Formed in 1986, The Groove Farm is a garage rock band with flecks of indie and touches of a slick pop sound. The group dissipated in 1990 and reformed as Beatnik Filmstars, a lo-fi band in their heyday for majority of the 90s. The Groove Farm will be releasing ‘Groove Pharmacy’, an 11-track album sure to catch your interest this June. You can catch them live at the Death Disco in Athens on May 18th.
How did The Groove Farm begin back in ’86?
Andrew: It was a long and not very exciting story, starting with me playing drums in school bands. It was always difficult to find people who wanted to play the same kind of music I liked, and I always wanted to make up our own songs, while others just wanted to play cover versions. I then met Jon, we lived in Devon at the time, and we moved to Bristol with the sole intention of forming a band. I decided I’d be a guitar player, as did Jon. Neither of us knew how to play, but we had good ideas and good shoes. We always felt it was more important to learn as you go along, as long as you had good shoes. We had a real DIY attitude, something we’ve never lost.
Bristol is quite a hotspot for musical talent, how do you think it influenced your artistry? Has the scene changed much?
Andrew: I don’t honestly take any notice of scenes. Back when we first started there were a lot of bands around, but we never felt part of any scene. Some people put us into the then thriving ‘indie-pop’ scene, which we didn’t mind, but it was never our intention to be classed as anything other than a garage-pop band. To be honest, in Bristol we were generally disliked by most of the other bands, I’m not sure why. I think because we released a record quickly and John Peel and Janice Long were playing it so much on the radio, and the national press started to write about us, while other bands were getting no attention. But that’s hardly our fault, just because we were more interesting and had better songs. Bristol is a good place for artists and bands, because it’s not London. It’s very much people doing their own thing their own way, which is great, even if the music isn’t to your own taste, you can still admire people for doing what they want to do. In London, there’s always been a feeling of bands keeping one eye on what the latest craze is, and then jumping onto it. Bristol has produced at least three great bands too, not counting the three that I’ve been in! Ha Ha.
You performed at the legendary Glastonbury Festival in 1987, what was that like?
Andrew: It was like being in a very big tent with about 600 other people in a very muddy field. I don’t remember enjoying it very much. And there were still a lot of left over hippies around, one of whom was shouting out things about Pink Floyd to us, so I pretended I didn’t know what Pink Floyd was, just to annoy him. But The Rosehips played as well, and that was the first time we met them, and then we became friends, so it was worth trudging through mud.
You’ve described your upcoming album ‘Groovy Pharmacy‘ (killer title by the way), as “pure garage-bubblegum-punk”. What else can you tell our readers about its content, aside from the fact that it has “more catchy hooks than a fisherman’s tackle box”?
Andrew: Thanks! I think it is a good title. I think our records in the past were often spoiled by our own lack of experience, and lack of funds to be able to take the time to make sure we had them sounding the way we’d have liked. Plus at the time, we never had anyone around us helping, who fully understood what it was we wanted, and so we had to try and explain and we weren’t good at getting our message across. That’s not to say I don’t like them, because many of them I do. But it was quite frustrating, because playing live we were actually a very good band, or at least we were after the first six months or so, but we never really captured the excitement on record. But with this one, well, we’ve all learned so much over the years and home recording has changed so much. One side of the record was recorded for a Dandelion Radio session, all done in one afternoon, and the other side, done in two four hour sessions. Rocker (The Flatmates) did the session and he also now plays organ for us, and Tim who I spent many years with in Beatnik Filmstars and has now taken over on bass as our original bass player is too ill, recorded the rest. And we all chipped in ideas with the overall production. We still did it very fast, and didn’t over-think things because we wanted to capture that spontaneous feeling. Jon is very into the whole ‘do it now! do it quick!‘ ethic, which is great, as it inspires me a lot. I love all the lo-fi do it cheap fast and quick attitudes, but I can also slip into the ‘but is it good enough’ worries quite easily, so having someone like Jon with his, “it’s rock and roll, get it done fast” attitude, really helps me. We’re just better now at understanding how to record. And when I say I want it to sound a bit like The Seeds, or The Sonics, everyone understands what I mean, where as back in the Subway Records days, the studio people didn’t have a clue.
What was it like recording as The Groove Farm when it’s been years since your last release?
Andrew: It was fun. We weren’t worrying about time, and how we were going to pay for it, so it was all very relaxed. In fact so relaxed we didn’t actually even get round to practicing before hand! Which was somewhat lazy behavior, especially as we had new songs that no one even knew, but we just did it. Rocker kept making us tune the guitars and is quite funny, I was watching Jon play his guitar bits and Rocker was saying “Have you tuned up?” and Jon would say “Yes”, and Rocker would say “Are you sure?”, then Jon would confess that he hadn’t! It was a bit like your Dad keeping an eye on you! I did have a rotten sore throat when we did the session, but fortunately it seems to have made my voice sound better than usual. Jez (Drummer) was doing Davy Jones (Monkees) dancing, it was all a lot of fun!
‘Back Of My Mind‘ is the first track to be released off your new LP. How do you go about constructing a song, using ‘Back Of My Mind as an example? Melodies first, like most?
Andrew: ‘Back Of My Mind‘ was one of three old songs we always liked but were never happy with the original version, so doing the Radio session, seemed like a great way of having another go at them. For me, I generally get a couple of lines that I like the sound of, and a melody to go with them at the same time, then I just extend the tune, and ba ba ba ba the rest of the words, until I replace the ba ba ba with other real words. Fortunately these days if you get an idea, you can even sing it into your phone, so you don’t forget it. When I wrote ‘Surfin’ Into Your Heart‘ I was on a train journey and I got the tune and words all in my head at once and I had to keep on singing it over and over for three hours until I got home where I could quickly record it. But nothing is set in stone, I can remember ‘Back Of My Mind‘ being made up simply based on the twangy guitar intro which I played accidentally at a practise, and we thought it sounded good, so we just built a song around it.
Give us a little tidbit on each of the following tracks as a preview: ‘PsychoValleri’?
Andrew: This is really a cover version that we played when we first started. It’s a Monkees song, called ‘Valleri‘ because I am totally obsessed with The Monkees. We added bits and took out bits, and layered ‘Psychocandy‘ style feedback over it. It’s very catchy. Once you hear it, you’re singing it for the rest of the day.
‘This Is Radio Rocker’?
Andrew: Jon wrote this. He said: “I’ve done a Radio jingle for Dandelion Radio” which turned out to be a three minute song! So we did a short jingle version as well. It’s another song that by the end of it, you can’t help signing along. But the lyrics, well…you’d have to ask Jon. They made me laugh. I don’t think it’s meant to be taken too seriously.
Andrew: Another Jon song, It’s about always being in trouble, I’d imagine. I like it a lot.
Jon: ‘Trouble‘ is a 2min road movie in a song
Andrew: I didn’t know that!
One of the tracks off of ‘Groovy Pharmacy‘ is entitled ‘Purple (48th Life Disaster)’ which makes me wonder, how many life disasters have each of you had? Is there a particularly humorous one looking back on it that you’d care to share?
Andrew: I’ve had exactly 48 life disasters, hence the reason I wrote the song. When I was electrocuted and almost died is one that amuses many of my friends, although I didn’t find it all that funny myself!
‘Groovy Pharmacy‘ comes along with a tarot card? Let me repeat: a tarot card?
Andrew: Only for the first 75 copies sold! It is a joke that I really can’t go into too much detail over. Just keep your fingers crossed you don’t get the death card! Needless to say, I don’t think any of the band members actually believe in tarot cards.
Through your many projects – whether it’s The Groove Farm or Beatnik Filmstars in particular, your sound has certainly evolved. You’ve garnered comparisons to artists as varied as Sonic Youth and Lambchop. Looking back, are there any detours you regret and where do you see yourselves evolving next?
Andrew: Well we all have our own separate projects and bands, my latest is called The Total Rejection, which is a bit like The Groove Farm, but less bubblegum and a more psychedelic. But it’s still very garage, because regardless of anything I’ve ever been involved in doing musically, Garage punk is where my heart is. For the Groove Farm, we’re just taking it as it comes. Will we even record anything else? Who knows. I think right now, we’d all quite like to, but there’s no point in setting too many plans in stone. I think we all have regrets, it’s hard to live your life without looking back and thinking ‘wish I’d done this instead of that’, but it doesn’t change anything. My biggest regret in music is I never asked John Peel for a Groove Farm session when I had the chance. I did five later with Beatnik Filmstars, but would have liked to do a Groove Farm one. Anyway, check out The Total Rejection! We’re ace. Really! Go on, do it!
‘I’m Never Going To Fall In Love Agai’ is a hidden classic and beloved by your fans, is it as beloved to you? Or do you have a different favorite of your own?
Andrew: It’s alright, I suppose! I’ve never really taken a great deal of notice over it to be honest. My favourite Groove Farm songs are ‘Back Of My Mind‘ and ‘Surfin’ On My Mind‘ and ‘Couldn’t Get To Sleep‘.
Jon: Number One.
In the past it’s been stated you’d get back together for the “right price” and “preferably not in England”, how do you feel to be performing in Greece, coming up, then? And what can be expected of The Groove Farm live for those who haven’t caught a gig of yours before?
Andrew: Crikey! What to expect? Well we’ll be using borrowed equipment, so knowing us, a lot of “how does this work” questions. Hopefully, if all goes well, it should be an exciting thrilling pop blast of killer tunes. It should be nearly as exciting as it would be to get in a time machine and head back to seeing The Monkees play live in 1967. Feel free to scream your heads off! Obviously the ‘right price’ comment was just wishful thinking as was the ‘preferably not in England’ comment. I guess we were just hoping to get the chance to play somewhere like Athens of course.