Let me introduce The Pale Fountains. At the microphone is guitarist Mike, he of the heavenly voice and winning smile. On bass is Chris, who claims to be an ace footballer (but more of that anon). The drummer is Tom- “he’s at university-he’s a porter.” Tapping the congas is Nathan, who is also using his experience with The Royal Family And The Poor (who released a single last year on Factory) and with the convivial and stimulating Plato’s Ballroom Club (which he organised in Liverpool last summer) to help set The Pale Fountains on the right path-to the pop hearts of the nation!
The first step has already been achieved with the release of their first single Just A Girl/ Something On My Mind on Operation Twilight. It’s a melodic and fresh burst of joyous pop music that demands you sing along.
As you might guess after hearing the record, The Pale Fountains are great admirers of ’60s instrumental arrangers Burt Bacharach and Sergio Mendes (whose influence Nathan introduced to the band), and also of the ’60s West Coast band Love.
“It’s the subtle touches, the little things that just seem to be thrown in, that we like so much. That’s what makes them so special,” explains Mike.
Are the Pale Fountains another example of Liverpool pop sensibility? No. They are not over-anxious to be labelled as a Liverpool band.
“Too many bands rely on the fact that they come from Liverpool to help them make it” claim Mike and Chris. “Anyway we don’t sound like any of the 100 – no, 2,000 – other local bands! When Peely came to Liverpool, we decided not to go down and see him, unlike every other band in town. Even so, lots people went and said good things about this band The Pale Fountains, so he’s interested in us anyway!”
How do they react to the accusation that their friendly, happy music is a bit safe, a bit twee, or even cabaret?
“If being a cabaret band means just giving people a good, then that’s alright,” says Mike. “We played a party at the Adelphi the other week, and it was really great to see everybody get up and dance, all having a good time. That’s what we want to do for people.
“But the most important thing for us is playing songs that we enjoy doing together. That, and knowing that whatever we play is absolutely classic.”
Playing together is certainly important to The Pale Fountains. As well as being a friendly pop group, they are also “a brilliant five-a-side team”, playing in a league organised by Breakout magazine. Footballing bassie Chris tells me “we want to play Dead or Alive! And one day maybe Fun Boy Three; we’re doing some photos with us in old footy clothes – long shorts and stripy shirts – soon!”
Another photo-session is planned soon to tie in with their other interest: hiking and camping in the countryside.
“It’s a really good healthy way of getting out of Liverpool for a day or even a weekend” says Nathan, who introduced the gang to the outdoor life in the first place. Besides being the organiser, he is also the navigator to gigs far and wide, taking along Ordnance Survey maps to smooth the path in a different way. Their occasional stage costume of baggy shorts (they were unkindly dubbed ACR shortalikes by the NME); Baden Powell hats (Nathan has a picture of the founder of the Scout Movement on his congas) and sandals is now explained.
“We’d like to do a tour of country towns sometime” says Mike, neatly turning the unhealthy life on the road syndrome upside down. Just imagine the stir in Windermere or Thirsk when the Pale Fountains arrive in town to play their set in the Church hall!
“At the moment we only play one cover-version per set; at our London Barracuda gig we did Walk On By, when we supported Dislocation Dance. Andy Diagram came up and played trumpet for us, and he plays trumpet on our single too.”
This summer, however, The Pale Fountains plan to record an LP of Sergio Mendes, Love and Bacharach covers for Crepuscule. Mike wants it to be “just all our favourite songs; one that you can put on when you don’t like all your other records!”
This isn’t to say they have no material of their own: Chris and Mike have given up their jobs to concentrate on the band, and usually manage to produce an almost completely new set each time they play.
“But then,” jokes Mike, “we don’t play that often.”
The important things to remember about The Pale Fountains are: that every song’s a classic, that they’ll take you on anytime for a game of five-a-side and they’ll make you smile.