The Indelicates: Julia and Simon
The Indelicates are Simon Indelicate (lead guitar/vocals), Julia Indelicate (piano/vocals), Alastair Clayton (guitars), Kate Newberry (bass), Ed van Beinum (drums).
Julia is a singer and photographer and was a founder member of the Pipettes. She collaborated with Monster Bobby to put into practice the ideas in Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty’s book ‘The Manual (How To Have a Number 1 The Easy Way)’ and then left the band when she realised what she’d created. Simon’s written a musical. Both have been performance poets. They’ve just finished touring Germany with Art Brut, whose Eddie Argos is both fan and friend, and they’re shortly returning to Germany and Austria. They live on the South Coast of England. Both make no apologies for being smart but equally they won't talk down to you; any prejudice you find, you bring it yourself. They write literate, arch, funny songs with a acidic bite (think Carter and The Divine Comedy for starters, with a blob of The Jam); last year they put noses out of joint with a song ‘Waiting for Pete Doherty’ to die which the disciples of St Peter couldn’t spot was a commentary on the tabloid frenzy rather than a statement of their intent.
They’ve released an EP in Germany, ‘The Last Significant Statement To be Made In Rock ‘n’Roll’ on Sad Gnome Records plus three singles everywhere including Germany: ‘We Hate The Kids’ (Sad Gnome Records, 2006), ‘Julia, We Don’t Live In The 60s’ and ‘Sixteen’ (both Weekender Records, 2007). They’re now working on their debut album for release in early 2008. We spoke to Simon and Julia in the corner of a festival field in August 2007.
SXP: With ‘The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock’n’ Roll’, are you saying that rock is dead?
Simon: I think the marketing strategy of selling jeans to teenagers based on music that was invented in the ‘50s has run its course. Certain spirits have arisen as a result of rock music, such as punk; I don’t think that’s necessarily dead but the rock’n’roll ideal and the idea that you have to behave in a certain way and you have to do certain things that began in the ‘50s has become self-parody!
SXP: Do you think you’re too cynical about music?
Simon: I don’t know it’s a problem being cynical. If you don’t accept there’s a fault with something then there’s no reason to try anything else. You can walk around being positive but it’s actually a very negative way of being because if you’re positive you’re just accepting what’s in front of you instead of doing anything about it. And so cynicism is actually very healthy! So, am I too cynical? Probably too cynical to be happy in life!
SXP: Some of your songs have a darkly romantic undertone, even when you’re being cynical.
Simon: That’s what I mean. Cynicism is the hope for something better!
SXP: You’re a ‘clever’ band. Do you think that brains and rock’n’roll are uneasy bedfellows?
Simon: I think it’s not important to be clever. I think it’s important to tell the truth. I don’t like dancing that much. I do quite like books about 30s socialites. So if I was writing a song I can say ‘I only like dancing, have a dance’ but I’d be lying and I’d be conning people, tricking them into buying into something that isn’t true. I do have an MA so I can’t pretend otherwise. If I’m going to do it at all, I’m going to tell the truth.
SXP: You remind me at times of Tompaulin. You know Tompaulin?
Julia: [hesitating:] Yes. [more brightly:] We know Tom Paulin well!
SXP: ‘The Last Significant Statement…’ only came out in Germany, where you seem to be very popular.
Simon: We needed something to sell on the tour. We had two weeks to come up with some kind of product and just went, recorded it and rushed it out. So it’s not really available in England.
Julia: Doing interviews in Germany is one of the best things in the world. It’s amazing. If you do interviews in England it’s the two minute interview: why are you called the Indelicates, why do you hate Pete Doherty, those questions. In Germany you get an hour and a half! *adopts German accent* “So, you released zis song, ‘Ze British Left in Wartime’” – I’m half-Austrian so I’m allowed to do that accent without it being prejudiced – “ve vant to know about ze politics of it”. They’ll note down everything. You say: “aren’t you going to ask me about Pete Doherty?” and they’ll say “oh we know that you don’t want him to die”. They know! They understand completely!
SXP: So what’s wrong with Pete Doherty?
Simon: I don’t have a problem with Pete Doherty. I’ve got a problem with every time I go to Virgin Megastore. There are always a couple of books and a picture of Pete Doherty looking like that *mimics tragic face*: “Pete Doherty, the life and times of a genius” and it’s just got a space waiting for the dates. That’s just incredibly sick so I wrote a song about it. It’s not even about him, it’s about the sickness of that.
Julia: The worst thing is when people say: “oh, I hate him too”. Hang on! I don’t hate him and I don’t know the guy. People say stuff like that all the time: “I hate Lily Allen” or “I hate Amy Winehouse”. I can’t because they haven’t offended me in any way. Lily Allen, she’s completely inoffensive, she does something that is pop music. It’s nothing to be offended by. Amy Winehouse – I quite like Amy Winehouse ‘cos she’s a drunk! She’s a bit like a female Pete Doherty in a way.
SXP: We don’t really see you as an indie band; you’ve got a bigger sound, like Springsteen, Meatloaf even.
Julia: That’s not a problem. The things that those bands have in common was that they could play on a big stadium stage and it would work.
Simon: People think of Art Brut as quite a small band but actually if you see Art Brut on a big stage they could own Glastonbury in a way that hardly any bands I’ve seen recently could. That’s stadium rock – no point saying it isn’t.
SXP: Have you played a gig where you’ve gone down badly? At an indiepop gig, they usually just shuffle away really quietly.
Simon: They’re not pissed off enough. They just walk away - that’s much worse. If someone threw bottles at me I’d be thrilled. But no, they just look a bit annoyed! You do stand up poetry, that’s a lot harder. People get really pissed off with you then.
Julia: Especially if you’re a girl. You get up and you want to read an epic poem of 12 pages that you’ve spent hours and hours writing, and you wear black so it’s easier for people not to comment on your clothing, and they still write about how your mouth moves and how it’s lovely. Singing a song is easy by comparison.
Simon: I’ve done street poetry in Hastings. Someone came up to my friend, kicked him in the shin and went: “get the fuck out of it! We don’t want your poetry”! No other audience is going to be that hard.
SXP: Talking about audience reaction, the third track on the CD [of ‘Julia…’] is a live version of ‘Unity Mitford’ and you introduce it by saying: “this is for anyone who’s ever fallen in love with a Nazi”. Which in Innsbruck…
Julia: No, it really didn’t go down very well! Luckily the mastering seems to hide that, which is really funny. *Adopts Austrian accent*: “he said the N word”!
Simon: It’s about someone who fell in love with Hitler. I can’t disguise it!
SXP: Do you write songs to fit your voice? It carries so well it sounds operatic, if that’s the right word.
Julia: I’ve been classically trained but not singing classically trained. I’ve generally been able to copy any singer that I wanted to. So if I wanted to copy Madonna I could sing exactly like Madonna. If I want to copy Alanis Morrisette - which I did for a long time! – I’d sing like Alanis Morrisette. I don’t know why I can do it, I don’t think it’s genius but I know I can do it. So in a big room I can change the way that I sing automatically without any problems.
SXP: Is it right you’re a performance poet?
Simon: I have been. I still believe in it. I just got annoyed with being poor and decided to do something with slightly more chance of working! You get frustrated because there’s very little audience for it. We did some very good things with it and then it just ran its course. But I can introduce you to people who are brilliant.
SXP: So, who are your influences? Obviously not Pete Doherty.
Simon: I used to listen to Carter USM all the time, I love Jim Bob’s lyrics; Luke Haines; I used to copy Pete Townsend to learn how to play guitar! Lyric-based indie from the early 90s is the main thing that I grew up listening to.
Julia: I got a message from Amanda Palmer from the Dresden Dolls on Myspace the other day and the whole morning at my work I was:*singing* “I got a message from Amanda Palmer”! I was so pleased. I never had any heroes. I like a lot of classical music; indie passed me by and I listened to dance music. Then the Dresden Dolls came along; I really like the Dresden Dolls because it’s a whole cabaret thing. I’ve always loved cabaret the genre, I’ve loved the film, Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht, I love that stuff.
SXP: What is it about cabaret? It’s definitely in your live show and it’s not particularly indie?
Julia: I’d never call myself an ‘-ist’ of any kind because I’d be too dubious of what the downsides of it were. So I’d never call myself a socialist or anything like that. But I quite like the Beggars Opera because of the idea that it’s for the common man. I’m not actually a big fan of Berthold Brecht’s poems or anything like that, I just like the whole Brecht-Weill collaboration. Apart from that I really like the film Cabaret because I think it’s the most tragic thing ever. There’s a line in it where Lisa Minnelli says: “I’m gonna be a big star unless the booze and the sex get me first” and that’s exactly what happened. There are amazing lines in the whole play.
SXP: Simon, you’ve written a musical. Tell us more.
Simon: It’s an Andrew Lloyd-Webber-style adaptation of the Book of Job, written for a multimillion pound West End budget but performed with five blokes and a guitar. We describe everything that would be happening if we had millions of pounds as part of the action. I’d like to produce it with a multi-million pound budget but at the moment we just do it out of the back of a car.
SXP: This isn’t meant rudely but is it a serious musical?
Simon: Yeah! It’s a serious musical. It’s not indie, the music is straight down the line West End show music, just played with guitar. We’ve taken it to the Cheltenham Literature Festival and it went down very well there, so it’s not just a joke; I do kind of mean it but it is fun too. It’s a pisstake but a serious one! You can’t really do a musical if you don’t have any money but I really like things that are basically a blag, that work really well.
SXP: Julia, you’re acting in it.
Julia: I’m Mrs Job. I get to have all the beautiful singsong bits, which I never got to do at school, which is really nice. *sings* I GOT A LEAD, HA, HA, HA! You go to school in Brighton and it’s a bit different to everywhere else. We sang ‘Wonderwall’ in Year 7 choir as everyone was into indie music! So the only way to rebel in Brighton was to listen to dance music, to what they now call chavs were listening to. I had a great time doing that to be honest because it was the ultimate rebellion – it wasn’t music, it was just beats, you danced around and nobody cared what you looked like or where you were from. So it was really nice to be in the musical. It makes me smile every time I get to do it. Simon’s got a new one as well.
Simon: My new one is an adaptation of Paradise Lost in the style of an Elvis movie! If you think, the plot of Paradise Lost and the plot of most Elvis movies is identical: there’s a prevailing social structure, someone cool comes in, goes off with the best girl and as a result the underpinning structure of society changes, which is the plot of Paradise Lost and Girl Happy! I wrote that as a long poem a long time ago and I’m adapting the poem into a rock’n’roll musical. That’s in the works, but I haven’t finished the first act yet.
SXP: Do you think John Milton would have approved?
Simon: Seeing as how he was a grumpy old blind bastard who used to just sit in his room torturing his ex-wife for leaving him when she came back and she had no money, he probably just would have been a cunt about it! He’s dead. What’s he gonna do?