All posts by The Mouth Magazine

AMELIA FLETCHER

IN BRITISH INDIE MUSIC AMELIA FLETCHER’S THREE DECADE CONTRIBUTION TO THE CAUSE IS WITHOUT QUESTION… AS WELL AS HAVING PROVIDED FEMALE VOCALS ON NOTABLE EARLY SONGS BY THE WEDDING PRESENT AND GUESTING WITH THE BRILLIANT CORNERS AND THE POOH STICKS, FROM THE MID-1980s AMELIA WAS THE INSTANTLY RECOGNISABLE VOICE OF FONDLY REMEMBERED DIY-SCENE BAND TALULAH GOSH, AS WELL AS SUBSEQUENT GROUPS HEAVENLY, MARINE RESEARCH AND TENDER TRAP. ALONGSIDE PARTNER ROB PURSEY – ALSO AN INTEGRAL MEMBER OF ALL OF THOSE BANDS – AMELIA NOW FRONTS THE CATENARY WIRES. RECENT ALBUM ‘TIL THE MORNING IS A SMALLER SCALE TRIUMPH, A POSTCARD FROM A QUIETER LIFE. IN THIS NEW INTERVIEW TO CELEBRATE THE RELEASE OF ‘TIL THE MORNING, AMELIA LOOKS BACK ACROSS HER WORK IN MUSIC…


ATTA GIRL WAS AN ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT STANDALONE SINGLE BY HEAVENLY, RELEASED IN EARLY 1993. IT WAS KIND OF ’60s GIRL GROUP-INFLUENCED INDIE POP, BUT WITH THIS ABSOLUTELY NO-NONSENSE AND SLIGHTLY AGGRESSIVE EDGE… I REMEMBER BEING BLOWN AWAY BY IT, BACK IN THE DAY, AND IT STILL SOUNDS FRESH AND EXCITING ALL THESE YEARS LATER… AND SO I THINK IT’S PROBABLY A REALLY INTERESTING PLACE TO START. IT SEEMED TO BE THE FIRST TIME YOU’D NOT COUCHED YOUR MESSAGE…
Yeah, I think so. I think that’s right, too. We were probably more influenced by ’60s girl groups originally, and although we’d always had some degree of anger and pissed-offness about how males treated females, I think ATTA GIRL was around the time that our message was changing. I think it was the first time, the first example, of that… ATTA GIRL came around the time when we were discovering the riot grrrl movement, basically. Riot grrrl hit a real chord with us, and I think that was because it said a lot of the things we’d been thinking but it provided a much better vocabulary. Also, I think we’d always been a bit strangely shy of calling ourselves feminists, even though we were feminists. I think we’d thought that word didn’t quite apply to us, somehow – whereas when riot grrrl came along we really thought that applied to us… I think riot grrrl made us much more confident in speaking about those sorts of things.

IT WAS FULL ON. IT’S A STRONG MESSAGE AND A TOUGH SOUNDING RECORD.
Yeah, it is. The sound of the band became stronger and more abrasive on ATTA GIRL – but in terms of that we hadn’t actually wanted to sound like the main riot grrrl bands. We hadn’t wanted to be ‘screamy’, ‘cos that just wasn’t what we were about at all. What we’d wanted to do was bring together the ethos and the sexual politics of riot grrrl with some of the girl group influences and the indie thing that we’d always done.

I THINK THE LYRICS ARE OBVIOUSLY AMPLIFIED BY THAT MORE AGGRESSIVE SOUND… I’VE SPENT A LITTLE BIT OF TIME THINKING ABOUT HOW THEY MIGHT HAVE BEEN RECEIVED IF THEY’D BEEN PUT AGAINST SOMETHING SOFTER AND SWEETER… SO, ABOUT THE IDEA THAT THE MESSAGE CAN CHANGE DEPENDING ON HOW YOU DELIVER IT…
Yeah, I think that’s really really true – and I do think that sometimes both Heavenly and Talulah Gosh suffered from that a bit… We were less political than riot grrrl, but sometimes we were political – and I think that sometimes people didn’t take us quite as seriously as we wanted to be taken, purely because we were singing pop songs.

IT ALWAYS USED TO ANNOY ME, ACTUALLY, THAT MONIKER ‘TWEE POP’… (I WAS GOING TO SAY ‘DEFINITION’, BUT I THINK IT’S PROBABLY UP TO BANDS TO DEFINE THEMSELVES IF THEY CAN, RATHER THAN THE MUSIC PRESS)… TWEE POP ALWAYS HAD THE CONNOTATION THAT THE BAND IT HAD BEEN APPLIED TO WAS NAIVE AND INCONSEQUENTIAL… THERE WERE BANDS WHO DEFINITELY WERE THOSE THINGS (ACTUALLY QUITE CHARMINGLY SOMETIMES) BUT I THINK IN GENERAL IT DID A WIDER DISSERVICE… DID YOU FEEL PENNED IN BY IT?
Well it’s interesting, to be honest, because I don’t think anyone really thought of the term ‘twee pop’ until quite late on. As far as I can tell, the term first came over from America, where the word ‘twee’ didn’t actually have the same connotations. The Americans somehow thought it was cooler than we did. So some people used to call us twee – and to some extent that was a fair thing to say because we kind of played with childlike imagery and in some ways were deliberately a little bit fey. But I don’t think we felt penned in by the term. We just didn’t think of ourselves as being in some sort of ‘twee pop’ genre. I think we probably thought of ourselves as being C86 or ‘shambling’ or something like that. That was one of the words that was sometimes used, and I always thought that was quite reasonable, ha ha… Actually, the term that was more often applied then was ‘cutie’. We found that much more annoying – and I guess it was the same thing as you’re saying, really. It was applied negatively and we felt it was a bit patronising. So maybe that was also partly what made us come up with something like ATTA GIRL and get more aggressive. Maybe that record was our first real reaction to our own… typecasting.

A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO THE DAMAGED GOODS LABEL PUT OUT WAS IT JUST A DREAM, WHICH WAS THIS REALLY NICELY CURATED COMPILATION OF EVERYTHING TALULAH GOSH HAD RELEASED… SO, EARLY SINGLES AND EVERYTHING ELSE. DO YOU REMEMBER MUCH ABOUT PUTTING THOSE THINGS OUT? PERHAPS EARLIER BANDS AND SO ON, ‘COS I DON’T IMAGINE TALULAH GOSH JUST ARRIVED OUT OF NOWHERE AND PUT A RECORD OUT…
Erm… But we kind of did, really, ha ha… Before then I was in a band at school called … And So To Bed, and then latterly called The Splatter Babies. You can tell from those words that we were somewhere between being the Marine Girls and twee, and actually quite Gothic. It was a very strange amalgam. You can also kind of guess which bits were coming from which people when I tell you that when we split up I went on to form Talulah Gosh and the others went on to form Swervedriver…

… OH BLIMEY! 

Yeah, exactly! So that’s the bands I was in at school. But despite having been in bands before, that’s somewhat irrelevant to how speedily Talulah Gosh happened. With Talulah Gosh, I had a kind of vision for what I wanted to do and I basically persuaded my brother and my boyfriend of that time to do it. But I really wanted to have more girls in the band, so I literally went up to Elizabeth [Price], the first other singer, at a gig. She was wearing a Pastels badge, so I went up to her and said “do you wanna be in my band?”… She said “I can’t play anything, I can’t write songs and I can’t sing”, and I said “Well, that’ll be great”, ha ha… So we started that way, and we got a gig in almost no time. Very shortly after that we were allowed to make a record. And I still can’t quite believe how quickly all of those things occurred – and in a way that’s exactly why Talulah Gosh sounds like it does. Things happened so quickly that we just didn’t have the time to think very hard about what we were doing.

WAS IT MAKING THE MUSIC YOU ENJOYED, OR WAS IT THAT THE BAND WAS A SORT OF CONDUIT ‘COS THERE WERE THINGS YOU WANTED TO SAY?
I don’t think I had a particular ‘message’ to get across or anything like that. I was much more enthusiastic about just making music for fun. I wanted to do the band because I loved music, and I also thought that it might be impossible to have the chance to do it again. I’d been to loads and loads of gigs. So really, I was a huge fan – and I wanted to join in, essentially…

YOU MENTION ‘JOINING IN’… INDIE POP HAD THIS THING, AROUND C86, ABOUT BEING OUTSIDER MUSIC… IT WAS ‘FOR’ THE PEOPLE WHO MIGHT USUALLY HAVE BEEN “STANDING AROUND THE EDGE OF THE DANCE-FLOOR AT THE PARTY”, IN A WAY… WAS THAT YOU?
Ha ha, yeah it was. It was me. Actually I’ve always been quite into dancing – but I was an outsider, definitely. In Talulah Gosh we felt different to other people in the Oxford music scene, partly because we didn’t particularly know how to play but also because if we had have known how to play, we weren’t the kind of people who would have been very interested in showing off how well we could play. So we were definitely outsiders in that scene. And at my school I was kind of an outsider as well – ‘cos not many people even liked music, particularly. So, yeah, we were quite often the outsiders. We were quite often, as you put it, at the edges of the dancefloor… but let’s say we definitely liked dancing if the right music came on…

SO WHEN YOU HELD THAT FIRST RECORD IN YOUR HANDS IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT FEELING, OF COURSE – BUT HAD THAT BEEN YOUR AMBITION? WAS MAKING A RECORD, IN FACT, THE OUTER LIMIT OF YOUR AMBITION?
Well, after the first couple of Talulah Gosh singles we got contacted by a major label which was going around asking a variety of indie bands if they wanted to sign up and be on it. I remember sitting in this meeting, and the record label people were asking me questions and as I was speaking to them I suddenly realised that I didn’t even know if I could ever write a song again. I thought it was probably a really bad idea to try and be a pop star if I hadn’t worked out whether the few songs I’d written so far had been complete flukes or not! So I decided being on a major label wasn’t for me… Really, I knew that I loved fairly obscure 7″ singles from twenty years beforehand, and so if there was any ambition I guess I’d dreamed that maybe I’d make one of those obscure singles that one person loved… But Talulah Gosh seemed to do a little bit better than that!

THE BAND’S NAME CAME FROM A QUOTE IN A CLARE GROGAN INTERVIEW (IN SMASH HITS, I THINK)…
Yeah… That name was invented by Greg, our mate in Oxford who was in a band called The Razorcuts. We were looking for a name and it was him that came up with it. As soon as I heard it I knew it was the right name for the band. And as soon as he said “Talulah” I knew why he was saying it… what the reference was… I thought “Ooh, I like that”…

… I CAN DEFINITELY SEE ELEMENTS OF HOW ALTERED IMAGES WOULD HAVE BEEN AN INFLUENCE ON YOU PERSONALLY AND ON TALULAH GOSH… THE UNASHAMED POP SENSIBILITY AND THE STRONG FEMALE IDENTITY…
Yeah, that’s right. I, personally, was just the hugest Altered Images fan. I went and saw them do gigs all over the place. At a gig I even once lent a hat that I was wearing to Clare Grogan, and she wore it on stage – and I thought that might be the pinnacle of my life, really, ha ha! Yeah, I was a huge fan and always hung out at the end of the gig to get my stuff signed and all that kind of thing. So when we started doing our own music, although we didn’t really want to sound like Altered Images, that band and Clare Grogan were definitely a big influence over me.

… WE’RE FROM THE SAME GENERATION AND WE’RE ABOUT THE SAME AGE, AND MY ‘FORMATIVE’ MUSIC YEARS, MY EARLY TEENAGE YEARS, WERE THE TAIL END OF NEW WAVE AND ON INTO THE POP FILTERED FROM THAT… SO, ADAM AND THE ANTS AND DURAN DURAN AND SO ON… I WONDERED WHETHER YOU SAW YOURSELF AS GOING AGAINST THAT STUFF OR CELEBRATING IT? I ASK THAT BECAUSE I GENUINELY THINK THERE’S A CHANCE WE COULD MAKE THE CASE EITHER WAY!
Yeah, ha ha. I agree… That’s a really interesting question, actually, because I really liked those bands too. I did really really love Duran Duran and I did go and see them play live, and I did also like lots and lots of those other poppy bands as well. I’ve always loved the poppier end of indie music as well, and ’60s girl groups obviously. I think what we were in Talulah Gosh is a really funny, really strange mix of people – and because of that the band ended up sounding like it did. Chris [Scott], our main bass player, he was into Neu! and kind of really arty stuff… Our drummer, my brother Matthew, was really into the Ramones and The Stupids, so crazy punky stuff… Elizabeth was into classic stuff – The Beatles, and ’60s girl groups… And Pete [Momtchiloff], the main guitarist, was into twangy things like Duane Eddy, but also The Monochrome Set… So I think we sounded like we did because that’s quite an odd combination. Partly because we didn’t have the time to really think about what we were doing, I think everyone just did what they wanted. I think everyone was kind of in their own different band, ha ha, but it worked… Rob always laughs at me for trying to claim that I wrote all of the Talulah Gosh songs ever, ha ha, but in that band I actually only wrote some of the songs. Everyone had those different influences, and everyone wrote their own songs. So it’s kind of remarkable and surprising that they sit together as a group of songs that work.

DOES IT SURPRISE YOU THAT PEOPLE STILL REMEMBER THE BAND AND, IN FACT, HOW THE REPUTATION OF TALULAH GOSH HAS GROWN?
Oh yeah! It does. At the time we did realise that we were pretty chaotic and somewhat incompetent, but we certainly also knew we had something – even if we didn’t know quite what that was. But I don’t think I ever expected the band to be quite so fondly thought of this many years later…

DO YOU EVER LOOK BACK AND THINK “BLIMEY, WHAT WAS I DOING?” OR IS IT ALWAYS WITH A SENSE OF PRIDE?
Errrm… I can certainly remember how I felt about all of the songs I wrote, and I can remember writing most of them – so I definitely don’t feel the former… I guess I’m proud of it, yeah.

THERE WERE ONE OR TWO OTHER MUSICAL FORAYS FOR YOU, PERSONALLY… IN 1987, WHILE YOU WERE IN TALULAH GOSH, YOU SANG FEMALE VOCALS ON THE WEDDING PRESENT’S FIRST ALBUM GEORGE BEST, AND THE 1988 SINGLE NOBODY’S TWISTING YOUR ARM… HOW DID THAT ASSOCIATION COME ABOUT?
To be honest, I’m not quite sure. I think we must have played a gig supporting them, and I think David Gedge might have liked us. So I think he just asked if I’d do it. It was easy for me ‘cos I just listened to the songs and then went along to the studio and sang as I was told to – I was basically a session person, which was pretty weird. The only thing that was quite odd about for me it is that The Wedding Present were quite professional. They wanted me to sing actually in tune and actually in time – which were things I wasn’t terribly used to… And they wanted everything double or triple tracked, and so I remember that it took absolutely ages, ha ha… I remember the band being really nice, and I remember them hanging out playing pool in a room next to the recording room. I know David well now, but I actually didn’t know him or the band very well at all when we did those recordings.

OBVIOUSLY THOSE RECORDS ARE GREAT IN THEIR OWN RIGHT AND YOU’RE GREAT ON THEM… BUT IN ANOTHER WAY THEY’RE GREAT BECAUSE THEY OPENED A DOOR… PEOPLE HEARD YOU ON GEORGE BEST AND WOULD’VE THEN INVESTIGATED WHO YOU WERE AND WHAT ELSE YOU WERE DOING… AND GOT INTO YOUR BAND…
Yeah. I’m sure that’s right. Definitely. It was good. And also, probably, me singing with The Brilliant Corners and The Pooh Sticks was good for the same reason, too. I think fans of all those bands heard me singing on their records and then, as you say, it was “ooh, look… She’s in her own band as well”…

… YOU WERE AT UNIVERSITY AT THAT TIME AND I THINK YOUR CAREER OUTSIDE OF MUSIC SINCE THOSE DAYS SHOWS HOW DEDICATED TO YOUR STUDIES YOU WERE… AND YOU HAVE ALSO STARTED A FAMILY SINCE THOSE DAYS AS WELL AS CONTINUING WITH MUSIC (IN WHICHEVER BAND)… HOW DIFFICULT HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU TO BALANCE THOSE THINGS, AND TO PRIORITISE WHICHEVER YOU FEEL NEEDS TO BE PRIORITISED?
It’s been difficult sometimes, yeah. Music goes up and down the list of priorities, I’d say. In fact I’ve stopped doing it on various occasions. I mean, I finished Talulah Gosh for two reasons. The first reason being that I thought people over the age of twenty-one shouldn’t make music, ‘cos that was inappropriate, ha ha, and that they didn’t understand… But also because I had my Finals coming up at university and I thought that I should concentrate on them. So I downgraded music at that point. Also house music, dance music, had come along and I thought “Well I can’t do that and I can’t compete with that”. I thought no-one was going to want to listen to indie music anymore… Then a bit later we started again and I stayed on at university doing a Masters and a Doctorate so that I could do the band. I didn’t want to do a Masters and a Doctorate particularly, ha ha, but it was a way of getting a grant and staying around to do the band. So music was definitely my priority then. Then when I got a vaguely ‘proper’ kind of job I was very deliberate and clear with them that I needed to have time off for gigs and tours and things like that, and they were pretty amenable. At one point I went down to two days a week – during Marine Research – so that I could really focus on it… So music was always pretty important but I somehow always managed to do it quite well alongside both being a student and working. Then when we had kids that did stymie it a bit…

… YOU HAVE CHILDREN WITH ROB PURSEY, WHO WAS A FELLOW MEMBER OF TALULAH GOSH, HEAVENLY, MARINE RESEARCH, TENDER TRAP… AND IS NOW YOUR PARTNER IN THE CATENARY WIRES…
Yeah, that’s right. Because I’ve always done music with Rob, since we’ve had kids it’s always been particularly hard ‘cos of things like both parents needing to go out to play a gig… So there’ve been times when we’ve stopped – and there’ve definitely been one or two times when we’ve thought we’d just never do it again. But somehow music always sucks you back in… At the moment I’d say it’s actually really quite a priority. Still got work, still got kids… but at the moment the music is probably the thing we think more about and do more about, more of the time.

… I’VE ALWAYS FELT THAT EACH OF YOUR BANDS IS A SORT OF CONTINUATION OF THE PREVIOUS ONE – IT’S A NEW THING, BUT THERE’S ALSO A REALLY STRONG CONNECTION – SO THERE’S ALWAYS BEEN AN EASY ROUTE IN TO LIKING THE NEW THING… A QUARTER OF THE BATTLE HAS ALREADY BEEN WON, IF THAT MAKES SENSE?
I mean, each band has always been different to the previous one – ‘cos we have always consciously tried to do something relatively different each time, musically. But, yeah, equally there has always been a definite line that you could see. Weirdly, by the end of Tender Trap I think that line had almost gone a full circle. We were almost back at being Talulah Gosh. It’s quite interesting that happened, that circle… By the end of Tender Trap we’d gone back to being quite simple, poppy, fast, a bit punky… and then suddenly with doing The Catenary Wires we’re a bit quiet and pensive. We have been quiet and pensive at times before, and there are bits of Heavenly that are like that, and bits of Marine Research that are also like that… But this time it was definitely quite a big overall change to make. So, yeah, probably the biggest jump in style we’ve ever done is when we stopped Tender Trap and started The Catenary Wires. But I do think that you’re right. There has always been a sort of continuation and connection. That definitely makes sense. I think it’s maybe been a bit easier because of that…

I THINK IT’S LOVELY, ACTUALLY, THAT IT’S POSSIBLE TO TRACE THAT LINE FROM TALULAH GOSH THROUGH HEAVENLY AND THE OTHER BANDS AND ON TO THE CATENARY WIRES… IT’S LIKE YOU CAN ‘SEE’ A LIFE…
Yeah, I think that’s lovely too. I think that is really nice… But I don’t know what you’d actually think of this life. It started off full of joy and anger and excitement and expectation, but it’s ended up a bit melancholy…. Well, thinking about it, I’m probably not really much more melancholy now than I was back then in the Talulah Gosh days. In fact, maybe I was more melancholy then… I don’t know. I was young – but now maybe I’ve learned a lot more how to turn it into music?

I SAW HEAVENLY SEVERAL TIMES BACK IN THE DAY… EACH TIME IT FELT SOMEHOW ‘COMPLETE’ – THE SONGS WERE GREAT, THE BAND WAS FANTASTIC… AND ALSO, ACTUALLY, THE RECORDS WERE ALWAYS REALLY GOOD… IT SEEMED LIKE THAT MUST HAVE BEEN A VERY HAPPY SHIP TO CAPTAIN?
Yeah, it was. I think we had a very good time. Somehow we’d thought it would be boring to go on tour and just play the songs, so we also added extra bits. Like telling jokes or… I don’t know… just coming up with stupid things to do, to amuse ourselves as much as anyone else. It meant that it was always pretty entertaining.

SARAH RECORDS PUT OUT THE FIRST THREE HEAVENLY ALBUMS… LOOKING BACK, THAT LABEL FEELS LIKE SUCH A TRIUMPH. WE’RE STILL FOND OF IT THIRTY YEARS ON, AND STILL TALKING ABOUT IT THIRTY YEARS ON…
Yeah… Funnily enough, as a band we never considered that Sarah Records would want to sign Heavenly. We thought we might be a bit too punky for them in comparison to some of the other things that they’d got on the label… But as soon as they offered for us to be on Sarah we immediately said “yes”…

DID YOU FEEL YOU’D SIGNED TO A LABEL… OR DID IT FEEL MORE LIKE YOU’D JOINED A CLUB?
Oh, we felt like we were part of a gang. Definitely. We knew them really well before we ever signed up to them, and we got on with them. So we just felt very at home with them… And the band got on with Sarah Records as the label ‘cos they really ‘got’ what we were trying to do. There was never any pressure whatsoever from them to do anything other than what we wanted to do. They never once sent a song back. And we were one of the few bands who were allowed to do our own sleeves. They obviously just accepted that it was part of our ‘thing’ to do our own artwork and things. They also organised the Sarah shows…

… WHERE THERE’D BE THREE OR FOUR SARAH BANDS PLAYING THE SAME GIG…
Yeah. You’d have three or four Sarah bands all together doing tours – which was actually brilliant because it got people out. It was also similar to what you said a bit earlier about the fact that because I sang with The Wedding Present more people discovered Talulah Gosh… The Sarah shows meant that if anyone liked one Sarah band they’d end up knowing about all of them. I think those shows really helped build a fandom – for all of the bands and for the label.

… FOR ME IT REALLY CAME TOGETHER ON THE THIRD ALBUM (THE DECLINE AND FALL OF HEAVENLY, IN 1994)… IT WAS A REALLY HONED INDIE POP RECORD – NOT THAT I MEAN IT WAS STREAMLINED OR AIRBRUSHED, BECAUSE IT WASN’T… BUT THE DYNAMICS AND THE ARRANGEMENTS OF THE SONGS WERE DETAILED, AND THE BAND SOUNDED INCREDIBLY CONFIDENT AND IN COMPLETE COMMAND OF WHAT THEY WERE DOING… HEAVENLY HAD BECOME A SORT OF CONTROLLED POP POWERHOUSE, IN A WAY…
Yeah! Funnily enough I don’t think it was one of our most popular ones, actually. I think the second one (LE JARDIN DE HEAVENLY) did better, and people seem to think more of it. But I think you’re right in what you’re saying about THE DECLINE AND FALL, and I really like that record too. I think the second album still sounded a bit like other bands – but by that third one we were doing more interesting things. I don’t think Heavenly sounded like anyone else…

… ALTHOUGH THESE BANDS DON’T SOUND QUITE LIKE IT, I FEEL AS IF THERE IS A SORT OF LINE OF INFLUENCE FROM SOMETHING LIKE MODESTIC (ON THE DECLINE AND FALL) TO CAMERA OBSCURA, OR EVEN TO BELLE AND SEBASTIAN… THERE’S A SORT OF KITSCH COOL THING GOING ON…
Yeah, I know what you mean. I don’t know anyone from Camera Obscura, but I can see what you’re saying. But I do know Stuart Murdoch from Belle And Sebastian, and I know that Stuart was a big fan of Heavenly, so that would make sense.

OF THE FOUR HEAVENLY ALBUMS, I THINK THE FINAL ONE – OPERATION HEAVENLY – WAS THE MOST LIKELY TO BE A WIDER SUCCESS… I REMEMBER SEEING THE VIDEO FOR THE SPACE MANATEE SINGLE ON THE CHART SHOW, SO A PRIME MUSIC SHOW… TO HAVE GOT ON THERE WAS QUITE A FEAT, SO THAT ALBUM SEEMS AS IF IT MUST HAVE HAD A BIT OF LABEL PUSH… SOME INVESTMENT AND SUPPORT… 
Also at that time Britpop was happening, so I think there was a huge excitement going on about slightly alternative British pop bands… and we got a bit more exposure because of that. I think we also did go a bit that way, musically. I think if you wanted to you could say OPERATION HEAVENLY is a Britpop album.

… BUT THANKFULLY OPERATION HEAVENLY DOESN’T REALLY HAVE ANYTHING IN COMMON WITH OASIS…
Yeah, but it doesn’t really sound like any other Britpop either. It’s slightly Britpop – but it doesn’t sound like ‘a Britpop album’, per se. But you can hear the influences and I think we thought that because of what was going on, that album could be a hit, ha ha… We got quite excited for a little while. But, as you know, sadly we ended up stopping things not long after that. The stopping of the band was an accidental stopping…

… YEAH… I ACTUALLY REMEMBER FEELING SADDENED WHEN I HEARD OF MATHEW’S PASSING… BECAUSE THE BAND HADN’T BEEN HUGE SUPERSTARS IN THE PRESS YOU HADN’T BECOME INFLATED CARICATURES TO THE PUBLIC… IT WAS ACTUALLY VERY EASY TO RECOGNISE THAT THERE WAS A REAL PERSON WHO’D GONE THROUGH WHAT HE WENT THROUGH AND THERE WAS QUITE OBVIOUSLY A REAL FAMILY GRIEVING THAT LOSS… I SUPPOSE, IN SHORT, IT SEEMED MUCH MORE REAL AND RELATABLE BECAUSE IT FELT AS IF LOSING MATHEW WAS LOSING ‘ONE OF OUR OWN’ – HIS DEATH WAS ‘WITHIN REACH’, AND NOTHING LIKE THE DISTANT SUPERSTAR CARTOON / SOAP OPERA THAT, FOR INSTANCE, KURT COBAIN’S DEATH HAD BEEN TURNED INTO… I HOPE THAT MAKES SENSE?
Yeah, it does. I think you’re right about it. I think that’s absolutely true, actually. I do think that Mathew’s death was directly related to Kurt Cobain’s death in some ways, though. Also the guy from Lush – Chris Acland – he killed himself around about the same time. I think that people were genuinely shocked and genuinely surprised for that to happen in our little neck of the music woods… I think it did shake people up a lot. It certainly shook me up – but I had more reason than most to be shaken up.

… OBVIOUSLY MATHEW’S DEATH HAD AN IMPACT ON YOU PERSONALLY BUT, AS YOU SAY, IT ALSO HAD AN IMPACT ON THE BAND… HEAVENLY FINISHED… IN SOME WAYS MARINE RESEARCH, THE NEXT BAND, SEEMED LIKE AN ATTEMPT TO BOTH CARRY ON AND MOVE ON…
Actually I think we took about a year out. I’d been absolutely sure that we were never gonna make any music again. I remember being taken out for lunch by Rob and Cathy, and they were saying to me “come on, this is silly, let’s do music again”… So I said “okay”, but the plan was to not have a drummer. We thought that would be the most respectful thing we could do, in a way. The idea was to have programming instead. We were particularly keen on Stereolab and Broadcast and those sort of bands – so we thought we’d do that kind of thing, but we’d do it with programming. We thought it’d be all kind of super-modern and interesting, and we found this guy who was a really good programmer and said “join our band”… He said “yes”, and we started doing music. After a bit he said “Hmmm, these are proper songs… These are not the kind of things you do programming with”… He told us it wasn’t what he was used to and he’d wanted to do more experimental stuff. We wanted to be experimental! But he said “no, no. You need a proper drummer”… We were a bit deflated. We thought he was trying to leave. But he said “I can play drums”… We were like “Okay!”, so he played the drums. I think Marine Research was initially intended to be more different to Heavenly than it turned out. We definitely had more progressive intentions for what we were doing with Marine Research – but I guess it reverted to being fairly similar to Heavenly just because that’s the way I write songs.

… AND SO MARINE RESEARCH TURNED OUT TO BE THE BRIDGE BETWEEN HEAVENLY AND TENDER TRAP – WHEN YOU DID WORK WITH PROGRAMMING AND ELECTRONICS, AND GIGGED WITH DRUM MACHINES AND SO ON…?
Yeah. I guess that’s right, yeah.

NOW IT’S THE CATENARY WIRES, WHICH IS PRETTY MUCH JUST YOURSELF AND ROB… AND THERE HAS BEEN THE RECENT ALBUM ‘TIL THE MORNING… I THINK IT’S FAIR TO SAY THAT IT’S A FITTINGLY MATURE AND REFLECTIVE RECORD. IT SEEMS LIKE IT’S A REALLY GOOD INDICATOR OF WHERE THE PAIR OF YOU ARE AT IN LIFE?
Yeah, I think so. I think that’s right… As I said before, by the end of Tender Trap we were doing fast, poppy, punky things again and we were really quite enjoying doing that, jumping up and down on stage and everything… But there was still definitely a little bit of us that was thinking “… is this actually what we should be doing at this point in our lives?”… I think the music we’re doing now with The Catenary Wires is probably much more true to where we’re at, yeah…

… YOU ALSO MOVED OUT TO THE COUNTRY…
Yeah, we moved to the middle of nowhere. That made doing music as a band too difficult. It was too hard to try and carry on Tender Trap, ‘cos everyone else was left in London. I think when Rob and I did start making music again we thought that we wouldn’t play it to anyone. We thought we were just making music for ourselves – which is something I guess we’d never really done before, ‘cos I think we’d always made music for other people. So doing it for ourselves it ended up being sort of smaller and more intimate.

… I’VE LIVED IN BOTH, AND I THINK WHEN YOU MOVE OUT OF A CITY TO A VILLAGE, YOU JUST CANNOT HELP BUT SUCCUMB TO THE QUIETER AND SLOWER WAY OF LIFE… IT SEDUCES YOU, REALLY… SO I THINK IT’S PROBABLY UNAVOIDABLE THAT IT ENDED UP ‘GETTING INTO’ YOUR MUSIC.
You’re right. It really was, yeah… It’s funny when you move to a village ‘cos you end up talking to lots of people who if you were in a town you would never talk to. Initially I thought that was going to be awful – why would I want to talk to all these people I would never talk to normally – but I’ve found it really good. I’ve found it fantastic. You discover the… variety… of people.

ON THE CATENARY WIRES WEBSITE YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELVES AS “MINIMAL MELANCHOLIC POP”, WHICH I THINK IS A BEAUTIFUL WAY OF PUTTING IT… I GUESS IT’S A MIDDLE-AGED PERSON’S BAND IN THE SAME WAY THAT TALULAH GOSH WAS DEFINITELY A YOUNG PERSON’S BAND… OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE GROWN AS A PERSON, BUT HOW DO YOU VIEW HOW YOU’VE GROWN, MUSICALLY? 
I think that to some extent I still write songs coming from some of the same values, perspectives and even inspirations as I did at the start – but I think the subject matter and the willingness to just play three chords and see what happens has gone. I think you’d feel disappointed in yourself or that you were short-changing yourself, in a way, if you didn’t feel that you were now doing something that had progressed from that. The other thing about The Catenary Wires is that Rob and I pretty much write everything together. Some of the songs are written by me, and some of them are written by Rob, but on the whole quite a lot of them are written together. That is really different for me. I’ve never really written collaboratively to this sort of level in the past. So that’s another reason why The Catenary Wires is interesting and different.

ANYONE WHO FOLLOWS THE CATENARY WIRES ON SOCIAL MEDIA WILL SEE THAT YOU RECENTLY HAD SOME TIME IN AMERICA AND SOME TIME IN PORTUGAL… LOOKING BACK AT THE UK FROM THERE, FROM THOSE PLACES, DID YOU LIKE WHAT YOU SAW?
Oh, the UK! God… That’s a huge question. I love the UK. I really love it, and I don’t think I’d ever want to live anywhere else… But I have to say it was quite nice to be away for a bit, ‘cos we’re having quite the struggle at the moment aren’t we?

I’M JUST THINKING ABOUT HOW BREXIT MIGHT IMPACT MUSICIANS… WHILE YOU WERE AWAY IN AMERICA AND PORTUGAL YOU PLAYED SOME SHOWS… YOU MANAGE YOURSELVES, SO HOW DOES PUTTING TOGETHER DATES LIKE THAT CURRENTLY WORK?
Well actually it’s one of the brilliant things about social media, I’d say. I was able to basically put things on e-mail or social media saying “help us”… and people helped us. That said, we’ve always somehow managed to organise foreign tours, even before the days of social media. I don’t know how we did it, really! We somehow seemed to do it just by writing letters or ringing people up on the ‘phone, I think, ha ha… This time round it was brilliant, actually, ‘cos we had to borrow instruments. I was having to go on social media and say “In Athens, Georgia, has anyone got a harmonium we could borrow for a gig?” – and someone we didn’t know just replied out of nowhere “yeah, I’ve got a harmonium you can borrow. Just pop by and pick it up”… I just loved that…

… SO IT’S ALL STILL THAT OLD DIY APPROACH…
Oh God yeah. It’s totally still that DIY approach, ha ha… We recorded the recent album here at home. We’ve got a little outbuilding here and it was all recorded in there. In fact it’s got a really weird reverb in there, in that room, and we were considering whether to damp it down – but then we thought “no, it’s an important part and parcel of it being our DIY recording in our outhouse”… So the album has got our reverb on it, and our birds you can hear outside on it at one point, as well…

THIS CURRENT ALBUM IS STILL PRETTY FRESH, BUT WHAT PLANS MIGHT YOU HAVE FOR THE CATENARY WIRES?
I wouldn’t say that calendar-wise we’re very good at planning. But… we have got a whole ton of new songs. Also, the last set of gigs that we did in the UK were with a full band, and it’d become a much fuller sound again. We had Andy Lewis, who actually produced ‘TIL THE MORNING. He came here and helped us produce it. Also Fay Hallam who played keyboards on it, and then a guy called Ian Button who isn’t actually on the album but plays drums live for us… So what we’re experimenting with for the next album is actually working the songs out with them. The last album was very much mine and Rob’s two-person thing but with extra bits added, whereas the next one would be much more of a band thing… We’ll see… We’ve just had the one practice so far, and they’re all really good at playing, probably better than anyone we’ve ever played with before, she said carefully, so it kind of immediately sounded really good. We’ll record the songs just as fast as they come out – and then when we’ve got enough we’ll probably go back to Tapete and see if they’ll release another album, I guess…

 

Order ‘TIL THE MORNING on vinyl or CD here
For tour dates and ticket links go here