Today, the blog is devoted to the continued adventures of The Three Masketeers.
Having, successfully I would argue, come up with a definitive 12-track ICA looking at the career of Amelia Fletcher, our swashbuckling trio of Don Diego de la Vega, Eustache Duager and Kathy Kane, have set out on a quest to obtain an exclusive interview with another stalwart of the scene that was so wrongly labelled and maligned as ‘twee’ by the UK music press.
The next four paragraphs should, I feel, be read out loud, using the range and timbre of an esteemed narrator of your choice…..I’m personally going for Stephen Fry.
SF: Sarah Records. An indie-label from Bristol, England with a distinctive, influential and rich legacy. It existed between 1987 and 1995, offering up exactly 100 releases, the vast majority being 7″ singles, all of which attract silly money on the second-hand market.
The Three Musketeers are of the view that many of the musicians most closely associated with Sarah are still making wonderful pop music. If you don’t believe them, then I respectfully suggest that you take yourself in the direction of Under The Bridge, a compilation album being issued by Skep Wax Records which is due to be released this coming Friday, on 17 March 2022. (https://www.skepwax.com/ndrthebridge)
It could be said that it’s a reunion of sorts. The album is made up of fourteen entirely new songs. Six of them are by bands who are still going all these years later. The remaining eight are by bands where different line-ups have evolved over time. Some musicians will be featuring with more than one band.
One of those making multiple appearances is Beth Arzy, thanks to her being part of The Luxembourg Signal and Jetstream Pony. Beth has very generously given of her time to talk to The Three Masketeers about her many years as a musician and her involvement with Under The Bridge.
TTM : Hi Beth. A huge thanks for agreeing to chat with us and allowing the conversation to be shared with the readers of The Vinyl Villain blog. Many of the readers and regular contributors to this little corner of the internet will may only know vaguely of your name and the bands you’ve been part of over many years, so if you don’t mind, a couple of quick questions about yourself and how you became a musician
First of all, where did you grow up?
Beth: Hi – Thank you for the questions! Growing up I was bounced around a lot between Florida and California in the USA., but I’ve now been in London, England for the past 22 years.
TTM: When growing up what bands were your favourites and which most helped shape your love of music?
Beth: My first favourites (aged 5 onwards) were The Monkees, Helen Reddy, Glenn Campbell, The Bugaloos and The Wombles. Then I was kind of into Olivia Newton John and Kenny Rogers when I was 10, then as a pre-teen fell hard for Nik Kershaw and Duran Duran.
When I was around 15 I heard my first Jesus and Mary Chain song and that was it, the next few years were all about Bauhaus, The Jam and The Jesus and Mary Chain and the rest was history. Love of tambourine = The Monkees, love of fuzzy guitars = JAMC, love of moody synths = DD.
TTM: Your first band was Aberdeen, whose initial 7″ EPs, ‘Byron’ (1994) and ‘Fireworks’ (1995) are part of the Sarah Records discography. How did it come about that a band from California came to the attention of a record label based more than 5,000 miles away?
Beth: Sarah Records came to my attention when a friend in California, (Brandt), would have house parties and showcase all his recent Parasol Records acquisitions.
Parasol was a mail order record shop run by an amazing human called Angie Heaton who was also an epic musician. You’d ring up and Angie would just talk for hours about all the latest indie-pop singles and Brandt would buy most of them and play them for us; most of them being on Sarah Records.
TTM: LTM Recordings issued ‘What Do I Wish For Now?’ an Aberdeen retrospective album in 2006. It is a bit intriguing that one of the reviews described you as sounding like a mix of Galaxie 500 and Trembling Blue Stars, especially given the fact that you joined the latter band at the turn of the century, and played with them until they called it a day in 2010. What are your favourite memories and highlights of those ten years?
Beth: Running into Martin Freeman at a record shop was pretty cool. Oh, you mean in relation to Trembling Blue Stars?!!
The whole decade was a highlight! Getting to make music with people who were essentially The Field Mice is an all-time high! Getting to sing with Bobby Wratten and Anne Mari Davies is beyond an honour.
TTM: These days, you are involved with a multitude of bands, but in particular The Luxembourg Signal, which you formed in 2014 mostly with American friends, and also Jetstream Pony, who are based in the south of England and got together a few years later. I think it’s fair to say that you’ve worked with some incredibly talented folk right across the music business, so would you mind sharing a few words about some of them?
Beth: I think we formed Jetstream Pony in 2017 but that seems a long time ago now! I’d happily talk all day about the two bands I’m most involved in these days.
The Luxembourg Signal has Johnny Joyner who writes the music and was in the later incarnation of Aberdeen as was our drummer Brian Espinosa.
Brian’s wife Kelly Davis is also in the band, playing guitar, along with our friend Daniel Kumiega on bass, and Betsy Moyer who I sing with – she is the better voice on the records – and the line-up is completed by my long-suffering best mate Ginny Pitchford on keyboards.
For Jetstream Pony, Shaun Charman (guitars and backing vocals) writes most of the music and I write most of the lyrics, as well as playing keyboards and providing the lead vocals, but everyone does a little of everything. Shaun was the original drummer for The Wedding Present and still mates with the Gedgester, so we get to do nice things with them. Shaun and Kerry Boetcher (bass and backing vocals) were in a band together a long time ago called Turbocat, and we have two alternating drummers who are both EPIC – Tony Bryant who used to be in The Popguns and Hannes Müller who is in The BV’s.
Oh, Shaun was also in The Popguns at one point! What was the question again?!!!!
TTF: Thinking back to how and when it all started in California in the early 90s, did you ever imagine that, the best part of thirty years on, you and so many of your contemporaries would still be making great pop music, culminating in you being such an important part of the release of Under The Bridge, especially given the fact that The Luxembourg Signal have the all-important task of opening up the record with ‘Travel Through Midnight’?
Beth: Mates, I didn’t even think I’d be alive 30 years on! I know what you mean though, the opportunities just get better and better and the people I now call friends were heroes of my adolescence. I’m very lucky!
I still get butterflies in my tummy when I think that Amelia Fletcher even knows who I am, let alone that Jetstream Pony has played with Catenary Wires and Swansea Sound. *blush* And Rob. Sorry Rob. Rob too.
I think Travel Through Midnight is a great opening song for Under The Bridge. Betsy’s vocals are so transcendental, and the song just lets you know… this compilation is going to be something special!
TTF: Finally, there are a couple of all-day events in Bristol and London next month to support the release of the compilation. What are you most looking forward to from playing at those shows?
Beth: We (Jetstream Pony) get to play with some seriously great bands; bands I used to lie in my room when I was in my early 20s and listen to in California.
We are on the bill alongside The Catenary Wires, Secret Shine, St Christopher, The Orchids, Soundwire (ex-The Sweetest Ache) and Useless Users (Ex – Action Painting/current Secret Shine) at The Thunderbolt in Bristol on Saturday 23 April, and then a day later on we are in London at The Amersham Arms, playing again with The Orchids, Secret Shine, St Christopher, The Catenary Wires, and Sepia Sound (Paul from Blueboy). My old body can’t keep up with all the good times ahead!
TTF : Again, thank you so much, Beth, for giving so freely and generously of your time. It has been an absolute pleasure.
We agree that Travel Through Midnight is the perfect opener for the compilation album and sets the scene perfectly for something, which, as you say, is something special. We’re delighted that JC is giving us a third day on the blog tomorrow, specifically to offer up a review of Under The Bridge, but we will sign off today with some songs in which you’ve been involved with over the years.
Aberdeen – Byron
Trembling Blue Stars – Helen Reddy
The Luxembourg Signal – Distant Drive
Jetstream Pony – Self-Destruct Reality