The Sequins are an indiepop band from Coventry, which is now officially (at least according to the NME) the eighth coolest place to live in the UK. Following two singles, ‘Nobody Dreams About Me’ (2005) and ‘Patients’ (2006), they released their debut album The Death of Style in November 2007, all on the fine Coventry label Tough Love (also worth checking out for great singles by William and Popular Workshop, among others). The band are Hywel Roberts (vocals), Justin Hui (guitar), Rob Hinchliff (guitar), Brendan Casey (drums) and Steve Ward (bass), who has been strangely renamed ‘Steve Weird’ on Wikipedia. We first saw them play live in 2005 and were both appalled and perversely impressed by the state of Hywel’s knitwear, and amused by their lack of sartorial coordination, though we were blown away by their 80s-inspired pop sounds, with its cap-doffing to Joy Division and the Smiths. I don’t think we ever heard their ukulele rendition of ‘Psycho Killer’ though, which will be a source of eternal regret. Their music continues to develop a pop sensibility that’s as sparkly as the sequins adorning the sleeve of the wonderful The Death of Style. We spoke to Hywel, Brendan and Steve in Brixton in November 2007.
SXP: We believe everything we read on the internet. So is it true that you’re gay porn stars?
Hywel: No, we’re not! Someone has some weird internet-based vendetta against us. The first I heard of it, my mum phoned me up to tell me about it.
Brendan: Everyone smiles in public but there’s some deep-seated issue. They hacked into our email, they deleted our website and replaced it with three men getting it on. I was at a bonfire party and I got a text from someone saying: “hi Brendan, I think your myspace has been hacked. There’s a picture of three men kissing each other and you’re now called ‘the dirty gay pirate-whores’”!
Hywel: In a way I’m quite flattered someone went to all that effort. But we’ve changed our Wikipedia entry back to say that we haven’t split up and all our dates aren’t actually cancelled.
SXP: About your Wikipedia entry, is it true that Special [a Sequins spin-off band] entered the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005 and 2006?
Hywel: That’s true, yeah. It’s our guitarist Justin. They entered in 2005 with a song called ‘Tartan Girl’ and in 2006 a song called ‘Curious’.
Brendan: ‘Tartan Girl’ was a Europop song, the 2006 entry was more of a two-step garage Craig David kind of song.
Steve: The two Dans from Honeytrap are in Special as well.
SXP: How did the Sequins form?
Hywel: We formed at Warwick Uni. Me and Justin used to get together and play Talking Heads covers with a ukulele at an open mic night. I used to sing and play acoustic guitar really badly. Justin’s a bit of a Queen obsessive, I’m a bit of a Smiths obsessive. We recruited Rob through the Warwick University internet forum. His interests were Belle and Sebastian and black metal so we thought we’d get him on board. After that we got two new members who’ve now left. And then we met Brendan and Steve from going out in Coventry.
Brendan: I joined about 4 years ago, Steve joined a year and a half ago. We’re the Coventry rhythm section.
Hywel: Because we’re not from Coventry, we thought we had to recruit some Coventry people to be called a Coventry band.
Steve: They were desperate for some credibility so they had to get some Cov lads!
SXP: There’s a clear 80s influence. But are you just another 80s tribute band?
Hywel: We’ve moved away from that really. We get quite annoyed sometimes when we get the Smiths thing thrown at us. I don’t think we’ve ever written a song and consciously tried to make it sound like an 80s song.
Steve: We don’t sit around and think about the 80s that much!
Brendan: I think the Smiths [comparison] mainly comes from the fact that we’ve got a frontman who sometimes wears a blazer, and a bunch of lads. Initially we were quite influenced by things like Interpol and Joy Division, but I think now it’s moved onto other things like Sparks, Orange Juice, XTC, Talking Heads, loads of bands.
Hywel: I’m getting into drum and bass and electro now because my girlfriend really likes it. She’s like the Yoko Ono on the band – she’s going to take me in stupid directions!
Brendan: He’s going to make ridiculous Hywel Roberts solo albums, like Feargal Sharkey but not as popular!
SXP: We love your early singles but you haven’t included them on the album, which is a bold thing to do.
Brendan: That was a conscious decision.
Hywel: We’ve moved away from the sound of the singles quite a lot, especially with ‘Nobody Dreams About Me’. it would be quite quite hard to put that on the album; it would sit quite awkwardly with the songs. They were out for such a long time and everyone – I say everyone, it’s 500 people – knows them. Sometimes you feel a little cheated - a band releases a couple of standalone singles and then you get the album and it’s a collection of early singles and B-sides. It’s nice to get an album that’s completely fresh.
Brendan: And it makes the early stuff more special, it’s more of its time rather than lumped in. We had loads of songs so it’s nice to put them on the album if they’re good enough.
Steve: We’ve had line up changes since those things came out. I didn’t play on the singles!
SXP: Who came up with the album title?
Hywel: It’s an old song of ours – ‘The Death of Style’. It fell away from the set list quite early on. Although we don’t use the song anymore, the title’s very good.
Brendan: It used to be our set closer, where ‘French Way of Life’ is now. I quite liked the idea of calling the album Everyone Loves The Sequins but I thought that might be a bit much and scare people off!
Steve: I thought it was a bit much having a song called ‘Everyone Loves The Sequins’ to be honest!
Hywel: If we really did [call the album] Everyone Loves The Sequins and we meant it, that would be delusional!
SXP: Are you pleased with the album?
Hywel: We had some concerns about recording but listening to it when it’s all mastered we’re very pleased with it.
Brendan: We could have put a bit more time into it, and maybe cleaned it up, but I think it’s quite nice to make albums a bit rough round the edges. So many bands come in and sound like they’re on their fourth or fifth album when it’s their debut. I don’t see the point in making things bigger: things date a lot better when there’s less being done to them. There’s one song, ‘Not Long For This World’, it’s a good song and it’s really good live but there’s one part which was already a year out of date!
Hywel: It’s very much of its time.
Brendan: As we were writing songs for the album, there were loads of bands with a Joy Division sound and then suddenly it was bands who looked like bricklayers. I felt at some stages: are people going to like this album now? Because, especially in London, every few years things change and people say: that could have been good a few years ago but it’s not now. Our backs were against the wall a little bit but it made us stronger to keep the sound we wanted.
Hywel: You wouldn’t associate [our sound] with any era. If you’re listening to it in 20 years’ time, you wouldn’t think: that came out in 2007 – it was good for its time but it’s not 2007 anymore.
Brendan: It’s just a good collection of songs.
SXP: First reviews have come out and they’ve been really gushing and passionate.
Hywel: The people who write those reviews are the people who are passionate to write reviews. We shouldn’t get too complacent and think because those reviews are great everyone’s going to love it. But obviously it’s great!
Brendan: People are quite personal about the album – it’s theirs, they’ve been waiting for it.
Hywel: When the national press gets involved, we’re not going to be so lucky all the time.
Brendan: We’ll just keep reading the old ones!
SXP: How do you describe yourselves?
Hywel: ‘Artrock’ gets bandied about but I’d say ‘indiepop’. That’s quite dangerous as you get into ‘twee’ - nothing wrong with it but it’s not us. I don’t want to say people can’t label us because that would be a ridiculous thing to say - they can!
SXP: The album cover is very appropriate for the band’s name.
Brendan: That was done by Alex Ostrowsky. You know Kotki Dwa? He’s in them and through Peachy, who runs our label, he did the artwork. We worked with him – he gave us ideas.
Hywel: He put a lot of thought into the concept. We’re obviously the Sequins and we do like to have fun about music, and because it’s called The Death of Style it’s appropriate to the name.
Brendan: We’re a band but we’re not a gang of lads who hang around. We’re a group but we have separate identities. That’s quite suitable.
Hywel: We haven’t got a Clash us-against-the-world [mentality]. We’re quite selfish really. Obviously we’re mates, we play together but sometimes we’ll then go off and do our own thing.
Brendan: But I find that kind of thing quite cheesy anyway. At a lot of gigs we play, a band will all show up together and that’s more like a boyband, I think: Take That or something. It’s not very credible.
SXP: Hywel’s smartened up since last time we saw you…
Hywel: The infamous hole-y jumper! What was it? “Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen wouldn’t approve of his tatty jumper”? Those words are seared into my mind! Tonight, as it’s the album launch we thought we’d make a bit of an effort – it’s supposed to be funeral attire. We haven’t got a band uniform like the Hives. We turn up for some gigs and it’s like we’re in five different bands!
SXP: What’s next for the Sequins?
Brendan: It’s been quite a long process for this album. We started recording it in September 2006 and it’s come out 15 months [later]. We’ve had these songs for ages now and we’ve been playing them a lot but now it’s nice to have the album out. We’ve got a home studio where we’re going to start recording demos for the [next] album in our little Sequins house (*general mirth*), where Hywel and Justin live. But now the pressure’s off and we can just write as many songs as possible, record as much as we want and see what happens.