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INTERVIEW: Poppycock
The Quietus , October 31st, 2014 16:19

Una Baines and Ann-Marie Crowley talk to Viktoria Wolff about their new band, the re-release of The Fates' Furia and the future

This summer saw the re-release of Furia, The Fates' 1985 album, via Finders Keepers' imprint Bird Records. A wondrous musical exploration with a nod towards paganism and the Pendle witches, it was the work of Una Baines, a founding member of The Fall, who stayed with them from 1976-78.

While it initially received positive reviews, the album sales did not match the volume of pressed records. "I must have had about 100 copies of it and they were sold off for 50p each when money was scarce in the 80s," explains Baines, laughing. "It didn't have a lot of interest at the time, but now there seems to be a lot of attention. The originals are selling online for about £100 a pop."

David Chatton Barker, a freelance at Finders Keepers, suggested Baines perform the album live, something the original Fates never got to the chance to do.

"I'd never even considered it because some of the pieces on it are a bit abstract, but then the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was doable. We won't be doing it exactly like the album but a lot of it will be very authentic", Baines says.

The "we" Baines is referring to are Poppycock, a band consisting of members who met through volunteering at Seed Studio - part of bluSCI, a community centre located in Manchester's suburb of Trafford. Vocalist Ann-Marie Crowley explains how her support of a friend led her to become involved as the singer, a creative outlet that had been left dormant for years.

"I bumped into Una. She was friends with Raul Caleno whom I'd done some events with. Una asked me to join Poppycock which I initially put off, fearing the commitment issue because I work shifts as a nurse, but happily I've managed to fit it all in."

The current Poppycock line-up consists of flautist Lucy Power, Nikki Dupuy on bass, guitarist Heather Greenbank, who has previously collaborated with Baines in The Procrastinators and Her Majesty's Poetic Terrorists, vocalist Julie Wolstenholme, from the original line-up of The Fates and drummer Pete Emms, a multi-instrumentalist.

"It was the best thing that could've happened. It's been a two-and-a-half-year journey but now I feel like we've got a pretty solid band with really top musicians and singers. The last three people to join have all been with us a very short time and it's already sounding really good. So we're all dead happy", Baines continues.

Baines, Crowley and everyone else in the band have side projects connected with the studio whether it is the workshops or singing with a range of people. The common theme is the care given to people and making music for the love of it.

"I think a very few people become rich through doing music, most musicians I know are skint. My aims are to make really good music and to travel to play it to people - that's it. I don't see much more that could make me happy. You need money to keep you afloat as long as you've just got the basics", says Baines.

"There's nothing better than getting up at a gig and seeing people enjoying your music. I think that's the reward out of it, that's certainly what spurs me on. It's finally come together, certainly for me since I've started", Crowley continues. "It just feels like it's really started to gel properly."

The band has eight original Poppycock songs to play during live sets intertwined with songs from The Fates.

"It's a bit gothic and a bit folky. The ones that we've got in Poppycock that are like that we'll carry on doing, but we'll be dropping 'Mexico' and 'Cleaning Woman'. We've got a song called 'Hell' that'll fit in. I think 'Trinity' will fit in beautifully", Crowley points out.

"'Honey Moon' I think would work, it reminds me of 'I'll Be Your Mirror' [by The Velvet Underground], not the notes but the feel of it a little bit", Baines continues.

Baines had been looking for a studio for a long time and hadn't been able to do music for years because she was bringing up her children, for most part as a single parent. As they were getting older, she started thinking about it more and more.

"Janet Wolstenholme, Julie's sister and an original member of The Fates, told me where she was working and said I should come down. I got introduced to the studio and I just couldn't believe that you could work there voluntarily; to do something you love doing and then in return do something you love doing. It was a win win!"

"I'm thinking in the future, there'll be more collaborative stuff. It's hard to focus completely on new material when you feel you've got all this catalogue of tunes that you've written over the years that you just want to get out. I've always been writing and that's normal for me. The funny thing is, because I've not been able to perform them, they've got really developed in my head so when it actually comes to showing people the songs, they're already pretty much complete. I've already got the bassline, the guitar and the lead guitar and the vocal, it's all there. I don't try to make people do it exactly as it is in my head as long as it doesn't go a million miles away from the original idea. It has to be that way. The more creative freedom people have the more they are going to enjoy it, the more they're going to love what they doing. If you feel like you're under the cosh you just want to escape, I know I do."

"We'll have it ready for summer, that's what I'm hoping. We got the cover ready last year", Baines reveals while laughing. "Little things happen to keep telling me to keep going when I wanted to give up. Pascal le Gras who did loads of The Fall's artwork, asked if I was doing any music and if I needed artwork or anything, he would do it. "

Le Gras has finished the cover and the Poppycock band logo and in exchange, Baines gave him a copy of a Si Scott poster which was hand-printed and designed for a collection raising funds for the charity Forever Manchester. It has the lyrics "with a clockwork walk and a backward smile" from 'Dresden Dolls', a song Baines wrote while in The Fall.

"We've got 'Trinity', 'Mexico', 'Cleaning Woman', 'Honey Moon', 'Lizard Man' for the album", Baines says. "In the meantime, we're hoping to get to Ireland in the spring to do the Furia album, and Europe if possible. I quite fancy Iceland. Not the one near Aldi."

"We've all got different commitments, Ann-Marie is a nurse and she does shifts, Lucy and Nikki have got kids. The way the male rock music scene works is you just have to fit in with it or you're out, it's as simple as that. And I thought, you don't have to do it that way at all. We're not trying to do a six-month world tour and wouldn't want to. I would hate to be on the road for six months, I would want to come home, but I quite like the idea of a long weekend," Baines explains.

Crowley agrees and continues, "We're sauntering around doing it, and we're not on that A-road going 90 mph. We're on the back roads, the country roads, enjoying the ride."

Baines continues, "Totally, why put people under pressure? I mean that's the thing that happens with bands when people are under pressure. You may as well have a normal job in that sense. [The music business] is a playground for men to never grow up and the rules are you don't ever have to grow up and women just have to fit in with it and do what they say. Not that I have, I've never been treated like that. I've been quite lucky I suppose in bands where I always felt supported. Maybe because I was the only girl in male bands and they kind of can get a bit protective towards you, that little sister sort of thing. I'm not saying there haven't been problems but I feel quite lucky in that way; especially when we hear what some women had to fight for in bands. I just think that you can do it differently. Now I think you can just do it at your pace and in the way you want to. If you're not trying to climb up to the top and be really famous or rich, if you're not interested in all that, of course you can do it the way you want to because there will always be other people who will appreciate what you're doing, who will identify with you on that level."

"Why shouldn't women get in a band once the kids have grown up? It should be a really good option, I would encourage any woman - it's great!" Baines says. "What I'm getting at: get in a band! Smile sweetly through gritted teeth."

Poppycock will be celebrating Furia tomorrow at the Carlton Club, Rowan Lodge, 113 Carlton Road, Whalley Range, M16 8BE