Back to the Future
They were truly ahead of their time but music and fashion has finally caught up with Bis. Camilla Pia speaks to the band and finds them in philosphical mood
From The Sounds to CSS, Patrick Wolf to The Magnificents, We Are The Physics to Help She Can’t Swim and countless more in-between, the influence of Bis is everywhere in modern music; their inventive, good fun and incredibly catchy take on electro punk coming just a few years too early and vastly under-appreciated in the band’s lifetime. And so it seems apt that this year will see the Glasgow-based trio reforming for three reunion shows across the UK to celebrate the tenth anniversary of debut album The New Transistor Heroes. We caught up with Amanda McKinnon (Manda Rin) and Steven Clark (Sci-Fi Steven) to glean some more details about the forthcoming gigs and find the Teen-C icons older, wiser and understandably a little more cynical, but as excitable as ever.
‘I don’t know how I sung so high,’ laughs McKinnon from her Glasgow flat. ‘I’ve been playing and singing along with our old records to practice for the gigs and it’s been weird rehearsing songs we haven’t played in ten years but it’s also been such good fun.’
‘There are certain lyrics I cringe at, seeing as I wrote them when I was 17,’ adds Clark, ‘but it’s also given me a chance to reflect on what we actually achieved musically and to be honest I’m feeling quite smug about it all. We were totally different at the time and no band since has been willing to take such crazy risks as we did back then. There are so many new acts out now that knowingly or not owe us some kind of debt, so I guess this is just a chance for us to claim what is rightfully ours and have a laugh doing it.’
Making music in the mainstream is a fickle business and none know this better than Bis who, fresh out of school in the mid-90s, were the first unsigned band to appear on Top of the Pops and the cover of NME, whipping up hysteria among kids and critics only a year into their existence before the media backlash hit hard, forcing them to break up in 2003. Has it been strange looking back on those times in preparation for the shows and soon-to-be-released We Are Bis From Glasgow, Scotland best-of compilation? ‘Yes, I mean we spoiled our first couple of years because me and Manda had just split up as a couple when Bis got signed so we spent the whole time hating each other and not fully appreciating it all,’ explains Clark. ‘Ironically, as the Bis star faded we started to enjoy it more and I suppose we’re doing this so that we can perform the really old songs to people in happier times. Plus I’d say they’re sounding better than ever because we can actually play our instruments now!’
With various solo and side-projects in full swing, McKinnon, Clark and younger brother John (Disco), have no plans to reform their first band, but as the saying goes, you should never say never . . . ‘I think the three of us are enjoying the rehearsals so much that if there was an offer from someone we wouldn’t say no,’ says McKinnon. ‘Yeah I’d definitely love to do it,’ agrees Clark, ‘purely because there’s hundreds of great songs that have never been heard but the cynical side of me doesn’t think it will happen. Basically we’ll never say this is the last ever Bis gig or write anything off so it’s just a question of waiting to see what happens.’
King Tut’s, Glasgow, Fri 6 Apr.