Thanks so much to Janie Nicoll for the interview! Check more songs at their myspace!
++ Who were The Vultures? How did you knew each other and how did the band start?
The Vultures were myself, Janie Nicoll (vocals), Allison Young (Bass), Anna Watkins (Lead guitar) and Ian Binns on Drums. Anna, Allison and I were all at Edinburgh College of Art in the same year. Allison and Anna, had persuaded Ian to be the drummer and a bit later asked me to join the band, and we started practicing in the practice rooms off Blair Street, sharing with Jesse Garon and Rote Kapelle and various other bands. We didn’t have a drum kit, amps or any equipment so we used the other bands’ equipment .
Ian Binns was in about 4 other bands (including Rote Kapelle, The Thanes, the Stayrcase) at our first gig at the Onion Cellar, he was in at least 2 of the other bands playing that night.
Later we had Andy Clements on drums, and when Anna left, David Nicol played lead guitar.
++ All of you were art students, right? What was your major? How close of a relationship was there between the art you studied and the music The Vultures were making?
Allison and I were in the Tapestry Department, which was and still is, a very forward thinking department, more about installation than weaving. Then I changed to Painting. We both had a fairly punky approach to our work. Allison used make up the posters, just collaging images together in quite a spontaneous jokey way, that worked really well, and she also designed the cover for the EP, so it was influenced by that sixties Psychedlic look, but in quite a tongue in cheek kind of a way. Very rough and ready, but we were all into the sixties garage sound of the Sonics, and the do-it-yourself quality of the music. Anna dropped out after 1st or second year I think but we ended up sharing a flat together and we used to go to a mid week club called the Snake Pit, that played grungy sixties tracks.
++ Why the name The Vultures?
Allison and Anna chose the name, I think they wanted something that sounded a bit aggressive even though we were a “girl band”, but we were always fairly embarrassed by the name. Embarrassment was quite a major feature of being in the band!!
We first did a demo on a 4 track porta-studio with the help of Angus McPake, who was in Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes, and later the Fizzbombs. The demo seemed to end up getting bandied about in London and getting a good reaction, probably because we were 3 girls of a certain age. We played the Black Horse in Camden with Jesse Garon, and we got an enthusiastic review in Sounds. The Happy Mondays had played the bar 2 weeks before! Also I had met up with My Bloody Valentine, as they stayed at my flat after they supported Sonic Youth when they played the Edinburgh Venue. I gave them a copy of our demo and they really liked it. When they next played in Scotland we supported them in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
++ You recorded a 12″ for Narodnik Records. How did the deal happen? Were you good friends with them? Or they were loyal followers of yours? The label seems a bit obscure even though they released indiepop luminaries as Jesse Garon and The Desperadoes, care telling us a bit more about the label?
Narodnik records was run by Eddie Connelly who had been in Meat Whiplash, a band from East Kilbride, who had an early Creation single, and who were pals of the Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Shop Assistants. Eddie was going out with Alex, and Paul from MW was going out with Sarah from the Shop Assistants and they went on to form the Motorcycle Boy, after Alex left the Shop Assistants. Eddie had set up Narodnik records on one of those government schemes for setting up a business (Enterprise Allowance). He had already put out singles by Jesse Garon and the Fizzbombs and I think they thought we were a bit raw-er and less twee, nobody was keen to be labeled as twee back then it wasn’t very cool.
We were all quite friendly as it was quite a close nit music community.
Eddie and Alex ended up sharing a flat with my then boyfriend David Scott, who went on to play lead guitar in Motorcycle Boy. It was all very incestuous!
++ What do you remember from the recording sessions of the Good Thing EP? Any anecdotes you can share?
We first recorded the four track EP at Jamie Watson’s old Chambers studio, below Avalanche records, just down the road from Edinburgh College of Art, with Douglas Hart from the Jesus and Mary Chain producing it. He had produced one of Jesse Garon’s singles and wanted to do ours, which all seemed quite glamorous as the JAMC were pretty huge at that time. Unfortunately it wasn’t up to scratch and that got shelved. We then re-recorded it at Jamie’s new studio in Portobello and it worked out a lot better. That went pretty well except for the maracas on “You’re Not Scared” which Jamie ended up having to do himself because none of us could get it right. He made me promise not to tell the rest of the band so that’s that cover blown…
We also made a video, with a photographer friend of mine. It was really arty with us dancing on our backs in Princes Street, photographed from above on top of massive photos and doing a pre Stone Roses paint splattering session in a studio but unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate a copy of that for our Myspace site.
++ How many copies of the 12″ were released? Maybe I haven’t looked well, but I can’t find a copy for myself!
I think we had a thousand made but we never knew if they were particularly well distributed. We imagined they were just sitting in boxes in a warehouse somewhere. You can get them on Ebay and there are specialist shops in Britain and the US that stock it, so it is still available. The single got good reviews apart form some “feminist” female writer at the NME (which for me was the only record paper that mattered) who took objection to the Jack the Ripper track, so we were a bit down hearted about that.
++ Also you have many unreleased songs, right? How many demo tapes were recorded? Why wasn’t there more releases from the band? Will there be some kind of retrospective release one day
We only recorded one demo of six songs but we recorded the 4 track EP and we did the Janice Long session, we had a couple of new songs and various other tracks that I only have as live versions. I have a taped copy of the gig we did at Barrowlands with MBV’s on one side and us on the other. But there is a lot of feedback from the guitar so it’s a really bad recording. I think Eddie gave up on putting out records after our EP and they went full steam ahead with Motorcycle Boy, front page of the NME and a tour with the Jesus and Mary Chain.
++ You gigged quite a bit, supporting great and important bands like The Pastels or My Bloody Valentine! Which were your favourite Vultures gigs and why?
Most gigs are a blur as we were always so nervous that we just raced through each tune as fast as we could. Our sets only lasted about twenty minutes! The most memorable ones were supporting my Bloody Valentine at Rooftops and Barrowlands Revue Bar, as the MBV’s were starting to get well known and also Motorcycle Boy at Potterrow and the Venue. I think the Venue was a great place for gigs I went there a lot to clubs like Splash 1, etc. The Pastels were always quite shy. I still see Steven around in Glasgow at gigs. Also playing the Black Horse in Camden was a highlight as it was only about our 5th gig and we got a really good response which we didn’t expect, and we got an enthusiastic review in Sounds.
++ Do you still live in Edinburgh? How do you remember the city back then? What was the coolest place to hang out and what was your favourite restaurant in town?!
I live in Glasgow now but Allison still lives in Edinburgh. The best pubs were the City Café, the Kangaroo Club, Thunderball, Sneeky Petes, the Hooch, the Venue for bands, Wilkie House did good clubs. My favourite restaurant at that time was Viva Mexico on Victoria Street, for Mexican food, I think its still there.
++ The sound of The Vultures is now quite trendy, don’t know if you’ve noticed. There’s a very popular band that kind of sounds like you called Vivian Girls. Of course I like you better, but are you aware of this scene happening in New York? Do you think you were ahead of your time?
Its funny to think our sound has come back into fashion again… things obviously go in cycles. I look back and think that the Shop Assistants were a great sound – perfect pop. There were lots of other great bands operating that eventually gave up. It’s a shame that the indie labels at that time were run on a shoestring and weren’t able to promote the bands. There wasn’t much of a support structure especially in Edinburgh I think that’s why very few Edinburgh bands had the success they deserved. Also there seemed to be a reluctance to get involved with the mainstream as that was seen as selling out.
I have heard of the Vivian Girls, and they played in Glasgow a couple of times recently, but I haven’t managed to see them. I think their sound is more like the drums and guitars of the Shop Assistants and the Fizzbombs, or like the vocal style of current Glasgow band Camera Obscura. I think the sound of the Vultures was more garage and less shoe gazing, more of a nod to the Sonics, and we were also compared to The Pleasure Seekers and to punk band The Cravats. Bands like the Thanes, who were producing authentic sixties sounding music were quite an influence on Allison and Anna. We had more of a Psychadelic sound, and we seemed to be a bit more rough and ready than other bands around at the time. We did a version of “Lets take a Trip” by Kim Fowley but through listening to a version by some obscure 60’s female garage band. The other cover we did was “You Drive Me Ape” by the Dickies, who were also pretty punky.
++ You also recorded a BBC session for the Janice Long show? How was that experience? Which songs were recorded?
We recorded a session for the Janice Long show at BBC Maidavale studios in London. We were booked in to do it on a Sunday, so I borrowed an art school minibus under false pretences pretending we were going on a research trip and then we drove down to London. We got to the studio on the Sunday morning, to find that the drum kit we had borrowed was unusable as it had a burst drum skin. We had to phone round all the music equipment shops in London to find one open and wait for a courier to bring us a new skin before we could start recording anything. We wondered if that was possibly a sabotage attempt by whoever leant us the drum-kit! In the end we were only happy with 3 out of the 4 songs we recorded. They were “You Drive Me Ape”, “Something New”, and “Kill That Girl”.
++ Why and when did you call it a day? Were you involved with any bands after?
We were offered 9 gigs in London but we were going through a rough patch confidence wise, with what seemed like not much success with the single. Also Allison and I felt under pressure at Art College and I also had my degree show coming up, it was time to make that decision about concentrating on getting a degree or heading down to London in a transit van and sleeping on people’s floors. We decided to cancel the gigs, which seems a bit crazy now when you look back, and that was pretty much the end of the band. I think we were lacking in confidence and it was quite tough to be in a band back then, the music business was really male dominated. We had the odd fan letter but overall we felt like we had very little feedback about what we were doing. Now there is direct contact through MySpace, I’m sure it must be much more rewarding now.
++ Are you all still in touch? What do The Vultures do nowadays?
I have a career as a visual artist, I exhibit and curate exhibitions and I have 2 children, so I am pretty busy. I got more into House music and the club scene in the 90’s but more recently I’ve been going to see a lot of bands again and I’ve also started doing a bit of DJing. www.myspace.com/janienicoll
I still see Allison every so often at exhibitions in Edinburgh, she paints landscapes now. Anna moved down south and I’ve not seen or heard from her since and I haven’t seen David either. I met Ian Binns at Glastonbury one time. Andy, the second drummer is down in London after living in Glasgow for a few years. I still see Fran from Jesse Garon, and Andrew Tully is married to someone I know. Angus McPake was working for BBC Scotland as a sound engineer, and I don’t know what happened to Alex and Eddie. I met up with Kevin Shields and Douglas Hart a few times backstage after Primal Scream gigs, and also all of the MBV’s when they played 2 gigs in Glasgow last year! It was great to see them, and none of them have changed!
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
We had a good time while it lasted !