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Talulah Gosh - Interview

  by Paul Waller

published: 15 / 1 / 2014

Talulah Gosh - Interview


Influential indie pop artist and front woman Amelia Fletcher talks to Paul Waller about her first band Talulah Gosh, who have a new compilation album out, and her other groups Heavenly, Marine Research and Tender Trap

I discovered Heavenly first thanks to my Calvin Johnson and K Records obsession as a teenager, and it was the ‘She Says’ 7” that was my introduction to twee indie pop as a scene. Before this I thought that Beat Happening were out there on their own. I had no idea the UK had sprouted all these great bands. Later, I found out that the Heavenly singer Amelia Fletcher was in a new band called Tender Trap, and that before she was in Heavenly she was in a somewhat ground breaking outfit called Talulah Gosh. Not only this but just before the turn of the millennium she was a member of Marine Research, who released the fantastic ‘Sounds from the Gulf Stream’ LP that I’d owned and loved for years. I had simply never put the two together. For somebody that has produced and is still producing a fantastic body of music, is a professor at the University of East Anglia and is raising a young family, it was somewhat of an honour for Pennyblackmusic to take half an hour out of her schedule for a chat about ‘Was It Just a Dream?’, the new Talulah Gosh compilation LP which has recently surfaced on Damaged Goods, but when something this enticing comes along needs must. PB: The first time I saw you wasn’t watching you play live, but it was when you put on a solo Calvin Johnson show during Broadstairs folk week a few years back. There is an obvious friendship there. How did you two hook up for that? AF: I’ve known him for years. Obviously we did the ‘She Says’ single together, but I knew him before that single. We had been over to the States and played with him, and he has played with us over here. So, he was over here doing a tour, and I mentioned that it was Broadstairs folk week and that I would try and get him to play. I tried to get him in some venues but I couldn’t get him in any of them, and he just said, “Well, I’ll just play anyway!” We’ve actually done it twice now. PB: I saw him the second time, outside your house I believe. It started to rain before he played for a bit, and you went inside and offered my wife your umbrella. AF: Yeah, the house next door to where he was playing is ours. He played in the square. PB: It was one of the greatest moments that I have experienced in my life, firstly watching that incredible solo performance and then to meet Calvin in person and shake his hand. It’s something I will never forget. AF: Well, l I really enjoyed it too and I would really like to get him to come again but he doesn’t often travel to these parts. It’s not that he is elusive so much. It’s just that it’s a very long way for him to travel. PB: I did interview him once a few years ago shortly after his traffic accident and he was a very difficult interview, and yet when I met him in person he was much more forthcoming and warm. AF: I think if he can see you it would be a lot easier. But there are two things. It depends how relaxed he is, and obviously when you met him in Broadstairs he was obviously relaxed playing in a courtyard with the family there. I think though that he is quite careful with what he says in interviews. Having said that, however, I have read some very good interviews with him, I think he is just a bit random. PB: That’s true. I remember him being very forthcoming in an interview with ‘Punk Planet’ many years ago. He did have a bad accident to be honest, and I spoke to him just after that. AF: That’s probably it because I remember that just after it he was struggling with his speech, which may well be what was going on. It’s probable that he was literally struggling to speak to you. By the time you had got to see him at Broadstairs he was back to himself though. PB: Well, I think we should probably turn the interview on you at this point. The new compilation, ‘Was It All Just a Dream?’, features all those great early Talulah Gosh 7” singles that I haven’t been able to find. and so for a fair few people, myself included, this may well be the first time they have heard these early songs. It’s a long time ago now, but do you remember recording them? AF: The main thing to remember is that we were a really new band and we were picked up early before we had really learned to play, so it was quite a novel thing, going in and recording. We had no idea about things such as click tracks or about using different instruments. I think it must have been quite difficult for those people that were recording us because they had to give us quite a lot of guidance, but fortunately we did have some pretty good people doing it, particularly on the ‘Talulah Gosh’ and ‘Bringing up Baby’ singles. They were done by a guy called John Rivers who was really very professional; he also worked on ‘Ghost Town’ by the Specials. But even on those first couple of singles it was funny because we had really strong ideas on certain things. For example I was listening to ‘Just a Dream’ the other day, and I suddenly remembered that the tambourine pattern on it is really odd and quite random, but Elizabeth Price (Talulah Gosh co-vocalist – Ed) was really determined that it had to be exactly like that. Actually Elizabeth and myself met up and played together recently at a Helen Love show, so I had to re-work out that tambourine part. I, however, failed to do it as it was way too eccentric. PB: Is there going to be any chance of Talulah Gosh getting back together to do maybe even a full one off show? AF: I don’t know. We did one especially for Ian (Damaged – Ed) who put the album out as it was his fiftieth birthday, and it was also the twenty-fifth year anniversary of the Damaged Goods record label, so we just did it as a special thing. I think if we had been brilliant we may have felt inclined to do it but how can I say it?…We weren’t as bad as we expected, but I would say that we were far from brilliant. We certainly don’t have any plans for it. PB: When you first held a record of yours in your hand, it must have been a great feeling. Did you think the world was your oyster at that point? AF: No (Laughs). We genuinely didn’t think that. It was really exciting, and we were really pleased to have singles, and they immediately did pretty well. We were extraordinarily lucky in that, that we managed that at such an early stage. We had a full page spread in the ‘NME’ before we had recorded anything, so people were ready and waiting for these singles, I think they even got into the Indie Top 40. So yes, they did well, but I think we secretly thought we were rubbish and we pretended that we thought that we were quite good. So, we didn’t think that the world was our oyster at all. PB: I remember when Huggy Bear were on the front cover of I think ‘NME’ or ‘Melody Maker’ before they had anything out. AF: Yeah, that was the same guy actually, Everett True, who put them on the front cover. It was ‘Melody Maker’ I’m sure as he was the editor at the time. He called himself the Legend at that point and he loved them. Yeah, Huggy Bear were brilliant and they deserved it. PB: Of course things with Taluluh Gosh may well have got even crazier. I read at one point you were offered a major label deal, but turned it down because of university commitments. Is there much truth in that? AM: I don’t know in actual fact if they were going to sign us, but they did invite us to a meeting. As I walked in, I thought that the last big band that they had was a band called Darts, and they were not really like us at all, and that makes me wonder if it would have ever happened. They were quite square, but they had heard that there was this burgeoning indie scene, and I think that they wanted a piece of it so they invited us along. I think they just assumed that we would all be willing to give up university or whatever we were doing to be pop stars, and I am sure lots of people would do. It wasn’t, however, for me. PB: That university education led to you getting the job of being Chief Economist at the Office of Fair Trading that you held for many years and indeed your current job also holds an incredibly grand title, being the Professor of Competition Policy at the University of East Anglia. Now these jobs must take up so much of your time. You also have a family and are still in Tender Trap. It must be tricky juggling all these activities. AF: We just work pretty hard at it, plus we never really watch TV and do things that a lot of people do for recreation, but to be honest we haven’t spent that much time on the band. There was a period where the kids did take over the band, so we just didn’t do it for a bit, but then the kids got less demanding and we really missed doing music, and so we found a way to do it again. It is hard though. We get offered the chance to go to America or go to this or that, but we usually have to say no. It’s not even the time so much that it would take; it’s the complexity of it. PB: It’s a grounded attitude for sure. To the outsider it appears that even though your career has had many stops and starts that you will always be there championing indie pop. AF: It’s just the music that I understand and know the best. One of the reasons that Talulah Gosh stopped and there were many of them, but one of them was that dance music was getting very popular around 1988 with house and dance music. Everyone kind of went off indie music. Even I thought that indie music was on its way out, so after I finished my final exams I decided I would make a disco record. In fact it was the only time in my life that I had actually taken out a loan that I couldn’t really afford. I borrowed that just so I could record it properly, and it was £1,500 which at the time was a lot of money. So, I went and recorded it and I was really proud of it as well because it sounded to me like it was a proper house record, not that I could claim to really know what that is, but I sent it off to a few places. I got one or two letters back saying, “Well, it’s quite good. Send it to us again when you have recorded it properly.” It just showed that I really didn’t know what I was doing, so yeah, even though indie music isn’t really fashionable at the moment it is what I love and it’s what I know. PB: What is it like? AF: Oh, dear. If you type Amelia Fletcher into YouTube it’s on there. It’s terrible, really terrible. PB: Those three main bands that you have been in,Talulah Gosh, Heavenly and Tender Trap. Could you choose between them if push came to shove? AF: That would be difficult. I would have to say that Tender Trap is the closest to me now, but in an objective way I can see that it is less radical than either Talulah Gosh or Heavenly were in their own ways. Talulah Gosh was quite mad and, therefore, quite groundbreaking. In a way Heavenly took those ideas that we had in Talulah Gosh and made a really clear progression on them, developing them into a coherent type of sound. I like that you can see clear stages with Heavenly with that Brit Pop madness at the end. I can see that, even though I love Tender Trap, I know that we are not groundbreaking. PB: Heavenly, with those jangly guitars in particular, allowed me to experience listening to pop music in a whole different way. AF: I have to admit that it is the kind of pop music that I still like the best. Because of my children I still listen to pop stuff today, things like Taylor Swift but when I hear it I am like aaaaw (disgruntled noise). Give me Allo Darlin’ any day. Objectively you can tell that it is good, but it just doesn’t make me happy. PB: Final question. Do you have any future plans for Tender Trap? AF: Not really, because we have recently moved out of London which means that once again logistically it’s proving hard to keep up with Tender Trap, so I think what is clear is that Rob (Pursey, Fletcher’s partner and Tender Trap bandmate - Ed) and I will continue doing something because we are already missing it. It has been eight months now since we gigged and we are getting really itchy fingers, but we are not quite sure what it will be at this stage. PB: Would you be up for one final show with Tender Trap? AF: Well I don’t know. I think the members of Tender Trap would all be up for continuing in some shape or other. We developed into a really good fun band, and we all get on really, really well. And of course the other thing we are getting asked now quite a lot is whether Talulah Gosh will go out and play places, and on the one hand you think that would be really nice to go to Tokyo or New York, but then on the other hand we think we should just let bygones be bygones. PB: Thank you. Since the interview, Amelia Fletcher was appointed OBE for her services to Competition and Consumer Economics in the 2014 New Year Honours list. A huge congratulations from Pennyblackmusic.

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Talulah Gosh - Interview

Talulah Gosh - Interview

Talulah Gosh - Interview

Talulah Gosh - Interview

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Interview Part 3 (2006)
Talulah Gosh - Interview Part 3
In the third and final part of our interview with Amelia Fletcher, she talks about her work with Heavenly, Marine Research and Tender Trap, and the suicide of Heavenly's drummer, her brother Matthew, in 1996
Interview Part 2 (2006)
Interview Part 1 (2006)


Was it Just a Dream? (2013)
Elative and totally compelling twenty-nine song compilation from short-lived but influential 80's pop act, Talulah Gosh

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