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INTERVIEW: The Lovely Wars

Since The Pipettes’ last album, Ani Saunders has moved back to Cardiff and begun working on a new Pop project, The Lovely Wars. This lively five-piece are releasing their debut EP July 1st on their own Ilow Records. Featuring the infectious ‘Young Love’ and a new mix of the energetic ‘Let’s Blow The Whole Thing Up’ (the first version is available for free download here at their Soundcloud page), this is exciting POP that’s sure to be stuck in your head for days on end. The EP launch will be at Gwdihŵ Café Bar, Cardiff on Thursday, July 4th. Ani was nice enough to email with us about art and Pop music.

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Tell us a little about The Lovely Wars.

Ani: When The Pipettes were active, I was living in London with my sister and life was quite busy but when it all became quiet and I moved back to Cardiff I was a bit at a loss as to what I was going to do and who I could work with. I hadn’t ever really been that heavily involved in the music scene prior to joining The Pipettes, though I was in a girl band in Liverpool when I was a student… that was fun! So when I came back to Cardiff I was trying to find my feet creatively and trying to find a direction and I suppose a reason to be making music and art again. It’s really hard to make anything without even a vague sense of vision and I was at that point for quite a while. Annoying! I was also still in contact with the brilliant Martin Rushent, who produced the Pipettes’ second album, and we were planning to work on some music together. I created The Lovely Wars as, I suppose, a creative platform to work from… or if I’m honest, an idea to hide behind. It’s much easier to apply ideas and ideals to something outside of yourself, it’s far more liberating and if it happens to be a disaster, you can pretend it never happened!

I studied fashion at university and am a keen illustrator and so while I was still thinking about what kind of music I wanted to make I decided that I should take up drawing again and I’m so pleased that I did as it’s opened many doors. I owe a lot to the Peski Rcords crew for giving me great opportunities to work with them. Diolch! When we lost Martin in 2011, a great friend who had given me so much time and encouragement, as a reaction and instinctively I started manically writing music. I managed to pull together a few songs and convinced a couple of old school friends, Alice and Ceri, that they should join the band and then a little later Bill and Dan. It took a while for us to find our feet but it’s great to be a part of a team again. You get to hang out with your mates, it’s pretty cool really. I do think that it’s highly unlikely that I would have started The Lovely Wars if it wasn’t for Martin Rushent.

Where does the name come from?

The name came around when I was looking into old British music hall and variety. I always find that humour is really important in art, you can’t take yourself too seriously and there was a lot of this around during this time. Oh! It’s a Lovely War!, the satirical musical made in 1965 by Joan Littlewood and the Theatre Workshop, really appealed to me and I was really inspired by the way in which it cleverly discusses and presents hard-hitting topics by using humour and I wanted to try and re-create this with The Lovely Wars in some way.

Wars, blowing things up, ‘Love and Dancing/Cariad a Dawnsio’. This is quite an explosive vision of life you’re presenting, an ecstatic chaos. Is that what you’re after with the band?

I think so, that’s a good way of putting it. Though it’s nothing new, I really like the idea of using instantly appealing music and humour as a cloak to disguise darker topics. Another thing that was really important to me was to make music and songs that were at least vaguely socially and politically aware but also to keep a firm grasp of my roots to reflect life in Cardiff…. of course I do sing about boys too.

‘Young Love’ has been stuck in my head ever since hearing it last week. Tell us about writing the song.

Thank you, that’s very kind! I usually write songs on the way to work, the music and the lyrics generally come to me at the same time. I particularly remember writing this and thinking “what would Martin (Rushent) say…?” and then imagining him saying “…it needs another hook, it needs a chorus, move that bit there….”. It’s one of the few songs that came quite naturally, it wasn’t too difficult to write. Keeping Martin in mind is a good way of writing pop songs!

You’ve done artwork for other bands. What are your favourite covers that you’ve drawn?

I’ve done a few pieces, the first was an EP cover for Welsh electronic artist Plyci on Peski Records. Though I’ve developed quite a bit since then, it really helped me to define my style and I think it was a turning point for me. I received very kind feedback and so it really encouraged me to continue.

How do you divide your time between drawing and music? Do you see many similarities between the way you approach each?

When it comes to drawing, I have a terrible habit of committing myself to too many projects and the drawings take so long for me to complete that I always have one on the go. Drawing comes naturally to me where as I have to work really hard at music. I have far more technical restrictions when it comes to music but I just love it so generally, if I’m having a non-productive day with songwriting I always tend to fall back on the drawing.

Recently you saw R. Stevie Moore play and he signed a drawing you did of him. What was that like?

He was fascinating to watch, very close to being one of the best gigs that I’ve even been to. It wasn’t just about the songs and the music, it was more about the energy of the performance and the respect the audience had for him, it created a wonderful atmosphere.

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On your site I was very much intrigued by your three language poems. Is this something you’re still doing? How do you feel your relationship to language affects you as a songwriter?

My parents are both linguists and my Dad is a Cornish poet and so languages as a means of expression has always played an important part in our lives growing up. It’s not something I’ve studied much but I find etymology extremely fascinating, in an awfully cheesy way, learning how words have developed into their present form makes you have a little more respect for the language you speak. We speak Welsh and Cornish as a family, my education was through the medium of Welsh and my knowledge of Cornish, until very recently, was mainly by ear. I have however found that if you have a limited knowledge of a language or a specific discipline, as long as you’re always open to learning more, you can sometimes manipulate what little knowledge you have to create something new and interesting.

I notice that you post things in both Welsh and English and you’ve posted how keeping the Welsh language alive is important to you. Care to say more about this.

Keeping the Welsh language alive is very important but I think for me personally, it’s more about me being honest about who I am. English and the West have such a strong and dominant culture and so without even realising it, if you leave the small country with the minority language, you can almost forget that it exists as it’s hardly acknowledged outside its own walls. It’s only when you leave and then return to become a part of it again that you realise quite how important it is to maintain your cultural identity.

Have you been involved in any other musical projects besides The Lovely Wars and The Pipettes?

I was in a girl band called Genie Queen when I was a student in Liverpool. It didn’t come to much but it was my first real interaction with pop music. It was managed by Andy McCluskey of OMD who is a fantastic songwriter and someone that I have great respect for and so it was a great starting point for me and gave me a great insight. Strangely enough, it was around the same time that my sister, Gwenno, joined The Pipettes. We also played with The Pipettes on a few occasions which was brilliant. I’m also currently planning on a new Welsh electronic project, it’s really important for me to keep working on new projects and to find interesting collaborations. It keeps you on your toes.

I always say that there’s something about a really great pop song that’s akin to the feeling you have after you’ve first kissed someone you really fancy. What do you think is inherent in all great Pop music? Or any similar comparisons?

For me as a pop music fan, I think sincerity and a true passion for the genre are two very important ingredients that are needed to create a great pop song. Obviously composition plays a very big part; though lyrics are important to me, they don’t always need to be that well crafted to appeal. It’s more than that, a great pop song needs to have a sense of familiarity to it. It’s that nostalgic take on the present or future that makes something appear timeless, the idea of creating a song or music that will last is something worth striving for. I’m still really interested in the ever-evolving social climates which allow certain types of art forms to thrive, I think that’s why I love pop music and fashion so much. They’re always a reflection of society, they’re meant for everyone, and trying to tap into that and figure out the reasoning behind it is quite an interesting challenge.

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And my standard last question – Say you’ve stolen a space shuttle and are flying it directly into the sun, for whatever reason you might have. What would you want the soundtrack to be?

I think if I was stealing a space shuttle, if I wasn’t caught (which I definitely would be – I’m a rubbish liar and an even worse thief!) I would certainly need something calming. I especially like the murder scenes in Inspector Morse when they play Wagner or Opera, I think something classical would work. Probably Sibelius and maybe a Britney Spears track on standby. Classic.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.