1. ALLO DARLIN’ – ALLO DARLIN’
Track Picks: “Dreaming”, “The Polaroid Song”, “If Loneliness Was Art”
Label: Fortuna POP!
Release Date: 7th June 2010
2. DARREN HAYMAN & THE SECONDARY MODERN – ESSEX ARMS
Track Picks: “Calling Out Your Name Again”, “Winter Makes You Want Me More”, “Super Kings”
Label: Fortuna POP!
Release Date: 4th October 2010
3. SHRAG – LIFE! DEATH! PRIZES!
Track Picks: “Tights In August” “Rabbit Kids”, “Furnishings”
Label: Where It’s At Is Where You Are
Release Date: 4th October 2010
4. STANDARD FARE – THE NOYELLE BEAT
Track Picks: “Love Doesn’t Just Stop”, “Nuit Avec Une Ami”, “Dancing”
Label: Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation
Release Date: 29th March 2010
5. THE SPECIFIC HEATS – “CURSED!”
Track Picks: “Weed”, “All I Want”, “Baby, I’m an Existentialist”
Label: Fun With Asbestos & Saganism Records
Release Date: 20th September 2010
6. SAMBASSADEUR – EUROPEAN
Track Picks: “Days”, “I Can Try”, “Small Parade”
Release Date: 1st March 2010
7. WILD NOTHING – GEMINI
Track Picks: “Live in Dreams”, “O Lilac”, “My Angel Lonely”
Label: Captured Tracks
Release Date: 25th May 2010
8. THE VASELINES – SEX WITH AN X
Track Picks: “Ruined”, “Such a Fool”, “I Hate the ’80s”
Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: 14th September 2010
9. THE RADIO DEPT. – CLINGING TO A SCHEME
Track Picks: “Heaven’s on Fire”, “Never Follow Suit”, “You Stopped Making Sense”
Release Date: 21st April 2010
10. BELLE AND SEBASTIAN – BELLE AND SEBASTIAN WRITE ABOUT LOVE
Track Picks: “I Didn’t See It Coming”, “I Want the World to Stop”, “Write About Love”
Label: Rough Trade
Release Date: 11th October 2010
1. Shrag – “Rabbit Kids”
Album: Life! Death! Prizes!
Label: Where It’s At Is Where You Are
Release Date: 10th May 2010
2. Deerhunter – “Desire Lines”
Album: Halcyon Digest
Release Date: 28th September 2010
3. Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern – “Calling Out Your Name Again”
Album: Essex Arms
Label: Fortuna POP!
Release Date: 11th October 2010
4. Allo Darlin’ – “If Loneliness Was Art”
Album: Allo Darlin’
Label: Fortuna POP!
Release Date: 9th August 2010
5. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – “Round and Round”
Album: Before Today
Release Date: 26th April 2010
6. Best Coast – “Boyfriend”
Album: Crazy For You
Label: Mexican Summer
Release Date: 20th August 2010
7. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Say No to Love”
Album: Non-album Single
Label: Fortuna POP!
Release Date: 8th June 2010
8. The Radio Dept. – “Heaven’s on Fire”
Album: Clinging to a Scheme
Release Date: 24th March 2010
9. Wild Nothing – “My Angel Lonely”
Label: Captured Tracks
Release Date: 25th May 2010
10. The Wave Pictures – “Sweetheart”
Album: Sweetheart EP
Label: Moshi Moshi
Release Date: 7th June 2010
I’ll be doing Scared To Dance at London Popfest 2011 on Saturday 26th February. Taking place at the legendary 100 Club, I’ll be doing the club night after the bands from 11pm to 2am. On the bill for the alldayer are The Monochrome Set, Bearsuit, Eux Autres, Help Stamp Out Loneliness, Hummousexual and Evans the Death.
There’s further details of the other gigs taking place on the London Popfest 2011 site and you can buy your tickets from We Got Tickets. Be quick! Saturday has nearly sold out. Rest assured we’ll be back at King’s Cross Social Club in March.
You’ve been called “goofy conceptualists” by The New York Times and “two overgrown schoolboys running riot” by The Fly. Do you embrace these terms wholeheartedly?
Nik: I don’t really understand the meaning of “goofy conceptualists”, but yes I embrace it. Most definitely. With regards to the overgrown schoolboy riot thing, I just hope the reviewer meant “youthful/young at heart” rather than “fat adults behaving like children.”
You’ve self-released two EPs and had a mini-album on WeePOP! Records. Do you have any plans to release new material soon?
Nik: I’m not quite sure. I’d like to and I have quite a few songs written that are ready to be worked on, but there doesn’t really seem to be any time for it.
Bill: As soon as some time frees up I’m sure we’ll get to work on something new. I hope that it’ll be before the end of the year – I know I’ve got a day off in November. I think we tend to do things in bursts, so hopefully we’ll get really creative soon.
Do you enjoy the DIY aspect to self-releasing your songs? The physical copies of the Postcards to Strangers EP looked fantastic.
Nik: I love it. It’s nice to do something different and a bit unusual and I think people in general appreciate handmade things. Sometimes it feels like we’re putting too much effort into it. Like for the WeePOP! EP I made 160+ different badges to go with each copy, which took forever. But, then you get all this nice feedback from people and suddenly it makes it all worth it. Our profit margins are pretty ridiculous though. When we added all the costs I think one Postcards EP cost about £2.40 to make and we sell it for £3.
How is the song writing and music split between the two of you?
Nik: Well, we used to share the duties a bit more than we have recently. Bill is so busy with other things; he doesn’t really have much time to write. On the Knock Knock! Who’s There? EP he wrote two songs (“Cat Chicken” and “Adam Sandler”) and on the WeePOP! EP he wrote three (“Email Song”, “No Bills Club” and “Imagine”). I wrote all the songs on the Postcards EP. But, that’s just when it comes to lyrics. Since my musical skills are VERY limited, the creation of the songs is very much a collaborative effort. In general when I write the lyrics I have an idea of the melody and hum it to him during practise. He’ll figure out the chords for it, come up with some fancy-pants kick-ass guitar parts, do the drum programming and in general also come up with keyboard parts. I then either destroy these parts by simplifying them or just completely ignore them if they’re too difficult.
Bill: I like Nik’s lyrics very much. The best thing about them – as far as I can say – is that they’re unlike anyone else’s I’ve come across. I can’t think of anyone who writes like Nik. I do know loads of guitarists with laptops though.
Have you finally got all of the books on your Amazon wishlist?
Nik: Hmm… let’s see. From the things mentioned in the song I have bought an Araki book. I do have all films that Larry Clark has made, but none of his photo books yet. I stopped taking French classes, so there’s no need for that French dictionary. I got the David Berman poetry book. I also bought When I Was Five I Killed Myself and have been reading loads of books about cynical adults. So left to get is a book of Soviet propaganda posters, which I will get one day.
You recently returned from touring Denmark and Sweden. How was it?
Nik: Well, I’m in two minds about it. It was a lot of fun spending time with Allo Darlin’ and The Smittens, but I don’t think I would do it like that again. Initially, I decided to come along as a way of getting to spend some time with my girlfriend (Elizabeth of Allo Darlin’). But since both Bill and I would then be at the shows anyway, I just asked the promoters if Moustache could play as well. And of course they said yes. It’s kind of like when you buy something expensive and you get a freebie…like a tie rack. Everyone loves a freebie! And I don’t mind being a tie rack, but you do get a bit tired of it and sometimes it’s nice to be wanted by someone that actually needs a tie rack! Haha. Best analogy ever.
Bill: I enjoyed playing Moustache gigs in Europe very much. It was great because we started making up our setlist as we went along and in some cases were even able to play some requests. I was a bit scared of singing “Kaktus” the cover song we do in which I actually sing in Swedish, but it seemed to go okay.
What does the rest of the year have in store for Moustache of Insanity?
Nik: Well, we have few more shows coming up in the autumn and then we’ll just have to see what happens. I don’t think there’s much point in just playing the same songs over and over again so if we’re gonna keep doing the Moustache thing I would really like to record some new ones, a whole album even. But, it’s up to Bill really. He’s the man with more important responsibilities.
Bill: We’ll definitely record – we’ll find the time. When we were in the America in May, we met a guy who had his whole musical career planned out – from his first to his last album. He said his band was gonna be called The Tijuana Hot Cocks and the last record would be called Last Orders at The Cockbar. I think we’ve got to try and match that.
How the did the band form in the wake of The Manhattan Love Suicides splitting?
The Manhattan Love Suicides split in July last year and for the next couple of months me and Caroline did nothing much at all. Caroline had finished all her vocals on the Ailsa Craig album, I’d contributed a bit of guitar to a handful of tracks on there, but suddenly there was nothing to do. It was actually quite a depressing time. We felt The Manhattan Love Suicides had made its point and it was time to move on, but we weren’t exactly sure what we were going to move on to. So we just started writing some new songs. Next thing we knew we were recording them with Pete from Horowitz, then the debut single came out, then we put a band together, recorded and released some more singles, played a couple of gigs… and here we are today.
Tell us about your track on the Odd Box Records Bless Me Iggy For I Have Sinned EP.
It’s called “Fever Van”. We wrote that just a few weeks ago, and we’ve played it at the three gigs we’ve done so far. It’s got that chugging, pounding feel about it that we really like. It’s just the same three chords over and over, all the way through the song. It’s quite noisy in parts, but it’s also poppy. You can definitely get on the dancefloor and jump about to it.
You recently played your first ever gig in London. How did it go?
It went pretty well. We were actually a bit nervous, mainly because there are six of us in this band, and that creates more opportunity for things to go wrong. But then we reminded ourselves that ramshackle and unpredictable gigs are always a lot more fun anyway, so we suddenly felt more relaxed about everything. It’s good when you see a band and it feels as if it might fall in on itself at any minute. We got a good crowd at that first gig. The sound could have been better, but then again, I personally always think that way.
You’re close friends with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart who you recently supported at the Buffalo Bar. How did that come about?
The gig couldn’t have been simpler. We just got a message from Sean at Fortuna Pop! asking us to play the gig as The Pains had requested us to do it. Me and Caroline said yes to it before we even checked to see if the rest of the band could play it. There was no way we would’ve turned that down. We’ve been good friends with The Pains for about three years now. We’ve played gigs together in the US and the UK, slept on their floors, drank all their beer. We always have a good time when we see them and it’s always great to just hang out with them and catch up on what we’ve all been doing.
You’ve released a few EPs so far rather than a debut album. Why did you take this approach rather than recording a long player?
After we’d recorded the first three tracks that appeared on the debut single, we just decided to get them out there as quick as possible for people to hear, rather than sit about and wait until we had enough material for a debut album. We also really like 7” singles. They’re a great snapshot, and you can get what you’re trying to say across. We’ll actually be starting work on the debut album though pretty soon.
Reverence, Severance and Spite is due out in October on Squirrel Records. What can we expect from the compilation?
All the single tracks released so far, and much louder than they appear on the vinyl. That’s one good thing about CDs – you can release your music without compromising the volume. We like to give people value for money too, so we’re recording a bunch of new songs to sit alongside the single tracks. There’ll be about 16 or 17 tracks on there in total.
You’re supporting The Primitives at the ICA in a few weeks time. Were they an influence on the band?
Definitely. The Primitives have just always been there. They were one of the first bands I really got into when I was about 14 or 15 years old, buying all their albums and singles from a great little second hand record shop in Leeds that’s now sadly closed down. Every band me and Caroline have been in has been compared with The Primitives. In a way, it feels like we finally should be sharing a stage with them. We’re all really looking forward to that gig.
They’ve followed a spate of mid-eighties bands that have recently reformed (The Wake, The Vaselines, Pooh Sticks etc.). Could you ever see either The Blanche Hudson Weekend or The Manhattan Love Suicides reforming in 25 years time?
To be honest, no. I never say never, but both myself and Caroline believe that when a band we’re in splits up, it should always remain that way. I’m not against other bands reforming if it works for them though, as long as they’re not just doing it for the money.
And finally, when will we hear “Grip of Fear” live?
Not sure. We’ll definitely play it at some point, but every time we try to play it when we get together, it sounds a bit… well… crap. I’m starting to think the version we captured in the studio that ended up on the single was a bit of a fluke.
How has your well earned rest been since the release of Flight Paths?
Well it hasn’t been so much of a “rest” as a bit of a hiatus to allow us to work on the other things. Dan, Ian and Jonny all play in other bands, all of which have been busy lately; me, Andy and Dan are involved in the running of the Indietracks festival and Ian in London Popfest and Spiral Scratch, and we’ve generally all had personal stuff going on too, such as buying houses!
With so many of you involved in different bands (I count eight) is it hard to get all of you in the same room to practise and work on new songs?
Is it really eight? Wowsers. It’s not been as hard as you’d think. Our rehearsal dates have clashed on occasion, but it always seems to work out. When we have new songs, Andy, Ian and me usually get together first to work on the melody and guitar, then Dan and Jonny add the rhythm section once that’s all sorted, so the five of us don’t always have to be together. When we do though, we’re usually pretty focused so it all comes together very quickly. Then we reward ourselves with a nice cold pint and a bag of crisps.
I hear you’re working on your second album. Tell us more about it.
News travels fast! We’ve got our collective itchy feet together again with a batch of new songs, some of which we’ve just started to play at our shows. We’re still at rehearsal stage just now but the studio is booked to start recording in November. It’s hard to tell what it’ll sound like at the moment because the songs tend to change as they develop – you might be able to get an idea from the ones we’ve been playing recently though! Simon Trought will be producing again. We loved what he did with our last album and find him a real pleasure to work with – he really seems to understand what we’re looking for. Plus he’s got loads of cool stuff to play with in the studio!
Will the album be released on the How Does It Feel To Be Loved label?
We’ve no idea! I don’t think we’ve got as far as talking about that yet or pitching the idea to anyone, but we’re open to offers from any interested labels! We were so happy to have worked with How Does It Feel To Be Loved on the first album as label owner Ian has been really supportive of Pocketbooks right from the start so it just felt natural, but we’ll have to wait and see! Whatever happens, it would be really nice to find a home for our album in the USA this time round.
You didn’t play at Indietracks this year despite many of you being involved in the running of the festival. Why was that?
I think it was exactly for that reason. We’d performed at every single Indietracks event so far, and with three of our members already represented on this year’s bill in other bands, we just decided it would be a bit much and we didn’t want to monopolise the line-up when there are so many other bands waiting to get on it. If everything goes to plan, we’ll have a new record out by next year so you’ll see us return to our traditional Indietracks slot!
You’re on the bill for the Lets Kiss and Make Up – Indie Pop Days Festival in Berlin in a few weeks time. Will there be an extended European tour?
For the moment, we’re just concentrating on rehearsing and recording our new songs so we’re not booking too many shows. We couldn’t say no to playing a castle in Berlin though – it sounded too good to be true and is one of our favourite cities in the world, plus the line-up is pretty spectacular. Apart from recording the album in November, hopefully we’ll be in a better position to start playing a few more shows towards the end of the year. Watch this space! Chances are though, you can walk into any venue in London and a member of Pocketbooks will be playing in some band or other.
How did Shrag come into the world?
Helen: Slowly and by surprise. A group of friends who accidentally started making songs together…
Bob: It’s like any kind of birth. It takes you a few years before you realise you exist. After that it was surprisingly easy.
You’ve said that your eponymous debut LP felt more like a collection of material you’d recorded up to that point, rather than a self-contained record. Were you happy with the result?
Helen: Oh yeah of course, you know I NEVER thought we’d actually have a full-length, so I was thrilled and we are proud of those songs, I think some more than others. But I guess because all of those songs had already been released – albeit in tiny runs of 300 – there wasn’t quite that feeling of “What will people think? Do we suck? Are we any good?” Having said that, the fact that WIAIWYA asked us to put them together as an album meant that far more people got to hear them than would have done otherwise, they reached far more people, and it got reviewed as an album by people who wouldn’t have listened to the singles, so it was exciting.
Bob: I’m still not convinced by the album format. A great album is more than a collection of songs. The debut LP is a collection of songs. Good ones though.
You supported The Cribs last year and they’ve been incredibly supportive of the band. How was the experience of playing such large venues?
Helen: Equal parts terrifying and exciting. I tried not to think about it once we were on stage to be honest, though there was one point where we played to what must have been a three quarters full London Astoria, and I looked out and had an actual knee-trembler. The Cribs are the loveliest boys in the world, sweet and funny and gentlemanly and incredibly tolerant of us, we must have been so annoying, we had absolutely NO CLUE about proper big tours like that, their tour manager would ask for things like stage plots and we’d just stare back at them blankly.
Bob: I find the experience strangely comforting. The sound is always good and if you break a string someone you’ve never met before runs on and helps you change guitar. Then they offer to carry things for you. Brilliant!
During your recent gigs you’ve been playing quite a lot of new material. How have the new songs gone down?
Helen: The vast majority of the feedback we’ve had has been good and encouraging. I think we got some criticism because we stopped playing a lot of the older songs a while ago – Sean Price (Fortuna Pop!) told us off for doing that, because I guess they were the only songs people had a chance of knowing – but really we had been playing those songs for ages and we were just excited about the new stuff and wanted to try it out. We do realise this is not particularly astute in terms of good business sense, but then that was never really our forte… (sorry Jervis).
The subject matters in your lyrics on your debut record were based on very specific events. Do the new songs open up to more general themes?
Helen: Yeah you’re right about the first album. I think at that point, I had a certain feeling with the lyrics that they needed to have a concrete idea behind them. I was maybe a bit less confident, I’d never written lyrics for a band that were actually going to record before, it had all been the kind of thing you do with one other friend in your room, that kind of thing. So I think I felt, for some of the songs at least, that I needed to have something solid and sometimes a bit silly to write about. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t care about those things or that they were disingenuous in any way, but I guess this time I think I tried to be a bit braver and write about stuff that was happening to me and the people around me that I care about in a way which at least tried to approximate how these things really felt, and stuff in my life is rarely that defined or immediately coherent, especially the last couple of years. It felt important to not maybe hide so much behind a robust, easily delineated scenario. Saying that, “Tights In August” is pretty silly.
You’re releasing your second album Life! Death! Prizes! on Monday 4th October. Tell us about the record.
Helen: It’s got 12 songs on it, some are louder and faster than others, and it has lots of umber and orange and red and empty chairs on the artwork. I think musically we’re a bit better, have been a bit braver, have had more of a sense of what we might be able to do. Oh and one song has real strings on it! I’m especially excited about that.
Bob: I think the album is structured like a really good live set. It was important to me in case we get asked to do one of those Don’t Look Back shows in years to come. We won’t of course, but it’s always nice to be prepared.
Will you be touring later in the year in support of the album?
Helen: Yes! We’re just finalising everything as I write this. We will be doing a UK tour from the Monday 27th September until Sunday 3rd October, and then we have our album launch show at the Lexington on Thursday 14th October. And then, providing we get our Visas, we’re going to New York to play CMJ and some shows around the East Coast, but we’ll see.
Dansette Dansette has been critically acclaimed by the likes of Pitchfork, The Observer and Drowned in Sound along with heavy rotational play on BBC 6 Music. Is this a golden period for the band?
Amelia: For Tender Trap, definitely! We are very proud of the album but were still surprised by how much attention/praise it got.
Rob: It makes us feel we were right to stop noodling around with electronic stuff and get a proper band together. As soon as we started playing with the new line up it felt right. But even so, we didn’t expect quite so many people (and critics) to like it as much as they did.
You had a line-up change last year, adding Elizabeth from Allo Darlin’ on guitar and Katrina (formerly of Police Cat) on drums. How did this come about?
Amelia: Elizabeth came to us through the magic of “word of mouth”. We just put the word out that we were looking for people and she wrote us an email. We didn’t know her at all – but we couldn’t have been luckier. Katrina, by contrast, was an old mate. We phoned her up and, after a bit of cajoling, she was persuaded that she fancied a trip back behind the drumkit.
Rob: We were lucky that Elizabeth, Katrina and Amelia’s vocals sat so well together. We really wanted girl harmonies to be to the fore.
How was your recent gig at Indietracks stepping in as last minute replacements for Love Is All?
Amelia: It was really great to be able to do it. Really enjoyable. We owe Love Is All a beer or two!
Rob: We felt like Jamie Carragher; officially retired (due to age) but called up at the last minute. Although Indietracks was a lot better than the World Cup.
Tender Trap’s sound has seemingly moved away from synthesisers back towards the jangly guitars of Heavenly and to a greater extent Talulah Gosh. Was this a conscious decision or something that naturally progressed from 6 Billion People?
Amelia: Actually it was pretty conscious. It was inspired by listening to our old Shop Assistants records and realising how much we loved them. Plus a feeling that this is the kind of music we actually know how to play!
Rob: I remember thinking that the sound I liked most after all this time was the combination of simple stand-up drums, fuzzy guitar and vocal harmonies.
You’ve recently been playing the odd Talulah Gosh song in your sets. Do you look back on that phase of your career with pride, given that the band meant an awful lot to so many people?
Amelia: It’s taken us a while to feel comfortable playing songs from back then. And I think it’s actually taken us being really comfortable with how Tender Trap is doing to be brave enough to do it. We don’t want to be a band that lives off our past “glories”. Not to belittle bands that come back to just do their original stuff. That is fine but it’s not what we want to do.
Rob: I would like to belittle the bands that do that. Sorry. But I always feel depressed when I hear those bands.
Tender Trap’s track-by-track guide to Dansette Dansette.
Amelia: This is about listening to records, thinking they will provide the answers you need in your life. And then they don’t. It’s also deliberately about the sixties girl groups, who didn’t write their own songs and therefore weren’t necessarily even purveying their own “wisdom”. I guess the song is cynical of, but also very affectionate about, that whole genre.
Rob: Another variant of the sixties girl group thing, but this time about a boy who’s determined to be culturally “bad” and anti-establishment (rather than wearing leather and crashing motorbikes).
“Do You Want A Boyfriend?”
Amelia: The lyrics to this one were pretty much written through us all singing random nonsense at practice and seeing which words and phrases made the rest of the band laugh.
Amelia: This is possibly my favourite song on the album because I love the guitar so much on it. The words are about suddenly realising you’ve fallen for someone you’ve been friends with forever. With an indie slant. I was glad to get “mixtapes” into the lyric.
“Girls With Guns”
Rob: A feminist fantasy, whereby men who star in pop videos in which women are directed to worship them, suddenly find those same women shooting them in the head.
Amelia: I wrote this for a couple of friends who seemed to be being wilfully blind to the fact they were perfect for each other. I thought it might provide the trigger for love to blossom. It didn’t! C’est la vie.
“2 to the N”
Amelia: “2 to the N” describes the process of tearing something up into 2, then 4, then 8, then 16, etc. It’s about a dramatic falling out of love, which involves tearing up photographs. It was inspired by Adam Ant. I will say no more.
“Counting the Hours”
Rob: This is a nervous love song about the tense period leading up to a second date.
Amelia: Gosh, I never thought there would be a second date. Am I too cynical?
Amelia: We wanted to do a song with a very standard girl group beat. I’m not quite sure how it ended up having lyrics which treat love as a gamble, analogous to betting on the races! But I guess that is how I see it.
Amelia: This is actually an old song, which we first did in Marine Research but never released. I think the Trap version is better though. Good and squelchy.
Rob: And after all this time I still don’t really understand the words.
Amelia: Ah, that’s because they are all about failing to communicate. Clever, eh!
You recently released your second album “Cursed!” in September. How much a departure was it from Aboard a Spaceship of the Imagination?
Erik: Well, there are 13 songs. They go with the theme of “Cursed!” which Mat (Patalano, lead singer and guitarist) feels the band is considering the constant failure of his equipment onstage. As for the departure, “Cursed!” is a dirtier sounding record opposed to the indiepop sound of Aboard a Spaceship… I came on late in the recording “Cursed!” and I only played on “Old News”.
Meagan: You don’t hear me on the record at all.
The run of “Weed”, “All I Want” and “Baby, I’m an Existentialist” is impeccable. Are there plans to release any of these as singles?
Meagan: “Baby, I’m an Existentialist” is one of my favorites. When we were playing our shows, a lot of people would dance to it, and “Weed”. Those two are dance numbers.
Erik: As for singles? I think Mat mentioned “Baby, I’m an Existentialist” as a possibility.
The record came out on 100% recycled colour vinyl and a cardboard sleeve. Was this for ethical reasons?
Meagan: The vinyl that I got to take was purple. It’s beautiful.
Erik: It could’ve been for environmental reasons or maybe it was cheaper, I don’t know. You’ll find that out a lot with us, we’re new therefore we don’t know a lot of things.
Meagan: I’m gonna go with environmentally friendly. People like to hear that.
You’re both relatively new in the band. How did that come about?
Erik: I started playing drums with Mat last winter and slowly evolved from Keira’s replacement to the new bassist. Then when Marisa left the band Mat asked if I knew any keyboardists and I told him my sister could do it.
Meagan: I’m his sister. He came across the hall and asked if I wanted to play, so I said yes.
Erik: No one turns down touring Europe.
I can hear a lot of sixties psychedelic pop in your music like The Zombies but also the craftsmanship of The Beach Boys mixed with garage rock. Who have been the major influences on your sound?
Erik: That’s more of a Mat question, but I’ll agree that both The Zombies and The Beach Boys are somewhere buried in The Specific Heats sound.
Meagan: The Beach Boys are my favorite band. Seriously.
Where did the on-stage cape wearing originate?
Erik: Well, Mat wanted to wear capes. Not like a superhero, and I don’t think like Chris Squire or Rick Wakeman, but somewhere in between. His friend Mehgan O’Neill made them years ago. The capes are long before our tenure in The Specific Heats.
Meagan: Keira gets the cool cropped cape so that her arms can move around. Erik has the bright green one that allows you to spot him from miles away. Mine is red. If I wear it the wrong way I look like Little Red Riding Hood. I’ll also take this as an opportunity to tell Mat that my cape chokes me when we play.
How was your recent European tour?
Erik: The tour was pretty great. We met a bunch of awesome people along the way and got to go places I’ve never been before. Indietracks was a great way to end it too.
Meagan: For the two weeks we were touring, I don’t think I drank water or ate
anything of nutritional value. Erik fed me Fanta.
Erik: It’s like an orange in a bottle.
Meagan: But, seeing new places and meeting so many great people was what made it such a great time. When we got to Indietracks it was like the end of the movie Big Fish, everyone we met along the way was there, it was exciting. I would compare it to The Wizard of Oz, but at the end of that movie she’s dreaming.
You were my standout band at Indietracks this year. Did you enjoy the festival?
Erik: Standout? Thanks. The festival was nice. Three days of good music and great food. I learned that a cob is a roll.
Meagan: Standout! I had the best time at the festival. I’ll admit it was freezing most of the time, but I still had fun. I came back to the states with a bunch of 7” and I ate a French fry sandwich.
Erik: Chips on a cob, Meagan. Jesus.
What bands did you get to see before you had to leave for the US?
Meagan: Betty and the Werewolves were my absolute favorite. When we played in London, we saw the Sock Puppets. They didn’t get to play at Indietracks, but they were there hanging out with us. I also enjoyed Tender Trap.
Erik: Betty and the Werewolves. I was bummed when their LP was sold out, had to buy it online. It’s a great album.
Meagan: He spent most of the trip home complaining about not being able to buy that record. When he finally got it, it was like Christmas.
I stumbled across you guys for the first time when I was DJing at RoTa for Odd Box Records. Do you have any plans to tour Britain again anytime soon?
Meagan: Right now Keira has a bun in the oven. So until our fifth member pops out, we’re laying low.
Erik: There was mention of Europe in February so we’ll see what happens.
What are your plans for the rest of 2010?
Erik: For the rest of 2010 I’ll focus on recording my own stuff, sans ‘Heats.
Meagan: I’ve been thinking of transferring colleges or moving across the country and doing something really crazy and exciting. I’ll probably just annoy Erik until he lets me play on his record. Right, Erik?
Erik: We’ll see.
We last heard from you when you released Dealing in Antiques in May. It’s quite unusual for a band to put out a collection of songs such as those after just two studio LPs. Was the idea to document the history of the band up to that point?
The idea was simply to gather lost songs. The were quite a few of those – some that were released on hobby vinyl and many that weren’t released at all. So it’s not a historical document as much as a release to fill the gaps.
How did you come to cover White Town’s “Your Woman”?
It’s a long story, but I’ll give it to you. There was a rather famous club in Gothenburg called Cosy Den. It was founded in 2004 by a certain Mattias Jansson, who wanted to book us, but couldn’t find a proper venue. He then offered his living room and he obviously liked the experience, because he continued having club nights in his apartment for one and a half year. Cosy Den is still running, but now at various smaller venues in Stockholm. Anyway, Mattias Jansson had read about Jyoti Mishra, alias White Town, in a fanzine, and decided to try to book him. It was a rather strange idea, since Jyoti hadn’t been playing for years and was certainly not a name on the Swedish indie scene. But Mattias is strange like that – he wouldn’t care, he likes what he likes. So Jyoti came over to play in 2005. They became friends, and Mattias booked White Town for a second time in 2006. That’s when I met him, and we instantly got along. Since then, we’ve been in Derby were he lives, and he has been in Scandinavia, several times. We highly appreciate him as a friend and a musician, and this was just our tribute to him.
The band formed in 2001 yet you released The Province Complains in 2007. You had a steady flow of EPs but why was there such a gap in releasing your debut LP?
I think you have to remember were we are from. I recently interviewed The Drums for a music magazine, and they told me how there was a massive response from agents, lawyers and record labels after their first show in Brooklyn and their first review on a Brooklyn-based blog. After one gig. I couldn’t believe my ears. We come from a rather remote city in Finland and I can tell you that the music industry interest for music coming from Vaasa, Finland is not exactly overwhelming. There wasn’t any attention around to desperately beg for. For years, we were an island, really. Even after we had moved to Turku in 2003, we were just a Swedish-speaking student band. We hardly knew anyone, and we certainly didn’t know the right people, the ones that would have made it possible and worthwhile for us to record an album. It took us years to get to a point were it made any sense to record an album.
Your second album, Our Temperance Movement, found your lyrics in more reflective mood. Do you put this down to an ongoing maturity in your song writing?
They are cut from the same fabric, though. I still use the same methods, but I realise they might be different in tone. I think my goal has always been the same. I think every album should be called Other People’s Lives.
Why did the UK tracklisting differ to the standard release of Our Temperance Movement?
I suggested this to Ian at How Does It Feel To Be Loved and he instantly suggested an alternate tracklisting. Don’t know if it was a good thing – we got better reviews in the US, Germany, Finland and Sweden.
You played a number of gigs throughout the summer across Europe; Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg, Stockholm, Turku as well as Hong Kong and Los Angeles. How have they been?
Generally very good. We’ve been overjoyed to be able to go to such faraway places as Hong Kong and California. A nice couple of feathers in the cap. Yes, I see them like that.
You also supported Belle and Sebastian in Helsinki. How did that come about?
Well, Stuart saw us in Los Angeles, and he asked us if we were up for it, which we naturally were. He was there recording their new album.
When you started the group did you ever expect to achieve such a level of success that you’d be able to travel around the world?
I really can’t remember. Back then it felt like a remote dream to ever get to go to Helsinki to play and that is the absolute truth. I even remember when Kim, who played guitar back then, called me on 1st April 2002 and told me we’d got a gig in Helsinki. I was overjoyed for a second or two before I realised it simply impossible. But still, in a dark corner of the mind, I might have nurtured such wicked dreams.
When I saw you play at The Luminaire a couple of years ago you incorporated a keyboardist into your live performances. Is this something you’re likely to return to?
Yes, and we have. Iiris Viljanen has played with us quite often recently. She’s a very, very talented artist in her own right. A brilliant songwriter.
Who are the main influences on your song writing?
I don’t know. That question is painful! That’s the one question I keep hoping won’t turn up, because I always feel like something breaks inside when I answer it. And I already broke a rib last month on the football field.
Are you currently working on new material and have your thoughts turned your next album?
Yes, I written quite a lot for it, and we hope to begin recording early next year. I really love the songs and I hope to find a certain inner peace when recording them. Something has been missing earlier. Might try with alcohol. No, but I hope that we’d get all pieces together this time.
What are you listening to at the moment?
A song called ”Cold Wind Blows” by Tymon Dogg. And ”I Live on a Battlefield” by Nick Lowe. Those two, on repeat.
Do you enjoy playing in Britain? When will you be returning?
Well, playing in Britain is not as easy as you Brits may think it is. You pay less than the Germans and you don’t cook. Ha ha. Cook me a proper meal and I’ll be back in a second, I promise.
We’ll be returning on Saturday 29th January at King’s Cross Social Club! Here’s the Facebook event. Please help spread the good word and tell your friends.
Thanks to all of you who came down to our Christmas Extravaganza last night! Our talented guest DJs played amazing sets which we enjoyed dancing to. The photos are now up!
We’ll be back on Saturday 29th January. Be sure to check the website on Christmas Day for an exciting present!