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Airport Girl - Interview with Sean Price

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 28 / 12 / 2003

Airport Girl - Interview with Sean Price


Quirky Midlands indie pop group Airport Girl are moving away from the jangly pop and punk art of their debut album 'Honey, I'm an Artist'. Bassist Sean Price talks to Ben Howarth about the disastrous recording of their forthcoming second album

Airport Girl are a quirky indiepop band from the Midlands. They vary between 5 and 8 members, and have so far released the one album, 2001’s 'Honey I’m An Artist' a joint release between Fortuna Pop and Matinee records. Describing the sound of that record is not an especially easy task, it varies from pretty jangly pop to punky art noise, with plenty of variations in between. When Pennyblackmusic reviewed the album, Matthew Wilson said that it’s “a touching and lively album and something that should please all the real indie kids out there.” I think that rings true still, three years later, so if you missed out on this little gem, but you like bands like Pavement, the Pastels, Belle & Sebastian or the Velvet Underground 'Honey I’m An Artist' might be right up your street. It’s also worth listening to the Guild League and Windmills covers of Airport Girl songs on last year’s Matinee 50 album. Bass player Sean Price occupies the dual role of band spokesman and record boss of the band’s main label, Fortuna Pop. This is his second interview with Pennyblackmusic, but his first in his Airport Girl capacity. The label started first, with Sean putting out the records of another band from “all these little villages we come from where nothing happens”. The band began in a way that seems typical of most indie bands. “In the beginning there was my brother, Rob, sitting in his bedroom writing the songs, which I guess is how most bands begin. Eventually he got it together to put the band together. We wanted to get a band together, and I’ve never really been able to play an instrument and some people might say I still can’t, but we thought that if people were around we’d just do it,. This must have been 7 years ago now. We were all around at the same time. It was summer time and we wanted to do something”. From those humble beginnings the band ended up appearing on BBC TV. “A friend of ours had a dad who worked for the BBC and he got a summer job for the BBC, and this was when 'Match Of The Day' was still on the BBC and a few seasons ago they did a Monday night 'Match Of The Day Extra' for the first four weeks of the season, and they used the B Side to our first single and looped an instrumental part over and over whilst they played the goal action”. There are not many indie bands that can say that they soundtracked one of the best football programmes in television history. “It was one of the most exciting things that ever happened” laughs Sean. “And seemed to completely validate the fact that we were in a band." The band have spent their recent activity soldiering away on a follow up record to 'Honey I’m An Artist', though not with luck on their side. “We started by recording a few tracks but my brother’s house was burgled and they took the recorder that all the stuff was on. Previously we’d always recorded in a studio, but the demos we made at home always seemed to be better than the stuff we put out. Luckily, we had insurance and that meant we could get a brand new spanking 16 track recorder to replace the 8 track.” But the bad luck didn’t end there. Oh no ! The second attempt to record the second Airport Girl album was even more cursed. “It was about this time that our drummer took some time off so his wife could have a baby, and Rob decided that we could record all the tracks and then have him come in last and lay the grooves down. So we did all that, and when it came to lay the drums down, we discovered that unless you’re a shit hot session drummer it just won’t sound right. So we have the world’s greatest demo recorded now, with no drums, and we’re going to have to do it all again.” There is a bright side to this I guess, which is that by the time the album is releasable they should have refined the songs to reach their maximum potential. Indeed also they do have a demo that has been recorded as if it was going to be released to work from, and they have a 16 track machine rather than an 8 track. But the problem is that when Airport Girl album number two arrives in the summer, they will have recorded it 2 and a half times already! The new record, Sean suspects, will disappoint anyone expecting another 'Honey I’m An Artist'. “It’s really, really different. It’s very slow and quite country-ish. A lot more downbeat. Rob wrote the ‘Honey I’m An Artist” songs over about 5 years when he was going through a lot of types of music, and it jumps around a lot, you can really see when he was listening to Pavement or the Pastels, or tweepop or Sonic Youth. It’s a real indie album, but we’re all a lot older now and this is more consistent and grown up, which some people might say is a bad thing. But I think that a lot of people who liked the last one will hate this one, but it reflects what Rob is into now, stuff like Silver Jews and Alistair Roberts.” Even people who have heard the Matinee single released last year, 'Do You Dream In Colours?' won’t have predicted the change in direction. “That single was really the tail end of the 'Honey I’m An Artist' period, written about the same time”. The band's more recent single, 'Salinger Wrote', which has been released on WIAIWYA records, is different again, recorded with the same producer as Tompaulin and Clinic use in Liverpool, and is much heavier with loud guitar parts. So really, as yet, there are few clues as to where the new direction will go. “A guy I know persuaded his mate to come and see us play on the strength of the last record, and I think this guy was quite disappointed actually, that we’re just a slow country band”. It was at this point that I came to the question about influences and have they changed. The sort of question that I ask every single band I ever interview, partly through laziness you might say, but also because I want to know this sort of stuff! In this case, however, it has definitely been answered already, with a big yes. “We still like all the stuff that we’ve been listening to, but we all want to do a serious album that isn’t at all throwaway. The last one was a bit tongue in cheek and we cranked the guitars right up, but this one is completely different”. Unlike some Matinee bands, for example Lovejoy, who hardly ever play live shows, Airport Girl are a fully functioning live act if not prolific tourists. “Last year we played a few shows with the Lucksmiths, because they are our friends and they had come over from Australia so it was good to get out and play with them, but we try not to tour unless it seems really worth it, because John’s got a baby now and I think everybody has a life that it’s much harder to leave behind and tour, but we do try and play every six months or so. We’ll do a tour when the album comes out but it’s only really worth it if there is another band over that we can tour with. If you are a band from London and you have a modicum of profile then you can play a show and get maybe 50-100 people turn up andto see you, but as soon as you go to, say. Leicester you might only get 5 people and that’s really soul destroying.” Sean definitely thinks that life is harder for indie bands now than it was. “I think that it’s very hard for bands to put out a single and have people interested in you. I think the nature of the music press has changed, and you really need major label backing if you’re going to be really successful.” This is such a shame. Airport Girl are one of many bands that do music that is of a good standard, but perhaps no one has been willing to take a chance and put something into mass exposure that doesn’t automatically look as if it should be there, but then if those sort of risks hadn’t been taken in the past, Bob Dylan may have been dropped after his first record, the Smiths might not have been signed, and Belle And Sebastian would certainly have never gone beyond a 1000 copy album run. “Now there’s only one music paper, NME, and that music paper is maybe not that interested in indie music any more. There are ways of getting noticed. John Peel is great, but he only gets so many hours on his Radio 1 show a week. But there are signs of encouragement. I just went to the Track & Field label’s 'Winter Sprinter' gigs and they were sold out every night, and it was great to see bands like Herman Dune (incidentally, Sean’s favourite current group outside of his own label) and Ladybug Transistor getting their dues.' Sean’s role is kind of strange, because he is label boss and a band member. He’s not the only person to be in this position (Andrew Clare from I’m Being Good, Ian MacKaye from the hopefully not splitting up Fugazi and the members of Electrelane with their label spring instantly to mind, and I’m sure there are more) but it’s still an odd situation. “It is a bit difficult. I make decisions with Fortuna Pop as to how much I’ll put into each band on the basis of how well they’ll do, whether I’ll pay for a press officer or I’ll do a vinyl run as well as a CD, but when it’s your own band it’s hard to make those decisions because you want to do the best you can for your own band”. To tie things up, I asked about Airport Girl’s long-term plans. “We’ve just got a new guitarist, a guy called Rob Perris, who was in this band called the Quickies, whose plan was to form for a month, play as many gigs as they could and split leaving a beautiful corpse. He wrote songs in that, and he has another band called the More Paranoids as well. Once we’ve got the slow country album out of our system, we have ideas that the next album will be more upbeat, and more messy and lo-fi, influenced by the Fall and Television or 'Wowie Zowie' era Pavement, because that is the sort of stuff our new guitarist would write and my brother Rob has some songs like that as well, so that might be what you we do next. It might not be, but once the album is finally out, I’ll be interested to see what people make of it, whether people mind that it’s really different from the last one, and then I want to do something completely different. It’ll feel really good to have the second album out. I love having 'Honey I’m An Artist' out. I love the sleeve and I love the fact that people say that they listen to it, it’s good that it’s not just left on the shelves and people do listen to it, and I like it. To have another album out that hopefully people will think is a quality indie album will be good. With Airport Girl we sometimes feel we’re not a proper band. We don’t do things properly or exist in the real world, but the more albums we put out the more it’ll seem real. We put out records, and you know people buy them, but you don’t know if they really play them and you’re never quite sure of your own worth, so the plan is to have as many albums out and make ourselves feel more sure of ourselves.”

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Airport Girl - Interview with Sean Price

Airport Girl - Interview with Sean Price

Airport Girl - Interview with Sean Price

Airport Girl - Interview with Sean Price

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Interview with Sean Price (2007)
Airport Girl - Interview with Sean Price
As a result of a succession of disasters it took three attempts and five years for Airport Girl to record their second album 'Slow Light'. Bassist and Fortuna Pop! owner Sean Price talks to Ben Howarth about it, and the band's development in the process from an indie pop into an Americana act


Slow Light (2007)
Long overdue second album from Airport Girl, who have abandoned their underground indie pop roots to produce a comforting, but more downbeat classic collection of alt. country
Salinger Wrote (2004)
Honey I'm An Artist (2001)

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