INTERVIEW

Opposites Attract.

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Photography by Lee Goldup

OPPOSITES ATTRACT

Somebody out there once said it: that opposites attract. Sure, they were singing at a cartoon cat, but you can see that Paula Abdul was on the right track. Just look at Jerome Watson and Stephanie Min, a couple with four glorious years behind them and the founding members of The History of Apple Pie. On first meeting they seem anything but opposite, tripping over each other’s words and finishing sentences… but where they are worlds apart is their musical backgrounds.

Jerome is steeped in musical schooling; his instrument [the guitar] an extension of his upper arm. He even makes guitar pedals for fun. Stephanie, on the other hand, can’t play a thing, “but that was the best thing at the beginning,” explains Jerome. “Because Steph was totally underdeveloped musically we just did what we liked and each of us are coming from completely different angles. I really had no idea she could sing and we had been together a while!” he laughs.

Together in the band, the pair are riding a wave of good will that dates back to February 2010, when the couple’s early songs were first uploaded to the Web. Jerome just out of Hatcham Social, Steph sugar-rushed on a diet of pop, the two were about to write together for the first time.

“He’d always be writing stuff before and I’d try not to get involved,” says Steph. “Maybe I’d have a listen, but we just tried it one night and it worked really well. I had to reign him in a bit and I still do, ’cause I’m more vocals and the tune – I concentrate on the song while he goes off with his guitar making all sorts of noises, and I’m like, ‘how do I fit this in?!’”

With tracks like ‘You’re So Cool’ and paceier ‘Mallory’, Jerome and Steph’s early demos acted as a refreshing antidote to the omnipresent chillwave movement of the time. They were straight up and down songs; a throwback to teenage times, all slacker rock and dripping in a juicy, jangly way. Straight away the band sat alongside bands like Yuck and the ever-youthful, sweeter Veronica Falls, resembling a hybird of Teenage Fanclub and the doe-eyed Lush. A fuzzy warmth that emanated from early ’90s grunge filled their songs too.

“We put the tracks on the Internet straight away, as a sort of, ‘ooh look what we’ve done, we’ve just made a song!’ I was totally freaked out that anyone would listen or I would end up on stage.” Steph cracks up at her naivety but later admits she still gets scared stiff, although maybe you would too if your first gig was at the Hippodrome in Kingston, the crowd 500 strong. “That was pretty fear,” says Steph.

“It kind of helped that it looks like a giant pinball machine,” says Jerome.

Racing into the limelight though is not THOAPs style. (They turned down our first two interview requests, come to think of it).

“It’s fine now,” says Jerome. “but we were thrown into really big shows at first as the Internet went mad. Now we have a handle on it and are pretty selective. We do have our freakouts though. Every so often we don’t have any gigs, but then all of a sudden a few come at once and we’re like, oh dear we can’t take time off work!”

Drummer James and bassist Kelly (both “hilarious”, says Steph) were soon added to the bands lineup, along with second guitarist Aslam who “acts really surprised all the time and doesn’t drink, but he has addictions like energy drinks and Coca Cola.”

The five of them spend a lot of time laughing, even if Jerome is a little more jaded than the others due to his past experiences as a jobbing musician. Steph is more energised by it all, and neither of them can wait for their first release: a limited 7-inch of ‘You’re so Cool’ on a new label called Roundtable. “Yeah, it’s Joe from Angular helping out his cousin Kate,” says Steph. “It’s pretty exciting really and the song was chosen by popular demand!”

So is it about Jerome then, Steph – all lovey dovey lyrics and longing gazes across the living room?

“Nope! It’s actually about my best friend from back home in Coventry. She knew all of the script to True Romance off by heart, so it’s a bit lovey in the lyrics but the actual song is about Alabama’s speech at the end – ‘you’re so cool, you’re so cool’.” And once again THOAP prove that they really are band awash with early 90’s pop culture influences.

On top of the Oliver Stone cult classic, Pulp’s ‘Different Class’ is a favourite album, Placebo’s ‘Nancy Boy’ a favourite song and Jerome fondly remembers his father’s job as manager of a Soho record store on Berwick Street called Reckless Records. “He used to bring me all the promos,” he says, “you know ‘Parklife’ in both blue and green. I used to go in the shop and draw on all the record store sleeves, just the paper bit inside.”

Steph’s family also played a part in her musical education. Her parents listened to The Beatles and Elvis on loop, but she says: “it was my sister who turned me on to music really, stuff in ’94, like Placebo.”

So maybe this couple aren’t that different after all. Steph looks unconviced. “I listen to so much pop music I can make up melodies instantly in my head,” she says, “Jerome’s more of a guitar nerd!”

By Ian Roebuck

Originally published in issue 28 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. May 2011

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