“Don’t Slow Down” – The Primitives Interview 2011

The Primitives Interview 2011 - The VPME

“Rattle My Cage” By The Primitives.

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It’s easy to look back on the 80’s and remember it as the decade that taste and kindness forgot.  And there was indeed much to rail against, whether it be the musical triumvirate of despair that dominated the charts in the shape of  Stock Aitken and Waterman, the ludicrous new romantics, or witnessing the politics of compassion championed by the likes of Joe Strummer engulfed in a tsunami of greed and selfishness dressed up as empowerment by the evil that was Thatcherism. But if punk had lost its way via the make-up counter and  fancy dress shop, indie music was still very much alive and kicking and the eighties certainly produced a diverse and exciting  range of ‘alternative’ music, all of  which served as the perfect  antidote to the soulless, shrink wrapped kack purveyed by the likes of S.A.W.  Billy Bragg picked up the political torch from The Clash, The Smiths and The Wedding Present introduced romanticised, poetic  kitchen sink drama to a new generation of  angst ridden students. We had the emergence of the coolest band on the planet in the shape of  The Jesus & Mary Chain, who at one stage became as notorious as the Sex Pistols but who crucially had the talent and tunes to back up the hype. And we also saw the birth of  a plethora of fantastic indie labels releasing the sort of music that would induce nervous breakdowns in most  major labels.

From this fertile musical landscape emerged the object of this articles affections, The Primitives, arriving at the tail end of the “C86” scene and producing a perfect blend of  fuzzed up, buzz saw guitar jangle allied to girl group melodies often played at a breakneck speed.  Their influences included The Byrds, The Ramones, The Shangri Las and of course the Mary Chain, whilst in the shape of lead singer, glam blonde bombshell Tracy Tracy, the Prims bequeathed the indie scene a new poster girl for bedsit land. Perhaps it was inevitable given Tracy’s drop dead gorgeous looks that the music press started to tout the Primitives as the “English Blondie,” a label which had the potential to become something of an albatross around any band’s neck. As possibly did Morrissey’s patronage when he made public his high regard for the band?

Moz finally picks a winner !

Moz finally picks a winner !

Their debut album ‘Lovely’ was highly praised and the huge success of their single ‘Crash’ (which in this blogs opinion remains to this day, one of the finest examples of the perfect pop song) led to them crossing over to the mainstream. However the band found it difficult to maintain the momentum produced by the first album and despite producing two more albums of indie pop goodness the band called it a day in 1992.

The sad and untimely death of original bass player Steve Dullaghan in 2009 reunited the remaining members of the band and they resolved to reform, initially as a tribute to mark Steve’s passing. The band seemed somewhat taken aback by the enthusiastic response that greeted their reformation and they soon found themselves touring the UK again!

The Primitives decided to mark their reunion by releasing an EP and  teamed up with their original producer Paul Sampson. The initial idea was a  covers project involving lesser-known songs by female performers/songwriters which included  Lee Hazlewood‘s “Need All The Help I Can Get”  and “Breakaway” recorded by Toni Basil in 1966 (yes That Toni Basil)  When the EP was released earlier this year it included two new songs “Rattle My Cage” and “Never Kill A Secret”, which proved the Prims have still got ‘it.’  As for the future ? Well we won’t speculate, instead we’ll ask Paul and Tracy from the band……

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VP:  Lets go back in time.. How did Tracy, come to join The Primitives originally, didn’t you initially have a male vocalist? And what was the music scene like in post Specials- Coventry back in the mid 80’s,?

PAUL:  Yes, we had a singer called Kieron. We sounded a bit like The Fall, The Gun Club and the Birthday Party. It was a completely different band, but we kept the name after Kieron left. Tracy answered an ad for a new singer. Our paths had already crossed as we’d both worked on the same Youth Opportunity scheme a year or so earlier –  I was painting rocking horses, she was making soft toys, but we didn’t really know each other. At her audition, the band huddled together in one corner and made our usual racket and Tracy stood in another corner and sang a Triffids song. We could tell straight away that it wasn’t going to work out, but I had a couple of ideas for songs that were a bit more structured and melodic, so I worked on those and we got back together the following week, and that was the start of the band as people know it.

I don’t remember much happening in Coventry music-wise in the mid 80s when we started out, but there’d been a lot of interesting stuff in the early 80s. Some 2 tone related bands like The Swinging Cats, and bands like the Furious Apples and The Human Cabbages. Basically the kind of stuff that you would hear on John Peel at that time.

VP:  In the early days what sort of music would you say informed and influenced The Primitives sound?  Did you all have the same sort of musical tastes or did you all bring something different into the mix?

PAUL:  We were influenced by all the obvious stuff really – Velvet Underground, Buzzcocks, Mary Chain, Byrds, Monkees, Ramones, Cramps, Nancy Sinatra and so on.

We all shared similar tastes. I’d be throwing in things like Jim foetus, and 60s garage Punk. Pete and Steve were into bands like Black flag, Paisley Underground stuff and early Pink Floyd. Tracy was into The Shangri Las and the Go Betweens. 

VP: Obviously the mid 80’s spawned some legendary bands and artists The JAMC, MBV, The Wedding Present and of course Rick Astley, amongst your peers were there any bands you were really big fans of? Did you feel part of a ‘scene’ at the time?

PAUL:  If there was a scene, then I guess it was something based around the idea of noisepop, ie a handful of bands that seemed to be on a path forged by the Jesus and Mary Chain.  As far as I can remember we were the only ones that actually followed through and had any kind of  proper success at that time. Of course we all bought Psychocandy as soon it came out and I really liked what the Valentines were doing in 87/88, but press and radio couldn’t give a shit. Nice to see bands being influenced by that stuff all these years later. 

VP:  Tracy, you once said you’d rather break your fingers then sing along to Stock Aitkin and Waterman and their production line pop. What do you make of Cowell and his hellish legion of karaoke warblers?

TRACY : I’m still of the same opinion about the manufactured bands or solo artist of today……although we’re all manufactured in some way, it’s just that it’s a lot more blatant with some. Not so sure if I’d still go as far as breaking my fingers over singing along to a SAW ditty…ha ha, although Mr Cowell and Co do make my stomach turn.  It also seems that very few of the people who make it through this star making journey have any kind of longevity.

 

PAUL : We used to have Andrew Loog Oldham and Malcolm McLaren, but now we’ve got robots like Cowell.

VP:   What were your highlights the first time around with The Primitives?  And what were your weirdest experiences?


PAUL: Getting a test pressing of our first record and playing it for the first time was a big thrill, and generally just gazing out of the tour bus window at New York or Paris or wherever and thinking how far away is this from the dole queue.

Weird experiences? –

Being on Terry Wogan’s TV chat show doing Thru The Flowers was mighty strange.  It was before we were big, and I’m still not sure quite how we ended up on there. Also Morrissey being in our dressing room at the ICA at around that same time – late 87, chatting to Tracy about Coventry Cathedral.


VP:   Tracy,  as the bands glamorous female front person  and focal point did the chaps ever feel a bit left out with all the cameras being trained on you or was it something you kind of all expected and accepted.

TRACY : Oh thank you, very sweet of you to say…

The front person in a band will always be the focal point and I guess even more so if they’re female, it’s kind of an accepted rule in pop music. Although I remember seeing gig reviews of bands in the NME and if there was, for instance, a female bass player, she’d be the one in the live photo, so it probably had a lot to do with male editors etc.

The guys in the band were not that bothered , and at times I think they were quite glad not to be in the limelight all the time. We always made a point of having all of us in the photo whenever possible, but of course in a review or interview, the publication will always have the choice of what photo they want to use

VP:   I was watching an old interview of you guys on youtube , on ‘The Wide Awake Club’ Did you hate doing that sort of promo, being interviewed by hyperactive TV presenters who clearly didn’t know too much about the music. I remember interviewing Miki and Emma from Lush and Miki often talked about cringing at some of the bizarre TVpromo they had to do…

PAUL: Some of it was dreadfully cheesy. You’d see Britpop bands all over kids TV, but a couple of years earlier it wasn’t really the done thing for a band like us. I remember being at home one time, watching Tracy and Tig helping to introduce kids tea time telly and thinking I’m so fucking glad I’m this side of the TV screen, but then realising that whether I’m there or not, it’s all of us that end up looking like twats.

VP:     So was the reunion purely as a result of Steve’s sad and untimely death getting together as  a tribute  , had the idea ever been mooted before or had you all been to busy on your own projects?

PAUL: Steve’s death was the thing that forced us back into contact with each other.

I had a vague idea of doing something to mark the 20th anniversary of Crash in 2008, but had completely lost touch with Tracy and didn’t think she’d be into it anyhow. I then heard she’d moved to Argentina, so that kind of scuppered any reunion plans. We met for the first time in about 5 years at Steve’s funeral and stayed in touch. We were then asked if we’d get involved with an exhibition at our local art gallery to do with Coventry and its pop music heritage. We ended up playing on the opening night as a tribute to Steve, and played a small secret show a week later in London. Then somehow or other we found ourselves back on tour the following year, 2010.

VP:   Where you worried about coming back after so long?  When did you decide to carry on gigging and then record new material? Did everything click straight away or did it take a while to get used to being a ‘Primitive’ again?

PAUL: It didn’t click straight away and playing the songs again did seem strange at first, but it soon became apparent that a lot of it had stayed programmed in.

We didn’t think so many people would be interested in seeing us again, so it was a nice surprise when the tickets started flying out.  We were getting offers to go abroad after the 2010 UK tour, and things just went on from there.

The EP was done as a little commemorative keepsake to mark our comeback, but then that in itself has created more interest, so it rolls on.

VP: Of the  four tracks on your latest  EP you have two originals and two covers, will you be writing and recording more new material (an album maybe?) . And what was it that drew you to the covers on the Ep?

PAUL: We’ve been working on a covers project of semi obscure female fronted songs, which may end up being an album. We’re choosing songs that haven’t really been touched and that we feel we can ‘Prim up’ in some way.

Not sure about new material. There are a few half written songs, but It takes a lot more commitment and I’m not sure I’d really want to put my neck on that particular line again. Our whole thing is probably just a nostalgia trip anyhow – which is fine because I think that’s what we were pretty much about in the first place. If we’re nothing more than a tribute to ourselves, then who better to do it.

VP: And what have been the most enjoyable moments of being a Primitive again this time around?

PAUL : It’s been a buzz bringing the songs back to life for the odd hour here and there and going overseas again. It’s also been great to be able to do this again without the misery and dread of a manager or record company. It feels much more like a mad adventure than it ever did back then.

VP:   Obviously a  lot of things have changed in music since the Primitives first burst onto the scene. The internet has probably had the biggest impact, what do you make of its effect on the music bizz? Do you think the industry has been slow to react to new technology, do you perhaps think it has in many ways democratised the ability to produce and sell music.  Or is the net effect somewhat overstated?

PAUL: Not really my field of expertise, but obviously there’s been a massive script flip and the whole thing runs in a very different way now. Not sure how I feel about people being able to download your music without having to shell out, but it’s probably mainly a kick in the balls for record companies. It’s great to be able to hear so much stuff so easily, although the thrill of the hunt isn’t really there anymore. Nice that vinyl is re-emerging too, as a kind of reaction to all this digital nothingness, I guess.

NB/ Paul also features in our May Podcast which you can hear HERE

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Links

Official Site

Facebook

Crash Site -Primitives Fan Site

Buy The New EP

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VP And Pris on 6 Music, Plus Debut Single Art Work.

Possibly the best non musical use of our vinyl ..ever!

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Here’s our appearance on 6 music via Tom Robinson‘s Now Playing on 6 Music, an interactive show where the listeners set the agenda as Tom investigates what’s hot on the web.

We chose Sarabeth Tucek, Islington Boys Club and in a WORLD exclusive  the debut single by Pris‘The Better You Look The More You See’. Now in yet another exclusive, here’s a first peek at the art work for Pris’s debut, and we even provided some of the vinyl for the photoshoot…. but not the legs, blants !  🙂

PRIS - Debut Single 'The Better You Look"

PRIS - Debut Single - Front Side

PRIS - Debut Single 'The Better You Look"

PRIS - Debut Single -Erm, The Back Side...

259 Upper Street
London, United Kingdom

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01 June · 20:00 – 23:30
This would of course be our ideal gig but we  can’t go as we are too far up north and London is so dear and no one will put us up blah, blah whinge, whinge………..but you should all go.  Eddie Argos agrees. 🙂


The ‘Talk When Artists Terminate Songs’ Campaign-The Curse Of Talking At Gigs

The T.W.A.T.S. Campaign . Aka  Shut the Fuck Up!

(Click image for MASSIVE hi-res  version to print off and take to gigs 😉 )

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If you’re a regular gig goer I’m sure you’ve  noticed, over the last few years, the increasing  number of annoying,  imbecilic dullards in attendance  who decide to strike up a conversation at the exact point an artist/band begin their set.  I mean really, if you want to be a Facebook  staus update made flesh or have a good old chin wag why not stand at the back of the venue?  Or better still, do us all a fucking favour and stay at home where you can regale  all five of your twitter followers with the enthralling  minutiae of your tedious little life.  It’s incredibly rude, disrespectful and generally pisses everybody off . It’s not just puce faced, oak headed, knuckle dragging males that are to blame, pissed up females are just as guilty with their shrill giggling , group hugging and incessant high-fiving. At a Mary Chain gig this wouldn’t  be a problem (although in his youth Jim Reid may well have wrapped his mic stand around your neck)

Dealing With Hecklers Jesus And Mary Chain Style!

But when you get a band like Bats  for Lashes who, let’s face it, aren’t really about sonic fury, the last  person you want standing next to you is a bassoon voiced ignoramus who’s idea of  whispering makes Brian Blessed resemble Harpo Marx.  Have we really developed such a short attention span these days? So here at the VPME we say no more! We say it stops now and have produced the above T.W.A.T.S guide . We are looking to expand it to include more gig-going no-nos and irritations which you can email us or leave a message in the comments section.

For example is it really necessary to ring up a mate as soon as Laura Marling gently strums her guitar and bellow ‘I’M AT A LAURA MARLING GIG , YES, YES , IT’S WICKED… Sorry what, I CAN’T HEAR YOU?  …WHAT? WHAT?. . . Excuse me, Laura love? Can you keep it down a minute? I’m on the phone here? ’

Maybe this is the way to deal with it ?

Of course it’s not just inane chatter that may get your goat, it might be more general advice such as ‘It’s perfectly acceptable to approach the band, post gig and ask politely if they’d pose for a photo but if you do so make sure the flash is on and that you know how to work your camera  for fuck’s sake!”  I actually witnessed one fan take numerous photos with a singer who was fast developing a rictus grin. The last straw came when said fan reviewed the last photo and commented ‘Sorry, but you don’t look very nice on that at all so I’ll take some more!!’  Exasperated, she responded politely but firmly ‘sorry, I think that’s enough now, we do have to leave soon’  to which he retorted ‘Well thanks a lot!’  – I kid you not !

 So folks what are your gig going anathemas?  I realise this is not a new battle cry and has been highlighted by blogs and zines in the past but the more we draw attention to this issue  the better.

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Here are some more discussions on the subject

Stop Talking At Gigs Facebook Group

Great article on the 405

Drowned In Sound Discussion

In The Telegraph

Excellent piece from Breaking More Waves from 2009

Liverpool Sound City Part 2 – Emmy The Great, Kurt Vile, The Jezabels.

Sound City Liverpool 2011 Review

And so on to part two of our Liverpool Sound City round-up.

(PART 1 featuring The Good Natured, Pete And The Pirates and Let’s Buy Happiness can be found HERE

And it’s our first rant of the festival !  😉

Emmy The Great @ Parr Street Studio2.

‘A Woman, A Woman, A Century of Sleep ‘ By Emmy The Great.

 With such a varied and eclectic mix of musicians performing over three days and festival wrist bands enabling fans and industry types to dip in and out of gigs at numerous venues, it’s perhaps inevitable that at some stage you will come across most music fans number one bugbear. I talk of course of the cretinous, boorish, bassoon voiced simpletons who think it’s perfectly fine to talk through an artist’s set at a volume that makes Brian Blessed’s  thunderous, booming baritone come across as a breathy, camp, high pitched whisper. Nobody expects unwavering reverential silence but there’s a fine line between a lively, vibrant atmosphere and downright rudeness.

At Emmy The Great’s performance in Parr there were times when the latter defiantly applied. It’s discourteous not only to the artist but also to fans who are there for the music. So irritated were we with this sort of behaviour, we have started our own  “Talk When Artist’s Terminate Songs’ campaign or  ‘T.W.A.T.S’  if you prefer. It  basically sets out to inform droning bores on gig going etiquette and it can be downloaded HERE. We welcome any further suggestions, as this is by no means a definitive list. (Email us here.)

The constant chatter in some quarters did somewhat taint our enjoyment of Emmy’s set, which was a shame because she’s  a lovely person and extremely talented and this was our first chance to hear songs from her soon to be released second album ‘Virtue.’  On the positive side, what we did hear suggested that this album could match or even surpass her  debut and former VPME album of the yearFirst Love.’ We chatted with Emmy after the gig and she seemed unruffled by the lack of manners displayed by the few.  We also met Sean Adams from Drowned In Sound and he too shared our annoyance at this seemingly growing trend of inane, invasive, chatter at gigs. (Emmy The Great Interview HERE)

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Kurt Vile In Liverpool.

Portrait By Matt Thomas.

Kurt Vile @ The Kazimier.

‘Jesus Fever’ By Kurt Vile.’

Later we joined Sean for the D.I.S. curated gig at the excellent Kazimier venue, primarily to see Kurt Vile And The Violators. Despite a few technical difficulties Kurt’s set was a much louder affair thanwe’d anticipated based on the studio version of his latest album ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’. Live Kurt’s sound  was a revelalation. His  laconic drawl, residing somewhere between a young Bob Dylan and a ‘medicated’ Evan Dando was still in evidence but the  rootsy guitar plucking was replaced by a much louder sonic experience, veering  towards Loop and even a stoner style My Bloody Valentine wall of sound, which was as impressive as it was unexpected. The venue itself was an excellent setting for Kurt’s introspective, off the wall songs in front of an appreciative audience.

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The Jezabels @ Heebie Jeebies and Parr Street Studios.

Haley Mary - The Jezabels By Matt Thomas @Heebee JeeBees Liverpool

Photo By Matt Thomas.

“Easy To Love” By The Jezabels.

The Australian music industry’s early afternoon barbecue at Heebie Jeebies was buzzing, the lure of  free food to soak up the previous night’s hangovers certainly provided a draw, as of course did the promise of some top quality music. Top of our  ‘to see’  list  was The Jezebals, we’d recently described them as a band on the cusp of greatness in a  panel piece for Music Week  regarding their fabulous UK debut single  ‘Hurt Me’  (READ HERE)  and as a live proposition they really did blow peoples socks off.  The focal point is Hayley Mary’s amazing voice that swoops and soars and is as on occassion as  dark and  dramatic as  Kate Bush as strident as Siouxsie , but is never histrionic, self indulgent or warble-mungeous in the style of  Florence. But if Hayley’s vocals are what draws you in, you soon discover what fantastic musicians the  band are with thunderous drumming, great keyboard riffs and Sam Lockwoods massive guitar licks, this is undoubtedly a band going places. Hayley herself described her band mates as the best musicians she’s ever heard and  the audience, many who may have been here purely for the food, were soon transfixed by the band . We also caught up with them later at Parr Street Studio’s and the response was equally enthusiastic.

Photo By Matt Thomas.

So that was Sound City 2011, the best one yet for us, and not a Beatles tribute band in sight (unless you count Cast 😉 ho,ho!  ). As we made our way home to brave ‘The Walking Dead’ on the night bus, we met a Liverpudlian in exile who had travelled back to the city for the first time in years.  He worked in the music industry and  explained he had become disillusioned with the insular attitude, the dreary self indulgent Scouse muso retro wankery, which he felt had strangled and stagnated the music scene  here for years. He had also tired of the City’s music promoters figuratively cutting each other’s throats instead of working together. Sound City had opened his eyes  enabling him to see how things have moved on and what great venues are now dotted around the city. Slightly worse for wear but with genuine emotion he told us  “the last three days, have made me fall in love with music and my home city all over again. That’s what I’ll take from Sound City.” And really,  that’s what it’s all about, we rather felt the same, indeed the first thing we did upon arriving home on the final night was to update our facebook status with four words “People Are F***ing Great’.  And maybe those two simple anecdotes neatly encapsulate the entire spirit of  Sound City 2011?

See you next year.

Liverpool Sound City 2011 The Aftermath

Heebie Jeebie Cout Yard By Matt ThomasThanks To Matt Thomas for the photos, where credited  and be sure to check out his website here for some amazing musical photography.

Liverpool Sound City Music Festival 2011 – Part 1 – The Good Natured, Pete And the Pirates, Let’s Buy Happiness.

Liverpool Sound City 2011 Review

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Over  three hundred bands in just three days across thirty plus venues?  It can mean only one thing, Liverpool Sound City is back!  And what an amazing three days it was! Highlights included fantastic performances from some of our favourite artists, random meetings with amazing people, a great buzz around the city and for added authenticity there was even  a rock n’ roll injury thrown in for good measure!  This year’s showcase for new upcoming artists really had the lot, capturing the essence of what makes live music such an exciting collective experience.

If you ask people what Liverpool is universally renowned for, the  polite response would certainly include football and music (as well as perms obviously.)  Therefore it must be  doubly frustrating for many within the city to see  their great rivals just up the M53 motorway break longstanding football records, coupled with the fact that Manchester is now touted as the premier northern city for  music.   But Liverpool has undergone a huge cultural and economic renaissance in recent years and it’s fighting back. You can forget the tribute band hell and missed opportunity that is the Matthew Street Festival ( why anybody would want to watch a plumber called Barry from Dudley dressed up as Freddie Mercury or a Tibetan Supertramp tribute band made up of yak shepherds  is quite frankly  beyond our comprehension) , it’s Sound City  that is fast becoming the real jewel  in Liverpool’s musical crown.  This year has definitely  been the best yet and showcases what this city has to offer as a musical and conferencing centre, ranging from traditional venues such as The Masque,  The Mojo, The Shipping Forecast,  The Kazimier and the Zanzibar  to unique locations such as the iconic neo classical splendour of  St George’s Hall, the Bombed Out Church and the Cathedral Crypt.  It also proved that Liverpool is no longer happy to be defined by  it’s musical past and is ready to  free itself from the historical shackles of  the worlds most succesful boy band… with a vengeance.

And so without further ado here’s Part 1 of our non chronological highlights.

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The Good Natured  @ The Mojo.

The Good Natured Live @ Liverpool Sound City 2011

We’ve featured The Good Natured regularly on the blog quite simply because we love their amazing electro goth pop noir and think Sarah McIntosh has certainly got all the attributes to become a national treasure.  We first came across Sarah’s work a few years ago in the shape of her beautiful ‘Warriors EP’ and we  knew straight away we had stumbled onto a very special talent indeed.  After tipping The Good Natured as our own ‘Sound Of 2011′ we knew that the only thing stopping us attending this gig would be Armaggedon (or maybe man-flu.)  The Good Natured are now a trio with Sarah accompanied by George on drums and her brother Hamish McIntosh on bass and  they certainly didn’t disappoint giving us one of our favourite displays of the entire festival.  Sarah mesmerised the audience with an amazing performance as she  prowled around the venue during a number of impromptu sashaying walkabouts involving the world’s longest microphone extension and some slightly bemused looking gig goers.

The Guardian recently described her music as ‘a delightful kind of bubblegoth’ and there is some truth in the “Siouxsie does electro pop “  comparisons but such  tags don’t really do the band justice and indeed may give the erroneous impression that Sarah’s music may be slightly contrived or throw away when the reality is, nothing could be further from the truth.  She can certainly write huge pop monsters with more hooks than New Order’s bassist at a pirate themed family reunion, as the lead track from her latest EP, the sexually provocative ‘Skeleton’ aptly demonstrates. But there is much, much more to her song-writing which is passionate, emotive, deep, poetic, haunting and often touching.  On this showing she’ll be huge and it was a privilege to see her in such a small venue. One suspects in a year or so she’ll be playing to much larger audiences, in fact if she isn’t we’ll be asking questions in the Houses Of Parliament and DEMANDING answers.  The only downside was after the set finished,  a stage to floor-spatial- misjudgment left poor Sarah  with a broken foot, but she still managed to limp over and have a chat prior to her trip to A&E, showing that even when in pain she  still lives up to her band’s name.   And in truth on tonight’s showing it was actually the audience who fell for her, a genuinely fabulous performance. Lets hope she gets well soon. (Interviews here, here oh and here )

Here’s an exclusive stream from the new ‘Skeleton’ EP released 20th June 2010 called ‘The Hourglass’ which we think demonstrates all the qualities that make the Good Natured such a special band.

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Pete And The Pirates @ The Mojo.

Pete And The Pirates Live @ Liverpool Sound City

We been following Pete and his Pirates (well two Petes actually and just to confuse you the lead singer is called Tom) since their debut album Little Death in 2008 but this was our first chance to catch them live. The band played an energetic set of quality indie pop that is anything but generic lad rock.  There is a real emotional heart at the centre of their latest  album ‘One Thousand Pictures’  which demonstrates  a new depth and maturity in terms of song writing and sound.  Lead singer Tom Sanders is as  engaging a front man as your likely to find and it wasn’t long  before his infectious energy rubbed off on the crowd, as spontaneous outbreaks of  random dancing spread around the venue .  A great set from a wonderful, quintessentially English band whoose lyrically astute and occasionally quirky music never fails to entertain. ( Interviews here  and most recent here)

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 Let’s Buy Happiness @ The Mojo.

Let's Buy Happiness - Live @ Liverpool Sound City 2011

Yet another band we have been huge fans of  but not managed to catch live until now.  Let’s Buy Happiness produced a sparkling, magical performance at the Mojo and the glacial, pristine quality of Sarah Hall’s voice, recalling Elizabeth Fraser and Harriet Wheeler coupled with the tightness of the rest of the band’s playing made this a memorable gig.   Sounding like the perfect 4AD band they rattled through a hugely impressive eight song set including a number of new tracks we’d  not heard before as well as old favourites such as ‘Six Wolves’ and  ‘Fast Fast’. On this evidence the debut album will be an absolute corker.  (Interview here .)

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Part 2 HERE featuring Kurt Vile, Emmy The Great and The Jezabels.


The VPME Podcast – Episode 2- May 2011.

The VPME Podcast - May 2011

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It’s time for another pod-cast folks! After our triumphant appearance on BBC 6 Music it’s back to reality with the soothing, laconic,  sensual (sic) some would say semi comatose tones of  Mr Von Pip.  In this episode we have special guest appearances from Emma Anderson of Lush, Ritzy from The Joy Formidable, Sarabeth Tucek, Paul from The Primitives, Sarah From The Good Natured and much, much more . We hope you enjoy .

Listen below or on mixcloud

Vodpod videos no longer available.

As ever big love and manly handshakes to all involved 😉


Love Gets Dangerous – Sarah Nixey Interview/’Brave Tin Soldiers’ Album Review.

Sarah Nixey - Brave Tin Soldiers Album Review And Interview

‘Gathering Shadows’ By Sarah Nixey.

Sarah Nixey looks the very epitome of stylish, sensual English sophistication and her music is very much in the same vein. She is arguably best known for her work with the elegant, sinister musical trio Black Box Recorder, which saw her cast as the arch, coquettish ice maiden alongside John Moore (ex Jesus & Mary Chain) and  Luke Haines (former Auteurs front man.) Her femme fatale image, crystal cut vocals and perfect diction may have reduced her male fans to a mass of quivering jelly but they were also the perfect medium to express the often bleak, sarcastic, nihilist world view shared by Haines and Moore.

She has just released her second solo album ‘Brave Tin Soldiers’  which is  an 11 track masterclass in subtle, intelligent literate English pop music. After being somewhat confined in her role with Black Box Recorder Sarah has taken full creative control on ‘Brave Tin Soldiers’ and the hard work has certainly paid off.  From the opening track ‘Silk Threads’ the listener is drawn into Nixey’s darkly seductive world. Sarah deal’s with an ambitious and varied range of subject matter from the Bridgend teenage suicides to the haunting  tale of Betty Corrigall on ‘Black Rose’ inspired by a visit to her grave,said to be the loneliest in Britain.  Her story is indeed a tragic one, after falling pregnant by a visiting sailor, alone and  consumed with shame Betty attempted suicide by walking into the sea but was saved by the intervention of a passer- by.  However, she later successfully ended her life, hanging herself in a nearby barn and was buried according to parish laws far from hallowed ground on the boundary of Hoy and Walls.

You’d think given the subject matter this could be a somewhat morbid listening experience, but it is quite the opposite.  Nixey treats her subject matter with intelligence, warmth and empathy. Lush arrangements and gorgeous melodies make ‘Brave Tin Soldiers’ a compelling and rewarding listen for pop fans who crave something more cerebral than jaunty but rather empty sing-a-longs.  All in all this is an eloquent, seductive and at times moving journey that reveals Nixey to be hugely talented songwriter.

Album Rating 8/10.

We had a chat with Sarah about the album and what draws her toward the dark side….

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VP:  Hello Sarah, your second solo  album ‘Brave Tin Soldiers’ is  due out on May 9th  and you’ve not  only written, arranged and produced it, but are also  releasing it on your own label. I imagine it’s extremely liberating taking full creative control, especially after being something of  a muse in the early days of BBR for Mr Haines and Mr Moore’s songs.

SARAH : Hello Andy.  Well, I have to confess that it does feel strangely liberating.  I was quite content for a while with my role in BBR but I always knew it wouldn’t last forever and that I would leave one day and find my own way.  Having said that, I didn’t anticipate taking on so much with this album – it just gathered momentum as one thing lead gently to another.  What I love is that by releasing it myself, I do what I want with my songs, plus I have the backing of a great distributor – Cargo Records.

VP:  Behind some of cinematic sweeping arrangements on the album there are some extremely dark tales such as ‘Silent Hour’ regarding teen suicides , and ‘Black Rose’ inspired by Betty Corrigall’s tragic tale.   As a songwriter is it fair to say you find the darker side of life far more interesting to construct narratives around rather than the more traditional boy meets girl  la-la-la style pop songs.

SARAH : That is very true.  Although I do enjoy a good love song, mine nearly always turn out to be quite erotic!  Silk Threads and Love Gets Dangerous are the closest to a girl meets boy narrative on this album.  I’m drawn to dark tales, for whatever reason, and they are infinitely more interesting to write about.  I think tragedy can be very cathartic.  I was extremely moved by the stories that have inspired some of these songs and felt compelled to retell them in my own style.  Betty Corrigall’s tale is a particularly heart wrenching one and I spent a lot of time getting the lyrics right.  

VP:  How long did it take write the album, it’s four years since your debut solo album, do you kind of collect/compose songs as you go along, or do you set time aside to purposefully write.

SARAH : It took just over two years to put all the songs together.  Four years has practically flown by as I lead a very full life and find writing a desirable interlude.  If I read or hear something that interests me I’ll make some notes for a later date, when I can concentrate fully.  I have maybe one or two days a week to spend in my studio and the rest of the time I look after my family.  Setting aside time for myself is a real luxury and I relish it, constantly crave it and really make the most of it.  

 

 VP:  In terms of song writing you obviously take Inspiration from a wide range of subjects, as you said on the intro to your debut ‘“Some of these songs are true and some tell lies” but in terms of musicians whom would you say have most inspired and informed  you?

SARAH : I’ve been lucky in that both of my parents listened to great music when I was growing up, and it was a real mixed bag too.  The Walkers Brothers, The Kinks, The Carpenters, Kate BushLeonard Cohen, David Bowie and many others – no doubt all of them have informed me in some way.  My father’s best friend owned a shop in High Wycombe called Scorpion Records and I would get lots of music from there too.  I loved going in and browsing, although I’m not sure they loved me.  I blew the electrics once whilst helping behind the till.  My aunt was a punk and used to play The Sex Pistols, X-Ray Spex and Blondie to me when I was very young.  Then during my teenage years I went through the inevitable Velvet Underground stage, reading up on Nico and Warhol.  The New York scene around that time and into the era depicted by Nan Goldin‘s photography fascinates me.  I guess out of all of the artists I love, Kate Bush and Debbie Harry are my idols.  

VP:  Do you think there’s a public misconception about you, you’re often described (musically) as cool and aloof, which possibly may be due to how you were presented by BBR.  So who is the real Sarah Nixey?  For example If you appeared on ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ would we find you are related to royalty?

SARAH : BBR was all about detachment and that was how I presented myself – cool and aloof.  I can be that person at times but mostly I think my friends would describe me as warm and compassionate.  I really can’t complain about a misconception when I’m the one who created the role.  The BBR persona came with me when I started out on my own and it doesn’t bother me.  Although I have been referred to as the Ice Queen, I don’t think there are any links to royalty.  I come from a farming family originally based in Oxfordshire and many of my relatives still own farms around there.  My grandfather grew up on the family farm in Chinnor, a far cry from the city life I live.  I think the only famous ancestor I have is WG Nixey who was the inventor of Black Lead in the 1800s, which is what inspired the name for my label.  

VP:  I once heard you described as sounding like  ‘Sophie Ellis- Bextors evil twin’  What’s been the most amusing description of yourself  you’ve happened across?

SARAH : There have been some very inventive descriptions in the past.  I remember reading that there should be some kind of law preventing a little minx like me from putting out hypnotic sex and death themed records.  Someone else also warned that one of my songs might make your nose bleed.  

VP:   There was a brief Black Box Recorder reunion which John described thus  ‘BBR dipped their gangrenous old toes back into the water, but then lay frozen in the bath tub for four days until the meals on wheels lady knocked the door down.’   Then last year a final statement and single issued. Is that it definitely the end for Black Box Recorder now?

SARAH : There is no one quite like John!  What a way with words!  It is the end for BBR.  I think we all came to that conclusion at the same time and I’m relieved we did.  It would have been awful if one of us wanted to carry on.  John’s right – and even the meals on wheels lady couldn’t revive us.  

VP:  Will you be playing any live shows in the wake of the album release, if so who will feature in your band?

 

SARAH : I have London shows planned on 24 May at The Enterprise in Camden and 8 July at AAA in Kensington with more gigs to follow.  The band are Mark Lodge, my right hand man who played on the album, Tim Weller who also played on the record and has been drumming for me since early BBR days, Melpomeni who is an amazing artist in her own right and Kevin Cormack from the brilliant band Half Cousin.  The gorgeous Clare McCaldin will also join us for the Kensington gig and beyond.  They are all brilliant musicians and wonderful people to have around.  

VP: since you started out in the murky world of popular music there have been many changes, the Internet being possibly the biggest.  In terms of being an independent artist do you think the advantages of the net far outweigh the negatives?

SARAH : A few years ago I was quite negative about the internet and especially illegal downloading.  Now when I think about what has happened over the past one hundred years or so, at how someone managed to capture music and record it onto a disc to sell to the public, it was an exceptional time but that era has passed.  It was a very short period in the grand scheme of things.  More recently people started sharing music and moved the industry into a whole new direction, whilst the big record labels were hoping it would all go away.  Now music exists on laptops, phones, iPods etc. and artists like me are able to create music at home and set up shop ourselves.  It’s not necessarily better as you have to sift through a lot more mediocre music to get to something good but it’s much more of a level playing field.  New artists don’t have the financial backing that labels offered when I first started out, which is unfortunate for them as touring can be very expensive. I think the internet in general is a blessing and a curse.  

 VP: And finally, five words to describe ‘Brave Tin Soldiers’ would be…..

SARAH : Warrior, ever brave, drifting onward…

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