Interview Tracey Thorn: ‘I Don’t Obsess Over Sleeves Or Vinyl’

We discuss the EP, record stores and what she’s got coming up next.

To celebrate Record Store Day 2011 (Saturday 16th April), Tracey Thorn is releasing a limited edition 10’ vinyl EP. ‘You Are A Lover’ comes out on Thorn’s partner Ben Watts’ Strange Feeling Records and features the title track in original form plus remix by Clock Opera, and a cover of Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Sister Winter’. We caught up with Tracey to discuss the EP, record stores and what she’s got coming up next.

Did you have a favourite record store growing up?
I remember being a child and going to the ‘music’ shop in the nearest small town, and it was a mixture of musical instruments, sheet music and records. It was where I bought my first David Cassidy record. Then, as a teenager, I started going to the record shops in Hatfield where I was at school, but in all honesty they were almost always dominated by boys, and I never felt entirely at home there. Then in the Marine Girls we used to go up to the Rough Trade shop in West London, and that felt more welcoming, and more like a social scene than just a place to buy records.

What was the first single you bought?
Probably ‘How Can I Be Sure’ by David Cassidy.

Do you remember the feeling when you first saw a Marine Girls record (or a solo one) in a shop?
Before I ever saw a record of mine for sale in a shop, I remember seeing a Marine Girls cassette, which was our first release ‘A Day By The Sea’, on sale in the record shop in Hatfield. I still love the idea that you could just make a cassette at home, then get 50 copies of it made, and a record shop would actually sell them for you.

Which smells better - the vinyl or the sleeve? Can CD booklets have the same aroma? Will we ever get a whiff of an mp3?
I’m really not a product fetishist when it comes to music. I don’t obsess over sleeves, or vinyl, or the actual artifact. I’m afraid I do in fact find digital music satisfying, in that it provides the thing I actually want, which is the sound and the song. I like the idea of record shops very much, especially for younger people, as a route into music and potentially other like-minded people with similar musical tastes. But I don’t carry with me that need or desire to feel and hold and possess actual bits of vinyl or plastic.

The new EP has The Unbending Trees, Sufjan Stevens and even Clock Opera at its roots - it’s a fair mix; what sort of music floats your boat these days?
Well, it’s that mixture really. I’m still impressed by much the same things I ever was - good songwriting, interesting singing, unpredictable arrangements, unusual sounds.

‘Love And Its Opposite’ deals with ups and downs in relationships of various hues - how much do you draw on personal experience (if you don’t mind me asking), and how much on friends / imagination / all that?
Everything goes into the melting pot - personal experience, stories friends tell you, things you hear on the news, ideas that just pop into your head out of nowhere - and somehow they all get filtered through and end up forming the stories behind the songs. Nothing is ever just a diary outpouring, there’s always an element of fiction involved, exaggeration even. It has to make an interesting story.

There’s a vague sense that you alternate acoustic-ish and dance material with your albums - OK, I’m basing this on two - anything in that?
There is something in that. I tend to finish one thing and think, ‘Right, now let’s do the opposite’. That should mean I’m ready to head back to the disco anytime about now. And in fact, I AM feeling that way inclined again.

Any plans for more solid musical collaboration with Ben? Even new Everything But The Girl?
Yes, we do keep saying we are nearly ready to maybe do some work together again. There are certain obstacles, some practical, some psychological, that we would need to overcome. But it may well happen.

You’re a keen tweeter / twitterer / tweetski /user of the social media platform Twitter - what do you like about it? A chance to spar with Caitlin Moran? Or a great way to be in touch with fans / heroes?
Just love it as a chance to gossip, share jokes and opinions with anyone out there who turns out to be funny and chatty. I’m not that bothered about trying to contact heroes. In fact I don’t really have any heroes.

‘You Are A Lover’ is released on 10’ vinyl on Saturday 16th April, with a download version to follow on Monday 18th April.

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