Thursday the 24th of June 1999 must have been a bad day for Fantasmagroover. They turned up at the Plantation Cafe venue in Guildford only to discover an hour later that the support band Incoherent weren't going to turn up because they wanted to go and watch Hole at Brixton Academy. That left Fantasmagroover without a drumkit, but one band member fortunately knew someone who owned a set in Guildford, and managed to borrow them for the evening. And then, after all that, only a dozen people turned up to watch them. Still, they put on a fine set, full of lo-fi punk rock tunes that certainly impressed everyone there. And I'm sure that Fantasmagroover felt their day had taken a turn for the better when they found out that they had an interview with this esteemed publication. Anyway, the interview was quite a laugh, although I couldn't tell when the band were joking or not, hopefully you can! The band are Matthew Babbs (vocals/guitar), John McMenemie (bass) and George Double (drums).
How did you form?
JOHN: I was cleaning toilets in the local lavatories, when Matthew came in for a piss, and we sort of took it from there really. I was cleaning up after his sick, and we struck up a conversation about forming a band.
MATTHEW: We saw George in a porn flick, and decided to phone him up, hence his nickname.
What does the band name mean?
JOHN: Absolutely no idea.
Do you think it detracts from you?
MATTHEW: It deliberately detracts from what the music's all about... that's why we chose it basically.
JOHN: We thought the word 'groove' should be used more often. We used to get real old hippy guys coming to see us play because they thought we were some really stoned disco-blues band or something. At the time our set was really heavy and punky and we really freaked them out. It was funny.
The NME said you sounded like Placebo but looked like Dodgy. How far would you agree with that?
JOHN: I'd agree with it about... none at all.
MATTHEW: I think they say that because I look a bit like Brian (Molko)!
JOHN: I think they say that because we're a three-piece, and there aren't many heavy three-pieces around.
MATTHEW: And because I've got a squeaky voice.
JOHN: And I play bass in an American accent.
How would you describe your sound then?
JOHN: We're a heavy pop band.
MATTHEW: I'd say we're more than indie. We write decent songs, whereas most bands nowadays write shit songs.
Have you been pleased with the support you've recieved from the NME?
JOHN: We've been pleased with the support we've recieved from the NME, they've been great, really kind to us. That's as far as it goes, the NME is a music paper, and their opinions go only so far. But what they've said about us is good.
Have you had much support from fanzines?
MATTHEW: A few, yeah. There's been a couple of fanzines around the country which have taken a bit of interest in us, I'm not going to mention any names.
GEORGE: You can name that one in Weymouth.
MATTHEW: I don't know the name of it, that's why I'm not naming it!
JOHN: The one that slagged us off! *laughs*
GEORGE: They said that I was good on the drums though!
MATTHEW: And they said that I was good too!
JOHN: So basically the band were really cool apart from me!
What was the tour with Fanzine like?
MATTHEW: Hilarious. Fanzine are ace, we love 'em.
JOHN: They're the perfect band to go on tour with really. It was a good laugh, and they were really good to watch live as well.
Any best dates?
MATTHEW: Exeter was a good gig.
JOHN: We played the Square in Harlow as well, but not with Fanzine- that was a great gig. It was with the Pachinos who are way cool.
GEORGE: We did one in Oxford at the Bullingdon Arms. *laughs* John decided to scratch on the bog wall 'Babbsy likes men' and unfortunately got discovered by a bouncer while doing it and thus forfeited our fee on our behalf. We relented from throwing a brick through the window, but we possibly should have done. Then again I suppose, as he likes men, it's fair enough.
MATTHEW: No I don't! Make sure you put that down.
How did the single on Fierce Panda come about?
JOHN: Simon Williams came to watch us at the Falcon in Camden and he did a review, our first live review actually, and then he asked us if we wanted to put a song on The Joy of Plecs EP. So we gave him 'Modelling Must Pay Well' and he just used that. That was really cool.
What do you think of the other bands on the EP?
MATTHEW: I thought the Cay track was fucking brilliant.
JOHN: Yeah, the Cay track was really cool. What was the other one we liked?
MATTHEW: The Samurai Seven were pretty good as well. The rest of it was kinda hum-drum dreary Camden bollocks. We definitely didn't like the Chicks one.
JOHN: No, the Chicks one sucked. Chicks suck! Chicks are pooh!
MATTHEW: Make sure you write that- Chicks suck big time.
GEORGE: JOHN wants to challenge them to a 3-a-side football match. *laughs*
I've heard that you don't like your second single. Is that true?
MATTHEW: Yeah, Buzz Aldrin: we don't like it, we don't play it in the set. We think it was a bad choice to be a single because it's just far too mellow for what we are. But the second single's gonna be ace.
What's it going to be?
JOHN: It's going to be called 'Bag of Spanners'.
GEORGE: It's the one we did for our soundcheck tonight.
Do you have any plans to release an album?
JOHN: We've got loads of plans to release loads of albums.
GEORGE: The next single should be quite helpful because Paul Tipler's producing it. He's done Idlewild and Placebo, and he's very good. That should cut a bit of ice, so we're hoping for a bit more radio play.
If you had a choice in the whole world of a label you could sign to, who would it be?
JOHN: Fully Pink. *laughs*
Who are they?
MATTHEW: That's that label just for gays.
Oh right.
MATTHEW: I'd like to sign to any label that would give us loads of money and treat us really nice and not drop us. And take us around the world, especially Japan, because I like Japanese people.
Have you ever played abroad?
MATTHEW: No, we've never played abroad. We're hopefully due to go on tour to Germany sometime.
GEORGE: And in New York as well. We're hoping to do a few dates there in October... CBGBs or whatever.
How successful do you feel?
MATTHEW: Basically we're poor so we don't feel very successful. People don't notice me on the street and I don't like that. *laughs*
GEORGE: They stare at you, but it's not because you're famous!
MATTHEW: I'm really happy with what we've done really. We're quite lucky to have got this far in the short spell we've been together. But we want more... and more... and more... we want the world!
Finally, when your debut album eventually comes out, what are you going to call it?
GEORGE: 'Over The Wall'!
JOHN: 'How The West Was Won'!
MATTHEW: 'Big Smelly Bumholes'! *laughs*
Fantasmagroover's single 'Buzz Aldrin' (Spangle) is still available, and look out for the new one over the summer months. They're a cool new band with a distictive style, so try and get to see them when they play your town. You can also write to them at 10 Sanford Walk, London, SE14 6NB. Thanks again to the band for the interview.
Write to Fantasmagroover at 10 Sanford Walk, London, SE14 6NB. They're a cool band!
Album Reviews
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Issue 4 Summer '99 © Tim Bragger