Siobhan and Marcella on “laying the ghosts of the past to rest “
Just over 30 years ago, Shakespears Sister breezed into the top ten with their first single ‘You’re History’ and set into motion a perfect and peculiar pop sensation. Originally seen as a solo project for ex-Bananarama Siobhan Fahey, she teamed up songwriter and musician Marcella Detroit to knock up a few tunes. Together, their reign saw them produce a couple of albums and an armful of smash hit singles, as well as the record-breaking No.1 single ‘Stay’.
The collision of Marcella’s lungs and Siobhan’s kookiness may have played out like some campy hyper glam take on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, but the drama became all too real when, collecting an award for Hormonally Yours at the Ivor Novellos in 1993 Siobhan’s publisher basically dismissed and binned Marcella (who was sitting in the audience) from the band, and, understandably, neither spoke to each other from that point on.
So, when the announcement came that Shakespears Sister were back. Back. BACK! earlier this year, it felt like a genuinely joyous and unexpected thrill. SDE joined Marcella and Siobhan on the phone during a break from rehearsals for their upcoming tour, to have a quick chat about their rebirth and future plans for one of the once thought unlikeliest reunions in pop…
SuperDeluxeEdition: So, the inevitable first question… How does it feel to be back?
Siobhan Fahey: Back in the saddle? Yes, it feels completely natural and wonderful. Marcy is getting a divorce and we’re getting married!
SDE: Have you been feeling the love? There’s been a wave of it since your return.
SF: It’s been really gratifying and amazing that people still remember and love us from so long ago. That our records from back then – people still play them and are affected by them, and they love the new material too, which is little bit of a departure
Marcella Detroit: Oh yeah, it’s been incredible.
SDE: Is this reunion about celebrating the past or a new future?
SF: I think both really. We didn’t really want to come back and do the retro thing at all, and we were keen with our reunion to do some new songs – which we love – and it just feels fresh and exciting and new.
SDE: The new songs seem to sit in quite naturally with your previous stuff – was that the intention, or is that just how you two write?
SF: I think it’s just the way we write together. We’ve got a sound which is me and Marcy and whatever style we do, be it punk or soul or country…
MD: Or rock
SF: Or rock… we’ve explored many different genres but it always sounds like Shakespears Sister’s take on those different genres.
SDE: Who made the first move in terms of getting back together?
M: Well, I’d reached out to Siobhan a few times – this is Marcy by the way, the one with the American accent – I reached out to Siobhan a few times over the years, but it just didn’t happen and then last year we got a call from our manager asking if we’d like to meet up, so Siobhan and I met up for tea, coffee…
SF: I didn’t get the call from the manager.
MD: I did, I got the call. Asking if Siobhan and me wanted to meet up, so we made a plan and met up in, not this May, May last year (2018) and we met up in LA in this little coffee shop and had a talk.
SF: I’d finally found the courage to grasp the nettle and confront the past and I was so very happy that I was able to do that, and it brought a whole new wave of creativity and a reconnection with what we did together and to celebrate that and enjoy that again.
MD: It was quite unique to have such diverse influences and we meet and connect somewhere and create something really unique, so it’s cool.
SDE: Even if you didn’t reconnect to do music, was rebuilding the relationship something that you’d wanted to do?
MD: Yeah, sure.
SF: Our initial meeting was about laying the ghosts of the past to rest and getting rid of all the ill feeling that inadvertently built up through a lack of communication, and that was something that both of us were physically carrying heavily around. As you get older you just don’t want to lug that stuff around with you. It’s just good to make your peace with your past.
SDE: Did getting back with the Bananarama get you more in the mood for it, Siobhan?
SF:Yeah definitely. That was such a joyful experience. It was reclaiming a part of myself that I’d left down the road, and I had another part of myself I’d left down the road that I needed to reclaim too to make myself whole again.
SDE: What was the process of getting back together? Did you each have some songs or started completely fresh?
SF: Basically, we booked an Air BNB in the desert and threw ourselves in at the deep end with a blank slate and with some ideas of what sound we wanted to make. We played each other records and discussed the musical direction and sound and that inspired the songs. We wrote the first two songs in the first four days that we were out there, we wrote ‘All The Queen’s Horses’ and ‘C U Next Tuesday’, both of which we loved and we thought ‘wow’ that we still had this special connection as writers, and as artists it was just really joyful.
MD: It was great. I brought y little portable studio and set it up and we just did it that way. Music software, a computer and some instruments and just started coming out with ideas. Like we did Hormonally Yours, me and Siobhan started that in my analogue studio back then, so yeah, much the same process but a different time.
SDE: Did you feel like there was no pressure this time around, with the record company pressuring to come up with the hits?
SF: I don’t think that was a pressure back then, we just came out with some very quirky records that we wrote back in ’92.
MD: Yeah, definitely.
SF: I think that there are less people around us now, it’s just us two with a whole new understanding of each other. Back then there were different managements and camps, and that never really reared its head in any way while we were writing. We were always pretty autonomous when we were creating.
SDE: So there’s a new EP and the tour, can we look forward to a new album?
SF: I’d love that definitely.
MD: We’ll see, as right now we only had time to do an EP with our initial writing sessions, and the time we’ve had, we had to come over here and do promotion and the big announcement that we were back together, so there’s really been no time to do more than an EP, but you know, we’ll see what happens. We have our EP coming out – on vinyl – it’s really amazing and looks fantastic.
SF: Great artwork, great production – it sounds amazing. Produced by Nick Launay, mixing by Alan Moulder who always mixed Shakespears Sister. I think we’re the only – I’m not sure you’d call us ‘pop’, but pop loosely speaking – but both of them are more rock and roll producers and mixers, and the record just sounds amazing.
SDE: I like how you’ve gone for a physical object, as it’s very easy to just bung a tune online
SF: Oh my God it’s so brilliant that we’re releasing it on vinyl. It was always so sad to see vinyl replaced by CDs, I thought it was such a con. Vinyl is vastly superior, but a little less portable, but it’s a really beautiful object. Because vinyl has made such a return we had to book the pressing plant six months in advance, which was another reason why we really wanted to get new material out for the tour, which is another reason why there wasn’t time to do a whole album as well.
SDE: I suppose as you had only the two albums and they were so spot on and perfectly enshrined the whole Shakespears Sister sound and outlook, that you didn’t end up having to dilute your vision over the years.
MD: Oh thank you.
SF: Aw thanks. We’re actually finding it difficult to keep the show to an hour and a half, and there’s so many songs to choose from and we can’t do them all!
SDE: You look like you’re really enjoying it judging by the Sophie Muller videos
SF: Oh yeah they’re fantastic aren’t they. And we’re very lucky to have her as like a visual third member as her videos have been so groundbreaking a crucial part of our artistic output. I was so happy when I played her the demo of ‘Queen’s Horses’, and she went “Oh I’ll make the video!” and I was like “Yeah!” There’s no one else to do it really.
SDE: I guess there’s that shared experience and humour and that you didn’t need to have to explain yourselves to a new director
SF: Yeah, she’s always creatively fed off the relationship between me and Marcy’s unusual relationship and brought out this ludicrous humour in that. She was very interested in trying to recreate that in the video, that very first meeting again!
SDE: Are there any plans to bring the first two albums out as expanded editions or vinyl?
SF: There is! Absolutely. Apparently around about Christmas time. On vinyl.
SDE: Great news. I recall there was some issue about reissues a few years ago, with Cherry Red and Sacred Heart? [readers should see this post for context – Ed]
SF: Oh I didn’t know anything about that.
MD: Me neither.
SDE: What was it like having ‘Stay’ at No.1 for eight weeks? I can imagine there was a ‘yay!’ when it reached there, but how was it come week five or six?
SF: Getting to No.1 was surreal.
MD: Couldn’t believe it really. After week four and it kept staying there and selling.
SF: And we’d be going back to Top of the Pops week after week, ‘here they are again’ ‘Yes it’s us! We’re back again!’
MD: It was really cool. You have to be grateful for that level of attention that happens with a mega-hit that still holds the record for the longest running number one for a female band in the UK to this day.
MD:We’re really proud of that.
SDE: Does it surprise you that you haven’t been beaten after all this time, even by things like the Spice Girls?
SF: Oh yes, I mean there’s not been that many records that have been No.1 for eight weeks by any artist, so I guess it’s a pretty difficult record to beat. But it’s incredible, I mean, what was it, a couple of decades ago?
MD: 1992, so it is incredible that no one has come along and broke that record, but no!
SDE: Don’t worry, 1992 seems only like three weeks ago to me
SF: I know!
SDE: What can we expect from the live shows? Is it a full band or something more theatrical?
SF:We’ve always been a spit and sawdust rock and roll band live, haven’t we?
MD: uh huh
SF: It’s the same set-up as what we went out with back in ’92, drums, bass, additional guitar and keyboard and it’s a fantastic band.
MD: It’s sounding great. We’re in rehearsals right now.
SDE: It must be great to feed off each other’s energies in a band
SF: Oh my God, your own songs live with a full band is one of the best experiences in the world and we’re going to share those songs with people that love them and still love them to this day. I think it’s like a group soul when you go to a gig, it speaks from the soul and to the soul. It’s gonna be pretty… I think I’ll get emotional.
MD: It will be amazing. I suspect on the first night – I don’t know what that’s going to be like, you know, try not to have too many expectations.
SF: Of the original band from ’92, our bass player Clare was quite emotional when she first heard about it, and we’ve got a special guest on additional guitar – Marcy plays guitar and harmonica – but we’ve got Marco Pirroni who was in Adam & The Ants, so he hasn’t played in a band for 20 years, so he’s coming out of retirement especially for us.
SDE: Are you hoping to record on the road, so to speak?
MD: No. It’s three nights on and one off, it’s going to be pretty intense.
SF: I know they say women can multi-task but I’m not one of them!
SDE: Is there a message to the fans you’d like to impart?
SF: Thank you… Thank you for your interest
MD: Yeah, and your support over the years. We have some fans who are diehard fans who have been there all this time
SF: And they’re still here now
MD: We really appreciate that
SF: It’s really moving actually that our music means so much to so many people, it’s been quite a discovery really.
SDE: I suppose it’s been great in recent years with things such as social media, is that fans can parade their passion and show their support
SF: That’s really, I suppose, how we know, and we get a much more direct reaction from the fanbase. It’s complimentary and supportive and excited and that’s amazing.
Thanks to Siobhan and Marcella who were talking to Ian Wade for SDE.
The Ride Again EP is released today. Ordered a SIGNED copy of the white vinyl edition from the SDE shop using this link or the button below.The UK tour starts in Nottingham on 31 October.