The Pastels and Tenniscoats - Two's company
It was a marriage made in indie heaven: the dreamy ponderings of Glasgow’s Pastels with that of Tokyo’s industrious Tenniscoats. David Pollock takes up the story
Of all the possible collaborations between two internationally-respected groups from opposite sides of the world, the new link-up between Glaswegian indie figureheads The Pastels (Stephen ‘Pastel’ McRobbie and Katrina Mitchell) and Tokyo alternative duo Tenniscoats (married couple Saya and Ueno Takashi) must have had one of the most innocuous beginnings.
‘We met in Glasgow a few years back,’ says McRobbie, ‘when Tenniscoats were playing in (fellow Japanese group) Maher Shalal Hash Baz. I was DJing at the show, and there were a couple of Japanese people sitting in the venue when the doors opened. It took us a while to realise that they actually were Tenniscoats, so we went and spoke to them. It was their idea that we should work together. There was no intention of making an album at the time, it’s just that Tenniscoats are very prolific songwriters and I think they wanted a recording of something we’d written together to keep as a document’.
Fast forward through those original speculative sessions at Glasgow’s Ca Va studios and an appearance on the same bill at the Triptych festival in Glasgow ‘about three or four years ago’, and the two groups have now come to release the fruits of their continued work together as Two Sunsets, out this fortnight on McRobbie’s Domino-affiliated Geographic label.
‘The recording of that early session was disappointing’, he says, ‘but the music we’d written was quite good. While I was listening back to the tapes and wondering what sort of restoration work could be done we were also working on some music for the theatre (12 Stars’ Do I Mean Anything To You Or Am I Just Passing By? at the Traverse and Tron theatres), and the two projects blurred together and inspired one another. Then we all had another session about two years ago which went really well, and there was definitely a strong feeling that we were actually making an album together after that’.
The recording has been finalised during Tenniscoats’ frequent visits to the UK since then, gaining pace through what McRobbie says is a mixture of the responsiveness The Pastels have learned through scoring film and theatre, and the technically excellent musicianship of Tenniscoats. ‘I think both groups have a real work ethic’, he says, ‘but sometimes with The Pastels things never seem to come to an end, whereas Tenniscoats know how to go about closing out a project. Collaborating has been a good lesson for us, because we’ve felt a responsibility to finish these projects (Two Sunsets and the theatre work) and not let our partners down. We’ve been working on The Pastels’ album for longer than either of these, so hopefully we can go on and finish it now’.
While McRobbie doesn’t envisage any more collaborations for the moment, his connection with Japanese music doesn’t begin and end with this release. As well as Two Sunsets, his label Geographic has released artists like Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Nagisa Ni Te and Kama Aina. ‘I was introduced properly to Japanese music,’ he recalls, ‘the last time we were in the country as a band, back in the late 90s. It’s just some of the most exciting music I’ve heard, stemming from a rich scene in which people help each out and move between one another’s bands’. Not really that different to Glasgow at all, then.
The Pastels and Tenniscoats play Stereo, Glasgow, Wed 02 Sep. The album Two Sunsets is released by Geographic on Mon 5 Sep.