On the eve of The Wendy James’ Band Club Tour 2021 Clunkonline had a wee chat with Wendy. To be honest I was a little nervous. Would the technology work? Are my questions okay? Are they a bit naïve? Would we get on okay for 20 minutes? These are the thoughts that keep one awake during the night!
After saying hi I went straight in with a killer question. Was Wendy, now at the eve of the tour, getting excited? Well, yes, she was. Particularly after final rehearsals the previous night. With a departure time of 10 am, today was a day for final preparations, packing bags and sorting admin etc. The tour that the band are embarking on is short but intense, 28 dates in four and a half weeks. How to get through it? Wendy says ‘Well, just hang on tight and don’t let go until the last show’. We touched on her very first live performance. Wendy wasn’t sure if it was at Leeds or Leicester students bar but fondly remembers the support that she had from her friends. ‘A large contingent of friends, from Ladbrook Grove, hired cars and drove up, behind, alongside and in front of our tour bus. I remember being extremely nervous, extremely thrilled to be surrounded by friends and launching what would turn into this long, long career’. So far all was going along nicely, I was getting a little more comfortable, thanks to Wendy, and I then came up with the most stupid question! I mean, what was I thinking! With a very busy, short tour ahead of her I asked ‘How are you going to keep it fresh each night for the band?’ I regretted it as soon as that shit question flowed out. It got the answer it deserved. ‘Oh, come on, we’re musicians, we like playing music.’ Then the tables were turned. Wendy asked ‘Do you think we are going to get bored of these songs in 4 weeks’ time’. Oh man, I thought I had annoyed Wendy, maybe I had, it sounded a bit like it. I spluttered about, trying to rectify the situation that I thought I had created. Wendy came to the rescue ‘This tour, I’ve committed to doing a different set list every night. We have a very large pool of songs to choose from and every time we play the songs it’s just pure pleasure. Maybe if I was playing the same setlist for forty years perhaps then I would want to change. This is nothing but pleasure to a) play with these musicians and b) to give all of these songs they’re moment’. Five minutes in and I felt I was hanging on. What about the album? 20 songs, did Wendy go about writing 20 songs or did that just happen? Wendy explained ‘It was an absolute decision, I wanted to have a double vinyl in my repertoire. From that it was simple maths, you can basically get 5 cuts per side of vinyl. So, I set out to write 20 and when I finished 20 I stopped’. It took a year and two months for Wendy to write. Were there any blank page, writers block issues on the way? ‘There was a stalling of the process around track 15 and then suddenly more inspiration came and that resulted, for me, on some of the most enjoyable songs on the album. I love ‘I’ll Be Here When The Morning Comes’. So, I just powered through to song 20 and I end with ‘Kill Some Time Blues’ which is a mega number. I’m very pleased with all of it’. I’m okay again by now, the crisis in my head has passed. I push on, asking Wendy about the different sounds that she has on the album. ‘Typically my comfort zone is late 70s New York, New Wave. Of course, one listens to all sorts of music but generally I’m a rock and roll kind of girl but I also like some heavy doses of girl pop. I purposely delved in to a Motown sound on this album as well, something I hadn’t done before’.
The tour follows small venues that Wendy wanted to play ‘I’ve said publicly that I won’t ever do a tour like this again. Perhaps it’s in reverse order, venues that perhaps you play at the beginning of your trajectory upwards so certain venues like King Tuts, like The Cluny. I wanted to bring my show to as many people as possible. If I do a tour next year it’s going to be in theatres. Doing this tour, a lot of gigs in a short time I feel I would have done my bit in bringing the show to the far corners of the country’.
I carried on with more questions that Wendy had probably heard a thousand times. The first records that she bought were probably The Clash or Blondie. I asked about any of her own idols that she met along the way ‘Er, well, Van Morrison lived in my spare room for a while’. She also met David Bowie numerous times, he went to Transvision Vamp shows. Could there be a Wendy James autobiography at some time? Well, they’re maybe, if Wendy can find the right angle and the time. Plans for now, apart from the tour, involves writing album 10. I looked at the clock, 25 minutes had gone by. I felt that I best not take up any more time. Thanks Wendy, next time there will be some real killer questions! See you at The Cluny.
Catch Wendy and her band on tour over the next month somewhere near you!