Interview was an English pop-rock band from Bath that released the 1979–80 albums Big Oceans and Snakes and Lovers on Virgin Records.
Members: Jeff Starrs (lead vocals, backing vocals), Pete Allerhand (lead guitar, vocals, keyboards), Allan Brain (guitar, vocals), Phil Crowther (bass, vocals), Alfie Agius (bass, vocals), Manny Elias (drums)
Interview formed in 1977 in Bath, Somerset, 11 miles southeast of Bristol. The band’s founding members were singer Jeff Starrs and singing guitarists Pete Allerhand and Allan Brain. The original lineup was rounded by bassist Phil Crowther and India-born drummer Manny Elias. They soon caught the attention of Virgin Records, then in the midst of a New Wave signing frenzy (XTC, Magazine, The Members, The Motors, Penetration, The Human League).
Interview’s debut single, “Birmingham” (b/w “New Hearts In Action”), appeared in late 1978 in a diagonal red/mint sleeve with an ink-pen/signature theme, designed by Brain. It was produced by David Hamilton-Smith, whose earlier tech credits include albums by Hawkwind (Hall of the Mountain Grill), Man (Slow Motion), and Focus (Hamburger Concerto). “New Hearts,” with its choppy chords, crisp bass lines, and tight rhythmic swing, exemplifies their early vigor.
In April 1979, Interview entered Utopia Studio in Primrose Hill and recorded their first album, Big Oceans. The album features nine songs by the team of Allerhand, Brain, and Starrs, plus a piano-thumping cover of the Gary U.S. Bonds composition “Feet Start Walking,” originally a 1970 US R&B hit for singer Doris Duke.
Interview show a knack for instrumental detail across the nine originals. The second track, “Here Come the Calvary,” breaks to an instrumental middle where syncopation offsets Brain’s choppy stop/start chords and Allerhand’s oozing, searing leads. “Blow Wind from Alesund,” about a municipality on Norway’s west coast, interweaves Chic-style bass scales and slick guitar licks, offset with fuzzy leads. The ballad “St. Jean Wires” presents further contrast with quiet cocktail chords against a heartbeat rhythmic backdrop.
Recurrent traits on Interview’s debut include loopy bass lines, angular key changes, and selectively harmonized thirds, as heard on the side one bookends “You Didn’t Have to Lie to Me” and “Fire Islands.” Starrs vocals, accented and subtly soulful, are placed modestly in the mix. Big Oceans concludes with “Shipyards,” an epic marked with counterpoint between Allerhand’s simmering leads and Crowther’s slippery bass — elements carried across the song’s plunging verses, taut bridges, and foldout, descending chorus, later enveloped by a synth-laden coda (in B).
Big Oceans was produced by Colin Thurston, the engineer on David Bowie‘s “Heroes” album who also produced 1979 Virgin releases by Magazine (Secondhand Daylight) and The Human League (Reproduction). The color-panel cover, which retains Brain’s pen/signature theme, is credited to Ansell Sadgrove, who later designed visuals for John Foxx (The Garden), Japan (“Visions of China“), Men Without Hats (“Antarctica“), and XTC (Mummer). A promo poster for Big Oceans is seen on the inner studio door on Season 2 of the American sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati.
“You Didn’t Have to Lie to Me,” with its alternately trippy/driving beats and psych-phased mid-section, was lifted as a single, backed by the non-album “That Kind of Boy.” The buzz surrounding Big Oceans landed Interview an opening slot on a UK tour by The Pretenders. Later in 1979, the album cut “Hart Crane in Mexico” was culled as the b-side of “To the People,” a preview track from their upcoming second album.
Snakes and Lovers
Interview released their second album, Snakes and Lovers, in May 1980 on Virgin. It features ten songs co-composed by guitarists Alan Brain and Pete Allerhand with lyrics by singer Jeff Starrs. They joint-wrote one track (“Style On Seaview”) with bassist Alfie Agius.
Drummer Manny Elias plays tubular bells on “A Gift.” Nine tracks feature ex-Olympic Runners keyboardist Pete Wingfield.
A1. “Hide and Seek” (3:01)
A2. “Adventurers” (4:53)
A3. “It’s Over Now” (2:49)
A4. “The Conqueror” (4:14)
A5. “To the People” (3:39)
A6. “Style On Seaview” (4:17)
B7. “A Gift” (4:35)
B8. “I Hope It’s Me” (4:09)
B9. “Crossing Borders” (2:45)
B10. “Until I Hold Her” (7:28)
B11. “Union Men” (3:42)
Sessions took place at Richard Branson’s Manor Mansion Studio with producer Virgin in-house soundman Mick Glossop, who produced Snakes and Lovers in sequence with label titles by The Records, The Ruts, The Skids, and Hambi & The Dance. Two tracks (“Adventurers” and “Crossing Borders”) feature backing vocals by German record engineer Marlis Duncklau, whose tech credits include seventies titles by Le Orme (Verità Nascoste), Vangelis (Spiral), Split Enz (Frenzy), Bliss Band, Landscape, and Peter Gabriel‘s recent “melt” album.
The front cover shows Interview grouped in a theatre, photographed by Roger Stowell, whose pictures also appear on album covers for Squeeze (self-titled), Rush (A Farewell to Kings), Stealers Wheel, Refugee, and Jackson Heights. In the US, Virgin issued Snakes and Lovers as as a self-titled album (Interview) with an altered tracklist.
Listeners at the time asserted that Interview had an unlikely American sound for a band of their locale. In retrospect, Interview stood alone with their subtle mix of sixties-influenced melodic pop and west coast harmony rock, styles that few combined with the modernistic New Wave sounds and complex interplay found on the band’s two albums.
- Big Oceans (1979)
- Snakes and Lovers (1980)
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