We don’t expect you to follow along to the beat of our drum every time. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; if you’re looking for a common thread amongst the musicians we interview it’s very simple. We like people who can fashion a great melody. We don’t claim to be any more clever than the next person, but we like the hip-hop of Grand Analog, the punk of The Bronx, the shoegaze of Gliss and…. the delicious pop sensibility of Rose Elinor Dougall. The first time we heard The Pipettes, we were charmed and now that Rose Elinor Dougall has ventured out on her own, we’re more than willing to follow. Her first single is a marked departure and indicates that we’ll be rewarded on this adventure. Whether you chose to go all the way down the path is up to you, but we suggest that you listen to the words and music below as we chatted for a bit with Rose.
TDOA: Your work with the Pipettes reminded me of some of the C86 bands (aside from the obvious 60′s do-wop influences) like The Shop Assistants. Did those C86 bands provide any influence and if not, can you talk about your musical influences during that period of your career
RED: There was a really wide range of influences seeing as there were 7 people all writing together in that band, but I guess that something of that music would have come through… We were always keen not to come across as too twee though, we wanted to be a little bit more assertive than some of that C86 stuff… We were also thinking about stuff like Girls Aloud, KLF, Bananarama, Le Tigre, the list was endless.. And meanwhile I was also listening to Fairport Convention and Augustus Pablo in my bedroom, so the whole thing was a bit schizophrenic I guess!
TDOA: Your solo work has gotten some fantastic comparisons to the likes of Siouxsie, Liz Fraser and Stereolab. It’s an interesting shift in style and we’d love to know what influenced you to move in this direction?
RED: Its very flattering for me to mentioned in the same breath as those people. I guess it may seem like a shift ostensibly, but I have always loved those artists, since before Pipettes days, so it actually feels far more natural for me to deal with those reference points.. I guess I am not trying to make such a strong aesthetic statement in the same way as The Pipettes, being more intent on making an intimate, personal album. In some ways the record has formed itself, and i have largely followed my instincts; inevitably elements from my favourite music has filtered through, and this is the result.. I was really interested in melodic layers and creating atmospheres which I guess is something i might have in common with a band like the Cocteau’s, but I was also thinking about folkier songwriters like Bridget St John, Sandy Denny, John Martyn etc who have always been a big source of inspiration ..
TDOA: How different is it to write songs versus your time with the Pipettes. Can you describe the songwriting process then versus now?
RED: Completely different. In the Pipettes I was writing for six other people, two other voices, with a clearly defined aesthetic and attitude. We were working through our ideas about classic pop music, making bold concise statements. There was a comfort within those restrictions initially, it was liberating to work outside of one’s own ego, but I ultimately found that process became suffocating and it was time for a new challenge. When I left, it definitely took me time to get out of habits developed over that time, and also having no one to bounce ideas off was quite hard to get used to. I am very wary of becoming self indulgent, and don’t want to over engage with a vulgar vomiting up all of ‘self expression’, but i wanted to write in a freer way, I didn’t want to have to think about choruses, or catchy phrases, but to follow my own instincts through.. I wanted to write about the grey areas, maybe be a bit less literal…
TDOA: NME and the British music press is famously fickle. You’ve done well with them as a solo artist and within a band. What’s your secret for staying on their good side?
RED: Well it hasn’t all been plain sailing, and I have dealt with criticism over the years. I expect that to continue, hopefully this record of mine will be given the time of day by some people, who knows.. Its not something I can really spend too much time thinking about it, I don’t expect to ever be a media darling or anything.. to be honest I would rather have extreme criticism over ambivalence..
TDOA: Since you made a bit of change in musical style, did you ever worry about the reaction of your fans or the media and did it influence how you wrote music?
RED: Not really no.. I guess I was aware that people would already have some expectations going on the nature of the band I was in previously, but like I said, this process was about me engaging with my own personal goals… I think there are tangible links to my past, but there would have been no point in recording another version of a Pipettes record, I wanted people to be a bit surprised and to find what I’ve made refreshing in some way.. Obviously it is extremely daunting to put something out under my own name, and I feel quite vulnerable in some ways, but there is also something empowering in the knowledge that I have made this album now, so to hell with the consequences!
TDOA: Can you tell us about the full-length record ‘Without Why’ and who is producing it?
RED: Well its a collection of songs I wrote over the past two years… I’ve worked closely with my producer Lee Baker in his studio in Brighton, and I think we were really keen to make sure that every song was pulled apart and explored to the full.. When I first met Lee, all i had was a collection of casio demos and a lot of opinions, and I guess it took a while for me to be able to articulate those in a studio environment.. But I feel that it is a really honest momento of the time in my life spent making it.. I also got together with my band during the recording, and they are on at least 4 tracks, and added a more visceral element to our approach.. I guess I still feel a bit close to it to be able to know exactly what I’ve made, and maybe its not for me to say…
TDOA: The video for Start/Stop/Synchro is beautiful and a marked shift from the whimsical nature of the Pipettes videos. Can you talk about how the concept for the video was developed and if your future videos will also be “serious”?
RED: Haha.. Well I think the key point was to try and make something that reflected the nature of the song, and there is a wistful, melancholy element to that track which was mirrored by the landscape of the east anglian coast, (especially in freezing freezing april!!)… I know it might seem like a slightly irrelevant notion these days, but i do want to attempt to make something a bit beautiful from time to time, but I hope not to be unbearably earnest with it! The music I am making now just isn’t as whimsical and ‘fun’ as The Pipettes, that doesn’t mean its better, its just different, therefore the imagery surrounding it will be by proxy.. Still, its not all doom and gloom, and i would like to explore all kinds of different things, so we’ll see…
TDOA: We saw the Pipettes play at South By Southwest a few years ago and it was one of the highlights of the festival for us. Can you describe the experience and talk about your feelings about playing as a solo artist there in 2010?
RED: I had an amazing time there, it was just before my 21st birthday, we’d just been signed to Interscope, we played at least 6 gigs, and had a really wonderful response from the audiences.. Some of it is a bit of a margarita blur though… I am so thrilled to be coming back again within this new context, and it will probably be the first shows we have played outside of the UK, so its kind of a big deal.. I have no idea if anyone will turn up, but I know we’ll manage to have a blast whatever happens…
TDOA: How do you feel about the Pipettes continuing on without a single original member? Does it turn your stomach to see them playing with bands like REO Speedwagon (?!)
RED: Well that’s not actually the case, I value Gwenno as an original member having gone through the whole first record etc, and we shared some wonderful experiences together, and remain great friends. It’s not been an easy time for them all, but they have nearly finished their record which I’m looking forward to hearing, and i sincerely wish them all the best. I am very grateful for the support they have given me over the last couple of years… It all feels like a such a long time ago already, a bit like another life…
TDOA: Will there be other U.S. dates when you come to America in March or are you just playing SXSW?
RED: Its a bit too early to say, I would love to say yes, we shall have to see, but I would really hope to get to come and play some more shows at some point next year..