|This superb interview
is from the
Sing-Sing fan site designed by Jen G, who also runs the
Lush group on Yahoo Groups which I highly recommend to all Lush
In June 2005, I and my good
friend Jen D. had the opportunity to do an interview with Sing-Sing
for Jen's Stratosphere Fanzine. Thanks to the wonders of new
technology, Jen (who lives in the U.S.) and I compiled a list of
questions via e-mail, which we then forwarded to Emma & Lisa. Here
are the questions, complete with answers!
1. Emma, you were in the much-adored band Lush writing songs,
composing music, playing guitar, and singing - basically doing it
all! How does being part of Sing-Sing compare with your experiences
in Lush (or is it an ‘apples vs. oranges’ comparison)?
Emma: Well, the biggest difference is that Lush was
professional and Sing-Sing isn’t. I earned a living doing Lush
but Sing-Sing doesn’t pay the mortgage (which is a shame!)
Having said that though – there are advantages in not being in a
professional band – I feel I have done that ‘touring for a whole
year’ thing and don’t need to do it again. The pressure is less
with this band, and as we are now doing it all ourselves, we
have all the control. You don’t get that when you have worldwide
record labels, agents, managers etc. etc. Sing-Sing is more
relaxed in the way there is less pressure from outside people
but more work as we are doing it all…I don’t mind that
though…you get to see the rewards sooner and get more ‘job
satisfaction’ from it.
2. Do you still keep in touch with Miki, Phil, and Steve
(other members of Lush)? Do you know what they’re up to and/or if
any of them are working on any musical projects?
Emma: I am still in touch with Phil and Steve. Phil
has been very busy – he plays bass with a number of different
artists – John Howard, The Fallen Leaves, Les Hommes
Responsables, Brett Smiley and Earl Brutus. He is also involved
with reissues, on the RPM and Transistor Labels, of material
from now defunct 1970s labels. Steve lives in Ireland with his
wife and twin children. He went through a spell of writing for
Mojo and Uncut but hasn’t done that for a while.
3. Lisa, were you in any bands or working on any musical
projects prior to forming Sing-Sing? Have you recently collaborated
on projects with other musicians?
Lisa: I was in loads of bands, my first one was
Hectors House, we used to play post punk angst ridden stuff in
welsh pubs. My other band was called The Toasters, we played one
party but rehearsed constantly in a cow shed, also in Wales. It
was only when I got to London that I started doing anything more
serious - I worked with Mark Van Hoen of Locust, who then went
on to produce our albums, with Tim Keegan and The Departure
Lounge, with legendary reggae producer the Mad Professor who
introduced me to brandy and ribena cocktails. More recently I've
been singing with The Brakes, a very cool band made up of some
members from British Sea Power.
4. How did you come up with your band name and how would you
describe your sound?
Emma: Sing-Sing was a prison in upstate New York – now
called Ossining. It’s pretty name with a more sinister meaning.
Also, we both sing (to varying degrees)… The sound is very
song-based but quite quirky, I think. We have a lot of
influences between us and I think that comes out. There’s folk
in there, heavy metal in there – you name it! I normally leave
it for other people to describe our sound though – that’s
usually quite amusing. Goths like us though – interesting.
Lisa: At first we were 3 girls, with 2 vocalists, and
we wanted the music to be song based - Sing-Sing was perfect, it
sounded pretty, whilst also being the name of a prison - we
liked the duality of the definition. We had a good idea of what
we wanted to sound like, and achieved that, the album was just
how we envisioned it.
5. How do you collaborate on creating songs? Do you both work
on the lyrics and musical direction, or do you each take on
different parts of the process (or maybe it depends on the song!)?
Did you go into the studio with a plan of how you would sound or did
it just evolve?
Emma: Well, we both start our songs very much
separately. I kind of leave the structure a lot looser with this
band, than I did when I was in Lush, as the studio process is
more defining with Sing-Sing and by that I mean with Lush we
were a 4-piece indie band and therefore I wrote all the parts
for all the people, we rehearsed them in a rehearsal room and
then laid the tracks down in a studio. As we aren’t a ‘band’ as
such – a lot of what comes out is decided on a computer with the
producer, Mark, and therefore there is no point in presenting
something that is too structured. I do like working on a
computer and the immediacy of it though. We write the lyrics
separately and they are very much ‘personal experience’ but we
do have one song on the new album called ‘Going Out Tonight’
where we both wrote the lyrics. I have never done that before.
Lisa: We tend to write solo, and then progress the
songs together in the studio, using our different skills to fill
6. You started your own record label called Aerial Records.
Will your next album be released on your label? Are you planning to
release music by other bands or singers?
Emma: Yes, it will – but no we have no plans to
release any other artists at this time.
Lisa: Yes, and no.
7. You’re both hard at work on your second album is there
anything you can tell us about it, like the musical or emotional
Emma: It’s less Moog-y and sampled and more guitar-y
than the first album – probably due to touring the first album
and not having all those Moogs around like we did for ‘The Joy
of Sing-Sing’ (courtesy of Mark’s old record label). I think we
wanted to be come more organic and also maybe make it easier to
reproduce the sound live.
Lisa: Less samples, less electronic, less poppy
probably. But similar sensibilities, with the same emphasis on
song writing, vocals and harmonics.
8. Emma, when you were first started getting into music, who
or what inspired you to be a guitarist (why the guitar and not
keyboards, drums, or another instrument)? Just curious!
Emma: I guess it’s just what your ear homes in on. I
must have always listened to guitars over the other instruments
(though I do think bass lines are extremely important and I
spend quite a considerable amount of time on them too).
Guitarists are sexy, aren’t they? (Though I am not saying I am!)
9. Lisa, do you play any instruments? Are you a
professionally-trained vocalist or did you naturally take to
singing? Do you do any vocal exercises to keep your voice in shape?
Lisa: I play the guitar and keyboard sketchily but
well enough to write with. I'm not a trained singer, I did have
a few lessons, but got bored. Actually I do yoga and that really
helps with singing, the breathing, my voice is much stronger
10. Emma, how did you go about getting your first guitar? What
type was it? How many guitars do you own and which is your favourite?
Emma: My first guitar was actually given to me on my
21st birthday by my parents! It was a Gibson SG with a Melody
Maker neck. At first I thought it had been 2 guitars welded
together but apparently Gibson made some like that very early on
and this is one of them so it is quite rare. I still have it.
However, my Telecaster Thinline is my favourite – it has a good
all-round sound and I like the look of it with the f-hole. I
have about 6 (guitars) but am planning to sell a couple.
11. Lisa, in the 6 Music Interview, you talked about Kate Bush
and how she inspired you to sing – do you have any plans to do a
Kate Bush cover? I’d love to hear you sing ‘Wuthering Heights’.
Lisa: Ha-ha, yes I do love her, but most female
vocalist do! She was such an original, and my voice especially
when I started singing was very high pitched, so I could
sing-a-long with the albums. I think that the most interesting
covers are when artists tackle something foreign to their style,
and Kate Bush is too much in our vein, so we'd be unlikely to
cover her - we used to do 'Fame' from the musical live, and
we've also covered some beautiful tunes by Donovan.
12. Emma, many electric guitars are quite heavy when you’re
onstage, has the weight of a guitar ever been a problem for you?
Emma: Yes, actually I have had a bad back since the
age of about 12 wearing the guitars has been a problem for me.
Even though I have always chosen lighter guitars over more
weighty ones, I do now have an issue with my left shoulder which
I am positive is attributed to the guitar. Still – I wanted to
be in a rock band – what can you do!???
13. Lisa, were the lyrics to ‘Office Party’ written about
anyone in particular? The man in the song reminds me of one of my
Lisa: Yes there was a married guy in my company who
was having a fling with the PA, and they'd get it on in the
store cupboard. I had to put it into words cos it was so very
naff and sordid, but I used the office party as the location!
14. Emma, on the ‘Madame Sing-Sing’ EP you’re playing a
mandolin. Is that an easy or difficult instrument to play? Are the
principles for playing the mandolin similar to the guitar, or is it
Emma: It was bloody hard, if truth be told! It was
like pressing my fingers on a cheese grater and the strings were
very close together. There are only four strings but I didn’t
apply my knowledge of the guitar to it. Still – I don’t mind
suffering for my art sometimes….
15. Have you ever played live as Sing-Sing, and if so, what
was it like? Will you be doing any shows in the near future?
Emma: Yes, we have played loads as Sing-Sing but we
haven’t played since 2002 so you are forgiven for not knowing
that. We have played in London at various venues and have done 2
North American tours which have taken in CMJ (twice) and SXSW.
We have also played in Paris, Copenhagen, Madrid and Barcelona.
We enjoyed the shows on the most part but the second North
American tour was quite gruelling.
Lisa: Yes we did loads at first, and toured the States
twice. We are toying with the idea of playing an acoustic set to
launch this album.
16. What is your schedule like on an average day? I think you
both have day-jobs, so how do you find the time to be Sing-Sing?
What is that balance like, between Sing-Sing and the rest of your
lives? (I just can’t imagine having a 9-to-5 job and being in a
Emma: Well, yes we do have day-jobs and it is quite
hard fitting in all in – a lot of evenings and weekends have
been taken up by band stuff recently but actually it can be a
nice distraction. At the moment we have to rehearse for a radio
session and for our acoustic gig – quite a lot of work after a
day in the office but it’s OK.
Lisa: It’s fine most of the time, but with the release
of the album, there’s a lot to fit in. I've designed all the
artwork and t-shirts, as well as the new shop, and website. I
tend to squeeze it in evenings and weekend, and if it's quiet at
work, and my boss isn’t around I'll do a bit during the day.
17. What music are you currently listening to?
Emma: At the moment I like Emilliana Torrini, Feist,
Ambulance LTD, The Shortwave Set, The Arcade Fire, Ladytron,
Prefuse 73, an April March album that was released in 1999 and
one song by a band called Chungking called ‘Voodoo’. The new
Elbow album is magnificent too!
Lisa: The Brakes, and at this very precise moment, The
Cult (someone’s got it on in the corner - I'm at work). I listen
to a lot of east London pirate radio, and sadly because I'm now
an old lady, I also really love Radio 4.
18. Will you be making any more music videos, maybe for the
Emma: Yes, we have made a video for ‘Lover’ – well a
friend of ours has. Funnily enough it was one of the people that
introduced us to each other – an old school friend of mine and
an old work colleague of Lisa’s - Bunny Schendler. She is an
animator and has been BAFTA nominated in the past. The video
therefore is animated – hand-drawn; it’s a charming story of a
transvestite who falls in love with a mannequin who is being
displayed in a shop which is closing down. He acquires the
mannequin and takes it to a Sing-Sing show that evening. The
mannequin comes alive and they fall in love and live happily
ever after. The video will be available on the album – it will
be an ‘enhanced CD’.
19. What are the plans for international distribution of your
album? I dearly hope it will be available outside the UK!
Emma: Well, because of the Internet we can ship to
anywhere! So it is available worldwide. The UK is actually one
place we are not considering releasing it through a distributor
but in time we might in other countries.
20. Can you please list your official website where we can go
for more information about you? Thanks so much!