Shhh….I’ve got a secret to tell you. There is an indie-pop scene going on in London that would make their C86 ancestors, drool with envy. Sugar-kissed melodies, soaring girl/boy vocals mesh to make music that ought to be in heavy rotation in every sugar-frosted flake home.
Pocketbooks are a great example of a band that ought to be on the cover of NME and earning accolades in every country that loves great pop. This London-based group has just released their first album, Flight Paths to unanimous critical praise. Their inclusion of Motown influences puts them ahead of the pack and makes us yearn for an American tour (SXSW? CMJ? You listening?). The members of the group (Andy, Dan, Emma, Ian and Jonny) took a moment to answer some questions and share the calorie-packed love.
TDOA: We’re fascinated by the sound of the band which truly does merge 60′s soul with a very C86 sound. Tell us about the musical influences of the band, please.
PB: I think we just all love a really good pop song really, whether it’s someone like The Supremes, or The Housemartins or even Bananarama. Most of us initially met through a club in London called How Does It Feel To Be Loved? which plays a mixture of northern soul, 60s girl groups and indiepop, so there was some common ground there in terms of the music we all liked. Dan will occasionally try and inflict Captain Beefheart on us, but we’re not quite ready for that yet!
TDOA: You played with The Wedding Present, who were among the originators of the C86 sound. Did he offer and advice or feedback on your music?
PB: We only actually played with the Wedding Present once, which was at the Indietracks festival last year. Dave Gedge a bit of a hero to some of us, for Cinerama as well as The Wedding Present, so we never stop telling people we once played a gig with them. I think Emma met him, but the rest of us were too shy, and we’d definitely be too scared to ask for feedback! Everyone who’s met him says he’s a really nice guy, and I think he’s created a somewhat grumpy public persona for himself just to stop pesky bands like us hassling him.
TDOA: The first album Flight Paths was just released this month. Congrats! Please talk about the recording process; Simon Trought, likes and dislikes of being confined in a studio.
PB: Simon has a studio below a ukulele shop in London near the markets and shops around Spitalfields and Brick Lane, which was a brilliant place to hang around for a few days. We did all the writing and arranging in advance and then recorded the songs in five days. Simon was the perfect person to have record the album – as well as catching the sound really well, he’s also very patient and very clear about when something’s a good or bad idea. We made Ian play about five hours of non-stop guitar at one point, which I don’t think he’s forgiven us for yet, but otherwise I think we were all just dead excited to be in an actual studio. And we managed to resist the temptation to have loads of ukuleles on the record.
TDOA: I’ve watched several videos of acoustic performances by the band. Do you find most of your songs are written acoustically and then fleshed out in the studio?
PB: Usually someone will come to the rest of a band with a finished song and a pretty good idea of how to arrange it, and yes, then we’ll flesh it out from there. Dan thinks that coming up with a bass part means he’s entitled to a songwriting credit, but that can’t be right, can it? We’ve only played a couple of acoustic gigs, but I think our friend Steve happened to turn up at one with a proper video camera, which is why those ones made it onto the internet.
TDOA: We love talking about the fickle nature of the British media. How do you capture the attention of a magazine like NME and then keep them from turning on you down the road?
Haha, I wish I knew. We haven’t quite caught the NME’s attention yet! I guess some magazines end up turning on bands that they regret overhyping in the first place. Maybe it’s better to be a band that people stumble across gradually and warm to over the longer-term, rather than being sold as an overnight sensation and then shot down in flames. I think building things up gradually is probably more enjoyable too…
TDOA: The band has embraced the internet by using all the social media outlets. You’ve also put some of your music out there for free via the internet. Do you think all of these things have empowered you to be less dependent on signing with a major?
PB: I don’t think bands have ever really been dependent on signing to a major label. People have been setting up independent labels forever, often on a very small budget. Emma and Dan actually started their own label (Make Do And Mend Records) last year, which is going pretty well. I really like the fact that our band can give away songs for free. Personally I still like to buy CDs and records too though, and I don’t think the internet necessarily means bands should overlook labels entirely, Our current label (How Does It Feel To Be Loved?) is a genuine independent label and it feels like being part of a family. I think I’d miss that feeling if we were doing things completely on our own.
As for the social media bits and pieces, it’s quite fun doing things like Twitter, although it seems every time we get our heads around one thing, something else similar but more popular comes along. Fortunately Emma, Ian and Dan love all that sort of thing, so they have it all under control.
TDOA: I haven’t found any videos of the band other than performance videos. Are there any in existence or will there be some in the near future?
PB: Yes, we’d love to do some proper videos for some of the songs on the album. We had some nice ideas for Footsteps and Fleeting Moments, and we’ve found people to film them, so it’s really just a case of getting diaries organised. In the meantime, we’ve a really nice video for Footsteps where someone filmed some city workers dancing around London and mixed it with some live footage of us playing.
TDOA: Has the band discussed touring America or appearing at any festivals (SXSW, CMJ, etc.)?
PB: Dan and Emma actually played at San Francisco Popfest earlier this year, so technically we can tick the ‘American Festivals’ box. Me, Ian and Jonny had to stay at home though, so it would be nice to get all of us out there at some point. I’ve just come back from holiday in New York and had an amazing time, so would love to go back and play at CMJ. SXSW is very big news over here too, so we’d definitely like to play there too. I don’t think we’re quite at the point where we can tour America and, as we’re all working full time, we wouldn’t get that far around America on our annual leave allowances anyway! Maybe one day. In the meantime, we’ve the Indietracks festival next week and a trip to Berlin in August, so that’ll keep us happy for a while!
Purchase the new Pocketbooks album via Amazon.com!
Pocketbooks: Flight Paths