This month Counterfeit caught up with local disco-synthpop duo Retro Soup on the phone, mid tattoo.
Singer and Sheffield-lad Joel Simpson met Lincoln-lass Rose Lucas at a Wolfmother gig at the Leadmill in 2006. Joel tells us more; “We just got talking at the gig and I’d actually been looking to join a band at the time. Rose was in a band called The Ten Past Fours but wanted to be in more of a White Stripes set-up, like me. Rose had a drum kit, I had a guitar, so we started a band!”
“We spoke again two or three days after the gig and began sending each other tracks straight away,” added Rose. Counterfeit can’t help but think how remarkably speedy this establishment was. We ask Retro Soup how easy it all is given the long distance relationship element of the band. “Well, I find it easier to write on my own,” admits Joel. “If you’re writing songs together I think there’s too much pressure to come up with something. So we bat things back and forward. It’s more at our own pace then too. There’s certainly less pressure in your bedroom than in a studio.”
“Our first album was quite experimental and our second album was more of a proper album really. We’re working on new tracks now.”
All very well and good, but surely it doesn’t beat jamming face-to-face? Do Retro Soup not miss not being able to see the other persons body language when they play through an idea? “We just say so! We’re not normally face-to-face either so it’s easier to be blunt about it!” laughs Joel. “It’s easy to change things too,” notes Rose, “You just edit it on garage band.” In fact, it turns out that Joel and Rose soon realised they were closer than they thought. “After we met, we realised that Rose’s mother was from Sheffield and her grandmother lives about five minutes round the corner from me!”
Counterfeit doesn’t normally do clichés but gosh, isn’t it a small world! Counterfeit can’t ignore the constant tattooist sound anymore, vibrating through the mobile phone on the table. “I’m having 2 cats drawn on my leg,” Rose informs us. “I like cats,” she adds. “I like cats too,” agrees Joel. At this point Retro Soup both resolve that cats and The White Stripes are what they both have in common.
Despite being a semi-pro unsigned outfit, Retro Soup have already released two albums and have singles available to buy online. They certainly don’t do things by half. So whats next for Retro Soup? “Our first album was quite experimental and our second album was more of a proper album really. We’re working on new tracks now,” explains Rose.
Joel sheds a little light on the bands progression; “In 2006 we were heading down more of a White Stripes road and Rose actually played the drums before we got a drum machine. We played a couple of gigs and apologised for the bassist and drummer not turning up because of a Spinal Tap kind of disaster- it was our little in joke.”
“We released a 12-track album in the same year which was experimental with different singles. We realised Rose was strongest on piano, she’s actually a Grade 8 which is pretty fucking good, so we decided to get a drum machine and stick Rose on the keys. I was also into Muse at the time so that was the direction which the first 2 albums took.” Retro Soup are currently working on an EP, “We’ve got enough songs,” explains Joel, “but not enough for an album, we have 4 good tracks to put on which we’ve tried out at live shows.”
“For the first time ever, at the last gig we played, I was heckled by some teen girl who shouted, ‘I want your babies!’ That’s what it’s all about really! I thought, ‘right that’s it, I’ve done it!”
So how does Retro Soup plan to get this EP out, promote it and sell it? “I try to hassle people as much as possible and bombard people I know until they give in,” smiles Joel, who cites Raw Talent as an example. “I found out the DJ’s contact details and we spoke on facebook. I asked for some feedback on the first album and he came back with a positive response and was happy to play us on the radio… we’ve even been on a new music radio station in New York!”
So Retro Soup have gone global. Their music is also available to buy on I-Tunes and soon, Spotify. So is this new DIY phenomenon the future? Will the middleman soon be cut out for good? “Yeah, it’s working for us,” says Rose, “it means you’re in control.”
“I wouldn’t wanna get rid of working at our own pace. With a record company it’s their money and you’re in their pocket really. It’s still more of a hobby at the moment,” confirms Joel. Counterfeit mourns the end of the professional musician and good old rock’n’roll lifestyles. But as a band of the future, Retro Soup don’t agree. “It’s not necessarily bad thing. I wouldn’t like to be a celebrity or anything. I like my privacy too much!” shares Joel.
“I’d like to be recognised by a couple of people but not to that extent, it would just be nice to be noticed by the people you’d want to know,” adds Rose. Counterfeit asks Retro Soup whether there have been any regular gig stalkers who they would rather not be noticed by.
“We have a 50-year old Myspace fan from America,” says Rose, “but I wouldn’t say they were a stalker or anything.” Joel adds, “For the first time ever, at the last gig we played, I was heckled by some teen girl who shouted, ‘I want your babies!’ That’s what it’s all about really! I thought, ‘right that’s it, I’ve done it!”
Have any audiences taken it too far? “We’ve not had one bad audience actually,” remembers Rose. Joel agrees; “Not yet, touch wood. Generally whenever we started out playing gigs, there’d be an Arctic Monkeys generic indie band doing social observation or a Scouting For Girls-type band; it was all flatpack music.”
“What we seemed to get was that, because we were a band from Sheffield, people expected that kind of music, and they were always surprised when they heard our disco-electro-caberet-rock act!” The band don’t tour much, instead they concentrate on making new tracks, a similar approach to Steel City synth-act Heaven 17.
“We’ve only done four or so gigs. We’ve tried to concentrate on doing tracks more,” says Joel. “I think a little tour would be quite fun though- but we’ve both got jobs,” adds Rose. So do Retro Soup like being different? “I think we stand out more than other bands, people noticed us more, and are intrigued by us,” observes Rose. “If your going to call your band Retro Soup you’d expect to be different,” smiles Joel.
So why Retro Soup, Counterfeit asks? “Rose and I are both artists, so it’s a reference to Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup…” explains Joel. “Bollocks!” shouts Counterfeit – we’re not normally that rude to our guests, but neither do we suffer bullshit gladly. “OK!” laughs Joel, realising he can’t sneak that porky past us, “Well in reality we searched it in Google band name generator and found ‘Retro Soup Attacks’. The choice was mutual.”
Retro Soup certainly have a different aura to any other band Counterfeit have bumped into over our maiden year. There’s always a space for synth-pop in Sheffield, its spiritual home. So if you have a spare second, check the link below, and if you like what you hear, then go to a gig; it’s probably the most different thing you’ll have seen in Sheffield for a long time.