“I definitely didn’t expect to still be going twenty-four years later, otherwise I would have come up with a better name!”
Retrospect can be a funny thing. It can be a fond remembrance of days gone by, or a look at something now lost: it can be a memorial to something that shaped you, or an intrusive app on your phone annoying you first thing in the morning. In this case, retrospect takes the form of cult indie-pop heroes Milky Wimpshake choosing to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their first full-length album, Bus Route to Your Heart, with a short series of anniversary concerts, including an appearance at The Cumberland Arms alongside Life Model and Tough Tits on Friday 10th February.
Milky Wimpshake’s guitarist and frontman Pete Dale is charmingly open and direct about the thinking behind this tour and how it differs from other retrospective tour packages:
“Well, the short answer is that I noticed twenty years was up and thought it’d be fun. I do think that these commemoration tours by Pixies or whoever can be quite a cash in, and it shocks me how much some bands who used to be affiliated to punk rock can charge for a ticket to see the supposed legends haul their middle-aged arses on to stage to relive the magic in some spurious way – but tickets for these gigs will be cheap) because we always have low doors prices and lo-fi aesthetics, and this will be much the same. It’s being done for fun, not for money, which is the way we’ve always been. Also, we just did an album [2015’s Encore, Un Effort!] and a couple of tours with Sophie Evans of Life Model guesting on vocals, so I fancied stripping back down to one voice, one guitar, bass and drums for the older fans.”
Well, we had no interest whatsoever in Britpop, none at all: we felt that was a completely different world
At this point, Milky Wimpshake are a much-loved firmament in the indie pop canon, with a reputation as the band that kept the C86 flame burning amidst the Britpop tidal wave. Dale notes however that this was never a deliberate intention for Wimpshake: “Well, we had no interest whatsoever in Britpop, none at all: we felt that was a completely different world. I was 26 when we put the album out and had grown up on the C86 indie pop of the eighties, so I was partly harking back to that stuff. At that time, C86 was deeply unfashionable and I was even kind of in denial that I had been really into that stuff, but the influence leaked through naturally I guess, because you seem to be able to hear it and a bunch of people have said that to me over the years. It was just indie/punk really, with no big message, just a throwaway LP which ended up selling a thousand on vinyl, five hundred on CD and then another couple of hundred CDs when I re-issued it a few years ago. I’ll make another few hundred to sell on this tour: people seem to like the album, so I like to keep it in press!”
Indeed, it becomes evident that deliberation has never been the band’s speciality as Dale recounts the band’s accidental formation. “What happened in 1993 was, I had just left a band called Razorblade Smile which had been getting a national profile – an NME interview, Peel rotation, all that- and wanted to do something spontaneous and fun as opposed to serious and careerist. I met a drummer called Joey Ramone – real name, changed by deed poll – so she and I jumped on stage an improvised a twenty-minute set having only met the night before! This was the first Wimpshake gig in August 1993: we then did a cassette album as a duo, roped in Christine on bass guitar in 1994 and Christine is still playing with me today but we’ve had about eight different drummers over the years.”
I’m fairly proud of it, there’s the odd embarrassing lyric but there’s definitely some good lines there too, and some decent melodies as well
Milky Wimpshake have gone on to produce many loved albums since their unintentional beginning – this writer would probably plump for My Funny Social Crime as pick of the crop – but it’s Bus Route to Your Heart that still holds a special place for many of their fans. When asked about how he views the record today, Dale is magnanimous. “I’m fairly proud of it, there’s the odd embarrassing lyric but there’s definitely some good lines there too, and some decent melodies as well. I can’t manage to do Mon Coeur Bat Plus Rapidment Que la Techno in French – I had to do it from a lyric sheet that a French tour agent had done as a translation to facilitate his booking of a tour for us before – so I’ll have to do that one in the original English for the tour, but most of the songs I’m really looking forward to singing live. Steve Lamacq played Bedroom Love Song on his radio show when the album came out, but we’ve never even played it live: I thought the song was daft and too throwaway and didn’t care that folk might have heard it on the radio. We’ve never cared about a career in the business and we still don’t, but it’ll be fun to play the song live.”
It’s important to note that this tour doesn’t mean Wimpshake have headed down the nostalgia path for good. Dale informs us, “I’ve written a few new songs lately, including one called Capitalism is a Perversion, so I hope there could be a new album this year or next if we can find a new label after the sad demise of Fortuna Pop.” Twenty and not out: not bad for a band formed by accident.