It's Sunday afternoon, it's scorching hot and Miss Black America are knackered. Drowned in Sound met up with them before their home town gig in Bury St. Edmunds.
Ellen: 'How are you feeling about tonight?'
Seymour (lead vocals, guitar): 'Well it's our home town, and it's quite nice because usually lots of people come and see us...but it's Sunday so I don't know if anyone will be that bothered cos they were out last night'.
E: 'You've done a lot of gigs lately, how have they been going?'
S: 'They've all been going pretty well, with the exception of the one in London at the White Hart, which was the most disastrous gig. But apart from that, they've all been brilliant. It's getting to the point now where there's a bit of a buzz about us, but no one's really heard us. People know the name now, as a result of having an advert in the NME. The only way to get anybody to know you is by paying for it, or by getting a major record label to pay for it for you'.
E: 'And you've been played on John Peel's show. Is it true that he's coming tonight?'
S: 'Yeah, apparently. His wife phoned earlier and asked for directions. We did a session for him on Wednesday, but we don't know when it's being broadcast yet'.
E: 'So when did Miss Black America form?'
S: 'We bumped into each other at a drum and bass gig in Cambridge. I was stood at the bar, sozzled, and Mike (bass) comes up to me and says "You're in a band aren't you?", buys me a drink and tells me that I'm going to be in a band with him. He called Neil (drums) over, and said "Do you want to be in a band?" and he said yes. And that's it'.
Neil: 'I was fucked so I didn't know what I was getting myself in to'.
E: 'Why did you choose your name?'
S: 'I bought the album 'Miss Black America' by Alec Empire, and it looked brilliant on a t-shirt for one thing...and then I heard the song 'Miss Black America' by Curtis Mayfield, which was written as an equal rights song, saying 'Look we're such beautiful people and so beautifully equal'. But that could be applied to any situation where one set of people is seen as less than anyone else. It's certainly the case in our hometown, a really small town where anyone who stands out a bit and is different is looked down upon by everyone else. In this town, all young people in general are seen as evil. We're constantly told so by the councillors. You could apply that message that we're all worth something and just because you're different doesn't make you bad. Whatever you have that makes you different, makes you special. And if you learn to use what it is that makes you special, you can be very powerful. I think people need to realise that'.
E: 'So you'd say that your songs have a pretty serious message, rather than just being created for the audience to have fun?'
S: 'I don't think there's anything wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with songs being written about nothing in particular, it's just that I'm incapable of doing it'.
E: 'Are all your songs written from personal experience?'
S: 'Most of them are yeah. They're all very honest anyway. Everything I put into a song is what I think, it's not a case of being like Limp Bizkit, where thirty year old men are complaining about their lives, cos that's bollocks. With bands like Limp Bizkit, it's clearly bollocks. Everything I write is true more or less. I haven't necessarily experienced everything I write about...'
Gish (guitar): 'It's also a lot about writing about the people that are around you. You don't always sit there and sing songs about yourself. If you look at the area around you, and the people around you, you can write in the third person. As if you're writing your point of view as someone else'.
S: 'Not necessarily in a Damon Albarn sort of way...'
G: 'In particular 'Roadkill'...'
S: 'Yeah, 'Roadkill' - I've never fucked my sister, but you know that it goes on. A lot of the time it's just things that Mike and Neil say which crack me up'.
E: 'Is it true that you will never sign to a major record label?'
S: 'It isn't just the case of never signing to a major label, it's a case of not being ready to throw everything away. Too many record companies, and indie labels are just as bad, are out to swindle you basically. Major labels are particularly bad for it, very few would give anyone a really good deal'.
G: 'I think if you've got some integrity about your band, and you're gonna shout about the ills of the world from the top of your voice, then you have to be conscientious about the label that you choose. If you're gonna sign to a label that's part of an enormous company, that y'know, endorses child labour or invests in places that it shouldn't, then you're going to make a fool of yourself. If you start giving your money away to people like that, and then shout against it, it's just dumb. So you find a label that needn't necessarily be small, but has the same amount of integrity and the same sort of political leaning that you do,....'
S:'...that will let you do want you want to do. Because we've got very strong ideas about how we want to be presented, what singles we want on our album, what we want our videos to look like. We're marketing ourselves, we don't want a major label to make you do something that makes you look like twats. Also we don't want to be sucking cock. I find it amazing that bands like Garbage and Ash are signed to a label which is owned by Rupert Murdoch'.
G: 'You spend four, five years generating an image for yourself and generating a sound for yourself, and then go and sign to someone who then tells you "No, we don't like this", like Nirvana and like the Coxons, people like that who've been told "Go away, we write this, we want three minute pop songs, all this experimental stuff's bollocks'.
S: 'If Nirvana hadn't of been in such a strong position, then they would never have been allowed to release 'Incesticide', and that's a genius piece of work, but it's not commercial and at the end of the day, all that major labels are interested in is making money. And it's a hippy thing to say, but money isn't the be all and end all. If we're saying to people 'Whatever you've got to say, just scream it from the top of the highest building', whilst being muted by the record label, it would just be ridiculous'.
E: 'Is it also true that you were asked to do a song for the Pokemon movie?'
S: 'It's true. It was the most surreal thing. This chap comes up to us after a gig and says "Ah yeah, I can tell you really want it, you're hungry for fame, I'm gonna make you famous!" And he took us off to a studio, and the first thing he told us was that we didn't need a drummer. He offered to help us with the lyrics: "If you need any help, I'll write them with you". He made us write a song that actually turned out quite well, but after that he's saying "Yeah, we're gonna get you writing a song for the Pokemon soundtrack. It will be like that song 'Mum's Gone to Iceland', that didn't harm that band did it?! I've already got some lyric ideas", which you can imagine can't you: "I brush my teeth with Pokemon! At night I go to sleep with Pokemon sheets!" or something. That's the kind of thing they wanted'.
G: 'It wasn't a music studio though was it? It was made for doing adverts, for doing voiceovers and wildlife programmes'.
S: 'It was one of those soul-vacuum song factories. If we'd done it, we would all have been living quite comfortably now, we just wouldn't be able to leave the house. Through shame'.
G: 'I suppose there's the Atari Teenage Riot option isn't there? Make one appallingly pop album, milk it for every penny it's worth...'
S: 'Yeah, sign to a major label, make loads of money, and then start doing what you really want, get dropped by the label and keep all of the money. But we're impatient so we wouldn't do that kind of thing'.
E: 'Seymour, you've managed to get a reputation for being quite scary. Your defence?'
S: 'My defence?'
G: 'Why does he need a defence for that?'
S: 'Well clearly I'm a kitten'.
G: 'I think it's quite good that you're frightening'.
E: 'So you toured with the Dandy Warhols but you didn't get on with them at all?'
S: 'Yeah, they've kind of done the whole rock star thing. It was their whole attitude, the way they sneered at us as when they walked into the building. They walk around doing the whole rock star thing'.
G: 'They do, they do. The American rock star arsehole show'.
S: 'They wouldn't even lend me their eyeliner, saying something about eye diseases'.
E: 'Which is the best gig you've ever done?'
S: 'London. Upstairs @ The Garage. Mike and Neil were so ill'.
Neil: 'I was being sick and I had severe diarhorea. I was just in the toilet all night. The only time I wasn't in the toilet was when I was on stage'.
G: 'You were so sick it was frightening. You scared the shit out of a lot of people'.
S: 'People kept on asking me what drugs I was on that night, but it was just sheer fear that my bandmates were gonna die on stage. Sheer adrenalin and whiskey'.
E: 'And that was the best gig?'
N: 'There were just so many people'.
G: 'The best attended gig'.
N: 'The more people that come, the better the vibe is. They're the best gigs for me, not when I'm being sick'.
G: 'Neil only does it for the fans, you see. We could play an amazing gig, but if only twenty people showed up...'
S: 'If twenty people showed up and they all fancied him, it would be alright'.
E: 'Your latest single - how's it been recieved?'
S: 'Well fuck all people have bought it, but everyone seems to like it. So that's probably better than everyone buying it and thinking it's shit'.
G: 'It's like Channel 5 - we've got selective reception'.
S: 'We're the Channel 5 of rock bands. Mike represents the late night porn...'
Dave (roadie): 'No Mike represents Keith Chegwin naked'.
Mike: 'Fuck you'.
E: 'What's the next single?'
S: 'It's coming out on Dental Records, a split 7" with Antihero, and it's called 'Don't Speak My Mind'.
E: 'Have you got any more gigs coming up?'
S: 'Well for the last two weeks we've been playing pretty solidly, and we've got two more this week. And then that's it.'
E: 'So you're having a break over summer?'
S: 'Yeah and hopefully write some new songs. It's getting to the point where we've been doing the same set for the last couple of months. People who come to our gigs are thinking that we're short-changing them because we're playing the same songs, especially the hardcore who seem to come to every gig.
E: 'Well that's about it...'
G: 'Can I just say that I'm a permanent member of the band? Lots of people seem to think that I'm just filling in'. (Following a nasty incident in which Seymour's little finger was temporarily absent from his hand).
S: 'Yeah, Gish can actually play the guitar'.
Dave: 'Can I just ask, have you contacted Claims Direct, Seymour?...'