Things Happen Here

Ask Simon Barber – The Chesterfields interviewed

Ed from Things Happen Here sent The Chesterfields Simon Barber a few questions prior to the bands show at THH on Saturday July 1st. The band were at the forefront of the mid 80s C86/indie pop scene and it’s great to have them back playing new music.

Many thanks to Simon for taking the time to reply.

Come to the gig – support live music and have a great time!

THH: Your new album ‘New Modern Homes’ is great. How have you found releasing new music and playing shows since you reformed compared to your time recording and touring in the ‘80s. What are the differences you’ve noticed, good and bad?

Simon: Things are certainly different now, we have to let people know what we’re up to by fully embracing social media now! I do miss the fanzines, weekly music papers, Radio One evening shows, and what was an ever-changing network of passionate people spreading the word and making things happen.

THH: Your debut album ‘Kettle’ was ubiquitous in record collections amongst indie fans when it was released (certainly amongst my friends!) how well exactly did the album do and when you look back on it now how do you view it?

Simon: It got to number two in the indie album charts the week after we played Glastonbury Festival, that performance gave it quite a boost, but not enough to knock Sonic Youth’s ‘Sister’ off the top spot! I listened to it on vinyl for the first time in twenty years a couple of years ago, and was very pleasantly surprised, it’s really got something, when you’re doing it you just don’t know, because you’re so close to it. And I also realised what a great job John Parish had done, his first production job, he was the grown-up in the room that we needed!

THH: ‘Our Songbird Has Gone’ is a lovely tribute to your original vocalist and guitarist Davey Goldsworthy (Davey died in 2003). How difficult was it for the band to start again without his presence?

Simon: The invitation to play NYC Popfest in 2016 was the first time I’d felt comfortable using the name The Chesterfields without Davey being part of it, and I really enjoyed singing his songs, and because The Chesterfields had always been more than one singer on stage and on record it felt okay. It was as close to being The Chesterfields without Davey that we could get, particularly as we had Andy Strickland on board, he had played Glastonbury Festival with us, our biggest gig, when we were between guitarists in 1987. We’d been doing a few ‘heritage’ gigs, and they’d gone really well, I’m not sure anyone was thinking there’d be a new album, but when Lockdown happened and I suddenly had the time to play my bass all day and let new songs suggest themselves I started thinking there could be an album of new Chesterfields songs. ‘Our Songbird Has Gone’ was the first one to land (on my birthday) and the others all followed quite quickly. Andy and Helen then added some songs that they thought could fit on a Chesterfields album, and as soon as we were allowed to rehearse and enter a recording studio again we did, we thought we were recording demos but when John Parish heard them he told us they sounded great and just needed mixing, and luckily for us he offered to do that!

THH: John Parish (PJ Harvey, Eels and more) co produced the new album, have you kept in touch with other people and bands from what was a very active mid 80’s South West music scene? Is there still a similar local scene?

Simon: Yes I’ve stayed in touch with most people from around that time, I’m still living in the Sherborne / Yeovil area so that helps… we had such a great music scene here in the eighties, everything we needed was in place – lots of bands playing their own songs, a great venue, a recording studio, great sound engineers, fanzines, gig posters by The Terrible Hildas, and John Parish teaching all the local drummers how to play!

THH: I know you are one of these bands but what are your feelings on so many indie / punk / post punk bands from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s reforming and the effect it may have on young bands, fans expectations and any new scenes developing?

Simon: It’s really great meeting young musicians who say they’ve been inspired by The Chesterfields, and I love seeing and hearing young bands that are obviously inspired by the bands that inspired us. I do have mixed feelings about ‘heritage’ acts and bands that don’t play any new songs, but that was what we were before ‘New Modern Homes’! So I feel a lot more comfortable with it now, we played a half and half set last year when we toured to promote the album, we weren’t sure how well that would go down but every night we had people singing along to the new songs!

THH: What have been your highlights (apart from playing at Things Happen Here!) since reforming?

Simon: We played NYC Popfest in 2016, that’s been my highlight so far, along with working with John Parish again, and then getting such a great response to the new album!

THH: Finally, what can people coming along to see you at Things Happen Here expect?

Simon: Noisy jangly punky guitar pop songs!