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Trembling Blue Stars - Interview Part 3

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 22 / 11 / 2006

Trembling Blue Stars - Interview Part 3


In the third part of our four part interview with Bobby Wratten and Beth Arzy from Trembling Blue Stars, they chat to Anthony Strutt about their live work and their new album which is due for release early next year

PB : The title for 'Her Handwriting', your debut album, came from a lyric by the Go Betweens, didn't it ? BW : There was a couple of things there that it is referencing. One is the Go Betweens which I like. It was also a nice name for the record as it was break up record (Laughs). PB : And 'Seven Autumn Flowers' ? The title for that came from a book of Japanese short stories, didn't it ? BA : Yeah, it did. (To Bobby) That was a book you bought in LA when we were shopping with John (Girgus, Beth Arzy's bandmate in Aberdeen-Ed) there.It was in one of the record shops there. BW : It had nothing to do really with the stories. It was just something that was mentioned within one of the stories. I don't really know what the 'Seven Autumn Flowers' are. BA : They are Japanese herbs which are only available seasonally. BW : The thing with album titles is that there are things that you like the sound of and they just stick in your mind. There's always going to be things during the making of the album or in its build up that you come across which just stick, and that's what happened with both of those titles. BA : The painting on 'Seven Autumn Flowers' was done by the father of a friend of mine and he did it for us specially. PB : I believe you originally began Trembling Blue Stars as a solo project and then formed a band to play behind you to play live. BW : There's been a few line-ups... . BA : It's like Mark. E.Smith. BW : (Laughs) If's it's Bobby Wratten and your grannie on bongers then that's Trembling Blue Stars. With the first record I had no intention of playing live but then I decided to do some things with a three piece. That lasted a little while and then I said "I'm not going to play live again", but then the idea to form a proper group came about and we became a five piece. We got in a drummer and that's when Beth joined and that was the group that toured America and played here a bit. There's been a few line-ups but generally involving the same people. Jonathan (Akerman, drums-Ed)and Keris (Howard,bass-)who were in the five piece have both been involved in the new record that we have been working on. PB : Harvey Williams, who was in the Field Mice and had his own band Another Sunny Day, was in Trembling Blue Stars. Have you done any co-writes with him ? In the Field Mice you were all credited as having written the songs. BW : I haven't ever really done any co-writes. In the Field Mice they were my songs. The writing credits were for whomever played on them, so in a sense each song was a co-write but I don't think we could have really written together because we were all so different from each other. I have never ever written songs with anyone. It's like with me "No! it's too important" (Laughs). I don't know how people do it. I have never done it. The songwriting thing is something that I always do on my own. PB : With this new album how different is it to 'Seven Autumn Flowers' and your other previous material ? BW : I think it is a lot different. PB : I thought 'Seven Autumn Flowers' was quite diverse. BW : This is even more so. We always think this is going to be the last album and I told him that "If this is going to be our last album, then it is our last chance." BW : You should treat each album as if it is your last. It was like when I was 30 I thought I'm going to stop, and now I'm 40 I'm thinking again I'm going to stop. I do think on each album that everything you want to do you should try and do it. Then when you finish an album you shouldn't have any ideas left. And then you can start again and build things up again. That idea has always been there behind all my albums. The strange thing is that I have been doing this album since June, and it is still not finished. We are mixing it now, so it will be finished soon, and it is all that I have known for the last four months. I think it is a good one. I think it is varied, but then I think they all are. BA : There are couple of songs there that he says are bubblegum, are really lightweight, but he is not used to writing pop songs and they are just that, pop songs. The thing is though people are going to hear them and say poor Bobby Wratten. He is still crying over Ann Mari. (Ann Mari Davis, who was in the Field Mice and the early Trembling Blue Stars, is Wratten's former girlfriend and their break-up was the subject of both 'Her Handwriting' and its follow-up 'Lips That Taste Like Tears'-Ed). BW : There are actually no relationship songs on the new album. BA : Even the last album hardly had any on it but a lot of journalists turned it into into that. They had their review written already. All they had to do was press play on their CD player and actually listen to it. BW : I understand that what happens is that with journalists no group's record is more interesting than their first. From a journalistic point of view, it's the first and after that it's another and then another. All I can do, therefore, is try to make the best album that I can and just hope that people will get it and listen to it in one go and listen to each song. I know I am a vinyl fan though living in a CD age and I know it isn't going to happen. BA : No, because the little fuckers are going to be downloading it one song here and one song there off the internet. BW : (Laughs) I was saying to my producer "Is this the end of the album ? Will it just be about individual songs now ?" PB : I don't think people of our age will be affected by it, but the kids of today are a different breed. BW : There are songs on this new album that will confuse people. PB : But that's good when you hear something that you wouldn't expect. BW : In your mind you might think that this is way beyond the last record, but to other people it may just sound like the last one. It is like you're running to stand still. You really have to push the boat out so people know the difference and that it is not just change for change's sake. This record's got some weirder stuff on it and some more poppy stuff and also some Cure-style stuff. PB : When you write do you write mainly with the idea of performing them yourself and then Beth might say "That one will be better for me to sing", or do you write specifically for Beth. How does it work ? BW : I used to just write the songs, and then think about which ones it would be nice for Beth or Ann Mari to sing, but on this record there are songs which have been tailored specifically for Beth to sing. (To Beth) You sing four songs on the new album, and there's another six songs recorded for an EP too, because we are not going to release a single from the album. It's going to be just like the good old days. BA : Just like the Jam used to. BW : Joy Division and New Order never used to put singles on their albums. 'Charlotte Sometimes' by the Cure wasn't on an album. There are two reasons why we are doing that. I really like the idea of a stand off single for one thing. Also the songs which will appear on the EP don't sound like they will fit with the rest of the album. PB : Sometimes a lot of female backing vocals can give a record something of a shoegazing feel. BW : That is something that never really occured to me, but the idea of backing vocals never occured to me until Ann Mari joined the Field Mice and then suddenly it was like a whole new world and since then backing vocals have always been a part of things. When Beth joined, that carried on because Beth loves backing vocals. BA : I'm constantly fighting Ian Catt, our producer, because I come from a 70's background, and the backing vocals on the likes of Helen Reddy's records were so loud they were like duets. I am always saying to Ian "Turn them up" and he is like "It's too loud." BW : I don't think the shoegazing thing is embarassing. BA : He is about to mix a track that makes me sound like Rachel Goswell. BW : We keep on going back to the Cure, but there's not a lot of difference between the Cure and shoegazing. PB : Robert Smith is a big fan anyhow. BW : Yeah, I mean, if you use reverb and guitar effects and lush backing vocals then that's a shoegazing track. BA : I will say to Ian "The backing vocals are meant to sound like My Bloody Valentine" and he is like "Ok" (Laughs). The fourth and final part of this interview will follow next month.

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Trembling Blue Stars - Interview Part 3

Trembling Blue Stars - Interview Part 3

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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 2 (2006)
Part 1 (2006)
Interview with Bobby Wratten (2002)


A Certain Blue Light (2003)
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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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