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Biff Bang Pow! and The Laughing Apple - Interview

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 28 / 8 / 2011

Biff Bang Pow! and The Laughing Apple - Interview


Isabel Monteiro, the Brazilian-born frontwoman with London-based dream pop trio Drugstore, speaks to Anthony Strutt about her band's return in a new line-up and 'Anatomy', their first new album in ten years

Isabel Monteiro is the only remaining member of the original line-up of Drugstore. Isabel, who is a chain smoking bass player and vocalist, moved to London from San Paulo in Brazil in the 1980s because of her love of UK post punk bands like the Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen. She formed Drugstore in 1993, which eventually settled on a line-up that also included Daron Robinson on guitar and Mike Chylinski on drums. After self-releasing their debut single, ‘Alive’, on their own Honey Records, Drugstore, whose music had a dream pop sound which they combined with Isabel’s spiky and sometimes spiteful lyrics, went on sign to various labels including Go Beat, Roadrunner and Global Warming. They recorded three studio albums, ‘Drugstore’(1995), ‘White Magic for Lovers’ (1998) and ‘Songs for the Jet Set’ (2001), as well as a B sides compilation, ‘Drugstore Collector Number One’ (2002). Drugstore broke up in 2002 and then went into a several year hiatus. They however, have recently returned on Rocket Girl with their first album in a decade, 'Anatomy', and a new line up. PB: Why did the original band cease to be in 2002? IM: We really never split up. One day, just as we were about to start promoting ‘Songs for the Jet Set’, I woke up and decided I didn’t want to carry on doing the whole musicbiz malarkey thing. Guess I was dead tired of touring and desperately needed a break from it all. It was disappointing both for the band and the label but somehow I just couldn’t see myself doing it anymore. PB: I believe Mike left for America. What happened to Daron? Are both ex members still involved in music? IM: Daron is still living the good life, has a nice business with his partner and occasionally plays music for fun. And yep, Mike went back to the US. One of the saddest things was that years later he told me how depressing it’s been trying to find a meaningful music project to get involved in - the world was filled with rubbish/average bands. I think he’s right. He eventually got his own music/project going, still plays drums and writes music for lo-fi movies in LA. PB: How did you get your current line up? IM: I just advertised on social networks and held open auditions at the Troubadour Cafe in Earls Court, and at our studio in Fulham. Finding the right people was really the hardest thing. We had everything pass through our sieve: people looking to further their own careers, people who were expecting to dig into a pot of gold or my phone contact book (Yuuk!) and so forth. I really was looking for the perfect combo: great musician plus great individual, and those two don’t usually come hand in hand. PB: Is the current line up now solid? IM: The line-up, previewed at the album launch which was at St Giles church, is here to stay: Nick Foot on drums, Jimmy Lazers on guitar and pedal steel, and El Pedro on keys. There’s something here which you just can’t fabricate: a proper little band spirit and great personal chemistry. The whole thing feels right for the first time since I started recruiting, and the music with just the right balance between subtlety and energy. PB: How long did to write the new album, and have you lots of songs left to record? IM: We went through a long period, some three or four years, since we vanished, when I didn’t write anything at all. Then, about three years ago I wrote a couple of tunes, but I was still too busy getting my life back together. Then, two years ago, once I got a little mind-space, the idea of 'Anatomy' started to take shape, a Facebook fan donated a guitar, and I ended up writing a good bunch of songs withing a few months. So, most of it, was pretty much written over a year or so. I have still got a few ideas that I never got the chance/time to look into, and a bunch of lyrics sitting inside a folder. PB: Why not resurrect Honey Records? Why go with Rocket Girl? Are they different from Go Discs and your other previous labels? IM: It’s mainly because we just don’t have the time to do everything ourselves - that’s the bottom line. We all have part-time jobs, so it’s pretty useful having someone else dealing with manufacturing and distribution. All labels are pretty much run under the same music biz structure, the difference with a small indie is that, as the investment is smaller, there is less pressure, less expectation. The whole thing feels a bit more like a homemade project. We were always the kind of band who had complete control over everything we’ve done and made every decision as a band, even when we were stuck on Polygram. PB: How is the non smoking going? IM: I have no idea what you’re on about - where’s my lighter? Dammit! PB: Apart from fighting the council and getting rehoused, what else did you also do in your ten years away from the limelight? IM: I lived by the seaside for awhile/got trained as a graphic designer/had an affair with a very pretty Spanish boy/drank some brandy/planted two olive trees... PB: Are you taking touring lightly now? What are your future plans? IM: The band has no desire to be stuck at the back of white-van for months on end. We’ve done that, and earned every single touring stripe you can think of. We’re in a cool position now when we can do occasional gigs and appearances, and make sure everything we do is quite special, both for fans and ourselves. I’m hoping this coming winter we’re going to be able to do a few shows beyond London, and perhaps a few euro-dates as well. We have got nothing planned. We’re just excited to see what’s going to be coming our way (A cool selection of ponchos are ready!) PB: Will you reuse PledgeMusic and how did it focus you on the making of the new album? IM: Pledge was a real worthwhile effort. It was fun for the band and the fans. We’re privileged to have such devoted fanbase - and I have a feeling those guys are not gonna be going away. So, yep, it’s definitely a possibility, if we really need to, to harness the powers of El Drugstore Lovers to get us back into a studio. It’s very empowering, knowing that we can do it all ourselves, relying not on someone else’s hard cash, but on the love and affection from our supporters. Power to the Drugstore People!

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Biff Bang Pow! and The Laughing Apple - Interview

Biff Bang Pow! and The Laughing Apple - Interview

Biff Bang Pow! and The Laughing Apple - Interview

Biff Bang Pow! and The Laughing Apple - Interview

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Singles (2011)
Fantastic double CD compilation from Creation Records' owner Alan McGee's two bands from the 1980s, Biff Bang Pow! and the Laughing Apple

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