The Subliminal Girls are neither girls nor do they operate at the threshold of consciousness. They’re a London-based, mostly Guernsey-originating punk-pop band who were inspired to form by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and the KLF, armed only with “a good lyric, some pointy shoes, and a little Bill Drummond book”. There are five of them: Jim Rhesus (“one of London’s most exciting frontmen and an all round nice bloke” – taken from his own website), Nicky Biscuit (synthesizer, backing vocals), Jimmy "2" Shoes (guitar, backing vocals), Danny Le Pelly (bass, backing vocals), Arran J Lovechild (drums). They’ve been in, or are in, other bands with such great names as: Art Goblins, Rhesus, Ciccone, The Video Club, The Welsh Elephant, Guarana, Future and the Boy, Dizzy Moths, Low Fat Custard, Bridport Daggers and Crissi Cromer All Stars. The Subliminal Girls are now signed to Weekender Records and have released one single so far, ‘Burn Koko’, which received airplay on Radio 1, 6Music and XfM to name but some, and was Popjustice’s song of the day. They’re now working on their follow up, a turbocharged version of ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’.
This interview has taken a while to transcribe because (a) they talk a lot (this piece could have been a lot, lot longer) and (b) they talk over each other all the time (except for Danny Le Pelly who was either out of range of the mike, couldn’t shout as loud or is just a chilled-out individual). But they’re otherwise a dream to interview: exciting but exhausting, they’re funny, charming, rude and passionately devoted to the cause of pop, all qualities that you see in their live set. We spoke to the Subliminal Girls in June 2007.
SXP: You formed a band! How and why?
Arran: Jim Rhesus, Jimmy 2 Shoes and Danny were in the same band…
Jim Rhesus:: …a band called Dizzy Moths, when we were about 16 in Guernsey. We were an out and out punk band really and used to rehearse
in an asbestos fridge and air raid shelter. One day we asked a venue if we could use their place to rehearse and 250 underage people turned up and drank the bar dry while they were waiting. There was a garden out the back with a goat in it and we opened the back door and the goat came on stage with us as well. We all had to exit very, very quickly when the manager came down to find that the bottom of his bar was full of wrecked teenagers!
Nicky Biscuit: They you came to London and formed Rhesus. You knew me through Art Brut and my other band, The Video Club.
Jim Rhesus: Then I lost the plot around the middle of 2005 and had to go back to Guernsey for a while, got there and thought ‘fuck this’. Nicky offered me a sofa to sleep on, I went round to Nicky’s one night, we got really fucking pissed, and I managed to persuade Jimmy that it was a good idea to move over as well. Danny was already here so: why don’t we put together a band?
Nicky Biscuit: And we didn’t know any drummers so we got Arran! *laughter*
Arran: Ouch, that hurts…
Jim Rhesus: And we had a rehearsal, decided to call ourselves the Broadmoor DIY Castrati, something out of a Bill Drummond book; we’re all heavily influenced by the KLF. Nicky came up with the name Subliminal Girls, stolen from The Yummy Fur. And we did a gig in Fruitbat’s back garden which was our first ever show and people liked it. We went round to Danny’s and recorded a couple of songs for a laugh and put them up on Myspace; that was July-August last year and people started liking them from all over the world!
Nicky Biscuit: Which was all very odd because Rhesus had their fans, as did The Video Club, but, once you got your hundred people round the country, beyond that there wasn’t a lot more. And now with this…
Jimmy 2 Shoes: We’ve got just over eight and a half thousand ‘friends’…
Arran: Friends? I wouldn’t go drinking with them.
Jim Rhesus: We’ve got friends in China, friends in Thailand! It is amazing. We’re really happy. James at Weekender Records has a lot to answer for. In the old fashioned way I gave him a CD and he put it in his pocket.
Arran: I gave him a tenner, stuck it in the other pocket…
Jim Rhesus: James sent me a Myspace message saying ”I need to speak to you”. I thought he’d say “you’re shit” and I’d say “fine, you’re a mate, we’re shit, that’s the way it goes”! And he said “we’d like to sign you”. So he did and it was weird as hell!
Nicky Biscuit: I was on a train to my godawful job and Jim went: “*pant, pant* really exciting, someone wants to sign us!”
Jim Rhesus: Arran was: “nah, they don’t”.
Nicky Biscuit: We’ve all been on labels before, but I think this is the first proper one that’s actually got some form of funding and organisation behind it!
Jim Rhesus: We signed our contract at the Dorchester and we’re really having a good time. It’s going really well, people come to the gigs, we keep getting offered nice stuff, we get offered gigs every bloody day, we have to turn them down, which is unusual. Playing a few festivals in the summer. I’m actually playing an acoustic set at Glastonbury which is quite weird because I’ve never done an acoustic set before.
Nicky Biscuit: Open-mic stage, don’t get above your station…
Jimmy 2 Shoes: You’re not warming up for the Who are you?
Jim Rhesus: The Who are warming up for me.
SXP: On your website you say you formed because you were bored by the music scene.
Jim Rhesus: It’s got better since we formed – but not purely because of us! You’ve got bands like the Moths and the Indelicates, bands actually making interesting songs with decent lyrics as opposed to wearing the same jeans for 4 days, a whole load of rich kids dressed in their ragamuffin clothes.
Nicky Biscuit: There is some iffy stuff. One band will be fantastic but then they all sound the same.
Jimmy 2 Shoes: I know what you mean: a watered down version of someone else. And everyone says they’re a bit like the Arctic Monkeys.
Arran: The reason why we get so angry with the others is that we love music so much.
Nicky Biscuit: And I don’t know why bands forget to put tunes in their songs either. That annoys me. Got chords, drums, bass – no tunes.
SXP: Why release ‘Hungry As The Wolf’ as a single?
Jim Rhesus: We were rehearsing one day and Jimmy and I are large Duran Duran fans - well, we’re all Duran Duran fans – and we thought we’d jam it. It sounded really, really excellent.
Nicky Biscuit: It’s just one of those quintessential classic pop songs that encapsulates everything in three and a half minutes. Complete gibberish lyrics as every pop song should [have].
Arran: It’s not the obvious Duran Duran song so there’s room for improvement.
Jim Rhesus: The problem with it is that Duran Duran’s version isn’t fast enough – they got it wrong. So we thought we’d speed it up a little bit!
SXP: Is Duran Duran a guilty pleasure in your world?
Jim Rhesus: It’s not a guilty pleasure. It’s a pleasure. No guilt is involved in Duran Duran whatsoever!
SXP: One of the people you most want to meet – according to your blog – is Simon Le Bon. Why?
Jimmy 2 Shoes: ‘Cause he looks like him!
Jim Rhesus: To ask: “why have you remained the coolest male in the world for the last 25 years?”
Jimmy 2 Shoes: Some members of this band would not agree!
SXP: Do you think the 80s were a particularly cool decade?
Jim Rhesus: Not particularly but some of the pop music that came out of the 80s was absolutely superb.
Nicky Biscuit: I think the early 80s was really innovative, like when Kraftwerk started to get in the charts. I think it’s the last time it’ll happen – where people listen to the radio and hear something completely new. Obviously Kraftwerk were around for ages before but to hear something fully electronic is amazing.
SXP: If you’re all followers of Bill Drummond, does that mean you’re going to make a #1 single?
Jim Rhesus: We have been following the manual quite closely and there will be a number 1 single definitely.
SXP: ‘Burn Koko’ – what’s that all about?
Jim Rhesus: First a disclaimer. We don’t want to actually burn Koko. We all went to Koko on numerous occasions and it’s just basically a whole load of people jumping on a bandwagon because indie seems to be the thing to be cool to listen to at the moment. Hence “send them all back to Ministry of Sound“ because 10 years ago they’d all be going to Ministry of Sound.
Nicky Biscuit: It’s just the people who dress up: “oh, we’re going to go indie tonight”.
Arran: It’s like on Myspace; they don’t have all the albums they say they like. They don’t have the entire Wire collection, they haven’t heard one Wire song. Or it’s probably Elastica.
Jim Rhesus: Nobody wants it to be about them so all the people at Koko go: it’s about him over there, it’s not about me. Actually it’s about all of them and a little bit about us as well.
Jimmy 2 Shoes: And it’s not malice either, it’s just a bit tongue in cheek.
SXP: Do you think that being a funny band can work against you?
Nicky Biscuit: Any band I really like has got a real range of emotion to them: even Coldplay have got their funny bits! Every band when they’re together has a laugh. When Radiohead are backstage at Wembley they’re not all slitting their wrists; they’re: “yeah, I’d shag that!” and having some beer.
Jim Rhesus: We’re very serious in what we do but we tell the truth. We don’t think: let’s find a subject and write about it; we think: what happened to us today? Let’s write this song. Hence songs about internet dating…
Nicky Biscuit: That was always my problem with Joy Division – because they weren’t very depressing people. Ian Curtis was meant to be very amusing but on record…
SXP: Do you feel part of any scene?
Jimmy 2 Shoes: You’ve heard nu-this and nu-that. We want to get pop music back so we want nu-pop. Just records that people want to listen to and don’t get bored of really quickly as you hear them on the radio thousands of times.
Nicky Biscuit: In a way we look like people in the scene. We have the skinny jeans and pointy boots and we look like These Animal Men. I think if you want to make any kind of observation or this sort of thing, if you’re in it it’s a lot more credible than just looking and poking fun.
SXP: You’ve been linked to other bands: Art Brut, the Indelicates…do you feel a great affinity?
Jim Rhesus: They’re just our friends really. It’s great to have a bunch of bands to play with, who you’re actually really good mates with and you enjoy hanging out with. They come to our gigs and we go to their gigs.
Nicky Biscuit: Even if you don’t like each other’s music there’s no animosity between the people at all.
SXP: Tell us about the Carter connection.
Jim Rhesus: We’re all massive Carter fans. First thing I bought for Jimmy, for his 17th birthday, was ‘The Only Living Boy in New Cross’ single.
Jimmy 2 Shoes: Put down ‘7’. Makes me feel really old!
Jim Rhesus: We’re all avid Carter fans. Always have been. One of our first gigs was backing Jim and Fruitbat.
Arran: You didn’t ask me. Cunt!
Jimmy 2 Shoes: Fruitbat’s a really good friend of all of us, especially Arran because he lives with him!
Nicky Biscuit: He helped us with the sleeve design, he’s helped us edit all the songs for the next single. I feel we should be paying him!
Arran: I do every week – rent money!
Jim Rhesus: They managed to sell out Brixton Academy, which they didn’t expect to do, in 3 days, which was amazing! We’re headlining the aftershow for that, at Brixton Jamm, which is great. And people keep saying in our reviews: “they’re a bit like Carter”, which is great 'cause we fucking are, and it’s simple as that.
SXP: Where is the career path of Subliminal Girls taking you?
Jim Rhesus: Straight to the top! We’re not interested in being indie-famous, there’s no point in that, no-one makes a living out of that and we’ve all got bills to pay and debts to pay.
Nicky Biscuit: The career path is in the hands of the people who buy the records – and the people who make the records. If they like what we do, then great!
Jimmy 2 Shoes: We work really hard and it’s something we’ve all been gearing up to for a long long time. We just want to take it as far as it will go.
Jim Rhesus: We like our set up, it works really well for us. ‘Cause I’ve been writing songs with Danny since we were 11 or 12 years old!
Arran: We still play some of them!
Jim Rhesus: The original Dirty Moths songs, we’ve souped up a lot.
Nicky Biscuit: Such a shit name!
Jim Rhesus: Do you prefer Drunken Butterfly?
Arran: It’s every name! You’ve got Mechanical Lobster, Dizzy Moths, Drunken Butterfly…
Jim Rhesus: You’re showing your arsehole and ignorance here! Dizzy Moths is taken from a song on the Dirty album by Sonic Youth called Drunken Butterfly.
Nicky Biscuit: It’s still not a good name.
Jim Rhesus: The Moths did alright out of it. They stole our fucking name! *everyone dissolves into laughter*
SXP: Is it true about your hangover cure: five cans of cold Stella?
Jim Rhesus: Yes, absolutely! No matter what situation you’re in, wherever you are, Stella will make it better!