The Long Blondes
Live @ Bristol Anson Rooms
April 19, 2008
Interview & Photography: Steve Bateman

"The Long Blondes still mix the extravagant and the everyday as only they can; the illicit thoughts that let a chink of excitement into the ennui of suburban life. But this is no longer a sepia-tinted picture postcard of a past era, instead it is the aural equivalent of people watching the moon landings on a newly-acquired Colour TV or Futurists painting cityscapes of dizzying shapes and violent colours. It is the SHOCK of the NEW… Musically, "Couples" sees The Long Blondes stepping, dancing, falling and laughing into BRAVE NEW WORLDS." THE LONG BLONDES PRESS RELEASE

"The best musicians are able to defy expectations and forge new paths while retaining a strong sense of themselves, keeping people with them and not sending them scurrying into the arms of safer acts, and with "Couples", The Long Blondes prove that they are one such outfit." MUSIC OMH

"While Someone To Drive You Home experimented with a few genres and eras in music, "Couples" has much more variety and scope, and as a result, the record seems timeless - its tracks rarely offering accurate views into the time they were produced. This juggling of influences allows the band to fully spread their wings." CLICKMUSIC

"These songs often have unconventional structures but they're fabulously insistent, and vocalist Kate Jackson has also hit her stride as a fancy hybrid of disco diva and rock chick, part starry-eyed romantic, part sarky wit - the perfect frontwoman for a British band in their prime." METROLIFE

"The Long Blondes were always a smart band, but it's starting to become apparent, that they have a lot more ideas in their heads which they're only now learning to translate into their records. Which, considering how good they were when they weren't working at full capacity, is a thrilling prospect and "Couples", an ambitious and addictively brilliant record, is hopefully only the first fruits of it." NEW-NOISE NET

Prior to signing with Rough Trade, The Long Blondes once played a gig for Rosey + R*E*P*E*A*T, and today, is yet another exciting opportunity for me to meet up with one of my most favourite bands for an update interview, which has been written as a companion piece to my original article for the 'zine in October 2006. During the 16 months since I last spoke to the very beautiful and petite Kate - who I am again lucky enough to be talking to this afternoon - The Long Blondes (who no longer all live in Sheffield), have released their debut album, toured the World, won thousands of hearts and by honing their craft, have greatly improved as musicians. With this readily apparent at their dazzling shows and on their sleek, laconic sophomore effort, "Couples", which was released through Rough Trade on April 7.

Preceded by the single Century - a booming, retro futuristic slab of ecstasy - the self-referencing "Couples", has since been dubbed as both a "break-up" and a "concept" album by some quarters of the media, due to its running theme of relationships, affairs of the heart and snapshots of love gone awry. And, as "An Homage To The Mundanities Of Love - recorded under the watchful gaze of the 'Couples Wall' constructed in the studio by the band and featuring images of dynamic duos throughout history," it has also drawn comparisons to the making of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, as now, there aren't any couples left in the group.

Sonically, rather than rehashing the angular guitar garage punk and bubbling indie pop of their first 78, Someone To Drive You Home, working with Visionary DJ / Producer Erol Alkan (who had previously cut a selection of The LB's b-sides), has seen the 5-piece considerably up the ante. As "Couples" is a step on, and is showered with dark, sultry disco synths and bracing, incendiary rhythms - with each song allowing Kate's vocal range to really shine through this time around. From falsetto to breathy, to defiant to considered, to smoky to smooth, which as a consequence, has added extra gravitas and effervescence to the songs' as always, erudite and interesting lyrics. And ever the pop culture magpies, there are even spoken-word samples from among others, Terry Wogan, Ronnie Corbett and David Swift, thrown in for good measure!

"The band are now an inventive, collaborative art project, which is what we've always wanted to be," Kate has opined. Yet crucially, The Long Blondes have still retained their ethos of being "Accessible & Interesting," with Screech subscribing to the quote, "Because something is populist, it doesn't mean it's less worthwhile." Fans of the group will also be aware that the quintet are artists who embrace all aspects of creativity, and know just how important imagery is to the fabric of their Universe - and for "Couples", even Kate's artwork has gone in a new direction. Notably, this was inspired by '40s Swing and Jive LPs, that she and Dorian found in a skip in London after walking home from an Indian Restaurant late one evening.

Now identified as a "Modernists," Kate recently remarked to The Independent, "We were born in the 20th Century, but we became adults in the 21st. The Internet didn't exist when we were late teenagers, so I think we're quite aware of being children of two generations… and we'd like to keep a little bit of myth to pop music and film culture, which I think has been lost." Dorian also elaborated to The Fly, "Culture is the reason we exist, so you should try and engage with as many different parts of it as you can. We feel that there are a whole load of influences that we always claimed to have, but never got across in our music, and this is the first time we have been able to do it." Although a more challenging, less commercial and frostier sounding record, given a little time, you'll soon surrender to the exquisite excellence of "Couples" and will be caught up in its many rapturous grooves!

Something tells me, that after pulling off an inventive magnum opus with such aplomb, and "not wanting to be a band defined by a place or time," that we as listeners, should keep expecting the unexpected. As not only did The Long Blondes bond over a shared love of music - but music is who they are! And with such lofty aspirations, it seems they're only going to keep getting better and better!

True Class indeed…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1. I first had the pleasure of interviewing you in 2006, and to begin with, I just wondered what some of your favourite memories have been since that time, and if you may have learnt anything about yourself?
"God (laughing)! 2006 seems like a long time ago now, and we first met at the Oxford Zodiac didn't we? As you know, we played there yesterday - where you also came to see us - and we were saying, "When was it that we last played here?" Because it's changed so much since then hasn't it? So being there, kind of brought it all back and made it feel sort of fairly recent again. I mean what's happened since then (thinking)? Well, we released our first album and we did 2 full UK tours, we went around Europe - we've basically been around the World since then! We went to America, Australia and Japan last year, played all of the big Festivals, played on The Main Stage at Reading and Leeds and The Second Stage at Glastonbury, which was pretty amazing (smiling)! And I just think that's the best thing about doing this you know? You write some songs and because you've written a few songs, you get to go around the World and play them to people, and people love them (laughing)! What have I learnt about myself, hmm (thinking)? I crave routine! It's weird, because I didn't think I liked routine, but I think I do now! You do get into a bit of a rhythm when you're on tour, but the thing that annoys me the most about doing the job that I do, is that there's no kind of stability - you can't eat at the same time of the day everyday. You know, it messes with your body and it messes with your head a little bit, and you kind of just crave really simple boring things, like being able to go to the pub with your mates on a Saturday night, which you really can't do. But it has its Pros & Cons - like travelling is good and the lack of routine is not so good (laughing)."

2. The Long Blondes' return was such a wonderful surprise, as your adventurous change in direction and fully-realised ideas / songs, completely surpassed my expectations of how I thought you were going to sound. Have there ever been any artists / bands that you love, whose comebacks have elicited the same response in you?
"Ahh, bless you for saying that about us (laughing)! Has there ever been anyone that has done that to me (long pause + thinking)? Um, I'm just scanning now (laughing + still thinking), I don't think so - no! I mean there's a lot of consistently good albums, but nothing in recent times anyway, that has surpassed my expectations. If anything, usually it's the other way around and I'm kind of a little bit disappointed. Last night though, I heard some of the new Portishead stuff, and I wasn't expecting much from that, and I think it sounds absolutely amazing - the tracks that they were doing on Jools Holland. So I'm definitely going to buy the new album. It's really, really interesting and very cool!"

3. Would you agree that few great groups arrive fully-formed?

"Definitely, absolutely, yeah - certainly in our case (laughing)! But I think it's really nice to do it that way (smiling), because if you're forming a band, you should just go out there and play as soon as you can. Because your fans get really attached to you, and they see you evolving, growing musically and changing all of the time. I mean we've really learnt how to play our instruments now, but when we first started, it was like watching a shambolic mess (laughing), but I think that's kind of endearing (smiling), and it makes for a more interesting history!"

4. Second albums are renowned for being 'difficult' - although "Couples" confidently side-stepped this notion - and often see musicians taking more risks. Do you have any favourite follow-up LPs?
"Hmm, favourite second albums (thinking)? Yeah, I think Arctic Monkeys' second album is a lot better than the first album - I love it!"

5. Of all the records that you own, which do you tend to go back to more - the ones that were instant, or the ones that took time to grow on you?
"Probably the ones that took time to grow on me. I think The Fall are a great example of a band that (pausing), you know, you buy a Fall album and leave it for 6 years and then come back to it again, and you're like, "That was great - that's definitely one of the best Fall albums ever made (laughing)!" It did take me about 6 years to get into Code: Selfish (laughing). I mean lots of Fall albums are quite similar in style, but then Mark E. Smith goes off on weird tangents - like in the mid-nineties, a lot of the stuff that he released then, was just weird, but I'm kind of getting into that now (laughing)."

6. And which LP in your collection is the coolest / most cutting-edge, and which LP is the most embarrassing / a guilty pleasure?
"Um (thinking), OK, the most embarrassing has got to be all of my cock rock stuff, like Mötley Crüe and Poison (laughing), but that's fine, because I really love all of that stuff and I'm not ashamed of it, so it's staying firmly in my record collection (smiling)! The coolest would be (thinking), Cowboy In Sweden by Lee Hazelwood, I love it - that's my favourite album!"

7. What's the best record shop that you've ever been to?
"The best record shop that I've ever been to? There's a really amazing place in LA called Amoeba Records - the States is just brilliant for it (pausing), and Europe is pretty good actually. But unfortunately, a lot of the good ones in England have closed down now. In New York, there used to be a shop called Rocks In Your Head, which was really good and that's closed down, so it's happening all over the World. But Amoeba Records - there's one in San Francisco and there's one in LA - they're very good!"

8. How would you spend your ideal day?
"Ahh, isn't that a lovely question (laughing). Um, well I don't think I'd spend that much money (pausing), I think I'm going to try and have my ideal day on Tuesday, because I've got a day off in London with my boyfriend and we're staying in a nice hotel. It will probably involve going to The Zoo or The Aquarium, because I love Aquariums and I love fish. It would probably also involve a pub lunch of some sort, maybe a bit of shopping - but not too much - and then cocktails early evening (laughing). Maybe go and see a band, finished off by walking along The Embankment at dusk (smiling)… and we'd go to our favourite restaurant for fish as well!"

9. And who would be your ideal dinner guests?
"Nick Cave, Jonathan Ross (laughing) - I love Jonathan Ross, I'd reverse roles and interview him! Nancy Sinatra, because I would love to ask her loads of questions about Lee Hazelwood (laughing). Jeremy Clarkson - just for arguments sake - and I need another woman (thinking), Beth from the Gossip - she's lovely, I've met her - because she would really argue with Jeremy Clarkson (laughing)!"

10. In the revered music book, England's Dreaming, Jon Savage wrote, "Rock 'n' roll without myth, would be like a wasteland" - but do you have a favourite rock 'n' roll myth?
"Stevie Wonder isn't blind (laughs uproariously)! That's my favourite rock 'n' roll rumour anyway (smiling). Apparently it's a myth, he's not blind at all (laughing)! I just think that's funny (laughing)."

11. And to date, what do you think has been the ultimate rock 'n' roll statement?

"Um (thinking), I hate rock 'n' roll statements - I'm really not a fan, because most of them just end up being clichés, and the people who copy them are invariably terrible. Hmm (thinking), I think it's a really difficult question (long pause + thinking). I want to say Gram Parsons - it wasn't an intended statement, the fact that he died obviously - but it's my favourite rock 'n' roll story anyway, so I'll tell you that. Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris were touring together constantly, but they both had other partners - I think she was married and had a child, and he was going out with somebody else. But they fell in love with each other, through singing together every night. So at the end of this extensive tour (pausing), this is more of a romantic statement than a rock 'n' roll statement (laughing), but that's more like me (smiling). But at the end of this tour, they decided that they would leave their partners and get together, and finally they did, and then he went on a bender to celebrate and ended up dying as a result. So she wrote Boulder To Birmingham about that. It's my favourite rock 'n' roll story, but it's very sad."

12. Martin Scorsese's film on The Rolling Stones, Shine A Light, was recently screened to critical acclaim - but is there an artist / band that you would like to see a documentary made about?
"The Fall (laughing), it would be really interesting to see the inner-workings of what Mark E. Smith's actually like - when they're making albums - because I know he's notoriously sacked lots of musicians in the past. But there is a book coming out, which is like his Official Autobiography - it's been serialised in The Guardian all this week, so I've been reading that. But I would like to see a film about The Fall. I'm sure if he allowed it, it would be one of the most interesting rock 'n' roll documentaries ever made!"

13. NME has just released a 3CD compilation entitled 'NME Classics' - which features a timeline of legendary songs from The '70s, '80s and '90s. But if you had to pick 1 defining song for each Decade, what would they be?
"Oh My God! These questions are so hard for me to think of off the top of my head! You should've e-mailed this to me, it would've probably been a better interview if I'd done it over e-mail (laughing). Defining songs for The '70s, '80s and '90s did you say? OK, The '70s (pausing), the thing about that time, is that there are so many different genres of music that I really like, i.e. glam, disco and punk, so I could pick 3 very easily, but I'm going to have to say a Bowie track from The '70s, and I'll stick with Ziggy Stardust. The '80s (long pause + thinking), it's a tough one again, because do you go indie or do you go pop? Indie or pop, indie or pop (thinking)? Madonna, Into The Groove. Or, Papa Don't Preach - anything by Madonna, because it's definitely more symbolic of what The '80s were all about. I really love The Smiths as well, so that would've kind of been my alternative choice, so maybe you could say both (laughing), for very different reasons, do you know what I mean? And now The '90s - Britpop. Pulp, Common People."

14. Who was your first ever pop star crush?
"God, the guy from Roxette (laughs uproariously) - when I was about 8 or 9! And then it moved steadily into dirty cock rock people. I really fancied Spike from The Quireboys when I was 10 (laughing) - horrible, longhaired greasy men, I've always gone for them (laughing)! And then it was Slash from Guns N' Roses (smiling)."
*I say to Kate that I was fortunate enough to photograph Slash and Velvet Revolver last Summer*
"Oh really (excitedly)? Oh My God!"

15. Many young music fans wear music T-shirts almost as a badge of honour, but over the years, which artist / band do you think has had the coolest T-shirt design?

"The coolest T-shirt design (excitedly)? Whoa (laughing), Jesus (long pause + thinking). If we go back to the mid-nineties, I was a massive fan of Pulp and I always thought that their T-shirt with the black and silver logo - the one from the Different Class album - was really cool! And I just think that all of the artwork for that era of Pulp is brilliantly done, so yeah, I'll say Pulp (smiling)!"

16. Do you have a favourite Long Blondes photograph, magazine cover or promo video?

"Crikey, um (thinking). We did some photos for Pop magazine in Berlin, and I think those are my favourite ones taken of us to date - it was just such a nice day! There haven't really been many magazine covers and those that we have been on, I haven't really been that happy with yet. A favourite promo video (thinking)? Likewise, I've not been 100% happy with any of our videos yet (laughing). The new video for Guilt is OK, but I'm still not 100% happy with how I look personally on it, but there you go (laughing). So no (laughing), because you end up really analysing everything that you do."

17. What is your biggest Love and your biggest Hate?

"Hmm (thinking), my biggest Love actually, is walking around cities on my own, just with my headphones on…"
*I mention to Kate that I actually saw her as I was driving up to Bristol University*
"Did you see me doing that (excitedly)? I always do it if I get the chance (laughing)! Especially on tour, because you're constantly with other people all of the time, so you need a little bit of privacy and I just love exploring new cities! I prefer walking around suburbs actually, than walking around town centres, just looking at different houses and trying to peak in through people's windows and stuff like that (smiling). I'm usually listening to The Smiths or Saint Etienne or something (laughing), but I love doing that! My biggest Hate (pausing), these are definite e-mail questions you see, because I'm rubbish at thinking of things on the spot (laughing). What do I really hate (long pause + thinking)? At the moment (pausing), I can't really say that (laughing)… no, I can't say that (laughing)! There was something the other day that was really, really annoying me, but I can't remember what it was now, um, let me think (thinking). Oh, at the moment, my biggest Hate without a doubt, is getting the train, which I do a lot as well - because I'm always travelling - and not being able to sit down I think is an absolute disgrace (laughing)! But it happens all of the time! I'm not blaming anyone, it's just that the trains are always so full. So that's my pet hate (laughing)."

18. If you could relive any moment in your life, what would it be?

"Oh my goodness, that's so hard! You could relive any moment (gasping), there's loads (long pause + thinking). Probably - this is a childhood memory - but when I was between the ages of 8 and 12, me and my Mum and her then boyfriend, used to go to Tenerife for our holidays quite a lot - more than once or twice a year you know? Because he had a villa there and his villa was halfway up the mountain, near a volcano in the crater, and I was quite fit then, as in athletic and stuff - I'm not anymore (laughing)! But I used to just run down the side of this mountain with no shoes on, and it was complete and utter freedom (smiling), but in a very kind of Gerald Durrell way I guess (laughing). So I'd like to be able to do that again (laughing)!"

19. Your songs continue to have lots of clever references to culture, film, literature and music etc. But have you come across anything new recently that has inspired you?

"Well apart from Ronnie Corbett (laughing), I think the only other thing that has inspired me recently, is a group called Glass Candy ( They used to be a garage band, but they've really changed their sound and are now much more dance-based - I do love their music!"

20. Are there any particular lyrics that you've heard, or any lines of poetry that you've read over the years, that have always stayed with you?
"Yeah, a Bobbie Gentry song called Fancy - I love that song and there's a line in there that (pausing), Oh Christ, how does it go, how does it go (long pause + thinking)? Sorry, my brain's not functioning properly at the moment (laughing + still thinking). Maybe if I sing it, it will help (thinking, then suddenly clicking fingers and singing)…

"She handed me a heart-shaped locket that said, 'To Thine Own Self Be True'."

The story of that song - I don't know if it was actually true or anything like that - but Bobbie Gentry's Mother had died, and she ended up finding this locket that was from her Mother to her, and the message inside it was, 'To Thine Own Self Be True'. It reminds me of me and my Mum (smiling)."
*At 5.30pm, we hear the rest of The Long Blondes beginning to soundcheck Weekend Without Makeup, so Kate says that she'll only have time to answer a couple more of my questions now, as she really needs to join them on stage*

21. If a Pub Quiz Music Question was asked about The Long Blondes, what would you like it to be?
"Oh (laughing)… How many pairs of American Apparel Underpants does Dorian have (laughs uproariously)?"

22. Lastly, chips or cream buns?
"Still cream buns! I'm sorry sweetheart, I must go and soundcheck because they're starting without me, but we'll all see you afterwards (smiling)!"

A very special thanks to Kate, Dorian, Emma, Reenie and Screech, to The Long Blondes' Tour Manager Keith, and to Roxy @ Rough Trade, for all of their time and help.

Bristol Set List

Round The Hairpin
Autonomy Boy
Weekend Without Makeup
Here Comes The Serious Bit
Erin O' Connor
Separated By Motorways
I Liked The Boys
Too Clever By Half
You Could Have Both
The Couples
Once And Never Again
I'm Going To Hell
Giddy Stratospheres

Lust In The Movies

"That was then and this is now
That was just nostalgia"

Be too clever by half about this review on our message boards here

KJG: We don't know yet. We're playing a lot of new material