Wendy James is still full of rock’n’roll vim and hungry to gig three decades after Transvision Vamp, the lurid pop-punk band that made her a star, went their separate ways. She and her band are touring the UK for the entirety of September, including two Welsh dates, as she enthuses to Carl Marsh.
Soon you will be playing not one but two of Wales’ iconic venues! You must love it when you get to play for the first time at such places, with heaps of history attached to them?
Yeah, I’m really excited about those! Clwb Ifor Bach, that’s, you know, a classic venue. I’m very happy to get in there and put my name on their list of people who have played there. And Swansea’s Cinema & Co looks like a really incredible venue, I’m excited to play that one as well. I haven’t been to Wales for ages – you know, in Transvision Vamp, we would have always played Wales, but for some reason, my independent tours haven’t necessarily taken me there. I’m not so sure, but certainly, I haven’t been there for a while. So, I’m very, very happy to be coming back.
And this tour finally allows you to perform your latest album Queen High Straight live.
The tour was initially scheduled to kick off on May 1 2020, the same day that Queen High Straight was released. And by that time, of course, we were in a global pandemic. So the album came out, and did very well – it’s the best reviews I’ve ever had. And it continues to sell quite a lot of copies.
Lockdown – in some ways – was very good for the music, because it is a 20-track album – it afforded people, furloughed from work as you know, the time to sit down and invest themselves in all 20 songs. So that worked out, strangely enough, very well for the album.
But, of course, this is now the third delay with the tour, so I’m very excited we can finally go ahead. I’ve not started rehearsing yet [ed’s note – Wendy was speaking in July!], but I will fly to England for about 14 days of rehearsals. Tomorrow, I’m going to start looking at my lyrics and see if I remember them!
I think you’ll be fine!
I think I will be, as it’s muscle memory. I’ve sung many of them so many times, and the most recent ones are still drilled into my head from the recording session. So, of course, it’s going to be okay… I don’t know how much work I’m going to have to do. [Laughs]
The album’s 20 tracks are a very eclectic mix of different ones, such as Queen High Straight the song, which opens proceedings. It’s got a bit of a Burt Bacharach feel. Knowing you live in the south of France, the song had me picturing you writing that by just walking out into your garden over there…
A long time before I arrived in France! I’d been living in America since 2002. So, many of my favourite bands, and music, comes from America, whether it’s The Stooges, or Bacharach & David, or Motown. All of that stuff is what infuses my music overall. And that’s why you can go from Queen High Straight, which you’re correct to say is a Bacharach & David kind of thing.
I was also thinking of Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66 with that kind of jazzy vibe, right through to track 16, the new song that’s out at the moment: The Impression Of Normalcy, which is filthy speed punk. I made an accompanying video too. You know, when you’ve been around music enough, then you tend to know that you can go from Bacharach & David to Iggy & The Stooges, and it’s all the same thing, really.
Wendy James’ Queen High Straight is out now on MCA. Info: here
Wendy plays Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff on Wed 1 Sept. Tickets: £16.50. Info: here; Cinema & Co, Swansea on Tue 28 Sept. Tickets: £20. Info: here
words CARL MARSH photos DAVID LEIGH DODD
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