the Telescopes - Star GrazingAlexis Petrides sets the controls for the heart of the fun. Photos: David Tonge
In the two years since the release of Taste, The Telescopes have redefined their music over a series of ep's, gradually moving away from the bludgeoning noise that was their debut lp to an almost fragile sense of elegance and melody. Their new ep, Flying, demonstrates this to stunning effect, songs full of shuffling rhythms, spangling guitars and 60s inspired harmonies. There's even a shimmering autoharp in there somewhere, lifting the songs to dizzying heights. But how do the band themselves perceive this change in direction?
"Everybody's always working towards perfection," explains Stephen, "but you idea of perfection changes as you move on. I think that we still hold the same approach to our music now, we still try just as many mad ideas, it's just a lot more subtle and works to a different end. To me, Tim Buckley was just as powerful as The Pistols." He continues: "Taste was about putting things down spontaneously to see what happened. The album we're working on at the moment is about finely constructed arrangements. We want to make a brilliant statement of a record."
Perhaps one of the most noticeable developments in The Telescopes' style has taken place in Stephen's lyrics. While early songs prickled with an angsty fervour, boasting titles like Kick The Wall and Anticipating Nowhere, more recent outings have been positively bussed out by comparison.
"I see words as almost a form of primal scream therapy," says the singer. "It gets it out of you. I'm not a teenager anymore. I mean, I'm not saying that I'm about to meet the eye of the pyramid or anything like that, but you do progress spiritually as you grow older. I'm a lot happier now; I've still got problems but I prefer to express them in a positive way." For whatever reason, The Telescope's music is certainly becoming more palatable to a greater number of people than ever before. Do they envisage themselves following Ride and My Bloody Valentine into the Top 40?
Stephen smiles: "I think Alan McGee sees it more like that than we do. He's always saying 'Wow, that's a hit!', but we don't really think of it like that I don't look at music and think I'm really jealous of them because they're number ten in the major charts'. I look at music and think 'I'm really jealous that he was able to write that brilliant chord sequence.'" Mention Alan McGee and talk turns inevitably to the 'Creation Sound', a current home of contention in the eyes of the music press. Ride, Swervedriver, Slowdive, Moonshake: post-Valentine guitar bands seem to be springing up everywhere and most of them appear to be signed to Creation. The Telescopes dismiss all talk of formulaic similarity out of hand:
Stephen: "It's a lot broader than that, Creation have people like Simon Turner, Heidi Berry, Pete Astor, it's simply that they're not fashionable at the moment."
Jo: "If there is any similarity its in McGee's taste, he signs bands that he likes. It's not like, Creation come into the studio with us!"
Stephen: "I don't worry about things like that in a 'scene' sense. The only people who'd be worried about that are people who want to be fashionable." Or people worried about being swept aside when the bubble bursts...
Stephen: "I don't see it as a bubble, it we were the only guitar band in the world we'd still be doing it"
So who do The Telescopes consider to be their contempories?
Stephen: "No one. We're not in line with anybody...(sarcastically), we're in a constellation of our own."
If they choose not to align themselves with other bands, what about artists working in fields other than music? Loop, for example, cite film maker Stanley Kubrick as an influence.
Stephen: "I think that's pretentious and egotistical really. I can't stand it when people start drawing parallels between their music and someone like Stanley Kubrick. They're just picking names that sound really cool, its a load of old bollocks! it's a lot more real to draw a comparison between us and a guy who loves being a builder. He really enjoys it, loves laying bricks, he doesn't knock off when it's time to go home, he carries on because he loves it. To him thats an art."
Drummer Dominic carries the analogy further: "If you like what you do and you do it well then it becomes art. I mean, there's probably another bloke who hates laying fucking bricks and his wall looks crap and horrible. So, what reactions would todays Telescopes wish to provoke in people?
Stephen: "Just extreme reactions. You can shock people in different ways. It's easy to think of 'shocking' as wild noise or something and it's easy to think of Good Vibrations as just something nice, but that has shock value. No one dared to do that before. We've got a pretty open attitude to music. That's why we're in a band, because there's so many things we want to do."
Originally appeared in Lime Lizard August 1991. Copyright © Lime Lizard.