There’s every chance Kenickie have featured on the blog before as part of one or more posts in which multiple bands were mentioned, but if the index is accurate, they have never had a post devoted solely to their activities.
Formed in Sunderland in the north-east of England in 1994, the band would release two albums and nine singles/EPs before calling it a day in 1998.
Laura Gofton, Emma Jackson and Marie Nixon had become friends during their schooldays, but it was when Gofton was at City of Sunderland College that she suggested the three of them, along with her older brother Peter, form a band. The girls were all aged sixteen and Peter was eighteen. All of them took stage names – Lauren Laverne, Emmy-Kate Montrose, Marie du Santiago and Johnny X. The name of their band was taken from a character in the film Grease.
The debut EP, Catsuit City, came out on Slampt Records, an indie label based in Newcastle, another city in the north-east of England. It was enough for Alan McGee to offer a contract with Creation Records, but the band turned him down. Instead, for their second EP, Skillex, they went for a one-off with Fierce Panda, a then fairly new London-based indie label. Skillex was issued just after the band had supported The Ramones at a gig in London and the female members had just completed their A-Levels.
They were attracting a lot of media attention, with a number of musicians singing their praises. The decision was taken to become the first band to sign with EMI Disc, an imprint of the major label that had been launched by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs of Saint Etienne. The first couple of singles for the new label stalled outside the Top 40, but there was better luck in January 1997 when In Your Car reached #24 and got the band on Top of The Pops. The follow-up single, Nightlife, also went into the Top 30 while debut album, At The Club, entered the Top 10 on the week of its release in May 1997.
It was proving to be catchy and infectious music, seemingly celebrating life as happy-go-lucky late teens, made by a group of close-knit, street-wise, articulate and intelligent friends. The blend of pop with an indie-twinge maybe wasn’t ground-breaking by any stretch of the imagination but the songs, on closer inspection, often had a dark edge to them with lyrics reflecting on the fact that nights out didn’t always go as planned and that being a teenager brings its own set of unique and what feel like unsolvable problems. They must have been something of a godsend to teen fans of a certain temperament, in much the same way as Soft Cell had been to the likes of me when some fifteen years or so previously.
It all burned and crashed rather quickly. The later singles weren’t big hits, and the increasing pressures placed on them by the label and management saw the band respond with a number of new songs which were critical of the music industry and the way girl groups were packaged and marketed. The second album, Get In, was released in September 1998 and reached #32. The band, having undertaken the promotional tour for the record, came to the view that it was no longer any fun and called it a day before the year was out.
Lauren Laverne has enjoyed an incredibly successful career and profile post-Kenickie, primarily as a radio DJ and television presenter, but also as a writer and author. She hosts the breakfast show daily on BBC 6 Music and also currently presents Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4, a music/chat show that is a mainstay of broadcasting here in the UK, having first aired in 1942.
Emmy-Kate Montrose and Marie du Santiago have forged careers in academia, while Johnny X is still part of the music industry as a performer and a lecturer at a college in the south of England.
Here’s a small selection of Kenickie tunes to either reminisce over or to use as a way of introducing yourself to the band:-
mp3: Kenickie – How Was I Made (from Skillex EP)
mp3: Kenickie – Punka (debut single for EMI Disc)
mp3: Kenickie – In Your Car (first Top 30 single)
mp3: Kenickie – Come Out 2 Nite (from the album At The Club)
mp3: Kenickie – Nightlife (second Top 30 single)
mp3: Kenickie – Stay In The Sun (the final single)
mp3: Kenickie – Run Me Over (from the album Get In)