Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Shannon and the Clams Interview

Shannon and the Clams are like a time-warp to the glory days of rock and roll. And I don't mean back to the actual 50's/60's... I mean the shiny, trouble-free 50's/60's. The one we see in so many films, like Grease. The one people really mean when they talk about feeling like they were "born in the wrong decade", a romanticised version where only the good remains... and it's a fun place to be transported too!

I originally interviewed the band through email for my zine. I'll write about this in more detail sometime, but I've put my print zine on hold for now, which was partly why I started this blog, as a way to still write about what interests me. Anyway, I didn't want this interview to go to waste (and in a lot of cases, blogs and zines are quite entwined, so why not?).

Firstly, how did you all meet and when was Shannon and the Clams formed?
Shannon: Art school, summer of 2007.

To me, your music has a really distinctive sound, like 50’s/60’s rock and roll with a punky edge, which I love. Is this a style you deliberately set out to play, or did it just come out naturally?
S: Punk and oldies are my favorite types of music, but I don't necessarily set out to write songs that sound that way. I think certain 'oldies' formulas are engrained and programmed in my mind so I naturally write that way. 

I also like that, while your music is fun and great to just blast out loud and dance around to, there’s a sense of genuine emotion in a lot of the lyrics. Do you write about personal experiences/feelings, or a your songs more like fictional stories?
S: Cody and I have really different methods for songwriting. We are both in love with fables and nursery rhymes, old fairy tales, but Cody often uses that love to write his own stories into songs. He is very talented. Warlock in the Woods, Gremlins Crawl, Half Rat... all good enough stuff to be in the creepiest children's story book! I write more about ugg wah wah feelings and stuff. I usually try to disguise the real story though by using lyrics that might make you think you know what I'm talking about but YOU DON'T! Like a diary that written in a secret language. 

Shannon, you also play with Hunx and his Punx. How did that come about? 
S: Hunx asked me to play bass on a short tour temporarily filling in for their original bass player Ian. What was supposed to be a few days filling in turned into touring with Jay Retard and Nobunny and Box Elders!!! We were so compatible that I am still in the band a few years later! I love getting to play with Hunx so much. 

Do you contribute to the songwriting or is it all Hunx?
S: Yes, I write for and with Hunx. Lovers Lane, Curse of Being Young, Bad Boy, the chorus for Keep Away from Johnny (Cody Clam wrote the rest of it!). We are working on songs for a new punk record as we speak!

If there was Clams vs Punx barbecue contest, whose side would you cook on? And, more importantly, who do you think would win?
S: Hmm good question, I honestly would have to run back and forth and help both teams because they both need different things from me. Honestly, the Clams would win because Erin Punkette doesn't eat meats, and Hunx doesn't cook AT ALL and Frankie Frankenstein would rather just eat the meat raw. Clams bbq sauce would be sugar free, and without cornbread or napkins. Just a pile of meat eaten off corn husks. 

Cody, you also play in another band, King Lollipop. Can you tell us a bit about that?
C: Oh, it's just my lil ol solo thing. I started writing these simpler, stupider, sillier songs that didn't really work with the clams, so I thought I should just play them on my own. I couldn't decide on a name and it took a long time before I started performing. I wrote the songs when I was homeless during 2009 and recorded them all in the summer of 2010, then started playing live in winter 2011. I also couldn't decide how to do it live and then I saw the Extra Action Marching band play and decided I should just play with a ton of drummers behind me, because it was fun to watch. It worked, I like it. Someday I want to have an orchestra like Cab Calloway and I could maybe ditch the guitar and just be a singer/creepy dancer.

I love the artwork for the Sleeptalk album. Whose idea was it?
S: Thanks! It started off with a photoshoot by our friend Keith Aguiar, and we just wanted it weirder and weirder and weirder so kep playing around with the images in a collage sort of way. The album is a lot about metamorphosis and mutation and I think that image reflects that a bit.

I hope you checked out the videos, and if you want to know more about Shannon and the Clams, check out their website.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

My Favourite High School Dances... in Movies

Ah, the Teen Movie. I love them, and I feel no shame about this. Of course, growing up and living the the UK, these films bare no similarity at all to my own experiences, but that's okay - I'm not entirely sure they'd be anymore realistic if I had gone to an American high school.

Of course, what would a teen movie be without some sort of high school dance scene? Prom, homecoming, it doesn't matter, all that matters is that it's somehow life-changing/dramatic/IMPORTANT.

To celebrate their greatness and importance, I have put together four of my favourite high school dances gifted to us by Hollywood. Enjoy!

1. The Virgin Suicides
Anyone who has seen The Virgin Suicides will know that, while it is beautiful and haunting and lots of over positive things, it's not exactly a "happy" film. And anyone who hasn't seen it... well, surely the title's a bit of a giveaway?
The Homecoming Dance seems to be the girls happiest moment (that we get to see, anyway). For one night, they seem free. It's the perfect night for them, with Trip and Lux even being crowned king and queen.

2. Pretty in Pink
After being treated like shit by Blane, Andie puts together her own dress and goes to Prom anyway, head held high. It's like Cinderella but better, she's her own fairy godmother.
I also like that Duckie didn't go all Nice Guy Syndrome and make her feel guilty for wanting to forgive Blane - he was a true friend, and I hope he had a great night with Buffy (Kirsty Swanson, that is...). 
I'll be honest, I do have a few issues with Andie's final dress - who doesn't? - but, y'know, she seems to like it, so I guess it's all good!

3. 10 Things I Hate About You

Ugh, the PERFECT Prom! First of all, Save Ferris are playing... THEN Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo shows up, WHAT?!
I loved how Joey got all pissy because NO ONE LIKES HIM and he tries to ruin everyone's night. But, guess what Joey? It all worked out okay in the end and POW! Bianca just punched you in the face.
While Kat is obviously my favourite character, I cannot express my love for Bianca's Prom dress enough. Really, it wasn't even a dress! It was a cool pink cropped top and a poofy pink prom skirt - a big pink "fuck you" to the conventions of Prom dresses! Or, y'know, just 90's fashion, I don't know...

4. Mean Girls
Ah, Mean Girls. Miss Lohan's finest work... to date. I'm still rooting for her comeback.
Cady was so great, she didn't even need a dress to go to Spring Fling. She rolled up in her mathletes jacket and shared her crown with everyone. Thanks to her magical powers, she was able to just keep breaking up that crown without ever running out of pieces... I guess she used her maths skills or something?

What are some of your favourite high school film dances? I've only talked about four here, as we all know, there are MANY more!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Strawberry Switchblade

If you were to have a glance through my wardrobe, you'd know straight away that I love polka dots. I was thinking about my love of polka dots yesterday (like you do!), and thought I'd write a post about the QUEENS of polka dots... Strawberry Switchblade.

Of course, they were much more than just polka dot queens; they were an awesome synthpop duo (made up of Rose McDowall and Jill Bryson) in the early 80's.

If I'm honest, I fell in love with them before I'd even heard them, based purely on seeing this picture:

I quickly took to the rest of the internet to hear as many songs as I could, and find out every last detail of these ladies.

The first song I managed to listen to was Since Yesterday, and I was surprised at first, it wasn't at all what I expected them to sound like! On first listen, there music is quite poppy (don't get me wrong, I like a bit of pop), but then you start to notice the lyrics, the harmonies, all the subtleties that make their music so addictive.

In a way, it reminds me a bit of The Birthday Massacre; they're music is very synthpop-influenced, but the lyrics are often much darker. I read somewhere (I wish I could remember where!), I think possibly an interview with the band... someone said the name was a good reflection of their music; sweet and happy sounding, like a Birthday, but with darker undertones (the "massacre").

You could definitely apply this theory to Strawberry Switchblade's music.

They weren't around for that long, only releasing one album and a few singles, so I guess it's not unsurprising that, without the internet, I had no idea they ever existed. Like a lot of great things though, they were really popular in Japan.

Check out the video above, if you haven't already, and try listen to some of their other stuff. I'm going to talk a bit more about their style, and the influence I think it's had on me.

Their style definitely has elements of Lolita fashion to it, which I love. I discovered Strawberry Switchblade a couple of years before I'd even heard of Lolita, let alone the many substyles attached to it. Lolita, and other Japanese street styles, were the first kind of fashion blogs I used to read and I still love those styles (there are too many to list here, I'd rather talk about them in their own posts and give them the attention they deserve!) today. Rose and Jill were the first girls I thought of when I first saw these blogs.

 Of course, this was the 80's, so the hair is BIG. These ladies weren't concerned with sticking to the trends though, so they often took their big hair further, usually by adding lots of polka dot ribbons and big bows or flowers.

I think it's only fair to give these ladies at least SOME credit for my love of synthetic dreads, hair falls etc. I plan on making some falls adorned with polka dot ribbons myself sometime, I'll be sure to post a picture when I do.

Polka dots aside, I think it's the DIY ethic that lies at the heart of the Strawberry Switchblade style. While I've dabbled in making things, it's only now that I've decided to take it a step further and actually make things on a regular basis, a process I plan to chronicle on this blog. I guess it doesn't hurt that a Hobbycraft store has just opened here!

Important Life Band #1: Hole

So, following on from my last post, I’m going to talk about a band that’s important to me. There are quite a few bands that fall into this catergory for me, so this won’t be the only one of these posts – I will be spreading them out though, so don’t panic (I know you were going to, it’s cool).

The first band I’m going to talk about is Hole.

At 11 years old, I wasn’t the most popular girl at school (I wasn’t really popular at school at any point, though, thankfully, I did reach a point where it stopped bothering me so much). I was in my bedroom one night, I think I’d just been doing some art homework, and I switched my little telly on. In the UK, we had this music show called The O-Zone, and that was what was on at the time.

I was only half paying attention when the video for Celebrity Skin came on. I immediately loved what I was hearing and looked up to watch the video. I was in awe, especially of Courtney and Melissa. They just oozed this confidence that I couldn’t even imagine feeling. And Courtney had this strong voice, I’d honestly never heard anything like it.

I knew nothing about this band or its members, only that I wanted to hear and see more.
It was a while before I got to hear or find out more about them. We didn’t have a computer at the time, and the only time they popped up in any of my magazines was when Top of the Pops reviewed the Malibu single.

One morning, on the school bus, Celebrity Skin came on the radio. It was quiet, a bit hard to hear over everyone else talking, but I recognised it and was excited to hear it again. This might sound a bit weird, but I used to sing the tune of the chorus (I couldn’t remember the words!) in my head during particuarly bad times at school… I guess it worked as a coping mechanism, helped block out some of the more unpleasant things people said to me.

Fast-forward about a year-and-a-half  – we get a computer! Weirdly, it took me a few months to even think about looking up Hole, or any other band. One day at school, my best friend at the time asked if I had Napster – this was back in the good old days when Napster was free and, y’know, less than legal. I went home that night, downloaded it, and so began my journey in finding a lot of bands I still listen to now.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that these were pre-broadband days, so downloading songs took time! But I slowly managed to build up a little file of Hole songs, which I played almost every day… it was a bit of a random selection, no full albums. A few tracks from each one, and some live stuff, including their Paradise City cover!
I used to look for their albums in shops every weekend, but there never was anything. My parents were a bit weary of ordering anything online at first (though to be fair, most people’s parents were at some point!), but eventually my Mam let me order the Celebrity Skin album.

After a painful weekend of waiting, it finally arrived! It was all I dreamed it would be, and more!

It wasn’t long after this that the shops in my city actually started to stock a few Hole CD’s… Guess I started a trend :-p

Of course, they may have been there, but I couldn’t buy them instantly, because, well, money. But my collection did slowly grow, as did my love of all things Hole/Courtney Love. Poppy Z Brite’s biography of Courtney became something of a bible for me, and eventually Live Through This eventually grew to be my all-time favourite album.

Then there was the year when Courtney and Melissa both released solo albums. I know Courtney’s solo album didn’t always get the most positive of reviews, and I’ll be honest, it’s far from a perfect album. I do really enjoy some tracks though (I’d say I really like half of the album, the other half, it depends of my mood, skipping may occur…). I certainly don’t regret buying it.

I think if I had to choose a favourite though, Melissa’s solo effort would win. It was interesting to hear her singing lead vocals (I always really liked her backing vocals from the Celebrity Skin era); her voice is quite different from Courtney’s, I think that’s why they sounded so good together.

I find her whole album more enjoyable on a whole, I especially love Skin Reciever. I was able to see her play at the Leeds Festival that year too, and meet her in the signing tent! I was ridiculously nervous as she signed a picture for me, but she was really nice – even complimented me on my Green Day t-shirt (they were playing that day too)!

It was great seeing her live, I’d managed to push my way right to the front. My favourite moment was when she played Good News – it was the b-side to Follow the Waves, so I never really expected her to play it. It was just her and her bass, she talked about how it was the first song she wrote… I’d got a bass myself six months earlier, so it was really inspiring to see someone play a song solely on bass, especially someone I already found inspiring, musically.

When I was at college, I cemented my love for Hole even further by getting a tattoo.

It’s a crossed-out heart, taken from one of their logos. There are quite a few Hole fans out there with this tattoo actually! And on another note, it’s surprisingly awkward to photograph your wrist!

Things were quiet on the Hole-front for a while, with the band technically being broken up. In 2010, Courtney announced that Hole was back… although, in terms of the line-up, it was more like Courtney + three strangers. They released an album, Nobody’s Daughter, which, while it was no Live Through This, wasn’t too bad! It gained mixed reviews, but overall, people seem to like it a lot more than Courtney’s solo effort. In fact, at the risk of having things thrown at me… I think if the band had recorded another album after Celebrity Skin, it probably would have sounded something like this *runs for cover*.

I was able to see this version of the band live that year, at Manchester, and loved it! Of course, given the choice, I’d have preferred to see an earlier line-up (or at the very least, Eric being involved), but I can’t lie, I was happy to see Courtney in the flesh, and the band gave a great performance. Y’know what, why am I trying to play it cool, despite everything I loved every second of it!

It’s anyones guess what will happen in the future, in terms of the band. They did all reunite at a screening of Hit So Hard, a documentary on Patty Schemel’s battle with drug addiction, so who knows, maybe something will happen. Even when things go quiet though, I still love Hole and their music, and listen to them on a regular basis. They’ve been a big part of my life since I first heard them, and I know I’ll always be a fan.
So, I hope that wasn’t too long and boring, assuming anybody read all of that! As I said in my last post, if you’d like to talk about a band that mean a lot to you, get in touch :)

Everybody Likes To Play It Safe

A couple of months ago now, one of my favourite musicians, Kate Nash, debuted her new song called Under-Estimate The Girl. It’s a glorious, raw punk-fuelled track, showcasing Kate’s talent and ability to completely ignore the “rules” of sticking within the lines of one particular genre.

The track had a mixed response, in the way that anything released by a semi-mainstream female musician, that ISN’T polished beyond belief,  always is. While this is wrong in itself, it seems that a lot of people don’t realise that there’s more to Kate than the piano-pop of her breakthrough single Foundations; her first single Caroline’s a Victim was hardly a sparkly radio-friendly  tune, and had mixed reactions from the MySpace crowd.

Similarly, in 2010, before the release of her second album, Kate uploaded a track online called I Just Love You More (a track I also loved) which received an almost identical reaction across the internet.

The truth is, Under-Estimate the Girl isn’t much of a change in direction at all for Kate. Back in 2008, she released Model Behaviour as a b-side to Merry Happy, a song that was very much in the same vein.

I love that Kate isn’t afraid to mix things up and just make whatever music she feels inspired to make, be it riot-grrrl-inspired grungey punk, 60’s girl group pop or quirky piano pop… To me, it makes her music more genuine, after all it would be easy for her to just churn out another Made of Bricks and ride on that success until people get bored.

A day after the song was released online, Heat magazine (ugh, I know) posted a poll on their website, something along the lines of “Do You Miss The Old Kate Nash?” This is another thing I hate about the way (mainly female) musicians are treated… Why does someone have to stick to making one style of music. Very few people, if you really look through their music collection, listen to just one style of music, and that’s fine, if anything, it’s respected. Why doesn’t that rule apply to MAKING music?

Can you imagine if YouTube had existed in the early 90’s, what kind of comments would an early Bikini Kill song have garnered? Probably a lot of similar criticisms… Have times changed much at all?

Personally, this song has only made me even more excited for the new album… And I was already pretty excited after reading that Kate was partly inspired by the women in Quentin Tarantino’s and Russ Meyer’s films.

It isn’t just her own music that Kate spends her time on; she also produced an album for New York band Supercute! Aside from music, since 2007, she has also co-founded two charity organisations and worked with self-harming girls in Harrow.

After posting a response to the criticisms of her new song on her Tumblr, Kate also announced a new series of posts she’d be making, called Be Yourself, You Fabulous Stain where she encourages fans to send her demo’s of their own music (no matter how lo-fi they may be… and yes, I did send her something!) and posts them for all to see… Or hear.
Kate has also been going around schools in the UK with her Rock and Roll for Girls After-School Music Club, aimed at helping young girls to feel more confident about experimenting with music, an idea she came up with after seeing Kathleen Hanna talking about the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls that takes place in the US. She’s one of the few remotely mainstream musicians in the UK who are openly feminist… The fact that this is even noteworthy is pretty sad in itself, but who knows, maybe she’ll help educate a few people.


First posts are always so awkward, aren’t they?

So, hi, my name’s Stacy. I’ve put out print zines in the past, and am still working on getting back into that, but I thought I’d also start a blog. Cos I’m greedy, and I want the best of both worlds. Plus, it's one of those things I've been wanting to do, but never quite got round to doing it. I'm sure you know what I mean :)

 Finally, the day has come where I stop thinking about it and actually do it.

This is really just a place to write about things that interest me, or that I think are important. Probably like a lot of other blogs, but hopefully someone will find it interesting!