Trio are back in Bis-ness

IT MIGHT have been 13 years since Glasgow indie-popsters Bis released their last album, but some things never change.

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Bis last released an album 13 years ago
Bis last released an album 13 years ago

"One of the first reviews we got for the new album was saying 'what is this', chuckles Steven Clark, otherwise known as Sci-Fi Steven.

"We still provoke that love it or hate it reaction. To me, the songs from our first EP to this record, they're just pop music and I don't understand how they could be interpreted any other way.

"I think we were quite confrontational in the early days and we kinda enjoyed the fact we were a love it or hate it band. We're used to it now, it's like second nature."

Bis were always a unique bunch.

The trio first appeared during the rise of Britpop, offering a striking contrast to that scene with their electro-tinged sound, hyperactive approach and a drum machine as a backdrop.

An early Top of the Pops appearance, promoting the Kandy Pop single, earned them attention for allegedly being the first unsigned band to play the programme (a claim that wasn't actually true) and the band took the fact they wildly divided opinion in their stride - some critics hated them, but they had admirers such as John Peel and members of Blur.

Three albums followed, plus success in Japan and radio airplay in America, where the trio - Steven, singer Amanda 'Manda Rin' MacKinnon and John Clark were best known for soundtracking the end credits of cult cartoon the Powerpuff Girls.

They split up in 2003, only to reform from time to time for gigs. Now, out of the blue, comes a new album - data Panik etcetera - collecting previously unreleased material from over the years.

"We never stopped working together," explains Steven, ahead of the album's release on May 5.

"We did various things, we formed Data Panik in 2005, where we recorded some songs that are now on this record.

"I guess that was because of frustration with the Bis name and what we could do under that banner.

"We chucked Data Panik and started doing Bis again with no intention of doing a record, but these songs were intended to come out and eventually the guy that runs our record label Rough Trade told us it's been too long, you need to put them out."

While the new record cherry-picks a selection of songs from over several years, Steven believes the album could also act as a kick-start for new, fresh Bis recordings in the future.

"It's good for us to have these songs coming out because hopefully it'll give us the impetus to go on and do something new," he says.

"It would depend on getting the live stuff around it. This is an easy record for us to put out, although there are some new guitars that have snuck on there.

"We've started playing a bit of new material at gigs but none of them are on this album, so the hardcore fans will know there's songs out there that aren't on the album. Hopefully they'll badger us into releasing them…"

The band's fanbase always remained loyal, particularly in their home base of Glasgow.

Bis emerged at the same time as a clutch of other Scottish bands were making waves, and the scene's diversity in the 90s was what made it stand out for Steven.

"The thing about Glasgow is there's always some disparate bands around, from your snappy new wave bands to more experimental groups," he adds.

"I guess those bands like Mogwai or Arab Strap or the Delgados, it's a weird range of sounds whereas other cities tended to produce a very specific sound.

"There's always strains of Postcard Records in there but there's a much more varied sound on the whole."

Changes to music overall since that time have been dramatic. While it's a lot easier for bands to upload music nowadays, Steven feels that it actually makes it harder to spot exciting new talent.

"When we were starting out 20 years ago a lot more bands still got a chance. Nowadays it's a lot more difficult, there's only a few labels out there that are willing to take a chance, a Domino or a Fortuna Pop.

"There's so much music out there and it's not that there aren't people doing new things, it's just very hard to find them nowadays."

n Bis release data Panik etcetera on May 5.

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