Ayear after the U.K. release of their debut album “We Are The Pipettes,” the band are finally bringing their 1960s-styled pop to Japan. Their live show is not to be missed: Rosay, RiotBecki and Gwenno (who each go by one name) are ably backed by The Cassettes, their all-boy band, deploying dancetastic ditties and choreographed moves with flair, passion and humor.
While some detractors call them a retro novelty act, with a sound that recalls The Shangri-Las and Tamla Motown, there’s more depth and talent within the band than it may seem, what with their knack for an unforgettable tune and butter-wouldn’t-melt lyrics that sometimes verge on the filthy.
We got on the phone to Gwenno, who joined the band in 2005, two years after its formation in Brighton, England, to talk about their Summer Sonic appearances this weekend.
How’s it going?
I’m great! I’m a little bit tired because we’ve just come back from Benicassim (Spain’s biggest summer music festival). We did three festivals, one a day, over the weekend. It was great.
You played on the Pyramid Stage (the main stage) at Glastonbury this year.
It was amazing! Our keyboard broke; it went out of tune a semitone, which is really odd. Things like that happen to us all the time. But that turned it into one of our gigs. I was like, “Ah, everything’s back to normal, I can stop being scared that we’re on the Pyramid Stage and worry about getting through the gig.”
You’re also playing the main stage at Summer Sonic. It’s huge.
Is it? Oh god. Obviously we’ll be scared either way, whether loads of people turn up or nobody turns up. Hopefully somebody will turn up.
Two years down the line, do you still feel like the new girl in the band?
Yeah, definitely. I probably always will, especially ‘cos I haven’t grown up in Brighton. I’m from Cardiff (in Wales). I’m from a different country, and you’re always gonna be slightly aware of that sort of thing. But the band is almost a social musical experiment. It was always a sort of interchangeable thing. The Pipettes is bigger than the sum of its parts, and that’s an interesting idea.
Would The Pipettes work with Phil Spector if he wasn’t a murder suspect?
No, absolutely not! We’re not interested in re-creating something that’s perfect already. We can only be a reflection of the time we’re in. Even with a concept as strong as ours, we’d never try to emulate that era that closely.
Does it ever bother you when people call you a novelty band?
It never, ever does. It literally does not bother us in any way. You know, it’s about escapism and trying to make uplifting music. We take that incredibly seriously, but not ourselves, in terms of our artistry or in terms of validating our own egos. If people think we’re a novelty, we’ve almost succeeded in a way, ‘cos you’re meant to be able to engage with it on lots of different levels.
What’s your favorite recent pop song?
I love Rihanna. That “Umbrella” song is wicked. It’s been No. 1 for 10 weeks here. I can’t believe the floods we’ve had, and then this song about rain comes out! They’ve managed to time it so well. It’s totally a marketing ploy.
How’s the state of British pop music?
The issue is all these guitar bands. They are marketed as something authentic and real, and they’re as unreal as any pop act. There’s loads of them, I can’t even remember the names of half of them ‘cos they come and go every week. I just think it’s lazy; it’s just rehashing old ideas. But British music always goes through those stages of, “It’s all about real music, man,” and then stages of manufactured pop. We sort of manufactured ourselves, and we’re interested in embracing that sense of disposability that all pop music has.
Where do you get ideas for lyrics?
It’s just stories, people we know. We draw from our own experiences, or those that we wish we had. We sing as we speak, really. It’s conversations that we would have anyway.
Is humor important to your lyrics?
Yeah. You can touch on the deepest of feelings with a sense of humor.
The Pipettes are the first band on Saturday at Summer Sonic’s Marine Stadium in Tokyo and first at the Ocean Stage in Osaka on Sunday.
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