In the pub with Pete Wiggs and David Best

Saint Etienne and Fujiya & Miyagi have both had new albums out this year, so it’s only right that we put together a feature for both bands. We did a proper interview with David Best around the release of EP2 last year though, and we did something fairly extensive with Pete Wiggs when Words and Music came out, so this time round we thought we’d try a different approach. What if we went to the pub and just had a chat? No more boring interview questions that they’ve been asked a thousand times already, and more of an insight into what they’re really like coming out through the topics that came up naturally. So a couple of weeks ago we sat down in The Urchin to chew the cud about being big in China, getting trick-or-treated by Gomez, rotting whales, Twin Peaks, Columbo, Bowie, Aphex Twin and gout:

IMG_0766eesOn Festivals:
David Best: We’ve just played Glastonbury
Pete Wiggs: We played last year – It was raining.
DB: It’s the first one I’ve been to where it wasn’t raining. In a few weeks we’re playing a Festival at the bottom of Mount Etna, alongside Air, which is quite nice, then another one the week after. Then we’re playing Liverpool Psych Fest, which I’ve never been to. The line up is nuts so I’m quite excited about that.
PW: We’re doing Port Eliot Festival, down in Cornwall. I’ve been going to it the last few years. The first couple of times I took the wife and kids, because I heard it’s a good family one, then last year I couldn’t make it and the wife took the kids without me because she liked it so much! We’re playing this year and we’re all going again. It’s really nice. We’re doing Green Man as well, I’ve not been to that before.
DB: We’re hopefully going to China in the New Year. This Chinese band wanted us to do a remix, and they’re really good – kind of post punk. I suggested doing a swap and it’s snowballed from there. I wanna be big in China! There’s a label based there who are interested in reissuing our stuff. I love going to places I’ve never been to, and I love the idea of going to China. Continue reading

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Omega Male / I Am Ampersand

It’s been nearly two years since the last Fujiya & Miyagi album Ventriloquizzing came out, so we’re about due another one. As it happens, we’ve got two. Or maybe none. Confused yet?

The next couple of weeks sees the release of Grave Goods by I Am Ampersand and the eponymously titled Omega Male. I Am Ampersand is the solo project by Matt Hainsby, Fujiya & Miyagi’s bass player and Ampersand. Omega Male is a collaboration between David Best and Project Jenny Project Jan’s Sammy Rubin.

Both albums start off sounding like they could be Fujiya & Miyagi’s own work. Omega Male, the opening track of the Omega Male album Omega Male (sorry, I couldn’t resist) reuses a technique David Best used on Ankle Injuries, repeatedly slipping in parts of the band name into the lyrics. The vocal style is unmistakeable and the track sounds like Fujiya and Miyagi with a heavy dose of electronics. I am Ampersand’s opener Lights and Radios also showcases Matt Hainsby’s contribution to Fujiya & Miyagi, with a bit rolling bassline and fizzing analogue electronics at the end. After the openers, the albums take on their own distinct personalities.

There are several options for you if you’re in a band but you want to pursue a side project – you could take what you do in the band and see how that works with other musicians, or you could use the opportunity of being free from the band’s style to do something rather different, and the two albums here show both those choices.

Fujiya & Miyagi and Project Jenny Project Jan have collaborated in the past, touring together and making the track Pins & Needles which appeared on  Project Jenny Project Jan’s Colors EP back in 2009, so it’s no great surprise to see David Best working with Sammy Rubin again. David Best’s trademark vocals, emphasising each syllable (there’s a track about saying sorry called Uh-Pol-Uh-Jet-Ik), make the album sound very familiar to those who know Fujiya & Miyagi, and work well combined with Sammy Rubin’s electronica. It’s not a dance album though – You Bore Me To Tears revels in Serge Gainsbourg’s long shadow, and the album’s closing track. Buildings Like Symphonies, is probably the most beautiful song I’ve heard this year. An 8-bit electronic melody opens things sounding like digital birdsong. A simple string line starts at the same time as Best’s hopeful lament. Over a verse or two, the strings build, joined by subtle horns. Halfway through a loose drumbeat kicks off, the strings are soaring, and you truly believe Best when he sings that “Rumours were circulating / that we could build / Buildings Like Symphonies”. It’s the magical chemistry that makes tracks like Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack or Gorecki by Lamb the classics that they are. Breathtaking.

I Am Ampersand also has another of my favourite tracks of the year on it – 20 Seas 4 Oceans has received heavy rotation in these parts since it received an ultra limited release on 7″ earlier this year. I was enjoying it for the music, sounding a little bit like an acoustic country-folk take on Spirit In The Sky, not paying nearly enough attention to the lyrics which, now I’ve read the press blurb, I can hear are all about the song’s narrator being a Merman living in a city wanting to return to the sea. Obviously. The rest of Grave Goods is lovely pastoral psychedelic folk-pop, at times sounding like some of Gruff Rhys’ quieter moments, never losing it’s edge and lapsing into something “nice”. Fujiya & Miyagi loom large on Eko, an uptempo instrumental midway through the album, and then it’s back to the wonky pop on the first proper single Holding The Negative Up To The Light. The album closes with the title track Grave Goods – the archaelogical term for possessions buried with bodies. Three and a half minutes of country twang ruminating on life and death, and everything you accumulate inbeween. A fitting close.

Omega Male by Omega Male is released on Full Time Hobby on 12th November, and play at the Blind Tiger on Tuesday 20th November as part of Melting Vinyl’s Oui Love night.

Grave Goods by I Am Ampersand is released on Great Pop Supplement on 19th November.