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An Interview by Alexander Laurence

Sing-Sing is a two person band consisting of Lisa O'Neill on vocals and Emma Anderson on guitar. They have been together for about four years on a number of different labels. Lisa, who has sung with various artists like Kid Loco, was introduced to Emma by a mutual friend. Emma had been looking for a singer to work with since her former band Lush had disbanded in 1996. A shimmering future was born.

Lisa hooked them up with technical wizard Mark Van Hoen (Locust/Mojave 3) and they made a demo of four songs including the irresistible hit "Feels Like Summer." Emma's old friends Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins were the first to hear the results and agreed to put out a single on their own Bella Union label. Soon they were being offered gigs and a live band was needed.

In fall 2001, The Joy of Sing-Sing was released on Alan McGee's Poptones label followed by a tour of America in early 2002. Soon after, they were signed to Manifesto Records, and The Joy of Sing-Sing saw American release. I spoke to Emma Anderson for a few minutes before their soundcheck on their most recent tour.


AL: This is your second tour this year. How has the reaction been?

Emma: The reaction has been really good. We are playing with Venus Hum on the whole tour. They are really good. They are an American group. They are very electronic. It's just two guys with laptops and mixers and a girl singing.

AL: How did you get involved with Alan McGee and Poptones?

Emma: I have known Alan McGee for fourteen years now. We actually made the record for a different label. We parted with that label. We got the album back. We just needed someone to release it. So I sent it to Alan and he liked it. He is someone who I've known for a long time.

AL: What where you doing for the four years?

Emma: We have been putting out singles and going from label to label. We had a lot of crap to deal with. I am not going to lie. We left the Santuary label and had to sign contacts all over again and it took so long. The record was released finally in England late last year, and on Manifesto it's been out two months here.

AL: How do you write songs in the band? Did you write material before you joined forces?

Emma: We had written some songs but not a lot. I wrote "You Don't Know" before I had met Lisa. She wrote "I Can See You" before she had met me. Some of the songs that we co-wrote like "Tegan" and "I'll Be" have different writing processes behind them. I write songs on guitar. I usually get a melody first then put some chords around that.

AL: Many of the songs are about relationships?

Emma; Some of them. Not all of them. Lisa writes about that a lot especially when she is angry or frustrated with somebody. That helps her write a song.

AL: I saw the video for "Feel Like Summer." It's a song about an end of a relationship. The song sounds summery but the video is all very bleak with you two walking around at the beach.

Emma: Yeah. We actually released the video when we released the first single about four years ago. It's like an old video now. We are probably less fat in it.

AL: What is the song "Command" about?

Emma: Lisa wrote that one. It is about her boyfriend who is quite a reserved English guy, not very demonstrative with his emotions. That is about her frustration with that. That feeling of "If I could command you to say wonderful things I would."

AL: You had an incident with Lush and Elvis Herselvis in San Francisco? Elvis Herselvis is this well-known Bay Area lesbian Elvis impersonator.

Emma: It was Chris' birthday treat. It was a funny thing because there was a mixup. We were trying to get an Elvis lookalike to do a tribute. Two people went separately not knowing what the other was up to. One person got a normal male impersonator. The other got Elvis Herselvis. Both turned up that night. But they came on together and it was quite funny.

AL: There's a lot of feeling of John Barry, sixties french pop music in Sing-Sing?

Emma: I love John Barry. I quite like Françoise Hardy. Have you heard Margot Guryan? I think she's American actually. She's like breathy, sixties female pop singer. The guy who designed our album turned me on to Margot Guryan.

AL: What do your parents think about you doing music?

Emma: Both of my parents are dead actually. They were quite a lot older than me, even when I was born. They couldn't get their heads around what I was doing. They were from an early age. My dad was an army guard. They came around to it. My mom saw me on Top of The Pops and they eventually realized what I was doing all these years. They didn't have to worry.

AL: Are you playing at CMJ this year?

Emma: Yeah. We played it two years ago. Then we are doing it again this year. It was good. We played with Lupine Howl and Freeheat so it was a heavy bill. This time we are playing at Bowery Ballroom with The Music. It should be good.

AL: What should people expected when they come to see Sing-Sing?

Emma: Christmas lights and white clothes. That's what we wear onstage because we have funny projections. We might not bring the projections with us to New York.

AL: Do you have some new songs since the record?

Emma: We have a few. We are rotating them.

AL: Have you read any books recently?

Emma: I have read a book for a while which is really bad. I should read more but I haven't had any time.

AL: Do you have any hobbies?

Emma: Nothing weird. Just travel and cooking.

Website: www.sing-sing.co.uk



--Alexander Laurence

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