It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since I chatted to the Long Blondes in the swanky depths of the Tribeca Grand Hotel (when Saturday nights meant hot new bands and free champagne!) Time has flown and Sheffield’s boy-girl quintet have gone from being “the UK’s best unsigned band” to a favorite among critics and music snobs across their homeland, the US and Europe. I caught up with stylish chanteuse Kate Jackson and talked about their sophomore release Couples, producing the album, and of course, the band’s synonymous style.

So you’re in Germany right now. Are you guys doing a bunch of gigs in Europe?
Yeah, we’ve just done a big UK tour and we’ve been in Europe for about two weeks. It’s going really well, it’s been brilliant. We were just in Holland.

How are you received in Europe?
We’ve been to Germany and Holland loads. But as for France, Italy and Spain and the tiny venues there, we’ve not paid as much attention to them. It’s quite varied.

I interviewed you guys about three years ago when you played the Tribeca Grand Hotel.
I am very nostalgic about that time! It was our first time in New York and none of us had ever been, and we played the Tribeca Grand, the Cake Shop and a show in Philadelphia. Then we spent the rest of the week hanging out and making friends in New York. I think it was the best week as a band we ever had. In terms of having fun, it was brilliant.

Obviously a lot has changed – do you think it will be different this time around in New York?
Well we’ve been busier now; since we got signed it’s been nonstop. Beforehand we’d get invited to play shows in Europe and America by friends, and it was like going on holiday. You’d have the rest of the time to go shopping, drinking and form relationships with people. But this time we’re coming into New York and I think we have a radio session, a gig and then we drive out.

But it definitely shows how you’ve progressed in the past three years.
It’s definitely good as opposed to three years ago when it was still our hobby, and we all had day jobs. Now this has become our day job. We haven’t stopped since then and we really haven’t had time off.

I remember you guys talking about your day job, because every band I’ve talked to, that was their day job and now it must feel good for you guys to get to this point in your career.
What you dream of is doing something creative and making a living out of it. You kind of forget that when you’re traveling and tired!

As for the premise of the new album Couples, in terms of you writing it and working on it with Erol Alkan, what changed?
I think this has got a lot more varied styles of music on it. The first album represented where we were in 2006 and a lot of songs were written up to two years before that. It [making that album] was a catch-up. But when we started Couples it was a clean slate, and we were able to experiment with our sound, there was no weight of expectations on it. Working with Erol, we were able to do that. He was producing the Mystery Jets record and ours at the same time and he just didn’t have any rules at all. He let us be free and our ideas run wild.

The first time around do you feel you couldn’t be as free with your ideas?
I guess because we had been hyped up, thought of as being ‘the best unsigned band in Britain’ and being in the NME for a long time. So there was a big build-up for Someone to Drive You Home. I think people expected us to be the female version of Franz Ferdinand. When it came to doing the second album, we could do what we wanted and be as weird as we liked! We had the fan base and we didn’t have the pressure to recreate the success of our first album. We could show the world what we’re really like now.

Speaking of being critiqued, do you like how you guys are always commented on your penchant for fashion? Is it something you feel the critics caught onto instantly?
Obviously we dress well [laughs], but it’s not the main thing. Maybe when we first started people made more of it than the music. We were still learning how to play our instruments, we were like this trashy garagey pop band, but it was exciting [laughs]. You never knew what was going to happen at our gigs and it was all a bit shambolic, and people loved coming to see us. I’m glad we’ve gotten through that phase and we’ve gotten to the point where we’re competent with our instruments and our live shows are pretty tight. We wanted to move away from the whole ‘they dress well but they can’t play’ tag we’ve gotten.

So now that you’ve gotten more popular, do designers throw clothes at you guys?
No! [laughs]. I think it’s because we have such a strong idea of our own identity, and labels don’t want that, they want people who are kind of faceless. They can’t do that because we still wear charity shop clothes and vintage finds. Having said that, I would really like if they offered us some free stuff! It’s so totally unfair!

When you go to other cities, do you always try to fit in shopping time?
We were in Paris a couple of days ago and that was good, wandering around the shops. You do get the occasional pocket of time when you’re not doing press or shows, and the main thing in America and Europe is the distance of cities, so instead of stores you see most of the motorway!

www.thelongblondes.co.uk

–Andrea D’Alessandro