Part One of a two-part interview with Leeds band Chichino, who are set to release their new single "It Could Happen To You"
I met Chichino at the height of the English summer - grey, overcast and a fine light rain coating everything. Despite the weather they seemed to be enjoying themselves so after a few hellos we quickly escaped to the warm sanctuary of Aire.
After the usual (if you're as indecisive as me) discussion of where to sit, drinks buying, then not sitting where you decided originally, we pick a table and settle down for a bit of a catch up and a grilling for LMS.
(There follows a brief period of vocal testing, during which we all say numbers and hello repeatedly. This has no effect on the sound I realise now, as I was only wearing one headphone at the time)
LMS: Well, as a bit of an introduction why don't you tell us a bit about the band, the new bass player who's joined, the history up to now? Concisely mind...
Gary: We've been going since two thousand and four...
Narelle: Three. Two thousand and three.
Gary: Was it two thousand and three?
Narelle: Four years.
Gary: Yep we've been going since two thousand and three and erm...
Narelle: So we've been going since two thousand and three and four years later, now, we're releasing our second single with the record label we signed to, the Junk Label - signed with them last year. We recently recruited our new bass player, played his first gig with him in London on Saturday.
LMS: How did it go?
Gary: Yeah good.
Narelle: Really well.
Gary: Bit of a low key gig, it wasn't a big venue and it was quite an intimate place. It was good and John [Fowles, recently recruited bass maverick] played really well. And we're really pleased at the sound we've got with him and he's good on stage.
LMS: Excellent. Do you feel like part of the band?
John: Yeah, I mean I was brought in three weeks ago was it? And everything seems to have clicked perfect. Feels like I'm really part of the band.
Narelle: We feel like we've known him forever don't we?
LMS: You've always seemed very welcoming to me...
Narelle: We are. We're a welcoming, friendly band.
Gary: As soon as he'd joined though, like you asked me what we'd done since we started - we do that much that you can't remember everything and the few weeks since John's joined has has just been a really hectic time. He's had to just jump on board straight away and just be part of that right from the word go. He's had to practice with us to get the songs up to speed, do photo shoots with us - there are two photo shoots in the next couple of weeks and then down to London. We're doing a party next week, we've got the jazz festival in Leeds so there's that much happening it's a whirlwind for us.
LMS: Has a lot of this just kicked off since signing with the Junk Label?
Narelle: Yeah probably and then since we released the single back in February it kind of generated a bit more interest into us 'cos it got into the Indie Charts so it attracted people in the industry that maybe we wouldn't have attracted before - producers and suchlike, promoters, that type of people. So I think now it's taken us up to the next level. The next single hopefully, that will generate again more interest so we'll see how that goes. It has opened doors.
LMS: So what are you currently aiming for?
Gary: We're hoping to make a bigger dent in the charts than the last one. I mean the last one was a limited release and it did well, it made a dent in the charts, but we're just hoping to go a bit higher and see how far it can take us. Hopefully do well - it's doing well already [the current single] has had six remixes. It's currently being played on all the dance scenes around the country and in Ibiza as well. The feedback from the DJs so far has just been unbelievable. The quotes and everything that we've got from the DJs, it's hard to keep your feet on the ground when you get things like that - the dancefloors are really packing out to the remixes. And there's something for everybody; there's more commercial remixes and there's a few more hardcore remixes, so there's something for everybody and like I say the feedback's just been brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
LMS: I know in the past that you guys have been mixed up with a certain sandwich shop on Hyde Park Corner...
Narelle: [insert knowing chuckle here] We still get it now, but not as much. What's it called?
LMS/Gary/John: Chichini? Chichini yeah...
LMS: It's rubbish I've heard [there go my free sandwiches]
Narelle: I've never been.
John: I have...
Narelle: Have you?
John: I've been yeah. S'good.
Gary: Is it worth being endorsed by this?
John: Oh yeah, yeah, they make really nice sandwiches [free sandwiches back on the cards - nice work John].
Narelle: We could get like, free sandwiches. We could have a good team thing there.
Gary: We could go there for breakfast... But should we change our name or should they change theirs?
Narelle: They should change theirs.
Narelle: O's yeah...
John: Chichino's Sandwich bar I think.
Gary: Maybe it's a signal that while we're making some money out of being musicians we could buy that shop...
Narelle: I think so and paint the 'I' into an 'O' and then it'd be officially Chichino's.
Gary: We could make it more like a coffee shop...
Narelle: Oh like a cappuccino...
Gary: Cappuccino yeah...
Narelle: I think we should have a coffee shop.
Gary: But rather than have it where, like you know when you go into Starbucks they've got like some guy on acoustic guitar and alternative acts singing. Like last week I went into Starbucks in Manchester and there was a guy singing, erm, Careless Whisper [a gasp of disbelief escapes Narelle here] on acoustic guitar. When we own Chichini's and turn it into Chichino's we'll play Careless Whisper.
Narelle: So we're not having acoustic acts?
Gary: It weren't an act it was the proper record...
Narelle: Oh I thought you said it was a man with a guitar...
Gary: No, no, as soon as that one went off it was another country artist and she was doing Confide In Me the Kylie Minogue song...
Narelle: Ah a cover version.
Gary: ...so when I buy Chichini's we're gonna have like, the PA won't play alternative covers...
Narelle: It will play the original version.
Gary: It will play Wham!
LMS: I notice there was a change from a 'we' to an 'I' at the end of that Gary...
Narelle: I know... what was that Gary?
John: It's Gary's Chichini bar.
Gary: Yeah, the thing is rather than the PA playing, we might as well get George Michael there to play.
Narelle: Yeah, we could do that.
Gary: At the very least a George Michael tribute act. And that's why I'll buy Chichini's.
Narelle: It's in a prime location though on the corner.
Gary: It is.
Narelle: So, yeah.
LMS: You couldn't really wish for more could you - and you already have a drink named after you...
Narelle: We have the Chichino cocktail, it's my favourite cocktail, it's very strong. Got absolutely hammered on it at the after show party, when was that? February March time at Prohibition. It's got rum, gin, vodka... a dash of grenadine... and... I think that's just pure alcohol isn't it? Maybe some lemonade - it's just green and blue it looks very fluorescent...
John: It's very viscous as well
Narelle: ...it looks dangerous and it turns your mouth blue and green.
LMS: I did notice some blue mouthed people at the party - I was wondering...
Narelle: They are very nice though, very strong.
LMS: If you got the sandwich shop though, if you were to make a sandwich, a signature sandwich perhaps, what would you put in it?
Narelle: I think we've all got different tastes...
Gary: Fish and chips.
John: A fish and chip sandwich? [descends into laughter at this point]
Gary: It would be a fish and chip sandwich, and a glass of Dr Pepper. That'd be the Gary special.
Narelle: The Gary special? OK that's the Gary special...
Gary: That'd be the Gary belly buster.
Narelle: That's if you're having a pig out day you get the Gary special. Mine would be, er, something simple like grilled vegetables and mozzarella. In a panini. Nice and simple, served with a... a latte.
LMS: A latte?
Narelle: That doesn't really go does it?
LMS: I dunno it's a touch of Italian class on the side...
Narelle: Italian, you can't go wrong. Right go on.
John: Erm Brie with cranberries and grapes. On like a really nice lump of bread.
Narelle: That sounds quite posh actually.
Gary: And Andrew what would yours be?
Narelle: Andrew, spin the camera round, what would have come on...
Andy: Salami. And Camembert.
Gary: I tell you what else we could have, we could have a slice of pizza, on bread.
[laughter and disbelief here at Gary's meal/sandwich combo]
Narelle: Aw Gary's are all wrong...
Gary: With a big glass of Irn Bru.
Narelle: Urgh no.... So what we've established is we're opening a Chichino cafe-bar...
Gary: Not Chichini's called Chichino's...
Narelle: Serve special sandwiches...
Gary: And campucino...
Narelle: Sell campucino and Chichino cocktails and that is the only alcoholic drink you can buy on the premises.
Gary: And we will not play alternative cover versions of pop artists and tracks...
Narelle: no it will be original...
Gary: We'll have like Now That's What I Call Music One on a loop.
John: Why not...
Narelle: Nooo that's eighties...
Gary: And if we can't afford the real George Michael we'll get a George Michael tribute.
Narelle: And there's a sandwich for every occasion.
Gary: Yes, provided you've only got four occasions.
Narelle: I'd go there.
John: There's a fish and chip shop next door so they could do you sandwich.
Gary: Buy that...
Narelle: Franchise! The Gary C Special...
John: It'll be like subway but better...
Gary: With a sauna upstairs.
Narelle: Then you can sit in the sauna eating your sandwich.
Gary: Not that type of sauna...
John: As in a tapas bar?
Gary: Yeah it's a tapas bar...
Narelle: We need to open a Chichino tapas bar.
Gary I think noticed the confusion on my face at this point and elaborated...
Gary: I thought that tapas was, erm, lapdancing.
Narelle: He did get confused with that...
Gary: I did get mixed up, somebody said we were going to a tapas for a meal and I thought it was lap dancing.
Narelle: So Gary was like 'Yay!'
Gary: I didn't want to go, I thought it was a bit near. I don't mean near to walk I mean a bit near, like Carry On near.
Narelle: A bit saucy.
Gary: And I thought where are they gonna dance with all the plates? Turns out it's all little, when we'd eaten the meal and it was all little plates stacked up and glasses everywhere...
LMS: Were you still waiting for them to come out?
Narelle: Where are the ladies?
Gary: And I thought, I hope they're not expecting a tip cos I've only got change! But there were no strippers thankfully.
John: Honest mistake.
Gary: I only had pound coins...
John: She might have a little hat...
Narelle: Yeah you can leave your hat on.
LMS: Like a kind of burlesque, lapdancing crossover...
John: That's a good idea that.
Narelle: Chichino's Burlesque lapdancing tapas bar.
Gary: We could do sandwiches...
John: Yeah well a sandwich shop hasn't got that much identity so...
Gary: On a night it could be like you know - a bit o' blue for the dads.
LMS: Leave the kids at home...
John: Come out for some tapas!
Gary: No coins accepted.
LMS: Things are clearly moving quite quickly then.
Gary: Yep so that's where we are now (that's right, we had asked a question at the start of that...) and that's where we're gonna be.
LMS: How did you choose which singles you were going to release?
Gary: How did they get chosen?
Narelle: Every Little Thing I think was a new tune...
Gary: Yeah it was the most recent recording and we thought it was quite commercial. So that's why we went with that one, and then It Could Happen To You, that's the song that signed us. We sent the original demo to the record label, they liked it and they wanted to release it. So that's why we released that one, they liked it and it's the one that made us famous!
LMS: I was expecting something a bit more exciting to be honest - like a Mariokart tournament...
Narelle: A what? What tournament's that?
Narelle: Oh yeah.
John: Smash Brothers?
Gary: I don't get that...
Narelle: Mariokart - Nintendo.
Gary: But what's that got to do with choosing the single?
[A lengthy, detailed explanation of Mariokart and its decision making powers follows here.]
Narelle: We didn't fight over the track we all wanted it, maybe in the future it might be something we could make into a competition - we could have a fight!
John: Or twister?
Gary: We could do but in the music business there's that many people telling you that's gonna be the best one that you just get on with it.
Narelle: Yeah we just go with the flow.
LMS: So have you already met some cigar smoking eighties bigwigs?
Gary: No not really...
Narelle: No not yet - I'd like to.
Gary: No we haven't, all the people we've met in the music business have been really good.
Narelle: They have, we've met no sharks - all really nice.
Gary: Anybody who's given us advise it's always been good advice. So far.
Narelle: Yep. Touch wood.
LMS: Is that a vote for the independent music scene?
Gary: Yep, a lot of it's in the mainstream as well though.
LMS: One thing I wanted to ask you; will that guy who was dancing around at Summer Soul be coming tot the party? [single preview at Mosquito]
Narelle: Jan! Yes he is.
LMS: Who was he?
Gary: He's called Jan. J-A-N.
Narelle: Jan Veilgomff [apologies for the blatant mis-spelling Jan], he's the craziest man you'll ever meet.
LMS: How did you meet him?
Narelle: He came to a gig at Carpe Diem last year randomly...
Gary: He's a friend of a friend - of Lara Rose. Lara came early doors then she left, she told him to come and meet her there but she left and he stayed.
Narelle: He watched us, really liked us, started talking to us afterwards...
Gary: And now gigs aren't the same without him.
Narelle: He comes to every gig, he's our groupie now.
Gary: He's a good dancer!
Narelle: He is a character that everyone notices.
Gary: And the moves get more impressive the more drinks he's had. I've been down to the Wardrobe with him to see soul and funk bands and he's great company, he's just so lively.
LMS: Have you got any other official groupies you'd like to mention?
Narelle: We're not gonna name drop now.
Gary: There's that many...
Narelle: I'm not namedropping. We haven't really got any crazy, freakish obsessive fans. They're all good friends, genuine fans.
John: Gary hasn't slept with any of them yet.
LMS: So you're still waiting for the pants to get thrown at you while you're playing?
Narelle: I won't get no pants thrown at me... These guys might.
LMS: I dunno, I've seen some people looking like they might.
Narelle: Like they're gonna throw there pants? Get the Y fronts out! That would be a first when I get some Y fronts thrown on stage. I'd be like the female Tom Jones.
Gary: If this goes on the Myspace, Stuart [that's me fans - name in the interview - result!] actually came to the filming of our first single, and I think he got that drunk that he didn't appear on it. He was at the video shoot but not actually in the single.
Narelle: He is in the video isn't he?
Gary: Are you on the video?
Narelle: You are! You know the shot, it pans slowly to four of us at the bar, we're all talking and I notice my lover boy.
Narelle: But when the camera's coming to zoom into us, you are there. And you have to move out of the way of the camera coming towards us. Then I get up and walk towards the bar. I think you see like your arm and half your head. You're definitely there dancing to Every Little Thing.
Gary: So you've been seen on MTV Spain.
LMS: At least I've got one claim to fame. And some limited edition memorabilia I can sell on Ebay in a few years...
Narelle: Someone is selling something on Ebay. I Googled us the other day, as you do, and came across Ebay. Someone's selling a rare promotional copy of Every Little Thing and we didn't have many, we sent them out to radio and stuff like that. Someone's flogging it on Ebay.
Gary: I sent hundreds out.
Narelle: Oh maybe it's not rare then. He's put it on there and put 'Chichino CD, rare'. So that was interesting, first item on Ebay.
Gary: We should put some bids in.
LMS: I don't know if you can release this kind of potentially classified information, but what other songs are on the cards for release?
Gary: The album might be coming out next year, the next single will probably be Shake It, and we're working on a new one that we've never played live yet with our producer. It's a secret.
Narelle: That is top secret.
Gary: Yeah it's a new track and we've done a rough demo version and we're recording it soon. It's fantastic!
LMS: How do you go about writing songs?
Narelle: Well, in the olden days I'd write a song or Gary would write a song, but now we tend to collaborate together. I'll come with an idea, Gary might have a riff or a melody... We just kind of work together on the structure of the songs and the arrangement. So it's more for a joint effort now than it was. We know how we work and how we sound so when we write a song... You know four years together is quite a long time.
Gary: Yeah recently we've had a basic idea and just worked on it, thrashed it out. Quite quickly as well, the songs seem to come out really quickly. And they're all quality!
Narelle: We churn em out - we're a music factory.
Gary: Til you play them and there's just one man clapping. Which is always embarrassing. Particularly after sex.
And that's end of Part 1 folks. The next instalment will follow later in the week!