What kind of introduction would it be suitable for a band like The Orchids; A band that managed to write anthemic indie tunes nad connect their name with the legendary Sarah Records label. Well, none I suppose. The Scots that were formed near Glasgow back in 1986 are one of the most influential bands to have emerged form U.K., for decades now, and we are more than honored to host an interview with them. Make sure to throw a glimpse at this interesting read and above all catch them live with The Suncharms and The Chesterfields tomorrow at New Continental (Preston). This is a real unique “thing” so let’s get it on!
I am really pleased to welcome The Orchids to Last Day Deaf! So, what’s up guys? Which are the latest news regarding the band?
Thank you for the invite to appear in your publication and allowing us to answer your questions. We’ve just played a sold out show in Glasgow (just last Friday) and before that we were in Athens, Greece in November 2016. Last year we re-recorded an old song from 1988 and hope, once it is mixed, that it can be added to a “Best Of” compilation that we are hoping to release this year, the 30th anniversary of our first ever release. It is early days for the discussions and planning of this release and we are really excited about it. We are also trying to set up some more live concerts during 2017 but you’ll need to wait to find out what these are once they are confirmed. We’d also like to start working on writing our 7th studio album soon.
Let’s go back to the very early days of the band now. What can you recall from the first Sarah Record era and in general the C86 movement? Back in the day, did you realize that what you did back then would still have such an impact?
We keep saying we are going to write a book about our side of the experience at that time! That would be a lot of fun, both to write and read! Being in Glasgow, being able to attend live concerts on a regular basis really helped to spur us on and form a band. We were more into more mainstream music than C86, so we probably preferred to be going to see Aztec Camera and Lloyd Cole and The Commotions rather than BMX Bandits or The Soup Dragons (although, in reality we went to see all of these bands!). The Sarah Records thing came later and it was extremely exciting for us at the beginning – we recall our first trips to London, going to meetings (always in pubs – I think at our insistence!) about sleeve designs and releases. The excitement of playing Sarah Records nights at the Camden Falcon and having your concerts or records reviewed in the press and appearing in the top ten of the indie charts was certainly a dream come true. I’m sure it was the same for Matt & Clare in that it didn’t always stay as exciting after you do well and the “industry” (whatever that is?) starts to take over. What we remember most fondly, other than the excitement of experiencing all of this for the first time, was all of the really wonderful people who were involved with the label.
What happened during your hiatus, since the 1995 farewell gig at the Sarah Records farewell party until 2004? Were you involved in any other music project during this ‘‘withering’’ era?
By this point in time we’d all almost lost regular contact with each other. John, James and Chris tried a couple of rehearsals together. Ronnie was still playing in another band (with Chris’s brother, Paul, on drums). Matthew released some records as The Papa Washington Trio on the Soma label. Some of us would still meet up for drinks on occasion and each time we’d drunkenly promise we would get back together again. During that period we were all doing what is often termed “normal” things at this point, getting married, becoming families. We always had the love of playing music though, so I think we all knew it was only a temporary break, although the longer that goes on, the more you wonder if it will ever happen. Still, now we are 13 years and 3 albums into our second phase, so we are happy with that!
In 2004 The Orchids ‘‘blossomed’’ again! How difficult (or easy if you prefer) to get back together after so many years?
It was very easy. The founder members had been friends at school before the band formed and had remained good friends during the years away from music, so getting back in the studio again was easy and exciting again. At that point, Keith joined on guitar but we’d also known him for years and Ronnie had also been around since day one of the band in the eighties, although he didn’t join on bass until 1992 so he was up for coming back to play when we re-started things. The whole thing has been very straightforward and extremely enjoyable. It has also led to us playing some amazing places that we had been unable to the first time (New York, Barcelona, Madrid, Stockholm and Athens amongst others).
Two (out of three) 2nd era time albums were released in Spanish labels (Aquarela, Siesta). Any initiative behind this? Also, if you could explain to us, how come the obsession begun with Spanish labels?
No obsession! I think it just so happened there was a better market for our style of music in Spain than in the UK. These were the labels who offered to do our records at the time and the way things are with technology and shipping, the labels could have been anywhere in the world. We played the wonderful Primavera festival in Barcelona on two occasions and also the Tanned Tin Festival in Castellon and I really don’t think we’d have been offered concerts of that stature within the UK market. There were also no labels in the UK willing or able to release our new music and the people running those Spanish labels had a lot of experience.
John Peel is probably the most influential Radio DJ of all time! How was it like playing a Peel Session on April 8th 1990 (a month later its broadcast)?
Incredibly exciting. John Peel was a hero for all of us and he has not really been replaced. There isn’t a modern version of him, doing what he managed to do. He truly was a unique person. When his producer, John Walters, called me up at my Mum’s house to ask if we would do a session I was beside myself and didn’t know what to do! It felt as if that was it! We’d “made it” if the amazing John Peel wanted us to do a session on his show. We were all very nervous going into the BBC Maida Vale studio to record it with Dale Griffin. Everybody thinks you meet John Peel but you don’t. The only time we came across him was when he attended a Sarah Records concert at Islington Powerhaus (London) but we were far too scared and shy to go and speak to him that night!
Will Ian Carmichael be the producer behind your next LP?
It would be amazing to do a 7th album but our focus at present is on the proposed compilation album. Although we have worked on a few ideas, there isn’t an album of songs written yet, so any release will take a while. We really hope that Ian will continue working with us when we get around to doing the album. It depends on whether he has the time or inclination to give us all that time for free again! Ian has worked on the re-recorded 1988 song with us, so hopefully he’ll continue on working with us.
On February 17th you will be performing live, along with The Suncharms, The Chesterfields, at New Continental (Preston, Lancashire). What should the audience expect from this indie ‘fest’?
Noise, energy and enthusiasm and hopefully a lot of fun and emotion. Hopefully there will be some fans of all of the bands from the old days who will recognize the songs and sing along and it would be great if some new fans were attending the show too! Someone on the Sarah Records film “My Secret World” said The Orchids looked like 5 guys waiting at a bus stop, so I guess they’ll see 5 guys who look like they’re waiting on a bus play songs covering all of their careers from 1988 to 2014.
Do you believe that the decline & fall of British music press is prohibitive for new brit pop acts to emerge and have an impact on modern music? Back in the 1990’s NME, Melody Maker, Q, Select were among the printed mags that created the hype. Now? Do you believe that Internet and social media can replace them?
I think people (especially of our age) just need to get used to the change – that is all. There are still plenty of young bands out there. You just need to look at Glasgow gig listings and other cities. There are more live venues now in Glasgow than when we were growing up and that is fantastic. In some ways those written media publications only represented a very small part of different scenes and yes, although they created hype sometimes, it was more than just that. The difference today in bands not being able to break through is not about the media hype and interest created, it is about the fact that people will no longer buy music. People now are happy just to stream music without thinking of the impact it is going to have – i.e. only “super” artists like U2 or Adele and Beyoncé and the like will survive and leave everyone else struggling! How depressing is that! I guess it has always been that way to a certain extent but it’s becoming more polarized and insular now.
Among the many comebacks that caught mostly my attention were those from living legends The Jesus And Mary Chain, indie outsiders Echobelly and (possibly) Elastica! Are you looking forward to these and why?
We attended a The Jesus And Mary Chain gig in 1984/85 in front of about 50 people and it has been good telling people about that, although the legend is probably better than the reality! We saw them at Primavera a few years ago and they were excellent but there was another concert (in Glasgow) where Keith and I left early. I guess you never know what you are going to get in re-unions. Some work, some don’t. We were never huger followers of Echobelly or Elastica in the first place, so haven’t followed their re-union stories. I hope they are enjoying being back together playing and that their fans appreciate it and enjoy it too, as that is what it is all about.
Let’s go political now…What is your opinion on Brexit? In addition, on the other side of the ocean one of the most hated politicians ever (at least for artists) is the current U.S. President. Any thoughts you’d like to share about this too?
Once you get us started on these subjects, you’ll never end. All of it is incredibly depressing to us and talking about it will just make us cry. So called democracy is sleep walking into these horrible situations and we appear powerless to stop the stitch up, but we will not give up trying.
Which emerging British and non-British acts/bands do The Orchids follow and we should pay attention to?
We just saw some great bands at the weekend, including Life Model, Spook School and A New International. We recommend you look some of them up and give them a listen. Funnily enough, all of those bands are Scottish and other ones, such as JR Green and Neon Waltz are also very good. From Australia we like Goon Sax too.
What’s next for The Orchids then? Recording your 7th album?
Yes, hopefully. This gig in Preston is our second in a week. When you’ve only done two concerts in the last two years, two in a week is prolific! Hopefully, after getting over the exhaustion of doing two shows in a week, we’ll start to write the 7th album whilst compiling tracks for our compilation “Best Of” and should also fit in some more live concerts later in 2017. We’ve applied to play quite a few festivals, so you never know!
Anything else you’d like to add? A special message to our readers?
I hope your readers have a fantastic year in 2017 and would recommend that get to hear the back catalogue of The Orchids. Most people say that it’s not what they expected once they hear us, so please give yourself a pleasant surprise and listen to some of our music. Look out for more news as the year goes on. It’s 30 years since our first ever physical release (a Sha La La Flexis disc released in August 1987) and hope you will all enjoy celebrating this anniversary with us without.
Photo credits: Michael Prince (1st one)