Hello Pete, can you tell us a little about how the band started?
By accident! I was in a band called Razorblade Smile which played Cardiff and the girl who played drums in the other band, Terrorist Trash Stars, asked for a lift up to Newcastle. We stayed up all night and then hung around all day and it turned out she had changed her name by deed poll to Joey Ramone, which blew my mind. (All this is 100% true, I promise). So that night, Linus were playing and a support band dropped out so me and Joey improvised a set, under the name Cake Polish. We’d only met the night before and had never played music together before stepping on stage, but it came out pretty good, so we decided to continue but under the (slightly) less ridiculous name Milky Wimpshake.
Where did the bands unusual name come from? I read that you like wimpy band names like Talulah Gosh and The Sea Urchins.
By accident, again, actually. My friend Matthew suggested getting a Milky Wimpshake when he meant to say Wimpy Milkshake. I decided to use it for the band name, not realising that 18 years later I’d still be performing under the same name…
You recently played a Which Way Is Up! show in London where you played three new songs (“On Top”, “Chemical Spray” and “Worthless Person”). Can you tell us more about each song and will you be playing them at Indietracks?
We’ll be playing all three. “On Top” is one I wrote after strumming my way through an old Razorcuts song: I took some of the chords, re-arranged them and wrote a lyric in 5 minutes, which is how I usually write songs. “Chemical Spray” is kind of a “Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine…” type of a number, goes down well at gigs. “Worthless Person” was written under the influence of a certain Billy Childish, and it shows, and chronicles the experience of looking up “punk” in the dictionary.
I understand another new track “You Are the Bomb” will be ready in time for the festival?
I hope so! It’s a dance floor kind of a thing, good drums on it.
Can the band be persuaded into playing your cover of Electro Hippies “Don’t Kill Sheep”?
Don’t know yet, I haven’t asked them: it’s a pro-vegetarian song, we did live years and years ago a couple of times, but I’m the only vegetarian in the band so it depends on how the others feel about doing it, really.
With those new songs in mind, will you be putting out any new music soon?
Hope so; I’m in discussion with Sean at Fortuna Pop! on this particular issue.
I formed the band in 2005 with my friends Jeff and Sophie. The original idea was to sound like Jackdaw with Crowbar, bIG fLAME, stuff like that. Then another friend Cath joined and we took a different route, more folky. Sophie and Jeff left, W. C. Schrimshaw joined on drums and Phil was shipped on for extra guitar. We still sometimes play with this line-up, maybe I’ll have a different line-up at some point though, it’s just a hobby really.
Whatever happened to Red Monkey?
It became pretty much impossible to continue after the other two members got married and had two kids, because we just couldn’t manage to practice let alone play gigs. It was a good band and, you never know, we might do some music together again one day, maybe; I wouldn’t bank on it, but I wouldn’t absolutely rule it out either.
Out of all the records you have released over the years, is there one you are especially proud of?
Ooh, that’s hard. Probably Bus Route to Your Heart by Milky Wimpshake, because it was thrown together in just two days but people still seem to love it 15 years later. Also Gunpowder, Treason and Plot by Red Monkey, which was our third album, especially the first song “The Jazz Step Forwards” which is a really distinctive bit of music and a genuine group effort which I’ll admit I’m extremely proud of.
You’ve just put out a video for “Cherry Pop” and you’ve said “Milky Wimpshake join the MTV generation! Fuckin’ sellouts!” Who suggested making the video?
Sean of Fortuna Pop! suggested it so I thought “fuck it, I’ll try to do one on the Dale family camcorder”. I’m from that generation where some of your favourite bands, eg. The Smiths, didn’t do videos on principle – until they did! Hence the MTV comment. But I also remember, in the 1980s, that you’d be lucky to even see a photo of the bands you were listening to on John Peel, let alone a video, so I thought “well, people out there probably might be wondering what the Wimps look like” So now you have it, take it or leave it, I really couldn’t give a fuck! Although I’ll admit that it makes me laugh.
You’ll be playing the Nottingham indiepop all-dayer in October. With such a great line-up of Help Stamp Out Loneliness, The Blanche Hudson Weekend and Standard Fare amongst others, who are you looking forward to seeing?
Ste McCabe is really good, and I’m a big fan of Pale Man Made from Newcastle, but I’m sure it’ll be cool stuff all day, I like indiepop! I mean, y’know, I like Mortal Terror and Archie Shepp too, and Galdys Night and the Pips, but I sure do like your indiepop! Yessir!
The band started as a basement project between you and James. Did you ever think you would release so much music in a relatively short space of time (three EPs and two LPs in six years)?
We basically just wanted to put out a 7” record. That was our goal. Keep in mind we started playing together pre-internet and we didn’t know anyone with a 4-track, so recording your own music was still pretty mysterious then. We’ve always put more emphasis on recording than on playing live, but still, I never thought we’d end up releasing as much as we have.
Growing up in Olympia, Washington, how important were K Records and Kill Rock Stars in shaping your sound?
Aside from Beat Happening, I think we were more influenced by the ethic of those labels than the sound, at least early on. We were more into on bands on Popllama like The Young Fresh Fellows, Fastbacks, and Posies. It wasn’t until later that I went back and discovered The Softies and Heavenly and realised I’d wasted too much time listening to Oasis in the 90’s.
How vital were KEXP and WOXY radio stations in getting the band better known when you first started?
It was huge. We couldn’t believe they were playing our little homespun recordings. We sent KEXP our demo just hoping to get a spin on their local show on Saturday night, and then John Richards played “Sixteen and Pretty” on his weekday morning show and we were like, “Holy shit!” We started getting emails from listeners all over the world, and we never really had to work hard to get noticed by local bookers for good shows. It was instant credibility.
How is the indiepop scene in Seattle at the moment?
We’ve always had good turnouts at pop shows, so I’d say there’s a modest but loyal scene. There’s a good community of local blogs that support indiepop, but as far as I know there aren’t currently any club nights happening. Tullycraft has been on hiatus so that leaves a bit of a hole in the scene, but there has been a lot of buzz about Seapony this year so hopefully that will help energize the pop kids.
Is “Jimmy Had a Polaroid” about Jimmy Tassos at Matinée Recordings? Tell us more about the song as we love playing it at the club.
Oh, thanks! It’s not about Jimmy, but truth be told, I did like that connection when I came up with that line in the song, so it’s not completely random. And Jimmy loves photography so it’s even more fitting. Hmmm… maybe the song IS about him?
Have you started writing new material for another EP or album?
Quite honestly, I expected I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do to be our last record, but in rehearsing for the UK tour I’ve started to get inspired again and I’ve written about a half dozen new songs that I’ve floated out to the band. We don’t have any timeline, but I suspect we’ll at least release another EP.
You don’t often get to play live due to so many family commitments. Does that frustrate you or does it make it more special when you do play together?
It’s definitely frustrating not to play more when we work so well together as a group, but I’ve come to terms with it. We’re not 25 anymore, you know? Now there are careers and families to consider, and none of us live in the same city anymore, so that makes it difficult. Writing is easier than playing live because we can trade files over the internet, but trying to coordinate schedules for practicing is excruciating. We really enjoy it when we do get to play together though, which I suppose is what keeps us going.
How was your recent show with The Smittens, The Special Places and Monnone Alone? Do you feel you share the same ideals as bands such as The Smittens and The Lucksmiths?
Great! The Smittens were fantastic and really nice people, and we always love playing with Cori and Jenny. Mark was a late addition to the line-up and really turned it into a lovefest. I wish we could have taken that little tour all over the country. I definitely feel a kinship with other indiepop bands. Its fun to play with other bands that appreciate where you’re coming from and it’s such a tight knit community that you often know a lot of the same people.
You’ve got a few warm up shows before Indietracks in Glasgow, Manchester, London and Nottingham. Tell us more about those.
Yes, we’re very excited for those shows as well. I was able to convince Laz to play a Bubblegum Lemonade set with us in Glasgow, which will be their first show ever, and The Hermit Crabs are playing that show as well so that’s going to be ace. We’ve joined up with Very Truly Yours from Chicago for all the warm-up gigs so it will be great to get to know them a bit. Other shows include Pocketbooks, The Sweet Nothings, and Moustache of Insanity. Seriously, how lucky are we?
Finally, do you embrace Pitchfork’s description of your music as “music to hold hands to” or do you find that unbearable twee?
It’s fine, I understand why it’s easy to label us that way, but I’d like to think the songs are a bit deeper than that. Many of the lyrics actually deal with love from a perspective of insecurity, loneliness, and even bitterness, so I’ve never thought of them as being particularly romantic or sugary. But people are free to call it whatever they want. I just call it pop!
What records did you grow up listening to? In your music I can hear a lot of post-punk and no wave bands – The Fall and Suicide spring to mind.
JB: The Fall is surely a big influence on all of us. I’m still finding more and more Fall songs that I like. When I first met Brad in 2000 he gave me the first two Suicide CDs. I like the more melodic songs. Abcko-era Stones, The Outsiders, I could list all day.
Andy: We surely listen to post-punk, etc, though perhaps not as much as in years prior, but some of it comes from probably listening to the same records they were hearing as well. Psych and folk and experimental and pop and all that mixed up.
Did you set yourselves any targets when recording In Love With Oblivion? To those who may have not got the record yet, how does it differ from your debut Alight of Night?
JB: I think I set a sonic bar for it whilst mixing. I knew how I didn’t want it to sound. It differs a bit in that there’s a bit less drone chords on this one. Songs are a little more concentrated.
Andy: In some ways it must reflect, or reveal, that it was more of a “full band” record. What those revelations are, are to be discovered.
“Love is a Wave” didn’t appear on In Love With Oblivion. Will it ever see the light of day on another release? A compilation perhaps?
JB: “Love is a Wave” is actually sort of the last song that was from the Alight of Night-era but we kept it as a stand alone single. I think we’ll probably have an oddity record somewhere down the line.
Andy: There is something nice about a song like that as a stand alone entity. The to-the point-ness of the ‘45.
Your song “Silver Sun” recently appeared on the Fortuna Pop! compilation Weekend Dreams which was given away with the Scared To Dance Spring fanzine. Tell us more about that track.
JB: Hmmm. I sometimes take critical stances with songs so after they’re done I’ll strip and critique so I sort of try to look at it from an observers perspective – sort of a psychoanalysis of where the song came from and what it sounds most like. I’m most pleased when a song sounds different from the root influence. I think that song sounds denser then I thought it would. Almost like a Joe Meek meets Love meets The Pastels.
How is your current tour of the UK going? Where are you heading to afterwards on tour?
JB: It’s going well. I think we’re headed directly to Disneyland after.
Andy: Brief but enjoyable. Always nice to catch up with friends who reside overseas.
The video for “Shake the Shackles” was premiered on Pitchfork a little while ago. What were the ideas behind it? As a band, did you have much input in to it?
JB: We did have quite a bit of direction on that one. We wanted black and white, city shots, helicopters etc.
Andy: A certain someone complained that there weren’t shots of us walking on the beach in it. A little digging can easily find those images. Not even digging really.
You’ve had a few line-up changes over the years with Brad and JB the only constant sole members. How did the changes come about?
Andy: Changes and additions came about organically and continue to cultivate in this Petri dish that is Crystal Stilts. Also, wanting people to play instruments live which has led to some form of permanence and evolved the writing, recording processes.
What attracted you to play Indietracks? Will you be able to catch many of the other bands?
Andy: We have always heard wonderful things from past attendees, bands who have played, and all other travellers. Positive vouching and vibrations have led us there. Hopefully we will be able to see as much as possible, wander the grounds, and generally get the full experience.
What plans do you have for the remainder of 2011?
Andy: We have an EP that will be out in the fall and hopefully will be able to jam, write, and practice the alchemy that is our modus operandi.
Hi Johan, how excited are you about playing Indietracks this year? What do you know about the festival?
Yes it’s going to be great fun. Peter’s been playing there with his and Linas other band Springfactory last year. Well I know it’s a big festival for music lovers who are in to indiepop and various smaller genres. I haven’t had the time to look up on all of the other bands playing; hopefully I will be surprised and discover different new bands.
You haven’t put anything out for a couple of years now but I read recently that you have new songs you are working on. Will you be releasing new material soon?
I really hope so. It’s a long process. We released an EP (#4) back in 2009 and we also released a new song on a small label (Sound of Young Lötkärr Vol 2) last year. We’ve been working on different songs for quite some time now and some of them are pretty much finished. Now its summer and we will probably start to work on the songs when we’ve had our vacation and so.
Tell us more about the songs. What are the ideas behind the music and lyrics?
The ideas behind the music and lyrics are pretty much the same. Depressive and funny at the same time. This time some lyrics lean towards more serious things too.
Labrador have an amazing roster at the moment with Acid House Kings, The Radio Dept., Sambassadeur, Pelle Carlberg. How important are they in promoting Swedish indiepop? Will your new songs be put out by them again?
Labrador is pretty big outside of Sweden. They are one of the biggest indiepop labels in Sweden and they are very good at putting out things in the world. They have helped us by being on their roster to get through to the rest of the world. Apart from that I don’t think you can call it a sound and I like that. AHK and The Radio Dept. have very different approach towards music but it’s always a certain quality to most of the things they put out. Our new album will be out by them if they have the patience to wait for slow guys like us.
Your EPs and album have all been numbered like Led Zeppelin used to. Why did you decide to do that? Will you be giving your releases titles from now on?
I don’t know why we decided on that, the first one we entitled #1 and then it was easy to follow on that concept. We’ve been talking about changing that theme but time will tell.
How do you find it with just two of you in the band? Do you ever get sick of each other on tour or does having a backing band with you help?
Having a backing band does help but we haven’t had that much trouble throughout the year. I think all people tend to get a little crazy when being on a tour because it’s such an intense thing. If you only have that in mind and let people have their space then things will work out fine.
Do you have plans to tour Europe this year?
We don’t. We’ve only been planning this show.
You played recently Huset ved Sjøen festival in Norway. It looked like a unique festival with just nine bands on the bill. How was it? How much will your set differ at Indietracks?
It was a really magic festival. Set in an old Greek temple on a fjord outside of Oslo which was pretty sick and we played on a boat. With the audience standing on land in the temple. There were a lot of good bands playing that day. The setlist from that show will probably be pretty the same, I hope we can cram in some new stuff in there as well and some more old songs.
Will you be staying for the entire weekend? Are you camping or going upmarket and staying a hotel?
We are staying in a hotel and we will be there for the whole festival. Coming up on Friday.
Which bands are you looking forward to seeing the most at the festival?
Edwyn Collins, The Garlands, Jeffrey Lewis, Crystal Stilts.
You have just released your new LP Strange Moosic which also comes in a limited book version. Whose idea was it to release it in that format along with the more conventional CD and vinyl?
I have always dreamt that one day my band would release something like this. Kind of ironic that I finally get to have full size illustrations, guitar tabs lyrics and photos nicely packaged at a time when people predict the end of physical sales, but I guess it’s better late than never. Néman and I started in 2000, and 10 years after our first album, we eventually started our own label and get to get things done our way.
How did you get Mad Men’s Jon Hamm to star in the video for “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know”?
You know, it was very simple, to be honest. Toben Seymour and I sent him the storyboard and the song. He said yes right away and flew to join us in Texas. He was very enthusiastic, I was glad to meet him and impressed by the acting, of course.
What is the story behind the Baby Blue yeti puppet?
I’ve been drawing Baby Blue for years. I had ideas for a feature film with Baby Blue, he’d be running away from home. This video was a first attempt to tell a story with him.
Do you have any other songs in mind as singles from Strange Moosic?
I think “Magician” is the best single; it’s very cinematic I find. My songs are so close to me right now, that it’s hard for me to know what they sound like for the first time when someone hears them on a commercial radio. And that’s what singles are about I feel, those first airplays and what people make of them.
Do you still see Giant as a breakthrough moment? Why was that record so important to the bands career?
It’s a tough question, you know. I guess most of our fans from Mas Cambios and Not on Top started hating Herman Dune when Andre left the band; it coincided with the release of Giant. You know the Brian Jones syndrome, or the “they were better before” attitude that is so common regarding so-called “cult” bands. After we had entirely lost our “devoted” followers, we started doing what we do, writing and recording songs. Weirdly, I never felt better, maybe because the world felt brand new to me, I felt rejuvenated, with healthier expectations than having to maintain a touring status in the indie-rock scene, I started writing songs that were not only meant for the stage, working on different patterns, freed from my brother’s many rules and freed from a scene I felt I had nothing to do with. Néman and I still had the New World to explore better, and that is where we found the energy and the vibe for our music: touring intensively and staying in the USA. Giant opened the doors of America to us, and for some reason it coincided with me feeling more inspired than ever as a writer, so that’s kind of a reason why Giant is important to me.
Your records often have beautifully designed covers. Do you do all of your own illustrations yourself?
I love drawing. Our albums’ artwork has always been for me a place to display my efforts as an illustrator. Now that I have my own separate life as a graphic artist, with art shows and everything, I still love the idea that someone could get a better insight on my songs with my drawings. Néman has always encouraged me to do so, and it makes me happy.
How much did you enjoy your recent your of Europe? Did you have a standout gig? You were great at a particularly hot and sweaty XOYO.
XOYO was crazy! So hot, but I liked the show. I’m writing from the tour bus, and back to back, we just had the most extreme opposite shows I had ever experienced. Mudbath in former Sovietic air base in Germany, playing for 60,000 dreadlocked punks, Mad Max III style, and yesterday Calvi, in Corsica, playing on the beach at sunset for a couple of thousands of happy people, most of whom seemed to be very beautiful girls to me. Both shows were awesome, with 24 hours of travelling in between.
I’ve always thought of Union Chapel as a special and even mystical venue. How much are you looking forward to playing there when you return to the UK in October?
Union Chapel is awesome! I played there with Herman Dune and my dear friends Jeff and Jack Lewis. I’m a little nervous because Herman Dune plays very loud now, and I know that Union Chapel is a quiet friendly venue, we might have to seriously adapt that night, but we’re usually good at that. I like the fact that the place is meant for spiritual matters, it’s inspiring to me.
Whilst touring extensively, have you had time to write any new songs? Do you ever write whilst you are on the road?
I try to write everyday, but my best songs are often written when I go to my parents place in Sweden, with no phone, no computer at all…
You dropped the ü from your name when André left the band. Wire did a similar thing when their drummer Robert Gotobed was replaced by a drum machine in 1990. Was this your reasoning behind the decision? A break from the past?
Yes. I didn’t feel Herman Dune was over but I wanted to acknowledge André’s departure. Just to be clear. You know, I like, for instance, that there’s The Stooges and Iggy & The Stooges, different line-ups, different names. I have also noticed about The Velvet Underground’s eponymous third album, after they let John Cale go, that people often talk about how good John is, on “The Murder Mystery” or “What Goes On”, because nothing really says that it’s a different line-up.
Are you still in contact with André? Could you ever see a time when he would return to Herman Dune?
André is my brother. I love him and I see him very often. But working with him had become very frustrating for me, and I didn’t become an artist to have to go through all kinds of compromises and rules I hadn’t made mine, in order to create. I usually find reunion shows pathetic, especially when the band was never famous in the first place, but I imagine I could work with him again, under another band name, because I like the sound of our voices together, and he’s a good Sax player.
You played around ten John Peel Sessions when he was still with us. How significant was his support to the band?
Honestly, John Peel meant the world to me. I had never been in a proper recording studio before he let Herman Dune enter the gates of Maida Vale. He taught me how to record, with his team, and he made it possible to tour all over Europe for Herman Dune. I wish I could have really thanked him properly. He was the nicest and the bestest.
There are only two of you in the band. Has it always been a conscious decision to keep the line-up slim and tight?
Ian: We used to have another guitarist, but yes, I would say so. It makes things a lot simpler from a practical point of view. Sound-checks are much quicker! But more importantly I like the directness of two guitars, bass and drums. I’m into making records with lots of overdubs but I see no reason to replicate that in a live setting. At gigs we like to go for the jugular.
Do you ever see the day when you’d get a drummer or expand the line-up in other ways?
Ian: I’m happy without a drummer. We did consider it early on and there are live drums on some of the recordings, but I think the drum machine is more than adequate for our purposes. We’ve played with guests from time to time (Andrew Jarrett of The Groove Farm, Brad San Martin and One Happy Island, Pierre Sparf of Liechtenstein, Rocker) but I can’t see anyone becoming a permanent fixture. Living in different cities we find it difficult to find the time to practice as is.
You’ve played quite a few gigs in continental Europe. How was Madrid Popfest? What sets it aside from the London shows?
Ian: Madrid was amazing! We were treated very well indeed and the whole weekend was superb from start to finish, in every way. It was great to see Spanish bands like Los Autocratas and Zipper. Because it was the first ever Madrid Popfest the atmosphere was very special. There was a sort of unbridled excitement to it all that reminded me of the first Indietracks festival in 2007. It’s hard to compare it to the London edition as they are both great in their own way. I wasn’t at London this year so can’t really comment, but I guess the main difference would be that Madrid was a smaller-scale event with fewer bands.
Pete: Madrid was an incredible event. There was such a sense of togetherness and joy stemming from the fact that the nine organisers had managed to pull off something unique and magical for indiepop in Madrid. The hospitality we were shown all weekend was quite humbling and to be presented with a momento and two chocolates immediately after coming off stage was a lovely touch. I played on the Saturday as well, with The Blanche Hudson Weekend, who got the full dry ice treatment for some reason!
You put out the compilation Popkids of the World Unite! out in October of last year containing b-sides and rarities. Tell us more about that release.
Ian: We planned it for a while. Ever since we did the Frosty Cat Songs LP in 2006 we’ve released nothing but singles on many different labels and mostly as limited editions. It just seemed like a nice idea to collect them all.
Pete: It feels like a proper LP in that the songs are sequenced to fit together in that order, rather than being chronological. The only song that hadn’t been released before was our Jonathan Richman cover, which was earmarked for a Fortuna Pop! compilation. It seemed the right time to do compile the tracks.
Can we expect an album of new material anytime soon?
Ian: We’re just finishing a couple of tracks for an expanded edition of The Knitwear Generation EP (originally released this year on Fika) that’s coming out on Susy Records. After that we’ve promised ourselves a little bit of a break from gigging so we can concentrate on recording our second album. I’ve had some of the songs written for about 4 years now, so it’s about time we got them on tape! I think they’re my best songs yet. We’ll see!
How much did you enjoy playing Read and Shout recently? How important do you think having a tight knit indiepop scene in London is for these charity events?
Ian: It was an honour to be invited, and a great bill. I read a review of it that trashed most of the bands – us in particular – in a really mean-spirited way. Given that the bands played for free to support a great cause I found that deeply troubling, but there we go. Hats off to Matt for organising the day. I definitely think it’s important to have a tight knit community – all the time, not just for charity events.
Pete: It was an event we were proud to put our name to and to support. The Sweet Nothings spelt things out in song: “So be careful what you wish for/And remember what they did/Remember how they tore this land in two/They might tell you different stories but they’re still the same old Tories/And they’ll *always* put the bankers before you”. It’s just as important – maybe more important given the likely effect of cuts on people’s lives in the poorer areas of the country – to have a tight knit community outside London to organise and support voices of protest.
You recorded a split 7” with The Blanche Hudson Weekend on Odd Box Records for their Singles Club. What’s the story behind “Get Cleansed!”?
Ian: Typically for a Horowitz song the lyric is a bit oblique, but it’s sort of about embracing your flaws. “Dear former friends and lovers/I hope this letter finds you well/You said it’s not the fact of falling/But the beauty in the way you fell” It’s biblical shit man! We were delighted when Trev agreed to release it.
Speaking of Odd Box, you’re playing their Weekender on 8th May. What do you have in store for your set?
Ian: I’d like to sneak some new songs in there. But otherwise expect a lot of loud noise!
Miguel, you joined the band by replying to an 18 month old advert by Andrew for band members. Can you tell us more about that?
Miguel: I had just arrived in Glasgow and was looking for people to form a band. I didn’t know anyone here so I just scoured the records shops for adverts. I was surprised that there were not more indiepop or non-mainstream indie proposals. Back then, I thought everyone in Glasgow was like Jim Reid or Caesar. Andrew’s ad was the only one that seemed interesting to me. I found it by chance well underneath a bunch of posters and ads. His had long been covered by adverts put up by people who are probably famous now. Apparently he had given up trying to form a band by then, but thankfully he changed his mind.
You released your debut LP Living and Growing at the end of last year. How has reception to the album been?
Andrew: Although we promoted the album more widely, the reception has mainly been from the indiepop community, with listeners, bloggers and DJs (at least those who have made their feelings known) almost universally heralding Living and Growing as one of the best albums of 2010. We were fairly confident that the album would be well received but I have to admit to being really thrilled at just how highly people think of it. We would ideally like it if everyone got a chance to listen to us but, then again, it’s nice to know the possibility exists that word will gradually spread.
Miguel: I think it’s been a great reception in general. We have received very good feedback from many different sources from different countries. It makes me happy to see that we have not disappointed those who have somehow followed the band through the years, since out first single. As Andrew says, practically all the reception came from the indiepop scene, the mainstream media has kept either disliking or simply ignoring us, but we did not expect anything else really.
The Scottish Arts Council funded the album. They’ve got a great history of funding albums from Camera Obscura to Butcher Boy as well as funding Scottish bands to play SXSW. How vital were they in getting the album released?
Miguel: In brief, this album would have never been released without this funding. Not at that moment at least. I am sure this has been the case for many, probably the most, of the bands that have released records in Scotland thanks to their help. So it’s easy to get an idea of how the cuts in the SAAC, Creative Scotland nowadays, will impact on the Scottish music scene.
Andrew: Had we not been funded, we may have eventually got round to releasing an album but it wouldn’t have sounded as good. I think we would have ended up doing it on the cheap which would have been a shame.
Where was the LP recorded and who produced it? How long did it take to write and record?
Andrew: It was recorded at CaVa by Brian McNeill and we produced it with him. Brian made recording an album really enjoyable and gave us loads of ideas – yet still made the album sound like us. It’s testament to his skills that we managed to record, mix and master the album in 7 10-hour days. One benefit of not having much time was that we didn’t get a chance to over elaborate the arrangements.
Miguel: Working with Brian was great, he got straight-away what we wanted and what we didn’t. He really captured the sound of the band. It was pretty tight indeed but we managed to record it in a week. That would probably have not been possible working with someone else or somewhere else. CaVa is a superb studio where many of our favourite albums were recorded, so it was a real treat to get to record there. However I remember us talking about this before going into studio and we all agreed we didn’t actually want to sound like any of these records. We were slightly concerned about the possibility of not getting to capture the intensity and brightness of our live sets, but these fears quickly vanished I really think that we accomplished what we intended.
I recently caught you at London Popfest. How much are you looking forward to playing NYC Popfest? Which bands are you looking forward to seeing the most?
Andrew: We’re really pleased to be playing and, having never been outside of Europe in my life, I’m personally over the moon to get to visit NYC. I love a couple of songs by Days so I’ll be watching them to hear more.
Miguel: I can’t wait to the NYC Popfest, it will be our first gig in the U.S., out of Europe actually, and we have long wanted to go there to play, so we are really excited about it. I am looking forward to seeing Days and The Sunny Street; also, Gold-Bears, Tiny Fireflies, Betty and the Werewolves and The Specific Heats. I think the bill is excellent.
What other gigs do you have lined up for the remainder of 2011?
Miguel: We have been playing steadily since June last year, before and after the release of Living and Growing, both in the UK and abroad. Apart from the NYC Popfest, we will be playing in Copenhagen and Hamburg in May. After that, we plan to take a break from live shows and concentrate in new material on which we are currently working.
And finally, Andrew, did you mum really think you were gay because you listened to Morrissey?
Andrew: I don’t actually know. She did once say to me that she would be happy with whatever sexuality I turned out to be, but perhaps she said that to all her children.
Colm and Bentley used to be in Language of Flowers, so how did the band get together?
Ben: Just an advert on Gumtree or somewhere. I was in another band that never rehearsed or gigged so was looking for something else to do. Bentley sent me a demo of an instrumental of “Cottonopolis” and I thought it was the best thing I’d ever heard.
Where does the bands name come from? Did you take it from the song of the same name?
Colm: I always loved Nancy Sinatra’s cover of Stonewall Jackson’s “Help Stamp Out Loneliness” and was gonna use it for a club night that me and Tara from Language of Flowers were gonna do. It was similar to Jarvis Cocker’s old night Little Stabs at Happiness. I think Ben stole it for a night in Manchester that he did with Andy Rourke and then it seemed too good to pass up on when we wanted to have another band on the go after Language of Flowers split up.
You’ve just released your debut LP on Where It’s At Is Where You Are. How did you get to know John Jervis?
Ben: He came to our first ever UK gig at HDIF in Brixton. We recorded it ourselves in bits and pieces over about a year.
Colm: I was a bit suspicious of John at first, as I had been obsessed by getting hold of Shrag’s “Pregnancy Scene” 7″. I met him at ATP and drunkenly promised to make sure I got one. His eyes were in the back of his head at the time, so wasn’t surprised not to receive it. The thing about John is that he has turned out to almost be my guardian angel and has really looked after me going through a really bad time. If anyone else ever did him wrong I would happily hack them to death with his unsold copies of WIAIWYA 015 and WIAIWYA 024. Whatever they are.
The album has a real sheen to it that would sound perfect on the radio. Who produced the LP?
Ben: Woodie Taylor mostly, with other bits by Martin Coogan, Yves Altana, Craig Gannon and Bentley.
You’ve just released “Record Shop” as a single. Have you decided which other songs will be singles?
Ben: Well we’ve had two singles – “Torvill & Dean” and “Pacific Trash Vortex”, but not sure if we’re gonna release any album tracks as singles – probably something new
You were my absolute standout band at London Popfest. How important do you think these Popfest’s are to supporting indiepop music?
Colm: I’ve only been to the London ones, we couldn’t afford to go over to the New York one even though we were asked. They do seem a good thing and having been following this scene for too many years, it is good to have something going on in so many different places.
You played Indietracks in 2009 and you’ll be back for this year’s festival. What are you looking forward to the most at the festival? What other gigs do you have coming up in support of the album?
Colm: I’m looking forward to kidnapping Dan from Pocketbooks/Full Fathom Down again and handcuffing him again to my hotel bed and force feeding him cheap vodka. That was my highlight. The other highlight was being thrown against a radiator by Bentley in the same room and banging my head against the very same handcuffs from the previous night. After Indietracks we will be playing all the same places that we played before. Hamburg and hopefully New York at some point.
Ben: My highlights from last time were eating the pains’ rider ham and playing Bentley’s “what’s your best dinner?” game (I think the winner was the Teeside delicacy parmo). Next time I’m looking forward to drinking under a train, drinking on a train that goes nowhere and seeing that whole roast pig.
“Cottonopolis + Promises”
A ‘Dear John’ letter to our beloved city of Manchester – a city sadly trapped between sentimentality and hipsterism.
It’s about a woman in LA who puts billboards up of herself all over the show. It’s kind of an indie version of the Bros classic ‘When Will I Be Famous?’
Stalkers, blow-jobs and quite possibly murder-suicide.
“The Ghost With a Hammer in His Hand”
A bizarre love triangle between Joseph, Mary and God …. and Jimmy Wilde. So not really a triangle after all.
A ‘once bitten, twice shy’ ex-lover won’t be fooled again into being filmed on some shitty Eumig Super 8 whilst performing sexual favours in pub beer garden. True story.
A Club 18-30’s romance turns awry when a Northern Irish girl unsuspectingly becomes a drugs mule. Don’t ask.
This one’s all about falling in love with someone whose main characteristics all point towards them being a member of the un-dead.
“Me, Sola & C”
A kitchen-sink Othello. A girl is convinced by her ‘friend’ that her man is a cheat. Tragedy and Martini Vermouth ensue.
Forget vinyl – audio cassettes were the best format. This is an ode to an ode – the original ode being The Smiths’ ‘Rubber Ring’.
It’s about taking loads of ketamine, jumping in the Bridgewater Canal on a hot summer’s day, forgetting how to swim and not giving two fucks.
Scratch n’ Sniff.
A glorious anthem for the sexually repressed sun-kissed swingers from Cheshire set.
You first used the Butcher Boy title as a pen name when submitting poetry to newspapers. I’ve always assumed you took name from the 1917 Buster Keaton short film. Why did that appeal to you?
The band name mostly came from the Patrick McCabe book, to be honest… I read it when I was 18 and it really moved me – very funny, but very sad too. That said, I had the film at the back of my mind too – though mostly for the Fatty Arbuckle connection!
I first became aware of your music in 2007 at How Does It Feel to Be Loved? who released your first two albums. The new LP is due to come out on the Damaged Goods label. How did the change come about?
After we released React Or Die Ian Watson, who runs HDIF, and I had a talk about the band and the label… we’d been fortunate to have a lot of good press with the record but we hadn’t really been able to do anything with it. It was partly down to us – we’ve all got work commitments and can’t play many shows – and partly down to a lack of a substantial promotional budget for HDIF. Ian said we could release another record on HIDF – but the problems we’d had with React Or Die would happen again. Ian suggested we have a look around and see what options were available – and we were very lucky to find a new home with Damaged Goods.
Tell us more about the forthcoming new album. In terms of the sound, is it much of a departure from Profit In Your Poetry and React Or Die?
I was thinking about this question today and I think it is! After React Or Die we wrote a score for a film called Chick’s Day, and we performed it at the Glasgow Film Theatre last June. I had an idea we would never go back to it – that it would only ever exist for the people who were there – but I loved the challenge of doing it, and the discipline that was involved, and we ended up taking some of the strands from that work and have used them for this record. So we have a few instrumental pieces… a few themes! The last song on the record is an instrumental called “Every Other Saturday” and I think it’s the best song we’ve ever recorded. It’s certainly the one I’m most proud of.
Can we expect a new dancefloor hits like “Carve a Pattern”? It’s one of my favourite records to play at the club.
I hope there are at least a couple! The first single from the record is going to be a song called “Imperial” and I think that should fit the brief.
I really enjoyed the video for “A Better Ghost” from your last album. It was partly film at the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall in Glasgow. Who filmed it and will there be more promotional videos for the new LP?
It was filmed by a friend of a friend called Jerry Kelly… I sketched out a story that fleshed out what the song was about and I asked my friends Keith and Alison to be in it. It was a lot of fun to do, I’d definitely like to do more! We were asked last year by a chap called Bryan O’Neil if our song “This Kiss Will Marry Us” could be used on a film Bryan was making… we agreed to a swap! We’ve let Bryan use the song and Bryan is going to make a video for us in return… I’ve given Bryan free rein to do whatever he likes with any song from the new record!
At the end of the last year you organised your own Christmas Fayre at Mitchell Library. Is the closure of many libraries throughout the UK something you feel passionately about? How did the Fayre itself go?
It’d be a brave frontman of an indiepop band who said he didn’t care about library closures! The Fayre was really good fun – it was difficult to organise but the library staff were incredibly helpful to us and our friend Jude did a fantastic job of making sure everything in the Fayre itself went to plan.
I’m writing this the day after you’ve been announced as part of Indietracks 2011. How excited are you about playing the festival again?
We’re very excited! We played in 2009 and had a fantastic time – and this time we’ll have the opportunity to hang around and enjoy the rest of the festival too. We’ve had a bit of a run getting up to speed with our new songs – depending on the mood and the weather we’ll do our very best!
Is there anyway fans can get there hands on the elusive The Eighteenth Emergency EP?
The physical copies are long gone… I don’t even have one! We pressed about 200, and they were only on sale at the Glasgow café shows we did in 2007. The four songs are on iTunes though!
You used to run the legendary National Pop League in Glasgow. Is there a time when you could ever see bringing it back?
I miss the NPL a lot – especially on days like today in Glasgow, when it’s sunny and it’s blowy. I made some fantastic friends through it, and sometimes I feel guilty about it ending. But in the end, it was the right thing to do – it’s right that its history and I would never go back to it. I still DJ from time to time around Glasgow – I had a small NPL side project called Little League, and I tend to put on three or four of these a year. These are good fun… I was absolutely dedicated to the NPL and it was run with military precision but the Little Leagues are a little looser… I’m able to make the odd mistake with it!
There’s been a gap of 6 years between Sing Along With Acid House Kings and Music Sounds Better With You. I read that it was due to be released in 2008. What happened along the way?
Niklas: Well, for us, it’s not that long actually. It was five years between our first and second albums and then another five years between the second and the third. When it only took us three years to record and release our fourth album Sing Along With Acid House Kings, that was some kind of creative outburst. A record we will never beat.
Still, the original plan was to release the album in 2008 or at least 2009. But, we suddenly felt we were going the wrong way. Acid House Kings have always been about pop melodies, nothing more, nothing less. The album we scrapped in 2008 was a less melodic, a tad darker than we wanted. And, maybe more importantly, not good enough. Some time in 2010 we suddenly felt we had a classic three-minute-pop-song-five-songs-on-side-A-five-songs-on-side-B-every-song-is-a-single type of album on the way. After that, we were actually quite fast.
Johan: I listened a lot to French pop music from the 60’s last year and I think that really inspired me to start working with Acid House Kings again. Rhythms have become increasingly important to me over the last years – nine out of ten songs I write start with the rhythms – and I think people like Serge Gainsbourg opened my eyes for new ways of combing that with straightforward pop songs. I know a lot of people think Sing Along With Acid House Kings and Music Sounds Better With You sounds almost identical, but I feel there’s a quite big difference. Music Sounds Better With You is more advance of course.
“Would You Say Stop?” is one of our favourite releases this year. It’s a tremendous pop song. What are your hopes for it? I noticed it was available as the Free Song of the Day on Amazon. Does chart success mean a lot to the group in these years of declining record sales?
Julia: I am so happy that you like it. “Would You Say Stop?” is actually one of my favourites as well. Our hope is that as many as possible will hear it and love it. I am one of those people who still listen to songs and records that I loved 5 – 10 years ago. If this song still would be played in 5 – 10 years I would be euphoric. Amazon has a lot of customers (me included) and a chart success therefore means a great deal.
It’s also got a sad penguin video which I’ve not been able to stop watching. What were the ideas behind it?
Niklas: Well, that was more or less the idea: Julia as a sad penguin. It’s really difficult to make videos that are worth watching, especially when you don’t have a gigantic budget. You need a simple, visual idea and the penguin outfit was ours. Philip Ekström, who directed the video, did a great job. I think it’s beautiful, funny and a little sad. I still watch it myself. I think the video captures Acid House Kings more than any other video we’ve made.
Joakim doesn’t appear in the promo video or on the album cover. Has he left the band?
Niklas: He hasn’t left the band in some dramatic way or so. We live in Stockholm and he lives in the south of Sweden, so this time around he wasn’t around for the recordings. He wasn’t involved in Mondays Are Like Tuesdays and Tuesdays Are Like Wednesdays (2002), but he played on Sing Along With Acid House Kings (2005). An on and off relationship, I guess. Maybe his back for our sixth album some time in 2018…
How did your live comeback at Debaser in Stockholm go on 8th April? Were there a few creases to iron out or did you manage to hit your groove straight away considering you’ve not played live together for 5 years?
Julia: The energy was high and it was straight up awesome. We had a slew of loyal fans that literally sang there hearts out to very word. There was also a lot of dancing.
How is the current live line-up of the band shaped? I noticed on a recent Swedish TV performance there were 7 of you. Will that be the line-up to tour the LP?
Julia: The band consists of me, Johan and Niklas and four lovely friends. To be honest we can not perform a concert without them. They are the best! Hopefully all of us will tour together in the future.
Although Julia is primarily the lead singer, sometimes vocal duties are split. How is that decided? Do you do different takes in the studio and see which vocalist would best suit a particular song, capturing the right feel?
Niklas: We have an unwritten rule that says I sing half of the songs and Julia sings half of the songs. We always decide before entering the studio who is going to sing it. Often the choice comes very naturally.
Do you have any plans to play European festivals this summer? Are you familiar with Indietracks Festival in the UK?
Julia: We don’t know yet. Some festivals have contacted us but we haven’t really decided yet. I have not been at the Indietracks Festival yet, but hopefully one day!
Moving on, Johan, what’s happening with Club 8 at the moment? Can we expect anything soon? I loved The People’s Record from last year.
Johan: We’ll have a new album out next year. I’ve been writing quite a lot of new Club 8 songs this year and we have about twelve songs that we both feel are really great. But we haven’t started doing proper recordings and versions yet, so I’m sure a lot of them will fall off as we start recording after the summer. It’s taking some new interesting directions and I’m not sure how it’ll sound in the end. It’ll be a more experimental, darker and more electronic album than The People’s Record I think. But who knows…
What’s happening with all of your other side projects at the moment? Are they on hold until the promotional run of Music Sounds Better With You is over with?
Johan: We actually finished the debut album with Pallers yesterday. Or maybe it’s 99,9% finished. It turned absolutely amazing if I may say so, it has a very three dimensional sound which I really love. We’ve only released two singles before. Three if you count our Christmas single “Arctic Hymn”. The album will be out late September I think.
Is the Acid House Kings home for you? Does it feel like going on holiday when you play with your other bands, being able to explore different musical avenues that might not necessarily fit within the Acid House Kings style?
Johan: I’m on holiday with Acid House Kings! It’s such a rare thing that we get together and make and album that it feels a bit like time off from other bands. But at the same time, it’s a home as well. We’ve been playing since I first learned to play guitar, its family and it’s something I keep returning to.
Many of your songs tend to be snappy 3 minutes and all of your albums are around 30 minutes. Most of my favourite LPs tend to be that length. I think it can capture a band wonderfully, like a snapshot of a group at a certain time. Is that your ideal? To get your message across crystallised within a perfect pop song?
Johan: I love 3 minutes pop songs and albums with 10 tracks. For pop albums, it’s the perfect length. But I don’t really have an ideal, because it depends on what kind of music I’m making. Sometimes album should be more like long stories, with completely different passages and episodes that spans over a long time. The Pallers album has 10 songs and it not super long – its 40 minutes – but it’s a completely different build up. There’s light and shorter instrumental pieces, dark suggestive noisy drone ambient, 7 minutes slow pop songs… there’s even music you can dance to. At least if you’re OK with slow dancing…. anyway, this is just as much my ideal as the 10 hits and 3 minute pop songs we’re doing with Acid House Kings.
Despite breaking the mould a couple of LPs ago, will you be reverting to your original 10 year plan to release an album every 5 years? Was that inspired by Felt who released 10 albums and 10 singles in 10 years?
Johan: Yep, we stole their plan and adjusted it to Acid House Kings and we might very well do it again!
Our Indietracks Special fanzine is now available. We talk to Herman Dune about their set plus Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, Crystal Stilts, Math and Physics Club and Milky Wimpshake.
If you would like to order a copy it costs £1.50 plus P&P.
Our Spring fanzine is now availbale. The lead interview is with the Swedish indiepoppers Acid House Kings whose new album Music Sounds Better With You is, in our opinion, the best of 2011.
We got talk to a number of bands who are playing Indietracks this mont. Butcher Boy tell us about their forthcoming third LP and Help Stamp Out Loneliness give us a track-by-track guide to their eponymous debut album. Plus interviews with The Felt Tips and Horowitz.
Inside you’ll find a write up on Read and Shout by organiser Matthew Stead, Edinburgh’s best indiepop club night Unpop and as well as Librarians Wanted and Stolen Wine Social Club. If that wasn’t enough you’ll get all the latest release news from Pebble Records and KinGem and an epitaph of The Go-Betweens.
The fanzine comes with a free compilation from Fortuna Pop! called Weekend Dreams –
1. Comet Gain – The Weekend Dreams
2. The Grave Architects – Love TBC
3. Herman Dune – Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
4. The Loves – O! My Gawd
5. Bearsuit – Cut Loose
6. Evans the Death – I’m So Unclean
7. The Primitives – Need All the Help I Can Get
8. The Mountain Movers – Bombshelter
9. The Pipettes – Captain Rhythm
10. Tender Trap – 2 to the N
11. Crystal Stilts – Silver Sun
12. The Lucksmiths – Good Light
13. Ladybug Transistor – Breaking Up On the Beat
14. Darren Hayman & the Secondary Modern – The Green and the Grey
15. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The One
16. The Chemistry Experiment – Leo the Magician
17. Club 8 – Football Kids
18. The Aislers Set- Summer’s Reprise
19. Milky Wimpshake – Eyeball to Eyeball
20. Airport Girl – Clock Tower Lights
21. Allo Darlin’ – Dreaming (DJ Downfall Redub)
22. micktravis – Up From the Minors
23. Would-Be-Goods – The Morning After
24. Jeff Greene and the High Barnets – Dreams of Me and You
If you would like to order a copy it costs £2 plus P&P.