchester were called Daddy Witch and we do countryish songs by Caitlin Rose, Gillian Welch etc.

++ And has Southampton changed much since The Love Buttons day?

Southampton is a better city now than it was then. There is a thriving Craft beer scene with lots of cool little bars springing up.

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Listen
The Love Buttons – Jon, You Bastard

13
Jun

This week a short post, but a true mystery to solve!

I heard the Candy Ranch for the first time on on the CD Rupert Cook gave me two Indietracks ago. From that CD, full of obscure goodies, I was able to track a few bands and get to hear their stories. The Candy Ranch, whose “Screaming Nutter” was on the compilation, was one of the few I was struggling to find until I found that Kev was then playing in the Style Selektors. I contacted them on Facebook and Kev was kind enough to be up for an interview. Sadly he only replied the first half of it. And that’s what I’m sharing with you today. These answers are from April 2014.

And after reading them, I totally suggest checking a bunch of their songs on Youtube, they are really catchy and fun!

EDIT 13/06/2017 – Kev McGuire from Candy Ranch has sent the answers for the remaining questions. Here is the complete interview now! 

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++ Hi Kev! Thanks so much for being up for the interview! I see you are still making music with The Style Selektors. Tell me a bit about this new project of yours? How different is it to the Candy Ranch?

Yeah The Style Selektors is a totally new project for me. It’s a very loose collective of great musicians and one of the best things is that there are no deadlines or pressures.
With The Candy Ranch because we were signed up to a management deal we had to write songs, rehearse every day then gig 3 times per week and then recording on top of that, then touring all over the UK
It took us away from home for weeks at a time sometimes and although it was a great laugh and we played with some great bands in some legendary venues I ended up totally burned out

It’s different because with TCR we wrote all our own stuff and there were 5 of us and we all had huge egos and we were so fullof enthusiasm (which is good) so there was all kinds of ideas richocheting round the room and after a while (for me anyway) our stuff became a mishmash of too many influences as far as im concerned and it just didn’t do it for me anymore i guess..

++ So let’s get back in time. When did Candy Ranch start as a band? Was it your first band ever?

TCR started in 89′ (i think) We actually got together from the embers of 2 Hartlepool bands (Taste of Freshness and Eat The Beat) and we joined forces to enter The Cleveland Music Festival and we won it…

All the bands at that time were trying to be Joy Division (which isn’t a bad thing) but it got monotonous. We were all brought up on The Specials, The Beat (who i played for last year) The Jam, Madness, Selecter, Secret Affair etc…so i guess influences were apparent in our songs and no bands were playing that stuff anymore as it was classed as passe, but we liked to go against the grain and it pissed a lot of other bands off coz we weren’t into The Smiths (yawn) although Jonny Marr is a brilliant guitarist I just couldn’t gel with Morrisey’s words y’know? Didn’t do anything for me.
It has to hit you somewhere doesn’t it? Like when i first heard The Jam i thought “fucking hell man, how the fuck do 3 people make that huge sound”

++ How did the recruiting process work for the Candy Ranch? How did you all knew each other? Who were the members of the band and what instrument did each of you play?

Like I  said we formed from 2 different bands
Kev McGuire – guitar, vocals
Neil Forcer – guitar, vocals
Gav Bell-  bass, vocals
Terry Ashley –  drums
Dave Willingham – keyboard

We also had Ste Ryan on vocals for a few months in the early days and after Neil Forcer left Ian Holdforth came in on guitar and vocals.

++ Where does the name Candy Ranch comes from?

The name is actually from a porno film ha ha

++ And who were the main influences of the band would you say? Did you like any other Hartlepool bands at that time?

Main influences were The Small Faces, The Who, The Jam, Kinks, Beatles, The Specials, The Beatles, Madness, Secret Affair, Lambrettas (who im playing guitar with in June) The Chords (who i played guitar with last year), Robin Hitchcock, Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera, Haircut 100 (Les Nemes their bass player is a friend of mine) Lloyd Cole, Dr Feelgood, Squeeze, Sex Pistols
I can’t remember liking any other Hartlepool bands at that time, although the best Hartlepool band I ever heard was Victims of Circumstance with Ste Shadforth, great guitarist and front man. I was too driven and too focused on TCR to take notice to be honest and they all wanted to either be New Order or The Smiths
and I was so fucking bored by it all to be honest. New Order and The SMiths were still going back then so I couldn’t see the point in emulating a band that was still active !!! i much prefered trying to bring something back to life from years previous
i wanted to get a whole new bunch of people to like the Mod, Ska, 60s scene you know?

++ Tell me about Hartlepool. Where would you usually hang out? Was it a fun town then? What are the sights of town?

Hartlepool was a very busy port in the 19th and 20th centuries, it had to sides Old Hartlepool and West Hartlepool, it was the people from Old Hartlepool who legend has it hing a monkey they thought was a french spy and so Hartlepudlians have since been known as Monkeyhangers
Quite how you could get a fucking 2 foot hairy monkey mixed up with a person i’ll never know but thereagain there are some very hairy women in Hartlepool so i suppose it’s easy to get confused ha ha (imjoking but i bet i get some stick for that)
I went to english martyrs school and we used to hang out at the youth clubs all over town, justy getting up to mischief really ha ha.. you know, trying to get off with girls, showing off my new 2 Tone suits and Loafer shoes with red socks,
When I left school and got my Vespa that was it, totally infatuated with everything Mod, 60s, scotters, girls, drugs, lost weekends, trips to London sleeping near these big heaters in Mayfair coz we couldnt afford digs haha
Hartlepool has a great Marina, lots of new projects springing up, new college, new estates, new schools, lots of businesses are attracted to Hartlepool now and for me its thriving..
It has a high crime rate but hey what town doesnt huh?
I don’t live their anymore but my children do so I still go there a few times a week.

++ I read you gigged a lot, even with big names like Blur or Radiohead. Which were your favourite gigs and why? Did you prefer these kind of big gigs or smaller ones? Any fun anecdotes you can share?

We gigged all over the UK , yeah we gigged with some great bands and had a laugh. The best band we ever played with was Dr Feelgood at Hartlepool Town Hall we took Lee Brilleux for a drink before the gig.
We all got smashed and just before he went onstage we locked him in a broom cupboard ha ha. Hae kicked the door down, tripped me up, took my shoes off me and took them onstage with him, totally pissed and sang every note and performed like a true pro. It’s very sad he is no longer with us and also its very sad that Wilko Johnson has got terminal cancer, such a great talented huiman being something needs to be done about cancer you know? and soon as well they can send a man to fucking Mars or somewhere or they can blow up a village in Iraq from a mile underground in the USA and you are fucking telling me they can’t find the funds to research the biggest killer of mankind than any weapons? Bullshit, total bullshit, they are all pirates the lot of them.
With Blur we were in a big posh hotel in glasgow and we were pissed (again) so The Candy Ranch offered Blur to a game of tiggy off ground (this is a game we play where you had to tag someone, but they were only out if they were on the ground but they had to keep moving as well or they were out) we used the tables and reception desk in this hotel and the chairs. We won coz Blur were all unfit but we all got told off by the hotel manager so we took all the lightbulbs out of all the lights we could find and hid them. Very grown up.

++ You had two managers and they turned out to be quite successful. What do you remember about them?

One manager was Mick Donnelly, he was sax player for Spear of Destiny in the 80s, they were huge, he is an amazing sax player, he played with Madness, 5 Star, Sammy Davis Junior, Whitney Houston… he is currently on tour with Lisa Stansfield all over Europe. In the 90s he played for Swing Out Sister and he went to the Philippines with them (I think) We put a load of dirty movies in his suitcase before he left and the customs people at the airport in Manila made him open his case and all these films fell out haha…

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There were 13 more questions I asked. Sadly I never heard back from Kev. I just checked back at the messages we exchanged on Facebook, through the account of his band The Style Selektors but it seems that facebook page of the band is no more. It’s a shame really. Last time I heard from him was in June when he mentioned that he didn’t had time yet to answer the rest of questions. I didn’t insist.

These were the rest of my questions that remain unanswered. If anyone could help fill in the blanks that’d be great:

++ Tell me about your releases. You had three singles, right? Who put them out?

3 Singles
Screaming Nutter on Tumak & Sons
Flowergirl via Codhead Productions
Up & Away via ourselves

++ My favourite song of yours might be “Screaming Nutter” and that was your first single too. What’s the story behind this song?

Screaming Nutter is basically saying that although we all may be from different creeds and cultures we are all essentially the same ..we can all be jealous, all be nice, all be nasty and all be corrupt … the chords are distinctly similar to Happy Hour 😱

++ And is it true that this record is sought after mostly because of the photo on the cover?

The front cover photo was taken by our bass player Gav, it is of the legendary Steetley Shunter (Steetley was a factory in Hartlepool) and the Shunter was one of a kind that train enthusiasts would kill to have photos off (train doggers I call them)

++ And what would be your favourite song? And why?

My fave is Flowergirl, the melody is great and for me captures that early 90’s summer vibe and the Middle 8 is a cracker …of course Ians guitar solo takes it to a different orbit altogether.

++ How did the creative process work for you?

In all honesty we all used to meet at Gav’s or at The Touchdown where we were based and just bounce ideas off each other, all contributing music and vocals …sometimes it worked, other times it became a total mish mash.

++ Was there any big label interest for you guys?

We had a few labels like Polydor interested ..Feargal Sharkey of The Undertones was working for Polydor at that time a day came to see us at the Borderline in London ..he was very nice and loved our stuff, but with us sounding like The Jam, Blur, Housemartins, Madness etc he said they wouldn’t take the risk of investing in us for the public to say “heard it all before” which is fair enough really … I wouldn’t care really,,but we were really trying to sound like Inspiral Carpets and not Blur ha ha ..I’ve since told Tom (Hingley) that I blatantly magpied a lot of the Inspirals songs and he laughed his head off ..he rang me up a while ago to chat about my daughter, very nice guy.

Other record companies were interested but we had missed the boat by about a year.

++ And are there many more unreleased songs? Have you ever thought putting out some sort of retrospective release?

We recorded quite a lot of songs, I’ve got them somewhere .. would be nice to have them on a CD at some point I guess.

++ I read on a Youtube description that you were the only unsigned band to ever perform at BBC TV’s Grandstand in 1993. How did that happen? And for us that are not familiar with Grandstand, what is it? 🙂

Grandstand was a very popular sports programme on BBC1 at the time and they only used to lay songs like FA Cup final songs etc so it was a big moment for us when they played Up & Away on there and my Dad was very proud …how ironic that Brian Honour  (one of Pools all time greats) is now a mate and he came to see us at The Cavern in Liverpool a few weeks ago and is coming to see my new band The Extra Specials on July 21st at THE Studio in Hartlepool (shameless plug) 😉

++ On Youtube there’s this performance of yours on TV performing “Section 58”. Care to tell me what was this about?

Section 58 in the noise abatement clause .. we were based at The Touchdown pub in Hartlepool that Mick Donnelly from Spear Of Destiny owned and a few locals (minority as all the locals round there are the best people on the earth) claimed about the noise coming from the pub on a Friday night from the bands so we invited the noise pollution ppl down…they arrived on a Friday afternoon when we rehearsed and they basically stayed for the day and came to the gig on the night, got pissed and had people of the best nights they’d ever had ha ha .. I think the decibels were reported as being slightly lower than they really were and they became fans ..one of those officers still comes to our gigs now

++ And there’s a comment there on another video of yours asking about a footy tape circa 1991 that celebrates promotion to Division 3 of Hartlepool United I guess? Will that tape ever come out on the internet?

Yeah we released a song called Up & Away that charted (low) and it was for Hartlepool United FC back in 93′ .. Pools had beaten Crystal Palace in the FA Cup that ks to a penalty from Andy Savage so they moved on to play Sheffield Utd and we were invited down to the Blades ground and the Pools players came on the pitch wearing Candy Ranch t-shirts to the sound of the single via the ground PA and the crowd all singing along, was a great moment although me and Gav felt a bit embarrassed in the crowd as they were looking at us whilst signing …

++ I saw also on a Youtube video that there are many more contemporary photos of you guys performing. Do you still play the odd gig with the Candy Ranch or what?

We don’t see each other these days, I was with Dave and Gav for our friend Gary’s funeral about 2 years ago ..very sad, Gary loved the band, he really loved a song we had done in 87′ called Heavens Open Up and a few months before the passed away he had mentioned it when I seen him…last message he sent me was that he had voted for The Style Selektors in a best Mod band in the UK competition and we won it …I like to think Gary’s vote swung it for us ..I was singing Heavens Open Up for him in my head at his funeral..I owed him that.

I’d gig again with them as a one off, it would be good to do those great songs again, they were our songs, simple observations of life and created by all of us, not everyone can do that, not everyone wants to, but when you do create something whether it’s a massive world wide hit or one of ours then you get a sense of pride that you contributed.

++ So what happened, when and why did you split? What did you all do after?

We split as it had just ran it’s course basically, I’d fallen out of love with music totally and buggered off and joined the Royal Marines as a reservist, I was having a bad time mentally, lots of anxiety attacks and stuff from my childhood getting in the way of me enjoying myself and I was horrible to be around at that time, I hated the world, do a deal everyone it so the best thing for everyone was for me to bugger off and sort myself out and the Royal Marines certainly helped. I now work as a Resuscitation Officer for the NHS in a hospital in Northern England, I think Gav is a designer and he also played bass at my wedding in 2012 with a band called The Passion Killers (great name for a wedding band) and Ian runs a studio in York (I think) ..Dave went on to run a training company and I’d heard Terry worked with adults with learning disabilities

++ And aside from music, what other interests or hobbies do you have? And I might ask, who has been the best player ever at Hartlepool United?

Hobbies … up until Millie was born i used to like going up mountains in the Lakes and Scotland with my wife Marcia a day I now front a Specials tribute band called The Extra Specials …we are employing at a few festivals and large scooter rallies this year.

The best ever r player for Pools was Brian Honour (Jacky) ..I have to say that or he will throw tomatoes at our next gig …

++ One last question then, what would you say was the biggest highlight of the Candy Ranch?++ Thanks again for everything, anything else you’d like to add?

One highlight for me was playing with Blur at The Barrowlands in Glasgow

Can i tell a joke?

2 budgies sat on a perch and one turned to the other and said ….”can you smell fish”?

I’ll get me coat, … Keep The Faith x

 

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Listen
Candy Ranch – Up and Away

 

12
Jun

This Friday, the 16th is our release date for the Pale Spectres 7″. All pre-orders have been posted and I’m sending copies to your favourite stores. Because this is an important event and you have already heard “D(r)iving“, the band has uploaded another song from the 7”, “Goodbye“. Enjoy them and order your record!

Well this week there are so many indiepop news that is not easy to make a choice for where to start. I will say though that while I was on vacations there weren’t that many indiepop moments like they used to be in the past. There were no indiepop gigs in Finland. I did go to a record store to buy the new Burning Hearts album, “Battlefields”, and probably that was my indiepop highlight for the trip.

Jessika from Burning Hearts told me that I should be able to get the record from a shop called Levykauppa Äx. So I duly went after visiting the Church in the Rock. There was one on the way to the place we were staying, on Frederikinkatu, close to the Kamppi Center. I looked around and couldn’t find the record. I couldn’t find any indiepop records for that matter. I had to ask to the clerk and told me they didn’t have it but they had the record at another Levykauppa Äx store, the one in Kallio, the hipster neighborhood. So the day after, after going through some World Fair kind of festival that had food from all over, I found the store on Hakaniemen Torikatu or Hagnästorsgatan. Yeah all streets in Helsinki have Finnish and Swedish names. That was really cool. Anyhow, I couldn’t find the record either, but the clerk found it for me. Again I browsed to see if I could find any other Finnish indiepop records, maybe Cessna, The Kidneys or the first Poverty Stinks. But nothing to be found. Anyways, it was a good buy as the record doesn’t seem to be easily available anywhere else in the world.

My other indiepop moments have to do while roadtripping through the Lakeland of Finland, on the way to and back from Savonlinna. My friend Jose brought a little bluetooth speaker and we played mostly El Último Vecino, but I think the best moment was when we played Family’s “Viaje a los Sueños Polares”. Those who understand the lyrics for this song would understand why it is such a perfect song for the setting! It was quite magical! We played it a couple of times, until the battery died.

As I’ve been making notes for news to be shared with you, many other bands announce more news. The weekend was good too. On Saturday I went to Rough Trade and listened to Flying Nun’s Roger Sheperd talk about his book “In Love of These Times”. It was very interesting. I could relate sometimes too. And he had a good sense of humour I thought. I didn’t like the other panelist, nor the interviewer, but well, it was a free thingie so I guess that’s what you get. And then Martin Phillipps playing solo (and with Hamish Kilgour doing some percussion) a bunch of The Chills songs. That was quite something. So happy that I got my lazy self out of Queens all the way to sweaty and packed Williamsburg.

I’ll start this week with the announcement of the new video for “Neon” by The BV’s. I have raved and raved about them. Time after time I feel their songs are just fantastic. They never let me down. Why haven’t they done a 7″ on Cloudberry? I ask myself the same question. In any case, you have to know that “Neon” was included in their first LP “Speaking From a Distance” on Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten which is also brilliant.

I knew about The Royal Landscaping Society going to record for Matinée for ages now. But only a week ago it was official. To mark this event the band and the label shared a gem of  a song, “Moon“. The song is part of the new compilation “Matinée Idols” that is coming out soon. In the near future the band will release a 7″ and as I have heard a little of it, let me tell you it is one you can’t miss. And hopefully, crossing fingers, after that release, they’ll release the long-awaited 7″ on Cloudberry we announced on the fanzine some time ago!

Another band to sign to Matinée is Tinsel Heart. I loved this band when they appeared suddenly on my Facebook some months ago. I wanted to offer them a release but other responsibilities and the economy didn’t let me! The good news is that they found a good home and they are sharing the song “Talk” that also appears on the “Matinée Idols” compilation. Later this year they will release a 7″ as well.

And lastly, also from Matinée is the new The Popguns album. Some weeks ago there was a new song shared by them on their Bandcamp with a limited run CD that I missed. Now you can stream the 10 songs from the album for free but even better you can buy the album “Sugar Kisses” directly from them if you are in the UK or from Matinée in the US. It sounds very good to my ears. Need to message Jimmy!

And coming back to the Augsburg label, the fab Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten, they have announced that they will release the 2nd album by New Yorkers Pale Lights. And another band related to this label, but now on Tapete Records, Zimt, have a new video out, I’m guessing as a promo for their debut album “Glückstiraden” out on August 25th. The song is titled “Schwaches Herz” and what else can I say aside that this is classic pop!

And that’s good enough for this week. There’s a bunch of more news I’m saving for next week. Maybe they won’t be news news by then, but maybe you find something that you missed out!

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It was one of those days. I went back to the classic, if not legendary, Leamington Spa series. Went to look for bands I barely remember. Ones I don’t own their records. Ones that I should find out more. And so I skipped volume 1 and 2. It seems I’ve covered most of those bands already. But on volume 3 there was a band I barely recalled, The Irregulars. Who were they?

The booklet has a photo of the band and some bio. That was a good start.
“Well we all met at school and shared an affinity for The Beatles, floppy fringes, bottled lager and making a racket. We graduated from appalling covers band to actually making some half decent tunes. On our day we sounded like a cross between Orange Juice and Jilted John and were the self proclaimed “Sound of Young Hornchurch”. But we got fed up with playing to one man and his dog in Camden and settled for infrequent gigs in youth clubs instead. Half the time we couldn’t afford the petrol money out of Hornchurch anyway. Chris”

The band was from Hornchurch and one of the members was named Chris. No last name sadly. Where is Hornchurch though? I’ve never heard of that place.
Hornchurch is a suburban town in the London Borough of Havering, East London, England, 15.2 miles (24.5 km) east-northeast of Charing Cross. Historically an ancient parish in the county of Essex, that became the manor and liberty of Havering, Hornchurch shifted from agriculture to other industries with the growing significance of nearby Romford as a market town and centre of administration. As part of the suburban growth of London in the 20th century, Hornchurch significantly expanded and increased in population, becoming an urban district in 1926, and forming part of Greater London since 1965. It is the location of Queen’s Theatre, Havering Sixth Form College and Havering College of Further and Higher Education.

Well, it is in London. Been to London, but never heard of it. Seems I need to do a lot of exploring in perhaps my favourite city still.

My next stop is Discogs. I learn that they actually released something. One flexi in 1988. It was released by the Rocking Frog Promotions label (catalog HORNY TOAD 1). This seems to be the only release by this label, then it may be safe to assume it was a self-release. On the single sided flexi two songs were included “Julie” and “Against the Grain of My Life”. The second song was the one that was included in the Sound of Leamington Spa Vol. 3. I have never heard “Julie”. Maybe someone out there can help?

It seems the flexi didn’t have a proper picture sleeve cover. That is a shame. Maybe it was just used as a promotion tool to get gigs and press reviews. They weren’t especially looking forward to shifting copies. Maybe.

I found some more information on the web. The 2 songs were recorded at Reel to Reel by Joe Steel in Brixton. The sax on “Against the Grain” was played by Terry (Higson) Edwards) from The Scapegoats. I could actually find a website for Terry. Still no clue about The Irregulars band members.

I keep digging deeper and deeper on the web. I find that the band supported in their time the likes of The Wolfhounds, Close Lobsters, Miaow, The Bodines, Blow-Up, McCarthy, Talulah Gosh, Mighty Mighty, The Primitives and Primal Scream.

I couldn’t find anything else. Maybe some of you remember them? I would love what happened to the band members. If they released anything else. If they recorded any other songs. Or if anyone has a spare flexi? Any information would be appreciated!

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Listen
The Irregulars – Against the Grain of My Life

09
Jun

Thanks so much to Mark McCole for the fantastic interview! I wrote about The Sandalwoods time ago and Mark got in touch with me.  Luckily the band was making music again and they were up for answering my many questions! I discovered the band thanks to The Leamington Spa series and I’ve always been eager to listen to more songs from them!

++  So you were telling me that The Sandalwoods are back together, what are the plans for the band now? Maybe there are upcoming gigs already?

Hi Roque, we’ve recorded some new songs and they are in the Mixing Stage at present. They were recorded at John Ellis’s Limefield Studios in North Manchester and we’ll hopefully have them released in the next month or so and we’ll be out gigging them also. John was a vital member of the Sandalwoods back in the day as you’ll see (read on below)…
The new stuff is based on the same Indie Pop influence that we always had but we are now introducing some analogue synths and sequencers. We’ve kept the pop melodies but the lyrics are a a little darker and more direct. New songs (working titles): Pascal’s Wager, Yum Yum, The Story of The Gullible. Attached is a snippet of Stepping Stones.

++ So far I’ve only heard two songs by The Sandalwoods, “The Day is Mine” and “Vanessa” and they are brilliant! If you don’t mind, care telling me the story behind these two songs?

Will wrote the lyrics for these tunes and Vanessa is the only one we could probably attribute a living person to. We knew this beautiful girl called Vanessa who was the girlfriend of ones of our friends and Will decided to use her as his muse, so to speak!!

++ Both of the songs were recorded in the same session in Amazon Studios in Liverpool. How was that experience? Were there any other songs recorded then?

It was a great experience for us. We had done a few demos in various studios prior to this but this was a step up. We were lucky enough to catch the attention of a guy called Simon Duffy (worked with lots of people including the Boo Radleys) who came to a lot of our gigs and he happened to be an Engineer at Amazon Studios. Therefore, he also made the step up and Produced these tracks. As Widehead we did a few other sessions with Simon at Amazon. Will was also involved with the later Widehead stuff.

++ You also mentioned to me that you have other tracks from ‘way back’ but their sound quality is not the best. Even so, I would love to listen to them! But my question is, how many songs did you record and if you remember the names of them?

That’s correct Roque, we recorded many tracks either in small studio’s or on Will’s Four Track Recorder in his apartment. Attached is the track Calendar Girl from Manchester Vol. 1 CD which although not great quality hopefully shows the rougher sound we were into around 1994. Also, attached is a track called Appetite which was a track from one of the Amazon sessions in 1991 (not great quality as it’s an MP3 derived from a recording of a tape).
We have around 25 songs recorded from back in the day so I can’t list every song title but a few stick in the mind: Snake in The Grass, Normal Henry, She Loves You, I’m Just A Gift..……

++ Let’s go back to the early days of The Sandalwoods, to 1986. How did you, Paul and Will met and what made you start a band?

I’d heard of Will, who in the North Manchester area was known as a quality guitarist and he had a 1963 Telecaster which was unheard of for kids in our area! Paul met Will in 1985 and Paul played him a song he wrote which was inspired by The Monochrome Set. Will liked it and that was the start of it really. Together with our close friend Martin we formed the band.

++ And before The Sandalwoods, had any of you had been involved in bands before?

As a teenager Will had already played in a few bands including The Butchers with ex-school friends including Tony Kirkham (now keyboards for the Stereophonics). Paul and I played in a Rockabilly outfit called the Toy Town Trio.

++ What would you say are your first music memories? What sort of music was played at home while growing up? What was your first instrument?

The usual Parent influence for Paul and me which triggered our Country/Rock n Roll/Rockabilly interest which we still enjoy today. A big influence for Paul and I was an older cousin Mozz, who was an original punk who saw all of those bands (Stranglers, Clash, Buzzcocks, Joy Division etc.). He really introduced us to New Wave and very early Indie Music (Orange Juice, early Prefab Sprout etc.). Mozz Doogan has released 5 Albums under the pseudonym Transmission 13:
http://louderthanwar.com/transmission-13-stars-shine-darkness-album-review/
On top of that Paul and I used to obsessively listen to John Peel (every night 10pm) which opened us up to more eclectic music like The Monochrome Set. Will was obsessed by music from a very young age and was a Bowie, early Roxy Music, Talking Heads and Velvet Underground fan before he hits his teens. Will has a really wide range of musical and guitar influences which has been a very important element of our sound over the years
We all started our music life playing the Guitar.

++ Who came up with the band’s name and why the name?

Martin Fisher came up with the name. We’ve known Martin since we were 5 years old and Martin and Paul were in the same class throughout their junior and high school days. Martin has a vivid and creative mind and was coming up with several names including the ludicrous ‘Uncle Fester’s Shark Infested Underwater Botanical Popcorn Garden’!!!! “That’s a tough one to remember Martin. Do you have any shorter ideas?” “What about The Sandalwoods” Martin replied, and it stuck. Martin left the band after about six months. He has always been obsessed with Vinyl records and it was clear his passion was going to be DJ’ing which he still does very successfully today under the guise of MARTIN BREW. Also, check out his Music Mixes under the guise of J-Walk, well worth a listen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ctun-HFsA6s

++ I read that the band played many different styles, from country to reggae and that you also included all sorts of instruments, from sax to accordion. How did that work out for you? And how come you are more known as an indie guitar pop band?

There were a number of bands in the early and mid 80s who were really mixes genres (Prefab Sprout and the Daintees) We saw how it was possible to play a varied style from Country to Jazz, Indie to Pop and that felt natural to us. We all wrote songs and all had our own favourite genres so we decided if the song is good enough then it shouldn’t matter what style it is in. So it wasn’t necessarily our music that was ‘Indie’ it was our approach and abandonment that fitted into the indie ethos. However, we pretty much settled on the Indie Guitar sound by 88’ and hence the tracks you’ve heard.
We all started off as guitarists but we knew we all couldn’t play the guitar and also employ a keyboard, sax player, bass player and drummer. Therefore, we all learnt the basics: Drums, Bass and Keyboards and swapped around but we still needed a multi-instrumentalist which is where John Ellis (Session Player – Corinne Bailey rae, Lilly Allen, John Squire) comes into it as he could play any instrument and was a vital jigsaw piece.

++ You contributed in the 80s songs to two compilations, “This is Manchester Vol. 1” and “Manchester”. How did you end up in those compilations?

This is Manchester Vol. 1 (VANESSA) – We had a good following in the Manchester area and through our gigs and demo’s we got some decent reviews. Tony Davidson who curated the album liked us and asked us if we would contribute. We knew Tony had Key 103 Piccadilly Radio Station in Manchester on board which was great as DJ Pete Mitchell played ‘Vanessa’ many times to promote the album. As a band, you always remember your first radio play! We also had great support from Craig Cash (UK TV Show: Royle Family) who played Vanessa many times on KFM Station.
Sounds Leamington Spa (DAY IS MINE) and Manchester Vol.1 (CALENDAR GIRL) – this was simply a case of the compiler somehow knowing who we were and asked us to contribute.

++ Speaking of Manchester, how was it back then? What were your favourite places to hang out? Your favourite venues to go check out bands? Whereabouts in Manchester were you from?

Will was born and bred in Manchester and has lived here all his life. Paul and I were born in Donegal, Ireland and as small kids moved over to Manchester. We all settled in the ’rough and ready’ streets of Cheetham Hill, North Manchester. If we weren’t gigging ourselves we pretty much had a weekly routine of hanging out at the famous Hacienda, watching bands at The Boardwalk and spending hours at Piccadilly Records challenging ourselves to finding the best, weird and wonderful indie records.
From Joy Division onwards Manchester became a central place for music all the way through the 80’s with A Certain Ratio, New Order, The Fall, The Smiths but in early 1989 everything changed with the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets. The music changed and the city changed in terms of venues popping up everywhere.

++ Why were you listed as The Sandle Woods on the “This is Manchester” compilation? Was that a mistake or you went by that name sometimes? And what was White Metal Music, seems your song was copyrighted under that name.

It was a case of rushing the album out in quick time that meant things weren’t checked before it went to print, hence the misspelling. White Metal Music was the company Tony Davidson set up to issue the release. If we knew then what we know now then we would have controlled our own copyright. Tony Davidson knew what he was doing as he ran off the Spain with the Mastertapes!!!!!

++ How did the creative process work for you? How often did you practice? How many recording sessions did The Sandalwoods do?

We very rarely wrote a song together from scratch in a rehearsal, we didn’t want to be forced into writing like this as the end product is usually garbage. We rehearsed about three times a week however, we would be lucky to get through more than two tunes a night as we always loved the music debates, the joking, the drinking etc…We wrote separately and we would play the song to each other, usually acoustically at Will’s apartment. If we all liked it we would help arrange it. Whoever wrote the song nearly always sang the lead vocal on it. It’s pretty much the same today on our latest batch of songs, the only difference is that we can use Garageband and Logic to demo it. No-one in the band has ever been that precious about their song, we all trust each other when it comes to the critical and appreciation side of evaluating a song. We have all become better musicians and play more instruments and there is more emphasis on melody and instrumentation rather than songs derived from block chord structures (if this makes sense).
In total we did approximately six studio sessions and lots of tunes on Will’s Four Track.

++ Were there any favourite bands in town that you liked or inspired your sound? Did you feel part of a scene?

As teenagers we all jumped on the usual bandwagon at the time The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Pale Fountains etc. There was no internet back then so it was obviously a lot harder to seek out those quality indie bands. However, we quickly picked up on Will’s influence regarding The Velvet Underground and we often incorporated ‘Run, Run, Run’ or ‘I Love You Suzanne’ or ‘There She Goes Again’ into the set. We weren’t really part of the Manchester scene. Partly timing (too late for the New Order phase and too early for Madchester Scene) but also we were not tied to being part of any scene.

++ What about gigs? I could find flyers for a gig at The Gallery and The Boardwalk. Did you play many? Any anecdotes you remember?

We played a lot, from our first gig in North Manchester in 1986 at an outdoor Neighbourhood Festival we played all over Manchester including Manchester University, The Boardwalk many times, The Gallery, The Venue to name a few. We also played across the North West from Leeds University to Liverpool.

++ Did you have a good following you’d say? What was the farthest you played from Manchester?

Yeah, we had a good following in Manchester. Paul and I were lucky enough to have a big circle of family and friends and word spread via them. Will likewise, seemed to know everyone in Manchester! Will knew loads of local bands and through them we also got a decent turn out at gigs.

++ Did you get much attention by the press then? What about radio or fanzines?

We had quite a few good reviews in the NME, Melody Maker, Fanzines etc. We had a very good review by Terry Christian, Manchester Evening News but I would say Mick Middles writing for Sounds Magazine was our best supporter giving us a few good reviews. Will kept a few of these and I have attached them.

++ You split in 1990 and you went to play in many different bands. Care telling me a bit about these bands? Did you release anything?

As Will previously mentioned, Paul and I started Widehead and Will played in this band later on and we just did a few demos in Amazon Studios: Tracks – WIDEHEAD, WALK ON WATER, PERSPIRATION and APPETITE. By the time we hd hit the late 80’s the Pixies were a huge influence and we took a British Indie Pop sound and introduced very Pixie-esque guitar playing
Will was heavily into his Guitars at this stage and built up an armoury of vintage guitars and over 200 vintage and exclusive guitar pedals.
He was the subject of a feature article in the renowned Guitarist Magazine around 2002. Will went on to play with Pete Wylie, Andy Rourke, Brian Glancy (AKA The Seldom Seen Kid) and may more.

++ You reformed in 1994 with a heavier sound and then almost immediately became a covers band, right? Why the decision to reform and then change to a covers band? Are there any recordings from that heavier sound period?

The track Calendar Girl came from this 1994 session. In reality we never really ‘split up’. We have always had phases were we get together play and record and then leave it for a year or two. As we got into our thirties and early forties we had more commitments but thankfully we are now ready to go again hence the new stuff. The covers stuff was just about having a bit of fun and keeping up our playing, however, we were adamant that we would only cover New Wave stuff: Jam, Undertones, Tom Robinson, Squeeze etc

++ Then when did you split again? What did you all do afterwards?

As stated we just lay fallow for a year or two at a time and just got on with our jobs, family etc.

++ Aside from music, what other hobbies do you have?

Will has no other interests apart from Music especially Guitars, he sleeps with a different one every night!! Paul and I love our sport especially Rugby and the famous soccer team Manchester United.

++ Are you still based in Manchester? Has it changed much? What are your favourite places now, any good bands around now? what are the sights no tourist should miss?

Will and I are based in the Prestwich area (home of the Fall and Elbow) of North Manchester and Paul is based in Liverpool. Manchester is even more vibrant and exiting now than ever before. It definitely is the ‘second’ city behind London and the music scene is massive. The only issue is that the music doesn’t feel as exclusive as it once was in the late 80’s/90’s because there is so much of it now.

++ What would you say was the biggest highlight for The Sandalwoods during their time?

Paul was in the bathroom of The Crown and Anchor Pub in Manchester City Centre around 1990 and saw a piece of graffiti on the bathroom wall. It read: “All Manchester Bands are shit including New Order, Happy Mondays and The Sandalwoods”. Not bad company to be in!!

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Listen
The Sandalwoods – The Day is Mine

08
Jun

Moi! Jet-lagged, and with ten thousand things to take care of, that’s how I woke up today, just after returning yesterday from my almost two-week vacation in Finland. I’m exhausted. I had so much energy while traveling, criss-crossing the country and making daytrips to Estonia and Sweden. Would love to share my experiences with you, and will do so shortly. Not on today’s post but next week. This week what I want to do is to get up to date with you all.

First things first then. The Pale Spectres 7″ arrived. They were waiting at home for me. All pre-orders will start shipping this week. The official release date will be announced pretty soon. But you can order the record now and I’ll post them right away. Then The Potting Sheds compilation is ready at the pressing plant. They should be delivered to Cloudberry HQ next week or the following as the latest. Seems like a great start for this summer!

I have a bunch of indiepop news that I have compiled in the past 2 or so weeks since my last post. I’ll tell you 4 this time, and more on the next week. Bear with me. My energy has been drained. And imagine that I got home yesterday and there was no internet. It seems the city while trimming the tree in front of my house cut the cable that provides me internet. I had a technician come in today very early. He finished the job, everything was working. 20 minutes later a food truck passes by and cuts the cable. Who could be more unlucky than me. I left another technician fixing this issue and had to come to work on a barely working 3rd world country subway. I cross my fingers that I’ll have internet when back home. It is not easy the US, especially after coming back from a country, Finland, where things seems to work well, with punctuality.

I’ll start with Alvvays, a superb indiepop band that is loved and cherished by popkids and hipsters. While I was on vacation I couldn’t help but notice all my friends were reposting their new song “In Undertow“. Well, finally I’m listening to it. Yeah, I don’t travel with a computer, my phone is enough to check emails and that sort of thing. And so I wait until getting home to listen to music. I don’t feel comfortable listening to music on the phone generally. Which reminds me, I have to listen to a song by a band I want to release after I finish this post! Anyhow, this pretty song by Alvvays will be included in their second album, “Antisocialites”. It is coming out on September 8th and the band has announced a bunch of gigs starting August and all the way through December. For us in New York, we’ll get the chance to see them on October 5th at Brooklyn Steel.

Talking of NYC gigs, this Saturday at 2pm, Martin Phillips from The Chills will be playing a live set at Rough Trade. The event says that the event is really a talk with Flying Nun’s founder Roger Shepherd. He will be discussing his book “In Love With These Times” alongside Captured Tracks’ Mike Sniper. I love Flying Nun. I don’t like Captured Tracks at all. Bad pairing I’d say. But what can you do. I will just go and enjoy Martin’s music. That is what I care for. And maybe grab a copy of the book? More info on the event here.

My Barcelona friends Papa Topo have a new video out. It is already a year since they released the fantastic album “Ópalo Negro” and so they are celebrating the occasion releasing a new video for perhaps my favourite song in the album, “Enero” . Is that an Evangelion t-shirt Adrià? How much fun it is to see all of the gang, Adrià, Julia, Óscar and Sonia dancing and showing their moves in Power Rangers sort of costumes. I love the video. Reminds me of a lot of cheesy shows I saw when I was a kid like Jiban, Liveman or Flashman.

And last recommendation for this week is also another video by another Spanish band, Axolotes Mexicanos. The song is titled “Trececatorce” and is just being released for now as a digital single. I don’t care much for digital releases as you might know, so I just enjoy, on repeat, this fun little song.

There are many more news for me to cover involving so many bands that I hold dear. But I think that can wait until next week, right?

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A few weeks ago Stefano from Milano, Italy, was visiting NYC. We were having a beer and a burger at a Korean place. Why not. And of course we were talking about indiepop. And the conversation took the obvious turn. Why aren’t there any good Italian indiepop bands? Some say Fitness Forever is an indiepop band, but they aren’t really, are they? It is very hard to think of one with the classic indiepop sound.

It is surprising. I know many Italian indiepop fans. A lot. I once had this same conversation with Peter from Twee.net and he also wondered the same thing. How come there haven’t been good Italian indiepop? And suddenly while talking with Stefano I remembered one band. But at that exact moment their name I couldn’t recall. I told him, “there is a fine band, from the 90s, from Vicenza I think, but I can’t recall the name. Not all of their songs are proper indiepop, but some are and they are great!”.

I remember it now, Blanco y Tango. How do I know about them? Through another indiepop fan, Matthew. I am very grateful for all the indiepop friends that share their knowledge with me! That way I probably will never run out of songs to listen to. But how there was one classic sounding indiepop band in Italy once and now there aren’t? I don’t understand it. But first maybe it would be wise to investigate about them. To be honest, I know about nothing about them.

Discogs usually is my first stop when I go on the lookout for information. There is a tape by Blanco y Tango listed. It is an eleven song album titled “Sogni D’Estate”. The cover looks like a black and white photocopy. The songs are:
A1. L’Entusiasmo E L’Essenziale
A2. Solo Luci
A3. Give Me
A4. Su Di Noi
A5. With Or Without You
A6. Vorrei Scordarmi Di Te
A7. Lay Down
B1. Ci Sei
B2. Sally
B3. Io Correro
B4. Ti Penso

The tape was released by the label Shiny Sunset (catalog Sunset 2) in 1994. This same label had released other compilations and a tape album by the fantastic Snowbirds (who deserve a post here, right?). In some of these compilations released by Shiny Sunset, Blanco y Negro appeared.

The first ever Shiny Sunset release, “The Stunning Scenery of A Shiny Sunset”, had the song “L’Entusiasmo E L”Essenziale”. On “The Charming Trip in the World of Dreams”, Shiny Sunset 5, they contributed the songs “Cite del Nord” and “All to Have It”. On Shiny Sunset 8, “A World of Popkisses”, they had “Fuori O Dentro Te”, “Se Io Fossi Come Te”, “Forse Chissa” and “The Mermaid”. Then on Shiny Sunset 9, “The Colours of an Enchanted Dawn”, they provided the song “Se Io Fossi Come Te”. It is important to say that these were fine compilations, they counted with classic indiepop bands in them like They Mayfields, Acid House Kings, Bomb Pops, Red Sleeping Beauty, Love Parade, and more! Who were these Shiny Sunset? What I could find out is that it was actually an Italian label ran by Marco Pagano from Creazzo. So yeah, there used to be a proper indiepop tape label in Italy too!

Creazzo was in the province of Vicenza. So there was a connection surely with the band Blanco y Tango.

Vicenza is a city in northeastern Italy. It is in the Veneto region at the northern base of the Monte Berico, where it straddles the Bacchiglione River. Vicenza is approximately 60 kilometres (37 mi) west of Venice and 200 kilometres (120 mi) east of Milan.Vicenza is a thriving and cosmopolitan city, with a rich history and culture, and many museums, art galleries, piazzas, villas, churches and elegant Renaissance palazzi. With the Palladian Villas of the Veneto in the surrounding area, and his renowned Teatro Olimpico (Olympic Theater), the “city of Palladio” has been listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.

Well, there is a Facebook page for the band. Not too many likes. Maybe we can change that. First important information, the band members:
Elisabetta R. on vocals
Caterina R on vocals and guitars
Giuseppe M. on guitars
Alex S. on bass
Marco Z. on drums (up to 1991)
Giovanni Z. on drums (after 1991)

Then there’s a little biography, from it we know that the band was born in 1991. That at the beginning the band style was heavily influenced by English pop and then they moved to a more pop-rock sound. They played many gigs and didn’t record an album. The tape on Shiny Sunset is actually their demo-tape. They also contributed a song to the “Rock Contest” album, though I’m not sure what this is actually.

On the Facebook page I see many stills from what seems a live performance. Maybe it was broadcasted on TV?

The next stop on the web is Soundcloud. We find Giuseppe Mantia’s account where he has uploaded a bunch of Blanco y Tango songs. Here you can listen to “01”, “I Will Find My Lover”, “Interferenze”, “Mermaid” and “Se Io Fossi Come Te”. I dig a little further and find out Giuseppe has been in other bands like Pneuma and Poesia e Diva.

I try to find out more about the other members of the band but it looks difficult. Not having their last name makes it harder.

I feel my favourite song is “L’entusiasmo e l’essenziale”. That’s when they are at their poppiest. Not all of the songs on their demo or the Soundcloud will sound indiepop. Some are darker, some rockier. But the band could chime guitars in a fantastically, in a way I haven’t heard any other Italian band. Listen and tell me if I’m wrong!

Does anyone remember them? What happened to the members afterwards? Have you heard any other fine Italian indiepop bands? Would love to know more!

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Listen
Blanco y Tango – L’entusiasmo e l’essenziale