bouvier and the visit interview
(27/6//02)

For all sorts of reasons I don’t need to go into here, I don’t get out to gigs as much as I used to. In many ways, this is a blessing – no more nights spent inhaling a fug of second-hand cancer, drinking more than I intended to and watching four technically proficient but soulless blokes play a set of pointless songs that very distantly resemble something interesting. On the other hand, it’s a curse – there’s a buzz about a great gig that you just can’t get anywhere else. The House of Love at Nottingham Rock City, Compulsion at the Boat Race, Public Enemy at the Birmingham Hummingbird, Jelly Baby at The Princess Charlotte, Pop Will Eat Itself everywhere.. all crystal clear still in the junkyard of my mind. And there’s something extra about local band gigs, because you see the band on the street the next day, because you can go and see them play again next week, because you can talk to them and buy a demo tape, and be in first and tell all your mates about them, and love it when they get their first mention (a slagging off) in the singles reviews (the reviewer is in thrall to the major labels.)

The_Visit

So I miss that. It’s been years since I was up on the local bands; down with the local scene. Years since Freeboy and Hofman were the bands most-likely-to, bands who could fill the Boat Race, bands who were getting Peel airplay. Since then, there’s been the odd band, my odd foray back to the Portland Arms, but mostly nothing. I’m a letterbox jockey these days, music drops onto my doormat every day of the week and I might as well live on the moon as in Cambridge (chance’d be a fine thing) for all the different it makes to local bands.

Except that I’ve started to get demos from them again. They’ve discovered that the way to Possession’s heart is through a re-used jiffy bag and a xeroxed sleeve, through three tracks (no more, please) and a did-you-get-it? email. What’s more, I spend years waiting and three of the blighters have turned up at the same time. The Stars of Aviation you’ll have read about in Robots.. before and heard on the free CD with the last issue (there’s a few copies left if you still want one). The other two are Bouvier and The Visit. This is what I said about them in Careless Talk Costs Lives (www.carelesstalkcostslives.com).

Bouvier: It is nineteenseventye-dye. You are sitting in a cow-filled field in the middle of nowhere, gazing blankly at a stage set up on the back of a flat-bed truck while a bunch of hairy wankers in horrendous shirts drool over each other’s major Aeolians. You are beginning to think that a key of hash isn’t going to be enough and you might have to start smoking your plimsolls. An hour and three-quarters of a shoe later, thank Christ, The Zany And Incredibly Zany Jug Band Extravaganzany stop. Even the cows look relieved. Wow, this sole is good stuff, you could swear that Friesian is eyeing you up. What? Oh another band. You squint at the hand-painted sign in the distance. Bouvier. You take another toke on the pump. Wow, this band is good stuff. Is she really singing "how can you treat me like a pig in a blanket?" She is, and did she follow it up with "sometimes you treat me like I’m just a psycho" while veering between sweet, sweet folk music and splenetic rocking out? She did and then she lashed out "I’m not taking any more shit from you!" This is a wonderful noise. You haven’t heard anything this good since David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name album. You hope this isn’t hallucination at the onset of rubber poisoning. It isn’t. (Although you do later get off with the cow.)

Bouvier

The Visit: Things start out averagely enough. Name: no comment. Title: shit. First song: begins promisingly punk, goes into a crap, seemingly ironic, Albatross middle-8 which turns into a crap, seemingly non-ironic, Albatross middle-64. Decision time: Do I go on to the second track? I’m a nice bloke, I’ve got a couple of minutes before I’m due my next medication and all the naked supermodels are powdering their noses so I give The Visit another chance. Second song: Thank you, Lord! Silence The Poet is a yearning surge of melodic post (yes!) rock (yes!) with a real song threaded deep into its weft. Direct, purposeful, meaningful and over in under 4 minutes. The Visit can come again.

So we convened at the Bun Shop in Cambridge; Rosey who sings and writes the words in Bouvier, Jake who sings and writes the words in The Visit, and me. It turned out they already knew each other pretty well.

I didn't realise you knew each other when I fixed this up.

Jake: Yeah, that's weird isn't it? We were at university together, at Anglia. We met each other through..

Rosey: ..I met Chris and Jake and Jake's old housemate because they all lived together. I was going to do some music with them for a dissertation.

J: It's weird though, coming to Cambridge, because even now I don't feel like I'm part of the Cambridge music scene. I know a lot of people in it and I'm friendly with them, but I think it's healthy not to be too close.

So is there a Cambridge music scene, or have I been giving myself a hard time about not being part of something that doesn’t exist?

J: There's a collection of people who know each other really well and communicate with each other in various ways all the time, but I wouldn't have said it was a music scene. There's lots of people in bands and lots of people putting gigs on, fanzines, you know. . But why don't we talk about Bouvier? I think us and them have got the same ideas – a group of people coming together and making music that's an amalgamation of all their different inputs. It's not like someone just comes in and.. I mean, there's probably one initial song-writer. In our band, Dave writes most of the riffs and music..

R: ..In our band it's the drummer, Adrian. He's got a real muso background, lots of Captain Beefheart and loads of jazz. He writes a lot of the songs and plays guitar as well.

Ha Ha! How do you feel being in a band where the drummer writes the songs?

R: When I first met Adrian I didn't know he played drums. He played cello and guitar. I just started doing three-part harmonies with him and a mate and we used to do things like Eight Miles High by The Byrds. I didn't know he wrote songs, so when he started coming out with all these lovely things I was really pleased with myself: "Oh yeah, I've done well here!"

J: Then he turned out to be a really good drummer as well.

R: Yeah, he's the whole package. But I write the lyrics. I wouldn't let Adrian write anything for me to sing!

J: I'm a bit like that as well. I take that as my thing.

R: Do you find that you shape the songs because you want to have a bit more of a chorus or whatever?

J: I don't get a bloody chorus! That sort of thing stretches you more. If you've got to try and fit some kind of theme through a song without verse-chorus-verse it's more challenging.

R: I don't know that it always works out to the best for the singer when someone else is writing the music. Sometimes I feel like I've really got to work hard to get some lyrics going but usually after about six months..

..I really like the fact that it sounds like you're battling against the music when you sing.

J: It's like the other night we did a gig and the other two bands were doing what they want to do, but they were just doing Strokes/Hives or whatever. I like songs with up and down, loud and soft, left and right..

I like songs with weird.

R: Yeah.

J: I don't want to go on about The Strokes but their songs are so linear. Just zzzzzttt.

 

Bouvier

R: I saw them with Iggy Pop last year and the most exciting thing about them was the singer's shirt.

What was it like?

R: It was red and a bit military.. Then Iggy came on and there was just no competition.

J: In the short term, it's easier for people to get into something that's quite straightforward. But after a while.. if you listen to an album once, the songs that stand out are quite straightforward but if you listen to it a few more times but the ones that you like at the end are..

R: ..it's like Marquee Moon. It's alright the first time you hear it, but it doesn't draw you in until you've listened to it a few times.

I saw Television at last year's All Tomorrow's Parties and I was astonished to find myself chatting through most of their set.

R: Yeah I saw them as well! I didn't like it at all. I thought they ballsed-up Marquee Moon so badly and then Adrian was going "oh, they're fucking amazing man." It was really disappointing.

But anyway, The Visit..

R: ..I like The Visit a lot. I see them as a cross between AC/DC and Mick Ronson-era Bowie.

J: I definitely think there's some of those influences going on. Especially with David, our guitarist, he likes his 70s rock?

Do you fellate each other on stage, like Bowie and Ronson used to?

J: Erm.. no. Not yet. But I think in a way, we're not really doing that kind of stuff now.

R: Yeah, it's more Jimmy Page at the moment.

J: Silence The Poet is probably the only early track we still play.

R: I still like Eye For A Shoe. Is that too angsty for you now?

J: Nah, I think that when you play a straightforward rock song so many times in rehearals you just get drained with it and then when you play it live you just can't put any energy into it. It’s like "oh no, not this one again."

R: I don't feel like that because we play some of the first songs we originally wrote with our German bass player..

J: ..maybe they're better songs than our first ones were..

R: ..I don't know, they did take a lot longer to learn than yours did. It's rare for us to write a song in one rehearsal. Usually, they grow over about three months. Some of our first songs, like Jazz Fool Bob which is my favourite song, the guys don't like playing any more. But I love it.

J: Do you put your foot down and tell them you're playing it?

R: I write the set list before we go on stage!

I wanted to ask you both about your lyrics. They're not the most transparent, are they? Why did you print the lyrics on your last demo, Jake?

J: I think it was because the rest of the band told me to. I was confident about them, they all said something to me and I was happy for them to be there.

R: I once read an interview with the Cranberries where Delores said "I wasn't ready to put my lyrics on the sleeve. I don't want people to read my thoughts." Pretentious cow.

What’s the, or a, Tofu Escape Clause?

J: It's a funny story and the guy who inspired the song is sitting over there at that table. [we all turn around and stare at the unfortunate bolke] There was a friend of Dave's, Paul, who quite often stays over at Dave's house. One night, he'd gone into the fridge and eaten Dave's housemate's Tofu Stick sandwiches. Obviously in the morning when the housemate came down and found her Tofu Stick sandwiches had been eaten she wasn't happy.

She should have been over the moon!

J: Ha Ha! Paul's excuse was that he couldn't have eaten them because he didn't even know what Tofu was. So I used that. The rest of the song's about something else completely, though.

Rosey, I wanted to ask you what it means to treat someone like a pig in a blanket?

J: Good lyric!

R: Someone must have mentioned it and I'd only just found out what a pig in a blanket was..

The Visit

You mean a sausage wrapped in bacon?

J: It's a fantastic analogy though, I like it.

R: I like it too.

J: Even if you can't tell what it means, it sums up a feeling in your head.

R: It's like suffocating. It's about being treated in an unpleasant manner anyway, so it's about someone treating you in a way you don't want to be treated.

J: That's the things with words. It's fun coming up with something that doesn't necessarily mean something.. but it does.

R: It's like being at school and studying English Literature and you're reading William Blake and your teacher's asking what he really means and I'm sitting there thinking "he just liked the words, he like the way they sounded together, they probably don't mean anything." And now I'm writing lyrics and I'm trying to say something that means something because one day maybe kids will have to study my poetry like I had to study [Rosey pauses and pulls a face] Sting's.. I had to study a Sting song in my English lessons – Children's Crusade. It's all about heroin addiction in 1984 and poppies in 1914. It's very political.

J: I don't really like songs with lyrics about children.

R: I used to love Sting when I was a kid. I adored him.

He did that one about Russian children as well, didn't he?

J: There's that really terrible Iron Maiden song that put me off them when I was young called Mother Russia.

Iron Maiden are the ideal band for 11-year-old boys.

J: Yeah, it's got those cartoon covers and everything. They were my first favourite guitar band and I used to love it.

My younger brother used to love Kiss.

J: They were too American for me. But heavy metal bands have the best longevity, don't they? They just keep on going for years, churning out albums. Then there's all these other bands who do just one album then it's "Ahh, I can't handle this any more, it's too much." And then they're gone.

R: But that's the best way sometimes, isn't it?

But anyway, Bouvier..

R: I love being in our band because we're all mates and we get on so well and when we rehearse it's like going out for a laugh with your mates.

J: That's totally like us. We get together every Wednesday and it's like a social thing where we have a chat and we're all totally comfortable with each other. To be honest, the best performances we ever do are in the rehearsal room 'cos we're just doing it for ourselves. I like that feeling, it's like loud amp, loud amp, loud drums and you get the feeling off the amps when they go from loud to heavy. And then you think "Oh wow, this is what it's all about."

Is being in a band a serious thing for you?

R: Yes.

J: I see myself as being in a band because I enjoy it. But also because of necessity. If I wasn't in a band there'd be bloodshed in Cambridge. It's such a great way to get rid of frustrations. If I didn't have a band I'd be..

R: ..sitting on your arse playing computer games..

J: ..I'd just be getting frustrated all the time and I like having an outlet. I'm not saying I'm full of angst, but it's nice to get out there and do something you really enjoy doing. Of course I'd love to keep doing this for as long as possible. The problem with a lot of bands is that they have to put so much effort into it that they just get sick of it.

R: My brother works part-time and spends the rest of the time promoting his band, sending CDs off and writing letters to people. He's had some really good luck with it, but it takes four hours a day to get as far as he's done, having interviews with the press in Leeds and stuff like that.

J: I'm lucky because my job allows me plenty of time to do other stuff. That's why I normally do all the organisation.

R: Plus musicians are lazy aren't they?

J: I don't think of myself as a musician.. I was originally going to play guitar in the Absolute Zeros. We had three guitarists and a bass player and a drummer and we rehearsed in my parents' front room. I went to make a cup of tea and when I came back they were all playing together and I got scared so I said I was going to sing instead!

[I tell my story (it only takes a couple of pints and I turn into Jackanory) about how Chief Sharkey were so inept at our first gig that we had to make everything really simple. Neither me nor Chris could sing and play at the same time, so I stopped singing and Chris stopped playing; Mike couldn’t play the guitar, so he took over the bass and Stuart was told to stop trying to be such a smart-arse on the drums.]

J: I think that's definitely a good thing. In our band, everybody only does one thing.

R: I'd like to get one of the blokes to sing, but then I'd want to play guitar myself, but I'm too shy.

It' s much better playing guitar.

R: You reckon? It's great standing up the front and shouting at people.

J: Playing guitar scares me.

But what I found when I was trying to sing was that I couldn't sing loud enough.

R: That's not your fault, that's the sound guy.

No, I'm sure it was me. Jason (from Freeboy) was saying "sing louder" and I was saying "I'm singing as loud as I can" and he was saying "I've got the fader all the way up!" But I just couldn't sing any louder. It was really strange. I don't mind speaking in front of people, but singing..

R: I love it. I live and breathe for singing.

In one of the reviews I mentioned David Crosby and you seemed to like it.

R: The way I met Adrian was through another bloke on my course. We started off as a three-piece harmony group and he was really into Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It amused me when you mentioned Crosby because we don't have that many harmonies.

It wasn't because of the singing, but your stuff just put me in mind of his solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. If you haven't read his autobiography, you should get it, it's one of the best I've ever read. He writes a passage how he remembers it - which isn't always very clearly because he was pretty strung out a lot of the time - and then he gets somebody else, like David Geffen, to write how they remember the same thing. And the other person will say something like "Well it didn't happen like that at all. The way I remember it, David was being an arsehole.."

R: I read the Grace Slick autobiography recently and it's brilliant. She's screwed up quite a bit in her life and she's happy to say so. She's human about everything and she doesn't write as if she's a great rock goddess, she writes like she was what she was: a girl with pretensions of being a blond bimbo who realised she couldn't be because her hair wasn't the right colour and her tits weren't big enough. So she joined a rock'n'roll band.

So you liked Jefferson Airplane.

R: I loved them.

There's some reviews on your site that say jazz-rock, but it doesn't sound like that to me - mostly because of your singing, I think.

R: Some of the songs Adrian writes are heavily jazz influenced, but I'm more Patti Smith and The Slits and I'm really into Kate Bush at the moment.

J: I don't think you're going to get too many Kate Bush comparisons. She's too wimpy.

R: Yeah, I don't warble do I?

J: You've got an impressive ability to go from soft to loud, even screechy.

R: My dad's a Crosby, Stills and Nash fan and traditional folk songs. He used to take me to folk clubs. That's how I started singing - one of his friends convinced me to get up and sing. I'm a really big Iggy Pop fan but I started off listening to The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and David Bowie.. But at the moment it's The Stooges and West Coast bands like Moby Grape and Love.

That's the kind of thing I think of, and David Crosby..

R: ..nobody's said that before.

I just reviewed your second CD and said it was 60s San Francisco.

R: That makes me really happy. Those bands just make me think of Summer.

J: It's that sort of thing with your band. I know what you mean, but it's modern as well. I think you manage to get dynamics in the band, not from the equipment, and that's really good. Lots of people just whack on the distortion pedals and get heavier, and I know we do that, and that's cool...

But anyway, I never got an answer about a Cambridge scene..

R: The only other band I'm interested in is Jake's band.

J: We do go and see each other's bands but I wouldn't go if you [Bouvier] weren't worth seeing. I'd go and watch CRS – our drummer Matt drums for them as well.

J: Have you seen Um?

R: I saw him at a psychedelia night downstairs at CB2 a couple of years ago. He was like a Scott Walker tribute band, it was great. I think he knows where Syd Barrett lives as well.

J: I do like The Broken Family Band. I saw them at Strawberry Fair and they were fantastic, but there was some history between Steve Adams [ex-Hofman] and Interlaken [Jake’s previous band.].

He used to write under the name of Steven Shoe for Adhoc and it was the last gig I ever did with Interlaken and it was a really fucking good gig, my favourite gig, and there was this really slagging review of me saying that Interlaken was quite good but the singer was shit. And this was at the time I was being let go from the band as well. And I didn't know who it was that had written it. Then I wrote a song for The Visit called Eye For A Shoe, about that review and then in the end I found out it was Steve Adams and there was a whole thing about him feeling really bad about writing the review and me feeling really bad about writing the song. But we've never spoken about it and it's just been swept under the carpet.

R: Do you really say "taste your toenails" in that song?

J: No.

R: Oh.

J: It's "taste my toenails."

Yuk. But that’s why local bands are great. For the most part, they haven’t had chance to develop an immeasurable ego yet, or a media strategy. And writing new songs is still a thrill rather than a chore. Bouvier and The Visit are only a couple of demos old but something in their music touches me right there. The next demos might turn out to be shit, or the bands might splinter after a rehearsal room barney about who ate all the cheese’n’onion crisps, or how long it takes the drummer to set his kit up, or even why the band kitty doesn’t cover Strepsils for the singer’s bad throat when it does pay for plectrums. But then again, the next demos might turn out to be incredible.. That’s the uncertainty and the beauty of following your local bands and that’s why I’ll be doing my best to get out a bit more in future.

Contact the bands: www.thevisit.org thevisit24@hotmail.com for The Visit and www.geocities.com/bouviertheband or 106 Thoday St, Cambridge, CB1 3AX for Bouvier. There’s a web site for Cambridge bands at http://users.anytimenow.com/cambridgebands/ run by Mike who used to be in Chief Sharkey with me.


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