Farewell to Forever Exclusive Interview With Bobby Wratten, 10 February 2001
3:00 pm Saturday afternoon... It was raining again, it was one year later and we were sitting listening to the crap support bands doing their soundcheck while trying to hear to what Bobby had to say to us... What really excited us about the whole day was that we were going to see the Trembling Blue Stars twice and our mood was dreamy and impatient. Bobby was once again the sweetest person ever, obviously happier and more confident about the band...
So, how does it feel to have a proper band then, Bobby?!
It's really good, it's much more fun having other people around and the atmosphere in the band is really nice. I sort of knew who Keris was I didn't know him that well and it was really great getting to know him, he's so good. And Jonathan is great too, he's the perfect drummer, he's not like a rock drummer at all!
Does the fact that you bring your own songs to the band have any impact on the relationships between you?
No, not really. Keris is doing his own stuff with Harper Lee and Harvey, when he gets round to it, will probably do something else, although he seems to have given up on it at the moment. It's kind of known that Trembling Blue Stars is for my songs so there was never really a problem there.
What sort of things do you when you are not writing songs?
I have a dog whom I have to take for a walk twice a day (laughs). I like going to the cinema. You know normal things like that. I also got three nephews who I see everyday and that easily takes four or five hours a day!
What were you dreaming of doing as a kid?
Outside of pop music I never really knew what I wanted to do. I think I listened to a lot of records that had a bad influence on me from an early age. Every six months or so I go through a Jam phase and I was thinking just the other day, that when you buy these records when you are very young (I was 13 when I started listening to them), this puts a lot of ideas in your head and you think "yeah, working is silly!" and this sort of stuff. So that messed me up. When I was 12 or 13 it was the Clash and the Jam and when I was 16 it was The Smiths and that was the final nail in the coffin really! I was that way inclined so I thought it would be nice to make records. Mind you, I never put this together with playing the guitar or anything. I just though it would be a nice thing to do although I was always wondering, so how do you do that? I couldn't play the guitar then and I can barely play it now! But I certainly couldn't play the guitar when I was 16. Having said that, when I was at school, that was when I was really young, I said to my teacher I wanted to be a milkman! But I'm a vegan now so I couldn't deliver milk. Oh, maybe soya milk, then I could be a soya milkman (laughs). No, the reality is I thought I'd rather be a struggling indiepoper and that's what I am.
So what is the songwriting process for you?
It tends to happen in batches. I won't write anything for a year and then I'll write an album in two week which is what I've just done! Recently I would go to bed and I'd just pick up my guitar and instead of going to bed I would go to another room and start messing about. And although I have no intention of writing a song, when you find yourself up at 5 o'clock in the morning, you say, oh here's another song. That happened for six nights in a row so half the album was written in a week! I can't just sit down a write a song. Sometimes I feel I have to do it, you know I promise Matt and then I say to myself, I'd better sit down and write these songs! But somehow it always tends to work out.
So the album is ready then!
Yes, we've started recording it. Well, one day and then I'm going in for a couple more days next week. At this point we are doing backing stuff with Jonathan learning the songs etcetera. We are going to decide which songs will have drums. We still want to use loops and drum machines, you see. Keris will do as much of the bass as possible because I really want him to do it. I would like for everyone to be involved. The only shame is that Beth has to go back to the US for some time so she might not be back in time to sing in the album. Annemari will do the singing but it might just be the case that Beth does some singing too.
Is Trembling Blue Stars not such a personal project anymore then?
I think, because of the way it started it's always going to be my thing: my songs and everything, although I know that sounds really horrible! What I do is I give people acoustic version of the songs… I hope Keris will write his own bass lines, but they're basically my songs. Is it like it was in Field Mice then? Well, the FM was my songs too! (laughs) We were trying to be democratic and everything but at some point someone will say, that's how we have got to do it. So Trembling Blue Stars is going to be a band but it's going to be my band (laughs). I'm really useless at leading a band. I'm certainly not the one telling everyone what to do. Harvey is that one! He'll make the decisions, he'll sort of go "I'm not going to do that song!". Oh, he would probably not agree with that, but someone has to make the decisions.
When Annemari is in the audience do you still feel like you're singing to her or do the songs lose their original sentimentality and become more like songs instead of statements?
They have to lose something, otherwise I would be standing there weeping! It sounds awful but there is a point when they almost become just songs and you lose yourself in the sentiment of the song but you can't go back and feel terrible. When I sing "I Never Loved You More", it becomes that kind of song. Obviously I still think of her but it's not the same anymore. It's a long time ago now. When we look at it now it's sort of funny. When the last album came out and we saw the reviews, where they were saying, oh it's about him and his ex-girlfriend and she sings backing vocals, well, we were reading them and it was like reading about two other people.
Is there any particular song you wouldn't sing live because you find it too personal?
We haven't done "Sleep" live… I like it but Harvey finds it too grim and sometimes I feel it sounds like The Cure! It's a bit too personal, I'd have to be in a particular mood to sing that song and it's not the mood I really want to ever be in again. I was happy just to write the song and record it. But I'm not that sensitive about it because it's a bit late now of course to say, oh I shouldn't have opened up so much.
Are you looking forward to doing the US dates?
Oh yes! It just dawned on me the other day when it was all finalised and I though, that's pretty exciting! Hopefully this is going to be the first part of something longer. We're going to do New York and Washington. Then Subpop will realise that people are interested in seeing us and they'll get us over there. They'll realise they haven't signed just some loser band from the UK! I think they are going to do a proper full-length tour. So this is a bit like testing the water. It's going to be quite odd! We've never played there and it seems there are quite a lot of people there who'd really like to see us. I'm just worried we're going to be popular in America and everyone will despise us here!
Who do you think your audience is?
I don't know! I'd say I don't think about it but then when you come to gigs you see what sort of people come and listen to us. Annemari says there are a lot of males in their early 30s, who have obviously been dumped by their girlfriends (laughs). [Ha-ha, Bobby clones!] I suppose I'm just hoping that all sorts of people would like to listen to us, not just those that liked the Field Mice. Although I'm sure we lost most of them and now it's a whole new set of people. When I write songs I almost imagine someone like me who likes the same kind of music. At the beginning I don't think about it but they I start worrying about it loads and think, should I use that word? The worst thing is when I write a song I tend to change things all the time, that's why it's good to get into the studio quickly. I must say I haven't been that bad this time around. Most of the lyrics are as they were originally...
So when should we expect the new album to come out?
Oh, we've missed a lot of deadlines already. But if we finish recording it by April, then we could get it out in August or rather September. The important thing is that we are doing what we like. Subpop doesn't interfere at all which is great and Matt doesn't interfere much either. He just listens to the demos and says OK! He actually thinks this is going to be our best album yet.
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