In the mid 90s when it was all Lad culture and Oasis were Kings, Echobelly seemingly came out of nowhere and added a touch of glamour and intelligence. This month Sonya Aurora Madan and co are back with a new album "People Are Expensive" which looks set to be one of those real growers. A new found maturity and growth which perhaps goes beyond radio friendly singles like "Great Things" or "The King Of The Kerb" and sees them turning into, for want of a better word, an albums band. We caught up with Ms Madan to find out about this new zen-like calm within the band
Q: So how does it feel to be back?
A: I'm not sure we are back!!! This is a very sort of underground thing compared to what were used to. Its very exciting for us but the problem is that most people, and ourselves, judge it by actual commercial success and I think that is going to take a little bit of time.
Were managing ourselves, were the record label and I think as soon as you actually do it then you become legitimate - otherwise its just like some sort of dream isn't it. Its a bit of a learning experience with lots of things we've never done before. Paris at Christmas 1997, a long time since we last did a gig, and the 1st gig back is Manchester.
Q: How are you finding it without the major label backing?
A: I feel so excited about doing these four gigs. It means a lot to us because we've done it ourselves, not even with any money because we had it all nicked, and we've managed to record the album. Going from Sony where everything is handed to you on a plate and at one point we were doing really really well and then going completely the other extreme where you say "if you love music, you have to make music" and it doesn't matter what's going on around you.
Q: "People Are Expensive" has a kind of new found maturity?
A: That makes sense I suppose rather than the other way round - i'm digressing!!! I always think people are talking about a big cheese with "were a lot more mature". At the end of the day you write what you write and I suppose we keep evolving, its not so much in everyone's face this time round. There are elements that are full on, almost like a tease, but there is a lot of space.
I think its the sort of album that is required to be listened to on its own or on your own - its not a party album. I've never known any of my family, like Grandparents, who have died so it hasn't really touched me in the same way as losing your best friend. Its kind of a weird one.
I think things evolve into their own and you end up .... like you might have a written a song about a particular subject, but with a lot of my lyrics they are quite open ended or you can actually pick up different things from them .... so its ok for me because I'm not constantly being reminded about why I wrote it, I can pick up another meaning. Its so Echobelly though!!!
Q: As well as the personal loss events like the fraud case must test your faith?
A: Well, we keep laughing at ourselves because were either completely mad for staying together cos' no band would put up with the amount of shit we have. That's not like a sob story but we've had everything go wrong and I think it is all for a reason. At the end of the day if there is such a thing as fate - we are meant to be here to make music and were meant to be here to learn certain things.
I'm not about to give up. Its never been about fame as such, its been about writing lyrics and this mad desire or need I have to get words down onto paper. Otherwise we could have just split up and formed new bands and got a lot of press through "ex-members of this" type of thing is quite easy. But staying with the same band is actually quite hard I think because people think "Why are you bothering? You've been away for 3 years" until you have a big hit.
I think with this album, I really feel this, its going to be a slow build but it is going to build and I think it is going to surprise people. I'd like to talk to the same people this time next year and see what's happened with it especially abroad. I just have feelings that something is going to happen, but I think its going to be a real sort of snowball.
Q: You've talked recently about studying a lot of the occult stuff. Would you like to expand a bit on this?
A: I'm just fascinated by certain things I suppose and like most artists you're trying to explain your reasons for being here and the way you see the world. You're constantly trying to push the barriers to see what else is there or what the truth is, to put it in a nutshell you're searching for the truth. I think that people do tend to lean towards more altruistic explanations or whatever.
I've been drawn towards feeling that there is a lot more that I don't know and the truth isn't necessarily standing in a Church or a Mosque or a Synagogue. There must be something universal that claims us all, that has no disparity or segregation or whatever. Its just a need to find out!!!!
Ironically I've had a strict up-bringing, but not a religious one. Thank god!!!!
Q: You've changed a lot over the past few years. You don't want to force your opinions on everyone now like you did in the old days?
A: Oh Well, I just had an opinion!!!! We came out at a time when lad culture was very much orientated towards Loaded and Oasis and for a girl to speak her mind it was seen as such a big deal. Even though supposedly rock & roll it wasn't meant to be like that, but it still was. A lot of journalists can't handle it if you actually say "No actually I don't think that's true". Woah, she's got a brain!!!!
Q: Don't you want to shout out now when we've got Coldplay and Travis not really saying anything?
A: Well I think they are. I'm a lot more tolerant yer know. As long as music is soulful, and I don't mean that in a corny soul music or whatever, I mean soulful. It doesn't matter what genre it is in and who am I to say what is good and bad - apart from certain things.
Q: Do you find it quite scary that culture seems to be dumping down from television to music and everything in-between?
A: I do. I do. My childhood I suppose was in the punk era and although I wasn't old enough to be involved, it does rub off on you. You see so much plasticity or plastic or whatever - everything around you. Its gets really scary, because at the end of the day if you don't think about whatever - toilet roll or the United Nations it doesn't matter - if you don't think then I think that's when it starts to become dangerous.
Conformity. There's been a lot talk at the moment and a lot of programs on psychology and how people conform. They think they won't but they get told by someone in a uniform to do something and they do it. And its like well Woah!!! You think you're going to be such an individual and now are you. That's the whole point of youth and rebellion and people just don't seem to rebel anymore.
What gets me is on a corporate level things are being rammed down our throats and it seeps down and touches the bottom ot the pyramid - it does touch us all!!! I think at the end of the day if you use your brain a bit it doesn't really matter. Its always been 90% of people around who always used music as an entertainment source as opposed to anything that's going to chance their mind.
Q: You've always been a political spokesperson. Have you been taking note of the No Logo / Anti-capitalist protests?
A: I've been aware of them and been watching them. "A Map Is Not A Territory" i think talks a lot about that sort of stuff. I have my sympathies but I think at the same time a lot of it is not that well thought out. I think McDonalds are satan sporn because I don't think that people realize how much damage they cause.
Smashing one McDonalds is symbolic, but you're not actually going to change things by having a riot. If you really want to change things you need to seep yourself in politics and become part of the system unfortunately and work from within. I think that's the only way you are going to do anything unless it becomes en masse, I mean seriously en masse, then it will start changing because its all based on votes. It won't happen for a long, long time if you base it on having a few riots. I think you really need to get a more subversive approach from within.
I used to think I could change the world. It's sad growing up isn't it. I want to go the other way!!!!
Q: Do you find it quite unbelievable that coming up to the election we've got 2 main parties with really right-wing policies?
A: One thing I have noticed because perhaps I didn't pay that much attention to political parties before. But now its like what a bunch of jokers they all are. If you sit back and thing that these people are running the country whoever they are - Labour, it doesn't matter they're all the fucking same most of the time.
Its all about self promotion and the whole political agenda is put on a back burner because it comes the politics of the ego. Its got nothing to do with helping society or helping the people you represent which is really all their job is and all their job should be. It all becomes about self promotion and its the nasty, bitchy, back-biting horrible thing to do.
I've just never found any politicians of enough merit to justify their job and the whole thing just becomes facile.
Q: The playing of the race card must really offend you?
A: How irresponsible is that? How unthought out? At the end of the day all politics should be "do unto others as you do unto yourself" - that's what its all about. I'd like to see William Hague in an asylum. Think how long he'd last?
I think that people don't tend to leave their own home until their having complete shit. You don't go to a foreign country. Its not like you going on holiday with loads of money. You're going down the back route. You become illegal. You become underground. You don't exist. You have no rights. You don't speak the language. It must be a really scary decision to make to actually go that far and you only do it if you're into serious trouble.
People have got to thing about how they'd like to be treated.
"People Are Expensive" is out now