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Harvey Williams - Interview

  by Tommy Gunnarsson

published: 11 / 5 / 2002

Harvey Williams - Interview


Currently the guitarist in Trembling Blue Stars, ex-Field Mice star Harvey Williams has also released records under his own name and with his solo project Another Sunny Day. Tommy Gunnarsson speaks to him about his fifteen year indiepop career

If there has ever been an indiepop ”anthem”, I guess 'Anorak City' by Another Sunny Day should come close to winning that title. With it’s distorted sound, twee title, twee lyrics and perfect pop melody, it’s everything you would ever want in a pop song. Now, fifteen years later, Sarah Records (who released that flexidisc) are since long gone, and so are Another Sunny Day. But whatever happened to the band’s mastermind and sole member, Harvey Williams? We tracked him down and found out what he is up to nowadays, and also had a chat with him about the good old days. The last thing we heard from the pen of Harvey Williams was 'California', the second album to be recorded under his own name, 'California', and which came out in 1999 on Shinkansen (the label founded by former Sarah co-owner Matt Haynes). What, therefore is up to now? "I work at the BBC" he tells me, politely answering the first of my questions. "Until fairly recently I worked behind the scenes on a pop TV show. Currently I'm working in the archives, restoring and remastering 'classic' TV series for DVD issue. Also, I'm in Trembling Blue Stars, which is a bit of an on-off thing, so we'll see what happens there. Perhaps I'll make another record of my own sometime. I don't know." Harvey first became interested in music when he was very young "I fell in love with the Beatles at roughly the age of four. I'd sit in my bedroom listening to the 'Hard Day's Night' LP incessantly. It still sounds like the best record ever. Other childhood pop heroes of mine were (chronologically) Roy Wood, Queen and 10cc. Then punk happened, so all those records had to go out the window. Now, of course, all those Roy Wood/Queen/10cc records I had as a kid sound fabulous again." The step from listening to music to actually playing it himself wasn’t too far away for young Harvey. When he was eight years old, he began playing the piano, but even though he gave it up rather quickly, it was enough. In his early teens he used to get together with friends to play music a little. "In my early teens, I'd get together with friends over a weekend & we'd...I don't want to use the word 'jam', because that implies musicianship. Do you know the Swell Maps? Basically, we would try to sound like the Swell Maps. Disjointed, ramshackle, stream-of-consciousness stuff. But not entirely serious. No, we never released anything. Or played live.... (I still have the tapes tho'!!)." If you have ever heard a song written and performed by Harvey Williams, maybe you’ll agree with me when I say that Swell Maps seems a long shot from the Sarah singles we love. Eventually, he decided to do things on his own, and settled on the name Another Sunny Day. "My friend Ian was staying with me one weekend. On the Saturday morning, he opened the curtains to reveal a glorious blue sky (also a great name for a band!!). "Another sunny day", said he. "Great name for a band", said I. Conveniently (but coincidentally), it's also a lyric from a Microdisney song." In early 1985, Harvey visited the Rough Trade shop in London (one of the life-changing moments in his life, he tells me) , and saw a poster advertising the first issue of the 'Are You Scared To Get Happy ? fanzine, which by none other than Matt Haynes! "It opened all the doors. After also devouring issue 2, I started writing to Matt. So it seemed completely natural for him to receive my first demo tape. I think I only ever sent one other out (to Bob Stanley, who was also writing his own fanzine at the time). I didn't really like or admire anyone else in the music biz at the time, so didn't think of sending a whole bunch of tapes out. 'Anorak City' was intended to be the last release on Sha-La-La, but as Sarah was just getting started, it seemed more sensible to "sign" (no-one ever signed anything!) to the new label." The only person who can be heard on the Another Sunny Day-records is Harvey, but when playing live that was a bit of a problem. So, he took on Bobby Wratten, Michael Hiscock and Matthew Drummond (the first two from the Field Mice, and the latter a member of The Orchids) to help him out on gigs and also to tour France. After releasing the 6” flexidisc Anorak City in 1988, Another Sunny Day soon released their first “proper” single, 'I’m In Love With A Girl Who Doesn’t Know I Exist', yet another indiepop-classic. And then further great singles came one after the other. 'What’s Happened?', 'You Should All Be Murdered', 'Rio' (which is Harvey’s favourite ASD-song, by the way) and 'New Year’s Honours'. The list goes on. All these singles now cost you a minor fortune (very seldom under 10 pounds), unless you're lucky lucky to find them for cheap at eBay. The singles were also collected on an LP released by Sarah in 1992, called 'London Weekend'. Good luck finding that one! So, have they never thought about reissuing all these classic tracks? "The number of people who want those records is pretty minuscule (a few dozen, I guess). Anyway, too small to justify repressing them. I don't think the records sell for too much these days: I see the 45s around for £10 or less, the LP for maybe £15-20. Which doesn't seem unreasonable. They're good records! I guess a reissue of the LP isn't completely out of the question, but does seem a bit pointless. If you want to hear the songs, I'm sure Audiogalaxy will be able to help (or some friendly type with a CD burner). Matt's opinion, however. of the whole reissue/MP3 thing ("I'm not reissuing them, you should have been there the first time!") is ridiculous, and completely missing the point. The compilation LP was the last record to ever have the name Another Sunny Day on it. Two years later, in 1994, he released a 10” mini album on Sarah called 'Rebellion', and this time the cover said “Harvey Williams”. Why did he give up the ASD moniker? "The demos for the first HW 10" sounded so different from the records I'd made up to that point, it seemed a sensible time to start using my real name. All the music I was listening to & inspired by while I was writing that record was all late 60s-early 70s singer-songwriter stuff (Randy Newman, Nilsson, Carole King, Laura Nyro), none of whom hid behind a band. The question perhaps should really be "Why did I give myself a band identity for the early records when it was really just me all along?" Answer: I knew that if I'd tried to sell myself to Matt (or the indie scene in general) as a solo singer-songwriter, no-one would have been interested." Your two solo albums are very short. Why is that? "Because there's no point in wasting people's time. Obviously, it's a conscious descision to edit everything down to the bare bones (short songs, minimal instrumentation). The idea with the next record (should there ever be one) is a vocal-only LP." Harvey also tells me that his way of writing songs have changed a lot during the past 15 years. "For a start, it seemed much easier to write then, but I prefer to think that's because I'm more demanding now, and expect more from myself than a dodgy satire of the independent scene. I also think more about musical arrangements now, trying to keep things to a minimum, but always thinking about what sound would fit with which melody, what instruments work well together etc, which didn't really concern me when ASD were a 'guitar band'. Now Harvey mostly listens to old music "Late 60s obscurities, early singer-songwriter stuff (all the names I listed before are still favourites of mine), harmonic pop, modern prefab-pop (SClub 7 et al). Anything with a nice tune. And what does the future look like for Harvey Williams, the musician? "Very very bleak."

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Harvey Williams - Interview

Harvey Williams - Interview

Harvey Williams - Interview

Harvey Williams - Interview

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