Thanks so much to Grant Madden for the interview. Read about his later band, The Halftime Oranges here.
++ Hi again Grant! Thanks again for being up for another interview. We talked before about The Halftime Oranges but, now it’s time for your first band, Passing Clouds! First thing one notices is that the sound is very different, how would you explain the sound of Passing Clouds for those who hasn’t listened to it?
It’s loud and noisy but there is some pop in there too. Maybe not easy listening but better for it.
++ So how did the band start? How did you all meet each other?
Adam and Anne, from the band, had an advert up looking for people to form a band with which I answered I can’t remember exactly all the bands on the advert
they used as influences to narrow down who replied but I remember they were bands I liked and I seem to remember in particular The Blue Aeroplanes were in there who I did like a lot. at the time.
So we met up had a rehearsal with us and a drum machine and it went well enough to prompt another rehearsal and so on.
++ And what about the name of the band? Who came up with it?
I did. I’d had it floating round in my head as a good name for a band for a while (even though I wasn’t in a band but that’s the kind of thing you do when you are young and into music).
Passing Clouds were a brand of cigarettes that were oval shaped, they failed to catch on, they looked like you’d sat on them and crushed them whilst they were in the back pocket of your trousers.
++ Maybe this is a silly question, but do you have some sort of favourite kind of cloud?
I don’t think I did then but now definitely the Mackerel formation. This is where there are many small clouds in the sky that look like fish scales or gentle ripples on the surface of water. I think (I have just tried to look this up) they are cirrocumulus clouds, I could be wrong though.
++ Who were Bite Back! Records? How did you end up signing with them?
We sent out demos and they were interested. I can’t remember if there was a reason why we chose them, whether they had seen us and expressed an interest or whether there was a band on the label that sounded like us or one of us liked. We recorded the first single before they had agreed to release it but they said they’d give it a listen and do so if they liked it. And they must have done so, at least a little bit.
It was quite well received and so I guess that led to the second single.
++ I see the catalogue sheet inside your releases and no name rings a bell. Would you recommend me any of your labelmates?
We played with The Psylons once and they were good. I have records by some of the other bands that I was given at the time I can remember the names but not really what they sounded like. Noisebox records in Norwich were started by Pete Morgan who had been in one of the other bands which had babies in the name but I forget the full name, maybe Crash Babies.
++ Your first release was the “Protect Your Baby Ears” EP, I guess you were trying to say that you were coming up with some beautiful noise! Was that the idea? What do you remember from recording this great EP? Any anecdotes you can share?
Something very much along that idea. I know it came to me whilst at a gig by a noisy American band Anastasia Screamed, (I think they were supporting The Throwing Muses) and there was a young couple in front of me and I imagined it as something one of them may have said to the other.
++ For some reason when I read the title of your second EP “Creation’s Happy Reel” i think of Creation Records. Is there any relation with them on the title? In any case, I think your records would have fitted fine in that label, and I wonder what is your impression of what Creation Records did for independent music?
No it came from a poem about passing clouds by Stevie Smith that my sister passed me a copy of.
I like some creation bands and not others which I guess most people would say and off the top of my head I’d be fairly predictable in saying Velocity Girl by Primal Scream
was my favourite song on Creation. I liked House of Love a lot also.
I’m sure Creation were positive influence for indie music.
++ So were these the only 8 songs you recorded? Or are there more of them lying down in some tapes somewhere? Maybe there were some demo tapes released?
There should be lots of demos.
I’m not sure there is much well recorded stuff around.
I think some of the demos came out on tapes given away with fanzines at the time.
And certainly some came out on the wonderful fluff records on tapes they did.
I tended to like everything fluff did.
After I left the band carried on and released 1 track on a la-di-da records compilation.
The 1 track on la-di-da was 1 of 3 recorded for the 3rd ep. So the other 2 must exist somewhere.
My bits were removed for the la-di-da release !
After this the band changed their name to Fiel Garvie who went on to release lots of stuff.
++ And then, in general, what are your favourite songs by Passing Clouds and why?
‘Not Said’ it was the lead song on the first ep.
I like my lyrics they are not brilliant but I think I surprised myself with them.
++ I want to ask you about the story behind “Into Hole”, it’s such a nice song! Oh! And if Beverley from “Beverley Goes” is a real character?
I struggle to remember what I was thinking when I wrote the lyrics to these songs but I think ‘into hole’ is about being desperately tired all the time and struggling
to cope with life when you feel like that.
Yes Beverley was somebody real and I didn’t bother to change her name to protect the innocent.
I doubt she ever heard it.
++ On the Last.fm bio it says “Passing Clouds achieved limited success at the cusp of the indie/dance crossover, remaining very much on the indie side of the fence.” I agree with it, your sound is much closer to say, The Pastels than to the Stone Roses. But were you influenced by Madchester at all? Or you were just labelled as indie/dance by some journalists? How was that?
I never saw us as an indie dance band – I think that was just what somebody wrote.
The Madchester stuff was happening when we were going and I am sure it was an influence because I was a huge fan of music when I was younger and had more time so I listened to lots more stuff and went to lots more gigs but I wouldn’t say it was a big influence.
Comparisons are always interesting because people see things you don’t see yourself and they might like you because of this.
++ Something I like a lot about Passing Clouds is the boy/girl vocals. I think they mix really well! So I’m guessing most of the songs were written by you and Anne? Or how did the creative process work?
Me in the main and Anne did her bits – we didn’t discuss it too much. Nerves or embarrassment I think.
Sometimes I would say a song is about something and probably wouldn’t be very helpful and only give her 1 word to go on.
If she misunderstood what I was aiming for it didn’t matter because the confusion added something to the battle of the voices.
++ I asked you about Norwich bands last time, but I wonder now, what about the venues in town? What were your favourites to play at?
In those days there was the Jacquard club popular because of its late license, its been shut a long time now, it may be shops I don’t know. The Wilde Club at Norwich Arts Centre was the best place for local bands to get a gig, Barry who ran it would put local bands on to play as supports to bands who were on tour so you got to play in front of a reasonably sized audience. The Waterfront opened around that time and put on a lot more bands than it does now (it lost lots of money doing this as well). We also played the Bystanders club which had a small theatre upstairs and rarely put on bands but I remember it was packed when we played which was fantastic. I think in the main it was a drinking club for postal workers.
++ And yeah, what about Passing Clouds gigs? Did you play many? Which are the ones you particularly remember the most?
We played a lot of gigs.
I suppose I have mentioned the Bystanders gig above being a good one.
Supporting The Fall in Portsmouth was good because I love The Fall.
We supported a female hardcore band called Die Cheerleader who did ‘Harper Valley PTA’ in the sound check but not the gig, I love that song and their version was excellent, faithful if a bit rougher than the original.
++ One last stop in Norwich… and it’s kind of lunch time for me and I’m starving, what’s the traditional meal or dish in your town?
In the culinary area it is famous for mustard (Colmans) and Britain’s most famous tv chef (Delia Smith) is one of the owners of the local football team (Norwich City).
++ And well, yes we have to ask, why and when did Passing Clouds call it a day?
I left for the Oranges the band carried on and became fiel garvie, I am not sure if they have totally given up but they are dormant now.
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
Well as before if you want to hear anything by the passing clouds send me an email to email@example.com with your name and address and I’ll send you something.
Passing Clouds – Into Hole