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Vetchinsky Settings - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 4 / 5 / 2024

Vetchinsky Settings - Interview


Orchids frontman James Hackett and former St. Christopher guitarist Mark Tranmer talk to John Clarkson about their project Vetchinsky Settings, and its contribution to the 'Under The Bridge 2' compilation.

"There are tears when there should be laughter..." Vetchinsky Settings is a Glasgow-based duo consisting of Mark Tranmer and James Hackett. Hackett is the frontman in the durable indiepop group The Orchids, who released their seventh album and first record in eight years 'Dreaming Kind' on Skep Wax in 2022. Multi-instrumentalist Tranmer fronts his own instrumental project GNAC, and was in the York-based group st. Christopher, who like The Orchids were signed to the influential Sarah Records in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Vetchinsky Settings appear on the 'Under The Bridge 2' compilation, which complies together tracks from former Sarah Records artists in their current incarnations, with the sublime yet melancholic 'Laugh While You Can'. Set against a wash of shimmering keyboards and guitars from Tranmer, it features a glorious vocal from Tranmer reflecting on the cracking of a relationship. In a rare interview, Mark Tranmer and James Hackett. spoke to Pennyblackmusic about Vetchinsky Settings. PB: You were both on Sarah Records with The Orchids and St Christopher. When did you both first meet? MARK TRANMER: I joined St. Christopher in February 1989 to play live guitar/Casio/tambourine and to bolster their live sound, I suppose. I wasn’t involved in any of the song writing. The first time I really got to know the Orchids was when St. Christopher toured Switzerland with them in April ’89, along with The Field Mice. St.Christopher then played Paisley and Glasgow in late September 1989 – at gigs organised by The Orchids - and I stayed in Penilee with Chris Goodhead's family around those gigs. Aside from that, Karen Albrow (nee McDougall) used to write, and I used to come up from Yorkshire to Scotland a lot anyway for hill walking and birdwatching. I had been doing so since I was a child. So, I often stopped at Karen’s in East Kilbride on the way up to the Highlands. Karen also used to send me tapes of the Orchids – live and studio, which I still have. JAMES HACKETT: Yeah, we met on tour and fairly quickly built a friendship with Mark and the other St. Christopher guys. When Mark got in touch after moving to Scotland, it was very easy to pick up our friendship again. PB: Why do you think Sarah Records is so fondly remembered by the bands that released records on it as well as fans thirty years on? What did you both enjoy most about being on Sarah? MT: The DIY principled ethos of the whole thing felt like a good contrast in the yuppie 1980s. Sarah communicated with Glenn Melia regarding St. Christopher - but my interactions with Clare and Matt at gigs etc was always great. I really liked the Orchids before I joined St. Christopher, and well before I met them; I remember buying 'Sarah 2' from a shop on in Sheffield in 1988. The Lyceum 10” is one of my favourite records.# JH: I think Mark is right about the ethos of the label, being the main reason for its longevity, and also the quality of music it produced. PB: Where does the name Vetchinsky Settings come from? There was a film art director and production designer Alex Vetchinsky who worked with Hitchcock. Is it named in tribute to him? MT: I know nothing at all about Alex Vetchinsky the person, but, yes, the name derives from Vetchinsky’s artwork – he did sets for 67 films between 1928 and 1970 – for example, many for Gainsborough Productions, including 'Oh! Mr Porter', starring Will Hay, and worked with Alfred Hitchcock on films such as 'The Lady Vanishes”'starring Dame May Whitty, as well as several “Carry On” films. PB: The Orchids and St. Christopher have recently released their first new albums in a long time. Has it been difficult to record material for Vetchinsky Settings with so much else going on? MT: I left St. Christopher in 1990, but I learned so much from the 16 months I was in the band, and I am really pleased Glenn is still putting stuff out and has retained his independent spirit. JH: It is always a long time in between Orchids records, so, no problem at all. PB: What do you hope to achieve with Vetchinsky Settings which you can’t already do with both your regular projects? MT: For me it’s nice to be working with a vocalist and lyricist again. JH: It has been quite a personal challenge for me, and an exciting one to work away from my childhood friends, So, to stretch my creative ability with Mark has given me loads of confidence and the songs we create are the achievement. PB: How do you write songs together? Do you both contribute lyrics and music? Is Vetchinsky Settings essentially a studio project or do you hope to play gigs? MT: We played France the second week of April.. Those were our first gigs anywhere. JH: The writing is so different for me, Mark sends me a tune with a title, and I try to involve the title in the lyrics, which is fun and challenging. PB: There was an album ‘Underneath the Stars, Still Waiting’and a single ‘Anymore’ in 2019. Have you written a lot of new material since then? MT: The album, single and digital are all on Bandcamp. I record something every week - much of it is for GNAC - so I am always working on tunes. The lockdown meant James and I didn’t get together in person for a while after the first Vetchinsky Settings double album and EP. was released, and maybe we lost some momentum there; no-one following the rules could get together and play live. Plus, there has been a superb new album from The Orchids in the interim. More recently, I have presented James with a new set of musical ideas – and, as he did with the first album, James has been really prolific in adding vocal melodies and lyrics. Exciting times. JH: Yeah, 'Laugh While You Can' is one of a bunch of songs we have on the go. We are excited about ithem all. PB: Why did you choose to put ‘Laugh While You Can’ on the ‘Under the Bridge’ compilation? MT: It was one we had finished after the first album and EP. I have always liked what James did to add to the music. Amelia and Rob approached us for the track for the compilation, and we are delighted to have it included. PB: 'Laugh While You Can’ is absolutely bittersweet, a beautiful tune, but lyrically very bleak and melancholic, and about crushing disappointment. JH: Thank you, glad you like it. It is about a family relationship that has been broken for a while. PB: What plans do Vetchinsky Settings have for the immediate future? MT: Finish the second album and maybe look for a label to put it out, or put it out ourselves. JH: Just keep having fun making new music and playing live and hoping folk like i: PB: Thank you.

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Vetchinsky Settings - Interview

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