The UK’s Sarandon like to call themselves a pop band with a short attention span. The name of their latest album, Kill Twee Pop, (released in the U.S. on Slumberland Records), seems to say it all: this is no cutsie neo-folk act, but rather, a spastic, twitching garage punk act that delights both in mashing comedic lyrical impulses and singing about cups of tea with a rush of full-tilt guitars and exploding beats.
What year did the band form–was it 2003?
Yes, it was late 2003 – around September. I’d just moved back to London from Italy and had this idea bubbling away for some time. I’d spent 10 years recording solo albums and really wanted a “proper” band again.
How did the three band members meet?
The original line up met like this:
I was managing hitBACK records (home of spearmint and the free French) and they had signed a terrific band called HOST. I borrowed James, the first Sarandon drummer from them. I’d known Joe the bass player for a good ten years through cassette labels (he ran the Kylie productions label and I was running inner psyche productions and the foundation for nothing).
As for the current line up:
Alan was in my favorite band of all time, Big Flame. I wrote to him and sent him a bunch of Sarandon singles which he liked, so I invited him to do some guest singing on our “June Bride” record. After that he became a friend and when Joe left for America Alan took over bass duties. Tom, our wonderful drummer, was introduced to me by Andrew Plummer (Sarandon’s some-time horn player) and I only wish I’d met him earlier because his drumming is astonishing.
In reference to your new album’s title, do you really want to see the death of “twee pop”? What makes you hate it so?
Of course I do. The word “twee” is simply awful.
In the context that it’s being used it’s a derogatory word – just take a look at the dictionary meaning of it. Someone somewhere who isn’t old enough to know better has misread reports and decided that both “twee pop” and “C86″ are some kind of musical genre, in the same way people nowadays think “indie” is a musical genre. The bare truth is that a couple of journos in the 80′s used the term “twee” to describe a couple of bands and now everyone seems to think that any type of band formed in the mid eighties was “twee”. They weren’t. So now we get millions of terrible third-rate Sarah-by-numbers bands all over the place. It’s like my worst teenage nightmare. By the same token, “c86″ was no more than a cassette stuck to the front of the NME that highlighted a bunch of bands that the editor at the time quite liked; Bear in mind, these were all bands that had started to get press attention for their releases THE YEAR BEFORE!
Is it tricky to be a successful band in the UK without loads of hoopla from NME?
To be honest, I don’t even try. I’m simply not interested. I’ve spent a long time in the music industry organizing tours of eastern Europe, working with bands like Pere Ubu and Laibach, running record labels like hitBACK and nation (home of fun-da-mental and transglobal underground) and the whole idea of trying to make a living out of being in a band is ridiculous. I’m more than happy working my day job, bringing up my children and making records when the mood takes me.
We’re very lucky that Slumberland understands and isn’t bothered by the fact that I won’t tour to promote any records – we just can’t. We live in separate parts of the UK (Tom’s in London, Alan’s in the north east and I’m in the midlands) so we don’t rehearse unless we’re recording or have a show. We’ve all got families and jobs, and both Alan and I have spent long enough in the backs of sweaty stinking vans sleeping on floors to play to 12 people. (We’re) too old for that nonsense these days.
As for the NME – I’ve not seen a copy since 1999. The NME is just a glossy chat mag like any other. These days I don’t read the music press at all except for The Wire. I sit at work and my colleagues talk about new bands and things and I’m not really interested. That’s not quite true – I wasn’t interested until a friend of mine introduced me to the Dirty Projectors. They’re the first “new” band I’ve liked in a long long time. A bunch of people were going on about a band called Vampire Weekend and I heard them by accident a couple of weeks ago when my daughter had some music channel on the TV. To me, they just sounded like the Verlaines so I didn’t delve any further. If I want that kind of pop, I’ll put my Verlaines records on and save myself the price of a new CD.
What’s your funniest gig story?
There aren’t many Sarandon stories as we’ve only played about a dozen shows in 5 years. There are stories that’d make your toes curl from other bands, but as this is a Sarandon interview, well, I think the funniest story would probably be to do with ordering the wrong pizza or something.
What was the strangest/most interesting thing to happen to Sarandon?
As we never really see each other (I saw Alan a few weeks ago and that was the first time we’d EVER sat in a pub together and had a drink and I’ve not seen TOM since we recorded KTP! in September) it’s hard to think of anything.
The BEST thing to happen to the band in my opinion is signing to Slumberland. Don’t get me wrong, the other labels we’ve worked with (Wrath, Banazan, HHBTM) have all been ace and I owe them a lot, but meeting mike and being invited onto the label felt absolutely right.
If you could meet any musical hero living or dead, who would it be and what would you say to this person?
Well I’ve already got Alan as a member of my band and I’m friends with Phil Wilson (my other hero), both of who were responsible for making me start a band back in the early 80′s. So they’ve already been handed the bill for my years of money loss through music making. I don’t really do heroes nowadays. I think it’s a lot to do with having worked with so many people. You realize that actually they’re all just people trying to pursue their idea of art and a lot of them are arses.
There are people who’ve been hugely influential but they’re just people and most of them I already know.
What do you simply hate about being a musician in a band? You know, like the sound man showing up two hours late for a gig, buying guitar strings from “that guy” at the music store who is more interested in his Chinese food than ringing you up, or trying to find your drummer, (sorry drummers), or insert your band mate who always goes missing, two minutes before your set time.
Being in Sarandon is easy. When we do play shows the band is 1. Well-behaved knowing that I rule the band like a tin pot dictator, 2. Too old to disappear, get drunk, etc – we’d all rather enjoy the 20 minutes on stage and then get back to our beds as soon as is humanly possible. I don’t worry about strings. I only own one guitar that I bought in 1989 and which only has one working pickup.
I barely worry about tuning, much to Anthony’s (our producer) distress when we’re in the studio.
What is the band currently working on now that you’ve just released your great Kill Twee Pop! album?
We were going to record an EP of cover versions and I got a friend of mine who’s a terrific illustrator to draw a cover. I gave him the title and told him to get on with it only to be told by the rest of the band that they didn’t want to do a covers EP. So now I’m stuck with having a beautiful sleeve with a title across the front that I need to write some songs for. I guess that means we’ll have something new recorded in the next couple of months. We might play a couple of shows this year if anyone asks us to. I won’t go looking for them though. Usually when promoters approach us and I tell them we won’t take a door split and they need to guarantee us X amount of cash, they bail out. So, we’ll just keep on with our daily lives.