Thrum is the group of Glaswegian vocalist Monica Queen and guitarist Johnny Smillie.

Thrum, who formed in 1992, released their debut album, ’Rifferama’, a Neil Young-influenced album of country rock in 1994.

After this Queen, with Smillie still on guitar, started a solo career, which has seen her release two albums, ‘Ten Sorrowful Mysteries’ (2002) and ‘Return to Sacred Heart’ (2005). She also sung on the title track of Belle and Sebastian’s classic 1997 EP, ‘Lazy Painter Jane’, and has recently been providing backing vocals to the acclaimed Scottish band Love and Money, who got back together after an absence of sixteen years.

After an equally long absence, Thrum released their second album, ‘Elettorama’, in April. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Monica Queen about Thrum at the band’s first London show since their comeback.


PB: Why did you decide to call the group Thrum?

MQ: We chose the name Thrum to reflect the music that we thought we going to create when we started the band. We wanted the name to represent the music, so we looked around for names and Thrum came about because of its interpretation in the dictionary. It says “to strum stringed instruments.” Johnnie had always played guitar, but we felt as I was just learning to play the guitar at the time that it represented quite clearly my humble beginnings as a guitar player. It was also short and that meant we could have big writing on a poster in an advert (Laughs).

PB: Did you do anything pre Thrum?

MQ: Yeah, I was always interested in how to make musi. I sung in a church on a Sunday. I was always in school choirs and things like that, and then when we left high school Johnnie and I were in little outfits together. My first proper band was with Johnnie. We had various guises. There was a band called Monie, It was just about Johnnie and I writing songs. It wasn't anything great to be honest. We quickly formed bands and disbanded them, all within a week.

PB: Is the current line up the original line up?

MQ: No, we have a new bass player, Ian Greher, who is a local boy from Glasgow whom we would bump into in the West End, We knew he was a musician and a nice soul, and so we asked if he wanted to come and join us.

Dave McGowan, our other bass player, is a busy boy at the moment, He is a session musician now. He has played in the Teenage Fan Club and he has his own band as well. Gary is, however, our original drummer, so we are all pretty much still there.

PB: Does the new album have a CD version or it just available as a download?

MQ: We do have hard copies of it. We believe in the old fashioned type of thing and CDs (Laughs). We like having that format, but we know the way that people buy music and listen to now is to download it on iTunes. It was recorded for an American label, and they were happy for it to go out in both formats.

PB: You were originally on Fire Records. Did you offer the new album to them at all?

MQ: That was a long time ago, We moved away from Fire and we found a new label, PRA, which is inspired by all things Italian, to record the second album with. As Johnnie and I love Rome, we chose to record it with them.

PB: Was this a solo album that turned into a Thrum record or was it always going to be a Thrum album?.

MQ: It was always going to be a Thrum album.

PB: Why now?

MQ: I think because enough time has gone by for us to be able to go back to Thrum’s music and really listen to it with a new set of ears. We found that we had a new belief in the music we had already recorded together as a band, It still sounds incredibly current and it pleased me when I listened to it for the first time in years. We just thought, “Why haven't we put out another Thrum record?”

The record company also felt that on reflection that enough time had passed to allow our music from before to really have an importance. They had a belief that the record should be out, so it was always going to be a Thrum record.

PB: What are your main influences? Is it Neil Young as ever?

MQ: Neil Young, as always and just great guitar bands. Sonic Youth and Low both have been a big influence,

PB: Did you choose the title, ‘Elettorama’, because you wanted it to relate to the first album, ‘Rifferama’?

MQ: Yes, we didn't want ‘Rifferama’ to be forgotten because it had come out quite a long time ago. As I said, I love all things Roman and I was passing this electrical shop in Rome, I just looked up and saw this name ‘Elettorama’ which I think in Italian means all things electrical, and I just made the connection with ‘Rifferama’ and ‘Elettorama’.

PB: Back to Neil Young, what have you made of his last releases, ‘The Archive Box Set’, ‘Treasury’ and ’Le Noise’?

MQ: To be honest, I haven’t had the time in the last few months to listen to what Neil Young has been doing because of getting my own stuff together, but I am sure it will be worth listening to.

I loved ‘Le Noise’ though, I thought that for a guy his age, who can write beautiful songs, to be so brave and to trust himself to do something like that was wonderful. I think Daniel Lanois, who produced it, is a genius too.

PB: Do you see this as a reunion or just carrying on?

MQ: It is continued business for me. Thrum never disbanded. We just took a long break and I went on with Johnnie to express myself in a different way with the Monica Queen records, which were still country but are more stripped back. No, it's not a reunion because I am not into reunions, I see it as picking up from where we left it. To me it feels of the moment.

PB: How did you come to play on Belle And Sebastian's’ ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’? It is probably their best known song.

MQ: It came about because Stuart Murdoch asked me to come down and help on a track. He was working in the studio down the road from where I lived. He saw something in my voice that he liked. We were also friends as well, and he asked me to come down and sing on this track that everyone now knows as ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’. He got me out of bed on a Saturday morning, a little hungover, not knowing what I would be singing, and we spent about half a day on it and I believe it's many a Belle And Sebastian fan’s favourite track, which I am also thrilled about.

PB: You have also been singing backing vocals at their gigs for Love and Money. How did that come about?

MQ: Through James Grant, who is the main singer/songwriter in Love And Money. They have made a new record which will be out next year, and I did some vocal work on his solo projects which were fantastic. He is a lovely soul and a good guy,

PB: Do you have any other projects on the go?

MQ: I think with the Monica Queen records it's an expression of the way I like to sing, It is not something that I would ever leave. It is a different style. It requires a different mood, which I love. I come up with a new idea for a project every day, but I am just focused on Thrum right now.

PB: Is a third album on its way yet?

MQ: We are trying to find time to get into the studio and put down some songs to see what works and what doesn't.

PB: Do you have any other future plans?

MQ: It's hard organising four or five other people than just yourself. I am enjoying being back with the band though, so we are going to play a lot more shows,

PB: Thank you.















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