THE PIPETTES INTERVIEW (FROM THE FUNKY MOFO ARCHIVES)
The Pipettes are the real surprise of 2005. We’ve witnessed them “shaking the house” whilst sharing the stage with the Go! Team earlier in the year, and were well impressed by their freshness, so much so that we too love uniforms, especially boys wearing them! We decided to get in touch with the out-of-this-world band to find out more about uniforms, dysfunctional families and polka dot!
Funky Mofo: First I’d like to ask you (and you’ve probably been asked this zillions of times) what’s in the name of the band? Anything to do with Gladys Knight?
Rose:Kind of, obviously the ‘ettes’ is in reference to bands like to Ronnettes, Velvetettes etc, but also our guitarist who came up with the idea and the name, wanted the band to be a sort of science experiment in some ways, to see what could be achieved with that pop format today, amongst other things…
Riot Becky:Yeah I think it was important that the name signify girlyness etc and also ‘pip’ is close to ‘pop’!
FM: Who’s who in the band? When and how did you start The Pipettes?
R: Well, we have three singers: me, Gwenno and Riot Becki, and then our backing band The Cassette: Seb ‘Beppe’ Falcone (keyboards), Robin Loxley (drums), Jon ‘MC Coleslaw’ Falcone (bass) and our guitarist monster Bobby. He was the one who came up with the ‘concept’ and recruited us all about a year and a half ago. We were all friends of friends or new one or two members independently, but never as a group. But for some reason everything fell into place quite naturally. We’ve all started to write songs and have equal involvement in how the music turns out etc so there isn’t really one fat controller as it were, which makes it quite a healthy working environment.
RB: And it’s always nice to have siblings in the band, makes us feel like one big dysfunctional family.
FM: You cite Phil Spector and Sonic Youth as musical examples that The Pipettes might be using as references (or I misunderstood the blurb on your website?) and some might struggle to understand where you’re coming from on this. Can you shed some light for us?
R: I think the main point is to try and cut through a lot of the snobbery that exists around music. Every member of our band is involved in writing the music, but also have completely different influences ranging from hip hop to folk to punk or whatever and I think that’s what makes it so much fun being in this band and stops it from becoming stale. I don’t think any of us are really very interested in introverted genres. I don’t understand how someone can only be interested in one type of music without becoming bored at some point. Basically what we all have in common is an appreciation of a good tune whatever category it falls in.
RB:Also I think it is very important for us to list bands that aren’t necessarily obvious influences, because all music that you make is influenced by EVERYTHING that you’ve ever heard, not just one or two pieces of music (unless that’s the point in what you’re doing). To use Sonic Youth as an example, they use a lot of discordant guitar parts, which I think is sometimes echoed in what Bobby does. Likewise Robin’s drum parts are often quite hip hop-influenced and this definitely makes us stronger and our music less derivative.
FM: You’ve said (in Plan B) that, if you could, you would tour all the time. What does it mean for you to perform on stage?
R:Well the performance element has been an extremely important part of The Pipettes from the very beginning, and we want to make our gigs more of a show or a spectacle rather than just a bunch of people hiding behind their guitars or whatever. We want people to dance and have a good time when they see us play, and be able to forget about being embarrassed about moving about. There is far too much chin stroking that goes on at gigs and we wanna try and involve everyone in what’s going on stage and make it almost like a party! We haven’t stopped gigging since we started and it has been intrinsic in helping us work out what works and what doesn’t and define exactly what it is we’re trying to do.
RB: It’s the key to The Pipettes. We’re definitely not a studio band, I mean we do sit around jamming in rehearsals, but we’d all go completely stir-crazy stuck in a studio recording constantly. There’d be a bloodbath. So for us performing is a release of steam, we’re all very passionate people and I believe it’s the one place we truly bond and connect. Hopefully audiences feel this too. It’s taking a while, but when an audience connects with us it’s just such an amazing time, less like performing for people, but with people. So much so that at one gig we had a couple invade the stage and they proceeded to dance with each other to near copulation! That’s what we like.
FM: Tell us about the last dream you had…
R:I did have a dream last night but I’ve forgotten it, but the last one I had that I can remember I was being followed around by these two big black dogs and they wouldn’t leave me alone and I had to carry them across a sea and they both nearly drowned cos they were two heavy for me to carry. Hmmm….
RB: I always have such strange dreams that are far too mental and frantic to decipher into a linear structure. However, last night I did have a weight anxiety dream, which I’ve never experienced before, and was so strange it woke me up.
FM: The Pipettes are gaining more followers with every gig the band play. You’re holding a lot of support slots at the moment and I’m wondering if you’re not itching to headline your own tour any time soon? (I know we are, for you!)
R:Yeah that would be amazing. We’ve just come off tour with the Magic Numbers, which was great, and previously with The Go! Team, and both experiences have taught us a lot. We’d love to have our own tour and perhaps make it a bit more theatrical than just a normal gig… With a compere and stuff like that. But yeah hopefully it won’t be too far into the future…
RB: Just for the rider!!!
FM: How many sets of stage costumes do you have? Are you planning on merchandising it at some point? (Wouldn’t it be great, lots of Pipettes walking around?)
R: Unfortunately we only have one set, which is a bit of a problem as we’ve only just had some new ones made and mine has already started to rip in a number of places so I don’t know how much longer its gonna last… We’d definitely like to get a few more made especially if we had our own tour, then we’d like to perhaps involve costume changes…. But yeah maybe one day we could release our own clothing line, we’ve thought of quite a few ideas for merchandise, for example the knit wear the cassettes sport at our gigs, so theirs dresses, and maybe a set of vanity cases or something like that. Basically all things polka dot!!!!
RB:Yeah we can’t escape the polka dot!! We definitely need to express ourselves in our clothes more, but good things come to those who wait. I’m just looking forward to being able to wear flat shoes!
FM: Your lyrics belong to another era, but not quite. They’re cheeky in places, quirky in others and always pertinent (School Uniform!)! What’s your technique/inspiration (if any) to write them?
R:We all write lyrics for our songs so I couldn’t speak for everyone but for me personally I usually think about things that have happened to or girls I know and try and create stories around them. Most of our songs have a narrative and they’re meant to be funny but also things that anyone would understand or be able to relate to. Obviously we have a lot of love songs in the set, and really we’re just trying to talk about girls being girls.
RB:Yeah, mine are more about looking at the way men act in certain situations and interpreting that into a more female mode. But, most of our songs are about love, I think that’s the one real pop essence to our music that hasn’t changed. Hopefully the lyrics are a wee bit more tongue in cheek though.
FM: What’s with the moochers on your forum???
B:I’m not entirely sure what the definition of ‘moocher’ is, but our forum is home to a variety of weird and wonderful characters…
RB:I don’t think any of us really know what a moocher is, but welcome one, welcome all… et al.
FM: You’re releasing your next single ABC/Judy/Simon Says on June 13th with Transgressive Records. Any plans for an album?
R: Things are up in the air at the moment but we’re hoping to record an album late summer/early autumn but you never know with these things so when it happens we’ll make sure everyone knows. We definitely feel ready for it!!
RB:We are desperate to record an album and we’re slowing down the amount of gigs just so we can start thinking about what songs we want and how we want to sound. Hopefully it won’t be too long now.
FM: What are the reasons behind collaborating with Transgressive? (if any)
B: I think they were just into what we were doing and they wanted to help us out so we said ‘sure!’. They’re really nice boys and it we’re really excited about the single, especially because it’s on white vinyl!
RB:I kind of liked the fact that they’re trying to do what Fierce Panda was renowned for, so it was really nice being approached to give a song or three.
FM: What’s your favourite dessert?
R:Um, I dunno, I am a big fan of Eaton mess, raspberries and cream and meringue!! or anything with chocolate in it!!
RB:I love my Dad’s Banoffee Pie, but you can’t beat a good fruit salad . . . with lashings of cream!