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Birdie - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 21 / 1 / 2002

Birdie - Interview


Birdie was formed by vocalist Deborah Wykes and guitarist Paul Kelly in 1998. Wykes and Kelly, who are partners as well as band mates and who have a four year old daughter , first met when they were both working as backing musicians for Saint Etienne in

Birdie was formed by vocalist Deborah Wykes and guitarist Paul Kelly in 1998. Wykes and Kelly, who are partners as well as band mates and who have a four year old daughter , first met when they were both working as backing musicians for Saint Etienne in 1994. Wykes was previously a member of the influential all girl punk group, Dolly Mixture, who sang back-up vocals on Captain Sensible's 1982 British Number 1 hit 'Happy Talk', and who also released a double album 'Demonstration Tapes' in the same year. Kelly meanwhile was the guitarist with East Village, who were a part of the early Heavenly label roster, and who released a single 'Circles' in 1991 and a posthumous album 'Drop Out' in 1993. Birdie released its debut album 'Some Dusty', a gentle plaintive of indie and folk sounds, in 1999, when, after being originally conceived simply as a set of demos, it was picked by a London label, IT, for British release. It was subsequently also released by Kindercore in America. The band have now expanded to a trio, with the addition of drummer Jon Chandler, and spent much of 2000 in the studio, working upon their second album 'Triple Echo'. More diverse than its predecessor, and featuring some stunning sixties-influenced arrangements and soundscapes, 'Triple Echo', which shares a name with a 1973 Oliver Reed film, was originally scheduled for a February release, but finally came out again on IT in October. Birdie has also had various 7" and CD single releases. While Birdie are a cult act in London, they are little known elsewhere in the British Isles, but are better known abroad and have met with massive success in Japan, and, despite recently losing their Kindercore deal, have also played to enthusiastic audiences in America.With the band about to begin work on their third album in January, Paul Kelly took the time out from rehearsals and preparing for a forthcoming British tour to talk to Pennyblackmusic about "Triple Echo', its making , and the problems of combining full-time parenting with recording. PB : Why did you decide to call your new album 'Triple Echo' ? Was it after the seventies film about the Second World War, and, if it was, why did you decide to name it after that particular film ? PK : Yes it was actually. Over New Year we were staying in Devon with some friends trying to recover from a year (on and off) spent recording the album and although we were ready to send it , we only had a couple of days left before we had to deliver the record to our Japanese label 'Minty Fresh' and we still couldn't agree on the title. One night we were talking about the film and my brother suggested 'Triple Echo' as a possible title. It was kind of appropriate for several reasons, the first being that the opening track 'Original Strand' begins with a triple echoed cow bell. The film has always been something of a theme with us both as our father flew one of the Spitfires that passes over Glenda Jackson in the opening scene, and I can remember as a small child being with him that day it was filmed and then watching the aeroplanes take off. PB : 'Triple Echo' was originally scheduled for release in February. Why has there been such a long delay in it coming out ? PK : Although we had a commitment to deliver the record to Japan at the beginning of the year, we still wanted to make some changes for the UK issue and that was part of the reason, but I can't remember fully why it took quite so long to come out here. I think it was delayed by the American label, who decided not to release it in the end anyway! PB : The group has recently expanded into a three piece with the addition of Jon Chandler on drums. Who is he ? What do you think he has been able to bring to the line-up and to 'Triple Echo' ? PK : Youth! We're cracking on a bit and so now Jon brings down the average age of the group quite dramatically. His girlfriend was working at the NME at the time he joined and so we thought foolishly that , this might help us to get some good press, but it didn't work! We first met Jon when he was playing in a band called Slimcea Girl. He also played with Dot Allison for a while before we nabbed him. PB : The new album seems to be a far more diverse album than 'Some Dusty'. Would you agree with that ? PK : Yes, I hope so. The first album was recorded as demos in just a few days and so this time we really wanted to make a more competent fully realised version of that record, a kind of 'Some Dusty 2' We were tired of making trashy little records and wanted do something a little more accomplished for a change. PB : It seems to have been recorded with a very careful sense of detail. Did it take a long time to record ?PK : Yes it did take a long time, but that was mainly down to the difficulty of having a small child in tow. Jon also has a young daughter and so it was often more like a creche than a recording session. As we had to take the kids along most of the time, it became quite difficult to concentrate as they got very bored with it all. Our daughter starts attacking me if I even look at a guitar now! As we did live with the record for so long, however, we were able to really work into it and iron out the creases to get it just as we wanted. PB : One of the classic quotes about the band comes from 'Uncut' who described Birdie as "the Velvet Underground meets French film music". How would you interpret your sound though ? PK : I don't know where that comes from. It seems to be attributed to me for some reason? What defines French film music? One thing I can say is that we try very hard not to sound like other groups and I get really fucked off with comparisons to others. There is no point in just trying to do what someone else has already done. I don't know though. Maybe in ten years we will look back and go.. "Oh yes we did just sound like everybody else!? " PB : You are not especially well known in Britain outside London, but you have won a Polar Award for Best Newcomer in Spain, your music has cropped up as the the theme tune for a drama series in Japan and you have played to ecstatic crowds in the United States. Why do you think you have attracted so much more interest abroad ? PK : It's quite strange really because worldwide we have sold far more records than our profile might suggest. There just seems to be no focus in any one place apart from perhaps Japan. I think that anyone coming across the band abroad is more likely to take the records at face value and to give them a chance. We just don't fit in with any scene in the UK. I don't think we have ever done an interview with a single British paper or magazine and yet if we go to America or anywhere else we are always asked to give interviews and so that obviously helps people to become aware of us in those places. Our US label did actually pull out of releasing the record though because they felt our profile in the UK was non existent! One problem here seems that before you can even get so much as an 'on' piece in the NME these days they want to know how big your label' s marketing spending is going to be.Ttheir sales are in freefall and everyone's watching they're own backs. They seem desperate for some kind of scene to develop and yet at the same time they won't embrace any kind of real underground movement. They are too happy to play the game while all around them collapses.... not that we are bitter of course! PB : Both of you are songwriters. How do you compose your songs ? Do you write them seperately or collectively, and how much of an influence are you on each other's songs ? PK : We used to write songs completely seperately, I think all of the first album songs are individual efforts but we have now learned how to write together in a relatively simple way, I think that because we are partners there is no great clash of egos and so if one of your ideas is axed for whatever reason it doesn't become an issue. The song is the important thing. We try and write Brill building style, sitting with a piano and guitar knocking the songs into shape. I personally find this more fullfilling than writing in the studio. Also you can just concentrate on getting the sounds right when you make the record. PB : Youand Deborah are real life as well as musical partners and have a small daughter. It must be very difficult to switch off work when you go home. How does this both hinder and help recording ?PK : t's pretty much as I explained earlier, I think we've put our daughter off ever wanting to be in a band though, which is probably a good thing! She is nearly five now and has just started school so that frees us up for several hours during the day. When both parents work together at anything, I think it is really difficult. I wouldn't recommend it! PB : You have released records on both CD and vinyl. Which format do you prefer, and why ? PK : I don't like having multi formats of everything, it's just annoying, I do really love the seven inch single though. It is the foundation of rock and roll and recordings just sound so much better on vinyl. Although that might sound Luddite, it's true. There is no question! All the great movements in music, right up to the dance explosion have happened on vinyl. One thing that really bugs me about CDs is that when it comes to putting out a single you are expected to have two or three extra tracks. They're always dull fillers (except ours!) I have always liked the idea of just having just one B side that can be a real gem, or total crap, It just works better. I really hate CDs. Tthey're shit!....but very convenient. and they can look really good! PB : What are the records that are currently playing on the Birdie turntable at the moment? PK : Not much modern stuff really, although I do like Andrew WK and the new Edwyn Collins single 'The Beatle$'. We're getting back into 60s garage stuff in quite a big way, pulling out all our Pebbles albums and UK psych singles, and then there's always a bit of Laura Nyro, Left Banke, the Zombies and of course your regulation Northern Soul. PB : You recorded twenty two songs for the new album, yet only twelve have made the final record. What are you going to do with the other ten songs ? PK : Some of the songs ended up as the dreaded 'extra tracks' on the singles and the rest were just shelved, I can't even remember what they were like anymore, I think they were pretty crap! I know I recorded over one so that it would never re-surface! Not that there is really any danger of that ever happening! PB : What other plans do you have for the future ? PK : We play a short UK tour this December with Debs now playing bass live as she used to with Dolly Mixture. We've only played a few UK gigs outside London before so we are looking forward to that and then in January we start a new album. This time, however, we are going to record quickly and hopefuly get the record out by Spring, Then we can move to Cornwall, open a pie shop and stop kidding ourselves! PB : Thank you.

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Birdie - Interview

Birdie - Interview

Visitor Comments:-
2429 Posted By: Mervin, Parts Unknown on 27 May 2022
Great band!
178 Posted By: first world cannot respect, first world cannot respect on 05 May 2009
human depend meteorological references

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Triple Echo (2001)
Deborah Wykes, Paul Kelly and the rest of Birdie easily won me over with their 1999 debut album 'Some Dusty'. It was one of those albums that seemed to find its way onto my radio show play list almos

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