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Music Interview

Bananarama

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Bananarama
It's enough to make a pop fan whoop with delight (well, this one did anyway). Bananarama, the best girlband of the eighties, have signed with Fascination Records, the home of Girls Aloud, The Saturdays and newcomers Girls Can't Catch. There's a new single on its way - the thumping 'Love Comes', which cleverly references the group's Hi-NRG heyday - and an album of new material to follow. More than a little excited, we called the Nanas' Sara Dallin to find out more.

How did the deal with Fascination Records come about?
"Well, [Fascination boss] Peter Lorraine's a friend of mine so I played him a few tracks from the album. I've played him stuff from albums we've done before and he's liked it but never really said much, but this time he said, 'I really, really like this stuff'. He took it into Universal to see if they'd be interested in releasing it and they said yes."

How's it working out so far?
"Really well. The last album we had out was on an independent Italian label and it's very difficult if you don't have a huge company behind you, or people who really understand pop music, to get any kind of success. Universal are the last big pop label going so it's a perfect match really."

Do you see much Bananarama in any of the label's other girlbands?
"Um... not really. I think our beginnings were very different. When we started out we didn't perceive ourselves as a girlband. We were just a band in the way Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet were a band - we wrote our own stuff, styled ourselves and toured around little clubs doing PAs. That's how we got our break. It wasn't through a reality show or any kind of manufactured band process, all of which is fine, but I'm just saying the comparison isn't really relevant for us."

What's the story behind the new single, 'Love Comes'?
"Well it's the age-old story, isn't it? If you go looking for love, you never find it. But when you're not looking, it comes in a heartbeat and blows you off your feet. It's not really a new concept but that's what the song's about. We write topline melody and lyrics and we had this really naff backing track that we were about to throw away because it just sounded so hideous. Then Ian, our producer, reworked the backing track and we tweaked our bits and suddenly it's the first single. It's quite weird!"

Do you still get worried about things like chart positions?
"I don't think we do any more. I mean, we had a couple of hits with the last album and we were amazed considering we were on such a tiny label, but we're happy touring now. We're fortunate to have been successful internationally so we can still do shows all over the world. That's what we really enjoy because in the eighties we didn't get to tour a great deal. We did one major world tour but apart from that it was just promotion and photos and interviews all the time."

Do you find the photoshoot side of things quite tedious now?
"Hahaha! Well yes, but I'm amazed with what they do with technology now. In my day there was no retouching - if you had a big fat face, you had a big fat face and that's the way it was. The 'Shy Boy' cover is so ugly of me - hunched shoulders, bright red cheeks and I had to put up with it! Nowadays you see women in their forties looking about 20 which is a bit plastic and rubbish, but everybody does it. I always say, 'Can you leave just a few little lines in there?'"

Is 'Love Comes' a good representation of the album?
"Yes, I think it is. It started off as a disco covers album, but then we wrote some tracks and really liked them and just kept on writing. There's only three covers on there now. The album's quite electro and poppy and it just sounds very current and modern - far more than the last album."

There was some confusion as to when your last album, 2005's Drama, was actually coming out. What happened?
"Oh God, I can't really say! It was planned to come out at Christmas which was a really bad idea, and then there was a bit of a last minute U-turn. I don't know if the album made it into the shops because fans were complaining that they couldn't get hold of it. It was really disappointing because we'd worked really hard on it and there were some really good songs on there, but it didn't get the promotion it needed."

When you started out back in 1982, did you ever imagine you'd still be going 27 years later?
"Not at all. Keren [Woodward, bandmate] and I were only 18 when we started and I won't say it was a joke, but it was something that just seemed like fun and a hobby. You don't imagine that you can be in a proper band that will be successful. But after an album or so we thought, 'Hang on, we're quite good at songwriting, people seem to like us, we've got our own little style, so let's take things a little more seriously'."

Why do you think you've lasted?
"I think we've always had a passion for music, we've always written our stuff and everything to do with Bananarama has always been our creation. It was our vision, not somebody else's. It worked initially because we were all friends. We had the same sense of humour and outlook on life and I think that was very important."

Do you and Keren ever fall out now?
"The older I get, the more I can see how different we are and that's probably why we work. I'm a lot more headstrong and pushy, so Keren will kind of chill me out. Siobhan [Fahey, who left the group in 1988] and I were quite similar so we kind of clashed sometimes, but essentially the three of us were always going down the same path. We've never had any problems relating to the actual music."

Do you see much of Siobhan these days?
"Yeah, I have lunch with her from time to time, but I think she's going to move to LA because her sons live out there now. It's really lovely when we do catch up because she's just so funny and we really have a good time."

Bananarama release 'Love Comes' on September 7. The album Viva follows on September 14.

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