This should have been written and published right after the ‘These are the things that make these days worth living through’ entry below. In essence, it is the third, most important, and possibly last instalment in the ‘April dreams England’ series — in other words, the exploration of what this gig meant to me. But life got in the way and so it ended up being written for the Spiral Scratch all-dayer fanzine, which, according to my copy at least (#147), was distributed to 250 people. That, come to think of it, is probably my widest audience ever; but, just in case you weren’t there (say you live in another country or something): there you go. Oh, and the strangest thing? Kieron, who seemed to be the only other non-Spiral Scratch person who wrote for said fanzine, also talked about growing out of indiepop. Go figure.
We are sitting outside the Plant – two sixths of The Visitors, one half of the Pines and the Foxgloves, the boy behind thinksmall.nl and me. The Plant is a cafe in Exeter’s Cathedral Yard –a fine place to be– and the day is strange, hot and cold at the same time. There is a low grey cloud hanging over us and the promise of better weather in the air. We’re theorising about pop music in a way that makes the words ‘High Fidelity’ pop to mind, a way that makes me grin on the outside and giggle on the inside. And then Tim mentions ‘that part of folk that is the closest to pop’ and how hard it is to find it — and that’s when I say it. I tell him I’ve been looking for that for a few years now because “one day I’ll grow out of indiepop, and I’m afraid I won’t have anything to listen to” then. My attempt to explain this controversial statement is very soon abandoned because it only seems to make the questioning looks worse.
The concern that I will grow out of indiepop has been around for a few years. Since 2005, to be precise: the year that answered both my burning questions within the space of a few months, leaving my head spinning and rendering the songs about holding hands and hoping for a kiss irrelevant. (The questions were “will I find someone to spend my life with, and will I deserve them?” and “what can I do to leave a sweet mark on the world?” and, in case you are interested, the answers were “yes, and, trust me, that will be the least of your worries” and “how about being a teacher?” respectively.) I clang on to the few songs that still resonated — primarily the Lucksmiths, Pipas, the Pines, and the occasional song here and there that wasn’t about being young, lost, and waiting for love, along with the occasional song that was about these things but which I seemed to love too much to give up — and I worried. Because even though so much had changed, one thing had stayed the same: I only really liked indiepop.
Later on on that same evening, after Tim and Joe have played a set of three Visitors and ten Pinefox songs to an audience of five Visitors fans, one lonely-but-excited Pinefox fan and approximately fourteen bemused-but-interested kind strangers, I am standing in the corner fiddling with CDs and headphones and buttons, and Joe walks up to me. “Nice music,” he says, “I like it” — or something to that effect. I think I am playing the Razorcuts, or the Siddeleys, or otherwise something equally trademark: “This?” I tease, “it’s indiepop!” Because another thing that emerged from the aforementioned conversation is that those two don’t seem to be the sort of people who will readily identify themselves as indiepoppers. “The one you’ll grow out of?” he retorts and I am left smiling even though you can claim I have ostensibly lost. I like it when people remember what I say — and I like it even more when they use it appropriately.
That night we ride back home on the last bus, a double-decker that we have mostly to ourselves, through surreal-looking empty country roads. In the morning we ride back on a train packed like the beach on a bank holiday Monday because the promise of better weather has been fulfilled, and the day is warm and sunny and windy — in other words, perfect. In fact it is the best day of the year so far, weatherwise and otherwise, inside and out. We wander around Exeter — the boy Think Small, the Pinefox, Alistair Fitchett and me: a cafe, the Cathedral, the Cathedral Yard, Northenhay gardens. We talk of pop music and poetry, Lloyd Cole and literature, and somehow these seem to stretch all day. They blend with the sunshine and the haze, the odd questions and our awkward answers and our sudden, instant happiness.
But it is the evening that changes my mind. Because as it rolls around and Alistair leaves to catch a bus the rest of us roll down the hill, back to the green grass of the Cathedral Yard, armed with three bottles of beer, a bag of crisps, and the aforementioned happiness, discussing the relative sadness of the line “I loved you / well, never mind” — and the bells of St Steven’s begin to ring. They ring and ring all through the evening, as the light changes and the temperature drops and the people go home, the same three-chord song for hours on end. You’d think it would sound boring, but it doesn’t — it sounds heavenly — and the repetition only makes it more precious. I feel elated, honoured to be in the presence of something rare, on such a perfect day at that too!
And so I gather up my courage and look at Joe’s guitar case and ask him if he can play us a Cat’s Miaow song. It turns out that he can, and he can play us a lot more besides. And so we drink the beer, we eat the crisps, we talk about love and our favourite Magnetic Fields songs, and we sing. In perfect harmony for a moment or two — within, and, perhaps, even without. When we finish ‘The luckiest guy on the lower east side’ a random stranger claps. For a while it seems like I am living in a charmed world, where what is around corresponds to what is inside.
The time to dash to the bus station comes too soon, and so we dash. Saying goodbye breaks my heart, and so my heart is broken. But it is happier than it has been in a long while, too — as happy as it was when we stood with Pipas on the rocks overlooking Athens under brilliant blue skies, and I felt like we were about to discover the treasure at the end of the rainbow — because I have found a part of myself I haven’t seen since, and it is the part that I know and love the best. And so, as we walk away into the sweet-smelling spring air, where the bells are still ringing, I make a face and I tell my husband: I suppose I won’t grow out of indiepop after all.