Let's start with what we know about The Long Blondes: They are a band, there are five of them, they were formed in Sheffield, they have released one album Someone to Drive You Home (another due 4th April – Couples), Weekend Without Makeup is their biggest single hit to date (no.28, Top 40), they do not listen to The Beatles, they do wear a lot of vintage threads, they are currently embarking on a nationwide tour.
We caught up with foxy lead singer Kate Jackson backstage before their recent gig at Fibbers, York. She was very lovely and gave us a beer.
Hecklerspray: So, the new single Century (due out 24th March) is all electro and dancey. Why such a dramatic change in direction?
Kate: It didn't really feel like a massive change for us as we were kind of going that way. Some of the B-sides we did with Erol (Erol Alkan, London-based electro DJ) like Five Ways to End It and Fullwood Babylon were keyboard based anyway. It just seemed like a natural way to step on.
You have a strong fanbase and the press all seem to love you. Why aren't you mega-famous by now?
I don't know! I think It might be down to having girl musicians in the band.
Really? Even with Beth Ditto from The Gossip and the like?
Beth is unique though, isn't she? She's got this amazing voice and they're a great band, but also she's American. I still think in the UK we struggle to accept British females who aren't singer/songwriters or just a girl fronting a band. We don't really fit into any of those categories. I don't think the media knows what to do with us sometimes. We didn't get the playlist on Radio 1-
Ah, we noticed that…
And we didn't get the TV exposure I thought we would have with the first record. You know, they (the media) think indie still involves being a guy and shouting 'yeah, yeah, yeah' or writing songs like the Kaiser Chiefs and we don't fit into that. The Gossip were a bit of an anomaly too, and were only really playlisted once they got the Skins (TV) thing.
Do you have any celebrity fans?
Jimmy Savile. We did a TV programme he was on and he did a little dance with us. It's one of our favourite celebrity things; we have a Polaroid with Jimmy Savile.
Did he make you call him 'Sir Jimmy'?
You can call him Jimmy. He had a long-suffering PA who he pretty much spoke through though.
The Guardian newspaper said recently (read here) that you wouldn't make it through the first round of The X Factor. How does that statement make you feel?
(having clearly read the article) I probably wouldn't, but I would never enter, which was something they omitted to say. He (the author) was saying he really loved my voice even though I couldn’t sing, without pointing out that actually I can. I know there is a long tradition of singers that can't sing, like Dylan and Nick Cave, these people have really characterful voices though, as opposed to your average X-Factor finalist.
How do you rate your voice?
I mostly get praise, but on occasions it is not easy on the ears. I scream, but I don't really care. I come from a punk background anyway, listening to people like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Blondie. They didn't have the best voices in the world, but they got their point across.
You've not had any singing lessons?
God, no! You don't need singing lessons. It's just like the rest of the band taught themselves how to play their instruments, I taught myself how to sing.
Obviously the new album Couples is going to do great business, but if for whatever reason it bombs, will this prompt another change in direction?
(laughs hard) Well, I don't think so. We kind of write as we are going along, our songs evolve naturally, we don't think about it too much. We weren't sitting around going 'the last album was good, but it wasn't as successful as we thought it was going to be, let's do something completely different'. I think we were just kind of bored. We had been doing sixteen months of touring and Dorian (Cox. lead guitar) started writing on the keyboard just to see what happened. We are all kind of easy bored anyway, so wanted to constantly challenge ourselves. A lot of own individual influences are on this more than the first album.
The disco element was out of me listening to a lot of Donna Summer, Abba and Screech-
Drummer 'Screech Louder' darts into the room.
Hello, Screech! We were just talking about you. Screech likes his Kraut rock; it influenced his drumming style, especially on Around the Hairpin.
Ever heard of hecklerspray?
No, Sorry! But I don't read anything, online blogs or websites. I'm still obsessed by magazines – it's a bit like CD and vinyl.
You read all the embarrassing gossip rags then?
No, course I don't!
Bassist Reenie Hollis is next to wander in searching for something. She seems confused.
(to Reenie) It's on the table somewhere. Get Screech to do it.
Reenie exits looking none the wiser.
But what about this wall of celebrity couples you made during recording the album? You must have cut the pictures out of somewhere?
(sheepish) Erm, if Heat's lying around I will pick it up. But the 'couples wall', it wasn't just current celebrities; it was mostly from the 70's and 80's. Comedy duos like Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies or The Pet Shop Boys – it wasn't just couples romantically involved, it was more to do with the idea of two people working together creatively and the tension that creates.
Do you find it difficult to encourage the crowd when playing virtually all new material at a gig?
No…Well, I think people are really looking forward to hearing us because we haven't played for a while. The show that we did at the Amersham Arms (London) was really good. It was a press show, so had a lot of journalists there, but the front two rows were hardcore fans – they somehow knew all the words to the new songs anyway; probably downloaded them illegally off the internet. I hope they all sat at home next to their stereos just learning the words, because I used to do that.
Is it true you tried out the new songs by performing under a false name?
Yeah, we did three shows under the name The Dead Eyed Bitches.
Bet you wanted to take that name permanently?
Oh yeah! We had Britney Spears on the drum skins.
Were you in disguise?
I had a really long blonde wig but I think they recognised me anyway.
Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
The guys put 'guyliner' on and the girls drink beer.
That is so wonderfully English.
(laughs) Yeah, we prefer not to speak to each other at all.
Finally, your thoughts on Heather Mills?
She's obviously awful, just ugh, disgusting.
You don't feel even just the tiniest bit sorry for her?
Don't feel sorry for her, she's just got £24 million! She chose to represent herself and that was a really stupid thing to do. Plus she still has the money and she saved on the legal fees! She's actually really smart . But I don't like her.
And with that the adjacent soundcheck burst into the room and drowned out most of our goodbyes. For the record though, Kate sounded proper powerful warming up the mic. Like putting a hammer in a cushion and bashing you over the head with it. Petite lady though. Tiny.