Swing Out Sister on “Private View”

Swing Out Sister / Private View interview
Corinne Drewery from Swing Out Sister. Photo by Claire Lawrie.

Swing Out Sister have recently released a deluxe edition of Private View, a hits collection (of sorts) that features new recordings and new arrangements of favourite tracks. The new edition pairs this CD with Tokyo Stories, a DVD capturing the performance and atmosphere at gig in Japan from November 2010.

This new ‘Souvenir Edition’ of Private View is reviewed here. We recently caught up with Corinne and Andy from the band  to talk about the release.

SuperDeluxeEdition: How did Private View come about?

Corinne Drewery: It was forced upon us!

Andy Connell: It was the volcano that was the birth of that [Volcanic ash caused all flights to be cancelled to and from the UK for a number of days in spring 2010]

Corinne: Yes, the volcano in Iceland erupted two days before we were going to go and do an American tour, which we had completely re-tailored the songs for. We had kind of done a set that was more acoustic and jazzy and we hadn’t played the songs like this before in America, so we picked some songs that were old favourites of ours, some old and new, just for this American tour, and the volcano came along and scuppered our tour.

We were so geared up for doing it – Andy changes things every time we do a tour – and I thought these songs are going to disappear, that we’ve spent three weeks rehearsing and we’re never going to do them this way again.

So we decided let’s go to the studio and record them, because otherwise those arrangements will be gone. And they sat there for a little while and we didn’t really know what to do with them. We were just a bit disappointed we hadn’t been able to do this tour. And then Andy took them away and added some more arrangements and we mixed them and added some stuff. So they had been in the can for a year before we did anything with them. But we just thought we’re not going to do these live again, because once we’ve rehearsed and got ready for a tour, I think it takes away the excitement again. So they were just sitting there and not going to be used. So we developed them further and added some more stuff and that was the album.

SDE: How many songs did you record?

Andy: I think there were two more that didn’t make it. For good reasons. For technical reasons. One of them wasn’t up to scratch. It’s not like there’s an archive of stuff. We’re your worst nightmare in that respect (laughs), we use everything! There’s no secret archive.

SDE: But originally when you put it out, Breakout wasn’t on there. There was a seven track version?

Andy: There was a seven-track version. We felt bad. It was literally the day before [we were due to leave]. The gigs were all booked and the tickets all sold. So everybody did that thing where they were happy to get a refund. And we just thought that it would just be nice thing to do for them. We didn’t really think of it as a record. We wanted a record for ourselves. Then we thought that this might be a nice thing. People might be interested in it. It just hadn’t occurred to us.

SDE: Was Private View the first thing that you had sold direct to fans yourselves?

Andy: No, we’ve done a couple of things. But it’s the first time we’d embraced the online thing – the Facebook page, and selling online. It worked very well actually. It’s amazing how easy it is.

SDE: Did you physically send these things out yourself?

Andy: Yeah (laughs), I had to do it every morning! We still do. I used to get up in the morning and there’d be fifty orders and I’d sit there and put all the stamps on and go to the post office.

SDE: So you’d be the nightmare person in the queue in the post office?

Andy: Yeah, it was half an hour in the post office. But to be honest, I found it quite a rewarding experience. It’s quite a nice feeling to wake up and someone’s purchased your record and you’ve put the thing in an envelope and you’ve delivered it. It’s kind of old school.

Corinne: You’re very far removed when you make a record and you send it off to a record company to manufacture and send out. But actually you put a bit of love in the envelope when you send it off [yourself].

SDE: You changed the artwork for this new version of Private View

Andy: Well Corinne had some new photographs taken…

Corinne: Yeah, it was a photographer called Claire Lawrie. She took some pictures for a magazine, and that’s how I met her. I thought we’ve got some great pictures here – I think we could use one for an album sleeve, and it kind of worked. And it enabled Andy to duck out of being on it. He doesn’t like having his photos taken.

Private View / Swing Out Sister
“Private View” was originally sold direct to fans in 2010 with different cover art

SDE: Was everything recorded live?

Andy: The tracks were recorded as we performed them with the band, which at that time was a small band. So it was a stripped down thing. We had the opportunity to add strings and horns, and whatever, after the event…

Corinne: But the performances were live. We couldn’t really take or overdub or add anything onto the performances.

Andy: …including the vocal. It’s the band performance, with what they used to call ‘sweetening’ (laughs).

SDE: The band obviously had some time on their hands anyway…

Corinne: I think we were totally deflated. It’s a bit like training for the Olympics when your doing a tour. You’ve got to get fit and, you’ve got to get focused, and you’ve got all these songs stored inside you, in every cell of your body. You’re kind of all ready to go, and then suddenly it’s stopped. It’s a bit of a strange feeling because you think well what do you do with all that stuff?

Andy: In the rehearsal room beforehand, we were thinking that New York is definitely off – that was on the Monday – but if it cleared the next day we’d get there for the Boson gig… It kept going and going and going and we were cancelling them day by day… it was horrible.

SDE: In this new deluxe package you’ve included the previously issued Tokyo Stories DVD. What’s the timeline? When was that Japanese gig in relation to when Private View was recorded?

Andy: I’m not good on timelines…

Corinne: It was about a year later. But there were some of the arrangements that we had done for that [cancelled] tour, but developed further.

SDE: Who did all the filming for that gig?

Andy: Fuji [TV]. We were doing six nights at Billboard, which is like a bit of a Ronnie Scott’s type of venue… and they came and said that they’d like to film one of the nights. They had a proper multiple camera set-up and then they broadcast it the next day. After just one broadcast they came back and said you can have it. We were gob smacked. They never give you that kind of stuff. But it seemed rude not to. I don’t know what they were thinking (laughs).

Corinne: The footage inbetween, was filmed by Gersende Giorgio, who came on tour with us to do some behind the scenes footage. It’s what we get up to on the way to, before, and after the gigs…

Andy: She’d never been to Tokyo, so… I wouldn’t say we were jaded, but the things that she was picking up, we wouldn’t have seen.

SDE: Did you feel you had to put Breakout on here?

Andy: Not necessarily. You’ve got to do it in a gig, so it turns out it’s on this

SDE: How did that arrangement come about, because it’s very different isn’t it? Was that because you’re bored of doing it the same way all the time?

Andy: To be honest it’s not. It’s a bit of a running joke with us now – if we go on tour this year, the thing that will fool everybody is if we do it [Breakout] exactly like the record! I’ve got all the desk tapes [live recordings] and you could compile an interesting ‘Breakout through the years’ compilation – you know, 20 years of playing it, because it feels weird doing it the same way twice. It’s become a bit of a game – what can we do with it now?

Corinne: But as an evolution of a song, you might be on to something there. There is at least 20 different versions. Andy had this thing of trying to start a song so differently that it would even fool us into thinking we were doing another song. Our best known song was unrecognisable to even the band… so you really have to be on your toes.

SDE: What’s next for Swing Out Sister? I understand you’ve recorded some big band arrangements of your songs?

Corinne: The big band arrangements by themselves sound great, so we were thinking it might be great to just have the arrangements without the vocals, there are enough versions out there with vocals…

SDE: Big band instrumentals?

Andy: Maybe…

Corinne: We’ve done the ‘straight’ versions. Maybe big band with a vocal is quite unusual as well – maybe it needs to be a double album! But there are probably enough people that know these songs, who know music and would like to listen a bit deeper and hear all the arrangements. I’m prepared to take a back seat (laughs).

Andy: We’re doing that thing again, aren’t we where we’re just making it for us! People who still listen, want to hear you sing. We’re perversely shrinking our audience even further…(laughs)

SDE: Have you got a stockpile of songs, or ideas, for the next ‘proper’ studio album, because it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Andy: We’ve got a lot of vague ideas, but I certainly wouldn’t say it was imminent. You get that feeling when things start to take shape, but it hasn’t taken shape yet.

SDE: Have you got any desire for a complete change, and do something that is much more of a ‘pop’ album, rather than the jazz / easy listening type arrangements?

Andy: It’s funny, because one thing the reissue of the first album did, was make us listen to those tracks again, and there is a certain amount of adrenaline and energy in there. A different energy, youthful excitement, I suppose. I don’t know if we’d want to go back there, but certainly you want to maintain your energy levels…

Corinne: If you talk about pop know, what is ‘pop’?. It’s sampling, a 40 second attention span… it’s a different thing. But there is probably a route we can take that is new and interesting for us, and new and interesting for other people. It might alienate some of the people who’ve come along with us so far, but we’ll just have to see how it turns out. I don’t think that we have much control where we end up. You just follow an inclination and things look after themselves.

Swing Out Sister were talking to Paul Sinclair for SuperDeluxeEdition. Private View: Special Souvenir Edition is out now.

Swing Out Sister / Private View deluxe CD+DVD edition

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