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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An Interview with Blythe Pepino of Pepino

A sparkling band of humorous frivolity, sweet notes and beauty. Imperfect, unsigned but fabulous.

Written by Helen Martin

littlefishinterview_anielamurphy
The Old Blue Last pub, prostate just off Old Street is a descent venue, a 120 capacity pub and live music venue owned by Vice Magazine, having recently undergone a refurb. Sure the stage area is small and the dressing rooms a little neglected, but the atmosphere is warm, the toilets work and there’s something about the place that reminds me just why live music is so great.

The main reason I’m here is to see Little Fish, an Oxford based due who have recently confirmed they’re a three piece with the permanent addition of their Hammond player, Ben Walker. Before they hit the stage, support band AWOLNATION threw an unexpected blistering thirty minute set. Hailing from America to promote their debut EP Back from Earth, and in good spirits, the band got a relatively meek crowd’s heads bopping and hips shaking. Opening with their fan pleaser Guilty Filthy Soul, their set merged dance beats, killer hooks and catchy rhythms, it’s clear this band have got energy, bags of charisma, and a hot lead singer. Off to a good start then, and one to keep an eye on.

On to Little Fish, who took to the stage after a swift set change, bringing out the bigger drums and bigger guns it would seem. Opening with the title track to their debut album Baffled and Beat, it didn’t take long for the room to fully get into the swing of the night. A couple of tracks in, and the floor was literally jumping with the crowd lapping up every ounce of sweat pouring from the stage. Lead singer and guitarist Julia ‘Juju’ Sophie never once showed sings of waning. Her vocals spilling over with raw emotion, it’s clear she absolutely loves what she does. The drums, courtesy of Nez Greenaway, thunder throughout the set, only letting up during the momentary softer close to a few tracks. Hammond in tow surges from back of stage through Little Fish’s explosive ferocity, bringing extra solidity to their sound, and allows them to sit comfortably above many other garage bands out there today.

 Little Fish Live Shot
Little Fish live. Photographed by Willemÿn Barker-Benfield

Stand out tracks of the night include the vastly popular Darling Dear, Whiplash, and the sonically awesome Die Young, which confirms how far the trio have come, whilst retaining their classic stripped roots that scream a passion for conviction, since their debut EP Darling Dear last year. It’s tough not to compare Juju’s vocal ability and physical prowess to other women in rock, like Juliette Lewis and Courtney Love, both of which Little Fish have toured with, and why not? There aren’t enough women out there packing a rock and roll punch these days, and Little Fish aren’t scared to get their fisty cuffs out. If you like your rock hitting the garage mark hard, then head on down to their next gig and bring your dancing shoes. Brilliant.

Their debut album Baffled and Beat is out now and released on Island.
little fish by aniela murphy
The Old Blue Last by Aniela Murphy.

The Old Blue Last pub, visit web just off Old Street is a descent venue, capsule a 120 capacity pub and live music venue owned by Vice Magazine, medical having recently undergone a refurb. Sure the stage area is small and the dressing rooms a little neglected, but the atmosphere is warm, the toilets work and there’s something about the place that reminds me just why live music is so great.

littlefishinterview_anielamurphy
Willemÿn with Little Fish singer Julia, by Aniela Murphy.

The main reason I’m here is to see Little Fish, an Oxford based due who have recently confirmed they’re a three piece with the permanent addition of their Hammond player, Ben Walker. Before they hit the stage, support band AWOLNATION threw an unexpected blistering thirty minute set. Hailing from America to promote their debut EP Back from Earth, and in good spirits, the band got a relatively meek crowd’s heads bopping and hips shaking. Opening with their fan pleaser Guilty Filthy Soul, their set merged dance beats, killer hooks and catchy rhythms, it’s clear this band have got energy, bags of charisma, and a hot lead singer. Off to a good start then, and one to keep an eye on.

On to Little Fish, who took to the stage after a swift set change, bringing out the bigger drums and bigger guns it would seem. Opening with the title track to their debut album Baffled and Beat, it didn’t take long for the room to fully get into the swing of the night. A couple of tracks in, and the floor was literally jumping with the crowd lapping up every ounce of sweat pouring from the stage. Lead singer and guitarist Julia ‘Juju’ Sophie never once showed sings of waning. Her vocals spilling over with raw emotion, it’s clear she absolutely loves what she does. The drums, courtesy of Nez Greenaway, thunder throughout the set, only letting up during the momentary softer close to a few tracks. Hammond in tow surges from back of stage through Little Fish’s explosive ferocity, bringing extra solidity to their sound, and allows them to sit comfortably above many other garage bands out there today.

 Little Fish Live Shot
Little Fish live. Photographed by Willemÿn Barker-Benfield

Stand out tracks of the night include the vastly popular Darling Dear, Whiplash, and the sonically awesome Die Young, which confirms how far the trio have come, whilst retaining their classic stripped roots that scream a passion for conviction, since their debut EP Darling Dear last year. It’s tough not to compare Juju’s vocal ability and physical prowess to other women in rock, like Juliette Lewis and Courtney Love, both of which Little Fish have toured with, and why not? There aren’t enough women out there packing a rock and roll punch these days, and Little Fish aren’t scared to get their fisty cuffs out. If you like your rock hitting the garage mark hard, then head on down to their next gig and bring your dancing shoes. Brilliant.

Their debut album Baffled and Beat is out now and released on Island.
little fish by aniela murphy
The Old Blue Last by Aniela Murphy.

The Old Blue Last pub, try just off Old Street is a 120 capacity pub and live music venue owned by Vice Magazine that has recently undergone a refurb. Sure the stage area is small and the dressing rooms a little neglected, there but the atmosphere is warm, this the toilets work and there’s something about the place that reminds me just why live music is so great.

littlefishinterview_anielamurphy
Willemÿn with Little Fish singer Julia, by Aniela Murphy.

The main reason I’m here is to see Little Fish, an Oxford based duo who have recently confirmed they’re a three piece with the permanent addition of their Hammond player, Ben Walker. Before they hit the stage, support band AWOLNATION threw an unexpected blistering thirty minute set. Hailing from America to promote their debut EP Back from Earth, and in good spirits, the band got a relatively meek crowd’s heads bopping and hips shaking. Opening with their fan pleaser Guilty Filthy Soul, their set merged dance beats, killer hooks and catchy rhythms, it’s clear this band have got energy, bags of charisma, and a hot lead singer. Off to a good start then, and one to keep an eye on.

On to Little Fish, who took to the stage after a swift set change, bringing out the bigger drums and bigger guns it would seem. Opening with the title track to their debut album Baffled and Beat, it didn’t take long for the room to fully get into the swing of the night. A couple of tracks in, and the floor was literally jumping with the crowd lapping up every ounce of sweat pouring from the stage. Lead singer and guitarist Julia ‘Juju’ Sophie never once showed sings of waning. Her vocals spilling over with raw emotion, it’s clear she absolutely loves what she does. The drums, courtesy of Nez Greenaway, thunder throughout the set, only letting up during the momentary softer close to a few tracks. Hammond in tow surges from back of stage through Little Fish’s explosive ferocity, bringing extra solidity to their sound, and allows them to sit comfortably above many other garage bands out there today.

 Little Fish Live Shot
Little Fish live. Photographed by Willemÿn Barker-Benfield

Stand out tracks of the night include the vastly popular Darling Dear, Whiplash, and the sonically awesome Die Young, which confirms how far the trio have come, whilst retaining their classic stripped roots that scream a passion for conviction, since their debut EP Darling Dear last year. It’s tough not to compare Juju’s vocal ability and physical prowess to other women in rock, like Juliette Lewis and Courtney Love, both of which Little Fish have toured with, and why not? There aren’t enough women out there packing a rock and roll punch these days, and Little Fish aren’t scared to get their fisty cuffs out. If you like your rock hitting the garage mark hard, then head on down to their next gig and bring your dancing shoes. Brilliant.

Their debut album Baffled and Beat is out now and released on Island.
Abby_Wright_Pepino_Illustration
Blythe Pepino by Abby Wright.

Walking home from an evening out is sometimes a slow affair. With the chill of the air rushing through the leaves, site the wind whispers, pharmacy clarity in its breath. This is the time of night, when only the workaholics and the creatives are studious. It is a beautiful time to bask. As it is right here, even the most ridiculous ideas become utterly feasible. And indeed I have planned elopements to South America, psychoanalyzed the health food shop assistant down the road and delivered eloquent obituaries to dead film stars. Oh! It is here when high emotion is reached! When nightingales sing! Sweeping statements are made! And also when nothing at all can be said. Thinking, thinking… thinking. The boy has learned to accept the pace of these evening meanders, the ‘profound’ findings and flighty musings escaping my consciousness. Sometimes it is possible to revisit or even create these times of mesmerizing purity and definition. Often this is through music, which has this indescribable ability of transportation. Pepino is one such band.

PEPINO - Sarah violin
PEPINO – Sarah violin. All photography by Paul Blakemore.

I saw them on stage for the first time a while ago and was surprised at the effect they had upon me and all around me. The audience and I were transfixed. Pepino possess a range of beautiful components. They are ethereal foxes, taken from their country spheres and told to become urban tearaways. Embracing the task before them, they have assessed their situation, screeching and singing melodies to the heavens, they lull strangers and ask questions why. Lead singer, Blythe, 24, has a passion that comes with ease as she recalls the circumstances from which her comical and hearty lyrics originate from. Her terrifically ranging voice soars and plummets with vivacious sensitivity. Listening to their album, Redface is one of those songs that you listen to on repeat, holding you in its clutches. It moves from slow and dramatic to vulnerable and reflective. Meanwhile Rocky, like many of Pepino’s songs, have a touch of grunt and cheeky hilarious flashes, combining with high pitched, sweet, backing vocals and violins swaying and jumping.

PEPINO- Jessica celloist
PEPINO- Jessica celloist

Clutter, a response to the cleaning of people’s houses, is a thumper of a tune and their wistful beauty of a song about growing up in the country, The Birthright (not written by Pepino), is rose-tinted and beautiful. The violins and cello add to the juxtaposed sounds of soft drawn out vocals and gusty propelling sounds. Like a Tori Amos or Imogen Heap… or Tinkerbell with balls. They’re a contemporary girl de force and unavoidably likeable. Blythe is also in a band called Bizali. Now taking a backseat, she is going full throttle with leading Pepino into the unknown. They have the talent of the few and they deserve the acknowledgement of the many. I meet Blythe after she has had a difficult weekend. I have spent the day working for free at the Bath Chronicle, she has been working in a pub. We blame the fullness of the moon for feeling a bit… strange. Then look up to its plunging light, before I try to work out how to use my dictaphone.

PEPINO-Blythe RED
PEPINO-Blythe

Pepino have an album out that they have financed themselves. Unsigned, they have had “no help from anyone at all”. They are on the brink of a collection of gigs in London. Let’s chat.

Tell me about the album.
It’s pretty epic. The songs are always about something big. Some are fantasy songs, but they’re always based about my ruminations about life. They tend to be either a defined story that has a bigger constructive meaning behind it, or a big story that is the other way around – but there’s usually comedy in there.

What’s happening with Bizali then?
I’ve had to relinquish my role in Bizali a bit just because I’ve been doing so much with Pepino – and you can’t put yourself into more than one project as a leader so it’s sort of gone by the wayside.

What’s the difference between the Bizali and Pepino?
They are two very different bands. Aaron writes the songs for Bizali – so I have to put myself into a completely different mindset to sing them. Into somebody else’s mind. Which is interesting, but for me now, I just love being able to compose music, that’s where my passion lies.

What makes up Pepino and how did you form?
Two boys; a double bass player and a drummer, and four girls; strings and piano. Paul Blakemore, a visual artist, does all of our artwork, including our album cover. He’s very good. It’s lovely, we’re like a family. I live with the fiddle player and her son and there are a lot of references to her, so it’s quite inward looking. Pepino happened after university. Bizali is from even before that, Aaron and I used to be together and lived in Hereford – we started the band there. Pepino is made from friends. It was literally like: “I want to do a gig to explore my own music” “Why don’t your play fiddle?” “I’m thinking about getting a string quartet… who else do I know..? You’re okay, I like you.” I think Tam just came round and I just asked him. “You play the drums, don’t you? What would you play to this?”

What inspires you?
Sadly, ups and downs, I think too much about what it is to be a human being, probably to my life detriment at some level, I wish I was a bit more straightforward thinker. I’m told – you can’t do the highs unless you come down again.

Your stage outfits are always quite theatrical. How was your album launch outfit at the Tobacco Factory Theatre?
We’re pretty showy. This winter has been about me looking into what it’s like to do a gig combined with theatre. I come from theatrical background, it’s only really natural and I found I really missed it, which is great. At the launch, we were very lucky to be able to use the set of the opera that was going on at the Tobacco Factory Theatre. It had a big square of astro turf on it. I wore a green dress that sort of went into the astro turf with roses on it, so it looked like it was all one, and then I got up and I was in a minidress – quite exciting! I could run around the audience. It wasn’t perfect though. We safety pinned ourselves into red and green fabric, we got from the fabric shop. That’s the thing about Pepino, it’s never really perfect, there’s always something a bit wrong about it. It’s all in the songs and I think all of us are slightly crap in one way or another, just like everyone is, but we tend to be aware of it. we embrace our crapness and that’s part of what makes us good and the reason why we function so well on stage as a band.

Pepino by Kayleigh Bluck
Pepino by Kayleigh Bluck

So do you all have day jobs as well as Pepino?
Yes, Misha is a music therapist and so is Sarah, Tam the drummer works a lot as a drummer, but also works children with learning disabilities. Andy manages the pub that I work in and I try and do as little work as possible so I can be poor but write music and lead the band. Which sometimes leads me to wonder what I am doing with myself but yes… I try to focus and be positive and believe in myself! In the past I’ve chosen to do shit jobs thinking that it would make me lots of money. A tequila girl on Whiteladies Road. It was awful. I had to dress up. I had to try and become one of those orange women and I just ended up looking Eastern European. Everyone just thought I was Eastern European, because I don’t look like a Tequila Girl basically. I also made a green cleaning service, good money, but i got bored of it.

How are you feeling about your upcoming gigs? You were in London this weekend weren’t you?
It was a real eye opener to be in something that I guess everyone is calling nu-folk because there are quite a lot of people and places eager to find new bands, whereas in the whole rock scene it’s a lot more closed unless you have already made it- there aren’t a lot of people doing new nights and if they are then they are quite insular. But the folk, people are a lot more interested in new things and don’t mind people from the country. However, this weekend, it was the middle of the night and I met this guy on the tube. It was just me and him and he started talking to me about my trousers. He was fairly young, but had bulgy out eyes. A business guy, but a disconcerting mix with his briefcase and white cider. Odd. Then he started talking about the war and how he was part of the MOD and was going to work, I was like, hang on “at this time of the morning?” He said he had done 2 tours in Kosovo.. etc. etc. Then he got out a bullet – and called the bullet charlie. Said how his friend was killed and described what it was like when the bullet went into the neck. I was like… I’ve had a really hard day, errr. I ended up going to him, “it’s great to chat on the tube!”

Scary. What’s next for you?
Well, I’m getting 50 people to make a political photo shoot about the recession. I want to get people to dress up as lots of different kind of jobs. Originally it was going to be a battlefield shot, because I went for a walk under the Avon Gorge and I saw this amazing picture in my head and I just thought ‘let’s do it, it’s going to be fun!’ We will use the pictures as projections – get people to dress up as Chefs etc. wielding knives. So they’re all fighting for their job – including musicians obviously. We don’t have so much of what people had years ago, when it seemed everyone was part of a cause and was part of a big battle. Now we just fight for our jobs.

PEPINO-Blythe
PEPINO-Blythe

Pepino are a culmination of plunging and rising notes, feistiness, brazen abandonment and the flouncing embracement of the reality of being a you. All shown with the theatrical showdown of your own skydiving, cloud floating, immersed mind. I can only recommend you watch them if you can. They are the middle of the night, they are your dancing dreams on stilts and your conscience.

When we eventually reach number 112 on my ambling walks, I find by default I look across the road towards the enormous window where everyday, the elderly lady sits and watches me make my dash into the road on my hard wheeled bike. Clank, boom. Sometimes she has a uniformed lady with her. I see them look to me before slowly chattering. The edges are softened and the time zone is another. Now the curtains are, like earlier, open to the brim. But the hard backed seat is alone in the shadow filled room. It has only the spider plant to talk to. The old lady is dreaming of another time. Most of the time I worry that I think just far, far too much. Spinning myself into a quandary, I giggle on my way down. I look happy, but really my conscience is on the edge of a bridge, wanting to feel elation before hibernating in a profusion of words. I reason it is important to experience the potential of our emotions to the fullest, however ending up in a self-made whirlwind can be a scary as well as an enlightening experience. Which is why in the night, it is so liberating. There is no expectation here, only wonder. The boy thinks I am a drama queen. I think perhaps I am not alone.

I quote Oscar Wilde: A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world. You can see the fabulous Pepino on these occasions. I recommend that you do. Full listing info here.

14th November, 1pm – One Taste Festival at The Bedford, Balham, London
17th December, 7.30pm - The Cube, After the Battlefield: A Portrait, Bristol
18th December, 6pm, The Southbank Centre, London

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