Thanks so much to Shaun Blezard for this fantastic interview! The Peach Thieves were around in the late 80s and only released one flexi with two songs “Out of Nowhere” and “Morecambe Bay”. A very rare record, that probably many of you haven’t heard, which I’m still trying to track down, but definitely worth your attention! It’s proper indiepop, with the right influences, with the right jangle. Now discover the wonders of The Peach Thieves!
++ Hi Shaun! Thanks so much for being up for this interview! I see you are still involved in music? Not indiepop though, right? Tell me what are you up to these days?
I work with electronics these days – part ambient (darkish) and improvisation and free jazz – kind of experimental I guess – I play solo as Clutter (working with field recordings and part sound art), Hugs Bison (iPad duo), Kipple (6 piece free jazz and electronics) + other one off things as they come along. You can see the kind of things I do at my website shaunblezard.net
++ Let’s go back in time. Were you involved with any other bands before The Peach Thieves? If so, care telling me a bit about them?
The Peach Thieves was my first band – I’d been very into music before then but never played an instrument till I joined the band.
++ And so when do The Peach Thieves start as a band? Who were the members? What did you each play? and how did you all know each other?
The Peach Thieves started in 1986 – Members Phillip Messenger: guitar, vocals – Johnny Picthall: guitar, vocals – Shaun Blezard: bass & Chris (can’t remember his second name): drums
Me & Phil went to school together so had known each other for years, Johnny we met in the training school at the shipyard we were all apprentices at in Barrow and Chris was a friend of a friend – he didn’t stay long as he was a serious rock type and we were a little cutsey and silly for him – he left and Neil Kemp joined on drums
++ When was the first time you picked up a bass? Do you still own your first one? What’s your favourite bass that you own?
I bought a cheap bass after joining the band it was an Italian copy of a rickenbacker (the guitar shape not the bass) not sure where it ended up, I then had a Peavey which was OK, then a 70’s white Rickenbacker which was lovely (I had to sell it to pay a tax bill though 🙁 still miss it) got given a Westone which is still my main bass – looks horrible but sounds and plays lovely, the only other bass I have is an acoustic
++ Where does the name the Peach Thieves come from?
It’s from a film The Peach Thief a 1960’s Bulgarian film, that I’ve still never seen – I think we were wanting to sound a bit arty – it’s on youtube if you want to see it http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dPBalNuBxfE
++ And I do need to ask this kind of silly question, but are peaches your favourite fruit? Did you all like them?
Not a massive peach fan – I love bananas, satsumas and Royal Gala apples the most – not sure about the others – there was no crazy peach parties that I remember
++ Who would you say were bands that influenced your sound as The Peach Thieves?
Orange Juice, The Pastels, Weather Prophets, Jonathan Richman, The Chesterfields, Primal Scream – we would have died happy to put out a 7″ on either Subway, 53rd & 3rd or Creation
++ Tell me about where were you based? What were the other cool bands in town? And the best places to go to gigs or play gigs?!
We were and I still am based in Cumbria – a beautiful part of the UK – we’re just outside the Lake District so lots of mountains and lakes but Barrow where we played most is a tough working class town – the bands we got on with were Red Hour and Masai Buckeroo the only other ‘indie’ bands around Red Hour were kind of like the Wedding Present/Television and Masai Buckeroo wanted to be Butthole Surfers – we played our very first gig on the same night in 86 in fact – Best venue by far was The Labour Club – sadly not there anymore but a great left wing bar with an upstairs concert hall – spent many happy hours in there.
++ Talking about gigs did you play many? Which were your favourite gigs as The Peach Thieves and why?
That first one in a village called Leece at a place that our friend Johnny G rented – it was an old farm house and we played in the driveway with lots of other bands on during the night – Johnny’s parties were legendary and lasted a couple of days…also Johnny G’s birthday in 1987 where we played in his living room for him and a dozen friends – the best we ever went down. The other one that sticks in the memory was in Lancaster where people took us seriously, which they often didn’t in Barrow and we signed autographs – that was great
++ You only released the one flexi with two songs, “Out of The Nowhere” and “Morecombe Bay”. Any chance you could tell me the story behind these two songs?
Out of The Nowhere was just a dumb song with Phil trying to be cool name checking the Man From UNCLE etc – Morecambe Bay is based on a jazz excercise and is based in the local area of Morcambe Bay – We tried to do songs with a local flavour – still like this song a lot, lovely melodies. You would have to find Phil to ask him about any deeper meanings.
++ What do you remember from the recording session of the flexi?
Not too much, it was at Low Fold, about the only local studio run by a ‘rock’ type – thus the overly processed production – we wanted it to be rougher sounding but didn’t know enough about things to change it – the recordings are OK though 🙂 I wasn’t at all good at this time and all my parts were written for me by Phil or Johnny so it was slow going……
++ Were you also behind the label that put it out? Uncle Records? How was that experience of promoting, selling, distributing your own record?
It was our own label as no label were interested and there weren’t many we would have signed to in our youthful principled way – promotion was mainly through fanzines so we sold quite a few that way and at gigs – we were far too innocent to understand real promotion, you just talked to other bands, swapped records, sold stuff at gigs – a real nice scene
++ And why did you decide to do it as a flexi and say not a 7″? And how come you didn’t get to release more records?
We did a flexi as everyone was doing them at the time, I think we liked the throw away quality of them, we were planning to do a 7″ next but Phil decided he wasn’t cut out to be in a band and so we split up – Myself and Neil went on to form a 7 piece psychedelic country band called The Clementines (https://archive.org/details/inhanksgarage), Johnny was in a band called Cloudtown for a bit and Phil popped up in a post rock band in Manchester for a while in the 90s
++ Do you happen to have more recorded material? Are there more Peach Thieves songs hiding in tapes in someone’s cupboard maybe?
I have some rehearsals and a couple of gig recordings on cassette – no studio stuff though. I have transferred a little of the tapes to CD but I think they will have to stay in the volt for now 🙂 I must go back and have a listen, we were getting pretty good towards the end
++ The curious part of the flexi is that it is dedicated to Vic Goddard. Were you good friends?
No we heard he was retired from the music industry and was a postman after his stuff like Holiday Hymn went down badly which we all loved so we dedicated it to him for that reason.
++ And then what happened to you guys? When and why did you split?
Phil decided he wasn’t wanting to be a musician so he left, and as he was the main songwriter it finished the band – He wasn’t interested in the travelling about and rehearsal etc – this was mid 1986. A short while later The Clementines formed on the picket line of the shipyard we worked in – Me, Neil and a few others thought it would be fun to put a country band together to raise funds for the strike, this is why we ended up a 7 piece – we played the usual fast Johnny Cash covers and 60’s byrds type stuff – we ended up being together for nearly 5 years
++ After The Peach Thieves, were you guys still involved with music? And do you still happen to listen to indiepop?
Phil left the band and moved to Manchester and lives there with wife and kids – not seen him in ages and I don’t think he plays music anymore. Chris went off and last thing I heard was brewing his own beer, Johnny played a little in town and still plays but not in public, Neil played in some great bands but sold his kit and got married I think, I played in The Clementines, then a Neil Young inspired band called The Behans then drifted into dance music – this ended up as Clutter, not really dance but have been involved in electronics for 15 years or so, but have started playing bass again here and there in Krautrock types things, also I’m learning to play the banjo old timey style. I still listen to some indie pop – Wedding Present, McCarthy, Wolfhounds and Orange Juice among lots of other stuff
++ Looking back, what would you say was the best part of being in The Peach Thieves?
Being a really shy boy, nearly sick when we played with my back to the audience to actually enjoying it and starting to feel like a musician, which has never left me – I still love playing live, not nervous anymore but it still excites me and I enjoy the travelling when I can. The feeling of really playing well together, when it clicks is like nothing else, much more important to me than fame.
++ Today, aside from music, what other hobbies or activities do you enjoy doing aside from music?
Music is still a huge part of my life but I also do film, animation, photography, graphic design and production management – I’ve been freelance for 14 years doing all this as an artist but also in the community – working with school kids, older people doing all kinds of exciting art and music. I love this side of things as much as the being paid to create – I’m just about to start a big animation and digital art project in 6 primary schools in Barrow which will be brilliant!! I am also Learning Officer at a working 18th Century water mill – I work there 2.5 days a week finding interesting ways to share the mills history and heritage – so far this has included a one off radio station with teenagers, animations and getting to know the area.
++ Let’s wrap it now! Thanks a lot Shaun! Anything else you’d like to add?
Just how nice it’s been answering your questions – after so long I can only guess it’s like being from an old garage band and knowing people still enjoy your little thing you created 🙂 Been real fun