When Pennyblackmusic last spoke to Sean Price, the bassist, spokesperson and label boss for Nottingham based indie troupe Airport Girl, he was recounting the various tales of woe his band experienced recording their second album. That was over three years ago.

Finally, that second album has appeared, five years after they released their debut, 'Honey, I'm An Artist'. You might think that this makes them sound lazy, but that’s not really a fair judgement. There have been some singles in between (in particular, the excellent ‘Salinger Wrote’7” is well worth seeking out) and the band had to record the second album a total of three times. So, if luck had gone their way, Sean would probably be talking about the recording of his band’s fifth album, yet as it is, they are still on the second.

The first attempt at the album was curtailed when the studio equipment was stolen. The second was arguably even more disastrous, as all the tracks were recorded, but without drums as the drummer was unable to make the sessions. An attempt to add drums at a later date proved catastrophic. So they were onto the third attempt, and even then things didn’t go to plan. With the songs essentially finished, the recording equipment refused to start up. Eventually, the tapes were transferred to the equipment of fellow Fortuna Pop! band the Chemistry Experiment, and at last Airport Girl had an album. If only it had a name…

“Having finally got an album we could release, it then took quite a long time to decide on the artwork and the name”, Sean explains. “In fact there was about six months of arguing about it! We had thought of, ‘Notes and Tones’, but that was a bit dull. Then Rob (Price, vocalist and songwriter - Ed) came up with ‘Throw Away Your Books, Let's Go Into The Streets’. That sounds like a good title, but it just doesn’t suit the music. It sounded like a good title for a Belle and Sebastian album, but I was worried that people who liked B and S would buy it and be disappointed, whilst the people who might actually like it would be put off. Eventually I talked Rob round, and after an evening with a bottle of whiskey, we came up with ‘Slow Light’. Its not as exciting, but I think it sums up the mood of the album.”

The band were convinced the album would fail. In fact, Sean had suggested this to me when we last spoke, and he hadn’t changed his mind when he came to release 'Slow Light'. “It doesn’t sound like the first record, and I thought that we would disappoint people who liked Honey, I’m An Artist!”. He needn’t have worried. It does sound different. They no longer play shambolic, erratic indie pop, but have focused on a more unified, slower and dignified style. I have to say that, whilst I enjoyed the first album a lot, this is a dramatic improvement. They may no longer be at home alongside the quirky indie bands that, in 2001, clogged up the John Peel show, but I was not surprised when Sean told me that the album was getting some good press. “We’ve had positive reviews in lots of places, from 'Drowned In Sound' to 'The Metro'. We also had a glowing review in 'The Guardian', which was definitely the best piece of press we have ever had. I definitely didn’t expect that!”

It is a funny situation to put out an album. Although I’m sure there are readers who remember Airport Girl from their debut album, the gap of five years means that essentially they are launching this album to an audience who will really see them as a brand new band. I asked what had changed in five years, a period in which the launch pads for small bands had changed (if you believe the media) from being the John Peel show and indie zines to MySpace and music blogs. The answer was, basically, not much. “Its still a struggle to get the word out to the people. If a band has a big label and a PR machine behind them its still easier. MySpace is a useful tool. Before, you sent someone a demo, but now you can just give them a MySpace link. But whether that makes it any easier to find a label, to find fans… I don’t think it does.”

Sean has a unique perspective on this, as someone who is in a band, but who also with Fortuna Pop ! runs a small(ish) label. But he doesn’t feel MySpace has changed that much. “There’s a lot more stuff out there, but also a lot less quality control. You could spend hours on MySpace and never find bands you want to listen to. I don’t think it’s a good a way of finding bands as recommendations from friends and seeing bands at gigs. I’m always on the lookout for new bands, for Fortuna Pop ! and alo for my club night, the Beat Hotel, but I’m much more likely to go through the Tangents magazine www.tangents.co.uk, because I really trust Alistair (Fitchett-Ed), who writes it, than I am to go to MySpace. But if you hear a recommendation from someone you trust, it is easier to go to their MySpace page than to phone them and ask for a demo, so that does improve things”.

In music, there are some egotistical types who like to do everything. But Airport Girl is an odd case, with a real case of division of labour. Rob sings the songs, writes them and decides how they will side. But it is Sean, his brother, who releases them and promotes them, whilst also playing bass. “I’m always ready to offer my opinion, and Rob will listen,” Sean explains. “That’s why we changed the name of the album. But the band really is Rob’s thing - he’s the songwriter.” There have been some line-up changes over the years, and Rob and Sean are the only two members to survive from the very beginning, but the band is fairly constant. “We’re not great musicians, and we don’t play together every day, so it does help to have the same people involved!”

‘Slow Light’ is a different album from ‘Honey I’m An Artist’. The sound hasn’t been completely transformed, though it is much more sophisticated. But it is clear that the band's approach has changed, and I wondered if this was because of dissatisfaction with the first album, or dissatisfaction with that type of music. “Rob may put me right on this, but I think the change is that he has found his own voice. The first album was written during growing up, over 5 years. So there were songs that might sound like the Jesus and Mary Chain, and others that sounded like the Pastels or Sebadoh. But I think now he has found his own voice, and also a style that better suits his singing voice. Mainly, we‘re just not copying people so much.”

Was the change a conscious one? “Well, it would have been very easy to make the first album again. We had that international indie-pop fanbase, and I don’t think we will necessarily keep that with this album. But I think you have to do what feels best, and what suits you.” But that doesn’t mean that Airport Girl will keep this downbeat alt. country approach for ever. “We have only written one song so far, but we will definitely do more. I think we will make something more uptempo, more rocky, less downbeat.”

A big ambition of the band is to tour America. But this has been dealt a blow with the loss of the band’s US label, Matinee. The label has collaborated with Fortuna Pop ! on several other Airport Girl releases, and on albums by bands like the Lucksmiths. But when he heard ‘Slow Light’ label owner Jimmy Tassos decided he didn’t want to put it out on Matinee. There hasn’t been a falling out, and Jimmy does include a little plug for the album on his Matinee monthly news update. But it was still a shock to the band. “Its difficult to talk about really,” Sean says. “I was really shocked and unhappy. Jimmy has been a fan and a friend for so long. We felt very happy on Matinee, and to have something we spent so long working on rejected, well, we weren’t expecting it. I suppose this album doesn’t fit into the typical Matinee sound, but he has had bands like Sportique on the label. It is a real shame”.

But the positive reaction the album has received has confirmed that it was the right step for the band. Though they all have jobs to work on, they have been playing live quite often this year. Sean is certainly still looking to the band‘s future, and not being on Matinee was a minor setback, compared to the pleasing response the new album has received, and this has breathed new life into the band. “For a long time, the band wasn’t number 1 in our lives, if I’m being honest. We all had other things going on. Finlay and Sodastream (Both recent Fortuna Pop ! acts-Ed) have recently called it a day, but we don’t feel like that at all. With the expectation that it would fail, to do so well has really been exciting. We’ve got more dates coming up, we want to tour abroad and play some festivals, some of the smaller ones, and I really think we will do another album.”


Two of the photographs that accompany this article were taken by Bob Stuart and originally appeared on his website www.underexposed.org.uk













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