Girl Power! part one – The Pipettes
by: Diego Martínez
July 12, 2012
Groups fronted by women go a long way. Ever since our mothers dreamt about gangsta lovers a-la The Shangrilas or when they stared at themselves in the mirror, comb in hand, extending their arm to plea a stop sign in the name of love, just like Diana Ross and her Supreme pals Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. Even during the ‘jazz age’ and the first 50 years of the 20th Century there were young females who sang through our darkest hours. And there we were, clapping along. Oh, those were the good old days of dames singing catchy tunes, taking orders and putting out a happy face for the world to see.
Nowadays, however, things have taken a turn. Like their contemporary men peers, women are in charge of their creative destiny, proving each and every time how credible and authentic they can really be. Most all-female bands are now self produced; they write their own songs, play their own instruments and figure out their dance moves if they have to. In the spirit of our just-released WOMAN issue, The WILD has searched far and wide and gathered the opinion of four girl groups. Four different approaches to the fact that women still run the show in their own sweet way: The Pipettes, Girl In A Coma, Stone Darlings and Au Revoir Simone.
Part one, The Pipettes:
It’s been a while since we last heard from you girls, what have you been up to so far?
Gwenno: Well we’ve all been involved in other projects. Ani’s started a band called The Lovely Wars, I’ve been touring with Pnau and recording my debut album, Bobby is busy writing a book called ‘The Music Of The Future,’ Seb has been busy working as a live sound engineer for various bands, we’ve all been busy bees!
The lineup of The Pipettes has undergone some changes over the years, from the first album up to now. As a duo and as sisters, it is safe to say you work together in a better way than it used to be for the band in the beginning?
Gwenno: I wouldn’t say better, just different! I think that the beauty of being part of a concept band is that it creates more space for diversity within the group of people creating it. And so, it’s always been exciting in that way as everyone that’s been in the band have shared similar principles yet have brought very different ideas to the table.
For those who are somehow unaware of you, particularly in the States, how would you describe the music of The Pipettes?
Gwenno: I’d say that we’re best known for being a 60s Girl Group concept band.
I read in previous interviews, made during the time of “We Are The Pipettes,” that you all took pride of being sort of “self-manufactured.” Years later, do you still feel that way?
Gwenno: We are what we are and we’ve always been very open about that! And in a way, it’s slightly odd saying it now as the pop world has essentially come round to that way of thinking, and we were saying it at a time when ‘authentic’ was fashionable. Look at Lady Gaga, or Lana Del Rey, they are very self-aware and self-manufactured and extremely successful. We wanted to be in control of our own manufacturing, Women sell records so you may as well be in charge of it.
Are your voices heard when it comes to make decisions like which songs to write on the albums, or which single is to be released or which is the way you’d like to present yourselves in the videos?
Gwenno: Absolutely. But, at the same time, it is ‘The Pipettes’ and so a certain aesthetic works best. Whenever we’ve deviated from the original aesthetic then it hasn’t resonated but you can’t please everyone all the time!
What do you love most about the aesthetic and overall sound of the 50s and 60s?
Gwenno: There’s no denying that we are still living under the long shadow cast by the baby boomers. And the idea was to embrace that and try and approach it differently rather than reject it. And as women, it was also very important to try and do things in a way that the original Women couldn’t have done. The 50s and 60s are still incredibly prominent in our culture, even though it’s been done to death. I wonder, will we ever get past it?
Who are your musical heroines of that era?
Gwenno: Delia Derbyshire and all the wonderful girl group singers.
Is there a real camaraderie between you and your all-male backing band, The Cassettes?
Gwenno: Of course. We’ve tried to create a creative environment that’s as democratic as possible. And I think we should give credit to the Cassettes in that instance. It’s fantastic to be male and a feminist in this society.
What is your personal view on a pop music scene that’s currently dominated by women like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Adele?
Gwenno: Beyoncé is incredible, I adored Lady Gaga’s approach to being a Female ‘Pop Star,’ in that she came along and completely destroyed the old notions of what that should be and made it as confrontational and almost un-sexy as possible. Adele obviously has a brilliant voice, she’s really great, but I wonder if we’re approaching an era where music becomes ‘authentic’ again? I’m not sure how exciting those times are when they come along…
What does the future hold for The Pipettes?
Gwenno: I guess we’ll see! We need to go away and do other things I think, then we’ll be ready to come back and re-group.
Finally, what is your WILD wish?
Gwenno: An end to this hideous capitalist system we’re living in would be a pretty good one, wouldn’t it?!