Prefab Sprout have come to Japan as part of a New Artist Showcase project, along with Drum Theatre and Face to Face. Four Sprouts from Newcastle. The group was formed in 1977, when Paddy McAloon, the band’s leader, quit a seminary for a somewhat different career in the music business.
A beautiful sound with a feeling of transparency and a group characterized by lyrics with a mysterious flavour albeit somewhat esoteric. They are raising remarkable expectations in the new acoustic movement and are starting to become talked about.
– Tell me what impressions you have of Japan on your first visit.
Martin (M:) I can’t say much because I’ve only seen Tokyo, but there’s more greenery than I thought.
Paddy (P): The rainy season in Tokyo is very similar to Britain’s climate. Tokyo is like New York, but without the sense of urgency of New York, and I like it because it’s safe to walk around. The food here is the best!
– Is there anywhere particular you’ve been?
Wendy (W): Only the city of Tokyo. There were a ridiculous number of businessmen in suits and ties walking around.
– How was the concert?
Neil (N): I was very pleased with it. There was a very warm atmosphere.
P: That’s true. Everyone listened to the songs properly, and they also got the jokes (laughs).
– What was different from the British audiences?
W: Actually I was a bit nervous. The language is different and I have no idea what people are saying. But it was a really nice atmosphere, it was really good.
– By the way, you may be asked this a lot, but where does the band’s name come from?
P: (Laughing) At the start, when I formed a band with my brother Martin, I was deciding what to name it and thought it would give a sense of mystery if I used a slightly different sort of name. Are you not interested in what kind of a group we might be? There’s no special meaning, but the words “Prefab Sprout” remind me of my childhood. Something like that, innocence and innocent. It sounds like something true.
– The album titles are also unique. The first was called “Swoon”, and the second “Steve McQueen” (the name of an American movie actor).
P: “Swoon” was Martin’s idea.
M: I was walking in the town one day when I saw a poster with a girl with the same makeup as Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. We called the album after the impression that made on me when I saw it.
P: The name of “Steve McQueen” is my fault (laughs). One day I had an inspiration when we were having a meal together. What if a radio disk jockey said “The next record I’m playing is ‘Steve McQueen’”? How strange that would sound. If I were listening to that radio station I thought I’d instinctively listen to that album because of the strangeness of the title. Besides I’m curiously romantic, but it’s not a soft romanticism, it’s hard. That overlaps with Steve McQueen’s image.
– That is very intuitive. Are you the same when you’re writing creating songs? The sound is very natural.
P: I like natural sounds. But that doesn’t mean using acoustic instruments, it’s about expressing sound naturally. Or balancing it.
N: Marvin Gaye is pretty natural.
– Acoustic sounds are starting to come into fashion again.
P: We don’t care much about the trend for that sort of music. Writing songs is like starting off with a pencil sketch, and then the arrangement is like adding colour with pastels. So as a result the sound is very natural.
– There are many names that emerge from your lyrics. Joan of Arc, or Che Guevara and so on. In “Cue Fanfare”, you invoke Bobby Fischer. Who is he?
P: He’s a chess champion. I tried to compare the political game between America and the Soviet Union to chess. “Green Isaac” is not a real person, but a fictitious name that came out of the image. “Green” has an image of innocence or purity.
– There are many religious word, is this connected with Paddy from the seminary?
P: I guess that’s exactly the case. I’m not so conscious of it myself, but it seems to come out naturally. All of that was when I was between 11 and 18 years old.
– How have you changed since Wendy joined?
P: I can’t tell dirty jokes (laughs). Also, when I was playing with three other guys, the sound was rougher. I think that richness and depth comes out more and more from the addition of her tone. I feel this is more what we want to be doing.
EVERYONE: Thank you too.