Standard Fare are a brilliant new Sheffield band, comprising Emma Kupa (bass, vocals), Danny How (guitar, vocals) and Andy Beswick (drums). They’ve released two singles so far: ‘Dancing’, on a split 7” with Slow Down Tallahassee in April 2009 and ‘Fifteen’/ ‘Understand’ on beautiful blue vinyl last month (January), both on Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation. (There’s also a bittersweet Christmas song, ‘Tinsel Politics’, available for download on the web.) Their debut album The Noyelle Beat is out in March on Melodic/ Thee SPC (although you can preorder it now and get an instant download). In very little time they’ve become indiepop darlings, their songs full of what Matt H described in his album review as “beat-skipping moments that persuade even the hardest hearts”. They play Popfest in London in February and head out to South By South West in March. We spoke to Emma Kupa in January 2010.
SXP: You're playing South By South West this year. How did that come about? And are you looking forward to it?
Emma: We applied to play and for some funding with the help of our US label Bar None and Darren from Thee SPC. We're still working on the visas but we're really looking forward to it! We have a bunch of gigs booked in the North East of the US and our album is released over there while we're there. We also have some other things booked at SXSW alongside our showcase.
SXP: I read that your mum was a member of Poison Girls. Is that true and did that anarcho-punk music and ethos have any influence on you as a developing musician?
Emma: She was the bassist in the early days and is still in touch with the guitarist and singer from the Poison Girls. She was also a roadie for the Buzzcocks and toured with them and Blondie around Europe! It's a lot to live up to but it was always made clear to me that big things were possible. The Poison Girls have influenced me as well the upbeat music and the direct lyrics are fantastic. I just wish I could write as political as Francis did.
SXP: You have The Noyelle Beat album ready for release in March and apparently it was recorded in just 6 days. As an album is usually preceded by a whole string of singles, are you especially prolific? And where does the album title come from?
Emma: We've had a while to write the album but we do try to consistently write new material. Noyelle sous lens was a place in France where we did a fantastic festival organised by really nice people last year and we felt we wanted to carry some of the energy from that time into the album.
SXP: You've created quite a stir on the indiepop scene in a short time. What is the songwriting process on songs like 'Philadelphia' and 'Fifteen' and is there anything autobiographical in your songs?
Emma: The songs often come quite quickly from experiences or almost experiences. Generally the content is pretty accurate at least for my songs. Dan’s writing is normally a mix of experience and friend’s experiences etc.
SXP: 'Understand' is almost too good to hide away on a b-side. One of its strengths is the way that you sing it and invest it with emotional power - it's more affecting than you usually get from an indie song. Are you always trying for that sort of effect?
Emma: Thanks. It was a song I wrote a long time ago and the first time I recorded it I was at home and put a sock over the mic and sung it quietly to make it sound as soft as possible. It's very simple because the feeling was very simple. I do tend to get into the frame of mind of the songs I'm singing, it's easier when they're newer but it's not hard to remember how things felt.
SXP: "Standard fare" is an interesting name, given that there's nothing standard or identikit-indie about you. What's behind the name - is it as simple as a public transport sign?
Emma: Yeah, I just saw it on a bus and we were pretty desperate for a name! I wanted it to be Fayre but the boys thought that was a bit too olde worlde!
SXP: I understand that Danny's from Buxton and you’re from York so how did you come to form a band? And since 'Dancing' was only released in April 2009, how long had you been around before then?
Emma: I grew up in New Mills which is not far from Buxton; I just live in York now. Dan and I first met at a gig where a mutual friend was playing in a band. We got chatting and not long after our different bands at the time played a gig together. Anyway, those bands fell apart but we starting playing, and when we needed a drummer Dan's brother introduced him to Andy. We've been around for a few years but it's only since we moved to Sheffield in 2007 that things started happening.
SXP: You're a Sheffield band. Over recent years there's been a rich seam of independent music mined from those seven hills. Do you feel an affinity with Sheffield bands and is a good scene in which to develop?
Emma: We get on really well with other bands from Sheffield especially with Nat Johnson and the Figureheads who we've gone on tour with and covered. We're big fans of their music. We also get on with other bands on the Thee SPC label and doing the split single with Slow Down Tallahassee was great!
SXP: Thee SPC seems to take a lot of effort in producing these cherishable bits of 7" plastic in vibrant colours. Do you share the same feeling about vinyl?
Emma: It is nice to make them really special. The feeling when we get to hold our new single on vinyl is fantastic!
SXP: Your Myspace page has some understandable influences (Belle and Sebastian, Lemonheads, Blondie) and some more left-field ones. What do you take from the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Sam Cooke?
Emma: The Fleetwood Mac albums Rumours and Tusk are a big influence on me because of the emotional directness of the songs alongside the interesting stuff they do with rhythm and the lovely melodies. Sam Cooke made music that made you want to dance and feel good and sing and I very much want to emulate that.
SXP: Given that most guitar-based indiepop recycles the same old ideas to the point that it's anything but "alternative", how do you make yourself stand apart from the landfill indie that clogs the airwaves?
Emma: We just do what we do and hope people like it.