Interview: Help Stamp Out Loneliness

Alex caught up with Manchester’s Help Stamp Out Loneliness, a promising dream pop outfit whose debut album is slated for release on May 9th. Read, listen and order.

1. I’m very excited to finally get to know you guys a little better. So band members, please introduce yourselves! I would really appreciate it if each of you could give us his/hers specific character description in no longer than 4-5 words. (When you got together, past projects and also, what each member does in the band etc. will be mentioned in the article’s intro)

Bentley Cooke & Colm McCrory (guitar and bass) were old friends who started Language of Flowers; Ben Ambridge and Louise (drums and organ) are old lovers from the South East of England; Katherine and D. Lucille (piano and vocals) are new lovers from Liverpool and Belfast.

2. Bentley and Colm: you have had a great experience I suppose with your former project Language of Flowers, with the involved jangly twee sound and also, where C86 pop is concerned. What happened there? Why did you stop completely and why did you think it was time to move on from that? Not that this decision hasn’t brought about HSOL, which is totally perfect, but do you plan to reconsider your past projects maybe, at some point?

COLM: Marc (McCourt) & I started Language Of Flowers in 1990, trying to sound like The Field Mice or Sonic Flower Groove era Primal Scream. We played one gig with Heavenly in 1992 and were so bad we didn’t play together again until 2004. We might get back together in 2016 then. Marc is doing his solo album at the minute, which should be interesting.

BENTLEY: Language of Flowers was great but we all had our own plans … plus I was an awful drummer. We played a gig in Hamburg two years ago and Jesus … no … it’s happily been put to sleep now.

COLM: It was too difficult keeping a band going split across Belfast, Manchester & London. I keep running into this guy who was at the last Hamburg gig. He just points and laughs.

3. Which was the very first song you recorded as HSOL and how did that go? Did you have a clear sound in mind before recording, or did you just go with the flow and take from what came out in the end?

BENTLEY: well apart from our first single – Torvill & Dean it’s probably the demo Louise and I recorded together called ‘Lino Heart’. We always wanted to sound like an indie-schmindie kraut-pop band and ‘Lino Heart’ still is the best song we’ve never released.

LOUISE: Lino Heart was a bit of a fluke – we were recording a guide track for a potential female vocalist to join the band. But it took on a life of its own and me and me and Bentley are gonna release it as Lager and Lime in August.

D. LUCILLE: Torvill & Dean is my first memory of HSOL. It was the first song I ever sang within a band set up. I remember we rehearsed it in the camera obscura of the Salford Lads Club and with it being the first song we released and played at live shows its lodged somewhere deep inside my heart.

4. Your album will be out May 9th. As we all eagerly await its official release, we would very much like to know what tours and promotion ideas you have decided for it. Did you already choose specific locations where to play? Also, mention if it’s possible, some concert dates and locations that will take place in the near future. Germany or France anytime soon?

BENTLEY: We’ll take whatever we can get.

5. Biergarten, Angelyne, Record Shop and The Ghost with a Hammer… are all amazing pop songs. The entire new album (well, most of it, as I haven’t yet found all of the tracks) is a great musical experience, but the 4 tracks mentioned above are definitely at the top for me. Out of the bunch, which song has proven hardest to record and why?

BENTLEY: Aww, thanks Alex – all the songs were dead straight forward for me coz I wrote them. Being in a band is ridiculously easy – all you need is a Northern Irish man on bass.

BEN: For me Ghost was the hardest – as it’s pretty exhausting to play – but at least I can remember all the words.

D. LUCILLE: For me Ghost! During recording my vocal chords were being attacked by a nasty illness which was a very frustrating. It resulted in my vocals wavering out of key all the time. The rest of the band thought I was either nervous or had lost the ability to sing forever, hence the screaming and shouting … which kinda worked.

6. Which one required the most practice and which one do you expect to be the best crowd pleaser when touring?

LOUISE: Split Infinitives for both – It’s a really good finale if we can pull it off, but it’s 8 minutes long and there’s a lot of different parts, so someone usually comes in too early.

BEN: Or not at all.

BENTLEY: Split Infinitives is a song we’ll regularly drop if we’ve drunk too much Sambuca. S*W*I*M is by far the most fun to play which means we enjoys ourselves which means we play more freely which means it tends to work better for the crowd. Stress equals fear: fear equals bad chords.

D. LUCILLE: S*W*I*M is the truest, best and deepest song on the album, the lyrics and melody reach my heart and I feel an unexplained force when performing it live, singing it makes me feel both invincible and free.

7. I’ve also been a huge fan of Cellophane. Will that also be part of your first album or will it remain a single? Better yet, could you please give us the track list of the album? Please also mention all the greatness there is to be expected from this wonderful project as there are still unheard tracks.*

BENTLEY: Thanks. Yes it will be featured on the album.

8. Torvill and Dean – I find the organ at the beginning of the song specifically relevant, more so when thinking about the lyrics involved. Great job! Do all of you take part in the writing process or is someone in the band “in-charge” of this specific activity? In any case, hats off to the writer, specifically for the witty and funny Record Shop story!

BENTLEY: It’s simply a major chord which follows the opening gambit – the song opens with 3 x guitar chords which were stolen from Joy Division’s ‘Disorder’. I write all the songs at first and then the rest of the band slag them off/panel-beat them until they sound OK. I wrote ‘Record Shop’ after watching ‘The King of Comedy’ when I was 22 – it used to be called ‘Masha’s Theme’ but that didn’t sound as cool as ‘Record Shop’.

BEN: A band’s not a democracy and the minute the drummer starts coming up with song-writing ideas, you’re in trouble.

LOUISE: That’s not to say we don’t tell Bentley when something sounds shit!

9. I found some comments back from 2008, mentioning a song called Split Infinitive that was up on your MySpace. Did I get it right or is that something else? Because I couldn’t find this particular song anywhere,
could you give us the story behind it and why there isn’t so much as an old youtube link for it or why it isn’t up on your bandcamp page? Where could we listen to it now? Also, mention some of your older songs, if any
remained unmentioned here, which should definitely be heard before listening to your new album and of course, where one might do that.

BENTLEY: we play ‘Split Infinitives’ at the end of most of our gigs. It’s our swan song and it’s the last track on our album. It’s perverse and beautiful at the same time. You’d love it!

10. I can’t help but remain amazed by the strong resemblance in vocals between Lucille and Nico. It was such a terrific surprise when first listening to you guys. Do you plan to take more advantage of this in the
future? And by this I mean maybe some covers of Nico’s tunes or the ones written together with The Velvet Underground? Or is there maybe some unbelievable collaboration with Lou Reed coming up anytime soon? =D

BENTLEY: Kill jester.

11. I’ve read different opinions that a clear influence for you would definitely have to be that of past new wave and post-punk bands like Au Pairs or The Passions. Could you mention some other influences, or just some other great 80s bands, which you appreciate and of whom you may take bits
and pieces into your own creations?

BENTLEY: well I think it’s of no surprise to anybody that I stole the bass and drum parts from ‘It’s Obvious’ for ‘Cellophane’; ‘Me, Sola & C’ is more than similar to ‘I’m In Love with a German Film Star’. Stylistically (especially with D. Lucille as our front woman) we’ve drawn many comparisons with female fronted post punk bands such as the Mo-Dettes, Girls at our Best and Delta 5 due to our colourful stage presence. The best review I ever read about us was on PopArt ‘Like a John Hughes film soundtrack with Nico on vocals’ – I think that sums us up pretty nicely.

COLM: I always preferred ‘Sounds like something from a horror film’ quote.

D. LUCILLE: ‘Nico without the foghorn element’ hmmm, I can hear some resemblance. When I listen back to our songs I like to imagine I am influenced by the vocal style of Billy Mackenzie, Amanda Palmer, Morrissey, Klaus Nomi even, maybe not.

12. You’ve played the Indietracks in 2009 and the London Popfest this year, just a month ago. How would you describe your experiences there and how did you find your audience to be responding to your sound? You
must be very pleased I suppose, as I’ve heard some wonderful feedback from the 2011 London Popfest you’ve attended. After giving us the gist, please tell us if you’ll also play the Indietracks this year? I strongly hope so!

LOUISE: I got mistaken for the Lovely Eggs woman at the last IndieTracks.

BEN: And I look a bit like the guy. We were both gonna start a Lovely Eggs cover band called ‘The Lovely Dog Eggs’. The reviews from Indietracks were a bit mixed. One person said we were the best band; another said we were the worst.

BENTLEY: Yeah, as a member of the audience I’ve always thought festivals were like Chinese Banquets for 8. You tend to pay for the extra stuff you don’t really want. I like no. 97 Kung Po Mock Duck with Vermicelli. It’s on the menu but it’s not on the set meal. That said … we got ace reviews at this years Popfest – so bring on the prawn crackers.

COLM: I always have Chicken Fried Rice with no sauce, although I had a Mushroom Burger before Popfest. It was just a mushroom in 2 pieces of bread. However Popfest was better than either of these choices. One of our favourite gigs that.

D. LUCILLE: At the last IndieTracks I just remember a whiskey in one hand, someone else’s cigarette in the other watching confused people, Spanish people, men on other men having a great old time.

13. Mention a couple of indie pop artists/bands from the moment, whom you appreciate for a specific sound or just plain love for their talent.

BENTLEY: SHRAG; Downdime; Letters To Fiesta
COLM: SHRAG again; Girls Names seem good; Allo Darlin’
D. LUCILLE: Shit Rag, sorry SHRAG ha, Wild Nothing

14. Mention 10 artists/bands you listen to the most, when you’re at home, when at work, whenever, no genre distinctions required. Just mention your all time favorites.

BENTLEY: Afghan Whigs; Yo La Tengo; Stereolab; Electrelane; Dinosaur Jr
COLM: Arab Strap; The Cure; The Faces
LOUISE: Camera Obscura; Au Revoir Simone; New Order
BEN: Stone Roses; REM, Spiritualized; Mogwai
D. LUCILLE: The Associates; Early Suede; Moondog; Patti Smith; Magnetic Fields; The Slits; Tuxedomoon; Neil Young; Diamanda Galas; Wild Beasts; Beach House; The Knife; Gary Wilson (13 whoops, can’t leave Gary out)

15. Give us a couple of artists you’d love to share the stage with and ignore all time/space references. They don’t have to still be singing, not even still be alive. If it’s too much like the question before, just mix’n’match questions 14 and 15 together please.

LOUISE: We don’t mind sharing a stage with anyone as long as they let us use their gear.

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