Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Kenickie: Because Rizzo Didn't Have The Right Ring To It!

Originally published in Teenage Kicks #2 (Fall 1997)
Interview by Devorah Ostrov/Intro written by Michael Cronin

The ladies of Kenickie: Emmy-Kate, Lauren and Marie
Johnny X apparently skipped this photo session.
More than halfway through the year, only a handful of standout albums have been released. Kenickie's At the Club, a bona fide pop gem, is one of them.

Fuelled by several hit singles, including the maddeningly catchy "In Your Car" and "Punka," At the Club landed in the Top 10 on the UK charts. On the eve of the album's U.S. release, Kenickie came over to play a few gigs in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Kenickie demonstrate proper public transport etiquette
The crowd at Bottom of the Hill was treated to an hour-long set of highlights from the album, interspersed with witty stage patter from dual guitarists and singers, Lauren Laverne and Marie Du Santiago. Bassist Emmy-Kate Montrose and drummer (and Lauren's brother) Johnny X grounded the performance with a steady beat.

Prior to the show, we presented Laverne and Du Santiago with the very first issue of Teenage Kicks, during a poolside chat at the Phoenix Hotel. Lauren and Marie, who've known each other since they were four, seem closer than sisters and frequently finish each other's sentences, filled us in on the Kenickie story — so far.

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At The Club (EMIdisc - 1997)
Teenage Kicks: You're from Sunderland?

Marie: Yes. It's a city on the Northeast coast of England, near Scotland. But we've just moved to a house in Camden. We love our little house.

Teenage Kicks: From what I understand, you formed the band while you were still in school because you always wanted to be friends and didn't want to separate when you got out of school.

Marie: Well, it's true. We had left school, but we'd only just left by about a week. We all went to college to do "A" levels, but during the summer holidays, Emma was going to go to a different college than us. So, we just decided to be a band, because it's a laugh and it would mean we'd get to hang about together quite a lot.

Teenage Kicks: You went to Catholic school. What was that like? They couldn't have encouraged you artistically.

Marie & Emmy show off their home in this magazine feature
Lauren: Oh, it was fucking fantastic! I loved Catholic school. My mild, loving nature shown through under the guidance of the nuns.

Marie: It was hell on earth! But it's over now, so we prefer not to think about it. Don't go there.

"In Your Car" picture sleeve 45  (EMIdisc - 1996)
Teenage Kicks: Did you know how to play anything when you started out?

Marie: No, but we learned.

Teenage Kicks: How long ago was that?

Marie: Two and a bit years.

Teenage Kicks: It sounds like you've been playing a lot longer than that! It doesn't sound like you were groping in the dark, trying to figure out what you were doing. At the Club is a fully realized record.

Marie: Thank you. Well, we always wanted to learn, and we didn't want it to sound amateurish and stupid.

Teenage Kicks: How did you decide which instruments you wanted to play?

Kenickie illustrated as Josie and the Pussycats
Marie: It just turned up. I already knew a chord from watching the telly and copying it. [Lauren's] dad had a guitar and taught it to her. Emma played the bass, because it was crucial; that's what makes a band sound good. X played the drums really well, so he did that. It just turned out that way.

Teenage Kicks: What kind of bands did you listen to growing up?

Marie: Roxy Music, David Bowie...

Lauren: Sparks, Kylie Minogue...

Marie: Kylie Minogue — very important. Betty Boo. Did you have Betty Boo? You have to pursue Boomania, the first Betty Boo album!

Lauren: Suede, Manics...

Marie: Manics, you know, are our favorite band. They're lovely, the Manics.

Lauren: I think James just comes to see us 'cause he knows we fancy him. But I fancy Nicky more!

Lauren Laverne & Emmy-Kate Montrose
Teenage Kicks: Have you played with them?

Lauren: We were going to do a gig with them, but then...

Marie: We did a TV program with them instead. They were big enough to schedule it so they could do the gig after the show. But we had to cancel the gig.

Teenage Kicks: What show was it?

Lauren: Jools Holland. It was a New Year's Eve spectacular, so it had a big celebrity audience. Some of our idols, like Noddy Holder, were there. Charlie Watts, Paul Weller...

Marie: Paul Weller... We think he's saucy!

Kenickie - publicity photo
Teenage Kicks: Did you meet Noddy Holder?

Marie: Yeah, he's great. He talks like he sings! He's the loudest man you've ever heard in your life, and he's only just talking in a moderate tone.

Lauren: Lauren Holder... That has a nice ring to it!

Teenage Kicks: Imagine going through his closet!

Lauren: Oh, God! Apparently, the hat was very heavy.

Marie: He used to reflect the stage lights off it, onto girls he fancied. So he could see them better!

Teenage Kicks: Is there anyone you'd really like to play with?

Marie: I'd like to have the Rolling Stones support us.

Lauren: The Rolling who? Oh, I don't like them — they eat babies!

Teenage Kicks: You put out a couple of independent singles before signing to EMI. Did you get a lot of flak for going from an indie to a major label?

Kenickie - publicity photo
Marie: The first indie label we were on (Slampt) were the only ones that were interested. They were so underground and lo-fi.

Teenage Kicks: They'd print like 100 copies?

Marie: And burn 99!

Lauren: I will not sell my music!

Marie: The indie music people are all over the charts anyway. Nobody's bothered. There's a very fine line between indie and mainstream.

Teenage Kicks: How long did it take to record the album?

Lauren: Four weeks.

Marie: We took one week to do "Punka" and the B-sides, because we needed a single out fast and we didn't have anything recorded.

Lauren: We sort of record very quickly and write very quickly, as well.

"Catsuit City" EP (Slampt - 1995)
Marie: But it's taking longer and longer as we go, because we're doing more stuff. We just did a song for the next album and it's got a string quartet on it. So, that took a day or two to organize.

Teenage Kicks: Is it mostly the two of you that write the songs?

Marie: Mostly. Everybody puts a bit in though.

Teenage Kicks: You used different producers on the album. Why was that?

Lauren: We did the rocky stuff with John Cornfield, who did Supergrass' first album. But for the rest, the more personal stuff, the sad songs like "Robot Song," we got Andy [Carpenter], who's our friend. We just wanted our friend.

Teenage Kicks: How much control do you have?

Lauren: All. Complete. Total.

Marie: Everything that's on the album is on there because we want it to be.

Lauren: That was our main contractual stipulation — total artistic control.

Kenickie grace the cover of  the '97 Festival Guide
Teenage Kicks: On "In your Car," you have the line: "I'm too young to feel so old." What do you mean by that?

Lauren: "In Your Car" sounds cheerful, but that doesn't mean the lyrics are all cheerful. It's about starting out on this very hectic "pop star lifestyle." The good times feel completely like, "yeah, yeah, yeah!" But the bad times… You feel very, very old. Like you're living out some 35-year-old's life, living on your own and worrying about money.

Teenage Kicks: The album covers a whole gamut of emotions. Some songs are happy — about clothes or going out and having fun, and some songs are sad and introspective. Which are your favorites?

Lauren: It's like children — you can't choose.

Marie: I can. I choose the brightest child, who brings in the most money for Mom.

Lauren: Then I choose the crippled child, 'cause I can send him out begging!

Teenage Kicks: It seems that in England the bands are younger...

"Punka" picture sleeve 45 (EMIdisc - 1996)
Marie: There's supposed to be this big uprising of teenagers — bands such as Ash, Bis and Kenickie. But teenagers have always been in bands. It's just that they've not necessarily been signed to major record labels.

Teenage Kicks: And you're all lumped in together and compared to each other...

Lauren: Ash basically sound like Thin Lizzy with Stevie Wonder singing. I couldn't even say what Bis sound like. But we were all teenagers when we started out, so it's an easy comparison. But George Harrison was 18 when he started the Beatles. Pop is a teenage medium. So, I say, why shouldn't teenagers play it? ✨

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Promo video for "In Your Car"

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