We really like Banana and Louie (http://bananaandlouie.wordpress.com/). We really do.
So much so that we decided to interview Matthew, Banana and Louie’s head honcho (it’s Brian Wilson if you will) and ask him a bunch of stuff that we thought of while listening to his wonderful record!
Here it is –
Andy – I discovered Banana and Louie when I found the first album in Vinyl Exchange in Manchester. Does it make you happy to think of someone stumbling upon your record in a second hand record shop or is it depressing to think that someone can pay bugger all for something that was such a labour of love?
Ha! I’m quite happy for people to stumble upon my music any which way they can, even if it’s file sharing with friends. I’ve got to the age now (both in terms of real life age and music making age) that I just want people to enjoy what I’ve made. If I totalled up all the money I’ve spent making records and travelling with my bands I’m probably down by quite a few thousand pounds at least. That’s a deposit on a house! I don’t regret it though. When I die I’d rather leave behind a load of art than a pile of bricks and mortar. Having said all that, it would be nice if I could sell few more physical records. I need the space under our bed back.
Andy – I’m mostly rubbish at record shopping but coming across your record counts as one of my all time triumphs! Do you have any stories of amazing record shop finds or any particular howlers?
Thanks. That really does mean a lot. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? You spend all that time putting all your efforts and love into something and to be honest you just want someone to say ‘hey, I like that.’ For me I just really miss the day when we had indie record stores in every high street. As a student in Bristol we had heaps of them. I’d go down to Replay with my mate Rob and come back with armfuls. It was a really social thing – mates sharing ideas. You’d hang out in those shops for hours at a time. The resurgence of vinyl is bringing some of that back but I do feel we’ve gone past the point of no return to an extent. I remember when you found a record you’d been after for years, like the first Felt record and you’d never listened to any of the songs before. It was amazing. It’s all too easy now. There’s no anticipation buying something on itunes. I can’t remember any particular howlers, but you could always just convince your mate something was the next big thing and swap it for something else!
Andy – We’re thinking of trying our hands at collaborating with someone for the next Eardrums Pop Between Two Waves compilation. Did you enjoy the collaboration process on Alphabet Soup? What problems or benefits did it present?
You should definitely do it. I’m thinking of trying it too. Alphabet Soup was a real labour of love. It was fantastic getting A Little Orchestra into the studio. Having all those parts you’ve dreamed up in your head come out sounding better than you imagined was a truly magical experience. I worked a lot with Ken from ALO who really is a genius. He helped with lots of the scoring and did many of the piano parts. It was hard work though and there is always that element of stress where you realise that every hour doing something is costing money. It took nearly a year to finish that record, but I’m really proud of it.
Huw – ‘Caroline’ really is one of the loveliest songs that I’ve heard in the last year or so. What is story behind it? A Caroline get’s a thank you on the LP sleeve, is this the same Caroline?
Thanks, that really does mean a lot. It’s partly based in truth and partly expanded upon. The song means a lot to me, because it’s loosely based on my first year in London and was written at a time when the London version of A Fine Day For Sailing was just getting into its stride. I think it’s probably my best song and I always got tingles when singing it. It’s definitely not about Caroline though! The name just fit – three syllables. It’s a bit of a mean song really, all about getting over somebody.
Huw – Your songs seem poetic, but also personal and heartfelt. Do you ever worry about being too personal and revealing in your songs?
Yes, definitely! It’s always coming back to bite me on the arse. I can’t write any other way though. Normally something in my life inspires me and it all comes from there. I’ve never really been able to do it any other way. It does get me into trouble, but at the same time I’m proud of it, because it means all the songs really do mean something. It gives them a charge. It does make it hard to meet up with ex-partners though – they never fare well in my songs.
Huw – Yours and Sharon’s voices sound really lovely together! Did you practise a lot on the harmonies? Who is Sharon? Is she on the new album?
She’s my wife! In fact, we’re newlyweds and married in August. We met when she joined A Fine Day For Sailing as the keyboardist. I won’t go into detail, it was all a bit Fleetwood Mac. We just seemed to fit together musically and otherwise. I’ve always loved the way her voice sounded with mine. I used to obsess over the harmonies and give everyone a specific part in a three, four or five part harmony, but Sharon is so good at it now that she works her parts out herself. She’s on the new album as the other voice and keyboards. There are only three people on this album; me, Sharon and Andy Fonda who drummed for us, from deepest darkest Devon.
Huw – There seem to be a lot more sad love songs in the world than happy ones. Has your song writing changed since settling down/having a kid/all of that?
Yes and no. The last album was mostly about falling in love and mostly very positive. This album is a lot more reflective. This isn’t because I’m unhappy. I’m incredibly happy. But I’ve now had time to reflect on some very tough parts in my life and it was quite therapeutic writing about them. It felt like closing the door on some bad times.
Huw – Are The Little Orchestra going to be on the new album?
No ALO. This album is very different to the last one. I simply can’t afford studio time so this one is mostly recorded at home. Rather than try to replicate what I did on the last album I purposefully set out to record a ten song pop album, with shorter punchy songs and lots of melodies. I think I’ve managed it. I have to be honest though and say that had I had the money and the time I would have liked to create something more grandiose. But people have always liked my more lo-fi songs, so hopefully they’ll like this. It’s gone from less baroque influences to more early Creation and Sarah records.
Huw – Might there be gigs? Be amazing if you came up to Liverpool!
I’d really love to. I don’t have a band at the moment though, so it might have to be acoustic shows. I’d do it, if I can get up there though. Banana and Louie is really a solo project after A Fine Day For Sailing split up. Having said that, AFDFS has always been a moniker for my music and has been through many many incarnations so you never know! I haven’t got time to arrange a tour but if any promoters see this, they know where to find me!
Andy – You put on a library fundraising popshow with Jens Lekman. That must’ve been ace! Was it hard work to organise?
It was one of the best experiences of my life. I couldn’t believe it when he said yes. He’s such a nice guy. We went up to Tottenham with him the night before for a little tiny gig in a warehouse. On the way up someone stole his wallet and we spent hours in a police station talking about the Smiths. There’s a bit in the third or fourth song on Alphabet Soup about it. It took a lot of organising, but to be honest I did a lot of it during work time at the library. That was very naughty, but it was all for a good cause.
Andy – Did you get the bug to do more or did you quit promoting on a high?
The chances are we’ll try putting on more Lovelypool nights in the coming year but it’s quite daunting. Do you have any tips?
I think my promoting days are over but you never know. When I started making music in the late 90s me and some mates used to put on gigs in Bristol for 50p. I loved the buzz of it, meeting bands and having a laugh. It was good because you’d get gigs in return too. We got a whole tour of the Netherlands from the result of putting some Dutch garage bands on. You’ve just got to enjoy it and be as fair to the bands as you can. Don’t worry when things go wrong because things ALWAYS go wrong at these nights!
Huw – What can you tell us about Vollwert Records? I hadn’t heard of them before.
Vollwert-Records is an amazing label run by Werner Truckenbrodt in Germany. Werner puts out a mix of some amazing re-releases of Creation stuff such as Biff Bang Pow! (one of my all time favourites) as well as some really good current music. I can’t remember exactly, but I think Werner got in touch through Phil Wilson (June Brides) who I met when I lived in Devon. Werner has always had faith in me and his encouragement kept me going when I felt like giving up. He means a lot to me and came to my wedding this summer.
Andy – There seem to be loads of librarians in pop bands (our Huw for one). Do you have any theories about why this is?
I’ve no idea haha! Maybe it’s the cardigans. I love librarians. Anyone that works for next to nothing in anything to do with books is alright in my book (boom boom.)
Andy – Did you used to collect football stickers as a kid or was there something else in your life that filled that particular void? Any good collecting stories?
Yeah! I had plenty of Match albums in my time. I was a huge Liverpool fan growing up. I used to obsess about completing my collection – especially the Liverpool players. I remember swapping about thirty stickers for Ian Rush. As got older I realised Liverpool weren’t successful enough for me. I now support Swindon Town.
Andy – Finally – Foxes or Squirrels?
Aw that’s a toughy. We had foxes living in our garden in London. I LOVE squirrels though. I once made one salute before I gave it a hazelnut. Nobody believes me to this day, but I saw it with my very eyes.
The second Banana and Louie record is on the way – keep your eyes on their blog for details – http://bananaandlouie.wordpress.com