I’m very pleased to interview The Sainsburys! And also very happy to announce that this June 30th a retrospective CD by them will be out on Cloudberry! It includes all of their recorded songs and it’s just fabulous! Because of that, and because The Sainsburys are such an underrated band, David Wood, from the band, and me, had a nice talk!

++ Hello David! Thanks for being up for the interview. So, we are releasing a 3″ CD including all the Sainsburys songs. All the recorded output! For those who have never listened to the band, who I would suspect are many, can you tell them what to expect from this record?

Hi Roque! Thanks for asking me! Firstly, Ant sends his apologies, he says he can’t join us today as he has to attend to his mum’s garden. The Sainsburys existed for a very short period in the late eighties.

We were, basically, inspired by being aged 17, and by the music of the time. We were also inspired by the fact that if you were into indie music, and you owned a guitar and/or a tambourine, then you could get get yourself a band, and maybe even a gig or two.

Peel, Kershaw and Nightingale were playing The Railway Children, The Wedding Present, The Shop Assistants, The Primitives, Close Lobsters, The Darling Buds, and The Bhundu Boys. We loved all of it, along with a few bands that had been around for a while such as New Order, Echo and The Bunnymen ,The Smiths, The Fall and Husker Du. Local bands were a massive reason why we wanted to be part of the scene. “My mate’s mate is in a band you know, and he is having a record released” was the kind of talk that made us want a piece of that too….The Rosehips were our heroes, in our minds, they’d hit the big time, their first single making it way up into the indie charts.

In short, we were trying to create songs with pace and melody, “Talulah Gosh jamming with The Bhundu Boys” as we were once described.

++ So let’s go back in time to 1987. You started a band then called The DirtTruckers. Was this your first band ever? What did it sound like?

DirtTruckers was my first band. There were four of us, Doulton Redmond (vocals), Neil Harrison (guitar), Mark Hassall (drums) and myself. We played one gig at Bridge Street Arts Centre, with Bubblegum Splash …..I think. As far as I can remember, it was distorted jangly guitars.

++ You said you were inspired to start a band by the other local bands in the indiepop scene in Stoke of Trent. Which were these other bands that you loved? Were you all friends?

There were quite a few bands popping up in Stoke, The Rosehips having the most success. Exit Condition were a brilliant band inspired by the American punk scene. The Flood, The Vicarage Gardens and The Singing Curtains were also knocking about then. The latter we enjoyed friendly rivalry with and we’d take great joy in
heckling at each other’s gigs. (As I remember, Mark used to drum for them too. Mark tended to be in every band in Stoke at that time, but the point of difference for The Sainsburys was that our band was the only band he wrote the music for.) Once, a Singing Curtain phoned me up and offered us a lucrative record deal, pretending to be Martin Whitehead…..I was gutted when I heard at least 2 other Singing Curtains burst
out laughing in the background…

Yes, we were all friends….so much so we freely borrowed each others drummers and guitarists on a frequent basis.

++ And then Paula joined to sing in the band and The Sainsburys were born, right? How was the recruiting process? And yeah, how did all The Sainsburys knew each other?

Mark and I decided that The DirtTruckers should move on and a female vocalist would be required. The recruitment process was very simple. Why should we conform to usual formalities of actually hearing the proposed singer, sing before signing them up… this, after all was rock n roll. Basically, we both thought Paula was cool so we asked her to join.

++ And why the name The Sainsburys? You don’t like Tesco? ;)

To be honest….I haven’t a clue where the name came from…..all the names we could think of were rubbish….The Sainsburys was the least rubbish of all I guess.

++ So tell me about this song Canal John? Who is it based on?

Paula wrote all the lyrics….she never would say who this canal based youth was…we just presumed that it was about the same bloke who had the fetish for cakes in “Cake Shop”. So if you see a man of about 40 eating large quantities of cakes on the towpath of the Trent and Mersey Canal…he’s your man.

++ And the Cake Shop? Do you know there is a very nice venue in New York with the same name? Many great indiepop gigs are held there!

Ace….If that isn’t a good enough reason for The Sainsburys to reform for one last gig…I don’t know what is…although Ant has asked me to add that there is more chance of him being capable of playing for Stoke City FC than being able to keep up with the old Sainsburys Jit.

++ I think, Ate the Most should have been a HUGE hit. It’s even great to dance! How did this song come up? What is it about? And then I’m curious, who wrote the songs in The Sainsburys?

Paula wrote the words, Mark wrote all of the music including the vocal melodies and the lead guitar melodies. Mark came from a choral background. He applied his experience to melodies especially later on when he was a member of The Venus Beads and writing their songs too. At first, we just jammed songs out
in my parents garden shed but gradually Mark took over and we started to play better tunes like “Ate the Most” and “My Favourite Colour”. Before we split up, we were playing some great tunes that seemed to be much more melodic and sophisticated. Songs like “If You Gave Me Your Jacket” and “At the River”, spring to mind and we played these at a few gigs. I’ve got an old, very badly recorded gig somewhere, and you can
tell that the songs were taking on a much better, more thought out form…this was all down to Mark.

I’m afraid I don’t know what the song is about…I presume “Ate the Most” is yet another reference to the fat guy eating cakes by the canal?

++ Was there any interest from labels to release your songs? It’s hard to believe they weren’t released then. They are so good!

I don’t think there was any interest from record companies (although Ant seems to think otherwise)…but then I think that was partly our own problem as I don’t think we marketed or pushed ourselves forward enough. It wasn’t enough to be just doing a few gigs here and there, we should have been making labels listen to our music more, like other bands did…..especially with stuff like “Ate the Most”.

++ I remember reading about The Sainsburys in a couple of fanzines, were you an avid reader of them? How involved were you in the fanzine scene? I was also wondering, these zines usually would give away
tapes, was there any Sainsburys’ songs on them? Yep, I used to enjoy reading them. I did my own once…it was awful.

Glen Rosehip’s “Vandolized Idol” was my favourite, I also liked 2 Pints Take Home.

We were on a couple of tapes, the one I can remember is Shoot The Tulips. I think there were tracks on there by Talulah Gosh, The Groove Farm and one or two others. There was talk of us doing a flexi at one point too but I don’t think that ever happened.

++ You played gigs with the likes of The Darling Buds, The Groove Farm and The Rosehips. Any particular anecdotes you could share? Wish I could have met Andrea then myself!

Anecdotes? There’s been much water, wine, whisky and beer under the bridge since 1987.

I remember that at the time, I couldn’t believe that at the age of 17, I was part of a band supporting all my musical heroes….The Darling Buds, The Groove Farm and all those others. Sometimes, when Ant and Mark were playing gigs as members of The Rosehips, I’d get to tag along and we’d get to meet even more of our heroes….I remember having tomatoes on toast with My Bloody Valentine at Rocker’s flat after a Rosehips gig once….now that’s pure rock and roll.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days down in Caerleon near Newport with Harley, Bloss and Andrea from The Darling Buds just before there first top 40 hit. Many beers were had and at one time I’d be able to tell you a few anecdotes about it…but I can’t remember them.

I loved the gigs that we played at….we just treated them as a night out and had as much fun as we possibly could. Playing gigs on stages in far away places like Bristol on stages where our heroes played was a dream come true for us.

++ What other gigs do you remember?

Remember Fun and The Orchids came down from Scotland once to do a gig in Stoke and my mother made them all sleep in the garden shed. I don’t think it was a comment about their music particularly, she was just mean.

One of the best nights of my life was a New Year’s Eve in Bristol. For one reason or another, my parents had forbidden me to go out that night, so in true, rock n roll style, Ant came and picked me up and I “ran away” to Bristol for the night, specifically to the Flatmates New Years Eve gig/party, at the Tropic Club I think.

Rocker then took us to every New Year’s Eve party in Bristol and we got back
to his flat at about 9.30am.

++ Do you still listen or follow any indiepop bands? How do you remember the scene then? Was it friendly and supportive?

I still listen to loads of music from the late 80’s and early 90’s. I’m sure l listen to George Best at least once a week. I love My Bloody Valentine from that period but rarely do I find an appropriate time to listen to it these days. MBV at it’s best needs to be at number 11 on the volume dia. The kids moan if I go beyond 4. Still listen to Husker Du…and I enjoy trawling through youtube to find vids from those days. If I could only have on cd in my collection it would be George Best.

The only band I keep up with today is Teenage Fanclub….I like loads of new bands though who owe alot to the indiepop of the late eighties…new bands like Stornoway I think are ace.

I remember the scene then very fondly, especially as given the age that I was, I absolutely lapped it up. I used to love getting into Ant’s battered old mini and driving to gigs all over the place. Everyone was very friendly and gave us loads of encouragement, especially The Rosehips and the Buds.

++ So what happened? Why did the band split?

We didn’t really split. Mark started to write some ace songs, ones that were noticably different. Paula announced that she was going off to university and we just carried on with Mark’s songs. The music was becoming more serious, the gain knob was being more and more clockwise every practice session, and Mark and Ant were set on a new direction. We asked Rob to join and that was it…I left and then The Venus Beads had evolved.

++ And were any of you involved with music after? Are you all still in touch?

I’m in touch with Ant regularly. We go to watch Stoke City when they’re at home. Ant has been involved in music ever since, he owns and manages The Sugarmill, an ace music venue in Stoke. I’ve not spoken to Mark for years and haven’t seen Richard or Paula since the day they left The Sainsburys. I’ve tried to find them on Facebook etc but no joy.

++ What does David Wood does nowadays? I’ve heard about a nice fancy wine store, is that so?

Yep…I own a wine and whisky shop, called The Wine Shop..in a very obvious “Cake Shop” kind of way. I also own an independent whisky bottling company.

The shop is ace, quite old fashioned, loads of lovely wines, continental beers, spirits etc… all top notch.

++ What’s your favourite wine then?

Very difficult question! I love really gutsy Sauvignon Blanc, typically from New Zealand, but also a sucker for a really oaky Chardonnay, such as Marmesa Hollister Peak Chardonnay from California….I’m a big fan of whisky too.

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

If anyone knows the whereabouts of Paula, Richard or indeed Canal John, the overweight guy who ate the most cakes…please let me know?


The Sainsburys – Ate the Most

3 Responses to “:: The Sainsburys”

Maybe my favourite Cloudberry release by now. And this is saying a lot!

Yago Galleta
September 6th, 2012


Great piece on one of the best bands ever to come out of Stoke-on-Trent.

I too have tried to find a few people from the heady days of the late eighties and the indie-pop scene from then, but with little luck.

David, Ant, maybe see you one day at the Britannia?

Dom Vicarage Garden
November 16th, 2012

[…] Often played with THE ROSEHIPS, a Stoke based 5 piece indie band with MARK HASSALL on drums, and a lead singer named PAULA. Other members included ANT PRICE & DAVID WOOD. ANT PRICE also played with THE ROSEHIPS, THE SINGING CURTAINS & THE VENUS BEADS. ANT PRICE died in 2010. Interview here: http://www.cloudberryrecords.com/blog/?p=120 […]