What comes after 'Couples'? Singles, of course. Sheffield post-pop types The Long Blondes are to release a compilation featuring tracks from their early 7"s - on Sheffield label Thee SPC and the Angular Recording Corporation - later this month (October 20, to be precise), so we thought we'd catch up with LBs bassist Reenie Hollis to find out the story behind the song(s).
We deliberately tried to make the drums sound like [The Ronettes' Phil Spector-produced hit] 'Be My Baby' on the intro. It didn't work so well live, because it's about the echo rather than the actual drum pattern, but I vividly remember us talking about trying to get that sound at the time. This was the first thing we ever put out properly, and I still like listening to it now because it brings back a lot of good memories of meeting the label, Thee SPC. It was our third ever gig and we were atrocious, but they must have seen something!
I always liked playing 'Long Blonde' live, it's one of the punkier ones. It's not even like we were making it sound rough around the edges on purpose, it was more a case of only being able to play like that! Me, Dorian [Cox, guitar] and Screech [drums] were talking about this song the other day actually, and we realised that none of us know the words to it! We all had different understandings of what it was about, but we all thought we were right. Dorian corrected us, though, because in those days he was the one writing pretty much all the lyrics. It's a bit more democratic now.
This one's a bit of a fan favourite. We stopped playing it for a while, but I guess you've just got to let go of certain songs. It was nice to come back to it recently though - we thought we'd changed it, but listening back we didn't actually change it that much at all! It was also the track we sent off to Angular Records. We weren't in the habit of sending demos to labels, but we did with them because Screech had read a review of their first compilation. They emailed us back saying that they got sent lots of demos, and all of them were shit apart from ours! I'm sure that's a slight exaggeration, but 'Autonomy Boy' was the song that made them want to do something with us. A little known fact is that it was actually recorded by Reverend & The Makers' keyboard player, Joe Moskow.
Video: The Long Blondes, 'Giddy Stratospheres'
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A lot of people say 'Giddy Stratospheres' is our best song. I'd say it's one of the strongest. It's a song we've played live at every gig since we wrote it, and that's probably the only song we've ever done that with. It might not have been a 'hit', but it's one that's essential to play from our point of view - our set was always built around it. It'd just feel extremely weird not to play it. It's been played at quite a few indie nights around the country, and I'm not entirely sure why - I mean, have you tried dancing to it? The rhythm's all over the place!
We recorded 'Polly' with Brian O'Shaughnessy in London, which was quite a big deal to us at the time. It was a weird one because he'd worked on Primal Scream and My Bloody Valentine records, but also had gold discs of Shampoo on his wall. So that confused us. I remember he was quite brutal as well, really critical of us while we were recording; 'Polly' was barely written when we went into the studio and he was annoyed by that. I think he was expecting us to have all the songs well rehearsed. So that was the first time we'd written anything in the studio, and also the first time we'd recorded outside of Sheffield.
'Darts' was a bit of fun, basically. Kate [Jackson, singer]'s a fan of fringe sports like darts and motor racing, so that's the motivation behind it. We always hoped we'd get it on one of the darts programmes, on Bullseye or something like that. We really should have got in touch with them but never got round to it! It stands out because it was one of the first (if not the first) song that Kate wrote the lyrics for.
Video: The Long Blondes, 'Appropriation (By Any Other Name)'
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'Appropriation (By Any Other Name)'
We recorded 'Appropriation...' with Alan Smyth at 2Fly in Sheffield. I remember that we'd just put out 'Giddy Stratospheres', and had got a lot of good attention from that, but weren't really sure what to do next. Angular came along and said 'next, you do another single with us'. So we did! It was our newest song at the time and we considered it to be the best of the bunch. It's notable for [former Pulp musician] Russell Senior's violin part.
'My Heart Is Out Of Bounds'
This is one of my favourite B-sides, and it's another one we wrote when we got into the studio. I like it because we all sing the backing vocals, and Screech does some pots and pans drumming on it as well. We were a bit less uptight in the studio by now, so were more willing to experiment. Before, we'd always felt a bit out of place. We were working with Alan [Smyth] again, and as a producer he's someone that it's easy to be comfortable with - so we didn't mind dicking about a bit, for want of a better word! It's the only one of these songs, to my knowledge, that we've never played live.
'Lust In The Movies'
This was actually two songs until we recorded it - one called 'Lust Etc.' and the other called 'In The Movies'. I remember we had an argument over which one was the better song to use as a B-side; Dorian was adamant 'Lust Etc.' was better, and we all preferred the other one. He went off, in what we thought was a huff, but actually he was busy working out how to join them together. When he came back with the finished song, we all agreed it was much better and recorded that one - this all happened when we were in the studio. For ages it was our traditional set opener, but on the last tour we switched around and ended with it.
Video: The Long Blondes, 'Separated By Motorways'
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'Separated By Motorways'
The version on the compilation isn't the Paul Epworth version, it's actually the one we recorded before that with Alan Smyth. The reason is simple: we own this version! I listened to the two side-by-side when we were working out the tracklisting and I don't think the Epworth version is a million times better - I certainly didn't mind leaving it off. I remember Paul being quite a passive producer to work with, and not at all as forceful as we expected. It's a simple, poppy song and didn't really need much doing to it, to be honest. People still like to hear it, and I think it's definitely more of a live song.
This was the B-side to 'Separated By Motorways', and we recorded it at the same time as we demoed that with Alan [Smyth]. It wasn't intended as a B-side at the time, more just something to record... but I think its rightful place probably is as a B-side rather than as an album track. We've done it live a few times but decided not to persevere...
Kate wrote the words to this one. It's about an ex-boyfriend of hers that she would go and meet at the halfway point between where they both lived. But we never even got to play Peterborough, which I think was a real shame. Sometimes we've asked "is anyone here from Peterborough?" before we play it live, but nobody in the crowd ever is! I also remember seeing a live review that said "the best song of the night was the rousing 'Pizza Bar'" - maybe we'd have done better to call it that! I think we localised a bit too much with that song...
Due to guitarist Dorian Cox's recent illness, the band have no immediate plans to tour - everyone here at DiS would like to wish him a full and speedy recovery. In the meantime, the other 'Blondes have some DJ dates booked in around the country (and beyond), including a stint at DiS' opening night in Manchester - more details here.