The Kids Aren’t Alright
3:AM: You call yourself The Indelicates, but your music is pretty gentle in terms of sound — is there a deliberate irony there?
JULIA: We’re actually very loud live, our recordings are a little deceptive… I’ve nicknamed myself “Inelegant Indelicate” because, well, I’m a little lacking in grace!
SIMON: Yeah, we really are a lot more up-to-E-leven than you might think. Last night, I rocked so hard I ended up lying on the floor of the stage screaming — and not just because of the essential futility of it all either…
3:AM: With titles like ‘The Last Bombed City’ and ‘The British Left In Wartime’ you seem to be painting yourselves into a 40s corner: do you find something particularly attractive about those years?
S: Well, actually, we’re in wartime now and that was the wartime I was referring to — specifically the tendency of certain opinion formers on the left to descend into self-congratulation during it. This wasn’t so much of a problem in the Forties on account of there wasn’t time for smugness in C.O.’s prison.
J: ‘The Last Bombed City’ is much more about how it feels to live in a century that really, REALLY got fucked by the World Wars, in that they both allowed for a great number of cultural and political changes, but destroyed any stable notion of the godlike. It’s about taking responsibility, about fathers, and most importantly about fascism.
3:AM: Following on, many of your songs make specific references to decades other than your own: how do you feel you fit in with your generation? Is there any real cultural movement, e.g. mod, punk, that you feel today’s youth can be part of?
J: We already know that all these things have been done before, that they are ALL retro. It doesn’t bother me if someone decides to do it again, but there are ways of updating it. I don’t feel as though I fit in with any of the females in my generation, but I’m sure I’m a lost cause, so don’t hold it against me!
S: All the interesting conflicts are about ideas not age, consequently I have no wish to fit in with my generation when I can fit in with all manner of ideological traditions instead. There are plenty of these for young people to join up with if they so wish — anarchism, socialism, conservatism, laissez-faire capitalism — without having to resort to movements based around clothing brands from the Seventies.
3:AM: What decade or time period other than your own would you most liked to have lived in? Why?
J: Now. Like most people I read histories and part of me wishes I’d lived in the 20s or the 30s. But honestly? I can’t think of a better time than NOW to live. I mean… The Technology! The Science! It’s a great time to live because science has become art.
S: The 2010s, when I will perhaps be less poor. I doubt any past decade would have the technological know-how to keep me in the manner to which I am accustomed.
3:AM: You claim lyrically that pop is “rotten” and that we are nearing “the death of the teenager”: do you mean any of this literally? If so, why make music? What are you trying to do with rock’n'roll, in the tired state you say it has reached?
S: I mean all of it literally. The teenager is a marketing demographic that was invented in the Fifties to sell jeans. The music that used to reflect and consolidate a sense of cultural revolution among members of this demographic has very little meaning when most of its members are less radical than their parents — it is just a means of selling “the rebel experience” to people who know they will one day get better arts marketing jobs if they feel they’ve had it. This has little to do with the making of music or the setting of lyrics to it, so it’s possibly worth continuing with that in the hope of finally laying this whole hatefully self-centred circle jerk to rest.
3:AM: Which modern bands do you find exciting? Who are your biggest influences from recent times? Although you have referred lyrically to the Libertines, do you hold them in as high an esteem as much of the current indie scene? What is your true opinion on Pete Doherty?
J: I like a lot of classical music, mainly because when you really listen to it, it’s very rock’n'roll (laugh all you want, but buy me a beer and I’ll tell you why). I liked the Babyshambles album a lot — more than the Libertines — despite not expecting to. I like the Beirut album, Lady Sovereign’s album is one of the best things I’ve heard in AGES, I’ll always be a fan of Art Brut, and I’ve been listening to strange-and-wonderful Christmas songs shared on our forum… Recently, anyway.
S: Yeah, Christmas! Have you got the Charlie Brown Christmas album? It’s well skill. The Libertines: good songs, on occasion. Babyshambles: excellent album. Doherty: perfectly expresses, I believe, the moment when the cyclical tragedy of rock’n'roll finally became farce (not intended as an insult — very few people can perfectly express anything). I have never met him, nor have I ever written a song about him (though I may have written a song about people who subsequently thought I had). For my true opinion, see my published works. I’m much more honest in lyrics than I am in interviews.
3:AM: Are you full time with the band, or do you still hold down day jobs? If not, what lines of work did you quit to pursue music? How did they inspire, or crush you?
J: I wage-earn, to pay the bills, as well as making money persuading people to have their picture taken, but I’m also a docu-photographer (which doesn’t pay, but which I’m very good at, so it doesn’t matter).
S: You should read Robert Anton Wilson on work. It’s going to have to be abolished soon, you know.
3:AM: When was the decision made to have a boy-girl dynamic with the vocals? What do you feel this brings to the sound? Julia, were you always aware how cute your voice is?
S: The decision was made when — during our first rehearsal — we happened to look down.
J: I wasn’t aware it was “cute”… I was once described as sounding like a baby, but those people died in a freak accident when their car crashed into a huge TWEE, so I could never ask them what they meant!
3:AM: Other reviewers have called you “intelligent”, stating that in modern music this is a surprise. What’s your reaction to this? Should rock’n'roll be dumb fun, or do you consciously try to write from a thinking-man’s perspective?
S: Yeah, I’m intelligent as fuck. I hate fun, I hate dumbness, and I always write from a thinking man’s perspective because I am one. Given all the complexities and threats to liberty in the world, I hardly think that dumb fun is what anybody needs right now.
J: Life would have been so much easier if I’d been born a “Thinking Man”!
S: Not for me love, that would be confusing.
3:AM: Who writes the majority of the lyrics, and where do the inspirations come from?
J: Simon and I write all the lyrics — some are mine, some are his.
S: Some people claim to be able to tell which are which, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for them by being more specific.
J: The inspiration for songs comes from the people around us, the experiences we’ve had, and the times we’ve spent thinking about them…
S: Not mine. Mine are all about the hate — and sometimes about how Thirties socialites who fall in love with Hitler are a good metaphor for young people in Brighton who don’t realise that they’re fascists.
3:AM: Many of your early tracks are available on the internet. Do you have plans for an album soon, and if so, will you re-record what fans can already find, or can you promise them new material?
J: We have a lot of songs, so I think a few things will be new on the album. But we don’t have an album deal yet, so we’ll have to see. I should think the floor-fillers will be on there though.
S: I think we’ll be hoping to sell it to more people than have currently downloaded things. And besides, none of the current recordings have the child choirs that they so richly deserve.
3:AM: On ‘Sixteen’, you sing that the scene is something you “wouldn’t be seen in”. What are your feelings about the NME-scene nature of indie music? Do you dislike elements of that culture? Where do you place yourselves in relation to it: uneasy bedfellows or complete outsiders?
J: I don’t understand most of what is written in the NME, but then I’ve never read music magazines, not even when I was 14 or 15. It just never happened. But I’d rather read the NME‘s views on music than a broadsheet’s anyday. Not saying I agree with any of it, but I don’t like the tone of the culture pages of any of the broadsheets at the moment. They’re snooty, self-righteous and generally have no care for anything happening outside of the South. ‘Sixteen’ is a song about people never growing up, and behaving like little kids for as long as possible, even when it bites them in the arse (at the age of 29).
S: Broadsheet music pages only exist so that the key markets can skip over them safe in the aloofly groovy knowledge that they’re there; and for students, so that they can one day grow into the kind of lifelong reader described above. I think people in Brighton and London forget what the NME means when you’re fifteen and stuck somewhere godawful with a bottle of Merrydown and a Morrissey poster.
3:AM: Do you think there is anyone genuinely like you in music today?
S:I think there are a few bands who say similar things. We were at an Art Brut show the other day and there was this bit at the end of ‘Emily Kane’ where Eddie started reciting ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ while holding said imaginary light before lifting it up and tenderly blowing it out, thus communicating in a single gesture a whole song’s worth of what I’m on about. That was pretty much the best thing I’ve ever seen anyone do on stage. Eddie’s annoyingly good.
3:AM: Do you prefer to play electrically or acoustically, given the folkish nature of your sound? Are you booked more for gigs in typical rock, or singer/songwriter-style venues?
J: We don’t play acoustic sets, we tend to fight if we do that, so it’s always big loud live sets
S: And we are never booked for singer/songwriter-style venues — on account of the aforementioned turned-up-to-e-leven-ness, maaaaaaaaaaan.
3:AM: Which current rock stars would you like to obliterate? Bono: hero or bell-end?
S: Bono is a heroic bell-end. I can’t really work up that much violence against anyone I dislike. Have you heard The Vichy Government song about killing and eating Luke Haines as a mark of respect? I think I’d be more into something like that — if the bloody Vichy Government hadn’t thought of it first.
J: That Chris Martin is just wrong, though…
3:AM: Due to your folky connections, do you feel compelled to write politically? Would you consider there to be an element of protest to your sound: do previous “protest singers” inspire you, or do you think politics and music should be kept separate?
J: Politics and Music should not be kept separate. Music doesn’t have to be political, but to be honest the bands that seem to be called political only have to say the name of an American official a few times for it to be “controversial”. That pisses me off more. It’s not political to decide to “be political” in your songs. It just proves you don’t read the papers, you don’t watch the news, you don’t find “alternative” sources of news… You just listen to what some feller told you when he passed you the Dutch draw, and you think he’s ok, so you go “OK, I’ll write a song about how I don’t like Bush”. It’s idiotic, and people who do it get far too much credit. I don’t want some cunt telling me that war is wrong, over and over, I want them to tell me why they think so, and what made them come to that conclusion. The Indelicates is my protest, I think.
3:AM: IIf The Indelicates were a cake, what ingredient would each member be and why?
J: I’d be the eggs, of course. The binding ingredient.
S: What’s this about cake? Honestly…
3:AM: How did you all meet? What’s with the shared surname: are you masquerading as a couple, brother and sister, or is it a Ramones homage?
S: We are a couple. And brother and sister. Well, no, not brother and sister, but we are a couple. It’s a grammar thing. I always hate it when Americans and their linguistically colonised say things like “The Ramones IS a good band” so: by being — quite literally — a plural, The Indelicates are always right when they complain about it.
3:AM: At school, did you always know you wanted to be a rock star, or did you flirt with other careers?
J: I was supposed to be an English Lecturer or a waitress… Neither appealed that much. I’d quite like to be a problem solver, like that bloke in Pulp Fiction, “The Wolf” AKA Harvey Keitel.
S: I was supposed to be Prime Minister — and I would have been, too if it hadn’t been for you pesky Indie kids.
3:AM: If one of your favourite bands was to reform today and ask you to fill a member’s shoes, which band would you want it to be and why?
S: None of them — it would never work out. I’d get all pissed off being in the background of some established but personally-disappointing hero, we’d develop creative differences about direction, I’d walk out and no one would be interested in my solo career because this other fucker was the famous one anyway. You shouldn’t meet your heroes — if they’re worth respecting they already know how good they are and don’t feel comfortable being told. Then, communication only being possible between equals, you’re going to be stuck with small talk, which I hate anyway. I’ve met several of my heroes this year, so I speak from experience.
3:AM: Having been on your individual MySpaces, can you tell me about your various side projects, especially Simon’s musical. Also… that track ‘Lullaby’, is it for the band or do you also record solo?
S: The musical is next being performed in London on the 12th December, then in Lewes the following night. Full details are here. It is an adaptation of the Book Of Job, is very funny and would have a stage elephant if we could afford one. ‘Lullaby’ is from when I was a performance poet and singer/songwriter on the cabaret circuit, I do not do this any more. Between us we have about fifteen myspaces for various projects we started and bands we made up. There’s a wizard rock band, a John Kerry-themed trance one, a bunch of disgusting little grange nihilists called The Thlyds and Julia’s Bathroom choir where she gets people like Art Brut, the Subliminal Girls and David Devant and his Spirit Wife to sing songs into her minidisc in toilets. Links to all can be found here and there.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Richard O’Brien was born in Peterborough in 1990, and has been trying to escape ever since. He is currently still trying to get an education, and resides in a Lincolnshire village with his parents and his labradors with nautical names. He likes to act, listen to music, and write songs that will never be sung.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, December 11th, 2006.