October 24, 2008

Interview: Pocketbooks

Delicious boy/girl harmonies, irresistible piano- and guitar hooks plus clever lyrics... If I were to make a recipe for perfect pop, those would be the ingredients. It's no surprise that Pocketbooks are one of my very favourite new popbands: they've got all that. This fall the London quintet are working on their first album. A good time to ask Andy Hudson (vocals and piano) and Emma Hall (vocals and keyboard) a little bit more about the people behind the pop.

Hello Emma and Andy! On your website it says you formed in 2006, having met on the dancefloors of London's indiepop- and northern soul clubs. What made you want to start a band together?

Emma: Hello! Well, Dan, Mark (former guitarist) and I were in another band and were on the lookout for something more melodic than what we were doing. When we heard that then-solo Andy was looking for a band to bring his songs to life, we jumped at the chance! It all just sort of fell into place from there.

Pocketbooks' line-up has changed quite a bit since you started. Does the current band feel like the definitive Pocketbooks?

Andy: Well, the first nine months when we had the original line-up with Mark and Ben were really exciting. For a couple of us, it was our first proper band and it was really fun travelling around the country and playing songs. I guess we're a bit more confident as a band now that Jonny and Ian have joined and we've played lots of gigs together, but it wouldn't really occur to me to say either line up is definitive - I've really enjoyed being in both. We've been really lucky in that everyone that's played in the band has been really nice, positive and fun to be around.

Emma: Maybe it is just a confidence thing as Andy says, but for me it feels completely natural for these particular five people to be in a band together.

Right now you're in the middle of creating your debut album. Can you already reveal a little bit about the recordings on it?

Andy: We've hopefully finished all the recording, and we're just mixing it now. We recorded it in a lovely studio under a ukulele shop near Brick Lane in London. We've tried to record a really fresh and upbeat album that people will enjoy dancing to, and there's a lot of new songs, some of which we've been playing live over the summer. It'll hopefully be out sometime next spring (fingers crossed!).

How do you go about putting a new song together?

Emma: Andy writes all the different parts for his songs and records them as a demo for the rest of us to listen to, whereas Dan and I tend to hum (or strum) our ideas to each other and after a few glasses of wine it turns into something resembling a song!

What does the term 'indiepop' mean, to you?

Emma: From the band's perspective, it's about being free to make the pop music that we love without compromising ourselves just to make money. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make a living out of it though, as long as you can keep your creativity and enjoyment at the same time. As a fan of indiepop, I find the bands are full of creativity and energy that the more mainstream bands often lack.

Andy: For me, it's mostly about the fact that everyone's encouraged to join in and do something, whether it's starting a band, writing a fanzine, putting on gigs or anything else. I like to think that it's a really welcoming community and think there's always a really friendly atmosphere at indiepop gigs.

If you look at the mainstream pop scene, I'm fairly sure you don't hate it all. Can you confess some musical guilty pleasures?

Andy: I actually love lots of mainstream pop, and I think some of the others do too. I don't really follow the bands, but I really like lots of pop singles. This year, I've secretly been enjoying at least three of The Ting Tings singles, The Promise by Girls Aloud, and the Dizzee Rascal/Calvin Harris song.

Emma: Oh yeah, Girls Aloud are ace aren’t they! I confess I don’t follow the mainstream pop scene much, so when I hear something that makes my ears prick up, I never know who it is! I’ve always loved Kylie though, and am quite enjoying Estelle at the moment.

Your website tells us to 'expect a sprinkling of dazzling 60s soul alongside some sparkling indiepop charm!' Which are favourites on either side of that mix of genres?

Emma: I'm not sure the 60s soul thing comes across in our music, but I grew up listening to my mum's 7 inches from back then - stuff like The Shangri-Las and Dusty Springfield. On the indiepop side, Kitchens of Distinction have remained my favourite band through the years. In recent years, Comet Gain and Cats On Fire have made a huge impression, and I’m currently discovering how brilliant Ultrasport are!

Andy: From the 60s side, I just love the freshness and energy of some songs by The Supremes, Tony Clarke, Betty Adams and The Ronettes, among others. As for indiepop, I’m not sure how many of these qualify, but I really like The School, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, The Go! Team, and Darren Hayman.

So far you’ve released a 7" (Cross The Line) on Atomic Beat Records and a CDEP (Waking Up) on Make Do And Mend Records, and both received great reviews. Does 2008 already feel a bit like the year Pocketbooks conquered the world? What is your proudest achievement as a band so far and what ambitions are left for the next few years?

Andy: I think the thing I've enjoyed most is the opportunity to meet lots of fun, enthusiastic people and play a small part in the DIY community that's sprung up. I think we're feeling increasingly confident about trying new things, so we've played a few outdoor festivals, started our own record label and (hopefully) recorded an album, which are all really exciting steps for us. For the future, I'm really looking forward to the album coming out, but aside from that, I think it's just about making sure we keep enjoying ourselves.

Pocketbooks played on both editions of Indietracks and this summer you were also invited to perform at the Rip It Up festival in Sweden. What are your favourite memories from these festivals? What do you feel was the biggest difference between the Swedish and English festival?

Emma: We were completely bowled over by how friendly and hospitable people were at Rip It Up. They would bend over backwards to make sure we were looked after and having a good time, and they are so efficient! It was our first gig outside the UK so it will always hold fond memories. At one point during our set I looked out to see people singing along to our songs to a backdrop of green fields and blue sky – a perfect moment. I think this year's set at Indietracks was both our favourite and our best to date. In my mind, it was a sort of turning point for us as our new songs went down really well, we clicked as a band and with the audience, and found a new confidence in ourselves. Playing shows like that are the reason we love being in a band!

The time of summer festivals is behind us, winter is coming soon… a good or bad thing? What’s your favourite season as a person and as a band?

Emma: Well as you may have noticed we've got a song for every season! I don't think I have a favourite season though – they all have a certain magic about them. I do love the run up to Christmas however, as everyone is in good spirits and there's a certain buzz of excitement in the air. I also like the way it's OK to be a bit silly!

Andy: I think we're still lacking a proper, bleak winter song actually. I'm okay about winter coming along, but I think spring's my favourite season. Just the feeling of the days getting longer and all the naïve optimism about the year ahead.

Speaking of naïve optimism... how can I convince you to come play in the Netherlands?

Andy: We'd love to come to the Netherlands. We're always open to offers, although sadly our money doesn't always run as far as our imaginations! Still, we've already made it to Sweden, so the Netherlands will be easy!

Indeed! I'll take that as a promise, then. Thanks Pocketbooks, and good luck with finishing the album!

Buy the Waking Up EP here.
Buy the Cross The Line single here.

Pocketbooks website
Pocketbooks myspace

Download (Right click, save as)
1. Pocketbooks - Falling leaves
2. Pocketbooks - Don't stop

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