Thanks to Andrew Everett for the interview!
++ ” Described by those in the know as a ‘vanity project that got out of control” what do you mean by that?
Basically I had the money to make some records but not the fan base to justify making them.
++ How did the band start? How did you all meet? What was the music direction you wanted to follow with The Blue Smarties? Why did you decided to make pop music?
The band started in early 1990 in Leicester when Gary and I started jamming on our guitars, I knew Andy who was on the same course as me and played bass and we did our first 3 song gig in Feb, Karen joined some months later after we had done about 10 gigs, she knew Gary, initially she was on flute until it turned out she could sing when she started singing along to ‘Nothing Compares 2U’ at her first practice. We never had a drummer, cause we didn’t know any, so we used a drum machine that was available on the course Andy and I were doing and we used to mix the drums onto a cassette tape with some samples between the drum tracks and plug that into the PA using Gary’s cassette deck and play along to it. We didn’t worry about the type of music etc, just played whatever people wrote.
++ What were the influences of the band?
I guess Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine were an influence as they used a taped backing and I saw them live and saw how it could work but otherwise we all liked different things.
++ Why having always people helping with keyboards, kazoos and other instruments, you always had a drum machine and not a drummer? Was that on purpose?
As things developed and we all ended up living in different places, it was easier not to have a drummer as it was one less thing to worry about. If you wrote the song, you sorted out the drums!
++ Your relationship with Cordelia Records main man Alan Jenkins comes a long way. He had produced and recorded both albums. How did this relationship start and how big was his influence? Why didn’t you end up releasing on his label?
We met Alan and Ruth when Ruth’s Refrigerator came to watch one of our gigs. Gary already knew Alan and so we all got chatting. Alan was a big influence in terms of the fact he released his own records and was willing to help us with recording stuff and also that he was positive about our music. We didn’t release anything on his label because we had no fans so no one was going to buy our CD so I paid for it to happen, hence the ‘vanity project’ tag.
++ The other important label and person in Leicester was Rutland Records and it’s Ruth Miller. What did having this people around you mean? This is a scene that has been overlooked by many popkids, but bands like Po!, Ruth’s Refrigerator, The Originals and The Ammonites are all GREAT! Did you feel part of a scene?
Not at all.
++ I don’t have any clue about the “File Under Spoon” tape. Can you tell me a bit about it? Was it the first release?
It was our first release and was on Rutland on cassette. It was a collection of demos we recorded in 1990 and 91, basically it’s the ‘Teeth Like Sheep’ tracks.
++ Were you involved in other bands prior or after The Blue Smarties?
Sort of before but nothing much was ever recorded and after the BS I started The Shandy Express. Gary has played in PO! The Freed Unit and Thurston Lava Tube.
++ The Blue Smarties came to life in 1990 but it wasn’t till 1994 that you had your first proper release, the album Teeth Like Sheep. Why did it take you too long? What were you doing during those years?
From August 1990 I was working in London in retail, Gary was working in Leicester, Karen was working in Scotland and later Andy was working in Bristol. We weren’t really functioning as a band by the time we recorded the album but I had the money to do the album and was keen and the others were up for it too. We had the demos as templates so it wasn’t too tricky to do.
++ This first album was released on Grape Star Records. This is the only release I know on this label. Did they do anything else? Who were they?
It was a label I created named after a type of lipstick. ‘Teeth Like Sheep’ never had any distribution although I did sell a few copies by putting an ad in Select magazine and selling it for £2.00
++ Teeth Like Sheep is such a fun record, I bet that same enthusiasm happened at gigs! What was the usual Blue Smarties fare for a gig? How long would your sets last? Any particular gigs you remember?
We were pretty good live and played over 20 gigs altogether including Leicester, Hereford and three times in Edinburgh once supporting Swervedriver. We used to throw smarties at the crowd till they started throwing them back! My personal favourite gig was when we played a pub called the Royal Mail in Leicester not long before I went to work in London, a good crowd showed up and I met Alan Jenkins that night as well.
++ The band started being a four piece, with Andy, Gary, Karen and you. For the second album Fruit Tree Feeling it was only Karen and you. There was a seven year gap between both albums as well. What happened in between?
Basically the band split up in about 1994, though I continued to do some recording with Alan and then in 1999 I decided it would be fun to record a vinyl single and the others were up for it. Karen was keen to do her Ian Beale song which we had demoed in 1994, see Myspace page to hear it, so that was included, Steve Lamacq like it, so we did another vinyl ep but by this time Andy went off to work in Australia for a while, so missed that. With the actual album it was basically down to Karen and I and some people who helped us out and many thanks to them.
++ Fruit Tree Feeling is a true gem! The song “I Feel Like Ian Beale” was praised by Steve Lamacq. Was that the biggest highlight of The Blue Smarties?
Not for me as I didn’t write it or even play on it and was jealous at its success although it was very exciting hearing it on the radio. The highlight for me was completing the end section of a song called ‘Rewire’ and hearing it for the first time and also some very nice fan letters I got from someone called Clare – thanks again.
++ There were two singles, plus the Fruit Tree Feeling album, on Sorted Records. Also there was a compilation appearance. Is that the full discography? Why did you change labels? Who were Sorted Records?
Sorted records still exist and are a Leicester label. They had a distribution deal and I was keen our music had distribution so we ended up funding the releases but they came out on Sorted so they got distributed. I was very grateful to them and liked this arrangement as I still own the copyright to my songs and recordings.
As far as I remember the BS are on:
- Rutland Records – A compilation tape (a couple of tunes from ‘File Under spoon’
- Rutland Records – ‘File Under Spoon’ A collection of demo
- Grape Star Records ‘Teeth Like Sheep’ 16 track CD album released in 199
- Sorted Record ‘A chimp can dream’ 4 track EP 199
- Sorted Records ‘Nodding Dogs’ 4 track EP 200
- Sorted records ‘’Left hand side of Egypt’ 3 track vinyl compliation EP (BS has one track on it
- Sorted records ‘Fruit Tree Feeling’ 13 track CD album 200
- Sorted Records ‘Havock Junction’ Compilation CD (BS has one track on it) 2001
++ Why did you stop making music as The Blue Smarties? Btw, why did you call the band like that? I just read that the blue smarties have just being reintroduced again last February. Did you miss them?
Communication between Karen and I was never great and eventually dwindled away. I haven’t spoken to her for at least four years and I have no idea what she is up to but with the BS you can never say its over……………….!! We were originally called The Blue Smartie Syndrome in reference to the strange additives they used to put in the blue ones.
++ “Only Smarties have the answer”, so, what’s the answer Andrew?