Sunday, 31 July 2016

Fortuna POP! memories

Indiepop matchmaking
It's early 1997. Sean asks me if I can introduce him to my friend who also puts on gigs and has a label. I set up a date with Sean and John Jervis of WIAIWYA at Holborn's Ship Inn after work. They agree to help each other put on gigs.

There is an air of promise, of resuscitating London's indiepop scene. What actually happens is that Sean organises most things "in association with" WIAIWYA, while John spends every evening in the pub not organising things. John does get to spend a lot of time behind merch desks in the following 19 years selling Fortuna POP! records, though.

Almost 20 years later, John still hasn't forgiven me for that meeting.

The Butterflies of Love
The label's first classic band. After Wild, their second single in 1998, it's obvious (to me, if not very many other people) that The Butterflies of Love are serious contenders. Sean gives me a tape of their third single, It's Different Now.

I was then absolutely convinced that they were among the most exciting new groups anywhere. Sean gives me a test pressing. It's been mispressed. He gets it redone.

Me and Sean used to play football on a Monday night (by the way, he's got a dodgy right knee, so if he's ever pissed you off, you know where to strike). He hands me the new test pressing and asks me to check it when I get home.

I get a panicked text from Sean 10 minutes after I get home asking me if it plays okay. I've already played it 3 times. It sounds perfect. For a brief moment I feel like Marvin Gaye telling Berry Gordy that What's Going On is actually a pretty good record and should be released.

NME give it single of the week, and Time Out and The Times go crazy for it. The label seems to be taking off.

The Lucksmiths
Regular readers of this blog will know of my enthusiasm for Australian indie. In 1998 my current Australian favourites The Lucksmiths visit the UK for the first time.

They'd got to support Belle and Sebastian on some European dates just by writing to them. Yes, email did exist but The Lucksmiths might not have known that.

Singer Tali stays in London after that tour. I'm the only British person he knows so one Saturday he suggests we have a drink. As if in anticipation of forthcoming Anglo-Australian relations, Sean's having a barbecue. I invite Tali to it. I also suggest he gives Sean a copy of The Lucksmiths' A Good Kind of Nervous album.

Tali's unsure about giving away any of his preciously small stock, but I convince him. Or maybe he wanted to make some friends. Whatever, The Lucksmiths become Fortuna POP! superstars.

Mick Travis
Let me disabuse you of the notion that Fortuna POP! was full of polite Australian bands, indie millksops or a retirement home for Amelia Fletcher. Reader, there were drugs.

Tompaulin were riding a wave of popularity. Sean put out an offshoot band called Mick Travis. At the launch gig for their only single, their singer went AWOL for over an hour. He was scouring East London for drugs.

In 2001 it wasn't difficult to find drugs around Commercial Street. But he certainly took his time. He returned after Mick Travis were meant to have finished their gig. They played late, so there may have been some travel or accommodation issues. I invited them to stay at my flat. What was I thinking?

An hour later, I'm asleep and the singer bursts into my bedroom and climbs into bed. My girlfriend asks me to intervene. What was he thinking? I let him out alive. Mick Travis aren't heard of again.

The Candy Darlings
Weekly football has moved on. I'm now playing with Sean's colleagues (he's got a real job, this isn't a game starring Pete "The Cat" Astor, Emma "The Gazelle" Kupa and Wesley "Patrick" Gonzalez). After the game one of his colleagues tells me he was in a short-lived indie band.

You're ahead of me here, I can tell. Yes, he was in The Candy Darlings. Sean is unaware of their one single in 1989, That's Where Caroline Lives. Mike Slumberland claims it as one of his all-time favourites. And that's why Slumberland is still going and Fortuna POP! isn't.

No, of course it isn't. Thanks for the gigs and the records, Sean.

Oh, those Butterflies of Love test pressings. Value? Fuck all. It's about the memories.

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