Operator Please
Live at Gloucester Guildhall
(courtesy of Idle Hands Club Night)
May 12th, 2008
Interview: Kate Blower
Photography: Mike Tonks @ www.figmentphotography.co.uk

In 2005, in Queensland, Australia, five teenage students entered their school's annual "Battle of the Band" competition. Despite only recently having been formed, indeed each member was individually approached by the group's singer/guitarist Amandah Wilkinson to be part of the band in order to enter the competition, they won - and were rewarded with a box of donuts.
The band consisted of the Amandah on vocals and guitar, violinist Stephanie Joske, bassist Ashley McConnell and drummer Tim Commandeur. Keyboard players have changed over the years with Chris Holland currently taking charge on this UK tour, after the departure of Sarah Gardiner earlier in the year and classically trained Taylor Henderson now plays violin. Their sound falls somewhere in a pop-rock-indie-dance mash-up. With some fast power chords and faster drums, the youthful punk mentality is evident and the deal sealed with Amandah's vocals ranging from sugary sweet to aggressive roaring. Off set with acoustic sing-a-longs ('Two for, My Seconds' and 'Other Song' - close your eyes and maybe it's early Britney Spears on speed) and some energetic floor fillers ('Zero! Zero!' and 'Yes Yes' think Yeah Yeah Yeah's and The Hives) and it's a very pleasing mixed bag of sounds that's brought to the table.
After the school success, the group gigged relentlessly, anywhere and everywhere available in the Gold Coast area they lived. Cutting a 6 track EP "On the Prowl" independently, limited to 500 hand-made copies and effectively utilising the internet, the band gained attention through promotion via MySpace and hard slog entailing an irrepressible DIY ethic.

Imaginations were captured quickly and with the help of invaluable support from Australian youth radio station Triple J, the MySpace generation and word of mouth, they took things to the next level in the shape of a record label sponsored showcase in NYC. They signed to EMI Australia in 2006 whilst front woman Amandah was still only 17 years old.
Since then, they have cut their first commercial EP, the acclaimed 'Cement Cement' and more importantly released their debut album 'Yes Yes Vindictive' on EMI UK affiliate label Brille Records in November last year. Charting singles to date include the delicious dance/punk brew of 'Get What You Want' and their most successful track the excitable freak-out of 'Just a Song About Ping Pong'. The band has opened for the Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs on their recent Australian tours and is now in the UK for their biggest headlining tour to date, including performing at the Glastonbury festival.

I managed to get some one-on-one time with Amandah to pry into the world of Operator Please and get the deets on this feisty female. After her and Taylor's speedy Primark shopping spree and their bang on, 4 o'clock sound check, which I managed to sneak in on, we met and had a goss over a drink. Dressed in a cute vintage-style black and white dress over black leggings and pumps, and with a mane of black hair swept to the side of her face, the time had come for the serious business of 'chat'…..

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

Amandah, I've read that your father is English. Have you been to the UK before or is this you and the bands first visit?
No, altogether we've been on 5 tours to England so this is our sixth visit. I can remember coming to England for about 2 months when I was about 5, and we stayed in Manchester and I got to know the family! So, every time we play in Manchester I go and see my cousins - I hadn't seen her in 15 years and she saw me in the NME , and she was like 'Is that my cousin?!!

Before you became familiarised with the UK, did you or the rest of the band have any pre-conceived ideas of what life over here would be like and is there anything that surprises you?
I dunno. I guess the music scene in general surprises us because there's so much grey area in between what you would classify 'indie' and 'commercial'. If you look at the charts in America you've got the majority of R'n'B taking over the charts, which then transposes over to Australia. So, our chart system is very much like the American chart system, where you're either 'indie' or you're mainstream and there's no grey area in-between, and indie bands are not generally successful in the Australian market, because - I don't know why that is - I think it's just because of that stigma attached to it, y'know? And then you come over here and bands that are indie, on indie labels and stuff are making it big time! And that's not seen as such a bad thing. It's really interesting; the music industry over here is a lot different to how it is in Australia. I think that a lot of people think that cos its Western society that'll it'll transpose over everywhere and it's just so not the case.

For those who don't know too much about Operator Please at the moment, what do you think have been your greatest feats and achievements since the formation in 2005, things that you're really proud of?
Um, well we won an ARIA at home in Australia which was a big moment for us because ARIA's like an industry based award kinda ceremony and for us to be kinda recognised as a part of the Australian music scene was really cool. (I ask what the award was for and whether the ARIA's are comparable to the BRITS over here) It was Best Breakthrough Single 2007 for 'Just a Song About Ping Pong'. Yeah, it's sorta like that, it's sorta like Australia's Grammys. We've never ever claimed that we're anything, y'know...we've just done what we've done and to get a bit of recognition in our own country is really cool. There are so many great bands in Australia that go unnoticed, it's bad and I hope that it starts to change. Another achievement is actually making it over to another country. We've got amazing frequent flyer points now! In April last year we had a 10 day tour, and then we went home for a month and then we came back for 4 months and did 3 tours back to back and then went home. We've been travelling back and forth, back and forth. We've actually spent more time over here than in Australia this year!

With all these achievements - how do you celebrate? You're young, you must wanna go mad!

Oh, we did go mad, of course! There'd be no kind of limitations for that kind of thing! It's cool cos we've got all our old friends at home....
Have friends been supportive? How have they reacted?
A couple of my friends , um, only started talking to me recently because of, um, they didn't really have too much contact with me after school and then when I kinda got into the public eye they all contacted me and shit. But they aren't my friends, but I have, y'know, I can count my best friends on one hand. You always know because whoever you keep in contact with when you're over seas, who gives a shit to contact you, they're your friends. Growing up on the road is a big life lesson, you learn so many different things and you see things in such a different way and it really broadens your horizons. You become more open minded too.

You've said you'd never go back to Elanora High School to do a gig for the kids. What was the school experience like for you?
(Laughs) I'd never go back! My school experience was rough, I hated school man! Like, school was death to me! I don't have patience when it comes to something I'm not...y'know I just don't have time. I have a short attention span. I don't take orders very well. I was really good in class and good at art, and polite, but I was a cheeky polite. Y'know, like I think people were all cool with me being nice but they knew I was a bit, y'know I wasn't all wholesome!! (I suggest she won't be playing in assembly anytime soon) No, no, Oh my God, no...Urgh, I think I'd die! School children are ruthless. They don't give a shit about anything - those kids are vicious...I know I used to be one, not long ago either!

Operator Please are basically a DIY outfit who have done it through hard slogging. Apart from the obvious, what are the top tips you would offer other young musicians and bands out there?
Use any marketing tool you can to full effect. Things like the internet and MySpace and facebook, while you might wanna sit around and call them 'scene' or whatever; this shit helps you get your music out there. There are music blogs you can send your stuff to and as much as you might think entering competitions is naff, it's not. It's the ultimate time where you can showcase your music to a whole audience of people like you'll never know. Keep your eye out for those kinds of things. As much as there might be some stigma attached to entering some competition or whatever, and it might be 'not cool' to do whatever, as long as long as you're being your self and you're doing what you wanna do nobody can hold that against you. We've worked so hard to get where we are right now and that's why we deserve to be here doing what we're doing and nobody can take that away from us. And as much as people might wanna talk shit about us...and say all these nasty horrible things that aren't true... we're sitting here in another country, doing what we love to do and not giving a shit about what about anyone says. So, another thing I would say is don't listen to anything anybody has to say to you about...y'know, if you know what you want, go and get it. It's not gonna come to you and you can be pro-active with these things. Don't be scared of being DIY man, people see quality in that kinda thing when you take the time to make CD covers yourself or make t-shirts yourself, that's quality. That's giving 100% into what you wanna do. Whatever you put in is ultimately what you're gonna get out of it. And you've also gotta believe in yourself too. If you get a shit review, y'know, fuck 'em, whatever. That is one opinion in the room.

What age did you get into music and did you have a band or an album that really influenced you?
A really young age? There was a video tape my parents used to play every morning, so I used to watch Annie Lennox with my family every morning - and I was a big fan of it! After that I started getting into lots of my parents old stuff .By about 10 or 11, I was listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival, ELO, The Cars. Then I went through The Spice Girls stage and New Kids on the Block and stuff like that, I wasn't genre specific at all. I remember being really young and just thinking 'Hey, I like this. Cool, whatever y'know?" Never like "OH MY GOD, THATS SO LAME!" I just didn't care; hence why I probably got bullied the most out of everybody at school, I was doing whatever I wanted. By the time I was about 13 I was discovering what I really liked. And then I found all that New York movement kinda sound and I was like 'Oh shit, people are doing this these days, it's not just the pop and rnb that's around'. I think that the band that really was my favourite band, one album that really turned me on to that sort of music sorta indie kinda pop - then with the good guitar, was 'Free All Angels' by Ash. I think I was about 14. That album was a mixture of ambient and slow songs and really fast sort of aggressive songs. I found a 7" by a Scottish band called Urusei Yatsura. They had a song called 'Kewpies Like Watermelon' and that was really cool. I was never genre specific. I love old school Madonna and Michael Jackson; nobody will ever beat him, no one! The thing I don't understand is why people say something is their 'guilty pleasure'. I don't have 'guilty pleasure'! (I admit I am a closet Mariah Carey fan) OH MY GOD! That song where she's on the rollercoaster! I love that song!

Let's talk female fronted rocking bands. You're band rocks. You rock. I love Courtney Love and Brody Dalle. Any front women you in history that you particularly admire?
I love Courtney Love man! She's so like, (pauses to think)...shocking! That shock factor, she knows how to turn it up. She good at fucking playing guitar and that voice! There's so many. Some female fronted bands are put there for, y'know, guys, to sell the records. If that's cool for you and if that's the way you do it, that's fine, but last time I checked I was a musician! The Runaways were a band that I liked; there were 5 of them, that's great!

You play a Rickenbacker 330. Are you a big guitar freak?
No. I'm not.
What guitars do you have?
I've got that one. Then I've got a Godin which Canadian, it's a remake of an SG. I'm not too keen on that, I was cos it was my first guitar. But since getting the Rickenbacker I've become more...I know I hate Telecasters, I don't like the 'twang' of them, I think they're very 'top end'. I like the Rickenbacker because it's the hollow body, it's got a bright coil, like a bright end, but it's also got the deep part as well. The one guitar I wanted to get for ages was an Epiphone Riviera because it's a hollow body but it's got the double humbuckers, so it's got a deep sound, but heaps of brightness. I'm a pedal freak! I love pedals. I've got a Woolley Mammoth pedal, which is, like, a hand crafted, hand made pedal. It's like fuzz-tastic!! I love Tremelo pedals cos they remind me of bands like Suicide. Really dirty sounding, The Cramps sounding pedals - I love The Cramps. I got my first guitar when I was 13, I didn't even know I was getting it, it was great!

When you approached Stephanie, later to be replaced by Taylor, who plays the violin in the band, did you have a sound in mind?
No sound in mind at all. I honestly had no idea what it was gonna sound like. All I knew was that nobody wanted to play lead guitar. They were all guys playing Death Metal licking the fret board whatever, y'know. I swear to God everybody in that last year was into Slipknot - they were all wearing the t-shirts, like no disrespect, but how does that happen? They go primal for it! So there was a girl in my class who plays violin, I thought why couldn't a violin be in a guitar band? So we got her in and we mish-mashed together pretty much our songs. "I wanna play this part, rhythm section wanna play this part, then keys you take that part and violin you take the lead guitar part and we'll see what it sounds like", and then that sounded pretty good. A lot of people think a violin is an accompanying instrument, but a violin is capable of doing so much more.

How do your musical tastes differ within the band? Will we be seeing any radical new directions?
Ashley loves Cat Power and Feist. We like Belle and Sebastian and Ash, The Cramps, The Cars. Timmy loves jazz music. We love a bit soul music, y'know, Areatha Franklin. The Fugees, I love. Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Gangstarr, I'm totally into my Hip Hop! We like a lot of pop music, we like the Venga Boys (I consider stopping the interview at this point) No! (Laughs)For some reason their songs make you really happy! Oh and Kelis! Let's get this straight! Kelis is better than Beyonce and Rhianna put together - so why isn't she, like, everywhere? I love her, she is badass!

What festivals are you playing this year? I know you're doing Glastonbury.
We're doing Redfest, Wakestock. We're doing Hurricane festival in Germany - so excited it's gonna be Tim's 18th birthday. We're gonna run amok man! Heaps of smaller festivals, they're really cool, like The Great Escape Festival and The Shoreditch Crawl.
If you could have ideal festival line-up of your own, past and present, what bands who you have?
(Immediately replies) I'd have The Cars, Creedence Clearwater Revival, ELO, Suicide, ESG...Oh there's too many! I'm all excited now! I'd have The Cramps. I'd have that Nena girl who did '99 Red Balloons', I love it, the keyboards in that song are incredible! Devo!(I mention that I hear they cover 'Whip It' live) We're playing a festival in Australia with them , but we're not gonna do it there unless we somehow manage to get them on stage with us, which is impossible but I'm hoping! The line up would be pretty psycho!

Do you have an ideal support band or is there anyone you'd love to support?
We're supporting The Futureheads in a couple of weeks. I spent 8 hours at a festival in Australia, they played a 3pm slot, and I spent 7 hours or something lining up at the front of the stage to see them. I loved them. I still do! I'm freaking out like hardcore! In front of a 15000 person crowd and I'm standing at the front smashed up against the barrier, singing every single lyric to every one of their songs! And now we're playing with them. Do you know how scared I am? I get hell nervous in front of people I really like!

Without wanting to jinx the gig - what's the biggest on-stage disaster you've had and how did you deal with it?

We were touring with Foals and we did this show and had this build up of synth and drums, and when it comes to my guitar to come in it didn't work, so I stood there and I played nothing and I just laughed. So the song started as usual, with Ashley coming in - pretending like nothing had happened. I stood there just singing and I had to take the mic down off the stand and then screw around with my pedals and my leads and just keep singing until it started again. I was singing 'Get What You Want' too, mucking around singing... (In the name of credible journalism, I re-enact possible scenario by bending down to the floor holding invisible mic whilst pretending to fiddle with invisible pedals and leads, when I am then joined by Amandah, with her own invisible mic too on the floor really showing me how it was done!)" I KNOW YOU CAN, I KNOW YOU CAN, I KNOW YOU CAN!" (Cracks up laughing). I looked like a big idiot, it was so funny!

Do you have any pre-gig rituals? Maybe a big group hug or some facial warm up exercise??!
"No! You go on stage first! I don't wanna go on stage first! No! YOU go on stage first!!"I hate that. It's nerve-racking!

Who's the biggest caner in the band?
What's a caner? (I explain it's someone guilty of Rock and Roll excess) Ohhh caning! Oh right! I think we all have an area for our own! (I suggest it's Amandah herself!) No! It's not. I'm so weak when it comes to anything like seriously, I get drunk too quickly. I get lippy when I'm pissed. I say whatever I want to whoever I want, but it's usually only if they've pissed me off. I'm usually pretty well behaved! Ashley....yeah, maybe Ashley. And Timmy's pretty bad!

How important is hair in your band?
(Cracks up again and starts clapping in appreciation of quality gag question) I dunno! Everyone asks us how important our clothes and hair are and our shoes! I guess we just do our hair how we normally do it! My hairs just like jungle fever! I use anything I can to pin it down!

Lastly, which would you choose out of chips and cream buns?

Chips, definitely, because you can eat chips with ice-cream. Have you ever done that? Like hot chips with ice cream! Timmy's all for it man. Because it's potato. You can do anything with potato. And cream buns you get sick of and when you vomit some really weird white shit, people think you're frothing at the mouth and that's kind of whack!

Many thanks to Operator Please, Johnny Clark, Joe Schiavon @ Idle hands Club Night and Mike Tonks and Gloucester Guildhall.



wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looking forward to it. (Laughs). It's difficult to say because the last few months have felt strange, it's felt like going down a plughole. I've got a real sense of vertigo at the moment. So I can't their myourself. When I'm this close up to it, it's really difficult to tell.