Saturday, 19 September 2009

In the Pines

More from the tasty archives, and this time it's a conversation with Pam Berry, latterly of The Pines.

This interview was done around the autumn 2003, when the band released their excellent True Love Waits Vol. 2 ep, and it seems there was a visit by that George Bush fella. Remember him? The Pines were chucking their shoes at him long before that journalist ever thought of it...

Tell me about your previous and present bands - when did you realise you were in love with music?

I realised music was the best thing since iced raisin bread long before I had any kind of involvement with making it myself. My parents had a big beautiful cabinet stereo that finally bit the dust only about a decade ago, the kind with the stack-o-vinyl spindle on the turntable. I've got an old Christmas polaroid from when I was three of me and my younger brother standing next to what must've been our first record player, with seven-inches without sleeves strewn about the place. Old record filing habits die hard! The first band I sang in that put a record out was Black Tambourine. I couldn't sing very well but it didn't matter, writing songs and playing with friends was the best time ever. Every band I've been in since then has been the same ace situation of playing with friends and if I still lived in the US I'd hope to be playing music with the same people, I miss them! Speaking of those folks, lemme just say how many times a day I'm compelled to play When You Come Around by The Saturday People, can I get a witness?I'm presently playing in The Pines with my friend and guitar wonder Joe. These days we record everything at home in my South London flat on a digital 16-track portastudio with my husband at the controls. Joe and I stay pretty busy with our jobs and don't see each other as much as we'd like, but we record more than we play out - we just played our first and last show of the year at what is turning into our annual live gig at the Bush Hall in London. I also join in when I can for Snowdrops recordings with Keith and Dick, who live in Brighton.

Which would you consider your 'day-job' band?

Don't make me laugh! Playing and recording is great but at the rate we do things, I'd be wiser to work on one of the ten gazillion other things that are more appealing than working 9 to 5, like world craft domination or starting London's foremost homemade pie delivery service.

Tell me a little bit more about the process of releasing Pines records - you've recorded for various labels - what is your relationship with them all?

The first Pines release was a song on a comp CD that came with an issue of Papercuts magazine that our friend Stevie put out in 2000. Our first seven-inch came out on the label Long Lost Cousin, which is run by Mark who currently plays in the fantastic Pipas. Mark used to record us on his Mac before Mike and I got the Akai, he wanted to start a label, I was keen to make some sleeves, and it was done. In the earlier days Joe and I didn't really work much on recording until someone asked us for songs, having some kind of deadline would kick our butts into recording action. We've been lucky because the labels who have asked us for songs like Becalmed, Annika, Foxyboy and Matinee have committed to putting out a Pines release and trusted that they'll like the songs without hearing them first! I've known Jimmy from Matinee for ages but still couldn't bring myself to tell him after we recorded that True Love Waits Volume 2's first song was a capella and the last song clocked in at 9 minutes, I just sent along the finished songs and hoped for the best. Only recently have we started recording songs that don't have a home yet.

How many volumes of the 'True Love Waits' eps will there be?

Volumes 1 and 2 are the whole shebang, Joe wrote the songs as a group, though we didn't record them all at once. A long time ago we got asked to release some songs on a new indie mini-CD label and decided to start recording the first half of the True Love Waits bunch of ten. When the label crashed and the record wasn't going to happen after all, Ara from Foxyboy offered to release the songs. Matinee then kindly offered to put out the second batch of five, which mirrored the first five nicely and completed the TLW set.

How do you think labels such as Matinee are helping smaller bands in the UK, and US...and throughout the world?

I don't know that anybody would've ever heard the songs on True Love Waits Volume 2 if not for Matinee, and though I think it's some of the best stuff we've ever done, Joe and I would never have been in a position to put it out ourselves! Jimmy must be the most enthusiastic label mogul I've ever met! His excitement about his own releases as well as pop music on lots of other labels is infectious - combine that with great distribution and it means Matinee and pop labels like it are getting songs out to the kids that it would be impossible to hear otherwise, a fact which I hope I'm never too jaded to appreciate.

Does living in London make being in the Pines easier or harder - as far as gigging, rehearsing and recording are concerned?

The Pines wouldn't exist without London, since we both live here! I'm not sure how easy it would be to continue if either of us moved away from London. Gigging isn't really an issue since we only play out about once a year (not counting late-night drunken sets at house parties) and recording is easy enough once we can find the same days/evenings free, which isn't very often!

Did you welcome Bush's visit to London? If so, why? If not, why?

Who could welcome him to London unless it was the driver of the bus he should go under? It's bad enough to see his stupid mug all over the news at any given time but that only increased with his trip over here. The man's a menace, he makes my blood boil.

Did you start 'Chickfactor' with Gail O'Hara - or just work on it for a while? How did they come about?

I started Chickfactor with Gail in 1992 and though she did take on more of the reviewing burden and was a friend to the deadline in a way I never was, we were right there together transcribing, putting on shows, pasting candies and hair thingies on the covers and stapling pages together until I left after issue 11 in 1995. All told, Gail did put much more work into Chickfactor than I did (she hit people up for ads for instance, something I could never do) and though I miss doing a fanzine I really think of it as her mag. Good thing, then, that she carried on doing it after I left and now has a wonderful webspace devoted to it! Check it out for a complete history of Chickfactor, fab pictures by Gail and awesome web-only CF articles (like Peter Paphides waxing excited about choc!).Do you and Joe have different ideas about how The Pines should sound?

Is there any element of compromise when you're working together?

Joe and I have very similar ideas about how The Pines should sound, which is why recording is something I look forward to. We also have very similar ideas about how much lazing about should be done during any day of recording and how much cheese should go on top of the pasta bake made on the day of recording. Doing any kind of creative activity with someone else will always involve elements of compromise but we've yet to have fisticuffs over where the melodica fades out or anything like that, and since we have all our recording gear at home we have the luxury of trying things out different ways, without the pressure of time or expense that recording in a studio would have.

Would you like to be more prolific?

Yes, and not just in music. In music, I'd love to be recording more frequently and getting more Pines records out. In everything else, I'd love to finish even half of the projects I start and get my small biz up and running this year. More music, more bags, more gocco fabric stamping, more mass pierogi-producing and more hat-making in 2004!

1 comment:

String Bean Jen said...

I love these little snapshots of Tasty + pop life from years ago. 2003 = before Berry babies, Dub-yuh was still our national figurehead, but on the good side, Keith was still around. Aww.

'Can I get a witness?' Heh - I like that too.

I like reading interviews with Pam. She writes in such a friendly, chipper way, you want to befriend her and give her a big hug.