It’s the laugh that gets you.
Amelia Fletcher seems fairly genuine from the off: pleasant, chatty, the indie pop heroine is perhaps enjoying time away from her day job. But when probed about some of the more ridiculous aspects of her own career, the singer collapses into a heap of giggles, tumbling one by one out of the telephone.
Now focussed on her career, her family and of course the fourth Tender Trap album, Amelia Fletcher rolls back the years for a quick chat to tie in with her appearance at the Fortuna POP! anniversary.
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What initially drew you to indie pop?
I think actually a lot came out of the obsession with The Pastels, which I just heard on the radio one day. I used to tape the radio compulsively and I used to listen to John Peel and various other programs on Radio 1. I used to tape things and I once taped this band The Pastels, and when I played it back I thought it was absolutely brilliant. It turns out that actually my tape recorder was playing slow, so Stephen Pastel’s voice was even more weird than normal! But I got on to finding out about everything that was on Creation and everything else on that scene, and I guess it all came out of there, really.
Did you find that indie pop was a welcoming avenue for young women?
It was welcoming. I don’t know if we felt were taken seriously – on the other hand I don’t know if we deserved to be taken seriously! It was interesting how few other women there were around. There’s this film about the Oxford music scene at the moment and I’ve not seen it yet but apparently I’m one of very, very few women in it because almost everyone is a man. To be honest I didn’t really notice at the time, and although I’m not sure why I didn’t notice at the time looking back I think it really is true that there weren’t very many women around. Maybe I didn’t notice because all the bands that I really liked – apart from I guess The Pastels, The Jesus & Mary Chain and Primal Scream – apart from them all the bands that really inspired me did have women in. So perhaps my knowledge of the musical world was skewed towards bands with women in!
Does it surprise you how the reputation of Talulah Gosh has grown?
It’s absolutely brilliant! It’s amazing, really. We didn’t think we were doing anything normal, really, and I think the only reason we did anything normal at all is because we were a bit hopeless and couldn’t do what we were trying to do. So we I guess we wanted to sound like the bands that we really liked but we didn’t know how to go about doing that so we kind of came out sounding like we sounded. It was really natural. It was the result of that set of people doing all that they could possibly do. Somehow it came out well and actually people have subsequently been inspired by it, which I don’t think we could possibly have dreamed.
Have you ever considered releasing a box set?
No. Although, partly because those are bands with lots of different people. To be honest I did think of it! (laughs) But because the bands have been with lots of different people and they haven’t always been my bands I don’t think it’s appropriate somehow. We’ve got a Talulah Gosh compilation CD which is kind of the everything of Talulah Gosh coming out on Damaged Goods next year. I think we may then follow that up with a Heavenly Best Of, but that’s in the pipeline.
Heavenly were perhaps better known in the States.
Yeah, we did well in Britain and we were on Sarah which was popular in amongst a certain set of people in Britain. K seemed to go wider in America and I do remember one time where we went to America and did a tour and were completely kind of feted and probably felt more like pop stars than we had ever done before – even though we never felt much like pop stars – but we almost felt like pop stars. We came back and we had a gig in Chatham and we got there thinking ‘it’s going to be amazing, we’ve really practised!’ and there was literally two old blokes and a dog. We were like: “we’re back”.
You’ve never had a hit record in your own right, has that frustrated you?
I don’t know. I think that we were kind of perverse, really. We weren’t anti being successful, and we would have been really excited to have had a number one hit single however we were pretty much unwilling to do anything that we didn’t want to do to get us there. So I think it was kind of unlikely to ever happen. For example, we didn’t ever really talk to A&R people when they tried to talk to us. We actively tried to not have the girls at the front in photos – we didn’t always manage but we were deliberately perverse. If we could have had a number one on our own terms we would have been so happy. If we could have been a White Town or a Bis – both of whom got a lot of success without making any compromise – that would have been great, but yeah. We were not going to suck up to anyone to get there.
Did you ever have approaches from major labels?
Talulah Gosh and Heavenly were both approached by major labels. Talulah Gosh was approached but they said that I had to give up university so I said: no way. That’s the kind of thing we didn’t do right! Heavenly is a slightly embarrassing story. The A&R person who was in charge of us was called Jesse, and we used to practise with our cat – whose was called Jesse – meowing all the time outside the door. So everytime between songs you would just heard meow, meow, meow. So for some reason, basically when I was trying to have vaguely sensible conversations with Jesse the A&R man everyone else in the band would be behind me doing meow, meow, meow. So unfortunately probably our best shot at getting on a proper label, a major label was compromised by the band going meow, meow, meow. So he signed Pulp instead! I think the fact that they were going meow, meow, meow showed how much they cared about getting on a major label.
Tender Trap wasn’t supposed to be a live band, originally.
That was the idea. It was mainly motivated – very selfishly – by a desire not to carry drum kits around. But yes, that was the idea. Now we actually have a drummer and we do gigs but our drummer doesn’t actually own a drum kit. We have to rely on other people.
Does having a label like Fortuna POP! offer a lot of support?
Yeah. Fortuna POP! has been brilliant. Sean is – much like all the labels we’ve been on, really – an enthusiast. He wouldn’t put records out if he didn’t like them. I really like that. It’s really personal with him – just as it was with K and with Sarah – he does everything himself. It feels very real. The other very good thing about him, which is also true about every label we’ve ever been on, is he’s never told us to go and re-record or said that song doesn’t work. Sometimes, I’ve actually thought it would be quite nice if someone told us that doesn’t work, or we need to re-record something – but no one ever has. We’ve always been left to do what we want and I guess that must be what we like.
What are you up to just now, then?
We’re actually starting recording on Friday. So, the day after our Fortuna POP! show. So there’s a new album on the way. We’ve been desperately practising and writing new songs.
Will it be in keeping with the last one?
OK. It’s still indie pop but it’s not quite as 60s girl groupie. We were originally going to be influenced by Postcard more because we really love Postcard. I’m not sure we managed that either. You start thinking about Orange Juice plus us, that’s kind of what we were aiming at. But I don’t know if we’ve managed!
Have you found yourself checking out the bands that name-check you?
Yeah, totally. I think one of the reasons that the last album was a bit of a return to form was that we saw The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart doing really well with the kind of music that we thought we knew how to play. Maybe we should actually go back and do the stuff that we actually really, really love and that we actually know how to do! I guess got re-inspired by hearing those bands. I feel excited again. I hadn’t been that excited about music for a while but like last year there were such amazing albums out that it just got me really, really excited about indie again. You want to write songs when you’re excited about music really.
Were Orange Juice an inspiration when you started Talulah Gosh?
Actually, I guess I got into indie pop via what I said before about The Pastels but I was into Postcard even before that. I think my very first, proper boyfriend really liked Orange Juice and so I listened to that first album tons. In fact, I don’t even own it now as there was a time when every time I listened to it I cried! I had to give it away!
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Tender Trap are working on their fourth studio album.