Amelia’s Magazine | Tata Naka: London Fashion Week A/W 2013 Presentation Review

Tata Naka A/W 2013 by Daniel Alexander
Tata Naka A/W 2013 by Daniel Alexander.

Since Tata Naka returned to London Fashion Week it has become customary for Tamara and Natasha Surguladze to create a wonderful set that they photograph live for their upcoming season’s look book: it’s a great concept and always a lot of fun to watch from the sidelines: the whole experience more akin to voyeurism than the traditional catwalk show. This season the Georgian twins were inspired by American High School movies and the multitude of references that underpin these down the decades. So here we had very preppy 50s styles abutting up against the big bouffant hair of the 1980s, a very direct reference to which was found in the graffiti wall that provided the backdrop to one set up, ‘Breakfast Club‘ written in bubble writing above a heart. Sugary coloured tweeds were layered over stripes and trademark graphic prints that merged Mondrian blocks with Pop Art faces, the illustrative elements of which were inspired by iconic scenes from key 80s movies. As we milled around we were served cocktails in milk cartons by ‘dinner ladies’ courtesy of Bompas & Parr.

Tata Naka AW 2013-photo by Amelia Gregory
Tata Naka AW 2013-photo by Amelia Gregory
Tata Naka AW 2013-photo by Amelia Gregory
Tata Naka AW 2013-photo by Amelia Gregory
Tata Naka A/W 2013 by Rebecca French
Tata Naka A/W 2013 by Rebecca French.

In the locker room sweethearts covered a simple pencil dress, the detail echoed in a cute cut out back. An A-line skirt was worn with a baseball jacket: other girls wore big quiffs and pastel blocks, both tapered trousers and pencil skirts given sheer mesh slices at the hemlines. Sets were changed with alarming speed and confidence, but the downside of this way of showing is that unless you have an hour or so free you will only manage to see a small portion of the collection. I managed to see two set changes by Chameleon Visual: Jenny Robins took photos of the cheerleaders at the bleachers, and there was also a Prom shoot, where sweethearts emerged yet again as a major theme. The talented Tata Naka twins once more showcased their inventive A/W 2013 collection in wonderfully inimitable style. I have come to expect nothing less.

Tata Naka AW 2013-photo by Amelia Gregory
Tata Naka AW 2013-photo by Amelia Gregory
Tata Naka AW 2013-photo by Amelia Gregory
Tata Naka AW 2013-photo by Amelia Gregory
Tata Naka A/W 2013. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

Tata Naka by Jenny Robins
Tata Naka by Jenny Robins
Tata Naka A/W 2013 by Jenny Robins.

Tata Naka A/W 2013 by Cissy Hu
Tata Naka A/W 2013 by Cissy Hu.

Tata_Naka by_Daniel_Alexander
Tata Naka A/W 2013 by Daniel Alexander
Tata Naka A/W 2013 by Daniel Alexander
Tata Naka A/W 2013 by Daniel Alexander.

Categories ,1980s, ,50s, ,A/W 2013, ,American High School movies, ,Bompas & Parr, ,Breakfast Club, ,Chameleon Visual, ,Cheerleaders, ,Cissy Hu, ,Daniel Alexander, ,Georgian, ,Jenny Robins, ,London Fashion Week, ,Mondrian, ,Movies, ,Pop Art, ,Prom, ,Rebecca French, ,Tamara and Natasha Surguladze, ,Tata Naka

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Amelia’s Magazine | London Fashion Week A/W 2010 Catwalk Review: Andrew Majtenyi by Amelia

Andrew Majtenyi by Maryanne Oliver
Andrew Majtenyi by Maryanne Oliver

Sometimes fashion designers decide to show in strange venues, there and such was the case with Canadian born designer Andrew Matjyeni, generic who decided to show in a fancy room at the top of an important looking building not far from Somerset House (Canada House, I believe. I can see how that makes sense). Ushered into a lift we were soon bunched into a weird little corridor several floors up, alongside lots of other slightly overheated and irate fashion punters. Not good when you suffer from fashion week freebie overburdenment combined with mild claustrophobia. And I was also bloody STARVIN I tells ya: this being late in the day and having not yet eaten. As Matt and I settled into the front row I casually wondered aloud if it would be okay to gobble down the rest of my Pret sandwich – Matt looked so mortified I quickly thought the better of it. I’m really not very good at fashion week etiquette, but I guess it’s not a good look really is it?

The first thing I loved about Andrew’s collection was the big big crimped hair, held back with delicate plaits. Possibly not what he was trying to sell, but hey, props to the hair stylist! The second thing I really liked was the cute oversized 50s inspired prints – bold, painterly and large, they featured parasol picnic tables, dogs on leads and elegantly dressed ladies on a day out. The pink splash silver birch digital print offered a more modern take on textile design, and it comes as no surprise to learn that Andew Majtenyi prefers to design directly with fabric rather than pen and paper.

Andrew Majtenyi by Maryanne Oliver
Andrew Majtenyi by Maryanne Oliver

Skirts were short short short and delicate pockets on sleeves made for interesting understated details. I can’t in all honesty remember a great deal else, other than it was all tasteful, elegant and wearable. A little research shows that Majtenyi clearly fancies himself a designer for the international jet set. And I quote verbatim from his website: “From his frequent international trips and the latest art/fashion installations, all keep on the pulse of what’s to come in the world of fashion and trends.” Here he also boasts of international tours. I thought those were the sole preserve of rockstars! It’s a shame that I can’t ultimately feel incredibly enthusiastic about the kind of fashion that promotes what I consider a very out of date lifestyle. And a dangerous one at that. Because ultimately someone somewhere will suffer because of the actions of those who take more than they need. My advice? Andrew, stick to doing what you do, well, in one country. We don’t need more global hyperbrands. Really we don’t. Why does everyone want world domination? My two pence, is all.

For Matt Bramford’s view of this show read on here.

Categories ,50s, ,Andrew Majtenyi, ,Canada House, ,catwalk, ,Hyperbrands, ,London Fashion Week, ,Maryanne Oliver, ,textiles

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Amelia’s Magazine | An Interview with Jewellery Designer Rosita Bonita

Rosita Bonita portrait by<strong> Laura Gill</strong>” title=”Rosita Bonita portrait by Laura Gill” width=”480″ height=”571″ class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-69903″ /></a><br />
<strong><a target=Rowenna Harrison portrait by Laura Gill

Working under the name Rosita Bonita, Camberwell illustration graduate Rowenna Harrison makes beautiful jewellery that would be at home in any trinket lovers dressing-up box. Her pieces celebrate all things vintage glamour and have a whole host of other influences from the mythical to the historical. We’ve mentioned Rosita Bonita before as Amelia stumbled across her work at Wilderness Festival 2011 and her stuff is still just as inspiring.

Rosita Bonita

Her pieces are gaining a following and she has recently been shortlisted to win a stand at Treasure Jewellery Show by Professional Jeweller Magazine (you can vote for her here). She’s a busy girl and a few days ago had a stall at the Secret Emporium Pop Up Shop in Boxpark, Shoreditch where she launched her latest collection Siren ’13.

Rosita Bonita by Louise Smith
Rosita Bonita by Gareth A Hopkins Top illustration of Rosita Bonita jewellery by Louise Smith, bottom illustration by Gareth A Hopkins.

More than just pretty pieces, her hand-crafted beauties are keep-sakes rather than regular old fashion knickknacks. I especially love the heart necklaces from her Sweet Black Heart collection, but all of her pieces are real treasures and her latest collection is sure to bring out your inner ’30s pin-up gal as well as rekindling your (my) childhood dreams of one day becoming Ariel the little mermaid. Siren is a collection of necklaces, earrings and more, which explore the sea-side feel from era’s past, as well as hinting at more magical influences. Looking at these treasures, I can’t help but think of the tongue twister we would recite on the playground: “she sells sea shells on the sea shore,” and be reminded of the feel of sand between my wiggling toes on British summer beach vacations.

I spoke to the lovely Ro Harrison, the face behind Rosita Bonita, about the launch of her new collection, her plans for the future and why she switched from illustration to jewellery design.

Rosita Bonita Siren Collection
Rosita Bonita Siren CollectionRosita Bonita Siren Collection Rosita Bonita Siren Collection

How did you decide on the name Rosita Bonita?
The first product I made to sell commercially was pasties (nipple tassels). This came about after making a pair for a friend to replace ones she’d lost at a fancy dress party, then making a few more as birthday presents. They quickly evolved into brooch versions, for those (like me) that don’t tend to have the occasion to wear the originals! I’ve always hated selling my work, so I wanted to create a brand name to create a degree of separation; to make it easier for me to go out and find shops to sell to. I starting experimenting with variations of my name and Rosita Bonita just kind of popped out. I had a vision of her being a ’50s Mexican burlesque dancer, it just felt right!

Rosita Bonita by Victoria Haynes

Illustration of Rosita Bonita jewellery by Victoria Haynes.

What made you choose to take the jump from illustration to jewellery design?
For as long as I can remember I have been drawing and making. I love both and don’t see a huge difference between the two. Illustration and jewellery (for me) are both about decoration, engaging with materials and creating characters and fantastical worlds. After graduating I struggled to find enough work as an illustrator (I was never very good at trying to sell myself), so I spent years working in what were supposed to be temporary jobs, in a cafe and managing a vintage shop. All the time I was drawing and making and waiting to be ‘discovered’. In the end, I had the idea to take my drawings and put them onto a physical product that people would want to buy. I had done a lot of screen-printing at college, and I had made various accessories (jewellery, purses, fascinators) out of leather, so it seemed like the next logical step to combine to two. Leather is so tactile and a joy to work with and it seemed to be a great surface to print on, so I did some tests, liked what happened and out came my first collection (Orchard).

Rosita Bonita Siren Collection

How do the two skills influence each other in your work?
All my pieces begin as drawings, and the pieces are often formed from a combination of separate 2D elements, so assembling them into the finished product is a bit like collage. Having had no training in jewellery, I suppose my whole approach is influenced by image-making; having said that, with each new collection, I am adding more metal elements and playing with different construction techniques. For my next collections I am working on a few more sculptural touches.

Rosita Bonita Siren Collection

You worked as part of design duo Dirty Drawers with artist Laura Gill, how did this relationship come about?
My best friend from my Foundation course went on to do a degree at Central Saint Martins and I met Laura there. She’s such an inspirational character. She has tremendous energy, a really positive outlook, a carefree demeanour, and a brilliant imagination, which all come out in her work. Laura met a group of artists who were squatting a big house in Peckham and were turning it into a gallery to show their work. She’d been allocated a room in there to use as a studio and exhibition space, and she asked me if I wanted to show there too. It was all quite short notice and I didn’t have anything prepared, so she gave me some drawings she had been working on and asked me to add to them. We had a pile of books of documentary photography, full of inspiring characters and began drawing from them. The process worked like a game of exquisite corpse (which became the name of the series). We would draw sections and cover them up before swapping and continuing to draw. It was more to amuse ourselves than anything else, but we liked the results and kept working and exhibiting together for years to come.
[Jessica: You can see one of Laura’s illustrations in this article as she provided the beautiful portrait of Rowenna]

Rosita Bonita Siren Collection
Rosita Bonita Siren Collection

Do you feel Camberwell prepared you for entrepreneurship?
One highlight I remember from my course at Camberwell was a talk from Tatty Devine. They didn’t come from a jewellery background and didn’t have financial investment, and seemed like genuinely lovely people, so their success story was (and still is) a huge business inspiration. In my final year I did a number of work placements. The first was a short stint at an Illustration agency (CIA). They kindly took me under their wing and showed me a glimpse of the goings on. Then I was lucky enough to work for my 3 heroes of the time; Marmalade Magazine, Shona Heath (Art Director) and Julie Verhoeven [Jessica: I recently mentioned Julie in a Bath in Fashion 2013 Listing which you can read here] They were all hugely inspirational learning experiences and gave me the opportunity to use my craft skills, and feel valued for them. They also supplied me with bits of freelance work after I graduated. However I still didn’t feel I had the confidence to go out hunting for my own work in the real world. The course itself felt like a bit of a bubble. Because I got a 1st, I just stupidly assumed that people would come to my degree show and offer me work. When I graduated, the bubble popped.

Rosita Bonita Siren Collection

What’s been the biggest challenge so far of setting up shop?
The biggest challenge in setting up shop is money. I started Rosita Bonita when I was still working four days a week managing a vintage shop. I didn’t have much cash (or time) to spare, so I have always made things according to the material costs I could run to and the skills I had to make things myself. It’s really frustrating as I have so many ideas of things I would love to make, but am very limited by costs. As things have been going better and better, these frustrations are highlighted more and more. Ideally I wouldn’t be producing everything myself. I would love to just be designing and making samples, then getting the bulk manufactured, and it would be great to have PR, but this is just not possible yet. The business is growing, but very slowly! The further it goes, the more you realise how much you need money. Designing, manufacturing, selling, promoting, building websites, taking photos, and doing accounts and admin all by yourself is not ideal. I’ve also just had one of my designs copied (by someone who does have money for manufacturing, sales & PR), but I can’t afford to take them to court.

Rosita Bonita Siren CollectionRosita Bonita Siren Collection

What are the main inspirations of your work?
My inspiration comes mainly from the past. I’m obsessed with vintage photography and graphic design, anything from the Victorian era through to the ‘50s. I look a lot at Hollywood studio shots from, particularly from the ‘30s. The sets and costumes are mind-blowing. I love watching movies from that time too. The characters are so glamorous and almost cartoon like. I am always amazed at how little we’ve artistically progressed since then. I’m not excited by realism and the mundane. I also love to look at the history of jewellery and the social meanings attached to it. I want people to put on my pieces and feel like they are becoming a fantastical character, or that the jewellery is bringing them luck or special powers.

Rosita Bonita Siren Collection

Your new collection Siren has a seaside theme, what made you choose this?
The Siren collection came out of my research into amulets. There was too much material in there for one collection (it’s actually now spawned 3 – Amulet, She’s my witch & Siren). Mermaids and seahorses, as well as certain types of shell, have been used as charms or amulets. I wanted to take these motifs, but treat them in a different way to the previous collection, which was quite dark and magical. They seemed to be perfect for a light summery collection. There is a still from a lost George Méliès film from c1905 which I had photocopied when I was at Camberwell and had always wanted to use somehow. It was a shot of six ‘mermaids’ posing in this great stage set in a star formation, with solid tails. I tend to visualise the photoshoot/video for the collection before I design the actual pieces (usually including which models/friends and which music to use), and knew I wanted something like this, but with a brighter, more ‘30s seaside resort feel to it. I drew my own version of this (which I’ve since printed on framed glass and t shirts), and that became the basis of the collection. I also looked at loads of other mermaid imagery, from ancient myths, fairytales, figureheads, movie stills, tattoo designs and carnival exhibits. I wanted to capture girlhood escapist fantasies of being a mermaid.

Rosita Bonita Siren CollectionRosita Bonita Siren Collection

Your jewellery has been featured in places like Nylon and Elle, how does it feel to see your work in mainstream mags?
It’s very rewarding to see my work in magazines, of any kind. I Google myself every few months and usually find some new mention in a blog or something. It keeps me going. More please!

What plans do you have for the future?
I’m not very good at planning ahead and managing my time. I have the next two collections designed in my head (just need to grab a moment to get them on paper and to develop the samples), but beyond that I’m never sure exactly what is to come. I will be working on finding some new stockists, so more people can discover me. I have three new international ones in the pipelines, which is all very exciting.

How would a reader go about purchasing one of your pieces?
I have a shop on my website . I don’t discontinue previous collections, as I don’t like the disposable nature of fashion, so most pieces are still available to order, if they are not in stock, and certain pieces can be made in custom colours. I’m also open to illustration, design, bespoke accessory/costume commissions and collaborations, so feel free to get in touch!

Rosita Bonita by Maya Beus
Illustration of piece from Rosita Bonita Siren collection by Maya Beus

All unreferenced illustrations and photography were provided by the lovely Rowenna Harrison.

Categories ,50s, ,amulets, ,Camberwell, ,Collaborations, ,Costume, ,custom, ,design, ,designer, ,Dirty Drawers, ,fairytales, ,fashion, ,framed glass, ,graduate, ,graduation, ,illustration, ,interview, ,Jessica Cook, ,jewellery, ,Julie Verhoeven, ,Laura Gill, ,leather, ,Louise Smith, ,magical, ,Mermaids, ,Myths, ,Rosita Bonita, ,Rowenna Harrison, ,seahorses, ,Shell, ,Shona Heath, ,Siren, ,special powers, ,T-shirts, ,Victoria Haynes, ,Victorian era, ,vintage, ,‘30s seaside resort

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Amelia’s Magazine | Tent London 2011 Review: Best Furniture Design

Tent London 2012 review -anthony hartley
Furniture by Anthony Hartley.

This year I once again visited Tent London hot on the heels of London Fashion Week. At the end of September the creme de la creme of the product design world held court at the Truman Brewery, look and I’m here to bring you the best of the bunch. First up my favourite bits of furniture design.

Tent London 2012 review -anthony hartley
Beautiful and very unique furniture from Anthony Hartley; waves of colour splashed across drawers and curved around walls in long shelving units.

Tent London 2012 review -jan plechac
Czech designer Jan Plechac showcased versions of his favourite chair designs in wire.

Tent London 2012 review -senufo
The A & Z Design furniture stand was attracting people with a very cute dog. I liked their senUFO side table the most. It would be very cool in a kid’s bedroom.

Tent London 2012 review -squint
Furniture makers Squint were showcasing a collaboration with the London Transport Museum – using classic hardwearing Moquette fabrics (familiar from the tube) within their trademark patchwork upholstery designs.

Tent London 2012 review -nobody and co
What a brilliant idea for a chair cum bookcase from Italian company Nobody&Co. Obviously inspired by the same problems I have: an overwhelming number of books with no home.

Tent London 2012 review -ercol
What a hit: bold 50s influenced textile designs on simple modernist furniture from the well established brand Ercol.

Tent London 2012 review -nobody and co
Tent London 2012 review alex garnett
Oversized household objects become kitsch furniture thanks to Goldsmiths trained Alex Garnett.

Tent London 2012 review -shell thomas
Tetronimoes by Shell Thomas were created by invitation from JJAM Curators’ Collective – what an ace idea for a kids’ playroom. Visitors were encouraged to use the velcro strips to rearrange the cushions and create new shapes of furniture.

Tent London 2012 review -rex chair
My new favourite new chair comes from the Rex range, straight out of Slovenia. So comfortable, I want this rocker now.

Tent London 2012 review -spellner milner
Alison of Speller Milner design is a RCA graduate who makes elegant furniture topped with pretty graphic decoration.

Categories ,2011, ,50s, ,A & Z Design, ,Alex Garnett, ,Alison, ,Anthony Hartley, ,Chair, ,Czech, ,design, ,designer, ,Ercol, ,Furniture, ,goldsmiths, ,Jan Plechac, ,JJAM Curators Collective, ,London Design Festival, ,London Transport Museum, ,Moquette, ,Nobody&Co, ,Oversized, ,Pillhead, ,review, ,Rex, ,Rocking Chair, ,senUFO, ,Shell Thomas, ,Slovenia, ,Speller Milner, ,squint, ,Tent London, ,Tetronimoes, ,textiles, ,Truman Brewery, ,Upholstery

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Amelia’s Magazine | Royal College of Art MA Degree Show 2011 Review: Textile Design

Emma Lundgren by Natasha Waddon
Emma Lundgren by Natasha Waddon.

Textiles were displayed amongst product design at the Royal College of Art 2011 degree show – fitting, health as many textile designers showed practical applications for their textiles on cushions, trunks, tables and more.

RCA MA degree show 2011-Emma Shipley RCA MA degree show 2011-Emma Shipley RCA MA degree show 2011-Emma Shipley RCA MA degree show 2011-Emma Shipley RCA MA degree show 2011-Emma Shipley
Emma Shipley had produced an intricate print collection from fine pencil drawings that captured the patterns of nature… and some curious beasties. I’d love some of this on my wall… Follow Emma Shipley on Twitter.

Emma Lundgren by Sophia O'Connor
Emma Lundgren by Sophia O’Connor.

RCA MA degree show 2011-Emma LundgrenRCA MA degree show 2011-Emma LundgrenRCA MA degree show 2011-Emma Lundgren
I loved Emma Lundgren‘s Scandinavian inspired collection of brightly coloured costume and accessories. Think traditional Sami costume meets the rainbows of the Northern Lights. Lapland reworked for the modern age. Follow Emma Lundgren on Twitter.

RCA MA degree show 2011-Yunshin Cho
I liked the striking surface patterns of Yunshin Cho‘s print, based on the skeleton of a ship. It reminds me of wood laminate and 50s design classics. But her website on her business card doesn’t work… hopefully soon?

RCA MA degree show 2011-Rachel Philpott
Rachel Philpott chose a more avante garde approach: cotton covered with glitter and folded into intricate origami shapes. I don’t know how she did it but it was pretty amazing.

Thorunn Arnadottir by Natasha Waddon
Thorunn Arnadottir by Natasha Waddon.

RCA MA degree show 2011-Thorunn Arnadottir RCA MA degree show 2011-Thorunn Arnadottir
Thorunn Arnadottir chose that favourite contemporary source of inspiration the QR code, beading it into this amazing dress. Follow Thorunn Arnadottir on twitter.

RCA MA degree show 2011-Lauren Barfoot
Dresses printed by Lauren Barfoot hung wafting in the light breeze near the window – dominated by orange and purple shades these designs were inspired by Matisse and Fauvism. She’s well up on Twitter. Go follow her.

RCA MA degree show 2011-Kit Miles
Kit Miles collided classical baroque with digital music for these bold graphical prints.

RCA MA degree show 2011-Hannah Sabapathy
An exploration between the natural and manmade was also the basis for Hannah Sabapathy‘s collection – seen here on an architectural side table.

RCA MA degree show 2011-Jonna Saarinen
Jonna Saarinen of Finland brought a Scandinvian sensibility to her Hundreds and Thousands print collection that was display to great affect on picnic ware and table cloths. Follow Jonna Saarinen on Twitter.

RCA MA degree show 2011-David Bradley
David Bradley explored printing and pleats in some extraordinary dresses. Best appreciated for their technical expertise close up.

RCA MA degree show 2011-Kitty Joseph
Kitty Joseph created saturated colour prints in Colour Immersion.

RCA MA degree show 2011-Marie Parsons RCA MA degree show 2011-Marie Parsons
Lastly, Marie Parsons used traditional stitched quilting as the basis for her final piece – a brightly coloured trunk that juxtaposed digital embroidery and laser cutting of latex on hard and soft surfaces. Her collection was influenced by East End building sites, Mykonos Town and Paris flea market finds.

The RCA Graduate Show continues until 3rd July so I highly recommend that you check it out soon, and get on board with my other write ups.

Categories ,2011, ,50s, ,baroque, ,Beading, ,Colour Immersion, ,contemporary, ,cushions, ,David Bradley, ,digital, ,Emma Lundgren, ,Emma Shipley, ,EmmaEvaCaroline, ,Fauvism, ,finland, ,Graduate Shows, ,Hannah Sabapathy, ,Hundreds and Thousands, ,Jonna Saarinen, ,Katherine Joseph, ,Kit Miles, ,Kitty Joseph, ,Lapland, ,Lauren Barfoot, ,Marie Parsons, ,matisse, ,Natasha Waddon, ,Neon, ,Northern Lights, ,origami, ,print, ,Product Design, ,QR code, ,Quilting, ,Rachel Philpott, ,rca, ,Royal College of Art, ,Sami, ,Scandinavian, ,Sophia O’Connor, ,Stitching, ,Textile Design, ,textiles, ,Thorunn Arnadottir, ,traditional, ,Trunk, ,twitter, ,Yunshin Cho

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Amelia’s Magazine | New Designers 2013 Printed Textiles and Surface Design Graduates – The 50s Trend

New Designers show 2013-Paul Roberts
As usual there were a plethora of outstanding design graduates on show at New Designers, and I always um and ah about how I am going to split these blogs up. Should I go with themes and trends that I spotted across the show? Inevitably I’m more likely to be drawn to trends that I myself love so I can’t for one moment profess to give a full view in this respect. Should I go with type of work? It’s a tough one, because many of these designers produce designs that could cross over into many disciplines. For now I’m going to start with a review of the surface designers who were inspired by the 50s, of which there were many who caught my eye.

Surface design by Paul Roberts
At the Loughborough University stand I admired the crazy cool dog designs by mature student and former jockey Paul Roberts. I asked if he’d considered horses as a theme, but for now it seems he’s sticking to a slightly humorous 50s vibe of people and their pet dogs.

New Designers show 2013-ruth rennison
New Designers show 2013-ruth rennison
Skull by Ruth Rennison, winner of the Luciene Day award
This sheep’s skull print was produced by Ruth Rennison, winner of the Lucienne Day award. The dominance of greys and other sludgy tones give her collection a heavy feel that was very indicative of one type of 50s design: much favoured by my grandparents for interior fabrics in their Welsh cottage (still there today).

New Designers show 2013-Anna Gurrey
Leeds College of Art is always home to a plethora of great new surface designers and this year was no exception. Anna Gurrey concentrated on simple 50s style scribbles and strokes, piled onto pastel backgrounds.

50s inspired prints by lauren burke
This lovely perfume bottle pattern is by Lauren Marie Burke.

New Designers show 2013-Rose Thomasson
New Designers show 2013-Rose Thomasson 1
Rose Thomasson of Heriot-Watt University produced Scandinavian influenced geometric designs populated by birds and leaves. Scandinavian design had a big impact on 50s design across the world, with echoes still reverberating today. You can read about Rose’s placement at Tigerprint here.

New Designers show 2013-Rachel MacLeod
New Designers show 2013-Rachel MacLeod
Fellow student Rachel MacLeod made repeat prints featuring boats and houses – again the use of a muddy palette is very suggestive of the 50s.

New Designers show 2013-Sophie Berry
At Bath Spa University I liked this teasel wallpaper by Sophie Berry – a slightly more modern take this time, but still a bit 50s in the repeat use of an unusual decorative plant with curlicue detailing.

New Designers show 2013-polly rowan
Her fellow classmate Polly Rowan has an equally wonderful name. She had produced this lovely open pattern design with a beautiful quality that can only be achieved through screenprinting, but the subtle use of a zingy orange brings this design bang up to date.

New Designers show 2013-Hazharpani
Hazhar Pani from the University of Bolton took a graphic approach to his retro modern architecture inspired surface designs, which he told me have attracted a great deal of interest already.

Next up: a blog full of beautiful splashy brights and much much more. Don’t forget, many of these images first appeared on my instagram feed, where you can view my pick of design graduates as I find them.

Categories ,2013, ,50s, ,Anna Gurrey, ,Bath Spa University, ,Dogs, ,Hazhar Pani, ,Heriot-Watt University, ,Lauren Marie Burke, ,Leeds College of Art, ,Loughborough University, ,Lucienne Day award, ,New Designers, ,Paul Roberts, ,Polly Rowan, ,Printed Textiles, ,Rachel MacLeod, ,review, ,Rose Thomasson, ,Ruth Rennison, ,Scandinavian, ,Sophie Berry, ,surface design, ,Themes, ,Tigerprint, ,trends, ,University of Bolton

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Amelia’s Magazine | Larmer Tree Festival 2011 Review, Saturday: Stornoway, Gabby Young, Caitlin Rose and Mud!

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Gabby Young and Stephen Ellis
Gabby Young and Stephen Ellis at Larmer Tree. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

By Saturday the rain had well and truly settled in at Larmer Tree Festival and it was quite a struggle to get out of the tent.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Bane Joe Bone
Our first stop was Daytime Club Larmer for the second part of Bane, thumb which was equally as much fun as the first episode. Apparently there is a third one kicking about too and if you are going to Secret Garden Party this weekend then you will get a chance to see it! Well jel.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Chameleon by Fiona Campbell
Overnight a host of art installations had sprung up around the Larmer Tree Gardens, page including this magical bottle top Chameleon by Fiona Campbell

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review The Thatcher and The Peacock by Simon SinkinsonLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review The Thatcher and The Peacock by Simon SinkinsonLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review The Thatcher and The Peacock by Simon SinkinsonLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review The Thatcher and The Peacock by Simon Sinkinson
…and a peacock hut inspired by a poem called The Thatcher and The Peacock by Simon Sinkinson, a tale of a poor boy who asks the advice of a peacock on how to win the heart of the girl he loves. How? Under the Larmer Tree of course! Simon is a thatcher as well as an artist, and he was also responsible for the ten hidden miniature woodland doorways dotted around the site. Sadly I didn’t find any myself.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Mis(Guided) Protest by Fuse
At the Mis(Guided) Protest by Fuse these girls were bearing placards with slogans such as Processed Cheese, Yes Please and Bunting for All Ages. Worth protesting for I’m sure you’ll agree. I do find it intriguing that protest has become ripe for artistic intervention – wherein ‘revolutionary rhetoric’ is rendered utterly banal.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Gary Stewart duetting with Rosie Doonan
The Oxjam stage was hosting an open mic when we wandered in and I caught the tail end of Scottish singer songwriter Gary Stewart duetting with Rosie Doonan (I sadly missed her own slot). Beautiful folk harmonies, and great yellow wellies!

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Pete LawrieLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review Pete Lawrie
Pete Lawrie is a Cardiff based singer songwriter who nearly played on my Climate Camp stage at Glastonbury last year but had to pull out with a throat infection at the last minute, so I was excited to finally hear him properly. Since then he’s released an album and gained an enthusiastic following for his soulful singalong folk. His easy banter explained the premise of songs, including one dedicated to all those who’ve worked in shit jobs at petrol stations. At this show it was really brought home to me just how impossible it is to place a sound anymore – he may be Welsh but Pete’s music, as with most musicians now, boasts a host of international influences.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Caitlin RoseLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review Caitlin RoseLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review Caitlin Rose
On the Garden Stage Nashville born Caitlin Rose lucked out with a bit of brilliant sunshine for her lush country-influenced tales of love and loss. Americana never sounded so good: I particularly loved the laid back dude on the steel pedals. Read our interview with Caitlin Rose.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 reviewLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review artLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review Flowerpot men
I’m not sure if the Bill and Ben Flowerpot Men were meant to be performance art or extreme fancy dress but who cares when they look this fab?!

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Wishing TreeLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review Wishing Tree
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Wishing Tree
Over at the Wishing Tree I took a few moments to read through the fabric wishes. The most striking thing was the amount of wishes that children should grow up to be healthy and happy – another indication of the demographic at this family friendly festival.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Moustache on a Stick
A festival favourite: Moustache on a Stick.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Gabby Young
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Stephen Ellis
Gabby Young by Gilly Rochester
Gabby Young by Gilly Rochester.

Gabby Young was accompanied by boyfriend Stephen Ellis at the ARC, dressed, as usual, with impeccable style (with a little help from Amelia’s Magazine contributor Katie Antoniou – the lilac striped dress cost £7 on ebay). Her opera trained voice sounded as beautiful as ever, and she closed the set by leading the captivated crowd in a rousing singalong of We’re All In This Together. This was Gabby’s only festival appearance this summer because she’s busy working on a new album. Very excited about that.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Mark KermodeLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Mark KermodeLarmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Mark Kermode
Film critic Mark Kermode performed some well arranged covers and plenty of old sounding new songs with his band The Dodge Brothers for the early evening slot at the Garden Stage, entertainment geared towards those who had dressed up for the 50s themed fancy dress parade.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Stornoway
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Stornoway
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Stornoway
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Stornoway
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Stornoway
But it was Stornoway that I was most looking forward to on Saturday (read our pre-Larmer Tree interview) and they didn’t disappoint. Classic tunes such as Zorbing and Here Comes the Blackout from album Beachcomber’s Windowsill were played with great gusto – the guest violinist perched like a mascot at the top of the stage. Stornoway manage that masterful trick of combining folk elements and great song writing to create a new and instantly recognisable sound of their own.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Stornoway
Stornoway by Meg McCarthy
Stornoway by Meg McCarthy.

Lead singer Brian Briggs had a slightly deadpan style of banter so it took me awhile to understand his comment about picking up two small buoys from a Stornoway beach to include in their act. What I hadn’t anticipated, climbing into the photographer’s pit, was just what a boyband Stornoway are. The audience was a sea of screaming teenage girls disappearing into the horizon… and they all seemed to want one particular band member: ever so cute drummer ROBBIEEEEEEE, owner of the aforementioned buoys and brother of equally cute guitarist Oli Steadman. The signing tent afterwards was a seething mass of prepubescent excitement that any sane adults had clearly balked at joining.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Stornoway
For the finale Stornoway released a couple of giant Prisoner-esque white balloons into the audience to bounce about over our heads. The band liked one of my twitpics so much that they posted it on their website. A wonderful set and one of my festival highlights.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Vieux Farka Touré
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Vieux Farka Touré
Over at the Big Top the ever so smiley Vieux Farka Touré finally took to the stage for his delayed performance (passport problem apparently). He’s an exceptionally gifted guitarist from Mali… the son of renowned musician Ali Farka Touré, and purveyor of that unique Mali sound: an adept blend of Western rock riffs and traditional African beats that have given him the moniker of the African Jimi Hendrix. Best of all Vieux Farka Touré was totally laid back and made it all look so utterly simple to play the guitar with such skill. Maybe not quite so rock and roll then! His drummer looked about 12 years old but played an amazing beatdown on a large halved gourd for the encore.

From the back of the packed main stage we caught the tail end of Asian Dub Foundation, who provided a suitably energetic party vibe for Saturday night.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Iain Stirling
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review -Gareth Richards
Finally we headed back to the ARC for our daily dose of comedy, compered by kid’s TV presenter Iain Stirling. Gareth Richards attracted some drunken heckles, which he bashed off admirably… but I have to say they weren’t totally undeserved. Mediocre.

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Arthur Smith
Larmer Tree Festival 2011 review Arthur Smith
Headline act was ‘old git’ Arthur Smith, who did a sturdy routine of well rehearsed classic one-liners before ending the show with his pants down.

Don’t forget to check out my Thursday review of Larmer Tree and my Friday review of Larmer Tree too.

Categories ,50s, ,African Jimi Hendrix, ,Ali Farka Toure, ,ARC, ,Arthur Smith, ,Asian Dub Foundation, ,Bane, ,Beachcomber’s Windowsill, ,Big Top, ,Bill and Ben Flowerpot Men, ,Brian Briggs, ,Buoys, ,Caitlin Rose, ,cardiff, ,Chameleon, ,comedy, ,country, ,Daytime Club Larmer, ,Fancy Dress, ,Fiona Campbell, ,folk, ,gabby young, ,Garden Stage, ,Gareth Richards, ,Gary Stewart, ,Gilly Rochester, ,Iain Stirling, ,Katie Antoniou, ,Mali, ,Mark Kermode, ,Meg McCarthy, ,Mis(Guided) Protest by Fuse, ,Moustache on a Stick, ,Nashville, ,Old Git, ,Oli Steadman, ,Oxjam, ,Pete Lawrie, ,rock, ,Rosie Doonan, ,Simon Sinkinson, ,Stephen Ellis, ,Stornoway, ,The Dodge Brothers, ,The Prisoner, ,The Thatcher and The Peacock, ,Vieux Farka Toure, ,Wishing Tree

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Amelia’s Magazine | The Pipettes – Interview

The Pipettes were a pretty big deal a few years ago, prostate bursting onto the indie club scene with their 50s and 60s-influenced polka-dot pop song album Meet The Pipettes and its hit singles like ‘Pull Shapes‘ and ‘Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me‘. That was half a decade ago, information pills though – since then, and they’ve had several members come and go, leaving the band in its current incarnation of sisters Gwenno and Ani [right and left, respectivaly, in the photo above], along with the boys who play the instruments and help write the music. After a long delay they’ve managed to get a second album ready for release, so I caught up with them earlier this week to see how they’ve been coping with all this commotion.

I thought that we’d start with just clarifying something that I’m not entirely sure about, which is the songwriting – who writes what?

Gwenno: It’s the same as it’s always been. How it works is that one person will write the song, and they’ll bring it in, usually in something like a finished form – it might need a few more chords, or a second verse – but they’ll bring it to the band, and we’ll all interpret it in our own way.
Ani: Everyone’s a songwriter in the band.

I’ve been listening to the new album. It’s an interesting change in direction because it’s not as doo-wop any more, is it? There are a couple of songs that still have that Phil Spector kind of sound, like the first album, but there’s a big change towards synths and electronics and stuff. Almost like moving forward through time a bit? That’s kind of what it sounded like to me. It’s called Earth vs The Pipettes which, in my mind, means space and sci-fi and lasers and things like that – futuristic things. Is that roughly what the thinking behind the album title was?

Gwenno: Well, we were going to call it In Colour, but then there was the whole sci-fi thing – there’s this b-movie called Earth vs The Flying Saucers, and there’s a poster for the film, with all these monsters coming down and people on the floor, and we were going to imitate it with the boys all on the floor and us coming down as the monsters. The album is slightly more grown-up and more serious to a certain extent, but there’s still that silliness and that sense of ridiculousness.

There’s a lot less playground-romance in the new songs.

Ani: [whistfully] I think we should be honest that our school days are well and truly gone…

Time to put the photos away in the album?

Ani: Heh, yeah. Although I never liked school much. We were 100% losers.
Gwenno: But now you’re a winner!
Ani: Yeah! Um. A winner all the way.

So there’s the sci-fi influence on the new album, but what else was coming into your heads when you were making it?

Gwenno: Well, everyone had different takes on it, really.
Ani: When I first came into the band…

Sorry, how long have you been in the band now?

Ani: Two years. When I first came into the band I thought, “yay, I’m in a 50s pop band,” and the first songs that I wrote were songs like that, but they’re not now, they’re more disco.
Gwenno: But also there was a natural evolution, if you’re wanting to be pseudo-academic about it, but at the same time it was a natural thing for us to move in that direction. And of course, being in a band together for so many years, you start to think…

Something different?

Gwenno: Well… Actually, I don’t know.
Ani: It’s not going to be the same, is it?
Gwenno: I know, but I do think that it’s a development anyway, in a way. Everyone can be themselves more.
Ani: Who are you?
Gwenno: [Laughs] I don’t know… Well, I really love a lot of British 80s bands, Bananarama and things like that.
Ani: Which you reference on the first album quite a lot.
Gwenno: Not sonically, though.

Lyrically?

Gwenno: Yeah. And I like old Kylie songs and things like that, and I think that you can hear that more.

So are you saying that you weren’t as keen on the Phil Spector-influenced stuff from the first album?

Gwenno: No, it wasn’t that. There was a point to it, and it was a really good point. I remember seeing the band play in Cardiff and thinking it was absolute genius, and that I wanted to be in this band. None of us were massively into 60s pop music or anything like that, but it was about the history of pop music. Like, if this makes sense then we can make our own year zero here. It was a slightly more intelligent approach than just, “oh, I like playing, I like singing.”

And with your new songs you don’t feel tied down to a single aesthetic?

Gwenno: No. I think it feels… The longer you make music with someone, the more that you trust them, and the more you understand, and you can trust their input. It’s not as controlled.
Ani: And also, with this album, everyone in the band now is at the same point. You [gestures to Gwenno] came in later than the start, I came in even later, so everyone could start from the same point and everyone worked together as a unit, wrote it as a unit.
Gwenno: I guess the common thread is Martin [Rushent, producer], apart from the space theme, of course.

I was watching your video for the first single off the album, ‘Stop The Music’ – you’ve got your dance moves in that, and lots of costumes…

Gwenno: Yeah, and again, it’s quite an organic development, and I don’t think that that song is very ‘Bam! We’re Back!’ – people have been a bit slow to get behind it, and me too. I didn’t write this song and it took me quite a while to actually understand it, to really, really get into it. It’s such a grower.
Ani: It’s a much more confident approach. I don’t want to undermine ourselves, but it doesn’t sound as desperate, like, “hey, we’re in a band.”

So you’re more sure of yourself? The album does sound very cohesive despite the change in direction, I think.

Gwenno: Well, it was a move away from songs like ‘Pull Shapes’, which we ended up feeling quite defined by. Putting ‘Stop The Music’ out first is quite a deliberate thing from us, as in, “here’s a song, we really love it, and it stands on its own and doesn’t need gimmicks.” Which, again, is what this album is about. You have to take it as it is – you like the music, you like the music, if you don’t, you don’t. I think ‘Stop The Music’ confirms that statement, really. The video, too, I don’t think is at all a gimmick, I just think it’s shot very beautifully. It’s probably the proudest I’ve ever felt in making something, visually. I don’t feel like I’m being stupid, jumping around clapping my hands.

You don’t worry at all that the change of direction will alienate some of your fans?

Gwenno: Well, I think that was inevitable. I think, even had it been the same lineup, someone isn’t going to like the new direction anyway. It’s easy to think that we’re alienating fans with a change in direction.

But you’re picking up new ones, too?

Gwenno: I think so, too. To be honest with you, the only reason we’re still here is for the songs. We knew it was going to be difficult with the new lineup, but had we not had so much faith in the songs we just wouldn’t have done it.
Ani: Yeah, and I’m not going to lie – over the past two years it’s not been easy to keep going, at all. There’s been no reason except that we’re making this record.

A labour of love?

Gwenno: Well it is, but having done the first record and having had people respond to it by saying, “it’s a bit gimmicky, it’s a bit throwaway,” it just made us feel that we wanted to do quite a serious thing. Yes, we do dress up and do silly dances, but we feel very passionate about that!
Ani: And then there’s the whole thing that we’re doing it independently, by ourselves, not on a major label or with co-writers forced on us. We would never do that, even though it was an option.

You said that the first album was a bit gimmicky – but surely that’s the point of pop music? To criticise pop for being throwaway and fun is a bit like criticising water for being wet.

Ani: Yep. That’s a thing I find with pop, that it can still be great music, it’s not just throwaway. Someone’s writing it, it’s someone singing someone’s emotions. Just because it’s pop…
Gwenno: I do think it’s completely different, though, when you have artists drawn up in a marketing board meeting.

But that’s still someone’s words that they’re singing, someone’s emotions.

Gwenno: I suppose. I just have a real detachment from modern pop music at the moment.
Ani: I’m not talking about Rihanna – I love Rihanna! I love Girls Aloud! But I’m talking more about…

Straightforwardly manufactured acts who are designed deliberately to make sales?

Ani: Yeah…
Gwenno: [To Ani] I don’t get what you’re trying to say…
Ani: I’m trying to say that just because it’s pop music that doesn’t make it less good, or less credible, than indie or whatever. I think that because we clap hands and dance and wear silly things…

Lots of bands wear silly things, mind. You guys seen Of Montreal?

Gwenno: Hah, yes!

Just because pop music might be, as you say, manufactured, doesn’t make it any less worthy, does it? But you guys are clearly not that kind of mainstream pop music, you’ve got that weird twist to it still by bringing in elements of disco and soul and so on.

Gwenno: I do think that it’s important, with this album, that even though it’s four to the floor most of the time it has still be played and written by a real band. I was talking to [former member] Rose about it yesterday – I like that in songs like ‘Stop The Music’ it’s grounded in very good music. It’s not just an electro-dance-slash-hip-hop song, it’s clearly grounded in 60s soul and all of that stuff. We were having a discussion in studio the other day about having a backing track – obviously Martin has done a lot of stuff to make us not really sound like we’re real, which is brilliant, we love that, and you can never recreate that live unless you played along with a backing track, which we would never, ever do. I really dislike bands that play to backing tracks, on the whole, and I have yet to see a band I’ve enjoyed the feeling of who have played along to a backing track. I would rather have less instrumentation, and see what everyone is doing on stage, and have that being what I hear.
Ani: It loses a lot of its soul. The way it feels, when it’s played in a certain way…

Like having an old record where it always skips in a certain place, and when you hear it on the radio and it doesn’t have that little clip in it, it feels less real?

Gwenno: Yeah, and I think where we differ, as a pop band, to a producer in a studio just making up something for a hired songwriter, is that we don’t have to justify ourselves by saying, “we’re real.” I think that’s an interesting distinction.
Ani: You always feel like you have to validate why you do something. I feel like we’ve thought a lot about the point of us doing this now.
Gwenno: Yeah, because the point is different now. When we started we were sort dressing up and being all anti- those indie guitar bands that were around, but they’ve all gone now, so where do we stand in the grand scheme of things? [Laughs] You need to know who your enemies are, you know, who the bad man is, fighting against what system. It’s finding out what your context is, sort of doing that all over again, really – and I think the songs are wicked. I genuinely do. I think Martin’s done a really good job.

He’s been around for a while – almost old to enough to have worked on some of the original doo-wop records.

Ani: Yeah he has. There’s just some amazing stuff that he’s done. The thing that I love about Martin is how ridiculously enthusiastic about music he still is. He’s not at all cynical, which is just great, because you’d think that you’d lose enthusiasm by then. He’s kind of done more than anyone I’ve ever met.

So who’s he worked with?

Gwenno: Well, I think his biggest thing was Dare by The Human League. Buzzcocks, Stranglers, Shirley Bassey, Altered Image… I think he turned Madonna down.

Really?

Ani: A guy called and said, “I’ve got this girl, Madonna, do you want to make a record with her?” and he said he was too busy because he was doing another Human League album. Even if that’s not true, I think it’s great.

Rehearsals for your tour are going well?

Gwenno: Really good, actually. We’d done a gig as a duo in October at S?n Festival, Huw Stephens’ festival… it seemed a bit of a curse, the S?n Festival, because we couldn’t do it the year before because a girl left the band, but this year we decided we were definitely going to do it because my mum was there, my dad was there, my friends… And then we hadn’t rehearsed, and rehearsing as a duo has really changed the dynamic of the band which I hadn’t expected so much. There’s a lot more singing in unison – I feel so much more confident about it. Obviously, it’s good because we’re siblings, and if we’re singing out of tune we’re going to be harmonising out of tune, if that makes sense. I remember with Rose and Becky that it wasn’t always in tune, there wasn’t that natural instinct, and we were always counteracting each other, we weren’t really harmonising. This is good, I’m quite excited about this new thing, there’s more of a unified voice.
Ani: And also with the old songs we haven’t found that it massively affects them, and we were worried about the old songs mostly because of the freaky harmonies, but there really weren’t any three-piece harmonies anywhere. I do Rose and Becky’s parts, though – I rock ‘n roll AND I hip-hop, which is great.

Does this mean that you’re not looking to find a third member of the band, to get it back to how it was before?

Gwenno: No, not really. I think it was quite nice realising that we’re not the Sugababes, and you can’t just fill that gap. It feels like an evolution, because obviously having a third person who you don’t know can be really weird. They’re not Rose, they’re not Becky, and that’s just not how it is any more. Getting a randomer doesn’t really work…

Kind of like a session musician?

Gwenno: I think that’s what happened, by the third girl who came in. She ended up being really more of a session singer, really, because they couldn’t join in the writing because we’d already written the album, it was finished, they could only sing along with us. It was kind of a redundant thing, and there was no point in them joining the band if they couldn’t help to create anything. Much more of an urge to get the album out, because it’s been going for the last couple of years, and now it’s finally coming out…

Scary?

Gwenno: Yeah, actually! I’m just so happy, that we’re not sitting on this album. It was recorded in the spare bits of studio time that Martin had, which is great, we appreciated that so much, but I remember we read a book which mentioned him, talking about when he made Dare. He said it took him more than a year to make it, and were already three months into recording so we were a bit worried because he was comparing our album to Dare – though obviously it’s probably not going to be anywhere near as big! – and in the end it took him, I think, one more day to finish than for Dare.
Ani: It’s just so good to have the album out really. I’m not nervous at all. You don’t know what’s going to happen, but we have tried our best.

(All images courtesy of the band, taken from the shoot for their latest album)

Categories ,50s, ,60s, ,70s, ,Ani, ,Bananarama, ,Becky, ,Dare, ,disco, ,Doo-Wop, ,Earth vs The Pipettes, ,Gwenno, ,Human League, ,ian steadman, ,interview, ,Kylie Minogue, ,Madonna, ,Martin Rushent, ,Meet The Pipettes, ,pop, ,Pull Shapes, ,Rose, ,Shirley Bassey, ,soul, ,Stop The Music, ,The Human League, ,The Pipettes, ,video, ,Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me

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Amelia’s Magazine | The Pipettes – Interview

The Pipettes were a pretty big deal a few years ago, prostate bursting onto the indie club scene with their 50s and 60s-influenced polka-dot pop song album Meet The Pipettes and its hit singles like ‘Pull Shapes‘ and ‘Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me‘. That was half a decade ago, information pills though – since then, and they’ve had several members come and go, leaving the band in its current incarnation of sisters Gwenno and Ani [right and left, respectivaly, in the photo above], along with the boys who play the instruments and help write the music. After a long delay they’ve managed to get a second album ready for release, so I caught up with them earlier this week to see how they’ve been coping with all this commotion.

I thought that we’d start with just clarifying something that I’m not entirely sure about, which is the songwriting – who writes what?

Gwenno: It’s the same as it’s always been. How it works is that one person will write the song, and they’ll bring it in, usually in something like a finished form – it might need a few more chords, or a second verse – but they’ll bring it to the band, and we’ll all interpret it in our own way.
Ani: Everyone’s a songwriter in the band.

I’ve been listening to the new album. It’s an interesting change in direction because it’s not as doo-wop any more, is it? There are a couple of songs that still have that Phil Spector kind of sound, like the first album, but there’s a big change towards synths and electronics and stuff. Almost like moving forward through time a bit? That’s kind of what it sounded like to me. It’s called Earth vs The Pipettes which, in my mind, means space and sci-fi and lasers and things like that – futuristic things. Is that roughly what the thinking behind the album title was?

Gwenno: Well, we were going to call it In Colour, but then there was the whole sci-fi thing – there’s this b-movie called Earth vs The Flying Saucers, and there’s a poster for the film, with all these monsters coming down and people on the floor, and we were going to imitate it with the boys all on the floor and us coming down as the monsters. The album is slightly more grown-up and more serious to a certain extent, but there’s still that silliness and that sense of ridiculousness.

There’s a lot less playground-romance in the new songs.

Ani: [whistfully] I think we should be honest that our school days are well and truly gone…

Time to put the photos away in the album?

Ani: Heh, yeah. Although I never liked school much. We were 100% losers.
Gwenno: But now you’re a winner!
Ani: Yeah! Um. A winner all the way.

So there’s the sci-fi influence on the new album, but what else was coming into your heads when you were making it?

Gwenno: Well, everyone had different takes on it, really.
Ani: When I first came into the band…

Sorry, how long have you been in the band now?

Ani: Two years. When I first came into the band I thought, “yay, I’m in a 50s pop band,” and the first songs that I wrote were songs like that, but they’re not now, they’re more disco.
Gwenno: But also there was a natural evolution, if you’re wanting to be pseudo-academic about it, but at the same time it was a natural thing for us to move in that direction. And of course, being in a band together for so many years, you start to think…

Something different?

Gwenno: Well… Actually, I don’t know.
Ani: It’s not going to be the same, is it?
Gwenno: I know, but I do think that it’s a development anyway, in a way. Everyone can be themselves more.
Ani: Who are you?
Gwenno: [Laughs] I don’t know… Well, I really love a lot of British 80s bands, Bananarama and things like that.
Ani: Which you reference on the first album quite a lot.
Gwenno: Not sonically, though.

Lyrically?

Gwenno: Yeah. And I like old Kylie songs and things like that, and I think that you can hear that more.

So are you saying that you weren’t as keen on the Phil Spector-influenced stuff from the first album?

Gwenno: No, it wasn’t that. There was a point to it, and it was a really good point. I remember seeing the band play in Cardiff and thinking it was absolute genius, and that I wanted to be in this band. None of us were massively into 60s pop music or anything like that, but it was about the history of pop music. Like, if this makes sense then we can make our own year zero here. It was a slightly more intelligent approach than just, “oh, I like playing, I like singing.”

And with your new songs you don’t feel tied down to a single aesthetic?

Gwenno: No. I think it feels… The longer you make music with someone, the more that you trust them, and the more you understand, and you can trust their input. It’s not as controlled.
Ani: And also, with this album, everyone in the band now is at the same point. You [gestures to Gwenno] came in later than the start, I came in even later, so everyone could start from the same point and everyone worked together as a unit, wrote it as a unit.
Gwenno: I guess the common thread is Martin [Rushent, producer], apart from the space theme, of course.

I was watching your video for the first single off the album, ‘Stop The Music’ – you’ve got your dance moves in that, and lots of costumes…

Gwenno: Yeah, and again, it’s quite an organic development, and I don’t think that that song is very ‘Bam! We’re Back!’ – people have been a bit slow to get behind it, and me too. I didn’t write this song and it took me quite a while to actually understand it, to really, really get into it. It’s such a grower.
Ani: It’s a much more confident approach. I don’t want to undermine ourselves, but it doesn’t sound as desperate, like, “hey, we’re in a band.”

So you’re more sure of yourself? The album does sound very cohesive despite the change in direction, I think.

Gwenno: Well, it was a move away from songs like ‘Pull Shapes’, which we ended up feeling quite defined by. Putting ‘Stop The Music’ out first is quite a deliberate thing from us, as in, “here’s a song, we really love it, and it stands on its own and doesn’t need gimmicks.” Which, again, is what this album is about. You have to take it as it is – you like the music, you like the music, if you don’t, you don’t. I think ‘Stop The Music’ confirms that statement, really. The video, too, I don’t think is at all a gimmick, I just think it’s shot very beautifully. It’s probably the proudest I’ve ever felt in making something, visually. I don’t feel like I’m being stupid, jumping around clapping my hands.

You don’t worry at all that the change of direction will alienate some of your fans?

Gwenno: Well, I think that was inevitable. I think, even had it been the same lineup, someone isn’t going to like the new direction anyway. It’s easy to think that we’re alienating fans with a change in direction.

But you’re picking up new ones, too?

Gwenno: I think so, too. To be honest with you, the only reason we’re still here is for the songs. We knew it was going to be difficult with the new lineup, but had we not had so much faith in the songs we just wouldn’t have done it.
Ani: Yeah, and I’m not going to lie – over the past two years it’s not been easy to keep going, at all. There’s been no reason except that we’re making this record.

A labour of love?

Gwenno: Well it is, but having done the first record and having had people respond to it by saying, “it’s a bit gimmicky, it’s a bit throwaway,” it just made us feel that we wanted to do quite a serious thing. Yes, we do dress up and do silly dances, but we feel very passionate about that!
Ani: And then there’s the whole thing that we’re doing it independently, by ourselves, not on a major label or with co-writers forced on us. We would never do that, even though it was an option.

You said that the first album was a bit gimmicky – but surely that’s the point of pop music? To criticise pop for being throwaway and fun is a bit like criticising water for being wet.

Ani: Yep. That’s a thing I find with pop, that it can still be great music, it’s not just throwaway. Someone’s writing it, it’s someone singing someone’s emotions. Just because it’s pop…
Gwenno: I do think it’s completely different, though, when you have artists drawn up in a marketing board meeting.

But that’s still someone’s words that they’re singing, someone’s emotions.

Gwenno: I suppose. I just have a real detachment from modern pop music at the moment.
Ani: I’m not talking about Rihanna – I love Rihanna! I love Girls Aloud! But I’m talking more about…

Straightforwardly manufactured acts who are designed deliberately to make sales?

Ani: Yeah…
Gwenno: [To Ani] I don’t get what you’re trying to say…
Ani: I’m trying to say that just because it’s pop music that doesn’t make it less good, or less credible, than indie or whatever. I think that because we clap hands and dance and wear silly things…

Lots of bands wear silly things, mind. You guys seen Of Montreal?

Gwenno: Hah, yes!

Just because pop music might be, as you say, manufactured, doesn’t make it any less worthy, does it? But you guys are clearly not that kind of mainstream pop music, you’ve got that weird twist to it still by bringing in elements of disco and soul and so on.

Gwenno: I do think that it’s important, with this album, that even though it’s four to the floor most of the time it has still be played and written by a real band. I was talking to [former member] Rose about it yesterday – I like that in songs like ‘Stop The Music’ it’s grounded in very good music. It’s not just an electro-dance-slash-hip-hop song, it’s clearly grounded in 60s soul and all of that stuff. We were having a discussion in studio the other day about having a backing track – obviously Martin has done a lot of stuff to make us not really sound like we’re real, which is brilliant, we love that, and you can never recreate that live unless you played along with a backing track, which we would never, ever do. I really dislike bands that play to backing tracks, on the whole, and I have yet to see a band I’ve enjoyed the feeling of who have played along to a backing track. I would rather have less instrumentation, and see what everyone is doing on stage, and have that being what I hear.
Ani: It loses a lot of its soul. The way it feels, when it’s played in a certain way…

Like having an old record where it always skips in a certain place, and when you hear it on the radio and it doesn’t have that little clip in it, it feels less real?

Gwenno: Yeah, and I think where we differ, as a pop band, to a producer in a studio just making up something for a hired songwriter, is that we don’t have to justify ourselves by saying, “we’re real.” I think that’s an interesting distinction.
Ani: You always feel like you have to validate why you do something. I feel like we’ve thought a lot about the point of us doing this now.
Gwenno: Yeah, because the point is different now. When we started we were sort dressing up and being all anti- those indie guitar bands that were around, but they’ve all gone now, so where do we stand in the grand scheme of things? [Laughs] You need to know who your enemies are, you know, who the bad man is, fighting against what system. It’s finding out what your context is, sort of doing that all over again, really – and I think the songs are wicked. I genuinely do. I think Martin’s done a really good job.

He’s been around for a while – almost old to enough to have worked on some of the original doo-wop records.

Ani: Yeah he has. There’s just some amazing stuff that he’s done. The thing that I love about Martin is how ridiculously enthusiastic about music he still is. He’s not at all cynical, which is just great, because you’d think that you’d lose enthusiasm by then. He’s kind of done more than anyone I’ve ever met.

So who’s he worked with?

Gwenno: Well, I think his biggest thing was Dare by The Human League. Buzzcocks, Stranglers, Shirley Bassey, Altered Image… I think he turned Madonna down.

Really?

Ani: A guy called and said, “I’ve got this girl, Madonna, do you want to make a record with her?” and he said he was too busy because he was doing another Human League album. Even if that’s not true, I think it’s great.

Rehearsals for your tour are going well?

Gwenno: Really good, actually. We’d done a gig as a duo in October at S?n Festival, Huw Stephens’ festival… it seemed a bit of a curse, the S?n Festival, because we couldn’t do it the year before because a girl left the band, but this year we decided we were definitely going to do it because my mum was there, my dad was there, my friends… And then we hadn’t rehearsed, and rehearsing as a duo has really changed the dynamic of the band which I hadn’t expected so much. There’s a lot more singing in unison – I feel so much more confident about it. Obviously, it’s good because we’re siblings, and if we’re singing out of tune we’re going to be harmonising out of tune, if that makes sense. I remember with Rose and Becky that it wasn’t always in tune, there wasn’t that natural instinct, and we were always counteracting each other, we weren’t really harmonising. This is good, I’m quite excited about this new thing, there’s more of a unified voice.
Ani: And also with the old songs we haven’t found that it massively affects them, and we were worried about the old songs mostly because of the freaky harmonies, but there really weren’t any three-piece harmonies anywhere. I do Rose and Becky’s parts, though – I rock ‘n roll AND I hip-hop, which is great.

Does this mean that you’re not looking to find a third member of the band, to get it back to how it was before?

Gwenno: No, not really. I think it was quite nice realising that we’re not the Sugababes, and you can’t just fill that gap. It feels like an evolution, because obviously having a third person who you don’t know can be really weird. They’re not Rose, they’re not Becky, and that’s just not how it is any more. Getting a randomer doesn’t really work…

Kind of like a session musician?

Gwenno: I think that’s what happened, by the third girl who came in. She ended up being really more of a session singer, really, because they couldn’t join in the writing because we’d already written the album, it was finished, they could only sing along with us. It was kind of a redundant thing, and there was no point in them joining the band if they couldn’t help to create anything. Much more of an urge to get the album out, because it’s been going for the last couple of years, and now it’s finally coming out…

Scary?

Gwenno: Yeah, actually! I’m just so happy, that we’re not sitting on this album. It was recorded in the spare bits of studio time that Martin had, which is great, we appreciated that so much, but I remember we read a book which mentioned him, talking about when he made Dare. He said it took him more than a year to make it, and were already three months into recording so we were a bit worried because he was comparing our album to Dare – though obviously it’s probably not going to be anywhere near as big! – and in the end it took him, I think, one more day to finish than for Dare.
Ani: It’s just so good to have the album out really. I’m not nervous at all. You don’t know what’s going to happen, but we have tried our best.

(All images courtesy of the band, taken from the shoot for their latest album)

Categories ,50s, ,60s, ,70s, ,Ani, ,Bananarama, ,Becky, ,Dare, ,disco, ,Doo-Wop, ,Earth vs The Pipettes, ,Gwenno, ,Human League, ,ian steadman, ,interview, ,Kylie Minogue, ,Madonna, ,Martin Rushent, ,Meet The Pipettes, ,pop, ,Pull Shapes, ,Rose, ,Shirley Bassey, ,soul, ,Stop The Music, ,The Human League, ,The Pipettes, ,video, ,Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me

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