Monday, 17 February 2014

The Wedding Present Interview

One of my all-time fav bands, The Wedding Present have always filled my moments with love and joy. I met singer and leader of the band, David Gedge, when I was doing my MA in liverpool ten years ago. A lovely person and a real gentleman, he is back with his band for a set full of hearts, flowers, heartbreaking odes and loads of pure punk feeling.  

I first saw you live in 2004, in Liverpool, when you reunited. That was also our first interview. It’s been ten years since then.. was that a good decade and what has changed in your life?
Yes, it’s been a great decade! It was refreshing to return to The Wedding Present after a few years away and also very exciting to be invited to play in places we’d never visited previously… countries like Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Latvia and, of course, Greece where we first played in 2005. We also travelled to record. We recorded ‘Take Fountain’ with Steve Fisk in Seattle and the follow-up ‘El Rey’ with Steve Albini in Chicago and I’ve spent more and more time in Los Angeles, where we mixed our most recent album ‘Valentina’ with Andrew Scheps. But, aside from the tours and the albums, there’s been plenty of other stuff, too… I’ve started my own festival in Brighton, England called ‘At The Edge Of The Sea’ and my own biographical comic book called ‘Tales From The Wedding Present’. So you could say that I’ve been keeping pretty busy…

Since the release of your last album in 2012, has there been much work on new material?
There’s only two or three completely finished songs but what is most exciting is that there are lots of ideas bubbling around. Our ‘new’ guitarist, Patrick Alexander, joined the band a couple of years ago and brought lots of ideas for songs with him, so I’m really looking forward to getting to grips with those later this year.

Name me three things that you love about The Wedding Present and Cinerama.
With The Wedding Present I love… 1 - the simplicity - the fact that we’re influenced by punk and pop music… 2 - the basic but classic “rock ’n’ roll” line-up of drums, bass and guitars… and 3 - the sheer energy of the live performances.
But then one thing I love about doing Cinerama is that it’s totally different to The Wedding Present! But, also I adore the cinematic sound of strings and orchestral brass and messing around with weird keyboards and stuff. Thirdly, I suppose I like the fact that Cinerama is kind of ‘retro’ - so the whole concept of the band is quite nostalgic for me… it’s the soundtrack to my ‘growing up’, in a way.

You've written some of the most beautiful love songs. Do you believe that love makes the world go round?
Thank you! Yes, ha, ha… there’s no greater force than love! I remember a teacher at school telling us that everything we do in life is motivated by our desire to love and be loved and I think there’s a lot of truth in that…

Are there any albums (or even particular songs) that you don’t want to play live?
No. Well, I have my favourites, of course, but there isn’t anything I would never play live. There are some songs that I would probably not have personally chosen to play in concert but our drummer Charles Layton does the set lists and he often comes up with surprises. And I like a challenge!

What's your take on social networking? Do you like interacting with fans?
I do. I love interacting with fans on Twitter, for instance. It’s great to have that direct communication via my personal account @weddingpresent. My only problem with social networking is that there’s so much of it. If we kept up with everything on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc., I wouldn’t have time to write songs or make records.

What are you doing in LA right now?
It seems like the main thing I’ve done is escape some horrendous weather back in England. But I’ve also been working on a couple of long-term projects while I’ve been here. The first is a totally new version of “Valentina” re-arranged and re-recorded by Cinerama and the second is a new version of “George Best” which The Wedding Present recorded a few years ago with Steve Albini. They’re about as totally different projects as you could imagine, so that’s been interesting…

You mention on the newsletter that there'll be naked dancers during the Athens gig. Apart from that, what should we expect?
Performing poodles, magic tricks and free fish and chips for everybody.

The Wedding Present are playing Athens (Six Dogs) friday 14 march.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Northern Portrait Interview

Northern Portrait were named 'one of my favorite bands' immediately after their first single. They are smart and delicate and they translate pop in a deeper and tasteful way. I also love the fact that they are Danish and that they are kind of obsessed with releasing singles and EPs. Stefan Larsen, singer of the band, gave me a lovely interview!

You recently released a collection of non-album tracks (including songs from sold out EPs, vinyl-only singles, and compilation appearances). How come you haven't released a second album yet? 
Well, for a number of reasons. First of all, I am personally quite fond of the single and Extended Play formats - the way I see it, there'a a bit more emphasis on the individual songs, and it still feels like an entity in its own right just as an album is. One quite bewildering thing for me is the continuous focus on the album format. However, I am not saying we won't record an album ever again, but right now we just have a growing collection of songs, that we work on with no particular type of release in mind. Might be an album, might be something completely different. As you mention, our new release 'Ta!' is an album collecting single and EP tracks that are either sold out or haven't been available on CD before. A number of the songs have been revitalized for the release, and we are really quite pleased with the result.

Your music is elegant, and romantic, and retro and powerful. It reminds me of bands like Gene and Strangelove, with a modern feeling. Which words would you use to describe it?

Oh, thank you! I think we used to describe it as Sophisticated guitar pop music, which I guess is still valid. Gene is a group that I didn’t discover until somebody pointed out similarities between my voice and the guy from Gene’s. All of which is very flattering indeed - their music is really beautiful. Drawn To the Deep End is probably my favorite record of theirs. So I must say I’m glad we remix you of them.
As for our own music I think we try to balance an obvious inspiration and appreciation for a bunch of mainly English pop groups from the past sixty or so years, add a dash of freshness and whatever is on our minds around the time we write and record.

You are signed to Matinee. You mentioned in one of your interviews that "going into the Matinée office was really like entering the treasure chamber of Indie pop" How did you sign to the label and was that your first choice?
The Matinée Recordings office is most certainly an Aladdin's Cave of great music. Jimmy Tassos who runs the label is a man with a most astonishingly impressive collection of superb music. We are indeed very happy and feel very privileged to be part of the Matinée family. Jimmy handles everything with such great taste, attention and friendliness. Things went pretty quickly in signing to Matinée - I think we had a deal within the first two weeks of publishing our first track on Myspace (does anybody remember that place anymore, and what’s happened to Tom?). I cannot really say that we even got to a point where first, second or third choice of label was an topic, but the way things turned out seems perfect for us.

I love your artwork! Who is responsible and do you think that sound and image should have a common vision? (if so, whats yours)
Again, thank you very much, I’m glad you like it! For the first two Eps we released, we pretty much had an idea of what we wanted. It was a kind of the Beast and the Beauty - and Matinée made sure they both turned out so nice. For our album ‘Criminal Art Lovers’ the initial idea with the Villa Savoye came from Michael (drummer and songwriter). We all loved the modernist coolness and strange appeal of building. By the way both Michael and Jesper (lead guitarist) are architects, and Caspar (bass player) is son of two architects, so we have lots of architecture in the band. For the 7" single ‘Life Returns To Normal’ and our latest 10” vinyl EP ‘Pretty Decent Swimmers’ we gave Jimmy Tassos free hands to design the artwork. Both turned out very very nice indeed, and I must say holding a copy of ‘Pretty Decent Swimmers' for the first time was quite a special moment. Really a beautiful piece of plastic and cardboard. All those sleeves have used photos, and we thought it would be a nice diversion to do something entirely graphic for our new compilation ‘Ta!’, and as both a tribute to and inspired by Danish underground experimental magazine ‘Ta’’ (notice the difference?) we made this check pattern, which with the magic touch of Jimmy turned out very nice indeed. I wouldn’t say we have a vision per se, but we do have taste and pay attention to the graphic side of our band.

There is a copenhagen popfest but still, there is not a well-known indie pop scene in Denmark.. home come? Are there bands that we are not aware of?
I am not really sure what the reason for this is. There are some very nice Danish groups indeed; Sock Puppets, Ampel, and Balloon Magic for instance, but the live scene doesn’t seem to function very well for some strange reason. There has been some nice initiatives with club nights and live acts coming over, but right now the community, scene, fan base, or whatever doesn’t seem to be at it’s best. Hopefully this will change.

Through your interviews I’ve seen your love for Pulp, Lightning Seeds and Suede. A phrase for each band?

Pulp is absolute intimate excellence. Lightning Seeds is pure perfection, and Suede was guitar magic.

I read that you have published a book in Denmark. Is that correct and what is it about?
Well, that’s sort of true - but it’s just something to do with my work. It’s not like I’m an author or anything like that. It’s a book combining art and certain everyday problems.

Which would be your dream fest to perform?
We have been playing at so many brilliant festivals - last year Madrid Pop Fest was an enormous thrill for us. I cannot really say what our dream fest would be. People are always very nice everywhere we go, and over the years we have come across some incredibly talented bands. So I think a dream fest is just impossible - but please bring Holiday Crowd and Math and Physics Club.

I think you should come and play in Athens. I can give you a grand tour and take you to places with amazing food! What do you think?
I think so too! I love Greek food, and would love to go on a grand tour of Athens with you. Please send an invitation. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

Interview with Alpaca Sports

                                                             Press photo by Per Möller

I first came across Alpaca Sports a couple of years ago. Its one of those rare moments where you instantly fall in love. They come from Gothenburg and they make the most beautiful pop, sweet, cute, adorable pop music. They soon release their debut, which its truly haunting, a pop masterpiece! I shamelessly admit that they are my favorite band right now and watching them live would make me the happiest girl in the world. Andreas Jonsson was kind enough to answer my questions.

You write amazing pop songs, the one after the other. Is it so damn easy to write a perfect pop song?

Thank you! Haha well seriously, it’s so damn hard! We spend so many hours on each song trying to find the right arrangement, finding the right words, use the right instruments, sounds and so on. Just to give the impression that it was recorded in thirty minutes I guess, haha. I find it can be easy to lose the straightforwardness during the song making process and to complicate things, so I always get very happy when people think writing popsongs is easy for us.

Your music is sweet and romantic and heartbreaking. Is that a way to express your own personality?
It’s definitely a way to express my feelings. But oh, I don’t think I want to call myself sweet and romantic? That’s for others to do, haha. But I’m very naïve and I’m addicted to romantic movies, I admit that.

"Sealed with a Kiss" - your first album is released in a few days. What are your expectations from the debut?
Yes, it’s finally ready! I’m very excited about it but I’ve never released an album before so I don’t know what to expect really. We just put all our effort into making a record we could feel proud about. Hopefully others will like it too, that would make me very happy!

Which are the features that make Swedish pop music so distinct?

I don’t know about characteristics but I think a lot of Swedes are good at making pop music and I’m sure there are many explanations for that. I think one could be that kids get the chance to try different instruments in an early age which encourage people to start bands. There are different music schools which you can sign up for and at least when I grew up music was a compulsory subject in school. So, music is always present and many generations here in Sweden have been brought up with songs from bands like Abba, Beatles, Elvis and more. After a while you learn which music buttons to push maybe?

Do you hang out with other Swedish bands?

I’m not sure we have that culture anymore here in Gothenburg where whole bands go out together hanging out at the same place. I can miss that sometimes! But of course I meet members from other bands from time to time. At the moment I listen a lot to The Electric Pop Group, I think they’re fantastic.

If Alpaca Sports were a film, a book and a painting which ones would they be?

Film: Cinema Paradiso
Book: The Notebook? haha
Painting: One from our wonderful friend Ray Kimura!

Gig plans? You announced your gig at the Copenhagen Popfest!

We’ll play in Milano and Rome on February 22-23! And we’ll play at two Popfests so far this spring, Birmingham and Copenhagen. I hope we can announce more gigs soon!

And last.. is Johnny Marr your hero?
He’s definitely one of my heroes. But my biggest hero is Gunvor Jonsson, my dear mother.

Alpaca Sports premier today their video for new single "Just like Johnny Marr", shoot in Japan! Watch the video below and watch out for debut release on the 24th Feb (Luxury).