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interviews - june 2004

- Airport Girl
- Mark Hibbett

- X is Loaded

Airport Girl
Doyens of the indie pop underground, Airport Girl are just about ready to release their second album. In between losing the master tapes, founder member and spiritual guru of the mighty Fortuna Pop! label, Sean Price, nattered away to tasty…. 

Can you tell me a bit more about the history of the band?
Well, they were a Canadian band originally called The Hawks who backed Richie Hawkins and... um, sorry, the old ones are the best don't you know? You want to know about Airport Girl? Hmmm. Well, we started a long time ago now, maybe seven or eight years. My brother rob, who's the musical genius behind the whole operation, was still living at our parent's home and had been writing all these songs, and I knew he wanted to put a band together but didn't quite know how to go about it. I was working in London by then, but I injured my knee playing football, quite badly as it turned out, and I ended up back home too, to convalesce after an operation. So we just decided to do it, there and then, and we got Tris in to play guitar, who was the younger brother of one of Rob's school friends, and Rob's girlfriend Vicky played keyboards, a little tinny Casio that we still use. We didn't have a drummer then, just an Alesis Drum machine. Sounded OK though. I remember it was the dead of summer in Shepshed, which is just this small village off the M1 near Loughborough where our parents live, and it felt great and exciting to be starting a band, even though we were all fairly clueless about it.

So then, and I guess I'd better hurry this up as I'm writing a fanzine interview and not a book, right? Then we played our debut gig in Derby with Twinkie at the Warehouse, and I remember being very excited to be on the same stage that I'd seen Pavement on not too long before, although Moo from Twinkie, who worked there at the time, told me all he ever thought about on stage was how badly he'd swept up. Our friend Adam played analogue keyboard for us that night, but he lived in Holland so it wasn't going to work out. That's when Dave got involved. We knew he wanted to join, and then one evening we met him in the pub and he was trying to impress some girls by telling them he was in a band, so we took pity on him and let him join.

After that we had a few tracks out on various compilations, and I put out 'Between Delta and Delaware' as the first single proper on Fortuna POP! The b-side got used to soundtrack the goals on Match of the Day, courtesy of a mate who had a summer job at the beeb. Probably still our greatest success! After that we decided we needed a drummer, and we had a couple of guys, Sam and Tom play at various times. Sam was great and played on a few of the tracks on the 'Honey, I'm an Artist' album, but he left Leicester and we got Jon in, who's our current drummer. Around the same time Vicky left cos Rob and her split up, although I'm pleased to say they got back together later, and we had Alice come in, who also left a little later, to be sort of replaced by Rich. Looking back I'm amazed at how much the line-up has changed! Somehow we managed to finish the album and it went pretty well. Matinee released it in the States and did a really good job for us. We had some Peel play and some John Kennedy (XFM) play and a few nice reviews.

Since then we've had a couple of singles out, and some more bits and bobs. Tris left last year ‘cos his heart wasn't really in it, but we got a guy we knew called Rob Perris in to take his place and it's all working out nicely. Just finishing off the new album.

How did you all meet?
Well, I probably covered most of that already in the extremely long answer to the previous question, but to recap, I first met Rob when I was 4 years old when he interrupted my televisual enjoyment of the FA cup final. We then proceeded to fight like cat and dog for the next 12 years, until we discovered the joys of the Jesus and Mary Chain and extreme feedback, at which point we started to get on. Of the rest of the line-up, Dave was a friend of Rob's from school, as was Rich, Jon answered an advert in Leicester library for a drummer which we'd put up a year previously and forgotten all about, and Rob Perris was a guy who used to come to our gigs who ended up being a good friend. We have a floating line-up of instrumentalists too, Rob Fleay from Frankie Machine occasionally plays trumpet for us, Tom McClure of Lazarus Clamp and MJ Hibbett and the Validators plays violin, and Sheila is a recent addition on cello.

Did Airport Girl setout to make a distinct sound, and do you think that you've changed  over the years?
Well, both really. When we started out Rob had a tendency to write songs in the style of the bands he we were really into at the time, so we'd have a Pavement-y song, a Pastels song, a Belle and Sebastian song, etc. That's why Honey skips around so much as an album... it covers a lot of stylistic bases. I guess when we started we wanted to make a noise, cos it was obvious that whatever we did naturally would sound a little twee, so we deliberately tried to err on the noisier side of things. Now that we've done that I think Rob's found his own style a little more, and we're keen to do something with a bit more weight than Honey, so the new album is certainly a little more downbeat and country-fied. I mean, we're all older now, and Rob's bought a banjo, so it seemed the way to go. 

Did you find Nottingham receptive, or do you think it's a difficult town to start a band in?
Well, we didn't start the band there, we started it in Shepshed which is about equidistant between Leicester, Nottingham and Derby. And then we were far more of a Leicester band. It's only in recent years that we've been talked about as a Nottingham band.

But, to answer the question, Nottingham is a great place and very receptive. It's mainly thanks to Anton I think, who's been promoting great shows in Nottingham for so long he's developed this very music-literate audience.

You've pretty much left Nottingham now, haven't you? What brought this about?
Well, personally, I've never lived in Nottingham, although I've spent a lot of time there, what with growing up nearby, and now having my brother live there. When I left Shepshed I lived in Manchester and then in London. Rob's the only member of the band who does live in Nottingham. Dave, Rob Perris and myself are in London, Rich lives in Castle Donington, and Jon's in Bristol.

What's it like for the  rest having two brothers in the band? Do they have to experience rows about who gets the best Christmas presents?
I think it can be difficult, but that's also because of the way we are. Rob is very definitely the creative force behind the band and he records everything himself, so he tends to make the musical decisions. And I'm very much the organiser, so between the two of us I think that the rest of the band can sometimes think that they don't have a lot of say in what goes on. We're two control freaks, operating on different sides of the fence.

And Rob always gets the best Christmas presents. He's always been the favourite son cos he's such a goody-two-shoes!

Who are the band's musical heroes?
Well, we like a great deal of music, so it's very hard to limit it, but the Go-betweens, Belle and Sebastian, Pavement, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Jonathan Richman, Bowie, Dylan, Orange Juice, Felt, Herman Dune, The Silver Jews, Galaxie 500. All of those and many more.

Do you think you're a particularly political band in any way?
Only personal political, not politics political, I've never heard
anything in the lyrics to suggest that. I think we're all fairly
politically aware, it's just that it's not what we sing about.

Is 'Salinger Wrote' typical of the new album at all?
About as far away as you can get. It might be typical of the record after next, but no, on this one it's melancholic country vibes all the way, with maybe a couple of jazzy pop tunes thrown in to lighten the load.

How did  Fortuna Pop! come about?
One day I just thought, hey I'll dig a big hole and put all my money in it. Really, it came about because Rob and his friends were messing about and making music, and I thought, well that's pretty good actually. And being a few years older and working I had a little bit of money and I thought I'd try and do something. I was mindlessly bored in my job and I thought it might be an interesting thing to do. I'm still mindlessly bored in my job, but it has been an interesting trip.

Does the label have a policy on which records by which bands to put out?
Well yeah, we only put out records we like. I'm not sure I follow your question actually. If you're asking how do I decide which bands to put out,  I have basically two criterion, the first being that if I play the record for a week the melodies have to stick in my head (which I think is a big part of my definition of liking music), the second being that I have to like the band enough to go down the pub with them. If you're asking how the formats and songs of each release are chosen, then I tend to leave that up to the band and I'll suggest changes if I feel something's not up to scratch, or if I feel a band are better served by releasing an album instead of, say, an ep. But I never dictact, although sometimes maybe I should.

Do you think that Fortuna Pop! is almost  alone in carrying a torch for indie pop in this country?
By that I think you mean, are you the only label in the country still releasing twee indiepop like they used to make it? In which case I think that for a starters, the stuff I put out on Fortuna has a far
greater breadth than that. And also, that labels like track and field, and sl records, and where it's at is where you are, still carry the torch for indie music, even if it's evolved somewhat since the days of Sarah records. Healthy, that.

If you could  put one record out on Fortuna Pop!, what would it be?
A record already released by someone else you mean? 'Psychocandy' by The Jesus and Mary chain. It still sounds like the start and the end of pop music.

Is the band more of a pastime than you'd like it to be?
Damn right. I wanna be a rock 'n roll star. Doesn't everyone?
Everything, band and label are more of a pastime than I would like them to be. It would be a dream to be able to devote all my time to music, but I'll be dead in a ditch before that happens.

Do you all really want to be full-time rock 'n roll stars?
I think we could handle that. We'd settle for the full-time part and take the stardom as a bonus. It's about as likely as say, Michael Moore running for President as a republican, so I'm not going to dwell on it too much.

Do you think that Airport Girl are better received abroad than at home?
Well, the album did very well in the States certainly, and that was nice, but there seems to be people all over who like us and I don't really care where in the world they are. Although it'd be nice to have them all together so we could fill a room occasionally.

Does this annoy you at all?
I'm usually just pleased that someone somewhere does like us. We know we're unfashionably indiepop, and we're not the world's greatest musicians, so there are no great expectations. That said, we do think there's something great about what we do and if people bothered to scratch the surface they would find it. It's a little like Bearsuit.
They get great reviews on every website in the country but the mainstream music press won't get past their snobbery and review it. Are all those people writing webzines wrong? I don't think so. Great music isn't dictated by genre.

How's the recording of the new album going, what will it be called and what do you hope to achieve with it?
The first time we started to record it, we got three tracks in and someone burgled Rob's house and stole our recording studio. We got some money on the insurance, bought new equipment and started again.

The second time we recorded it, drummer boy Jon's baby was busy being born, so we had the bright idea to record the instruments first, and then put the drums on last when Jon was less busy. Note to all bands: NEVER DO THIS. We ended up with some very well-produced demos and started again. With drums.

This is the third time we've recorded the album. All the instruments are down, the vocals are recorded, the trumpet, cello, violin and double-bass have been added... and fingers crossed we're about to mix it. If anything happens now I'll breakdown and cry.
Originally it was to be called 'Notes and Tones', but we decided that was too dull for words. I've made various suggestions including "Aren't You a Little Young to be Writing your Memoirs?", "She Was Standing On the Platform at the Station in Long Eaton and You Know I Love you Baby
But it's Getting Too Heavy to Laugh' and 'Are You a Sinner Or Are You a Winner?' but oddly enough they've all been rejected too. We await Rob's latest suggestion to come down on a tablet from on high.

If anything, it's more about what it represents rather than what we hope it will achieve. Two albums seem like a significant body of work and that's a nice thought. To me the important things are the records, the art you leave behind. So, in an abstract way, 'achieving' anything is secondary to making art, and that's it's own reward. If people then buy the record, and it gets reviewed, and we get more kids at the gigs, that's all great, and obviously really helpful, but that's not why you make records. The new album will baffle and annoy some people, maybe those who liked Honey the most especially, but we're not looking to do that on purpose either, we're just staying true to our vision of what this album should be. I hope you like it. I hope everyone likes it. But all I really want to achieve is the making of something great.

Sam Metcalf

Mark Hibbett
As MJ Hibbett & the Validators prepare to wipe the floor with the rest at the upcoming tasty live spectacular in Leeds, we ask Mr Hibbett himself about his love of sheds and just what Barry Fry did to the miners in the 80s… 

How does it feel to be the great lost pop icon of the Midlands? Especially as you live in that London now?
Lost? Surely misplaced? I don't know if I'm any kind of pop icon, although I certainly feel much more Midland-y since I've lived in London. Suddenly I'm conscious of how nice people in the Midlands really are, how far fewer people are trying to show off about everything, and how much more cosmopolitan it really is - in London there's a bewildering range of creeds and races, but they all seem to live apart and not socialise so much, whereas back home (especially in Leicester) everyone has to muck in with each other a lot more...

That's not to say I don't like London though, living here is BLOODY FANTASTIC! Obviously it's WRONG that so many things should be so concentrated in one place, but it's certainly GRATE if you live here to be able to take advantage of it!

Shed Anthems, then? Do you own a shed? How do you spend your time there, ifyou do? Can you recommend a good shed?
Alas, I do not have a shed to call my own, instead I COVET the sheds of my friends. To have a shed (or outbuilding), it seems to me, is truly to be a MAN. Until recently I lived in a flat with no garden, but now I live somewhere with one, so maybe I shall go out and get myself a mini-shed for a special birthday present... hmmm..,

Unfortunately, you support Peterborough? What are you views on Barry Fry?
"Unfortunately" is CORRECT. Fry exists in Peterborough in much the same way that Thatcher did in the UK during the '80's. OUTSIDE everyone thought she was BRILLIANT, INSIDE the vast majority of those under her YOKE hated her, and her apologists were widely loathed. She went around trying to destroy all that was good about the country, pulling down long cherished institutions, putting nothing up in their place, all the while glorifying herself, as if she owned the place.

Except, of course, Barry Fry actually DOES own the place!

Your Euro 2004 anthem – ‘The Fair Play Trophy (Again) - which England player do you think would like it most, and why?
Haven't a clue! I'm afraid my full frank knowledge of the current squad is a little limited, although, as far as past players go, I'd like to think Gary Lineker would understand the sentiment, and approve it.

Would Barry Fry improve England, now that Brian Kidd is out?
Yeah, ANYTHING as long as it meant he wasn't able to continue at Posh!

Did you think it would be this long before you got an album of the year accolade from Rolling Stone?
I never thought anything as BERZERK as that would EVER happen! I'd sort of hoped for a few favourable reviews in fanzines maybe leading, one distant day, to us ever getting a tiny mention in the UK mainstream magazines. When i saw THAT in Rolling Bloody Stone my BRANE had to switch off for a bit, and then find reasons NOT to think about it. Even now parts of my subconscious are working on ways to play it down, so that I can cope with it a bit more easily. I mean, bloody hell eh? Rolling Stone!!!

Has the success gone to your head? How many servants do you now have, for example?
I'm just getting to the point of actually believing some of the stuff that's happened lately (although the Hey Hey 16K business has yet to fully fit in!), and I'm really enjoying the occasional FLASHES of JOY when I think about them, but hopefully it's not Gone To My Head - this is actually one of my greatest FEARS: years and years ago several people I knew had a bit of success in the world of ROCK, and briefly (well, for most of them anyway), became a bit tosser-ish about it. Most recovered, but I remember how annoying and horrible that was, and DECLARED to myself that it would never happen to me. I don't _think_ it has yet, but hopefully someone'll tell me if it does!

I don't know how many servants I have though - I'll get my butler to count them!

Have the Validators ever tried to stage a coup?
Arf! No! I'm trying to imagine what that would be like... no, the LOVELY thing about the Validators (or one of the lovely things anyway) is that everyone has other things to be getting on with (e.g. Frankie Machine has his own band, and Tom McClure plays for Lazarus Clamp) and anything the band DON'T want to do I can go and do on my own, THUS everything we do is because we all think it'd be fun. ALSO at least two Validators have run their own bands in the past, so everyone's fairly together and diligent. It's ACE!

Would you agree that Artists Against Success is the new PWL?
I can't see Johnny Domino ever letting me telling them what songs to sing, so not really, no! How about the new Creation, but only the bits with The Boo Radleys and Teenage Fanclub in?

Who are you least favourite band at the moment?
I'm on a bit of a downer about Nick Drake, for some reason. I've heard loads of stuff by him lately, and it just sounds to me like Some Posh Kid, Upset. The band i MOST dislike of all time though is, of course, The Stereophonics. I always think that their must be a field of anti-imagination around them, as their stupendous levels of gormless creativity-free "Will This Do?" lyrics and BLINDING OBVIOUSNESS sucks in all the colour, flavour and Interest for MILES around.

You seem very bitter about Battle of the Bands competitions - have you had a bad experience?
No, they were all GOOD experiences - Battle Of The Bands exist for two reasons: firstly, to let bands who have something to SAY bond more strongly and realise that they're not going to get any help from conventional City Council Approved organisations; and secondly to give bloody awful Sixth Form Blues Bands their moment to shine and show off in front of their friends, so that they don't have to bother the rest of us with it. If you don't have Battle Of The Bands competitions then newer and more awful versions of The Stereophonics will have to venture out of their natural habitats in search of gigs!

And the next step in your tireless conquest for a mid-table finish is?.....
We're mathematically safe this season - over the summer we'll be looking at a few new songs to bring into the side, and NEXT season we hope to have the album "Mental Judo" at least started. We also hope to do a brief tour of America, and I personally hope to have a go at writing my book, "DINOSAUR

Sam Metcalf

X is Loaded
There are a few young bands that are trailing around the live circuit at the moment who are starting to make waves amongst the music press at the moment. Three of those bands are on tour together as I sit here writing. Million Dead, X is loaded and Yourcodenameis:Milo are attracting journalists to them with good, solid songs, great looks and an even better live show to back it all up. It is a quiet Wednesday afternoon when I arrive at Fibbers, the home of York Barfly, to meet X is loaded and check out for Tasty towers what the fuss is all about and generally prod the band to find out what is going on with four lads from Bath making a hell of a racquet.

Armed with a borrowed dictaphone and some half baked questions about how the pronounce Bath I  meet the band around the back of the venue before jumping over the drunk tramps to escape to the safety of the snug bar of the Golden Fleece. Fortified with pints of Guinness and a Stella the band all attempt to answer the same question at the same time as each other. 

So gents, X is Loaded, it’s a bit of a funny name. Is it a bit of southern slang to confuse us Northerners or does it have hidden meaning ?
We just thought that out of a list of names that we came up with it sounded kinda cool as well as carrying connotations of other bands that we have played in in the past. Its also one of those names that doesn't allude to any particular scene so we could be a country and western techno band for all anyone knows 

Talking about ’scenes’, what is the scene like in Bath at the minute?
There really isn't one particular scene that sticks out in Bath at the moment, its just more loads of bands playing together, because everyone
’s so different there really isn't one scene just a big group of bands playing good music together. 

Isn't the lead singer from eighties synth merchants, Tears for Fears from Bath?
Yeah he is (laughing) where did you get that from! actually I think they where both from Bath. They
’re definitely both based in Bath now. 

I think it is important that you make a comment on the raging debate on how to pronounce Bath, like I say it or do you elongate the middle ‘A’ sound?
You can say it both ways in Bath but we come down on the shorter way, where not that posh!! 

Coming from a city like Bath where not many bands have really broken out of in a major way, has it given you a bit more of a gang mentality in the way in which The Smiths or The Sex Pistols had, more us against the world maybe?
Yeah we have always been quite separate even amongst other bands in Bath because no one was like us and we are very individualistic. There have been plenty of other bands who play the band politics game with each other but we have tried to avoid that and just keep playing. We tend to get on with other bands as there hasn't been any bitching between us. It is good as there is a lot of talent that is around Bath at the moment. 

What themes do you try to cover in your songs as the double A side single as two vastly contrasting songs on it?
We are trying to write about things that we have experienced and done as well as what affects us personally. We don
’t want to be one of those bands who are writing about something that they know nothing about. 

Al and Martino, there is a little rumour that you met trying to pull the same girl!
They always got confused in moles are local club and they always got girls a bit confused as to who was who 

Can we know who got the girl?
Which one? (much laughter all around). Shall we just say that it
’s unfinished business (cue even more hysterics from the band) 

If you can picture this, in front of you there is and equilateral triangle which contains all of your influences but it has your most diverse ones at each point. Who is at each point for you?
Nicely put. That
’s difficult because we each have very different tastes so you would have to ask us that one individually, it would probably have to be a circle for us to answer that! Collectively you could say (a long pause ensues as each member of the band looks down into their pint). You could say Guns and Roses, The Smiths, the prodigy but we are missing out so much stuff! If we start at The Smiths then via, oh where do we want to end up!, then Sonic Youth. We’re going to have to leave that one because we are never going to agree on it. That’s one of those questions where we are going to kick are selves over tonight. 

You have described yourselves as, and I quote “Totally unemployable”, is that still the case and why?
I don
’t think any of us can have a job for too long as they become too tedious. We only have jobs for a short amount of time and then we get bored, we just spent so many hours doing jobs that we hated when you think about it and we could be doing something that we love. If you think of the worst and lowest jobs that you can think of and then double it and that was what we where doing. We where never rent boys though!! 

You have worked with Steve Albini on the album. What was it like to work with such a legendary producer?
It was amazing, it was all done in Farnham. The place was good, I think it was the first time that we had three meals a day and a swimming pool

He has worked with bands like Foo Fighters and Nirvana and the songs that I have heard seem to be fairly close to the Foo Fighters territory, was that intentional?
We are all fans of the Foo fighters but I think that the single is a taster of a fairly obvious part of are music. The next single you will see a totally different side to us. 

On the single one of the tracks is very up tempo and quick where as the other is slower and a tad more balladry is this the two polar opposites of X is Loaded?
It is to an extent but there are a lot of other places that we could go. It was just that it was a really beautiful tune and it is nice in a time when so many bands are  trying to be heavier than every other band it is nice to do something a bit more hart felt. I always write the more heart felt tunes when somebody has dumped on me big time, in fact it
’s the only thing that I can write for a time. it’s the whole thing where when you have been hurt badly you just put it into song. 

So what really does make you laugh, point and wave?
(Laughing) It was when we where reversing and trying to park the car late one night and this asshole was being an utter asshole so we ended up totally cutting him up so all we could do was laugh, point and wave at him. It was a funny quote so we whacked it into a song. I think that it was Al who first said
“oh look at that guy” and then he pointed as we started laughing. It is all about laughing at someone else’s misfortune. Its all Al’s fault, he’s an evil man! 

That isn’t your first problem with parking cars though is it?!
No, when we where auditions when we where looking for a drummer and Jamie smashed his car into Martino
’s as he attempted to park outside the studio. Its strange ‘cos he does a lot of the driving for us. He has also smashed his car into Jacke’s car as well, but not because of drink, we have to make that clear! We had a bit of trouble once when I made a joke and someone took it seriously and they sent us one of those letters with the letters cut out from magazines saying “I am going to kill you, you barstard, you shouldn't drink and drive” but I was honestly only joking!!! 

Jake, Kerrang has said that you are a star, how does that sit with the old ego so early on in your career?
Its alright, these guys can handle me still and I don
’t think I have pissed them off too much! I think, for a band, we are really un egotistical. But we will stick up for are selves but we don’t see the need to strut around as its all about making it work and there is such a small margin for error you cant afford to strut around like an arsehole. Who needs that kinds shit! 

What has changed since you guys where just, self confessed kids with bad hair?
I don
’t know, I think that we are still kids with bad hair! You really wouldn't have wanted to see are hair cuts in junior school, they where really bad! We have learnt the hard way!! I even had people write songs about my hair! I was called sideburn, Sunday, Citeron man because I drove a Citeron 2CV and I couldn't grow proper sideburns but had bad excuses for sideburns! 

I know that you are yet to release your debut album but what is next for X is Loaded?
We have just heard today that the album is going to be released on the 11 July and the single is out on the 7th June and that is an exclusive for you as you are the first to hear. The new video is going to be out soon. It is also really good to be on tour with Million Dead and Yourcodenameis:Milo, in fact we have been so luck to be able to tour with the best of British, Biffy Clyro, Hell is for Heroes. There is just so much good stuff out there at the moment you just have to get out there. The Americans coming over is good but they come over and then bugger off and don
’t come back for ages. 

Later on in the night the four underwent a transformation from quiet, laid back young men to four men who looked like they where in the grip of the devil himself as they stormed around the Fibbers stage. Jake Roberstson narrowly avoided knocking himself out cold when he under estimated how low the ceiling was when he attempted to jump off the bass drum. I would have liked to have got closer so I could see what the fuss is all about but by that time my feet where stuck to the floor with the kind of gunge that you only get at small gig venues. A band that are twisted by Satan’s own hand and one which buy the first round in…… now that’s a band I like.

Joe Richardson