Tender Trap have been through a lot of line-up changes since they returned in 2009 after a long absence. The indie pop group, which consisted until then of vocalist and guitarist Amelia Fletcher, bassist Rob Pursey and keyboardist DJ Downfall, expanded at that point to also include Elizabeth Morris (guitars and vocals) and Katrina Dixon (drums and vocals). Elizabeth Morris left shortly after the release of Tender Trap’s2010 album ‘Dansette Dansette’ to concentrate on her other band Allo Darlin’ (who are also the subject of a Pennyblackmusic interview this month), and was replaced by ex-Betty and the Werewolves guitarist and vocalist Emily Bennett.

Before ‘Dansette Dansette’, Tender Trap, who formed in 2001, had also released two previous albums, ‘Film Moleules’ (2002) and ‘6 Billion People’ (2006), all of which have come out on the Fortuna Pop! label.

Fletcher and Pursey, who are partners and have two children together, have been playing in groups with each other since the mid-1980s. They are from Oxford originally, but moved to London in the mid-1990s.

Their first band was the influential and short-lived twee pop act Talulah Gosh which Pursey left early on. Talulah Gosh released six singles between 1986 and 1988, and also a singles collection, ‘Rock Legends: Volume 69’ (53rd and 3rd, 1987) and a posthumous retrospective, ‘Backwash’ (K Records, 1996), which also featured radio and live tracks. They then formed Heavenly, who recorded four albums together, ‘Heavenly vs. Satan’ (Sarah Records, 1991), Le Jardin de Heavenly’ (Sarah Records, 1992), ‘The Decline and Fall of Heavenly’ (Sarah Records, 1994) and ‘Operation Heavenly’ (Wiiija, 1996), before breaking up after the death of their drummer and Amelia’s brother, Matthew Fletcher. Fletcher and Pursey also played in Marine Research, who released one album, ‘Songs from the Gulf Stream’ (K Records, 1999).

In what is our third interview with them, Pennyblackmusic spoke at a Leicester show to Amelia Fletccher, Rob Pursey and also Katrina Dixon about their previous bands and Tender Trap’s next album, ‘Ten Songs About Girls’, which will come out later this year.

PB: The line-up has changed quite a lot over the last few years. DJ Downfall has left, hasn’t he?

AF: He is still here. He now just called John Stanley.

RP: He just stopped calling himself DJ. He likes just to be called John. He still uses that name for his solo stuff, which he still does occasionally.

PB: Elizabeth Morris was in the band for a while when you got back together.

AF: She was. When we started back up again we asked Katrina to do drums. We also put the word out that we wanted a girl that could sing and play guitar, and Elizabeth phoned me up. She had got a message about it and said she would like to do it, and we had no idea then whom she was.

KD: They asked me to play some drums, and I hadn't been in a band for about 10 years. I was previously in a band called Police Cat that was on Domino Records.

PB: And you put something out on Creeping Bent as well, didn’t you?

KD: Yeah, we did stuff for them, then. I was in a band called Sally Skull on Slant Records as well. Then I didn't do anything after 1998 because I was concentrating on doing my day job.

AF: When Elizabeth phoned up she was really enthusiastic and I had never met her. I was actually a bit scared. I remember coming off the phone, saying “I'm not sure about this girl. She's too keen.” Actually she was brilliant and it worked out really well. I had nothing to worry about.

The kids last night were asking me, "Are you famous?" They were looking at the 'Do You Have a Boyfriend?' video, and I said, “No”, and they said, “When do you know if you are famous?” I was explaining that Elizabeth is quite famous with Allo Darlin’ now. I said that she has got around 80, 000 hits on YouTube, while we have only got around 15, 000, so she is quite famous now.
RP: With Katrina and Elizabeth, it was the first time that we had backing vocals live. Before we had only had them on record. That has never happened before. Having two vocals was good. It really worked well.

PB: Are you still on Fortuna Pop!?

AF: Yep.

PB: When you were in Heavenly, you were on Sarah Records. You have been on various others labels as well. Do you think there was much difference in the way that they are run or controlled, or basically could you do whatever you wanted and they would just release it?

RP: We have never been told not to put something out. I think the personality of the people at the labels doesn't make the difference. Matt Haynes and Clare Wadd at Sarah were quite sophisticated in what they did.
Sean Price at Fortuna Pop! has again a collection of similar sorts of bands. He has the same sort of project as Sarah. In retrospect, looking back at Sarah there were aspects of tweeness. You think looking at it now what ever happened to punk. It just turned into coffee table stuff.

AF: Sarah had some pretty punky bands though.

RP: It just evolved and became a bit of a money episode.

AF: They said they would do a hundred releases and stop. They never dreamed they ever would, and they did. It was always an art project in a way.

PB: Now with the industry struggling and downloads taking over, do you have to put money towards recording costs or does the label cover it?

AF: We pay for recording now.

PB: Did you have to do that in the past?

AF: No, actually, it has freed us up a lot. It means we own it. We have spent a fair bit on ‘Ten Songs About Girls’, more then we have ever had to spend before, so hopefully it will show because of it.

Actually with the last Heavenly record, ‘Operation Heavenly’, we paid for it as well, just so we could own the recording and licence it to K Records. The Marine Research album, ‘Sounds from the Gulf Stream’, we paid for as well.

RP: People gather around labels and what's good about Fortuna Pop! There is an overlap of taste. There is us, there is Allo Darlin’ and other similar-sounding bands.

PB: You began recording ‘Ten Songs about Girls’ last year and the very next day after the 15th Anniversary show for Fortuna Pop! at the London Scala. How long did it take to record then?

RP: We did it in bits and pieces in the evenings and at the weekend.

AF: In the end, it was about fifteen days.

KD: I think we did the majority of laying down the tracks in the first five days.

RP: As we had three vocals and double tracked them that took time. Recording vocals is really hard. You play live and it can be rough around the edges, but when you record and there are three vocals singing at the same time that is when you notice stuff.

PB: So the new album is finished?

AF: Yes, it will be out later this year.

PB: Is it going in a new direction? Your last album ‘Dansette Dansette’, was more dancey and different from the previous Tender Trap releases.

KD: It sounds a bit more forceful.

AF: It is probably less dancey.

RP: All of the songs were written for the fact that there are three vocals singing. When we write new songs now, we plan where the voices are going to go. I think the vocals are even bigger on this one. Katrina and Emily, who replaced Elizabeth, bring a lot to the mix on this one. Emily has also got a really forceful guitar.

PB: Emily was formerly in Betty and the Werewolves, wasn’t she?

KD: Yeah, she's a great guitarist.

AF: We have got a good new way of writing songs. Rob and I get them to a certain state, and then we invite Emily and Katrina around, give them loads of alcohol, and then we all go, “Baa, baa,” which they wouldn't do if they were sober, and it sounds brilliant, and then they have to carry on.

KD: They will say something and then Emily and I will develop them. John will stick in his ideas too.

AF: Brian Shaughnessy, who produced it, was good in the studio as well, and suggested a lot of things as well. He has worked with the Clientele in the past.

PB: Tender Trap have always been vinyl friendly. Do you sell a lot of downloads?

AF: I think we sell some.

RP: If you buy the vinyl, you get a download link anyhow. We still sell a lot of vinyl.

KD: People whom like Tender Trap like to have a physical format.

PB: Last year Talulah Gosh released a very limited 7 inch of previously unreleased demos for Record Store Day. How did that come about?

AF: We never dreamed anyone would want to put them out.

RP: Those tracks are the only tracks by Talulah Gosh with me on them, I left after that, so they never put out a record with me on them, but I'm on that.

AF: Those were the demos we sent out to get our first record deal. We sent them to Subway and 53rd and 3rd.

PB: And you got a deal?

AF: It got us two deals. We originally signed to Subway, and Stephen Pastel phoned up, and said, “Do you want to be on 53rd and 3rd?” so we had to let Subway down, because I was so obsessed with Stephen Pastel.

PB: On the Record Store Day release it said from the forthcoming album. Did it come out then?

AF: No, it will.

PB: What's going to be on the album? Is it all demos?

AF: No, it's those demos plus everything that's been out before. Plus theoretically a live album, but that's the bit that is holding it all up. I have a load of live stuff, but I can't decide which gig to use or whether to cut it up from a selection of gigs. I can't bear to actually do it.

RP: There are a pile of tapes.

AF: I now have it in digital form. But I still have to listen to it, and I can't bear to do it.

KD: How many tapes?

AF: About four or five.

PB: (To Amelia) Why did you choose those name - Tallulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research and Tender Trap - for your bands?

RP: Heavenly was chosen to wind up Matt at Sarah Records. It was at the time of Happy Mondays and all that scene was around. It was an anti-lad name, I remember talking to Matthew (Fletcher-Ed), and we just chose a name that was embarrassing to say. I didn't realise Heavenly, the label, had come up with their name at the same time, which was a drug reference, but being naive we didn't think of that.

PB: Wasn't Talulah Gosh a cartoon character?

AF: No, that comes from Claire Grogan. She said in a ‘NME’ interview that if she was ever going to be a famous actress that she was going to call herself Talulah Gosh. It was weird because she never did. She called herself CP Grogan, and she has now written a children's book whose character is a singer in a pop band. Even though she is a teenager, she is called Talulah Gosh, so she's nicked it back. She knew we had it in the meantime.

PB: How did Marine Research come about?

AF: We all put names in, like a million different things. We were all voting. I don't think that it was the best of names.

PB: And Tender Trap?

AF: That's from Frank Sinatra and ‘Life is a Tender Trap’.

PB: Have you ever considered releasing a DVD with songs from all your bands?

AF: The stumbling block there is we can't find the masters of the videos. YouTube doesn't have our very first video, which was for ‘Steaming Train’ (Talulah Gosh’s third single-Ed). I found the producers for it. One is now a gay performance artist who travels around in Canada. The other does TV somewhere. We have no idea where the tapes are, and no one can find them. And I couldn't bear to do it without it. It may turn up yet.

PB: Would you like to do your own film documentary and version of ‘Serious Drugs’?

AF: I don't know. We haven't had too many trials and tribulations. There will be a film and a book about Sarah Records. The book is still being written. You can donate cash towards it. There is also a film about the Oxford music scene called ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’.

KD: We were asked to play at the BFI for the premiere of it, but it was the day of our first recording so it didn’t happen.

AF: I went and did a Q and A for it and got very embarrassed.

PB: (To Amelia and Rob). You mentioned your kids.

RP: Our kids make a brief appearance on the album. They are six and eight. Ivy sings on one of the tracks on the album. It was invented by me and her. She was pleased that we did it.

AF: So we are going to give her credit on the album and that may be the single.

RP: One of them is a Goth. She writes lots of dark songs. They both write songs and have their own band. Ivy is a drummer, quite a good drummer.

AF: She quite likes rap as well.

RP: The Fur Girls. That's what their band is called. Watch this space for them.

PB: Thank you.

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