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The Orchids “Who Needs Tomorrow…A 30 Year Retrospective” – Review

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Regular EIO40 reviewer and contributor Rob Morgan (@durutti74) managed to get his mitts on an advance copy of the new Orchids retrospective and has given it the once over in his inimitable style.

As is usually the case with any of Rob’s output he takes us beyond a mere review and on a journey, pulling in history and context, adding emotional ingredients, offering up tips and even reserving some space to throw in a heartfelt appeal.

So being aware of The Orchids and those glorious songs is not a mandatory requirement to hop on board. Whatever happens you’ll take something away from reading on, believe us. Rob himself was even rewarded with an unexpected revelation.

So over to an 18 year old Rob then….

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The Orchids
Who Needs Tomorrow… – A 30 Year Retrospective
Cherry Red Records

30 years? How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. 30 years ago this Autumn I was a callow 18 year old, settling into life in the halls of residence in Sheffield Poly, and I thought I knew it all. Sure, my hall mates were listening to Suzanne Vega, Sting, Whitney Houston and Marillion but I was listening to better music than that. Didn’t they read the NME or Melody Maker? I read both, cover to cover, every week and I knew what was going on.

The Smiths had just fallen apart amid much acrimony and their final album “Strangeways here we come” was my soundtrack for that season. Nobody else made guitar music as good as The Smiths, in my view. The whole C86 scene had passed me by, I thought it was jingle jangle nonsense, I always paused my taping of Peel when he announced another song by the Soup Dragons or the Wedding Present …. it just didn’t float my boat. Give me Wire, Durutti Column, Microdisney…. just don’t give me 12 string guitars and fey vocals, they say nothing to me about my life. And what’s the obsession with fanzines and flexidiscs? Get with the technology, people – I’d just bought a CD player, perfect sound forever you know.

How wrong could I be?

I may have been reading the music papers every week but I was ignoring them really. I wasn’t noticing what was happening, partly because there was too much going on (I did notice the acid house scene, after all a lot of the Hacienda DJs would regularly cross the Pennines to play at the Leadmill), but I missed a lot of the interesting music of the late 80s due to my blind prejudice against the jingle jangle. I should also mention I missed a lot of the other good music from that era (the MBV / Loop / Spacemen 3 noise and AR Kane dream pop) as I thought it was all music paper hype. What was I thinking? What was I doing to miss these seismic shifts in music?

Somehow I caught up. It was hearing “Sensitive” by The Field Mice on Peel’s ’89 Festive Fifty which caught me first, then buying “Temple Cloud” – the second Sarah Records compilation album – in the summer of 1990 changed my mind. I’d seen the name Sarah Records crop up in the music papers, initially rave reviews for their early single releases written by Bob Stanley in the NME, then sarky reviews dismissing every Sarah Record as the product of wimps feeling melancholy because girls weren’t interested in them. (I paraphrase of course, but some of the reviews really were horrible – check out the Sarah Records website where old music paper reviews are reproduced).

Two points struck me here. Firstly, I was kind of sympathetic to the viewpoint posited above re melancholic unrequitedness. Secondly the first song on “Temple Cloud” wasn’t like that at all. It was almost seven minutes long, it moved slowly and built itself up from simple synth washes, a sparse drum machine, a sleepy sounding vocalist and some sky kissing guitar work – pushing itself into a lethargic chorus of “That’s the way it goes, my friend….” This wasn’t what my perception of a Sarah Record should sound like. This wasn’t jingle jangle nonsense. This was a wonderful song. This was “Yawn” by The Orchids and I was immediately smitten.

The story of the Orchids is entwined with the story of Sarah Records. Their debut single “I’ve Got A Habit” was Sarah 2, issued simultaneously with Sarah 1 –“Pristine Christine” by The Sea Urchins – early in 1988. Before that hard vinyl release the Orchids had issued “From This Day” on a flexidisc during the autumn of 87. So they were there at the beginning and at the end too, playing a set during the August Bank Holiday Sarah Records Farewell Party, alongside other Sarah acts like Heavenly, Blueboy, Secret Shine and Harvey Williams.

Now those names seem legendary, the reputation of Sarah Records and their acts have never been higher – Michael White’s book “Popkiss” and Lucy Dawkins’ film “My Secret World” have raised the profile of the little label from Bristol two decades after it stopped operating. Hell, the NME recently  called Sarah Records one of the coolest indie labels of all time, which is some turnaround.

But what of the Orchids? Well they’re a five piece group formed in Glasgow in the mid 80s and still going strong, even if there’s been a few line up changes along the way. If you can forgive me the following appalling analogy…. if The Field Mice are the Beatles of the Sarah Records universe, then the Orchids are the Rolling Stones. The survivors, still going strong, only without the drug habits and tax exile. This analogy also falls over when Bob Wratten lengthy career is taken into consideration. I was never that good with analogies anyway. (By the way, to anyone at Cherry Red – how about a five CD anthology of Bob Wratten bands next? Just a thought).

Between 1988 and 1994 the Orchids issued three albums and seven singles on Sarah Records before taking a hiatus for a decade, reforming in 2006 and issuing more albums and a handful of singles and playing live whenever they can – they are due to play the Shine On indie festival at Butlins Minehead shortly.

As you would expect, their sound has developed over the years but constants remain – James Hackett’s soulful vocals, John Scally’s inventive guitar work, Chris Quinn’s powerful drumming, the playful call and response between lead and backing vocals (especially where Pauline Hynds is part of the mix) and the tasteful and sympathetic production of Ian Carmichael.

Now to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary they have teamed up with Cherry Red to issue a double CD “Who needs tomorrow?”.

Disc One is compiled from the Orchids back catalogue, starting with the woozy beauty of “Apologies” from Sarah 2. The early songs here show how quickly they grasped the idea of indie guitar pop – “It’s Only Obvious” and “Caveman” are timeless pop gems. They expanded their sound and their horizons too – Ian Carmichael introducing keyboards naturally into their songs and sprinkling production fairy dust over everything. The introduction to “Something For The Longing” still makes my spine tingle, like circling helicopters preparing to land, and a surging hopeful chorus .

There’s two songs from 1991’s perfect “Unholy Soul” album, including “Peaches”, one of their finest moments. In some parallel universe “Peaches” would have been number one in the charts for sixteen weeks during the summer of ’91, not that Bryan Adams song. “Tharmaturgy” – a single in 1992 – is another highlight, a melodic gem bolstered by a This Mortal Coil sample! The title track to their third album “Striving For The Lazy Perfection” bristles with urgent sequencers and drum machines humanised by the vocals of Hackett and Hynds.

The second half of the first disc picks highlights from their 21st century output and it stands up well next to their older material. “Another Saturday Night” – a highlight from their comeback album “Good To Be A Stranger” – builds to a powerful crescendo with some fiery guitar work from Scally and one of those unexpected chord changes on the chorus that I love so much. “The girl And The Soldier” is a beautiful heart tugging ballad, and “Something’s Going On” and “She’s My Girl” are equal to the best guitar pop being made by any of the young indie bands who have followed in the footprints of Sarah bands.

The final song “We Made A Mess” (from 2014’s “Beatitude #9” album) is a cool way to end the disc, looking back at the past ruefully and expecting better of oneself with maturity. Well that’s my view anyway, and I sympathise with the short and bittersweet lyric. Sure you could argue about what songs are missing, but disc one gives an overview of a band perfecting their art and maintaining it to a high standard over many years, and of course once you’re won over by these songs you’ll want to explore the back catalogue as soon as possible (hint – start with “Unholy Soul” and “The Lost Star”).

If Disc One is ideal for newcomers to the band (or a nice place to have some of the Orchids’ best songs in one place), then Disc Two is for the fans. It compiles together 18 rarities, demos, b sides and oddities, carefully constructed and organised in the same format as disc one. So it starts at the beginning again with “From This Day” from their first flexidisc and that was quite a revelation for me, because “From This Day” was slowed down considerably and extrapolated to become “Yawn”, that first Orchids song I heard back in 1990. And I never knew!

The second disc is full of treats and surprises like that. There’s glimpses of the creative process in progress – the demos of “It’s Only Obvious” and “Whitley Bay” show how a few small changes to phrasing words or changing keys can make all the difference. The acoustic version of “Welcome To My Curious Heart” may be better than the version on their third album, it’s more intimate and delicate. It’s great to have versions of songs recorded for Peel Sessions like “This Patience Is Mine” and “And When I Wake Up”, even if these are rough demos.

The tracks from their rebirth don’t disappoint either, starting with a live song recorded for Scottish radio before their fourth album was released, and a great cover of The Go-Betweens’ “Magic In Here” (the Go-Betweens were another band who had a wonderful second act of their career, just as the Orchids have).

Some of the demos (“One Last Cigarette” for instance) sound as good as real recordings, which shows how music technology has progressed in thirty years. The second disc closes with a brand new recording of “Underneath The Window, Underneath The Sink”, originally issued as their second single in 1988, a neat way to loop back to the start. It’s a lovely recording, everyone sounds older and wiser and the little tweaks to the arrangement (those violins!) work perfectly.

As we have come to expect from Cherry Red, the sound quality and packaging is exemplary. The booklet has fascinating sleeve notes from John Cavanagh and Ian Carmichael, full details of recording sessions for each song and pictures of memorabilia (nice to see the’ 91 tour postcard which Matt and Clare included in my first mail order package in May of that year).

All in all, this is a very attractive package which should appeal to a wide audience. If you’re interested in Sarah Records, this compilation will give you a taste of one of their finest bands. If you’re already a fan, this compilation will be a timely reminder of how great they are, plus a disc of rarities. The Orchids deserve their place in the pantheon of great Scottish music – a long list working backwards from Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand, Teenage Fanclub, through Orange Juice, Josef K, Simple Minds and back to the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and the Poets – and hopefully “Who Needs Tomorrow?” will secure their place in the hearts of many new fans, as well as pleasing old fans like myself.

Want to hear some of the loveliest guitar pop Scotland has to offer? Well this compilation is for you.

Peaches

You can purchase the Orchids Retrospective via Cherry Red here including signed copies

You can also check out The Orchids at these places:

Twitter

Facebook

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (https://agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.comand also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).

He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Rob’s review. If you would like to review something new, whether it’s new material or a re-issue then please contact us via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

 

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EIO40 talks to ANNE MARI DAVIES

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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…

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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.

The Purple Tulips (with apologies to Sarah)

The Purple Tulips (with apologies to Sarah)

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.

The Purple Tulips demo (and Bobby's dog Nate)

The Purple Tulips demo (and Bobby’s dog Nate)

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.


EIO40: Now one of our lot, Paul, recalls a Field Mice gig at the Assembly Rooms in Derby where hostile elements in the crowd seem to be having a negative affect on the band to the extent he felt Bobby looked like he was ready to walk off stage.

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

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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

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A View From The Stage – Rob Sekula (14 Iced Bears)

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We love music, we love the people who love music and naturally we love the people that make music.

So what about those people that make music? What sort of people are they? They like music as well, right? What were they into as kids? Was it the same sort of music we were into? What are they listening to now? What songs did they wish they had written?

We wanted to discover the “music fan” inside these artists, so we decided to find out using a similar format to our Meet The Community feature. By firing a series of short questions at a selected indie artist we wanted to get a bit of an insight into what makes them tick musically.

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In this edition – Rob Sekula (14 Iced Bears)

A quick scoot over to Wikipedia should provide anyone in need of some background on 14 Iced Bears with a salient amount of valuable data. On there you’ll discover 14 Iced Bears were a British indie pop band associated with the C86 music scene. Formed in Brighton in 1985, the group released a handful of singles, including “Come Get Me” on the influential Sarah label, and two full-length albums: the eponymous 14 Iced Bears  in 1988 and Wonder in 1991. After a break of almost 20 years the band reformed in 2010 and toured the USA and performed gigs in London. In July 2013, they released a 2-CD retrospective of their total output “Hold On Inside” on Cherry Red records. Not quite verbatim…but almost.

However, this gathering of data is not really our style or what we are about. Way too anodyne. What’s more meaningful to us is how 14 Iced Bears have passed through the EIO40 world and the mark they have left on our community.

For example, we 14 ice 3were able to discover from this poster of gigs at The Duchess of  York, Leeds in 1991 shared by Paul Dean (@akumulator_uk) on our Facebook group, that Mich14 Ice 4ael Bairstow (@BillyChief) remembered seeing 14 Iced Bears at the Camden Falcon around that time.  Michael reminded us of this once again when we asked on Twitter if anyone had been at the Camden Falcon on the night of 15th February 1991. In fact, Rob himself from 14 Iced Bears responded to the tweet wondering whether this was the night his guitar cut out and he ended up just pulling the strings out on stage.

We also know that Jeff Gaisford is a bit of a fan of 14 Iced Bears because he shared “Balloon Song” on our Facebook group, a song which we also played on Episode 8 of our own regular podcast. It is also worthwhile noting that the same 14 Iced Bear song “Cut” has appeared as suggestions during both our Daily Image Game and Indie Advent Calendar. We have also used their debut album as the subject of one of our 4 PICS 1 ALBUM quizza features.

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14 Iced Bears even made an appearance during one of our IndieOver40 Cup live draws when that man again, Michael Bairstow rather novelly used Sarah Records catalogue numbers when revealing the bands. Those boys from Ride can thank Sarah 5 and 14 Iced Bears “Come Get Me” EP for their big match against Teenage Fanclub in the Quarter Finals.

14 ice 1

From our own experiences of 14 Iced Bears, we had the pleasure last year of hearing ‘Unhappy Days” blaring out at us whilst sitting in the comfort of the Hackney Picturehouse watching the Sarah Records docu-film My Secret World. Plus our own music library has been much improved recently with the addition of “Surfacer” which is wedged rather wonderfully between Loop’s “Arc-Lite” and Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat” on the Cherry Red shoegaze compilation Still In A Dream.

What we can conclude from all of this is that 14 Iced Bears have remained firmly in people’s consciousness, even to this day. The reason for that is really rather clear to us. They made fantastic music and that sort of thing you won’t learn from Wikipedia.

So we were therefore delighted when Rob Sekula from 14 Iced Bears agreed to give us his view from the stage. So let’s find discover a bit more about him..

1) Where did you grow up?

I was born in Camberwell, South London, and that was where I grew up, apart from a year when I was 8 on the nightmare that was North Peckham Estate. It annoys me when music journalists assume all C86 period people were fey middle class types

2) What posters did you have on your bedroom wall as a teenager?

Teardop Explodes, Echo and the Bunnymen, Strawberry Switchblade – mainly from articles in The Face, NME etc

3) What was the first record you bought?

Think it was by The Police. Didn’t really buy many records pre 1980, taped things like Blondie off the chart rundown. Then got into The Jam, Liverpool scene and early Pink Floyd (thanks to Paul Weller, I think).

4) What moment made you want to become a singer/artist/musician?

Always been musical. When I was about 4/5, teachers let me have a go on a glockenspiel and said I should go for music lessons. Thanks to my mum and dad encouraging me, I started taking lessons/exams for the recorder and piano. Got the top grade (8) possible in recorder when I was 15!

Didn’t really like classical stuff though, apart from Beethoven maybe, always a pop music fan. Would rather have watched TOTP anyday!

Once I got to 16 and into indie/psyche stuff being in a band was all I wanted to do

5) How much did you get paid for your first gig?

My first proper gig was at Sussex Uni Bar with 14 Iced Bears in about 85. Don’t know if we got paid but remember a reggae toaster man invaded the stage and ruined one of our songs with his tirade!

14 iced

6) Do you have a particularly memorable gig you performed at?

I’d have to say supporting Alex Chilton in 91/92. I was a massive Big Star fan and he was one of my all-time favourite singers.

We came off stage and it was just me and him sitting in the dressing room. He said ‘You guys were great! Really sophisticated stuff.’ I didn’t care what any idiot journalist thought of us after that. We spent the evening having a laugh and I met him quite a few times after that over the years.

7) Who would you most like to perform with on stage?

Apart from Alex Chilton, it would have to be Gram Parsons or the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band – not very likely, I suppose.

8) What is the best venue you have played at?

Some weird dome in Switzerland in about 90. Think it was in the middle of a car park. The Mary Chain had played there a week earlier apparently.

9) What song would you most like to have written (not your own)?

So many. Anything with a classic tune – maybe ‘September Gurls’ cos I’m a December boy.

10) If you weren’t a singer/artist/musician what would have been?

Before I turned 16 I wanted to be a footballer, but that didn’t work out, did it?

11) What are you listening to at the moment? Any recommendations?

I don’t really hear much new stuff I like, although my favourite current song is ‘Open your eyes’ by School of Seven Bells. I mainly listen to stuff I’ve liked over the decades. Mainly psyche stuff like West Coast Pop Art… or singers like Scott Walker, Judee Sill or Gram Parsons. I always go to see Euros Childs live cos he’s great

12) What are you up to at the moment?

Musically? The Bears have sort of resplit so I’m focusing on my solo stuff. Got an album’s worth of songs I want to put out eventually. Been working a bit this year with DC Fontana, which includes Donald Ross Skinner (Julian Cope’s guitarist). Been doing some guest vocals for their forthcoming LP and may do some of my stuff too with them. Great musicians.


Band photo by Gavin Durance

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Thank you to Rob Sekula for taking part in our Q&A and for providing an enjoyable insight into his musical world.

You can find out more about 14 Iced Bears at the following:

http://14icedbears.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/14icedbears/
https://twitter.com/the14icedbears

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A View From The Stage Q&A – Beth Arzy

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We love music, we love the people who love music and naturally we love the people that make music.

So what about those people that make music? What sort of people are they? They like music as well, right? What were they into as kids? Was it the same sort of music we were into?  What are they listening to now? What songs did they wish they had written?

We wanted to discover the “music fan” inside these artists, so we decided to find out using a similar format to our Meet The Community feature. By firing a series of short questions at a selected indie artist we wanted to get a bit of an insight into what makes them tick musically.

_________________________________________________________________________________

In this edition – Beth Arzy

“TOTAL heartwrenchery”

Those were the first words that Beth Arzy ever uttered to us. It was around this time last year and it was in response to a comment we’d made about the Mark Hollis vocals on Talk Talk’s “I Believe In You”. Ever since then we’ve rather enjoyed the company of Beth Arzy in our social media interactive world.

Of course we knew all about Beth before then. She has a HR file like everyone else, although in the case of artists we refer to it as a rap sheet. Beth’s rap sheet looks something like this:-

  • Sarah Records recording artist-  GUILTY
  • Appearance on Buffy The Vampire Slayer soundtrack alongside The Breeders, Dandy Warhols & Laika  – GUILTY
  • Member of Trembling Blue Stars, Charlie Big Time, Occasional Keepers – GUILTY
  • Essential follow on Soundcloud – GUILTY
  • Currently rocking our musical world in The Luxembourg Signal – GUILTY

We should also point out that our resident Sarah Records bingo caller has yet to call out numbers 93 or 97, so expect to see more of Beth in our social media world in the foreseeable future.

Considering the above and that Beth has been a big supporter of EIO40, she seemed a natural choice as the subject of our inaugural A View From The Stage Q&A.

So let’s see what Beth had to say for herself. We should clarify though that the footy season hadn’t actually started at the time of the interview (this will make sense at some point)

1) Where did you grow up?

I was born in Los Angeles but bounced between Florida and California so grew up between the two. When I moved back to California (Palm Desert) after 7-8 years in Southern Florida, I had a pretty fancy Southern accent. It’s sadly gone now and alternates between L.A. and Croydon. Croydon if I’m really angry.

2) What posters did you have on your bedroom wall as a teenager?

Early teens would have been Duran Duran and Nik Kershaw, mid to late teens was The Jesus & Mary Chain, Skinny Puppy, The Ocean Blue, The Telescopes, Primal Scream, Pale Saints, The Pastels, Trashcan Sinatras, Loop, The Wonderstuff, The Smiths, Bauhaus and more Mary Chain.

A few years ago, my mother proclaimed at a family dinner that I “loved Guns and Roses” and had a “massive poster” on my wall in high school. After nearly choking on pizza I got to the bottom of the memory failure. She confused my JAMC “Blues from a Gun” with “Guns & Roses”. Easily done I suppose.

3) What was the first record you bought?

I was given sympathy pocket money when I had my braces put on and I remember going to the record shop in the Tampa Bay Center and buying 3 singles: Queen of Hearts by Juice Newton, Sail On by The Commodores and Modern Love by David Bowie. I still have the Bowie 45 hanging on my wall, sans cover.

4) What moment made you want to become a singer/artist/musician?

Sadly I’m none of those things, but as a child, watching and listening to The Monkees as well as The Bugaloos and The Wombles made me want to give it a shot, or at least hang out with people who are… Musicians, not Wombles, though that would be cool.

5) How much did you get paid for your first gig?

My memory is so shite. I seriously can’t remember. Probably nothing. It would have been a battle of the bands thing at the high school I went to, and the prize was a demo recording session (in some dude’s garage) or, a gig at The Huntington Beach Library. My memories might be Replicant implants but I think that one was with The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and I think the lead singer dropped trou. I remember seeing a willy anyway. Again, might be a false memory or a very bad dream.

6) Do you have a particularly memorable gig you performed at?

Most of the early ones were non-events at cafes but Trembling Blue Stars playing with The Ocean Blue was pretty freaking special. I’d seen them so many times and love them to bits so to see them there in the audience as we played was about as special as it gets.

Mind you, Indietracks festival recently was pretty freaking memorable; for all the best reasons. The Luxembourg Signal are all great friends and it was an honour to sing Johnny’s amazing songs in such a cool place. There were owls, and pizza, and trains, and we played on the indoor stage which I think was where they used to store the trains. Such a great experience and the feedback has been so amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a gig as much as indietracks. I’m welling up over here…

Beth Arzy Photo 1

7) Who would you most like to perform with on stage?

Well, I’ve been lucky enough to be asked to perform as a guest with The 49 Americans as well as The Dentists so I’ll say, Jim Reid. Not as The Jesus & Mary Chain as I don’t want to contaminate that stew, but maybe if he did a solo something. That so isn’t going to happen though as I met him backstage recently at a Mary Chain gig and I had one hell of a whitey. I think I ran.

8) What is the best venue you have played at?

Indietracks with The Luxembourg Signal, no contest, but Fritz’s Corner in Stockholm (with Trembling Blue Stars) would be a close second.

9) What song would you most like to have written (not your own)?

Anything by The Dentists (nothing can come close to those songs man), or anything by The Jam. Maybe Weightlifting or Send for Henny by The Trashcan Sinatras; total corkers. I don’t write my own stuff anymore anyway; it’s not safe, nothing is sacred. People release your stuff and do whatever the hell they want to your lyrics and vocals without even asking. It’s safer to just sing great songs that other people write for me!

10) If you weren’t a singer/artist/musician what would have been?

A personal assistant; oh, wait….

11) What are you listening to at the moment? Any recommendations?

My favourite current band from The UK is called Treasures of Mexico, which is Mark Matthews from The Dentists, along with Bob from The Dentists and Russ from Secret Affair. The album (Holding Pattern) is available as a download on Shelflife and is just total great pop. We (The Luxembourg Signal), have some amazing label mates on Shelflife and if you’ve not heard The Fireworks, check them out too!

I’ve become a bit obsessed with the Medway scene lately and also love Words Beginning With X (another Mark Matthews band with Dave Read from The Claim on lead vocals and Russ Baxter from Secret Affair on drums) as well as Bob Collins and The Full Nelson (Bob from The Dentists), Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society, The Galileo 7 (him from The Prisoners), Theatre Royal, The Sine Waves (ex- Dentists drummer) These Guilty Men (another ex-Dentists drummer), & The Love Family.

The Treasures Of Mexico – Stars

12) What are you up to at the moment?

Coming down from a great min-tour with The Luxembourg Signal (who are working on new songs at the moment) and counting down the days until football season kicks off again!! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!

The Luxembourg Signal – Distant Drive

Photos by Leah Zeis

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Thank you to Beth Arzy for taking part in our Q&A and for providing an enjoyable insight into her musical world. And remember. If you don’t want to bring out the Croydon in Beth…don’t make her angry.

You can find out more about Beth at the following:

http://www.ghostfinder.co.uk/
http://facebook.com/beth.arzy
http://soundcloud.com/betharzy
https://twitter.com/BethArzy

If you want to check out The Luxembourg Signal then we would suggest a visit to their site which includes some listening materials. A visit to the Shelflife Records website also recommended

http://www.theluxembourgsignal.com
http://www.shelflife.com

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