House of Dolls – Issue 21 – Jan 1989

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There’s no more satisfying feeling in the world that having paid your hard earned cash to see a band and being hit by a gem of a support band all for the same price. Picture this: a seething, sweaty Fulham Greyhound more akin to a Turkish Bath than the usual black hole of Calcutta. An army of Morrissey T-shirts push and shove for position. The steam around the stage lights is clearly visible, when into this tropical environment walk AVO-8. Fronting for the Darling Buds, they seem not quite sure what to make of it all but looking like they’re going to have a good time anyway. From the first gritty guitar onslaught, through every harmony Jan and Claire release, the seething throng is won over.

JAN: “We were totally surprised. We came out after the soundcheck, right, and you could hardly get through the crowd. It was unbelievable. When we came out on stage, out of 600 folk that were there, there must have been about 5 that knew us, but this big cheer went up and it was like ‘Good God! Has someone famous come on?’ People knew who were were – it was such a buzz!. Its swings and roundabouts, though. One minute you’re getting written about and doing good gigs, and then you’re back doing your washing and going back to work again.”

Oh well, if 30 minutes of crushing, barbed wire tinted pop results from 2 days’ laundry, scrub on. Edinburgh is the hometown of the AVOs, a place not renowned for its musical offerings.

GEORGE: “Edinburgh’s not the greatest scene in the world. We had to get out to make something.”

JAN: “Its never done us any favours at all. Quite honestly, Edinburgh, thanks for absolutely nothing!”

STEVE: “Its amazing when you play a gig and think ‘What a great gig that was, everyone was jumping about at the front and cheering and things’ and you read a review in the local Edinburgh newspaper thing and its like ‘AVO-8 had a couple of fans at the front and they were absolute shite’ and things like that.”

JAN: “In Edinburgh, there’s this big group of funk bands and this big group of soul bands and this big group of sort of funk/soul bands and there’s only, like, two venues you can play.”

CLAIRE: “No one goes out to see a band – they go out for a drink and if there’s a band on you don’t get the comeback. They’re not there to see you.”

GEORGE: “Edinburgh’s a city that’s got a festival and a very arty reputation. People get entertainment through the festival and they get passive. They’re very picky, very choosy, very stand-offish.”

JAN: “So we’re not that enamoured of Edinburgh music-wise at all.”

The Scottish connection doesn’t end there. Pick any review of AVO-8 and words like Rezillos and Tourists abound, Me? Well, I’d fall in with the latter.

JAN: “The Rezillos and The Tourists we could handle. The Primitives and the Darling Buds…we feel we’re doing a more similar poppy thing but we’re a bit sort of heavier. The Buds don’t see the similarity between us at all, but we’ve been getting doors shut on us by certain majors who’ve said ‘We want nothing to do with you because you’re too much like the Darling Buds.'”

This I find a disturbing factor. Certain areas of the press have put several female-fronted bands high up on a pedestal and I wonder how long it will be until the inevitable backlash commences. I wondered how the AVOs felt about being seen as just another of the same ilk?

JAN: “Some reviews you read of girlie guitar bands, people are starting to knock it a bit you know, ‘Oh my God, another guitar band with a female vocalist’. I guess its inevitable we’re gonna get it but I hope we can ride over it. What bugs me is that there’s only a handful of bands at the moment that have got girl singers – what about all the bands that’ve got male singers? Who ever turns round and says ‘Oh God, not another male vocalist with blonde hair’, or whatever. Why just pick on girls? I’m not saying that I’m a big feminist or anything, but its annoying.”

However, on one occasion, the pigeonholing actually worked in their favour when one Andy Kershaw picked up on their vinyl debut ‘Is This The End?’…

JAN: “It came out about February but it wasn’t until about April when Radio One picked up on it. We got the Kershaw session and he took it round to people like Steve Wright and Gary Davies who played it as well.”

STEVE: “We didn’t hear Andy Kershaw play it – it was a guy at my work. His brother normally tapes Andy Kershaw and plays it later, and he said ‘I was playing Andy Kershaw last night and he mentioned you, saying that if you got in touch he would play it and take it round to his daytime colleagues. On the tape he said ‘If anyone had said to me 12 months ago the Primitives would get where they are today, I’d have told them “rubbish”, but there’s no reason why AVO-8 can’t do it’ The whole day was absolutely brilliant, we were over the moon. You know, the 5:25 Steve Wright show with people sitting in traffic jams and later on we’re sitting in the pub and a guy we know came in said ‘I just heard your single on the radio; Liz Kershaw at 9 o’clock – magic twice in one day!. And we were sitting with this wee Walkman in the pub and Andy Kershaw started, not even an introduction – straight into the single – 3 times! Brilliant!! 5:25, 9.00 and 10:02.”

You see, AVO-8 are that kind of band. The kind you remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard them. For me, things had come full circle. Here I was, sitting in the same (although less sweaty) Greyhound, interviewing the band that had brought a sparkle to an otherwise sweaty night. The AVO’s had spend the day in London conversing with Cherry Red Records.

GEORGE: “I think with independent labels you’re more likely to get people who are not gonna force you.”

JAN: “We’re quite happy to be with an independent at the moment.”

STEVE: “There’s a couple of majors at the moment that are signing everything that moves, and bands think ‘Great, great, great, we’ve signed to Virgin’ for example, and they get so much money and all they do is put out about 8 singles a week and the ones that sink start getting pushed aside. They chuck the singles out and see if anything happens and push the ones that do.”

CLAIRE: “Casual signing.”

GEORGE: “Yeah, casual signing – wear a condom!”

JAN: “AVO-8 are not into casual signing.”

What more can I say?

STEEV C

HOUSE OF DOLLS – ISSUE 21

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