18 October 2009

Is She Weird?

Is She Weird?

Years active: 1990-93 (?)

When I started this blog, I did originally intend to spend some time focussing on bands who were never signed, believing that somewhere within my array of CDRs, cassettes, and self-financed singles lay some top class numbers. I soon discarded this idea after a mere one entry (Golden Section) after realising that most bands remain unsigned for a reason. Of course, some of the demos I still have reveal a bunch of bands who were definitely good at what they did, but the primary issue in almost all cases is the fact that they lacked any identity of their own, and were frequently either chasing the tails of the current passing trend or desperately in thrall to a particular individual or individuals (you wouldn't believe how many Oasis clones there were around at one point in the mid-nineties - or actually, you probably would).

So then, to put the sound of "Is She Weird?" into some kind of perspective, it's worth noting that they were an early nineties Southend based band as opposed to one buzzing around Camden in the mid-nineties like desperate Britpop chancers. Way, way ahead of the game by London standards never mind provincial standards, the band combined a love of classic sixties pop with a hard-edged, spittle fuelled vocals. Traces of the styles of various EMF, Wonder Stuff and Jesus Jones wannabes are, in retrospect, present and correct - the band even used to cover forgotten Columbia-signed band Bedazzled's "Stageshow Days" live - but they're by no means the dominant force, the band instead preferring to write immediate, "Revolver"-era Beatles pop with some utterly furious and majestic drumming, and rollercoaster song structures. A listen to "Burden Me" below, for example, reveals a band who weren't exactly wholly catering for the good chaps and ladies wishing to groove on the dancefloor. There's a darkness and detail there that almost all of their peers locally struggled to deliver.

The band were never likely to be awarded any points for experimentation, but the fact they weren't signed remains a bit of a mystery. That they suffered from frequent line-up problems may well have been an issue, however - nothing turns an A&R Rep's head in the opposite direction quicker than a band whose personnel changes seemingly on a monthly basis. Initially, the band began life with Andy Hayes on Guitar and Vocals, Misha Ellis on drums, Rod Quinn on lead guitar and Peter Blanchard on bass. This line-up seemed stable enough for a bit, but then seemed to rupture, and the band appeared to develop a revolving doors policy, until by the end the only stable members of the line-up were Andy and Misha (pictured above). Indeed, the band apparently split during the recording of a self-financed album, which I still have a rough demo of somewhere in my flat, although I don't own a cassette player to listen to it on anymore.

Live they were great, too, possessing a furious arrogance and energy which was sorely lacking in most indie bands at the time. I wasn't a seasoned gig-goer at this point in my life, but at their best they certainly out-performed a whole slurry of other acts I would later go on to witness getting major deals and even success.

By the time the band actually sounded halfway current, they'd split for good, leaving Andy Hayes to go on to production work with OK-ish mod band Mantaray, and the others to disappear off to do I know not what. Unbelievably, a post-split Myspace page has been set up by a band member (I can only assume) but all attempts to contact somebody through it have proved to be futile, so I can only assume they're either avoiding me or it's not checked very often anymore - hence the trail goes cold, and I have no further information to give.

The below tracks are taken from a couple of self-financed vinyl singles they put out locally, but you'd do well to head over to the MySpace page as well to listen to "Mantelpiece", a superb piece of almost unsuitably joyous pop about the woes of infamy. Really, it may as well be their anthem. And yep, that version of "I Am The Walrus" does predate Oasis' version - although one can hardly quibble about who covered what first.


Dicky Moore said...

I loved Is She Weird. They were half of what inspired me to start my own band. I may be able to put you in touch with Andy if you want to track down more Is She Weird material.

23 Daves said...

Yes Dicky, they were bloody great.

I'm pretty sure that I did drop Andy a line via his MySpace page a few months before writing this blog entry, actually, but he never got back to me - it was a long time ago, mind you. But if he's happy for me to feature more stuff on here, I'd be delighted to stick it up for other people to listen to.