So, let’s see. Six months of not much to write about. Let’s start at the end of last year – we were probably a bit down in the dumps to be honest; our last show of 2007 was at the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town. As those of you with long memories may remember, we had a pretty crappy show there in 2006, what with the near-fisticuffs with the soundman and Kerry announcing her departure around then. We hoped to rectify this with a blazing performance a year later to show how far we’d come. We invited all and sundry and were buzzing about being able to sell the newly-pressed copies of A Very Cherry Christmas Vol 3, featuring Diamond White Christmas (as detailed below). Of course, it didn’t work out like that – we didn’t get a soundcheck, the drumkit fell apart during the second song, the CDs didn’t arrive in time, and we nearly ended up in even more fisticuffs for using another band’s amps, all in front of friends we’d so enthusiastically invited. While it certainly put a damper on an already-washed out evening, it also strengthened our resolve, and come the new year, we’d decided to focus our rehearsals a bit more – the problem with having over 30 songs in your catalogue (and growing very rapidly!) is that you simply can’t do them all in rehearsal and do them justice. So, we devised an A list of ten songs we know we can play well, and practice every week, then a B list of songs we can bring out regularly and a C list of songs we’ll rarely play, or haven’t rehearsed enough. Alas the last list includes some old favourites like Falling Down and the rarely-played Red Nose Day (which now features Sharon on bass), but if there’s enough call, we can dig them out. I’d love to give Red Nose Day another crack.
This new work ethic served us well at our first gig in February up in Leeds for our old chum Lauren’s club night. Not only did we turn in a sterling set of revitalised classics, but debuted two new songs (Berry Buck Mills Stipe and Rat Attack) from our clutch of pre-Christmas songwriting, which went down very favourably with the punters of Leeds, especially Rat Attack which is equal parts Bearsuit-go-thrash and Massive Attack at their most dub. An odd combination, but it’s one of my favourites (well, I would say that, since I wrote it). The songs have kept coming, and we added three new tracks at our London gig at Bardens Boudoir, not only giving Berry Buck Mills Stipe a good airing, but also John’s slow opener The Little Sisters Of The Poor (the song John referred to as his album closer in the blog below), James’s Troopy, and Martin’s Blackwall Tunnel, which features our first ever key change. Fancy that.
Our last gig was on Thursday, which was not only our first ‘proper’ headline gig, but served as a warmup for our collective jolly to All Tomorrows Parties, along with Dan. Martin and John had not experienced ATP before, but I can safely say that all of us would already put it as one of the best things to happen to us in 2008. I could write volumes about the lovely weather, the mind-blowing quality of Ween’s two and a half hour Friday set, Caribou’s magnificent drumming, but you’ll have to imagine it yourself. So many good bands, so much fun, so little sleep.
One good thing about the recent gigs is that though there’ve not been many, they’ve all been of extremely high quality, and it’s been absolutely ace to share the stage with the likes of The Deirdres, The Argonauts, Arthur & Martha, Das Wanderlust (albeit with a poorly singer!), and Sparky’s Magic Piano and The Scaremongers. Make sure you catch each and every one of those bands at some point – you won’t be disappointed. The Scaremongers were especially interesting, having as they did a notable frontman, and a camera crew from The Culture Show turn up. Luckily, their performance (their debut no less!) threw out any doubt about them being hyped. They play absolutely perfect pop music, and very well indeed; make sure you catch them if you can!
We’ve been back in the studio too – with this backlog of songs (since we’ve become a five-piece we have roughly twelve new songs), we figured that we should try and get them down quickly before we get bored of them or they slip through the cracks. So, even with our debut album looming, we’ve been spending one Saturday a month back at Simon’s studio. The fruits of our labour have been impressive so far – the following five songs are all complete:
Those Are Not My Arms (three versions)
Troopy (four versions, including my debut as a lead vocalist!)
Give It Up
Berry Buck Mills Stipe (two versions)
and we’ve also put down the two tracks for our next single release. I can’t reveal much about it now, but it’s going to include our first ever cover version. We’ve got more to come at the moment – I’ve got four works in progress, Martin has another one up his sleeve, James just told me he’s demoed another new song, along with the four or five of his we’ve briefly tried, and we’ve barely touched the grand finale I mentioned below. Exciting times ahead.
The rough aim at the moment is to record about 20 songs then pick the best ones for the next album – any surplus will be good for compilations and other releases, as I’m always a fan of bands who don’t recycle album tracks for B-sides or release singles that aren’t on an LP, or are different versions, and hope to stick to that philosophy for our own releases. We had a rough plan to do the same for Sex With Strangers and record surplus material (indeed Give It Up was being worked up for the album), but circumstances dictated otherwise and we only ended up with two or three extra tracks that didn’t make the cut. Hopefully this time, with four of us writing songs – five if we can convince Sharon to have a go- we’ll easily be able to get there.
Of course, I’m saving the best until last – we are now Proper Pop Stars as we have released our debut album! It was released on Cherryade Records on Monday, and you can either buy it from the site, or from one of us if you ever see us in the street or at our gigs (and if you don’t see us at our gigs, well, you’re not looking hard enough). As Monday was the day we were coming back from ATP, we had a lovely Harvester lunch to celebrate. So thanks to all the staff at Ashford (Kent) branch of our favourite chain restaurant for helping make it a super day. The album will be in the shops and on Amazon and iTunes pretty soon (if it isn’t already), so you won’t have any trouble finding it. As always, you can let us know what you think by dropping us an email or whatnot. We always like to hear what we’re doing right or wrong. And of course, if you want to put us on for a gig, we will play anywhere that isn’t The Bull & Gate. I’m trying to fix some gigs outside of London at this very moment, so all contacts are very helpful!
Have I said enough? I’m going to try and keep this blog slightly more active while we wait for someone to be kind enough to make us a proper website. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you all about our other ker-azy adventures, or at least I will when we have them. In the meantime, just buy our album, and also listen to Andorra by Caribou and Marquee Moon by Television. Two of the greatest albums ever made, honest.