Poptastic Confessions

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Interview with Ani from The Pipettes!

Dear Poptastic Readers,

The FABulous Ani from the amazing pop group The Pipettes has given us an interview for Poptastic Confessions! Hooray!


Ani. 
Photo by Robert Attard.

In case you aren't familiar with The Pipettes, we'll do a history lesson in all-thing Pipettes and I'll interject the questions for Ani in bold type and Ani's answers in italic type

Be warned, most of the images for the single covers have been altered by me, as most of the covers didn't feature pictures of The Pipettes on them. Just wanted you to know so you didn't go out searching for them. As always, you can click on the song title to see the video or a performance.

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Back in 2003, Robert "Monster Bobby" Barry decided to form a group consisting of three female singers and have the band be a throwback to the 60s Phil Spector "Wall of Sound" era with a modern twist. The three singers would be called The Pipettes while the backing band with Monster Bobby were called The Cassettes. But in general, the band would just be known as The Pipettes.

Monster Bobby recruited the singers Julia, Rose (also referred to as Rosay) and Rebecca (also called RiotBecki or simply Becki). The singers wore polka dot dresses and had quirky dance routines. The songs were short and sweet. However, unlike girl groups of the 60s, The Pipettes were singing about feminism. A re-do of the era!

The Pipettes — Version 1.1: Julia, Rose and Becki

Their first 7" vinyl single was released in early 2005. It was called "I Like A Boy In Uniform (School Uniform)." 




A couple of more 7" vinyl singles were released in 2005: "ABC" ... 


and "Judy." 


Shortly thereafter, Julia quit. In her place came Gwenno, who was already a Welsh recording artist somewhat known for her song "Vodya."


The Pipettes — Version 1.2: Becki, Gwenno and Rose

Davearama: How was it when your sister Gwenno joined The Pipettes?

Ani: I hadn't heard of The Pipettes when my sister first joined. It wasn't until I saw them play in Manchester with Sleater-Kinney (amazing) that I realised how amazing they were. I was quite gross, I was in the audience by myself and got so excited that I told the people stood next to me that one of them was my sister. I didn't make any friends.

That is hilarious! I certainly would have been your friend!

Gwenno fit right in and the band was signed to Memphis Industries record label. The first single from the upcoming album was "Dirty Mind" and released in November of 2005. It was also the band's first official music video. The song went to #63 in the UK charts.


In March of 2006, "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me" was released as the next single. The video was a live performance and I absolutely love it when the crowd joins in with the dance routine! Purely POPTASTIC! This single went to #35 in the UK charts.


"Pull Shapes" was the next single released in July of 2006. This was the first time I heard of the group as I saw the video on YouTube and I sort of went bonkers over it. The video was a re-enactment from a scene from the movie "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" where a woman sings "Sweet Talking Candyman." The song went to #26 in the UK, and it was my favourite song of 2006.


Later that month, the band's debut album "We Are The Pipettes" was released. It had 14 songs all under 3 minutes. That means you can listen to the whole album in just over a half hour. But that just made you want to listen to it again and again. It's absolutely brilliant. The album went to #41 in the UK charts.




Davearama: What did you think of The Pipettes first album?



Ani: I LOVED their first album, lots. I've always a bubblegum pop kind of girl at heart, massive Britney fan, and so for me on hearing The Pipettes, it really made me reassess what pop music was. First of all they were all super cool, the songs were cheeky and catchy but also for me, they made pop music far more accessible and relevant. It gave you the feeling that you could do it too and I loved that about them.

In September that year, the last UK single was released to promote the album was a new recording of "Judy." A super-cute video was made for it. But it only managed to go to #46 in the UK charts.


At some point, a cartoon video was made for "ABC." I think it was made in early 2007, but I could be mistaken.

In June of 2007, an EP was released in the US called "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me." It included the single, three other tracks and the video for the main song.



The Pipettes did a tour of the US that fall and new version of their debut album was released in the US released by Cherrytree Records. It had a different cover and all of the songs were mixed a bit differently, as well as having two new songs on the album. The US album charted at #18 in the US Top Heat Seekers Chart. I'm not exactly sure what that is, but great!



Also that fall, a video for the song "Because It's Not Love (But It's Still A Feeling)" was released to help promote the album sales in the US.


2008 brought a lot of changes to the band. In April, both Rose and Becki left the group to pursue solo careers. Ani, Gwenno's younger sister, and Anna were brought in as the new singers. 


 The Pipettes — Version 2.1: Gwenno, Ani and Anna

What was it like being asked to join The Pipettes when Becki and Rose quit?

It was quite frightening but mostly terribly exciting. It hadn't really crossed my mind what it would mean, or how it would work out, the only thing I kept thinking about was how ridiculous it was that I'd landed a spot in my favorite band. I still find it quite insane.

Awesome! How fun! Did you always know you were going to be a singer and an artist?



Me and my sister used to sing alot when we were younger in the Eisteddfod and with my Mum's street choir Côr Cochion Caerdydd. We used to make up silly songs and record ourselves on tape. I always loved singing and dancing but from as far back as I can remember, my ambition was to be an animator and to work for Disney. It was a string of extremely fortunate events that led me to music to be honest, being in the right place at the right time. I seem to have a knack for it.



Speaking of timing, which dance routine was your favourite to learn? "Pull Shapes" is a favourite of mine!






Definitely Pull Shapes!


How did fans react to you and Anna joining The Pipettes?

There were a lot of disappointed fans at that time, understandably so. Some were very unhappy with the idea of new members joining the band though there were also many lovely and encouraging fans. I like those best!

The band did quite a few gigs that summer, even debuting some new songs that would later appear on their second album. However in November, Anna left the group to pursue songwriting opportunities. In February of 2009, Beth joined the group making it the fourth lineup of singers. 

The Pipettes — Version 2.2: Gwenno, Beth and Ani

The band continued performing gigs and later that year they signed a new deal with Fortuna POP! and started to record their second album, "Earth vs. The Pipettes." The band hired Martin Rushent to produce the album. I knew his name immediately as I have been a Human League fan since I was tween. I knew that he had produced their album "Dare" containing the worldwide hit "Don't You Want Me." 


Martin Rushent's Facebook Profile Picture

How did it come about that The Pipettes would work with the late great Martin Rushent?



Our manager at the time found Martin on Myspace and contacted him. Thanks J! I mean, I still find it quite ridiculous that we've worked with such a legend. Martin was incredible to work with, I learnt so much from him and he was always very giving with his time. He was amazing.

During the recordings for the second album, Beth quit the group. Instead of getting yet another singer, the group decided to keep it as two singers. All of Beth's vocals were scrapped from the album.


Anna joined with you, but then quit. Then Beth came and went. What happened to them?



It's like any relationship, sometimes it doesn't work out. Being in a band is a huge commitment and can be very intense at times, you have to take the rough with the smooth. Your heart has to really and truly be in it otherwise it won't work.



Who decided that The Pipettes should go on a duo? Well, we know that you aren't really a duo because of The Cassettes.





For us it was just the obvious thing to do. We knew that between the six of us we could make it work.


The Pipettes — Version 2.3: Ani and Gwenno

In February of 2010, the band released a video for "Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen" followed by a free download of the track on their official website. Fans were thrilled! Since the song was given away for free, it was not chart eligible.



"Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen" had a cute video. How was it to film your first video?



It was a lot of fun. I don't have to be convinced to dress up so I was more than ready for the spacey outfits and mustaches. The only downer was that I had forgotten my contact lenses that day and so I couldn't really see all that much. Perhaps that was for the best.


"Stop The Music" was released in April as the next single. It was sort of a disco ballad with a haunting, beautiful melody and an amazing chorus. The video featured the band in a old mansion and there is even a teacup dance routine. It was so well done that you didn't even notice the polka dot dresses, a Pipettes trademark, were gone. The single was actually released as an EP because it had 3 extra tracks and 2 remixes. Therefore, the sales were not eligible for the singles charts.




I absolutely love the haunting melody and the beautiful video for "Stop The Music." Can you tell us about the song and the video?



Stop The Music was one of the first songs written for the second album. It was quite a departure from the original Pipettes sound and I felt that it really helped set the tone for the rest of the album. We had a great video director, Ben Whitehouse, who managed to pull together a ridiculously impressive team of people for the shoot and at the very very last minute managed to find this wonderful grand house in central London, which I believe was a former embassy. I was blown away by that day, one of the greatest Pipettes moment for me.

At a show in May of 2010, The Pipettes performed the Human League's "Don't You Want Me" live because Martin Rushent was in the audience. I included it here because it FABulous!

Next up was the summer smash "Call Me." It was upbeat and glorious. The video was in 3-D and Gwenno and Ani were having so much fun! This was also considered an EP release as it had two bonus tracks and a remix.




"Call Me" was such a fun, uplifting track! Absolutely brilliant! The video version and the 7" vinyl had you singing the second verse. However, the album version and EP version had Gwenno on both verses. What was up with that?



Ha! I know, I'm not sure what was going on to be honest? The main reason we added my vocals was so that the video could feature us both equally. I think perhaps we meant for it to go on all single versions but it seems that that little badger slipped the net somehow ... naughty!

Finally, the album "Earth vs. The Pipettes" was released in September of 2010. The album contained 12 songs. Unlike their previous album, the songs were longer and not 60s Wall of Sound, but 70s disco and funk, and some reviews even said 80s. Whatever era you think it sounds like, it is an amazing album and a natural progression for the band's sound. I love it!



After the album's release, there was much hype about the track "Thank You" being the next single. It was a highlight on the album with the verses sung by Ani and the chorus by Gwenno. Plus, it had a wonderful tempo change. Sadly the single never materialized nor was a video made.




Most fans thought "Thank You" would be the next single. But it never happened. Why were no other songs from "Earth vs. The Pipettes" promoted?



Thank You was discussed as being the next single but I think by that stage, with all the changes and delays that had happened, the whole campaign lost a lot of momentum along the way and so I guess the project just came to a natural halt.

You did quite a lot of touring in support of the album … The UK, Sweden and thankfully, North America in 2011! How was that?




Touring is great. We always have a brilliant time, I especially loved the North American tour. We knew that we wouldn't be doing much together as a band after that tour (at least not for a while) so we really made the most of it. I have video evidence of everyone doing karaoke in a very strange hotel somewhere in mid-America... Regulate by Warren to the G features.. it's amazing! Me and Bobby sang Don't you Want me... hilarious! Thinking about it makes me want to be on the road again.

I saw The Pipettes in 2007 and again with you in 2011. To me, the second time was much more fun because you sang songs from both albums. But what struck me most was how you and Gwenno sang so much in tune … your voices were so amazing harmonizing together. I appreciated it on the album, but to hear it live was truly POPTASTIC! It must be in the genes, right?

Aaaaah thanks! That's lovely of you to say! We've always sang together and we sort of knew we'd end up in a band together at some point.

Gwenno, Davearama and Ani
Photo by Arturo Beéche.

In the fall of 2011, The Pipettes released a single called "Boo Shuffle." It had quite a different sound than the songs from "Earth vs. The Pipettes." This song sounded like it belonged on their first album. Very retro, indeed.


How did "Boo Shuffle" come about? As it wasn't on the album, and the style of it is more like the first album.

Boo Shuffle was written quite early on and was definitely more in-keeping with the sound of the first album. We knew it wouldn't fit on the second album but it always went down well in shows so we knew we'd have to release it at some point.

Photo by Robert Attard.

The video for Boo Shuffle had some surprises ... first of all, Amy Rushent, Martin's daughter is dancing with you and Gwenno and hanging out at the piano. That was some tribute to Martin!

When we first started recording we always said Amy was our honourary Pipette, we even made her a little certificate. She knows all the parts to all of our songs, in fact she mentioned a couple of weeks ago that she'd just learnt Call Me on the piano. Amy is brilliant, she's just got a place with the National Youth Theatre. She's gonna be a star. It made complete sense for Amy to be in the video, Martin would be so proud of her.

I want to be an honorary Pipette! I even know all the dance moves! Ha! 

The Actionettes with The Pipettes and Amy Rushent
Photo by Robert Attard.

How did the Actionettes get involved in the video?

We've known about the Actionettes for years, they supported us at a gig just outside London a few years ago. As it turned out, Sean who runs the wonderful Fortuna POP! record label, which our second album was released on, told us that his girlfriend was a part of the troupe and so we thought of no better song for them to be a part of than Boo Shuffle. If was a fantastic day, though with all the dancing, I realised how unfit I was. Gross. Gwenno was floating around like a butterfly and I was wheezing and shuffling around like an old ape. Typical.

Since that single, all has been quiet on The Pipettes front.

The Pipettes are currently on a break right now, right? The group hasn't split up, have you?

We haven't split up. The Pipettes will always exist in some form... who knows what past, present or new members will come together to create a third album. It's a great pop platform with ideals and branding worth treasuring. But at present we are on a break.

Thank goodness! You also write a lifestyle blog for Wales Online. How did that come about?

I'm quite cheeky really, I just emailed and asked if I could write a blog for their website and they said yes. I love it when a plan comes together.

Photo by Robert Attard.

You also create beautiful illustrations under the name The Lovely Wars. Can you tell us about your artwork? Style and technique?

Why thank you, that's very kind of you! I really like studying faces, I find it most intriguing and so that's what I tend to draw the most. I really must branch out soon.... though I also draw dogs on occasion. I love dogs. I use watercolour pencils then Photoshop to brighten the images. I've been using these pencils for years and it was really just a case of trial and error that led me to my current style.

Ani's illustrations

Gwenno has a solo EP out now, and I noticed you are fronting a new band also called "The Lovely Wars." Can you tell us a little bit about your new band and what we might expect from it? How is it related to your artwork?

I wanted to create a platform where you could express yourself artistically, not just musically. I think that at the time I was actually too shy to put my name to anything so creating The Lovely Wars was something to hide behind....though I'm a big show off really! My sister would tell you the same thing. My music is still quite heavily influenced by Motown, I naturally gravitate towards that era when I'm writing songs. I'm listening to a lot of the feminist punk bands from the early 90s, I feel quite a connection to the music of that era, whether it shows in my music, I'm not so sure. I'm very excited about the band and who knows what the future might hold. The other members of the band, Alice, Ceri, Dan and Bill, are all so brilliant. Alice is super cool, she's going to be an awesome rock star, Ceri has great music taste and is about grade 57 on piano which is quite handy, Bill is disgustingly naturally musical and Dan is a brilliant drummer, him joining made us feel like a proper band.

The Lovely Wars. Photo by Robert Attard.

I can't wait to hear your new music! What musical acts are your favourites?

No matter what kind of music I'm into at the time, I'll always love Britney, The Human League, ELO, Roy Orbison, Carole King, David Bowie, Motown, Pulp, early Madonna... oh, and Gwenno of course! All quite obvious choices I suppose but all equally brilliant.

Oooh! I love The Human League, too! When will The Pipettes return new material?

We're not planning anything at the moment though I'm certain it will happen at some point.

Now, I've come across a song you recorded with Gwenno quite a few years ago. It's called "Tanya Loves RnB" and it is absolutely brilliant! My favourite part is when you belt out "Cos my body's too Bootylicious for you babe!" I adore this song! Perhaps this can be re-recorded for the next Pipettes album, because I can't get enough!

Ha! That was a looooong time ago. I remember in our old house in Brighton my sister asked me to put something over the backing track but I was too shy to sing in front of her so she left the room while I recorded. You see, in my head, I'm Beyonce, Britney and Mariah all rolled into one when in practice, I fear it isn't so.


I love it! You are amazing! Thank you, Ani!



The Pipettes music is available on iTunes. They have 2 albums and several EPs with glorious bonus tracks not on their albums. 

You can buy prints of Ani's artwork here!

Like The Pipettes Official Facebook Page.

Like The Lovely Wars Official Facebook Page.


2 comments:

  1. Congratulations you Pop interviewer extraordinaire!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great interview by two people who are clearly very passionate about pop music. A pleasure to read!

    ReplyDelete