‘This Is Fake DIY’ – less a tune from 90s popsters bis and more of a manifesto. Now they’re back and while still doing it themselves, they have a little help.
Thanks to a chance meeting with a local record label, ‘Slight Disconnects’, the trio’s first new recording since 2003, will appear on Last Night From Glasgow, a not-for-profit crowd-funded label.
And although a far cry from the major label days, it’s a step back to when they were famously the first ‘unsigned’ band to play Top of the Pops.
“It’s certainly DIY again in terms of recording, it’s been a no-budget affair with everything done at home,” agrees ‘Sci fi’ Steven Clark, who founded bis with brother John (Disco) and school friend Amanda Mackinnon (aka Manda Rin).
When ‘Kandy Pop’ was on TV and radio across the UK the Glasgow-based threesome were with indie label Chemikal Underground – itself something of a homespun operation – but soon moved on.
“It was just amazing to be endorsed by the Beastie Boys, who were and still are total idols of ours,” says Clark of their time on the New York rap trio’s Grand Royal imprint. “But though we were extremely hot property for almost a year, once we had failed to make a truly worldwide breakthrough we were downgraded to an obligation (by the Beasties’ parent company).
Since the band split in 2003 the brothers Clark have worked as Dirty Hospital and Batteries, while Mackinnon has been most active musically, recording with The Kitchen and solo as well as a stint as a Radio Scotland DJ, and running her music merch company, Wee Badgers,.
“I feel we’re very privileged to have had the label experiences that we’ve had,” she says of their time in the spotlight.* “Not many bands get to be wined and dined, or flown the the USA, picked up in a limo then stay in hotels like the Sunset Marquis,” she says.
However, there is a downside to (near) fame and fortune, as Clark recalls: ”We still had good times but, without being too cynical, we were chewed up, spat out and left with unrecoverable debt.”
Those good times included providing the theme music to the Powderpuff Girls cartoon, and selling 100,000 of their debut album in a week in Japan.
The band are wary of the machinations of the industry – but happily, they are well-versed in self-sufficiency.
“It’s easier to do more DIY recordings these days with how advanced technology has become,” agrees Mackinnon – aka Manda Rin. “If it wasn’t for this then we’d have struggled for budget, time, and being in the same room, as John’s in Inverness,” John now contributing to the creative process remotely.
While the band worked together in five-piece Data Panik, and sporadically appeared for bis reunion shows since 2007, there has been no full collection of new material since their split in 2003. However, their new label focused them – as Clark says: “After examining our collective idea pot, we realised that a short, snappy new-wave pop album was how we wanted to re-introduce ourselves.”
That is ‘Sight Disconnects’, the 10 songs capturing both that classic bis energy but at the same time sounding more mature. “Growing up means we don’t have to care what anyone thinks,” Clark insists, “and have made a total pop record that hopefully has the essence of what made us unique in the first place.”
They’ll not be giving up the day jobs though. “It’s really just a hobby that pays a wee bit here and there and maybe funds a new microphone or a synth repair!” he laughs. “We’ve all been working jobs for at least three times as long as the band was our full-time employment.”
A sobering thought for fans who have also grown up, but also the chance to relive their formative years with the new record, and also reconvene for a string of live dates in their home city.
Although, the shows probably comprise as long a ‘tour’ as they’re likely to undertake – the band playing three smaller venues in a row, with fans able to buy a ‘bis pass’ to take them to the venues.
But despite the nostalgic feel, this is all about the new record. As Mackinnon says: “We get lots of offers to play era-themed festivals or all-dayers but accept rarely.
“We’re having one more go at staying relevant!”
‘Slight Disconnects’ launches on February 15th with three shows in Glasgow – more at bisnation.com.
This article originally appeared online in the Glasgow South and Eastwood Extra.