by "candy grrl"
Lush's Lady Killer: Miki Berenyi Takes Center Stage
Before hitting the American leg of their world tour, lush frontwoman Miki Berenyi takes a breather with Go and waxes rhapsodic on everything from cultural differences to "mad fucking groupies."
Americans once fiercely devoured music from the other side of the Atlantic, from the Beatles to the Smiths. but some "big" UK music trends were as well-received in the colonies as the stamp tax. Nonetheless, the media whipped up a small frenzy about the British dream pop invasion--a sound descendent of the Cocteau twins, typified by shimmering guitar sounds and ethereal (often female) vocals, with more than a nod to saccharine '60s guitar pop--proclaiming acts with one-word band names like Lush, Pulp, and Ride to be the next big thing. voices tended to blend into instruments, one song blended into the next. fun stuff maybe, but sometimes less than memorable.
Lush, however, is a survivor, still alive and kicking on 4AD with their latest album, Lovelife. the band is fronted by Japanese-Hungarian Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson, who share singing, songwriting, and guitar riffs. unlike the 1990 debut disc Gala (the band was formed in 1988), which hid Berenyi and Anderson's floating vocals with swirling guitar layers, Lovelife thrusts the band's vocalists Anderson and Berenyi to center stage, without losing lush's infectious guitar pop melodies. I managed to get a few words in with the sweet-voiced Miki Berenyi as the band prepared to tour west.
GO: Lovelife is edgier than your previous albums; is that a trend in the band's music?
MB: I think after doing spooky, our first proper album--which was a very produced sound--and going on tour after that we just didn't sound like that record. Every record we've made subsequently has been trying to capture what we sound like live.
GO: In the states there's been a big surge in women acts or women-fronted bands like PJ Harvey, the Breeders, or Belly. how's it translating over there?
MB: It seems that American bands like Hole...it's more common there. There are more bands in Britain that are female-fronted but quite often the singers don't actually write the songs, like Echobelly and Sleeper.
GO: What do you think of Liz Phair and Alanis Morrisette?
MB: I think they're all right, but it's a bit weird. In America people think of Alanis Morrisette and there's some sort of embarrassing past or something, right?
GO: Yeah, she used to be this big-hair pop girl.
MB: Right, like Debbie Gibson! We don't really know anything about that, so we just hear the album without thinking that--she gets away with that here.
GO: So what's the difference between pop culture in Britain and the US?
MB: The turnover in Britain is a lot quicker, and there's more scope for smaller bands to get heard here. In America, unless you get an MTV hit like the Cranberries, then it's a lot of time and work spent getting yourself heard. At the same time you get people who are a bit more loyal, you have more of a fan base. In Britain, you can get replaced by the next thing quickly.
GO: I've been hearing allot about the death of the indie label, that indies have jumped into bed with majors for distribution or becoming a sub label. What do you see happening?
MB: I dunno about future predictions, but it's different, definitely. A band like us, we would never have really gotten signed by major labels five or six years ago. now the sort of bands that indie labels used to sign are being snapped up by the majors. But I dunno what the result will be! It's weird--a band will form and within six months there's this big bidding war going on and they get shitloads of money thrown at them. It must be nice! (laughs)
GO: How much of Lovelife is autobiographical?
mb.: Ummm...a fair bit, I suppose. This stuff is a bit more light, not as soul-searching as Split, which was more personal experiences. Something like "Single Girl" Emma wrote when she was splitting up with her boyfriend, but it's not a voyage into her psyche. It's a fairly simplistic view of a relationship ending.
GO: What's your background?
MB: My mom's Japanese and my dad's Hungarian.
GO: Is there any cultural difference between your audience and how they relate to you, because of your mixed ethnic heritage?
MB: I guess it doesn't really occur to me because I was born in Britain and raised in Britain, so i think of myself as British even though both my parents were immigrants. So really I don't think about it that much. It's not like I sing songs in Japanese or something or about that subject!
GO: Why didn't the British dream pop invasion explode here in the states like it did in the UK?
MB: It didn't really explode in England either. What really exploded was the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses. A lot of these bands just weren't that commercial. I mean, My Bloody Valentine are not a commercial band! they don't write radio-friendly music. It was a miracle that their single got in the top 40. Everyone was amazed!
GO: What about all that hype? Was it a record label thing?
MB: Well that, bollocks, that was a British press thing. I mean there has to be a label for everything, they want to convey that they've got the finger on the pulse, and pretend they created it or that they were there. It has very little to do with music or the reality of the situation.
GO: So what's the difference between the UK and the US music press?
MB: These days it's not so different. But here you have Melody Maker and NME, which are weekly publications, so they rave about some band, and a month later they've moved onto something else and they're slagging the band that they were praising. Used to be in the US, all these bands get their foot in the door in college radio, and the press there only seemed to deal with the major acts.
GO: Any weird American fan experiences?
MB: When we go and play, you get these timid 20-year-old college students, and it's like, "you're quite sweet," but I suppose they are into slightly more low-key music, so they are more low key as well. But when we were at Lollapalooza, that was fucking insane! It was this big rock event, these mad fucking groupies and it was just unbelievable. I've just never seen anything like that! I've never been witness to that kind of huge rock crowd and the sort of people it attracts that want to get backstage. I mean if you go see Ride, the people who wanna get backstage are slightly depressed teenagers, not sort of a blonde silicon people with a Bon Jovi backstage pass tattooed onto their buttock! It's a different world.
GO: What direction do you see the band taking in the next album?
MB: God, I don't have a clue! We don't write when we're on tour; when everything's done, then you start and sit down and write the next one and see where you are then.
GO: When does your north American tour begin?
MB: We're coming out in a couple of weeks. April 11, in Vancouver; the first American show is in Seattle. We're in NYC on may 2, I think.
GO: How long is the tour to support Lovelife?
MB: We're on a British tour now. That will finish on the 3rd of April, which is the longest tour we've ever done in Britain. I mean, we are playing every fucking toilet in the country. And then the American tour in 6 weeks, with some radio gigs. Then there's festivals in Britain and Europe, then we go on tour in Britain, then we go on tour in Europe, then we might go back to America as well. it kinda rolls on everlastingly 'til about Christmas.
GO: How do you have a personal life then?
MB: You don't! You give it up! (laughs)