I KNOW 1999 ISN'T OVER YET, BUT SOUNDS FROM THE Gulf Stream by England's Marine Research is the album of the year — so far. Amelia Fletcher (melodica, vocals), Cathy Rogers (keyboards, vocals), Rob Pursey (bass),
Peter Momtchiloff (guitar) and the beautiful DJ Downfall on drums formed in early 1998 from the Phoenal ashes of the legendary bands Heavenly and Tallulah Gosh (the latter named after Jodie Foster's character in Bugsy Malone). Fawning Anglophile that I am, I wrote them a love essay via e-mail, and this is their snookie-ookum response.
Is there a lot of intercoupling, à la Fleetwood Mac, in Marine Research? Who is the Lindsey Buckingham, and who is the Stevie “Just Like a White Winged Dove” Nicks?
Peter: Yes, that is our hideous secret. With my Curlilocks™ and my wailin' guitar, I must be Lindsey. But Amelia don't be needin' no rehab.
DJ: The best Fleetwood Mac records were fueled by divorce and cocaine. It's only when bands clean up they get all rubbish.
Your precociously adorable drummer looks like the actor Peter Firth, star of Joseph Andrews, Equus (about a boy who dates horses), and Tess, directed by Mr. Polanski. Are any of you Thomas Hardy fans? Your songs are very Hardyesque.
Rob: I find that the sadder Marine Research songs remind me of the poems Hardy wrote for his dead wife. Telling someone you love them when it's far too late. There's one that begins “Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me . . .”
Cathy: I'm far too ignorant to answer about Thomas Hardy, but Nastassja Kinski does bring to mind a Marine Research/film connection: In our song “Glamour Gap,” there is a bit of a silly keyboard sound in the gaps between Pete's guitar twangs which we always say is meant to sound like tumbleweed in the American West. Whenever we play that, I picture a scene in another film starring the venerable Ms. Kinski, Paris, Texas — kind of melancholy-but-very-pretty-in-the-meantime; is that like Marine Research? But maybe it's “old pederast fondling bleach-haired flooze.”
Amelia and Cathy, you're very serene, and when you harmonize it's like I'm getting a wall of Sandy Shaw mixed in with a bit of Elsa Lanchester. Have you listened to Lanchester's recordings? She was married to the homosexual actor Charles Laughton. Do you feel that Marine Research shares a music-hall quality?
Peter: I have another group, the Family Way, which is currently trying to breathe new life into old-time East End music hall, except with more sex and death.
Cathy: I also feel allegiance with Stephen Sondheim.
DJ: Or Jim Steinman, who wrote Bat Out of Hell, which is the best musical ever written.
Do you all still live in Oxford?
Cathy: No, it's a popular myth. We mostly live in London, which is much milder, there being more statues to look at. ã
Did any of you attend the university?
Amelia: Four out of five of us went to Oxford. I was sorely disappointed by it, though. I thought everyone was going to be wonderfully intelligent and intellectual, with stimulating philosophical conversations going on in every café. But in fact it was full of posh wankers playing rugby and drinking too much lager. I reacted to it all by becoming an antisocial punk rocker and concentrating on my studies and my band.
There's a sense of melancholy to this new record, but brightness shines throughout it.
Amelia: We definitely wanted to make it more intimate and expressive of our more melancholic moments. But we are also so in love with pop that the brightness couldn't help but seep in.
Cathy: Someone said in a review that the reason we were good was because we all seemed so much in love with being in Marine Research, which I think is true. I mean, if you make up a good tune, or a harmony that just feels right, it just makes you happy, darn it, and there's no point posturing “deep moodiness” or “the melancholy marinade.”
Your music has a quiet lilt to it. I'm so sick of blaring, discordant rock music.
Peter: I couldn't agree more. As that aesthetic poet said of his experience in the trenches in the First World War: “My dear, the noise! And the people!”
Rob: I like the fact that we are really loud once or twice during each show. We like peaks and troughs, strong currents and tidal shifts. Not walls of noise.
Do you feel one can still create upheaval with quiet dynamics and textures?
Peter: Yes, we like creating upheaval, like a little boll weevil, like Evel Knievel, we leave all our rivals behind.
Cathy: Or those naked mole rats, working together to create a chaotic and beautiful society — oh, and eating each other's shit.