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Trembling Blue Stars - Part 1

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 30 / 9 / 2006

Trembling Blue Stars - Part 1


In the first part of a four part interview with Trembling Blue Stars' Bobby Wratten and Beth Arzy, Anthony Strutt chats to them about their group, their forthcoming eventual new album and Wratten's almost 20 year recording history

Trembling Blue Stars were formed by Bobby Wratten initially as a solo project in 1995. Wratten had previously been the vocalist and songwriter with the Field Mice, who, signed to Sarah Records in the late 80's, with their gentle acoustic guitars were seen by many fans of the genre to be the ultimate 'twee' group. The Field Mice recorded a mini-album 'Snowball'in 1989, and released in 1991 both 'Coastal', a compilation of their various Sarah singles, and full-length album, 'For Keeps' before breaking up at the end of the year. Wratten afterwards fronted Northern Picture Library, which featured several of the same personnel as the Field Mice, and whom released an album, 'Alaska' in 1993, which also came out on Sarah, before folding in 1994. Trembling Blue Stars' delicate, but lush sound merges the Field Mice's tender acoustics with more full-bodied keyboards and male/female vocals. Its 1996 debut album 'Her Handwriting', which came out on Shinkansen, Sarah co-founder Matt Haynes' subsequent label, was recorded as a solo offering. By the time of the Trembling Blue Stars' second album, 1998's 'Lips That Taste of Tears', Wratten had, however, expanded his new project into a group. The Trembling Blue Stars have since been through many line-up changes, but currently consists as well as Wratten of Beth Arzy (vocals),Keris Howard, who also fronts Brighton duo Harper Lee (bass) and Jonathan Akkerman (drums. 'Lips That Taste of Tears', and the band's third and fourth albums, "Broken by Whispers' (2001) and 'Alive to Every Smile' (2001) were all released on Shinkansen, but for 2003 compilation, 'A Certain Evening Light' and 2004 fifth album 'The Seven Autumn Flowers' they switched to Spanish indiepop label Elefant. Wratten's lyrics were initially often melancholic and lovelorn, but, possibly as a result of his long-term relationship with Arzy, who used to front fellow Sarah signings Aberdeen (soon to be the subject of their own Pennyblackmusic interview) and who has been in the Trembling Blue Stars since 2001, have in recent years become much more up-beat. They are currently working on the Trembling Blue Stars sixth album, which Wratten says will be his last before he retires from writing music. Pennyblackmusic met up with him and Arzy in Croydon to talk about the Trembling Blue Stars' long musical legacy. PB : Why did you choose Pennyblackmusic to do an interview with ? It would be interesting to see why you chose us. BA : Well, I have a number, a small number, a small list of places I look up on the internet when I'm looking for music, reviews and interviews and stuff like that. I can't remember how I discovered you guys, but you're on my list of where I send things when releases come out. BW : This came about because you were sending off Aberdeen stuff (Laughs) BA : I said to James at LTM, who are releasing 'What Do You Wish For ?',the new Aberdeen compilation "Can you send Pennyblackmusic a copy ?" I e-mailed Pennyblackmusic and also said "Would you like to interview Bobby Wratten ?" PB : Cool. I lived in Croydon for a while from 1988, and I once saw the Field Mice at the Bull and Gate. The Field Mice, however, never played that much as far as I'm aware. BW : No, we did. PB : You never did massive tours though ? BW : No, the band was over very quickly, but in the 3 years we were together we did a couple of tours in the UK. They weren't like 40 dates tours, more like 8 or 9 dates. I remember Sarah Records saying to us before we split up that we should go to the next stage. The band they quoted at us at the time was Kingmaker. It was like "Look at Kingmaker ! They are doing 40 dates, but we were like "Anne Mari (Davis-Ed) is a student. Mike (Hiscock-Ed) and the other people in the band have jobs. How we going to do a 40 date tour unless you start paying us a wage ?" so what we did was use up a lot of our holidays. When the Field Mice expanded to a five piece, we decided to play more as a regular group, instead of just playing every now and again. We did a tour and played places like Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow. And we did a similar thing the next year when we did the 'For Keeps' album, and then we did a French tour, then another UK tour, then we split up (Laughs). PB : There's something about France. Biff, Bang, Pow! split up after a French tour. BW : The French tour was very tense and then we came back and did it again, which was a stupid thing to do but the dates were planned. And that was it as far as we went touring. BA : You went to Japan with the Field Mice. BW : Yeah, there were occasional trips abroad then. We did one off trips, but that was for one or two gigs only. It wasn't day in, day out. There weren't very many of those. PB : Have you always been based in Croydon and have you always lived there ? BW : Yeah, I have never seen either the Field Mice or Trembling Blue Stars as a Croydon band or anything, but we come from fine heritage with Loop and Kirsty MacColl PB : And Captain Sensible. BW : Of course. The strange thing is people think of us as a Bristol band because Sarah came from there. That still comes up. There was never a scene in Croydon at all. PB : Do you record in Croydon ? I assume you do demos in your flat. BW : The strange thing is we have always done all our recordings in Coulsdon which isn't too far away. Basically our producer, who used to live over the road from me, moved his studio in 2000 and I have been recording there ever since. PB : Is that Ian ? BW : Yeah, Ian Catt (ex St Etienne-Ed), so I have always recorded around here apart from radio sessions. The sound of young Croydon, or old, middle aged or whatever(Laughs) BA : Bobby has been mixing an album that we have just been recording. BW : I have been doing that since June. I'm slowly going mad (Laughs). PB : I know Beth's got a job but have you ever worked and had to get a day job? BW : Well... BA : He never wanted a day job. BW : That was exposure to Morrissey at an impressionable age. It does sound silly, but it's been okay recently. It is my job for a better word. BA : We have a card that says "Does not work well with others." PB : Is the new album going to come out on Elefant? BW : Yes. PB : And your past labels were Sarah, Shinkansen and Sub Pop ? BW : Yes. PB : Was that just a licensing deal for America with Sub Pop ? BW : We were doing the 'Broken by Whispers', and Shinkansen said to us "What is the most unlikely label you could be on ? " and I said "Motown" (Laughs. But they said "Seriously !" and then they said "Someone at Sub Pop really likes you and wants to put out the next record." I was in the middle of making an album, and they liked it enough to put it out and then they said "Can they have 1st refusal on the next one too ?" and they put that out too and then they organised an American tour for us. PB : But Sub Pop aren't the grunge label they used to be, are they ? BW : Yeah, at that time they had just taken on the Jesus and Mary Chain. They released 'Munki' in the States. They had St. Etienne too. PB : They put out a 7 inch by the Beach Boys too. BW : So we have shared a label with the Beach Boys (Laughs). The second part of this interview will follow next month

Picture Gallery:-
Trembling Blue Stars - Part 1

Trembling Blue Stars - Part 1

Trembling Blue Stars - Part 1

Trembling Blue Stars - Part 1

Trembling Blue Stars - Part 1

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Interview Part 4 (2007)
Trembling Blue Stars - Interview Part 4
In the fourth and last part of his extensive interview with Bobby Wratten and Beth Arzy from Trembling Blue Stars, Anthony Strutt talks to them about the reissue of their entire back catalogue and why they have decided to abandon live work
Interview Part 3 (2006)
Interview Part 2 (2006)
Interview with Bobby Wratten (2002)


A Certain Blue Light (2003)
Trembling Blue Stars - A Certain Blue Light
The Trembling Blue Stars are about to consolidate their position "as The Great Nineties Pop Band That Never Happened’ with a Best Of or Greatest Near-Hits. David McNamee looks back over their career and finds an odd resemblance in it to Kylie Minogue's

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