The Self-Made Pipettes

The Self-Made <b>Pipettes</b>
"We’re as influenced by the Spice Girls as we are the Sex Pistols” isn’t the sort of statement most bands would give willingly, but then again the Pipettes are not your parents’ music. Actually, on second thought, they kind of are.

Rooted in the classic ’60s girl group fashion of beautiful women being exploited by the archetypal ruthless svengali, this polka dot-clad act from Brighton, England are very much a product of your parents’ record collection. But of course, there is a twist.

Unlike most girl groups from four decades ago, the Pipettes are a seven-piece, boy/girl band — though you’d never know it considering three lovely ladies known as RiotBecki, Rosai and Gwenno are the only visible members. "The initial idea was to have a three-piece girl group and the boys would play the music at shows,” admits Gwenno. "But we all write and make creative decisions together. We’re really interested in the female voice and pop music, and there are bands we’re influenced by that were completely controlled by some svengali voice in the background. With any band it’s generally the lead singer that does all the interviews, so with seven people in the band, it’s just a practical thing for us to do.”

Designed as a "pop project” by songwriter Monster Bobby and former member Julia Clark-Lowes (now of the Indelicates), the idea was to use The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way) — a book written by the KLF’s Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty — as inspiration. "Julia got talking to Bobby, our guitarist, and said: ‘I want to be exploited and get a number one single,’” Gwenno says. "He’d been DJing, playing a lot of ’60s girl bands, and noticed how well received the records were and how nothing contemporary was in line with that. And the rest is history.”

While the obvious inspiration for their rousing debut EP, Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me (a full-length follows August 28), comes from groups like the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes, the Pipettes aren’t merely some throwback band — their tactic is much more elaborate. "We were also inspired by Stock Aiken & Waterman [the wildly successful British songwriting-production team responsible for the careers of Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley] because it’s a great example of British pop music that came out on a conveyor belt, with writers, a production team and pop stars in one building. That’s the model for the Pipettes: there are seven songwriters in the band. The final aim is to create a pop song with the whole machine behind it.” Much like Stock Aiken & Waterman’s roster, the Pipettes are very centred on their image — hence the girls up front dancing and singing in their polka dot frocks. According to Gwenno though, it’s all part of the plan. "[The dresses] are very important because it’s the first thing people see. We like the idea that people see polka dots and think of us, or vice versa,” she admits. "I think it’s important to have some kind of brand, one that we recognised for. It is a uniform, but it’s also freeing for us because we just put on an outfit and get on with it.”

So what about the boys in the back? Where is their glory? Led by Monster Bobby, "the Cassettes” simply play the music for the girls to sing and dance to. "They needed to have a stage name and they see themselves as backing tapes,” explains Gwenno. "They’re a very tight band, so it’s as if we just press play on a tape machine. Again, the focus is on us three girls so we get the idea across as much as possible.”