Help Stamp Out Loneliness formed when indie popsters ‘Language Of Flowers’ disbanded in 2007 after Bentley Cooke (guitar) and Colm McCrory (bass) decided enough was enough and maybe it was finally time to seek the more settled life on civvy street. Being stoic chaps they didn’t seek rehab or counselling, no, they simply went cold turkey turning their back on the C86 lifestyle and settled into mainstream ‘normality’… or so it seemed. For despite integrating themselves into polite society the allure of indie pop was proving a difficult beast to resist and whilst they were indulging in the odd Pimms or two and lunching in La Tasca they craved pear cider and festival mud. The thought of wearing a suit symbolised a strait-jacket, a tie represented a noose, and they would suddenly awaken bolt upright in the dead of night with new ideas for songs- Something had to give, and before long, like an indie Jake and Elwood Blues, they resolved to put a band back together. They recruited Ben Ambridge on drums, Louise Winfield on organ, pianist Kath McMahon, not surprisingly on piano and when the final piece in HSOL jigsaw arrived in the sophisticated form of Nico-esque singer D.Lucille Campbell, a new band with a symmetrical gender ratio was born.
On May the ninth in the year of our lord 2011, Help Stamp Loneliness are finally set to release their debut album, a beautiful bitter-sweet, collection of shimmering songs, aching melancholy and intelligent literate modern-day poetry set against jangling guitars and giddy keyboard swirls . Such is the uplifting nature of many of the melodies you may initially be oblivious to the darker lyrical content which only truly reveals itself after repeated listens. The album contains themes ranging from obsessive pop star stalkers (inspired by The King Of Comedy) , the dying embers of doomed relationships, beer gardens and alfresco sex, all presented within a lovely whirling fuzzed up, kraut-pop, lounge- gaze shell. Think Camera Obscura meets St Etienne meets the Wedding Present at the Star and Garter, with a dash of Belle & Sebastian.
Album Rating 8.5/10
We had a chat with Bentley and D.Lucille about the new album, the indie life and um, David Gest!
VP: Hello! So in time honoured fashion tell us about the bands inception. I believe the ‘Star and Garter’ played a significant role?
BENTLEY: Colm (bass) and I (guitar) were in Language of Flowers together and when that finished we put up adverts on the Manchester Gumtree for people to join us. Ben (drums) joined first; he then brought along his girlfriend Louise (organ) who subsequently brought in her friend Katherine (piano). We auditioned about 30 singers before we finally found D.
D. LUCILLE: I had fantasised about being in a band for a while so I advertised myself on Gumtree and received a message from Bentley via MySpace asking to meet up with me. We got together in this tiny Cuban bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Bentley was stood propping up the bar with his oversized cowboy boots and a Hawaiian shirt, I thought, I can take this guy on!
BENTLEY: As for the significance of the S&G … I’d been going to their ‘Smile’ club night since I was 15/16. Nobody can doubt the influence it’s had on Manchester’s indie community – it needs a blue plaque – although Derm (the owner) would be the first person to rip it down. I remember I had to put my mam’s mascara on my bum-fluff sideburns to get past Derm and Andy (the S&G bouncer).
VP: And the band name? What made you go for that? Stonewall Jackson? Nancy Sinatra?
BENTLEY: Colm’s a big fan of Nancy Sinatra and he was thinking of starting a night in London with Tara from Language of Flowers but I convinced him it would be a better name for a band. Some girl I met on a train down to London the other day told me she thought we sounded like Emo-Rockers. I can kind of see her point
VP: You’ve been around a while and your debut album is imminent (9th May) How did it work for you? Did you have a lot of studio time, or was it recorded quickly. Did you have any trouble deciding which tracks would go on the album?
BENTLEY: We’ve been around for almost 4 years – we started in early 2007 – D. Lucille joined us about a year after that and that’s when we started really writing and gigging. Most of the album is recorded in my box bedroom, Ben and Louise’s front room and assorted warehouses in and around the city centre. We’re a pretty tight arsed bunch so we just decided we’d record it ourselves and get Woodie Taylor (Comet Gain) to produce it.
D. LUCILLE: We had to experiment in different places to find out what worked for us and found that Bentley’s box worked best. With ginger pussies and a honky tonk piano at hand to stroke, who could ask for more?
BENTLEY: My box is the best and don’t forget it! As for the tracks we devised an experiment where we all wrote which songs should go on the album and in which order – when we revealed our choices to each other everyone’s list was the same – there were never any arguments about the track listing. There were arguments about everything else … but not the track listing.
VP: You certainly have some interesting song titles and inspirations ‘Torvill And Dean’ for example and more recently a song referencing welsh boxer Jimmy Wilde ‘The Ghost With The Hammer in His Hand’, would it be fair to say your lyrics are somewhat darker than the pop harmonies would suggest?
BENTLEY: Thank you. Every song on the album is bittersweet – it may begin innocent and naïve but it’ll soon turn the wrong way down a one way street. I like a twist in the plots of films so why not have one in songs too? I’m not sure what D. Lucille thinks of all this but I feel it’s much easier inherit a character to tell your stories. Pop music works on two levels – melody and content. Just because a song has a catchy hook doesn’t necessarily mean it should have mundane lyrics.
VP: So is D.Lucille really friendly with David Gest? Will he be coming along to The Deaf Institute anytime soon?
BENTLEY: No, a hack from the Manchester Evening News made that up. D. was just doing some performance with Gest in London and this ‘journalist’ decided to run with it and invented some story about them going out for dinner to fulfill his copy targets.
D. LUCILLE: I serenaded David Gest in St John’s Wood. He grinned and shimmied whilst clicking his fingers. I think he liked it.
BENTLEY: See what I have to deal with? The entire piece was a complete and utter fabrication.
VP: What sort of music influenced you growing up?
BENTLEY: I was always fascinated by female pop singers in the 80s. I still listen to Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Bananarama and Kim Wilde a hell of a lot and obviously it was hard to ignore the Stone Roses when you grew up in Manchester. In the early 90s I got into 4AD, Sub Pop and Too Pure and heard the likes of the Afghan Whigs, Belly and Stereolab … they really shape the way I put songs together. When I met Colm he played me Colourbox and St Etienne and from there I fell in love with AR Kane. The rest of the band’s influences aren’t as apparent on the album as mine and D. Lucille’s but – yeah – we all know our records.
D. LUCILLE: I listened to Adam Ant, Bowie, The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, Siouxsie, Kate Bush and had a bit of a fascination with Robert Palmer during puberty. Early Suede saved me during the difficult times. My taste has developed slightly; my love of Marmite voices has me listening to John Grant, Vashti Bunyan, CocoRosie, Diamanda Galas, Tim Buckley and Wild Nothing. I adore The Associates, Moondog, Magazine, The Magnetic Fields, Beach House and Amanda Palmer.
BENTLEY: Don’t forget Cock Robin.
VP: Since forming Help Stamp Out Loneliness what have been your highlights thus far?
BENTLEY: I really enjoyed playing at London ‘PopFest’ a month or so ago – we’re just pretty lucky to be involved in a huge gang of like minded musicians, writers, labels, kitten kuddling kunts, etc. Like SHRAG I’m not always sure how snugly HSOL fit into the indie-pop community but I still love it. They’re our family now.
D. LUCILLE: For me Hamburg’s ‘Hit the North’ and London’s ‘Popfest’ topped all of the mind blowing moments so far. I think we’ve almost persuaded the KKK at last.
VP: You are one of a growing army of bands who have stated you rarely use Myspace these days, where did all go wrong ? What’s your ‘social network’ poison (if any) these days ?
BENTLEY: Whoever redesigned MySpace needs to be given fifty lashes and called a “rotter”. It’s impenetrable. I couldn’t even work out how to find our band emails or update anything. The only good thing about it is that Murdoch (who bought Myspace in 2005) is left looking like a spare prick at a wedding.
D. LUCILLE: I think the rotter should be given fifty eyelashes and asked to stick them all on at once. Work than one out Murdoch!
VP: What have you got planned for the rest of 2011?
BENTLEY: Louise and I have started a new band called Lager & Lime (coz I like a drink and she’s a sour faced cow) and we’ll be putting out our debut single in the summer. My wife’s having a baby so I’ll be lying low for a while after the album is launched. Hopefully we’ll get some good gigs towards the end of the year and head over to America and Europe. It all depends on how bad the reviews are.
D. LUCILLE: Oh let’s tempt fate. I foresee the album doing well, live performances far and wide, smiling & confused faces, maybe a video. I have performances with Memoire and my band M coming up too and will hopefully be writing and recording too.
VP: So……. is it possible to maintain the indie lifestyle as you get older…. And keep your dignity?
BENTLEY: I wouldn’t class our lifestyles as being particularly indie but you are dead right – whatever dignity you have left automatically deserts you when you make that decision to get on stage. As for the age factor – I’ll let you know when I reach 29. Obviously I can’t speak for Colm who’s looking more and more like D. Lucille’s ‘mate’ David Gest every day.
D. LUCILLE: Here, here! I am looking more and more like Peter Pan each day!
VP: A five word band motto……
BENTLEY: “Can We Borrow Your Equipment?” – it’s more of a plea than a motto.
D. LUCILLE: “Which part don’t you understand?”
BENTLEY: Actually – I prefer yours D.
Large Image/ Wallpaper.
- ‘No More Tears’ – Nicole Atkins Interview/ Mondo Amore Album Review. (vonpipmusicalexpress.wordpress.com)