Glasgow Popfest Tender Trap interview: “Ameila is the goddess of indie pop!”

It’s a miserable night in Glasgow when I speak with indie pop poster child Amelia Fletcher as we find ourselves sheltering from the rain in the doorway to Heavenly, an appropriate setting as the bar is named after one of Fletcher’s dearly loved bands.

 

“It’s amazing, he (Gary O’Connor the venue owner) emailed me to ask whether we minded quite a long time ago, and whether we were happy for him to use the logo, and I thought this is odd, but of course,” Amelia joyfully recollects of being asked if the café/bar could be named after her band.

“The fact didn’t really sink in until I arrived here today and saw it, and I was like ‘ok, it really is called Heavenly and it really is our logo.’

“I love it it’s really nice, I love that there’s a Tender Trap wrap, apparently there’s an Amelia table, I’m really pleased it’s an amazing tribute.”

For those not familiar with the venue, Heavenly on Hope Street, Glasgow, is basically as shrine to everything indie pop, with food and tables named after all the genre’s star acts of which Amelia is well and truly one.

Tonight is different however, the venue is kitted out with a full stage and the tables removed for standing room as the second day of Glasgow’s yearly Popfest hits club mode and those who recall the 90s scene drunkenly reminisce over cutesy hits.

Amelia and her latest band Tender Trap are arguably the stars of the whole weekend and most definitely tonight’s headliners.

Over the years Amelia has fronted several of the bands that led the indie pop scene in Britain from the 80s through to today, and there couldn’t be a nicer person to have as one of the leading figures that so sugary sweet music scenes.

She seems in a delightful mood, despite having to delay this interview until after Tender Trap had finished their set through fear of losing her voice, you get the impression she’s always like this as her instantly likeable chat takes your mind completely off the rain soaked walk home you’re about to be subjected to.

Tender Trap’s set tonight is a charming set of sugar coated indie pop ditties that just plaster a smile on your face.

Amelia is clearly pleased with the way the set went: “I really enjoyed it, even though as you heard my voice was collapsing, but I enjoy having a bunch of people that are really enthusiastic.

“I really like these Popfest’s specifically because it’s whole bunch of bands that all come from a fairly similar place, although there’s a lot of variety as well, then you have people coming from a long way away and very close, together and forming a community, it’s brilliant.”

Popfest’s aren’t a new concept; they were brought to a front by Beat Happening frontman and K Records main man Calvin Johnston, who originally invented this term the ‘International Pop Underground’ for the connection between all the pop acts across the globe.

Amelia recollects these days with joy commenting: “People in England vaguely knew about Beat Happening and people in America vaguely knew about The Pastels but it wasn’t really huge.

“But over time the indie pop scenes over different countries have started to connect and the internet has hugely helped that and now it really does feel like an ‘international pop underground’, Calvin Johnston had a vision and it has come to pass.”

Despite Amelia’s comments on ‘community’ she is quick to point out that she hasn’t been around all day, understandable though it is with her sore: “I’ve heard a lot of the bands before which is a bit naughty because I only ended up seeing the bands that I’ve actually seen before.”

However, she did manage to see the only Scottish act on the bill tonight, the engrossing blissful yet ear splitting Edinburgh School for the Deaf, a band who admitted to being the odd one out on the bill, mainly as they’re not a pop band.

“I thought they were really cool, the noise they managed to make was absolutely astounding,” comments Amelia.

“They brought one of the drums off stage at the end, immensely cool, I’d never seen anyone do that before, I was impressed but I didn’t see enough of them; they were playful in a non playful way.

“They’re not indie pop but I think it is quite good when they’re lots of genres muddled up, when there’s just too many bands that play D, A and G, and have pretty poppy songs in can be quite grinding, it gives a bit of variety.”

Obviously there’s some joy in the fact that she finds herself here in Glasgow tonight, it’s no secret that Amelia is a massive fan of The Pastels, in fact I had to drag her away from a conversation with Stephen Pastel just minutes before, and now London based Glasgow indie pop act Veronica Falls list highly among her current favourite bands.

This is Tender Trap’s first show in the city, odd considering they’ve been going a few years now and Amelia’s old bands were regular visitors.

“It’s really interesting because we’ve not been here for such a long time that we weren’t really sure other than we knew that this fantastic café was here,” comments Amelia.

“Originally we played in Glasgow quite a lot, Talulah Gosh was on 53rd and 3rd which was based in Edinburgh, whenever we came up we played in Glasgow as well, so we used to come up a lot, even Heavenly came up a fair amount.

“I don’t know why we haven’t been up with Tender Trap, it’s ridiculous really, it’s just a long way and we’ve not been travelling as far as we used to but I’m really please we came now”

She gleams when she talks about bands that inspired her even before she formed Talulah Gosh and continue to do so on Tender Trap’s latest record: “Some of the bands who have most inspired me have come from Glasgow, so The Pastels and even before that Orange Juice were a huge inspiration.

“In fact our new album, it doesn’t sound anything like this, but our original idea was that it should sound like Orange Juice with fuzzy guitars, if our last album was girl groups then when felt we could go back, well I’m not sure what direction, but to Orange Juice.”

She has some interesting views when it comes to the Glasgow scene back when she was regular visitor too: “Glasgow was very good at connecting what was going in England to what was going on in America.

“In some ways, I think Glasgow is more US facing than London, but it also knows about London, I think it’s that melding that has always been very powerful, Orange Juice loved American soul at the same time as they loved punk.”

She clearly has a real passion for the scene she has given so much to and has given her so much back, and is eager to see it flourish: “I know Veronica Falls were originally from here and they’re brilliant and they’re getting younger people excited about this kind of genre, they’re our band, or the girls in our bands, favourite band at the moment.”

Indie pop seems to have come and gone in many pockets of the UK since Amelia and co first started, she seems to think it’s all at random where the genre may become popular next: “I’ve seen particular places come in and out of indie pop fashion, in the way they think indie pop is fashionable.

“It used to be you play Derby and millions of people would turn up, but I haven’t heard of anybody playing Derby recently, my guess is if you played there now no one would come because the scene has died.

“Very often these scenes really depend on a few people exciting a few other people, exciting a few other people etc and it grows on a local basis and suddenly you’ve got a whole bunch of people that love a particular thing, so you can go to Bristol and feel like a pop star and everyone wants to see you and you go and play Bath and there’s nothing.

“I don’t think it’s a cycle, I think it’s just random, it’s where things start to happen and they build and then it’ll die again because people grow up and they have kids and they stop doing it and no one takes on the mantle.”

Just as we’re about to tie things and up so Amelia can go back to catch up with Stephen and I can go and tolerate the rain, we get a very clear insight of what Amelia is to this scene.

One of the members of Welsh indie pop act The Pooh Sticks, who Amelia has performed with on numerous occasions, drunkenly approaches us and after giving us an in depth description of how much he loves Barcelona’s pop darlings Cola Jet Set, he leaves us with: “Let me tell you something about Amelia, Ameila is the goddess of indie pop, globally!

“We were playing at a festival in Derby and we all kind of walked on stage and no one cared then Amelia walked on and 1,500 people wet their pants.”

Photos: Michael Village

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