Yesterday, Amercian indie band Black Tambourine released a compilation CD through the label (Slumberland) they signed with back in the early 90's. Despite the fact they only played a few shows and recorded relatively little during their time together, the band are still cited as major influences to countless bands; and rightfully so. We caught up with Mike Schulman for a quick interview.
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First of all, how were Black Tambourine formed? Black Tambourine started during the summer of 1988. Archie Moore, Brian Nelson and I (Mike Schulman) were in a bunch of noise bands but we were also big pop fans and wanted a side project to work on those sorts of songs. So, inspired by Postcard Records, early Creation label, early Sarah, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Flying Nun label, etc, we started playing together and writing the batch of songs that would become our singles. Our singer Pam Berry was a friend of Archie who lived in England at the time, so we would send her tapes of our practice sessions so that she could write words and melodies. How was the process of arranging this new reissue of Black Tambourine songs? Pretty easy, actually. Our last compilation came out in 1999 and has been out of print on vinyl for a while. I wanted to repress it as an LP, and when I talked to the band about it the idea came up of adding some extra songs, since there was more room on a 12" than the original 10". We had a bunch of songs that we used to play back in the day that never got properly recorded, so we all dig around through demo and live tapes to see if anything was usable. As it turned out most of the live stuff didn't sound that great, but I was planning a trip back to the east coast to visit family and Archie suggested we take a crack at recording some of the songs. We got together for an afternoon last June and it went really well; even without rehearsal it was easy to play together and we're all really happy with how the songs turned out. At the same time Pam discovered some old band photos, some "lost" super-8 film re-appeared and we commissioned some new liner notes, so rather than repress the old comp it made more sense to make a whole new record. During the late 80s/early 90s, the lo-fi 'scuzz-pop' sound was very much in-vogue. Was there a moment when you felt the scene was overly-saturated? Not 100% sure what scene you mean, but we definitely felt quite isolated in America playing the kind of music we did. We didn't know of many other bands who shared our interest in UK pop records, and especially in DC's punk-dominated indie scene we were quite an anomaly. How do you feel about the resurgence of noise-pop bands (Vivian Girls, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart etc) in the last 3 years? It's pretty interesting! As I mention above, when we were active back in the late 80s there weren't really any other US bands that we knew of who took their cues from C86, Postcard, etc, so to see that sound become so prominent here is quite surprising. I really like those bands you mention (I do put out the Pains records in America), so when we get mentioned as influence I'm very flattered. What's everybody in the band up to these days? Mostly being parents and working. We're all mighty busy with adult responsibilities now, but Pam does still play occasionally in London with The Pines, and Arch still works on solo stuff under the name Bye! I don't have a band going right now, but I did record a 7" with my last band (Manatee) that will be coming out on Slumberland in May. Black Tambourine Are there any plans for upcoming Black Tambourine gigs? I never say never, but it seems very unlikely. Pam is in London, I'm in California and the other guys are around DC, so it's geographically challenging. We only ever played five shows, the last one 19 years ago, so it'd take quite a bit of work to be able to play live now and not have it be horrible. Sometimes mystery is good!
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The self titled compilation album is out now and you can visit the band by going to www.myspace.com/btambourine MP3: Black Tambourine - For Ex Lovers Only