Kendra Smith & David Roback – Fell From The Sun
Once upon a time I was accused of disappearing into my world of books and films where darkness came too soon. Total nonsense of course. There was music too. But the suggestion was that I was missing out. Total nonsense too. Products have so much to teach us. So many stories to tell …
Hello can I speak to Chris please? Oh hi Chris, it’s Jamie from Hendon. You dropped me a line about doing an interview or something for your fanzine. I thought it was probably best to give you a ring because I know you mentioned this was probably going to be your last edition of Slow Dazzle, and it’s one of the few publications we like. So we didn’t want to miss the chance …
Look I really liked what you said in your letter about the demo tape. That was kind of you. I’m sure you get a lot of rubbish sent to you, and it must be pretty depressing at times. But the thing is I’m just really conscious that the tape doesn’t really reflect what we’re trying to do.
What I really wanted to set you straight on though is about the Creation thing. We’re really not part of all that. Obviously living in London we know some of the people involved but we don’t want to get in bed with them so to speak. I’m sure people outside of the capital will end up getting romantic ideas about The Living Room, and all that. But it’s really horrible. It’s now just a room above a pub on the Tottenham Court Road, and there’s no stage or sense of glamour or anything. And most of the groups that play are complete rubbish. Terrible pub rock groups like the Three Johns and the Membranes. I know you like some of those groups, but I’m really puritanical about it all. The Jasmine Minks are good though. I think they are the only ones that will make it. And we quite like The Loft even if they are nearly all music journos.
Our real interests and influences are nearly all American, perversely. I reckon the best record by a mile this year is the Kendra Smith & David Roback 12”. Fell From The Sun. On Rough Trade. It’s one of those things like the Wild Swans’ Revolutionary Spirit that actually suits the 12” format because it’s just so huge in terms of concept. Normally I’m totally against 12” singles as they’re a complete rip off, but this one works.
Have you heard it? Kendra has this most amazing voice. Totally pure. Like Sandy Denny or something. It just makes me shiver inside. There’s a real folk rock quality to her voice which I absolutely love, but the sound of the record is totally unclassifiable. The song just sort of lopes along, like a folk ballad, and David Roback is playing guitar in the background which is beautifully distorted and disfigures the whole thing in a fantastic way. Stops it from being too nice. It’s like something on the third Big Star record or the third Velvets LP, but then it’s nothing like that at all if you know what I mean.
It’s funny that thing about the Big Star Sisters Lovers thing because I’ve only very recently got into that record, and some of it is amazing. And the only reason I got into it. Well it wasn’t because of Chilton producing the Cramps, but because of that Rainy Day record Rough Trade put out, which was basically some of the characters from the so-called Paisley Underground covering some of their favourite songs. Makes you laugh in a way. If some of us did that here we’d be crucified but it was fantastic. It had I’ll Keep It With Mine and I’ll Be Your Mirror and John Riley. And Kendra Smith was singing Holocaust. And that was the first time I’d heard that and it just made me go cold all over. She also sang Flying On The Ground Is Wrong by Buffalo Springfield, and that’s pretty special too.
Funnily enough the first time I heard Flying On The Ground Is Wrong was on a Buffalo Springfield compilation I picked up really cheap. It’s on Atlantic and it’s got sleevenotes by John Peel where he’s talking about seeing them play in San Bernardino in early ’66 and how no one seemed interested until For What It’s Worth came out. And I only picked up that compilation because I remember Orange Juice mentioning them a few years back. You really don’t hear the name much.
David Roback seems a really interesting character. I don’t know too much about him. I was reading an interview he and Kendra did for Bucketful of Brains recently, and he seems really into the idea of music as a spiritual force, which is fine with me. They seemed to be going under the name Clay Allison then, which is a little confusing but not to worry. Anyway Roback was in the Rain Parade and was the driving force behind the brilliant Emergency Third Rail Power Trip which seemed to fuse the whole Byrds and Syd Barrett thing with punk power in a way we haven’t really managed over here. With the possible exception of Hurrah!
I got into the Rain Parade funnily enough through Alan McGee’s Communication Blur fanzine. He was really raving about that record, and up till then I’d really dismissed them as American power pop chancers which as it turned out was a pretty dumb move. And then Roback seems to have got bored and walked away. I think he got involved with Kendra Smith and really bonded with her while they put the Rainy Day thing together. She’d been in the Dream Syndicate too, who were part of the same scene, though I’ve not really got into them very much. They had a nice Modern Lovers thing going on, but it was a bit too heavy for me. But looking back the clues were there on their Days Of Wine And Roses LP where Kendra sang Too Little Too Late. And that almost seems like a blueprint for Fell From The Sun. Real haunting Velvets balladry.
And it’s funny we really resented how the Dream Syndicate got namechecked in the Uptight Velvets book. The singer really did not look right for what was a really beautiful book. Neville Brody got the look so perfect. We must have studied that book like some religious text. And sat around listening to any Velvets bootleg tapes we could get our hands on, and anything vaguely associated like Joanthan Richman singing I’m Sticking With You with Mo Tucker.
Anyway, I’m painfully aware I’ve been droning on, but it is kind of relevant and related to our group because records like Fell From The Sun and Emergency Third Rail have really made us sit up and examine ourselves and reconsider what we aspire to. Hitherto we were a bit of a garageband, but now we want to experiment with form and structure a lot more rather than go for that whole Nuggets or Pebbles thing. We’re trying out different drum patterns, and trying to build the sound around rhythm, with lots of tom toms and kettle drums played with mallets and these really melodic bass lines rather than the plodding pedestrian thing most groups have now. Hopefully the new demos we’ll be doing soon will be a lot more advanced than the songs you’ve heard.
We’ve also made a deliberate decision not to play live until we’ve got the sound right. That will also help as it will enable us to distance ourselves from the other groups around at the moment. We really don’t want to be playing the same places as everyone else. I hate it when loads of groups get lumped in together when they really do not have much in common. Sadly it always seems to happen though doesn’t it?
Does that help at all? What else are you covering in the last issue? Creation? I should have guessed. No I haven’t heard The Jesus and Mary Chain yet. Someone told me they cover the Standells’ Barracuda, which is just about my favourite ever song. They sound really wild.
© 2007 John Carney