Words: Darren Scott
Now back to being a duo following the nostalgia-driven ‘Original Line Up Tour’ with ex-band member Siobhan Fahey, Bananarama are once more the duo they’ve been since 1991.
Now it’s finally time to release the album Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward had been working on before the opportunity for a reunion tour arose. Speaking of which, they say they gave recording a song as a trio with Siobhan ‘a whirl’ and that ‘it just didn’t really work out’.
Their first album in a decade, In Stereo, sees the duo back on the dancefloor. Assume that every song is a banger – aside from the last track – and that you’ll have the album on repeat and be singing along pretty bloody quickly.
While it has different sounds, it’s all firmly in the ‘pop’ category. And it kicks off with the rather wonderful ‘Love In Stereo’, originally written and demo-ed by the briefly-reformed original Sugababes lineup.
How did Bananarama come to make ‘Love In Stereo’ the sound of summer 2019?
K: We just loved the song, so we decided we wanted to record it.
S: We never, ever look to other people to write our songs. We were just in that environment with Peter [Loraine, age-defying pop genius] and being played songs and we just thought, ‘Oh I really like that song. Why don’t we record it?’
K: We had a load of songs to listen to. We’re not precious about having to write everything that we do. We end up doing most of it. I think we really write songs that suit us…
S: Our voices.
K: ...and how we sing. And everytime we go and try and record someone else’s song, I don’t know… It just doesn’t quite work the same for us in the studio. I don’t think.
It’s the only track not written by you both. But you did put your own spin on it, because there’s a very WOW! era...
...at the beginning.
K: That was his idea. Richard X [Producer/co-writer/legend].
S: He said, ‘I want that sound’ and I remember thinking…
K: ‘We don’t know what that’s about’.
S: ‘Why is that our sound?’ [Keren laughs] ‘What is that?’ Where’s it from? ‘I Heard a Rumour’, I suppose. So it’s quite clever. That’s obviously why he’s so successful. [Laughs]
K: We didn’t even notice. I mean, we didn’t even notice that we had that on a record.
Well, it’s on ‘Venus’ and the album is called ‘WOW!’ so is that not a homage?
S: Probably. I just think it’s probably easier if that’s how other people would see us. It’s quite hard to see that yourself, what your trademark sound might be. When people say, ‘That’s so Bananarama’, I can’t see that.
K: I think because Ian’s [Masterson, producer and pop genius] our comfort blanket and it was sort of taking yourself out of that and going and working with someone else, it was a very different experience in that we were much more controlled in the studio, whereas normally we’re a bit more gung-ho. [Laughs] It was very methodical. As opposed to just singing it through a few times and that’ll do. [Laughs]
S: That’s not what we do. It’s what she does.
‘Dance Music’ - which you released ahead of the album...
K: ‘Dance Music’ was one of the earlier ones we did. I just think it’s quite mesmerising. It reminds me of a slinky 70s disco, kind of ‘throbby’ something you might have heard in Studio 54 or somewhere. I don’t know, it’s just got a vibe for me that one.
‘I’m On Fire’...
K: I think it’s a real anthem.
S: It’s such a rousing chorus.
K: And yet I think the verse has got quite a sort of dark feel to it. I quite like the fact that when it starts you don’t know where the chorus is going.
K: It’s a sort of dreamy disco, that one.
S: I’ve got that and ‘Stuff Like That’ as a similar sort of 70s disco.
K: Something you might have danced to at the school disco. Obviously a modern day. We love 70s disco music.
S: That Chic-type sound.
K: And so does Sara’s daughter. When she’s in with her friends we always put on 70s stuff and have a dance and it’s such great dance stuff, whether you’re talking the Giorgio Moroder stuff or just out and out Chic-y disco, it was such a great era for dance music.
S: We wrote that with Rod Thomas, Bright Light Bright Light.
K: We met him and…
S: How did we meet him?
K: I don’t know, but we met him and he sent us some tracks…
S: ...and we just wrote to them.
K: We just liked the chords and picked that one out. It sounded very different, how it ended up, but I kind of liked that. He loves it.
‘Looking For Someone’...
K: We love that one. It just reminds me of New York. We had the most hysterical trip to New York and that’s when we started writing that one.
S: Who’s it about? Oh, I know who it’s about.
K: I know who it’s about as well.
S: It’s not me, it’s you.
K: I know it’s me. [Both deep laugh] Sorry! We come up with different bits and then we work on the stuff together. Sometimes you just wake up with a melody and it just happens fit over a track that then someone gives you. Or you have something and you just sing it down and then you adapt it. But that’s very much a New York.
‘Looking For Someone’ sounds like it will work really well with a band.
K: We tried that one with the band already, actually, just for fun. We haven’t played it because we didn’t want to play stuff in Australia because then it appears on a camera phone and that’s the people’s first time they’ve heard it and it’s just not how you want people to hear your song for the first time.
Kylie did that with...
S: ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’. And nobody liked it, did they?
K: So even though we actually rehearsed a few, we decided not to put them in. But I love the energy of ‘Looking For Someone’, it’s one of my favourites. That was when we were writing with a view to what would sound great with a band. And I think it will.
‘Stuff Like That’...
S: I put that with 'Intoxicated', it’s just that ‘school disco’ for me. Disco vibe.
‘It’s Going To Be Alright’...
K: I think that’s almost the opposite of a lot of the other songs.
S: It’s yearning, isn’t it? Yearning. It’s like, ‘Why has it all gone wrong?’
K: You’ve got a really raucous verse, but quite a laid back vibe in the chorus, which I quite like because normally it’s the other way round. So it’s almost in reverse. I think we had a different chorus initially.
‘Got To Get Away’...
S: That’s one of the ones we wrote quite a while ago.
K: One of the first ones we did.
S: It’s had various styles.
K: We’ve performed that too. It was probably the first track we recorded.
‘On Your Own’... This is the slowest the album gets.
S: There’s always one, apparently.
K: Our forte, as I say.
S: We’ve got to try a ballad, haven’t we.
K: I love it. I love it because it was written about someone.
K: And we laughed and laughed while we were writing it. Honestly, we were weeping with laughter. And even though it’s a serious song in it’s subject.
[Both laugh, then get distracted by a waiter]
S: Sorry, I just saw a plate of baguettes going by. Cheese baguettes.
K: Yeah, it’s been at least two hours since we’ve had a meal. [Looks at watch]
S: Did you not fake tan that hand?
K: Yeah, I have fake tanned that hand [compares them].
S: No it isn’t.
What can people expect from the tour?
S: The Q&A, hopefully, will be fun. That’ll be the first part. Then we’ll do the live show with some new tracks and some duo tracks. A couple of old hits.
K: We’re going to do a few we’ve never performed, that people keep asking for.
People would pay to hear ‘Please Yourself’ in its entirety.
K: You’re kidding me.
S: Is that a big album?
K: Maybe we should at least pick one off that then.
S: I absolutely love doing ‘Look On The Floor’, it’s my favourite song ever. I absolutely love it, it’s so uplifting.
K: And ‘Move In My Direction’. But ‘Look On The Floor’ sounds so amazing with a band.
S: It’s like I’ve broken free!
K: We did it in Australia, it’s just got such a great vibe to it.
People love a surprise. Like when you performed ‘Help!’ at festivals a couple of years back.
K: Oh I forgot about that one. We could do that.
S: [Flatly] No.
In Stereo is released 19 April, with signed copies and tour details at their official website.