Sportique is an indie pop supergroup, and was first formed in 1998 by guitarist and vocalist Gregory Webster (formerly of the Razorcuts, Carousel and Saturn V), drummer Sir Mark Flunder (ex-Television Personalities) and bassist Rob Pursey (who played briefly in the first line-up of Talulah Gosh, before becoming a full-time member of Heavenly and then Tender Trap).

Sportique's debut album, 'Black is a Very Popular Colour', was released in 1999. By the time of the band's second album, 'Modern Museums', which came out on early 2002, Webster, Flunder and Pursey had been joined by Amelia Fletcher (formerly the frontwoman with Talulah Gosh, and then Heavenly and Marine Research and now Tender Trap) on keyboards. The group's third album, 'Communique No. 9', was released in April. Like their previous two albums, it has come out on the Matinee label.

Sportique's music has an abrasive punk pop Buzzcocks-influenced sound. The band is noted for the shortness and directness of its albums, and its equally short and straight-to-the-point gigs. Pennyblackmusic spoke to all four members of the group about the band's five year history, and began by asking how they first got together.

PB: How did you all meet and gel ? Your paths must have crossed in the early days.

MF: Our paths never crossed, but there must have been points when we were in the same room during the early years.

GW : It's totally weird. We all, even Amelia went to things like the same Bluebells shows, but it was years before we met.

AF : Then Greg and I met about 15 years before we did a gig together.

GW : That's true. I think it started off with me, Tim Vass (of the Razorcuts) and Amelia meeting at the Jesus College Bar in Oxford. Her then boyfriend was playing and she introduced herself to Liz (Price, Greg Webster's then girlfriend, who would go on to appear in Talulah Gosh and Carousel)), who was with me that night. Amelia started talking to her because she had a 'Pastels' badge on. It was a good way to meet actually.

PB: In those days people wore their badges with pride. It was a very C-86, and pre 1986 indie thing,

AF : Cruising by badge.

GW : Indeed, so that’s what lead onto Rob (Another friend of Greg Webster and Liz Price's) being asked to play in the first incarnation of Talulah Gosh. The legendary first incarnation...

RP : Legendary ? (Laughs !) It was brief.

MF: I got to know everyone through Amelia and Heavenly and started meeting Greg in pubs. He was doing his solo LP ,'My Wicked, Ways' ( Vinyl Japan, 1996-Ed) and we were talking and he asked me to play drums for him and the first line-up of Sportique was born out of that. It was just guitars and vocals and drums.

GW : We were called the Crabs, and started out just as a two piece.

MF : We needed a bit of practice and Greg said that we should get a bass player in and I said "No, we can't get a bass player in", but we got Rob in anyway..

RP : One way at looking at it is as one big compromise from one pure idea. Another way of looking at it was we all banded together to stop Greg having a solo career.

AF : (Laughs)

RP : Both have their merits.

PB (To GW) : Actually the solo LP does sound like the most modern thing that I have heard of yours so far.

GW : Oh, My God! I don’t think so.

PB: Well. The Razorcuts sounds mid 60's retro and Sportique sound like the Buzzcocks in 1977, and with the solo album it sounds like what a lot of musicians do when their band split and they go off on an acoustic solo trip.

AF: We might actually reach 2000 one day?

PB: No, I think you will reach the 80’s next.

AF: Yes, that’s true.

PB: The first album ‘Black Is A Very Popular Colour’ is very different sounding. How did Amelia come to join after that ?

RP : It came about because Mark and I did a lot of keyboards stuff while we were in the studio. Afterwards we thought it lost something when the keyboards wasn’t there, and so we had to find someone who could play keyboards.

MF : But we didn’t want someone to take it away from us.

GW : And so we found someone who couldn’t play keyboards (Laughs !).

MF : And also Amelia has her own life....

AF: So they thought they could get me in and that I wouldn’t stay around, but I did stay around.

MF : She is going to sing soon.

AF: And we are going to change the name to Amelia Fletcher and Sportique (Laughs). They hired me because on the first album they couldn't play keyboards and they wanted someone who could play as good as they could with one finger which was about my level, but I’m beginning to play quite well now which is also wrong.

PB: Lyrically most of the songs are about relationships that haven’t worked. Do you think life gets easier as you get older or becomes more of a hassle. I mean you never stop learning, do you ?

GW: Sportique wise, I have pretty much stopped writing songs about relationships. No it gets worse as you get older (Laughs)

PB: You do learn but....

GW: You reach a point in life, like we have in Sportique where you have 8 songs of misery, and you feel you're going to have to lighten up next time.I find some of our earlier stuff a bit challenging to listen to now.

AF : I don’t.

PB: I think the new album is the easiest one to listen to.

GW : I agree.

PB: It’s not miserable miserable.

AF : It’s funny.

PB: Because miserable is in at the moment.

GW: Oh, My God!

AF : And then we will be fashionable.

RP : But the new LP is the most unemotional which is a great relief.

PB: The Razorcuts were 60’s retro. Sportique is 70’s retro, so you are moving generations. How long will it be before you leave the 70’s?

MF : That’s not true, because we are already in the new millennium.

Rob: But there’s retro and retro. There’s corporate indie retro, which I think is a nasty trick played on young people. Why would they know what the music sounds like in the first place? And this is our take on it.

PB: Sportique's albums are normally short . They run from 17 minutes to approximately 30 minutes.. Why do you keep them so short ? Is it because you normally play an album's worth of material at a gig?

AF : I think it’s the right length for an artistic statement.

GW : I don’t think you should make an album that runs for more than 30 minutes if you can help it because it’s boring.

PB: Is that because you have been brought up on vinyl ?

GW: Yeah.

RP: I have been to too many gigs where the band has been on too long.

PB: Greg described himself as an artiste during Pennyblackmusic's recent Razorcuts interview with him. Would you describe yourselves as artistes or musicians?

RP : We are hired hands.

GW : The reason I said that is because our music is ideas-based than musicianship-based. I have limited guitar skills but it is enough for what we do.

AF : I think we are expressionists.

MF : Sportique may sound 70’s and like a post punk thing. That’s what we do though. We don’t try to sound like the 70’s though. It’s just that we do that anyway.

RP : There’s been hardly anything as good since then. Maybe technics wise things have been better, but a lot of the music has been worse.

MF : It’s like a lot of people think that if you can do the fancy stuff that it is down to musicianship.

GW : It’s like guitar solos. We don’t do them. They are not what we do. You are right there. It is the 1977 influence. That’s where we learnt that.

MF: And that’s because of the years we grew up listening to Yes or whatever. That fuelled the pump and that’s where we came from. So we are art.

PB: As you have all been involved with these cool underground bands, do you ever wish you had one big hit and been on Top of the Pops ?

RP : Not me (to Amelia). You do, don't you ?

AF : I wish I did. I used to write off every week to get in the audience when I was at school, but when Bis, whom I knew, got on to Top of the Pops they were only allowed to take two people. There were two bands that I sang with, the Candyskins who got to No. 36 and Hefner who got to No. 35, and both almost got on Top of the Pops, but neither of them in the end did.

GW : I think I would like to have more recognition for our services to indie pop in England.

PB : Thank you for your time.













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