Operator Please interview
We make no bones about it: we were smitten by the itchy indie ejaculations of Oz's Operator Please as soon as their debut, Yes Yes Vindictive, landed on these shores back in 2008. They had a nervous, gotta-get-out-of-this-place urgency that perhaps resulted from living, like ... miles away from anywhere, married with a canny way with a hook that spelled W.I.N.N.E.R from the get-go..
They're back (huzzah!) with a shiny new disc of glitterball floorfillers that takes a platform heel to the series of mediocre indie dance (retch ... cough) albums we've had to endure in recent times. We traversed international date lines to get da juice on the new album from frontlady Amandah Wilkinson.
Hey, Operator Please. Please introduce yourselves for the benefit of The Music Fix massive.
I am Amandah and I play guitar and sing in Operator Please. We are a band from Australia.
'Gloves' sees you take a slightly more electronic/dance route than your debut. At what stage did you feel this was the direction you wanted to pursue?
I think when you are beginning the process for any record you are always going to have an idea of how you would like it to turn out. That idea then soon manifests and changes as the actual writing process begins. Having said that I wouldn't label it as "electronic" - more call and response-based yes, but I wouldn't call it electronic.
The change in instrumentation was a natural kind of thing. I didn't want to make the same sounding album twice and I also wanted to focus more on the pop influence we've always had and refining that. This record was a lot about the songs and doing what was right for them rather than focusing heavily on the sound - that came naturally once everything started falling into place, when you have an outline of what you are doing, you then move onto being particular with your tones. It was also about being able to embrace the gaps and pauses and not bombard the songs with five instruments at once. I also wanted the opportunity to sing more and focus heavily on vocal melody and things to accentuate and counteract with that as the main focal point.
Were there any albums or acts that you spent time listening to in order to get in the right frame of mind for the writing/recording process?
Lots and lots of pop music! It was about finding those "pop gems" - some bands that maybe only had one song but it was a brilliant song. I listened to a range of music - there was a lot of my high school music I was listening to like Missy Elliot, Prince and Janet Jackson. As well listening to that it was also listening to the particular production that is predominant within those artists. I think once you eliminate the idea of having to stick to rules when making music, you finally realise you can pretty much do whatever you want.
I know I'm blushing but there's really not a bad track on the album. What kind of strange voodoo did you have to perform to come up with such a magical collection of tunes? You can say pretty much anything as long as it didn't involve chicken sacrifice or the Russian mafia.
[Laughs] Wow! Ummm, now I'm blushing too! I think it is about having songs, I don't know. I've never been the type of writer that can sit down and write 20 or 30 songs. Generally, if I find I can't finish an idea or the idea is not stuck in my head after working on it then I chuck it out. Hence why there are only ever ten or eleven songs on any of our releases. I think condensing ideas so that you have a bunch of strong ones rather than having lots of okay ones is another process of elimination we go through before actually sitting down and completing them. Also if the vocal melody doesn't make your heart flutter a little bit to sing then I find it doesn't feel real to me. Does that make any sense at all? I feel like I'm rambling.
Rambling is the new black. We predict a comeback for rambling in 2011. As soon as a band sticks something like 'Oh My' on an album I immediately become a fan for life - something that manages to maintain a tempo but has that melancholy quality. Is there a story behind it?
That's so funny you say that! When recording this record we would refer to "Oh My" as the slow song! [Laughs]. Then when we actually tracked it we discovered the tempo was actually faster than everything else on the record. This song was the first song written for "Gloves". It was the day after I came home from tour overseas and I sat down and wrote that song. It was safe to say it was a bit of relief rather than a move forward. That song is probably the only kind of "reflective" song we have.
That last thing I wanted to do on this record was make it a "reflective" one. I think rather on dwelling/reminiscing on what "has" happened I want to push forward and use this record as a self affirmation to bump up to the next level. It was written quickly and probably captures me at my most "meeehh" point in time.
I saw from some of the pre-release information that there's a special edition of the album that comes with an OP tote bag. We're looking through your bag right now - what kind of things might we find down at the bottom?
Cherry flavoured lip gloss, i-pod, wallet, chewing gum wrappers, receipts, lists and right now....bicycle streamers, oh and a mobile phone I dropped in pee.
That happens sometimes. And then you have to put the phone against your face. I mean, that's OK and some people like that, but no-one should be pressured to use the pee phone if they don't want to. Can you remember the first time you played live and thought 'Yeah, we might be onto something here ...'
I think it was more about the feeling being right internally within the band that made me think we might be doing something right. I mean reaction and seeing people at actually turn up to your middle of the road show in the middle of nowhere was also a good thing.
What about the worst gig you've ever played?
Worst gig we've ever played was indeed in the UK and I won't name where because the people were some of the most beautiful people I've ever met - but one of the support bands were the BIGGEST BUNCH OF COCKS I've ever come across. Talking about "Yeah we're in this for the money and the pussy" - and we pretty much were taking the piss out of them the whole time and they genuinely thought we were seriously enamored with them.
I guess that's kind of where there is a barrier between UK and Australian sarcasm - there are many different forms of it. Having said that it also may have been the best gig ever because we were being shits and getting away with it?
The people next door seem to have acquired a parrot that makes a lot of noise first thing in the morning - and right now actually. Do you have any parrot or macaw anecdotes that might make me re-think my current anti-parrot position?
I think the best thing would be to turn it against its owners so eventually it tries to escape. Teach it some of your "favourite" words - ones that will mortify people forever. I'm talking 'wrong just wrong' and then it will probably be your favourite thing in the world right?
You may be on to something there. We'll teach it the words to 'Scotland The Brave' and see what happens during the World Cup. By the way, we're having a big party. You are, of course, invited as long as you promise not to make a mess like last time. Who else do you think we should invite? (Brandon Flowers has already said he can't come).
You NEED to invite Bjork's brass ensemble! They are actually mental and get themselves into a lot of trouble which is hilarious to watch. You need to invite Cut Off Your Hands because they are good dancers and will cut sick on the dance floor. Kate Nash also cuts pretty sick on the dance floor, Dolby Anol to DJ in drag because they will look hella pretty and your favourite UK band that are known tossers - so that there can be a Battle Royale and secretly video camera them on your iphone "fist pump" dancing. Is that something you'd be into? Can we arrange this please?
For sure! I'm going to iron a shirt right now! Making a great album is probably enough for one year, but I imagine you've got other stuff planned. Apart from The Music Fix party, what are the other highlights?
Having the time to write and demo more! Tim and I have been writing solidly for the past couple of weeks in between album promo and playing shows. It's touring from here on in!
The most splendid 'Gloves' is out on 31 May.