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Haywains - Interview

  by Tommy Gunnarsson

published: 13 / 7 / 2002

Haywains - Interview


First formed in 1988, influential Bristol indie pop group the Haywains released two albums on Vinyl Japan in the mid 90's. Tommy Gunnarsson speaks to guitarist Paul Towler about the groups' eight year history

It all started with a 7” single I bought by pure chance from Pennyblackmusic. The item description for 'Why Do I Get The Feeling Your Mother Hates Me?' talked about a speedy Housemartins, a comparison that undoubtedly made me curious. And sure, the single contained four great poptunes that absolutely made me think about Paul Heaton and his boys. I also soon bought a compilation CD, 'Get Happy With The Haywains', and it soon became very clear to me that the Haywains were a band that I wanted to own more by. But who were these Haywains? The Haywains were formed by six schoolmates in Midsomer Norton, just outside Bristol in England in the spring of 1988. They liked pretty much the same music, and initially especially 2 Tone and punk. The guitarist Paul Towler and singer Jeremy Hunt had a band when they were at school, but they only played live once and the playlist mostly consisted of Undertones songs. The name, the Haywains, was taken from the art world… "We were almost called Jerry Anderson And The Supermarionations until Jeremy's Dad came up with the Haywains" explains Paul. "We'd studied art history at school and it seemed a good idea to name the band after John Constable's famous painting. You often see The Haywain painting reproduced on trashy ash trays, cheap prints, postcards and the like... all kinds of junk culture. The name seemed ideal! I don't think many bands have been named after a painting. The haywain also brings to mind a rural setting which , of course, is the kind of area we live in. PB : Your early influences were bands like the Monochrome Set, the Undertones and Orange Juice ? PT : But we liked all kinds of music, everything that was original or groundbreaking. Later we also started listening a lot to the Wedding Present. PB : Who wrote the songs ?- PT : I wrote most of the songs and Jeremy occasionally wrote some of the lyrics as well. We often had a rough lyrical idea or title first, then the music, then finished off the lyrics to fit around the tune. This wasn't, however, always the case. Some of our songs were written in ten minutes, and some of them took several weeks to write. You just stopped when you were happy with it. The first signs of life from the Haywains came in 1988 when the fanzine Woosh released a flexidisc with one of the issues. Two Haywains songs, 'Bythesea Road' and 'Tobe’s Gone West', appeared on that single, and were both recorded at home in a converted bedroom. By the way, Tobe was Jeremy’s cat… Almost a year later, their first “real” single, 'Fisherman’s Friend', was released on the band’s own label, Emily’s Shop. PT : We only released two records on our own label, 'The Fisherman's Friend EP'and the original vinyl pressing of the 'Never Mind Manchester' LP. It would have been nice to release records by other bands as well, but we never had the money to do it. PB : Was the song, 'Fisherman’s Friend', about the famous brand of sweets? PT : Yes. The song is about the famous brand of sweets. Jeremy was hooked on Fisherman's Friends at the time and he wrote this funny song about them. We sent a demo tape of the song to Lofthouse, the company who make the sweets, and asked them if we could use their design for the cover of our single. To our surprise, they agreed and we were able to use the very same packaging as the sweets for our record cover! I don't know whether they liked the song, but I think they were a bit surprised to hear a record advertising their product! PB : And speaking about the sleeves, is it true that it was you who made them ? PT : Yes, I'm afraid. I used to hunt round car boot sales and junk shops looking for authentic fifties stuff. We didn't, however have computers to do the sleeves back then. Eveything was done by cut and paste in those days. It took ages!!! The first album was the aforementioned 'Never Mind Manchester', which was recorded in the legendary Abbey Road Studio in London, a recording session that Paul counts as one of the highlights with the band. The LP was released on their own label in 1991, and in 1992 Vinyl Japan signed the band. A 12” single 'Rosanna' was released and in 1993, the compilation 'Get Happy With…' made all those hard-to-find singles and compilation tracks available for the world to hear, The second ful length album, 'Desperately Seeking Something' hit the shelves in 1994. The last sign of life from the band that changed members as often as they released a record (14 members in 8 years!), came with the single , 'Why Do I Get The Feeling Your Mother Hates Me, which was released on the Spanish label Elefant in 1995 shortly after that. The band split up shortly afterwards. PB : Why did the band break up ? PT : Several reasons really. We had been doing the same old thing for eight years. The scene was drying up and Marc, our drummer, had moved to Bournemouth. We had always hoped to split up on a high note rather than just fizzle away into obscurity. So, we planned a farewell gig and played our hearts out. Quit while you're ahead was our motto. PB : What was the popscene in the UK like in the late 80’s for a band like the Haywains? PT : Much easier than now. It seemed like everyone was part of the scene back then. If you weren't in a band, you might be writing a fanzine, putting on gigs, running mail order, anything. Bands and fans alike all played a part in a totally self-sufficent scene where everybody was keen to keep things moving. We met so many nice people all over the country in those days. Everybody was totally into the pop scene. A Haywains reunion seems unlikely in the near future, but last year the band played together again for one night only. PT : We did a reunion gig in February 2001 in our home town which was great fun. We were delighted that so many people came after being split up for so long. After the demise of the Haywains, Paul formed the Casswells, but that didn’t last for very long. PT : The Casswells wasn't intended to sound like The Haywains. I think it, however ended up sounding quite similar, but with a slightly more mature edge to the songwriting. The Casswells only lasted a couple of years and we only played around the Bristol area, but it was fun while it lasted. The other members of the Haywains have all abandoned music, apart from drummer Marc, who has a band called Gobstopper and also plays some musical shows from time to time. PT : I do a little bit of DJ work now and again playing old 70's funk and disco records, but the others aren't playing at all these days. Jeremy is an accountant, I am a graphic designer, Marc is a drum teacher, Rachel worked in a hotel and Dave works in an office. They all kept much the same jobs while they wre in the band. Paul, however, thinks that it is better to music as a part-time profession. PT : It's fun doing the band part-time because you know you don't have to rely on making a living from it. We talked about doing the band professionally a few times, but just like any job, relying on music to make a living would take the fun out of it. PB : If you would describe the Haywains to a person who have never heard your songs, how would you describe it? PT : That's a difficult question. Jangly pop? I don't really know. It's probably better to ask someone who wasn't in the band. PB : And finally, what’s your favourite Haywains song? PT : 'Dusty Springfield' or 'Pull The Other One'" are my favourites, although 'Kill Karaoke'was the most popular song at gigs. PB : Thank you

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Haywains - Interview

Haywains - Interview

Haywains - Interview

Haywains - Interview

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