Explain it to me. They seamlessly blend Velvet Underground, Jesus and Mary Chain and that 60′s girl group sound together, yet make it sound fresh and exciting. They’ve got a great name (referencing the great film, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane) which they incorporate into their brilliant cover art. They’ve got style: miles and miles. So much style that it’s wasted. Now tell me why The Blanche Hudson Weekend aren’t on the cover of Spin, Rolling Stone and NME. While we wait for your answers, you can get to know Caroline and Darren: the masterminds behind one of our favorite new bands.
TDOA: The band appears to be just the two of you, with others contributing. Can you tell us who plays what instruments and what the lineup is for your live shows?
Darren: It’s just the two of us writing the songs, but we have several people who are now a permanent part of the band. The live set up is Caroline on vocals, me on rhythm guitar, Sasha on lead guitar, Chris on bass, Lee on keyboards and Matt on drums. On the first EP we released, we got Pete and Rocker from The Rosehips to help out as well.
TDOA:I’m going to assume that the songs are primarily written by the two of you. We’re intrigued by the relationship of Caroline’s vocals to the music. Which comes first, the music of the vocal melodies?
Caroline : The songs are primarily written by the two of us, with additional instrumentation from the rest of the band. Sometimes I come up with the lyrics and a vocal melody to which Darren adds the basic chords and structure, on other occasions the music comes first and I write around that. Sometimes Darren writes the song and I add little ideas for the melody and lyrics.
TDOA: We’re so happy to see bands wearing their JAMC/Velvets influences on their sleeves, rather than pretending they’ve never heard of the bands. Can you talk about how those bands and the great girl groups of the 60′s have influenced your music? Is it fair to say that the continued revival of this genre is fairly popular in England?
Darren : The Jesus And Mary Chain and The Velvet Underground have always been a big influence. They’ve been an influence throughout every band we’ve been in, and will no doubt continue to be so. Obviously, there are other influences too, but they’re the ones that keep coming up most of all. As for girl groups of the 1960s , I just can’t get enough of that stuff. I particularly like the really obscure garage punk girl groups that can be found on all those compilation CDs and LPs. Bands such as The Liverbirds and The Cupons, really raw sounding, roughly recorded fuzzed up girl pop that hardly sold any copies at the tim, but are an absolute pleasure to listen to.
Caroline : To pick up what Darren says, I always move towards the girl group sound of the ’60s, but for me it doesn’t just end there. I’m heavily influenced by women of the ’60s in general. I think the sense of a new freedom is really apparent in the music and the clothing that women adopted at the time. It’s something that no generation since has had to fight for. However, to return to the music, the whole ’60s thing that really captures my attention is the trend of having a 3 minute melodrama in song form; A beginning, sad middle and (usually) a tragic end. I try to write girl group type songs quite often.
TDOA: You’ve released “The Rats in the Cellar” EP on blood red vinyl! Hooray for you for embracing vinyl. Can you talk about the decision to release the ep in this format and why people should still be buying vinyl?
Caroline : For me, nothing beats the feeling of holding a good piece of vinyl in your hands. I love to inspect the artwork and the vinyl itself. Downloads have their place, but they don’t have a place in my heart.
Darren : Vinyl just looks better in my opinion. Because we’re influenced by all the bands we’ve already mentioned, it’s good to keep a similar spirit by putting the music we make out on vinyl just like those classic bands did at the time. Plus, it’s our little kick against downloads, stubbornly refusing to move with the times I suppose. Well, not entirely true, but it’s always good to hear people still enjoy buying music on vinyl and we’ll continue to release stuff on this format.
Noise and Fury
TDOA: Can you placate the guitar geeks among us and talk about your guitar/pedal/amp set-up?
Darren : I hate to have to tell you this, but I’m definitely not a guitar geek at all. The guitar I use is a cheap semi acoustic. It’s good for feedback which is why I like it, but it’s really fucking heavy and not easy to play at all. I think Sasha is going to give me a few new guitar pedals to play about with, but at the moment I just have an old B + M Fuzz Unit from the early 1970s. It gets a lot of attention when we play gigs, but it doesn’t work properly. It still kicks out a hell of a lot of fuzz noise though, so that’s ok. As for my amp set up, I had a great Fender amp that I blew up a while ago, so when we play gigs I just have to use whatever is on offer now. As long as the amp is loud, I don’t really care what it is.
TDOA: The Rats EP has some slower, more melodic songs. I’m not sure we can say which we like better (all of the above!), but can you talk about the direction of your music? Do you think this is the direction you’re heading or do you think you’ll still shake us with some ear-shattering tumult?
Caroline : The Rats In The Cellar EP was our attempt to live out our Galaxie 500 fantasies. When we first got The Blanche Hudson Weekend going, quite a few different people wanted to work with us, so we decided we would be able to do a lot of recording with these people and each session would have a different trademark sound. We still love noise and we’ll be creating some more in the future.
Darren : It’s good to slow things down from time to time and show people we’re not just about fuzzed up girl group influenced noise pop. Even the slower songs we record have noise in there and in fact, in the case of Only Snow on The Rats In The Cellar EP, it’s actually a much more sinister and evil sounding track than the more full on noisy songs we’ve recorded.
TDOA: The cover art for you releases are fantastic. Can you spend a bit of time talking each of them? To what extent do you get involved in the creative process of choosing your cover art?
Darren : We take a lot of care and attention over our cover art, and we have 100% total control over it as we design it ourselves. All 3 single sleeves so far have been put together in the old DIY way with scissors and glue. Caroline actually came up with the band name The Blanche Hudson Weekend, so it only seemed appropriate to use Joan Crawford on the first couple of EP’s as she played the character in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane.
Caroline : When approaching the artwork, we come up with the theme and the EP title from which we then find an appropriate image which ties in with the whole concept. So far, we’ve chosen images of actresses who were known for their uncompromising approach to both their lives and their careers. Above all, the image must be strong and eye catching.
TDOA: Are there any plans to make videos?
Caroline : We’ll be making promo videos in the near future. However, we’re still in the planning stages for this. We’ve got a strong creative relationship with Stan from the band Insect Guide who we’ll be working with whenever he gets some time to do this with us.
TDOA: Can you talk about the differences between playing live and recording in the studio. Do you have a preference? What can fans expect to see when they see you live.
Darren : I personally love recording. I really enjoy the whole process, getting involved with the mixing and the mastering too. It can drive you mad sometimes and I’m never completely happy with anything that we do, but that’s a good thing as it keeps your desire to improve alive and well. Playing live is great when everything works on stage, but some gigs we’ve played in the previous bands we’ve been in have been disasters. Still, it’s all part of the fun I suppose and I actually enjoy the chaos. I don’t like anything to get too safe and boring.
Caroline : The recording process is obviously vital for us so far as we haven’t done any gigs yet. I view playing live as a way of establishing how our music is received by the audience. If it goes well then it means all the hours in the studio writing these songs has been for a good reason. However, live shows can be unpredictable and the smallest thing can screw up a gig. But sometimes that can be a good thing……unless I fall off the stage.
TDOA: What are your plans for the rest of 2010? A full-length album? Any chance of coming over to the U.S.?
Caroline : We’ll get more recording done over the summer, and if we haven’t released a full length album by the end of the year, then hopefully it will be ready to be put into production in the early part of next year. We’re being very picky over the shows we play, but if we got the chance to come over to America, then we’d take it.
Darren : Record, record, record. I’d like us to continue to write and record plenty more songs by the end of the year. I like it when we work fast and stay productive. And like Caroline said, if we got the chance to play some U.S shows, we’d probably jump at the opportunity.
The Last Ride
To learn more about the band, visit their MySpace page here.