Rainy day women #2

Thanks to Kurt Cobain’s taste for antiques, Britain’s finest female purveyors of scratchy, punky reggae-pop are back. Tom Lappin spoke to original Raincoats Ana Da Silva and Gina Birch.

‘I left feeling like a dork, like I had violated her space, like she probably thought my band was tacky.‘ Kurt Cobain. superstar, was as nervous as any blushing fan when he met his heroine. Ana Da Silva. Raincoat turned polite antique seller. Kurt exclaimed over the shop‘s collection of man'onette dolls, had his credit card refused, and summoned up the courage to beg for a copy of the long-deleted first Raincoats album.

A few weeks later, it arrived in the post along with a ‘touching‘ letter from Ana. ‘It was one of the few really important things that I‘ve been blessed with since becoming an untouchable boy genius,‘ confessed the chemically unstable one, and ere long he offered the Raincoats the support slot on Nirvana’s UK tour, if only they would put the day jobs on hold and reform the group that disbanded in I984.

‘I said we‘d be mad to do it.‘ says Ana’s fellow original Raincoat Gina Birch. ‘but even madder not to.‘ ‘I thought it was all over for me, sob. sob.‘ says Ana. After The Raincoats, I had a group but it didn‘t really work out. Then I got ajob and I couldn‘t see how it was ever going to happen again. I wasn‘t going to try. so it‘s good that things worked out this way.

. . . Or it was, until Mr Cobain‘s erratic biology ruled out the intriguing prospect of seeing The Raincoats rocking. swaying and seducing the SECC. The impetus has been achieved though. and Birch and Da Silva promise dates in their own right soonish. Until then, Rough Trade have re-released their three eclectic albums.

The Raincoats have always been a group more revered by their peers and critics than in the public consciousness. although their debut single ‘Fairytale In The Supermarket’ did shift 25,000 copies in 1979. Cobain speaks of their music with awe. describing how first hearing them made him ‘want to fall over‘. Initially a spiky mix of punk and reggae, with the albums Odyshape and Moving they embraced increasingly eclectic ethnic influences, creating a sound that still feels unique.

Once the Nirvana support had been accepted. re- creating that sound soemed a daunting prospect. ‘Me and Ana got together, thumped around, couldn‘t find the notes and killed ourselves laughing cos we were so useless,‘ says Gina. ‘We said to ourselves. “This is just like the first time, we can’t play our instruments at all any more".' The revamped Raincoats swiftly recruited violinist Ann Wood

(familiar to Scottish audiences from her work with

The Cauld Blast Orchestra) and things began to gel. ‘She was fab and when we had the first rehearsal with the violin, that was when it first began to feel like “wow!“. We chose songs that we could do with a simple arrangement of instruments,’ says Ana. ‘most of them with violin. It was to do with four people being able to play the songs, whereas with some ofthe things on Moving or Odyshupe it just requires a lot of other things which we didn’t feel were right to try and reproduce at the moment.’

With Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley on board,

The Raincoats played their first live date for eleven years. at the Garage in London. ‘There was a kind of different energy coming out of it that I‘d kind of forgotten,‘ says Ana. ‘It didn‘t feel strange at all. It felt surprisingly new and fresh.’

‘And cmotional.‘ adds Gina. ‘I hadn‘t played my bass for, like. eleven years. so that was a real thrill picking that up again. and it‘s been really nice. revisiting these old friends. these songs.‘

Songs like ‘In Love‘, ‘The Void‘ and ‘No-One‘s

Little Girl‘ make it possible to view The Raincoats as

' spiritual forebears to the Riot Grrl movement (although their music was always more complex and

delicate than the down-the-line thrash employed by the likes of Huggy Bear). They’re happy to endorse

anything that raises the profile of women in music. albeit from a distance. '

‘When the Riot Grrl thing started I began to think that there is something really special about seeing

women making music together,‘ says Gina. ‘a kind of

vulnerability about them learning to play their instruments, it draws you right in. and you see the insight, the process.‘

‘I listen to a lot of women groups to see what they're doing,‘ says Ana. ‘Bikini Kill and stutf like that. I think that anything that tries to bring women to the front is a good thing. Those groups are trying to make that happen.‘

What The Raincoats 90s version definitely will not become is godparents to the new female rock groups. ‘We did what we did and they liked us.’ says Ana, ‘so we don't have any pressure to carry on being their influences. we can just carry on doing things the

Raincoats now: Birch. Da Silva


way we like doing them. We are going to write new songs and not think we have to please Riot Grrls or Nirvana. We’rejust going to please ourselves.’ ‘It will happen,‘ says Gina. ‘When I saw Mo Tucker was back doing her stuff, I thought so can I.‘ Indeed. Who needs the New Wave of New Wave. when you can get the originals?

The Raincoats' albums The Raincoats. Odyshape and Moving are all re-released on Rough Trade CD.

The List 8-21 April I994 26