The Indelicates – In Conversation [2020 re-edit]

The Indelicates - The Graduate

Before PIFL was a rarely-updated blog, it was an even more infrequently-released fanzine. One of a few I tried to make happen in my teens and 20s.

Warm on the heels of boredom (two issues and out) and Northern Quarter (one and done) were the two sole issues of Play it Fucking Loud.

After (all-too) eagerly sticking a copy of Issue #1 into the hands of Julia Indelicate as she tidied up her gear after a show somewhere, I badgered her and joint frontperson Simon into letting me interview them for Issue #2.

The interview was a thrill, but the article was embarrassingly pompous, overwrought and overwritten.

I’m not just saying that. It used the words “scribes”, “weblog”, and “dèbut” with an accent, for god’s sake. Weblog. Christ..

So I’ve given it a nip and tuck to make it a bit more readable, taken out (some of) the rambling and fawning, and gone back to the transcript to neaten up the quotes

Soon after Play it Fucking Loud #2 was printed up in 2008, I gleefully sold out with an entry-level part time job as a Celebrity Big Brother Reporter at Digital Spy.

It evolved into an eight-year stint as a journalist and eventually news editor before I moved on/out, but not before I took advantage of my fortunate situation to interview Simon and Julia a few more times.

They were always lovely to talk to, and more importantly were always making great art and saying interesting things about it.

The Indelicates have kept on writing, playing and recording. Listen to their stuff on Spotify and then go and buy it from their Corporate Records website.

“Once in a corridor in Memphis / Was a singer took a breath / Wrote the birth of the teenager / Now we come to write his death”

‘The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock ‘N’ Roll’

PIFL has been here before. Ever since we bought our first tapes from Our Price we’ve been bombarded by journalists and musicians telling us that pop is dead.

At the same time, we’ve also seen endless magazine covers yelling the exact opposite, usually while hailing some fourth-generation rock ‘n’ roll facsimiles as our new favourite band.

Fronted by Simon and Julia, what’s striking about The Indelicates is that while their lyrics echo the first view, their songs are actually good enough to make you believe.

After a few sharp singles, their acerbic, explosive debut album American Demo was released in April.

“I’m alright about the album now,” says Simon. “I was really unhappy about it the week before it came out.

“I just felt really exposed. Like I’d walked out on stage at the school play without knowing any lines. Now it’s actually come out I’ve stopped worrying about it.”

Listening to the album, you can understand why its release might make him feel vulnerable. American Demo offers up a pretty singular take on love, life, drugs, politics and rock ‘n’ roll itself.

“I’m the most right-wing person I know, by a clear margin,” Simon says. It’s not the sort of thing you usually hear a musician say, especially one in their mid-20s.

We’ve just asked him about an unhinged review of the album that, among other things, denounced the band as rabid left-wingers and no-good feminists.

The review also suggested that Julia would be better off having a solo career, leaving Simon to write for Mojo.

“It really upset me,” Simon says of that final barb. “It really did bug me to the point where I had to talk about it in interviews and on stage.”

Julia isn’t too keen on the idea either.

“It’s really offensive to me because I’m not stupid,” she says. “I’m not just ‘a female singer’.

“When someone says that what they mean is, ‘You’ve got a great voice and I didn’t listen to a word of what you were saying’. I mean, fuck off! Seriously, what gives you the right to say that to me?

“It’s always men of a certain age – it’s always ‘industry professionals’. They’re maybe late 30s or whatever, they’re just trying to pull is what it is.

“They’re trying to be your friend and you’re thinking, ‘I’m not going to be your friend if you’re not going to be polite!’.”

Still seething, Simon half-quips: “At least The Spectator! If they said I should write for The Spectator I would have been, ‘Fine, alright’.”

Was he really bothered by the ranting of some nobody on a blog you’ve never heard of?

“The reason it got to me is that I don’t think I’ve got any right to be doing anything in music,” he says.

“I’m middle class, for a start… I can’t really sing, to be honest. I can hold a tune, but I don’t really have a range or anything like that.

“It was like, ‘What are you doing, Twat? You should be a lawyer or something. That’s what you’re supposed to be doing’.

“It wasn’t so much that he said it but that I agreed. I was in a really bad mood anyway because the album was coming out and I didn’t want it to because I was scared, but I’m over it now.”

We’re only talking to Simon and Julia today, but The Indelicates are more than a duo. It’s just that outside the music the other members of the band don’t get much of a look in.

On stage in Manchester a few hours after this interview, drummer Ed van Beinum, bassist Kate Newberry and guitarist Al Clayton come into their own. As a group they take the songs up a level, giving them a harder-edged, glammier sound.

Al especially bounces around the venue like a dosed-up Gummi Bear, offering the crowd more than just the frontpeople as a focus.

Do the other members feel deprived of a voice, as well as a place on the front cover of their own album?

“No, because they hate talking to people, so that’s the price,” Simon laughs.

“They don’t mind,” Julia says. “I think they like being the rhythm section. They all joined up because of that, so they don’t want to be in the ‘public eye’ as such, though they do on stage.”

Simon adds: “They’re our words, so it’s up to us to take responsibility for what we said.”

‘Cos if we can’t have a better world / Then at least can we be right?”
– ‘The British Left In Wartime’

Back to the politics. Simon might describe himself as the most right wing person he knows, but he hardly talks like Nick Griffin and The Indelicates aren’t exactly Skrewdriver.

In fact, the band recently donated a track to REPEAT fanzine’s Fuck the BNP right off compilation. So what does he mean by that, then?

Well, along with ‘Our Daughters Will Never Be Free’ – Julia’s swipe at post-feminism – the album has a couple more out-and-out political moments.

‘Better to Know’ is unashamedly pro-liberal, pro-awareness, while ‘America’ hacks at the reflexive anti-Americanism of much of the British left.

We wonder if songs like that make the band feel set apart from other musicians.

“Yeah,” says Simon, “But I’d probably be embarrassed to do it if I didn’t feel a bit out on a limb.

“‘America’ especially is something that I care about. You do get this constant stupidity from the left, which is really disappointing and irritating. It really does bug me.

“It’d be very easy to write songs about how I don’t like George Bush, because of course, no-one likes George Bush.

“Just as it’s very easy to shock the Daily Mail, but it’s kind of pointless. That’s what they’re for – the Daily Mail – to be shocked.

“Anything that runs against the grain of what the people you’re talking to believe seems a lot more worthwhile.

“If you’re having a go at the people directly in front of you, at least you’re not just talking to the choir.”

At PIFL, we’re not demanding that our favourite bands echo our politics. It’s just refreshing to hear a band making a point of thinking for themselves before shooting off their mouths.

At the very least, we want artists to recognise the contradictions that flare up if they start preaching to their fanbase.

Too many hotly-tipped guitar bands in Britain right now seem focused on just three things: their careers, teenage girls, and drugs.

“The popstars who write operas / And make fatuous remarks / The theory quoting upstarts / Who snort fairtrade coke in parks”
– ‘America’

“Coke is the least ethically produced crop in the world,” Simon says. “People’s feet can get burned off when they have to tread it in acid, otherwise they get shot. People won’t go to McDonald’s but they’ll buy coke.”

He adds: “The bands of this generation are a lot less radical than those of their parents’ generation.

“And that in itself suggests a reversal of something which was once interesting and made changes in society as a voice for youth.

“It stopped being that when Kurt Cobain shot himself, and became just a method of selling pieces of plastic to teenagers.”

Simon thinks the idea of rock ‘n’ roll as rebellion has run its course. There’s no longer any evidence of it.

Julia takes up the thread.

“I think indie music’s dead too,” she says. “As in independent, an independent scene.

“With the alternative scene in America the difference is phenomenal. The alternative scene in America consists of a vast number of different things but they’re really supportive.

“There are all sorts of labels that are basically small businesses that will come and support that, whereas in England ours died.

“Ours died and possibly became pop music, which is fine. That’s what happens. But people forget there was a reason it was indie music. That it was independent – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

After a short stint on Sad Gnome Records, the band signed to independent label Weekender. Was it always the strategy to stay free on an indie? Not quite.

Simon admits he always wanted to release the album “on a massive label” and Julia agrees.

“In terms of sound it’s not not commercial, though maybe it is in terms of lyrics,” she says.

“It doesn’t bother me being on an indie, because you have a lot more control over what happens.

“But if a big label ever wanted to sign us up we’d definitely say yes. And we’d say yes having thought it through. We’re not dumb, so we think about it.

“I don’t really have a problem with many people being able to buy your music. The more people that hear about it the better really.”

“When they pin me to the wall, I’ll say / I’m with America / With godless America”
– ‘America’

The band went to the States earlier this year to play South by Southwest. Despite all hype, what they found when they got there was a pretty tedious industry get-together.

“No different from the Tory party conference,” Simon says. “Just lots of men in suits walking around with badges on, talking about fringe meetings and how excited they are about everything.”

The surroundings were something else, though.

“I really liked being in America,” Julia says. “The space in Texas is just phenomenal.

“I was born in Saudi Arabia and I used to live in compounds because my dad worked for an airline.

“The compounds used to be some way into the desert and I’m really used to vast amounts of space.

“It’s so nice to look to the horizon and it’s just immense… it’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to do that. If you live in a city all the time, you don’t get that.

“It’s really, really freeing and it also makes you feel like you could survive it, if you’re a positive person.

“You feel, ‘I could do this, I could walk through this desert, and I could work it out, I’d be able to stand alone’.

“I think there’s a lot of that about America, despite it having loads and loads of problems. There’s something about that, about you feeling able to do something.

“The dark days ahead / And the blood on the bed / And the cover of the NME / They gave us a cheque / And took us by our necks /
And swore undying loyalty”

– ‘New Art For The People’

Back to Blighty. Does being on the front cover of Britain’s oldest surviving pop weekly mean anything anymore? Simon says yes, Julia no.

“To be fair, I never read the NME and I was never into indie music,” Julia says. “I was into dance music and classical music.”

Simon replies: “But I didn’t grow up somewhere cool! Where I grew up, the NME was like a lifeline and I find it really difficult to slag it off because it meant loads to me as a kid.”

Julia says: “I just don’t like the NME because I don’t like music writing. I find the NME to be particularly bad, but I don’t find Plan B that different.

“They’ll be like, ‘Sounds a bit like this band, and this band and this band’. It’s not that I have a problem with it as such, it’s just that it doesn’t make any sense to me.

“That’s what I mean about it not meaning anything. Maybe it means something to some people, but I think it means more in terms of business than anything else.

“The Wombats are on the cover, therefore they’re going get big for the next six months. And then they’re going to get shot down in flames and part of me feels a bit sorry for them because a lot of them are just kids.”

There are still some acts out there who impress The Indelicates. Former Sad Gnome labelmate Lily Rae, Jim Bob from Carter USM, Red Zebra, and The Flesh Happening all get a mention.

“They’re amazing,” Simon says of The Flesh Happening. “It feels like watching Bowie, but with this more aggressively queer, really disgusting edge, a really proper edge, something that really is quite shocking.”

Despite all the undisguised musical nods and reference points, The Indelicates themselves don’t really sound like anyone else in British pop right now.

A very big part of that is their lyrics. They know it, too, if their deliciously snarky ‘Too Schooled For Cool’ T-shirt on the merch stand is anything to go by.

“I’m bitter and twisted / Unaddressed and unlisted / And all of our plans came to nothing, it seems”
– ‘Point Me To The West’

“I try not to lie with everything we do and I think we succeed in that,” Simon says of what the band are trying to achieve.

“I mean, I don’t necessarily think I’m a particularly good singer, and I’m an alright guitarist – I’ve been practising long enough.

“I don’t think there’s anything we say that isn’t something we’ve thought through properly. It’s intended honestly.

“I think if we could be financially stable while not lying to people, that’d be good enough really.”

The cover of American Demo features Simon and Julia behind a freshly-painted white line, bucket and brush in hand. It’s a bold cover, and it makes bold statement.

“Being out on a limb – the cover of the album is mainly designed with that in mind – because I take responsibility for everything I said,” Simon says.

“It’s why the week before releasing the album I felt terrible, just terrified and unpleasantly naked.

“But, I wanted to be on the cover, and to have Julia on the cover as well, going ‘Yeah, it was us’.”

Published by Mayer Nissim

Pop culture and communications.

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