Having formed originally in the late 1980s the Popguns had a seventeen year break, before bursting back onto the scene in 2012 with some live shows before 'Pop Fiction', the first of two new albums on Matinee Records was dropped in 2014.

Back the late '80s and early '90s the band enjoyed indie chart success with most of their singles and built up a reasonable amount of positive exposure in the music press. After 1995’s excellent, but criminally ignored, second album, 'Love Junky', they retreated from view.

Dixie Ernill caught up with singer Wendy Pickles and guitarist/songwriter Simon Pickles of the Brighton based indie-pop band ahead of their headline slot at Pennyblack’s now sold-out Manchester showcase on Friday 18th October.


PB: How did the reformation of the band come about?

Wendy Pickles: Greg (Dixon, guitar) and Pat (Walkington, bass) were instrumental in kickstarting the Popguns' renaissance - Simon took some persuading that it would be worth the time and effort. Greg recruited our now longest-serving drummer Tony Bryant, who has been a lovely addition to the family. Simon got his mojo going and wrote some brilliant new songs. That's pretty much all it takes!

Simon Pickles: They made me do it.

PB: Anything different this time?

WP: Older and wiser? Yes, and naaaah! Probably more realistic about our chances of having a number one record - it's largely about having fun and making music together. Also, the elusive 'Top of the Pops' appearance is definitely off the table. We've been pleasantly surprised not to have been forgotten - it's lovely to speak to fans and learn that our songs have been a part of their lives.

SP: In some ways it’s incredibly similar to before, like the fact that we rehearse and play live with basically the same instruments and same amplifiers as before in a pretty raw format without any fancy backing tracks etc.

The business side of recording and releasing music has, however, changed enormously of course. Technology in the studio makes recording to a good quality much easier, let’s say. And then you can release music for very small cost almost immediately after recording. The whole DIY thing is so much bigger and there’s almost no need for record companies in some ways. In the old days it felt like you had to get some kind of record deal to get you music out there and clearly that’s not the case now. Having said that, it’s great to have Matinee Recordings as our label to do all our new releases.

The internet has been a great way to keep our followers informed and give the access to our old and new music, which could have been really hard to get heard otherwise.

But at the end of the day it’s still pop songs and loud guitars like it ever was.

PB: Simon, in terms of songwriting, you still write the majority of the songs. How difficult is it to write lyrics that your wife sings and how difficult is it, Wendy, to sing Simon’s songs?

WP: Simon does write the majority of the songs, though we collectively create the Popguns@ version of each song. I have never had a problem with singing Simon's lyrics, unless I think they're rubbish! It's actually quite nice to have a musical diary of our lives (not saying they're ALL about me!)

SP: There are actually plenty of precedents of men writing song that women sing and probably the best husband and wife example is Gerry Goffin who wrote the words for 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?' and 'You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” sung by Carole King and others. And, of course, there are examples where other members of the band write all or some of the lyrics (The Who, Blondie, Queen).

In the old days I probably tried harder to write about situations that people could closely identify with because that was the kind of lyrics I liked - and the best way to do that is sometimes to draw from personal experience. Then if a line is sung convincingly by Wendy then I suspect it will appear to be specific to her experience. Wendy will know where a lot on lines come from and actually she remembered how many I “borrowed” from Microdisney when we saw them last year!

These days I really don’t think I write “for Wendy”; they are pop songs and Wendy sings them. For example, on 'Pop Fiction' there were songs like 'Alfa Romeo' that was about a character (Chet Baker in that one) and 'Still Waiting for the Winter' which was about shared experiences of lots of friends in Brighton. As you get older I think you typically want to have more fun in songs rather than make them too intensely emotional!

PB: Musical influences/heroes?

WP: Ella Fitzgerald for her improvisational skills, ease of expression and tonal beauty. Robert Forster for his turn of phrase and gracious magnetic stage presence. Ezra Koenig for making me smile ear to ear. Any artist who engages with their listener/audience to elicit an emotional response, whether that be "hands in the air" or quiet tears.

SP: Old: The Jam, the Smiths, Go-Betweens, Blondie, Microdisney.

New: Laura Marling, Alvvays.

PB: Favourite album?

WP: Impossible to choose of course, but when in doubt my default is 'Swoon' by Prefab Sprout. At the moment when I go out the door with my headphones on it's Vampire Weekend's 'Father of the Bride' or 'God's Favourite Customer' by Father John Misty (Simon despairs of my musical taste sometimes!)

SP: Historic: Neil Young - 'Live Rust', Blondie - 'Parallel Lines'.

New: Alvvays - 'Alvvays', Help Stamp Out Loneliness - 'Help Stamp Out Loneliness'.

PB: Favourite artist?

WP: The Go-Betweens for so many reasons

PB: Future Plans – releases/gigs?

WP: Arrange and record Simon's new songs for an album which gets played to death on 6Music in 2020.

SP: Have a No. 1 album and get quoted out of context.

PB: Anything special planned for the manchester gig?

WP: Hmmm, guess you'll just have to wait and see... Thanks for putting us on - can't wait to come back to Manchester, it's been too long!

SP: Play as many tunes as possible from all our albums.

PB: Thank you.











Related Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Popguns
https://popguns.net/
https://twitter.com/thepopguns
https://www.facebook.com/ThePopgunsBand/


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