We are going to dispense with any sort of lengthy introduction here. If you don’t know who Anne Mari Davies is or her contribution to music then that’s about to change. Even if you are aware of her work, you are going to get to know her a whole lot better. Believe us.
The simple facts are these:-
- We asked Anne Mari Davies if we could interview her
- She agreed
- She said she would answer any questions honestly unless she couldn’t remember the answer (and she was true to her word)
- We asked a select number of EIO40 community members to provide questions for Anne Mari to answer
- We sent Steve from EIO40 down to her home on the south coast
- This interview is what he came back with
You see. this is all about Anne Mari and you should be left to just dive in read what she has to say, without being held up by some superfluous preamble. It’s a open and honest account of her time in The Field Mice. How she came to join the band, her battles with mental illness and stage fright, her relationship with Bobby Wratten and “those’ songs as well as the final days of the band, from her own very personal perspective. There is also an insight into her early musical life, her influences and what she got up to after The Field Mice.
We should point out that the interview is pretty much unedited. We didn’t want to lose any of Anne Mari’s personality during the translation process and hopefully her character shines through here as much as it did it person.
So thank you to Rob Morgan, Esther, Paul Power’s Tache, Steven M, Richard Weir, Simon White and Michael Bairstow on Twitter for providing some of the questions for Anne Mari. And of course, thank you to Anne Mari for taking the time to talk candidly to EIO40.
Here’s what Anne Mari Davies had to say…
EIO40: Tell us a little bit about your early life
Anne Mari: I grew up in South Manchester, between Stockport and Macclesfield, a little place called Poynton, which liked to think it was a village, even though it was way too big to be a village. I lived there from 3 to about 20. Manchester was quite a big part of my life as a child and I eventually went to university in Manchester.
EIO40: What did you study there?
Anne Mari: Politics. Why? I’m not entirely sure. I thought I was going to change the world whereas I should have really gone into engineering. And I will blame my sister’s friend for this, who I quite fancied at the time, a very arty man. He said, “You’re far too artistic to do an engineering degree.” So I thought, “Okay, I’ll do something else.” I did politics and I’ve never used it since.
EIO40: What were you like as a teenager?
Anne Mari: I was a really good girl. I was the class swot. I was head girl and a nice girl. I did a few things that I probably shouldn’t have done but I didn’t take that many risks.
EIO40: And what about music as a teenager? What were you in to?
Anne Mari: I’ve played the guitar from when I was really young, I think I was seven when I started playing that. I’d always picked up any musical instrument I could and played it. And I really liked stuff that I could play and stuff that I could sing along with. I haven’t got a power ballad voice, so the whole ‘Whitney’ thing was off the radar for me and anything like that. I listened to The Beatles quite a lot, because that, again, is music that you can play, you can reproduce. I mean I’m talking quite early here.
Obviously ABBA. I was born in 1971, so show me somebody of my age who wasn’t in to ABBA. I liked a lot of Motown stuff as a teenager. I just wasn’t really interested in a lot of the “charty” music that was going on and I didn’t fit in at school that much because of that. I did like New Order very much, and The Cure, Suzanne Vega and Tracey Thorn. It was all stuff that I could try to directly, you know, replicate a bit musically.
Around that time my good friend Chris Cox started bringing Sarah records and fanzines in to the sixth form common room. These flexi-discs that were six and a half inches, so you couldn’t put your automatic record player on them, you had to actually lift the needle.
EIO40: Can you remember any particular ones?
Anne Mari: In short..no, although Another Sunny Day would probably have been the first one that really captured me, I think. But it was as much the newsletters and the ideas behind them that stopped me feeling like I was something peculiar.
There were four of us, Chris, Andrew, Sarah and myself and we hung out in the sixth form common room and around Poynton pool and named the ducks after Bobby Gillespie and so on and so forth, you know. And that’s really… That’s what got me in to the music.
EIO40: Were you going to gigs around this time?
Anne Mari: Yes, some. We were 16, 17 so weren’t old enough to go to a lot of gigs. But yes, I was at The Field Mice gig at the Boardwalk in Manchester. That was really exciting. As much as anything because we were going to meet Matt Haynes and Clare Wadd (from Sarah Records). Which, by this point, they were as famous as anybody as far as we were concerned.
So we did go to some gigs but mainly we were going up to Piccadilly Records in Manchester and buying whatever was the latest 7”, usually one that had a free badge on the front or something. I remember buying ‘‘Shimmer’’ by The Flatmates and we all went and bought the Razorcuts. It was very exciting to have that Piccadilly Records bag coming home from town on the train.
The Flatmates ‘Shimmer’
EIO40: Tell us about your early musical life. We are aware that you were in a band called The Purple Tulips. Tell us about those early days.
Anne Mari: I mentioned earlier there were four of us who hung out together in lower sixth. There was Chris, Andrew, Sarah and myself and Sarah and I played the guitar together. We were all interested in the same type of music, and Chris started writing lyrics and I put some music together. Don’t even know if I can call it music really, it was very, very basic stuff.
Andrew and Chris didn’t play any instruments and we didn’t have any drums or anything. I did have a selection of percussion instruments, I think I’ve still got them upstairs, so they would be playing on anything at hand, tables, that sort of thing. Sarah and I muddled through with keyboards, guitar and singing.
What were our influences? Probably the whole C86 stuff. Because the whole thing about the C86 sound, for me, was… It’s a bit like punk, anybody could do it, right? It wasn’t about, like I said earlier, the big power ballad voices or anything. It was about anybody being able to do it. And I think there’s something really important about anybody being allowed to do something creative, whether or not you are classically trained or hugely talented or whatever. It’s still important to have a go at stuff, so that’s probably where The Purple Tulips came from.
I can’t remember about the name. I think we liked purple tulips, Sarah and I. We hung about together a lot and we had a good couple of years, you know. So there you go. It does seem strange to consider The Purple Tulips a proper band, because it was just a load of sixth formers having a laugh. But it’s nice of people to be interested, anyway.
EIO40: Did you send a Purple Tulips demo tapes to Sarah Records?
Anne Mari: Chris sent them a demo tape and then Clare wrote about it in the fanzine, which was, for us, just the most extraordinary turn of events, really. Because, as I said, Clare and Matt were basically stars in our world, more so than any of the bands we were into.
EIO40: Do you still have any Purple Tulips tapes?
Anne Mari: I don’t, Bobby (Wratten) does. He or Beth (Arzy) sent me a photograph of the cassette the other day. I don’t have a cassette player, although I do have a few cassettes up in the loft, so there may be some Purple Tulips bedroom recordings up there.
EIO40: And what about musical training? Were you self-taught?
Anne Mari: Erm… ish. My dad showed me how to play something on the guitar when I was about seven. My dad was very musical. He had the most beautiful, Welsh, bass voice, absolutely gorgeous. My family are Welsh originally. He played the guitar and he played the organ. He had one of these, you know, big organs with pedals and he used to show me what he was learning and I’d play that.
It sounds daft but I played the recorder at school and I just wish everybody still played it at school these days. I suppose they have the ukulele now which all the kids play, but they don’t learn to read music in the same way that we all did because we all had to learn the recorder at school.
I couldn’t get in to the guitar lessons at school, they were always too full, so my dad continued to teach me at home and then I joined a folk club, so it was all, ‘The times, they are a changing’’ type songs. I was looking back through some of my old songbooks recently and it’s loads of political songs. My folk club singer must have been really, really political.
I did eventually start classical guitar lessons, which is where I met Sarah, because we were both doing the same lessons.
EIO40: How did you come to join The Field Mice
Anne Mari: I really liked the band. As I’ve mentioned, I was in to all of the Sarah Records stuff, and the song that got me hooked was ‘If You Need Someone,’ which came out when I was 18 I think. By that point I couldn’t stop playing it. The lyrics got me completely hooked on the band.
The Field Mice ‘If You Need Someone’
We’d been recording this stuff at the time with The Purple Tulips and enjoying doing it, when somebody wrote to Chris, and said, “Does Anne Mari know that The Field Mice are looking for a female singer?” So Chris showed me this letter and I was like, “Oh, you’re going to see The Field Mice in Leeds, aren’t you? Next week or whatever? Give them a copy of our tape”.
So he took along a copy of the Purple Tulips demo tape with a letter from me saying, “Somebody told my friend that you were looking for a female singer, this is me. Are you interested?” Bobby wrote back and said, “Yes, I’m interested. We’re coming to Manchester very soon so let’s meet up and if it goes well we’re going to Japan next month, do you want to come?”
So that’s how I got involved and we met up at Michael (Hiscock) sister’s house in Manchester and then we did a couple of gigs in London, I think, before heading off to Japan. Mark (Dobson) and I joined at the same time but Mark didn’t come to Japan with us because he was expecting his first child so the four of us went off to Japan in late 1990.
EIO40: To be thrust from essentially a bedroom band to a tour of Japan in presumably a short space of time must have been incredible. What do you remember of that tour?
Anne Mari: Yes, it was strange. We played a couple of nights at this place in Tokyo and the audience were really quiet with a polite applause at the end of each song. I was standing on stage thinking, “We’re dying here, this is awful.” But I have since found out that it’s a cultural way of behaving that I just didn’t get at the time. When we came off-stage there was this queue of 100 people waiting for autographs, and you think, “I thought you didn’t like it”. So it was an interesting experience.
EIO40: Was it easy to pick up and learn the earlier The Field Mice songs?
Anne Mari: Yes, it wasn’t too bad, although, because Bobby isn’t trained, he is self-taught, he doesn’t play recognisable chords. So there was always a bit of “What chord is it?” “Well, it’s kind of on the fourth fret and it’s like this and…” I had absolutely no idea what that chord was. It did have to be done in person, a lot of it. Sometimes he would send me tapes through the post with lyrics and chords where they were recognisable, or he’d draw the chord on paper.
Fairly often I would turn up on a Friday night and the first time we would play it as a five-piece was in the sound check and then we would play it that night, so I was learning a lot of stuff at home, on my own. I was working out harmonies and then the first time we’d try it was not in rehearsal, it would be on stage. But, it keeps it fresh. It was very different to just recreating the earlier songs.
EIO40: Did your involvement with music interfere with your studies?
Anne Mari: Oh, it totally interfered with my studies. I was travelling down to London or if not London, wherever we were gigging that weekend, virtually every Friday. Fortunately, my studies finished at midday on a Friday, so I could jump straight on a coach to wherever we were playing.
EIO40: So you were in The Field Mice at the same time you were at university?
Anne Mari: Yes. I was 19 when I joined The Field Mice, so I was in the second year of my degree. It was that autumn term when I joined the band. We went to Japan that term and so yes, it totally interfered with my studies. We would spent the whole of half term recording and things like that, so I wasn’t doing my dissertation or coursework. However, I did manage to do my dissertation on politics and pop music, so that at least meant that I was marrying to two of the aspects of my life at that time, but my studies totally came second.
The biggest problem though at that time and which I am quite happy to talk about was the mental health issues. during our final tour which was while I was in my final year at uni.
We didn’t tour for that long really when you look at it, only between year 2 and year 3 but I started getting very ill. That completely affected my studies. It made me almost unable to sit in an exam room and take an exam, because I had become so agoraphobic by that point that, to sit in an enclosed space and not be allowed to leave was really difficult. I was really, really ill by the time I took my finals. So that totally affected my studies.
EIO40: Can we ask what brought on the illness you were suffering at this time?
Anne Mari: Well I don’t know what brought on the anxiety disorder really but I can pinpoint when it turned in to a real problem. We were playing a gig in France, in Paris. It was at the end of quite a gruelling French tour, where we’d travel for 10 hours a day and then play and have three hours sleep, and we weren’t getting on that well as a band. Well, we were, but there were a few creaks going on and I was finding that really stressful.
I did feel that because the band had already existed before I arrived and then Bobby and I started a relationship, that it created tensions. That’s what that can do. Plus when you’re all late teens and young adults, you’re all a bit strange at that stage of your life anyway, I think.
So, we went to play live this night in Paris and I’d always felt sick before going on the stage but this time I thought, “No, I really am not well.” Maybe I wasn’t well, maybe I’d eaten something that disagreed with me, I don’t know, but it was a very stressful, unpleasant night. They ended up calling the pompier (fire service) because they couldn’t get a doctor. The whole thing was just a very big, stressful night. But we thought, that’s it, that was a horrible night, on we go. But the following night I couldn’t get on the stage because I started being ill again and then it just escalated.
I went to see My Bloody Valentine and I was sick there, then I went to see Harvey (Williams) play and I had to leave because I was ill. And then, suddenly, I just wasn’t able to leave the house because I was just having anxiety attacks all over the place.
So, unfortunately, by the time I got to my finals, which were an added stress on top of that, my brain just said, “I can’t actually deal with this, I’m going to shut down as much as possible.” I did get my degree and I got a good grade but how, I have no idea, because I muddled through that final year, limped through in fact, so there we are.
EIO40: It seems like the right moment to ask about that last Field Mice gig at Tufnell Park Dome if that’s Ok. The footage that is on YouTube has a quote that it was done, “through gritted teeth,” as the band had already split. Harvey seems to be enjoying himself, as does Michael. Was it really that bad on stage?
Anne Mari: Oh, yes. It was quite bad on stage that night. Yes… God, I can’t even remember how the divisions had ended up by that point to be honest. I was really unhappy on stage because I, by this point, absolutely loathed playing live so that was that. It was also terribly sad. I felt very guilty that the band was splitting up and it might have been to do with the fact that I’d said I couldn’t play live any more.
But actually, and Bobby didn’t discuss this with anybody before hand, including me, he had already decided he didn’t want to do it anymore. I do now believe it had nothing to do with me and my difficulties getting on stage or anything.
Bobby never liked touring, never, ever. He used to disappear for hours, if not days, when we were on tour and we never knew where he was, because he found it very hard. There is this intensely private side and then, the public side, of the lyrics and everything. They don’t quite marry. So he had already decided that he wanted the band to split. I think the rest of the band members probably didn’t understand why or how. They may have thought that I’d had an influence or not, I don’t know, but it was pretty tricky for most of us, I think.
EIO40: Did you know the band was splitting before the gig?
Anne Mari: Yes. We split the night before. We had our first ever band meeting in Glasgow. I was going to say at the meeting, “Look, I can’t do this anymore guys.” I think it was obvious to them all because I was so poorly. But we walked in and before I even had the chance to speak Bobby said, “Can I just say I don’t want to do this anymore. Tomorrow’s the last night, and that’s it.” And it was just this stunned silence of, “Whoa, where did this come from?” So that was a difficult night, the night before, and then we limped through the next gig.
In that YouTube clip I look more miserable that I even remember feeling. I looked so miserable. It did feel really, really sad. I think my overwhelming feeling was how sad it felt. And yes, you know, Harvey and Michael are always going to have a bit of a boogie around when there’s a riff going or whatever, but it was very, very sad.
EIO40: Do you look back now and think, “I don’t feel so bad about it because, actually it wasn’t down to me”
Anne Mari: I do, I do. It took me a long time to realise, to believe that it wasn’t me, but I’ve known Bobby for over 25 years now and I know him well enough that that’s the kind of thing he’ll do.
EIO40: Do you talk openly about those days or do you sort of keep it under wrap
Anne Mari: No, we don’t, no.
Anne Mari: I can’t remember that at all, but there was always something going on at gigs. either the microphones were rubbish or whatever else.
I remember a gig at The Richmond in Brighton when Mark pushed his drums in to the crowd and Bobby smashed his guitar up on stage. That was a very bad night. The sound system was so poor. There were lots of tensions going on. There was a bit of tension at the time between the label and The Field Mice and Clare and Matt wanted us to play The Richmond but we wanted to play somewhere a bit better. That sounds a bit egotistical but we wanted to play somewhere that had a better sound system. The Richmond was notorious for having bad sound. It was just awful, you just could not hear yourselves at all and there were tensions between us all anyway and I think we were just fed up.
I don’t know what happened first, did Mark put his drums in to the crowd first and then Bobby smash up his guitar? I can’t remember, but I do remember just thinking, “What is actually happening? This is The Field Mice, this is like your twee indie band, supposedly.” It was a bit rock ‘n’ roll really.
Bobby still has his guitar from that night. He left it there after we all went home and then, the following morning, he said, “I want my guitar back.” I was like, “Well, it’s in bits.” So we came back down to Brighton, me and him, and went and knocked on the door and went, “Don’t suppose you’ve still got the bits of the guitar that he left behind?”
This was right towards the end and it was just, “Oh, this is just rubbish”, because those tensions were happening and that’s why we had the meeting. The meeting was with the record label, the one in Glasgow when it all ended, because there were increasing tensions.
There is a fair amount of stuff in My Secret World (the docu-film about Sarah Records) about could The Field Mice have got bigger? Because people feel that they could have ‘made it,’ whatever that means. And had they outgrown Sarah and stuff?
I think there were a number of things going on. I mean, personalities were clashing, the label had quite a lot of musical control over what was released and I think, in their defence, it was their livelihood so they wanted to release stuff that they liked. They didn’t want to release what they classed as rubbish. So they had quite a lot of input on what was allowed to be released and that created tensions because we didn’t always see eye to eye. They wanted us to play places like The Richmond and so it wasn’t quite working, really, by that point. So that’s one of the reasons that we had the meeting.
EIO40: So the tensions were building before the Glasgow meeting and the final gig in Tufnell Park
Anne Mari: They were. I don’t believe The Field Mice ever would have got big though, whatever label we were on. There was interest from larger labels but I just think the personalities involved were ready to implode at any time.
It wasn’t the be-all and end-all to be famous and big for some of us and so therefore we weren’t all going in the same direction. And some people in the band wanted to give up their day job and get enough money from it to live off it, and others didn’t and then you’ve got Bobby, who just wanted to write his stuff and be left alone really. So a right old mixture. As I said we weren’t all going in the same direction.
I could not see, at least myself and Bobby, dealing with anything big. Certainly not me at the time, and I just couldn’t see us dealing with the marketing side of things and the publicity. You do end up with more rules on a bigger label half the time. I worked for EMI for several years as an accountant, so I did see that side of it, what it was like. “No, you can’t spend that on your record because we’re not going to get the return,” you know. And that’s really where they’re coming from.
EIO40: What was the best venue you played at?
Anne Mari: I remember this funny aircraft hangar type place that we played in France once when we were part of a festival where it was just amazing. Honestly, the stage was bigger than most of the places we’d ever played. And the sound system was fantastic, so that was really good. I think they’d done the order alphabetically and it was a very eclectic mix of artists.
We were meant to be following the Fields of the Nephilim, which, as you can imagine, was slightly different to The Field Mice. But The Fields of the Nephilim split up that day and so we got news that we were going on an hour earlier and we were like, “We are going to be bottled, this is horrendous”
So we went on stage thinking, “What is going to happen?” We’d never played to such a big crowd, because everybody was there for the whole day. But it was fabulous, it was absolutely wonderful. I think, at that point, we were like, “God, this is so good, wouldn’t it be great if we were playing things like this all the time?” So we had little moments of wanting to be bigger than we were.
Probably my favourite venue in London was the New Cross Venue. An absolute dive of a place but I really liked it there. I really liked the atmosphere and it was a good size to play. I think that’s my personal favourite.
EIO40: There’s no record of the The Field Mice ever playing in the USA so we assume you never did. Were you aware of an American fan-base though?
Anne Mari: I think some of the college radio stations might have been interested but we weren’t together that long as a five-piece, you know. We played France several times, we went to Switzerland, we went to Japan, we did loads of gigs in London, and we were all either working full-time or at college
EIO40: Now Rob found it interesting that you sang on early Trembling Blue Stars songs such as ‘The Rainbow’ and ‘Now That There’s Nothing In The Way.’ Which seemed to signal an acceptance from Bobby that you could be friends, so how did you feel about singing those particular songs? Simon also wanted to know if it was possible to detach from the deeply personal songs of Trembling Blue Stars, in order to sing them.
Anne Mari: Bobby and I carried on being friends even though it was a really difficult time. There was a period of time when he was recording and I was not part of it. There was a period of time before that when it was all very, very rocky and I was still recording with him.
After The Field Mice we were still together and we were together during the Northern Picture Library and then, towards the end of that, that’s when it was all started creaking a bit, around the time of Norfolk Windmills (B Side of Northern Picture Library’s last Sarah Records single in 1994).
EIO40: Wasn’t there a Northern Picture Library French tour around this time?
Anne Mari: Yes, which I didn’t go on, and that really was when everything went a bit kaput with Bobby. Towards the end of that period, I was still singing on songs but it was odd because some of the lyrics are nothing to do with our relationship. Some of them are to do with a film that he watched on television, or a book that he’d read, or something else. Or it might be a similar theme but it’s actually not about me and him or anybody else involved, so it is actually quite hard to tell which songs are about our relationship and which ones are not, but they are about the same sort of themes.
EIO40: Did you know yourself back then if Bobby had written about your relationship on particular songs?
Anne Mari: There are times when I did. There might be a phrase in there which I’d know I’d said, then I would know it was specifically about our relationship, but actually, some of the times, I wasn’t sure whether they were. ‘So Said Kay,’ for example, is nothing to do with Bobby and his life, it’s a film. And in fact, ‘The Rainbow’ is as well. So neither of those is anything to do with us.
Trembling Blue Stars “The Rainbow”
It can be very easy to want to read more in to it because so much of it is, “Oh, here’s another chunk of the story.” I’m the same, when I first got the tracks I’d be like listening, listening, listening trying to figure out what’s being said, you know. And yet the other thing you’ve got to remember is, when he was writing those lyrics, that was a day, a moment, when he was feeling like that and he might not have felt like that permanently, or three weeks later, or even by the time the song was recorded. It’s tempting to read loads in to these things but they are a moment in time.
I did sing on songs that were painful and I think, first of all I would de-sensitise myself. Then the more I listened and listened and practised, practised, meant I could put quite a lot of feeling in to something, particularly if it is upsetting or even the opposite. So, intensely personal songs can be really interesting to sing as well as those that aren’t.
I remember Clare Wadd saying something on My Secret World which rang so true. She said, “Everybody thinks that you want to have a song written about you. And it is really flattering, it’s totally flattering to be somebody’s muse and to have a song written about you, but it is only one person’s side of the story. If you want to put your side back you’ve got no place to do that, which actually can be really frustrating.”
I thought she really hit the nail on the head then. I’d like to say that was my thought but it was hers. I just was, like, “I concur, totally. I totally get that.” Because that is very much how you feel sometimes, you just like, “Well, that is only how one person sees things.” But I never would have sung on anything I was really unhappy to sing, I don’t think Bobby would have asked me to anyway.
EIO40: Songs by The Field Mice, Northern Picture Library and the Trembling Blue Stars are still considered some of the best-crafted songs and have aged extremely well. Do you revisit any of your music?
Anne Mari: Do I revisit it? Yes, and particularly recently because of the film (My Secret World). and also the book (Popkiss) because, to be quite frank with you, I don’t actually always remember all the titles and stuff, you know. So I did revisit it and actually found my favourite is the Northern Picture Library stuff which, interestingly, Bobby says he hasn’t listened to for years and years and years. I said, “You must listen to ‘Alaska’,” because it’s great, I think it’s great. I think it has stood the test of time really well. It was, at the time, quite experimental I think, but it doesn’t sound it now.
And that’s a really nice thing to say, that some of the songs are well-crafted, because I think they are. And I can say that, partly, because I didn’t write them, so I’m not blowing my own trumpet there. I think they are very beautiful.
EIO40: There’s something unpredictable about a lot of the NPL, and to a certain extent the later Field Mice songs, in that they don’t seem to follow a formula and that what’s next doesn’t follow what was before in terms of the sound.
Anne Mari: Yes, and that is partly due to the record collection in Mr Wratten’s room. It’s like going in to a record shop. It has every genre in it that you could possibly think of. You say to him, “Have you got any bizarre jazz from 1943?” he’ll have something. Equally, he’ll have some reggae. Whatever he’s listening to at that time is what influences the songs and that’s what the albums convey. The variety of sounds he’s listening to.
EIO40: Is there a particular song that sticks out, that you look back with fondness or maybe the opposite?
Anne Mari: The one I’m horrified by is ‘Willow’ because I cannot listen to it. Not because of the lyrics, I just can’t listen to my vocal on it. Probably because there’s no reverb on it. (Laughter) It’s like, “Put some effects on me, now. I don’t want to listen to myself singing, I want to listen to the ‘reverb-y version”. Somebody said to me the other day, one of the parents at school said, “Oh, I’ve been listening to some of your stuff and I love that track ‘Willow’.” Isn’t it funny?
Actually, one of my favourite songs is ‘Insecure’ from ‘Alaska’ (NPL). I also love the ‘Blue Dissolve’ EP, I love it. And I’m quite proud to say that’s me and I’m quite happy for people to listen to that, and ‘Five Moments’ as well actually, I’m quite happy with that.
Northern Picture Library “Insecure”
EIO40: We know after The Field Mice and Northern Picture Library you continued to work on projects with Bobby over the years. In fact, we understand that you have very recently been working with him on his Lightning In A Twilight Hour project.
Anne Mari: I’m so, so privileged to still be part of what Bobby creates. I absolutely love going in to the studio, and it’s with the same engineer, Ian Catt, which I’m really comfortable with. With Ian I’m happy to experiment, because he knows me well enough so, if I go wrong I don’t crumple in the heat like I probably would if it was somebody I didn’t know and I was trying to be all professional. I absolutely love being part of that. I’m beyond excited about the new release coming out in April, so excited. Michael (Hiscock) came over and played a few tracks of bass and Beth (Arzy) sings on it, obviously, and I’ve sung a few bits and bobs.
EIO40: So you’ve all sort of stuck together over the years?
Anne Mari: Yes.
Lighting In A Twilight Hour – The Sky Beyond The Sky
EIO40: Which musical project you are most proud to be associated with?
Anne Mari: Northern Picture Library definitely and if anybody ever says, “I’ve never heard of you, can I listen to something you’ve done?” then ‘Alaska’ would be what I’d choose. Or ‘Blue Dissolve’, because those are the bits I don’t mind listening to myself, and I do like the influences that we had then.
Equally, the stuff that Bobby’s doing at the moment, his ‘Lightning In A Twilight Hour’ is fabulous. It’s gone back to being very experimental really, I think.
Elefant (Records) are fantastic, he’s got complete free reign to do whatever he wants to do and they just tick the box, you know. I’ve never known a label be so liberal in what they allow you to do. They don’t ask for demos or anything, it’s just, “Off you go.” So therefore he can explore the more unusual things. I actually think there’s some compost on one of the tracks, if you can imagine compost having a sound. I don’t think he knows actually.
It was bit like that with Northern Picture Library. My dad walked around with one of these little recording devices and recorded the sounds of a power station, and that’s on one of the tracks. Just being able to do that kind of stuff with freedom and not being worried about what the record label might or might not say when it goes to them is really, really brilliant.
EIO40: And what’s your favourite song that was written by Bobby?
Anne Mari: ‘‘Five Moments’.
The Field Mice “Five Moments”
EIO40: We’re ashamed to say that the only song of yours we own is the Northern Picture Library version of Something Good on that Sound Of Music compilation CD.
Anne Mari: Oh well, but you know, I really love that. That was recorded so quickly, in such a short space of time. We had an hours recording to do that. I have always loved musicals and I think that’s one of the highlights of my recording career. And not only that, John Peel playing it on the World Service was a moment that I remember really vividly. I don’t know if you recall but it got played twice in a week, and once was in the middle of the night. Bobby’s a bit of an insomniac and he came, woke me up five o’clock, or four o’clock in the morning and went, “Listen, listen.” And I’m like, “What? What? Oh, I can hear myself.” And it was such a wonderful feeling to hear that. So chuffed to be able to record that song
EIO40: Which band on Sarah Records would you like to have played in and why? Apart from The Field Mice of course.
Anne Mari: I think The Wake. They were just that bit more mature. They knew what they were doing. Fantastic songs that completely stood the test of time and very lovely, humble people as well.
EIO40: A photograph of you appeared on the Trembling Blue Stars “Lips That Taste Of Tears” album cover. How did that come about?
Anne Mari: My sister was a graphic designer and she knew a photographer up in Manchester. So I went in to the studio and had the time of my life for a day, it was fab. I really, really enjoyed that as an experience, it was great but something that, you know, Clare and Matt had always been absolutely against, having female on the cover. So it caused a bit of upset.
EIO40: Tell us about your life away from music. Have you had a full-time job? Have you had a career?
Anne Mari: Yes I have. I studied as an accountant in my late 20s and I’ve been in the charity sector for the last 13 years which was full time until I had the kids (Anne Mari has two delightful boys). Actually, having children has been brilliant for getting the instruments out again. We’ve got a piano, we’ve got guitars, there’s a cornet that my eight-year-old plays I feel it’s very important to have music around children right from the word go, so that’s what’s kept me going musically.
The other thing is, which is completely random in a way, is that I now teach salsa and bachata. I got in to Cuban music in my late 20s and Afro-Cuban more than the straight salsa stuff, so I was lucky I was living in London and there were just amazing places to go and resources.
So I started dancing and the musical outlet for me became dance rather than singing for a time and I teach dance once a week. Some of the Cuban rhythms are so complex and so intricate, it’s like flying when you get it, it’s wonderful. It’s a very different area, very different genre of music, but really, really fabulous.
EIO40: Did you go to a screening of My Secret World?
Anne Mari: I went to the one in Brighton. It was quite nerve-wracking actually, to go along to that. I had been sent a copy of the DVD beforehand, so I knew I was going to see. It did feel a bit strange going, but actually it was just really lovely. Alison (Cousens) was there from Brighter, my friend Sarah from The Purple Tulips came along with me, because she’d been there right at the beginning. We said, “You know what, it does really make you remember what it felt like when we first hear those tracks, you know,” and how important it was for those songs to be coming out of the sixth firm common room CD player when the usual stuff was so far removed.
EIO40: So, with increased nostalgia surrounding Sarah bands following on from the successes of the Popkiss book and My Secret World and our own efforts to a lesser extent, would you ever consider reforming or is it a bridge to far?
Anne Mari: It’s a bridge to far
EIO40: You appreciate that question had to be asked?
Anne Mari: Yes, of course it did. It’s absolutely not going to happen on any level. Apart from anything I’m not going to play live again, can’t see a situation when I would. Although I did go to see a band the other day, a local band called Pog. I just thought they all looked like they were having such a good time, loads of them on stage, loads of different instruments, sort of a post-punk sound going on, but really good songs, really, really good songs.
And I thought, “Oh, I’d quite like to be a part of that.” And that’s the first time that has happened in years and years and years. You should look up Pog, they’re brill. It’s this local guy called Paul Stapleton.
That’s the only time that I’ve even thought that but I still probably wouldn’t on the balance of risk, I just don’t want to go back. I know that a lot of bands are reforming and touring again but I can’t actually imagine wanting to go and see a band that I liked 25 years ago let alone be in that band playing all the old stuff. I know Bobby, as the writer, wouldn’t be wanting to. If he did want to ever play live he’d want to do the new stuff. Because the old stuff is of a time long gone.
EIO40: So was Tufnell Park the last time you ever stood on a stage?
Anne Mari: Yes
We hope you’ve enjoyed this interview with Anne Mari Davies. It was an absolute delight to meet her and she certainly filled in a few gaps.
You can purchase stuff by The Field Mice, Northern Picture Library, Trembling Blue Stars & Lightning In A Twilight Hour over at ITunes. Both Lightning In A Twilight Hour recordings are also available at http://elefant.com/bands/lightning-in-a-twilight-hour
You can purchase the My Secret World DVD here http://storyofsarahrecords.bigcartel.com/product/my-secret-world
You can purchase Popkiss here http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/popkiss-9781628922189/
Check out the Sarah Records website here http://sarahrecords.org.uk