Help Stamp Out Loneliness - Interviews - Soundblab

Help Stamp Out Loneliness

by Al Brown Rating: Release Date:

Krautrock-tinged indie popsters HSOL released their eponymous debut album last month, and were greeted with a steady swell of acclaim. Guitarist Bentley Cooke answers some questions for Soundblab.

How did the band get together?

Colm (bass) and I (guitar) wanted to start a Krautrock band after Language of Flowers split up but we weren't good enough musicians nor could we afford the fancy keyboards so we opted for the easy option and invested in the ironic paraphenalia of the indie-pop world (toy glockenspiel, melodica, wooden recorder, Casio keyboard etc) and became ... er ... Krautpop. Ben (drums) joined us on drums and brought Louise (keyboard and backing vocals); Louise brought in Katherine (keyboard and backing vocals) and I found D (lead vocals) traipsing around Manchester. The debut album was our attempt to recreate all our favourite indie records using shit bargain bin instruments so you'll often see us smarting with jealousy if we share a stage with the rich kids. We once played with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and I could see Louise drooling over Peggy's Nord. I had to talk Katherine out of 'acquiring' it. You can take the girl out of Liverpool etc.

Does it annoy you how your singer gets compared to Nico all the time? It seems like something you're comfortable with. Anyone else you like or dislike being compared to?

I think it's beginning to grate on D - or at least she's pretending it is for dramatic effect - but it must be hard to write a review of the album without referencing Nico. I always thought she sounded more like Klaus Nomi. Anyway, as long as they keep comparing me to guitarists that go by the initials of JM I'm more than willing to let it ride.

You seem to get grouped in with alot of C86/tweepop bands, but your own music seems a bit more ambitious, certainly production-wise. What are your influences?

Well we're not really a twee or C86 band but I suppose we are indie and pop and that's enough to get us into the exclusive members club. I suppose it's because we were in the aforementioned Language of Flowers who were pretty twee, weren't they? Influences - I've always loved colourful pop music like Stereolab, Au Pairs, Dinosaur Jr, Electrelane, The Organ, Afghan Whigs, Yo La Tengo, The Passions, The Smiths, The Gist, ad nauseum - you'll probably be able to hear them all on the album as I can barely be arsed to cloak my plagiarism these days.

Did you have a producer for the record? How much influence did they have? If not who takes charge of song arrangements/dynamics etc.?

Woodie Taylor (Comet Gain) produced the lion's share, Craig Gannon did 'Biergarten' and I did 'S*W*I*M'. I knew what the album should sound like right from the start - it was just a matter of expressing myself coherently via email and phone calls from Manchester to Windsor where it was mixed. Let's just say Woodie is a very, very patient fellow. As for song-writing, I write the songs and the rest of the band slag them off until I break down in tears or go on a rampage around the Northern Quarter with half a bottle of Lambrini.

I sometimes feel like the 'nicer' (more twee/empathetic) a band's music is the more unfriendly they turn out to be. Do you find fellow twee/indie bands to be disconcertingly bitchy/friendly and supportive/semi-autistic/all of the above?

Oh dear, are you referring to 'the misery twins'*? These are some of the best questions I've ever been asked. No, nobody has been bitchy to our faces - possibly because we have D in the band and she'd probably fuck them up - but we really don't care if people don't like us ... We're thick-skinned like that. Try playing limp-wristed organ pop in rough Manchester boozers for a few years and you'll soon understand why. Also, I don't really hang out with bands that much - I prefer to spend my quality time with the fans, y'know - (ha ha!). We do go drinking with SHRAG (who are ultra twee, as you know) when we're in London and Helen and John Jervis (WIAIWYA boss) were especially kind to me last year. Oh, and Brian from The Understudies bought me a pint once but I never bought him one back - you've just reminded me that I need to sort that out.

What is your favourite place to play? Where are you looking forward to playing?

I loved playing in Lund in Sweden, on a boat in Hamburg, in a Lancaster playhouse, the Chameleon in Nottingham was insane and even London can be amazing sometimes too. Anywhere outside Manchester is a pleasure for me as I love travelling even if it's on the Megabus ... Thinking about it, the only reason I started the band was so I had an excuse to roll around in the back of a van with three girls ... and Colm (I hope to fuck my wife doesn't read this).

I'm REALLY looking forward to France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and New York in October but mostly I can't wait to play the Librarians Wanted gig on the Thames in September as there's a rumour Laetitia Sadier will be there. I'll probably end up overboard.

Where do you hang out in Manchester?

If I'm meeting up with D we usually go down to The Temple underneath Oxford Road; if I meet Kath, Ben and Louise I'll go to Common and Gullivers in the NQ. However, if I have to meet Colm he always insists we go to The Molly House in the gay village (if it's sunny he might even go out on the balcony) ... Oh, and when we all go out together (which isn't very often) we usually go to the Star & Garter and round off the night with a band fight in the car park - boys vs girls - D's usually on the boys side so we always win. Yeah!

Do you feel the city plays an integral part in your music?

It's amazing but some people in Manchester actually own radios and record players where they can listen to music from outside the M60. I'm from Stockport, Katherine's from Liverpool, Colm and D are from Northern Ireland - I can't remember where Ben and Louise are from but you get the gist of what I'm trying to say. That said, I love The Fall and The Smiths ... and John Cooper Clarke. Oh fuck it - who am I kidding? Yeah, we're all mad for it!

What music are you digging on right now? Any favourites from Manchester you want to tell us about?

D got me into Planningtorock (AKA Janine Rostron) last week. She's not really a Mancunian (she cleverly left Bolton for Berlin) but I don't give a fig. Ste McCabe as you know is musical queercore megalith within the Manchester pop scene and has been more than supportive of us over the last two years. Also keep your ears out for Letters to Fiesta - they are amazing plus I chose their name for them ... So there.

Do you know what the next album will be like?

Alliteratively speaking ... darker and dirtier. D and I have written a new song called 'Lovers Without Cars' and it's about acts of love both within and without automobiles ... or 'dogging' as D refers to it (we're taking alliteration to a new level here) ... As always with these things, it's the best song I think we've ever done. Even as I'm saying that I know I'll probably hate it within a fortnight.

*No (I have no idea).

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