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Throbbing Pink Boudoir of My Heart: A Q&A with Tobermorie
Among all the bad that’s come from the COVID pandemic, some good has also resulted. Tobermorie, active in Hamilton in the late-‘90s, have unexpectedly released an album of old recordings via Bandcamp, titled ‘Throbbing Pink Boudoir of My Heart’. We caught up with Jo (vocals), Sarah (guitar, backing vocals), Louisa (bass, backing vocals) and Rob (drums, backing vocals) to vaguely reminisce about the band, their career highlights, and hear about the recordings; how did they come to be released in 2021, and which songs have best passed the test of time?
HUP: I remember Tobermorie winning the 1997 ‘Contact FM Busking Competition’ and playing quite a bit around that time. The recordings on this album were made about this time also. Had any of these recordings been utilised prior to today, and what has led you to releasing the songs digitally after all these years?
Sarah: I don’t think we ever released the recordings at the time and I’m not even sure why we recorded them in the first place. The reason for putting the songs online now was because I’d been meaning to do it for ages, but didn’t get around to it until I found myself locked down in incompetent pandemic Britain and had nothing better to do.
HUP: How did the recordings survive, and what kind of a state were they in? How did you get it digitised, and what kind of special treatment did they need?
Rob: We did some recording on a four-track, so I'm assuming these are all from that. We did a live-to-air on Contact 89FM, so some of those might be included but, on reflection, none of the songs end with me saying something stupid, so perhaps not.
Sarah: I found an old blank cassette with the four-track recordings on it, but the tape was about to disintegrate. Luckily I’m married to someone who enjoys noodling around with recording and production, so he did the digitising and cleaned up the sound a bit.
HUP: Of the songs on the album, I still remember ‘Hanging Darling’ pretty clearly from those performances from 20-plus years ago. How do you think the songs have stood the test of time, and what are your favourites?
Jo: My favourites were probably the uber-folksy numbers like 'Dry Air' and 'My Caravan'. As far as standing the test of time, I can listen to them over twenty years later without my toes curling up and a few of them definitely make me smile. I think we were great to watch live... I just remember having a lot of fun.
Louisa: I love ‘Charmed’ [found on the 1997 Green Eggs and Hamilton compilation]; that is still so good too!
Rob: I really like ‘Hanging Darling’ too! I'm a sucker for melancholy. ‘Last Man on Earth’ is a great pop gem, I think. The bridge lyrics are great!
Sarah: ‘Hanging Darling’ is a favourite for me as well, and so is ‘Pieces of You’. ‘Plankton Boy’ is still as repulsively creepy as it ever was.
HUP: ‘Tobermorie’ appears to be a unique spelling, different from the ‘Tobermory’ of the Wombles or the Canadian village of the same spelling. How did you end up with the name?
Louisa: I think we had a love for Wombles at the time? It was definitely a Womble reference! [Nobody could remember why they changed the spelling.]
HUP: What do you consider to be the highlights of Tobermorie’s short existence?
Rob: Did we come second in the Wailing Bongo Battle of the Bands? I seem to have that memory. If that happened, that was definitely a highlight. [HUP: Yes you did Rob! Coming 2nd in the 1997 Contact 89FM Battle of the Bands, beating by one place a band called Trinket, who in 2000 became The Datsuns]. Most rehearsals were interesting; a tenuous balance between dogged determination not to break up and good laughs.
Louisa: We opened for The Chills once. One highlight was making 75 smackaroos whilst busking for 30 minutes one New Year’s Eve.
Jo: I remember opening for The Chills, and the Headless Chickens too... And vaguely Chris Knox one O-week? Bit blurred! My highlight was an interview at a supermarket in Hillcrest... [HUP: this was published in Nexus under the title ‘Stars in their Aisles’, where Rob was described as “Sexy. Gorgeous. Spunky. The very epitome of the nineties pop star”]. I think they gave us a bit of shopping money, which I was particularly impressed with, having lived on two-minute noodles for several weeks prior! Did we play in Raglan... or did we just get drunk on the beach there? Or was that just me?
Sarah: We had some brilliant gigs – not because they were good or professional but just because they were fun and chaotic, and it was always great playing with the other bands around Hamilton at the time. I thought we supported Tanya Donnelly in 1998, but nobody else remembers this, so now I think I must have made it up.
Rob: I think maybe I was not in this band. I don't remember any of this. My sum total of Tobermorie memories are as follows: busking in Garden Place, coming second at something at the Wailing Bongo, practising at The Datsuns’ practise hall in Cambridge, drumming too loud at a ‘Youth for Christ’ Teen Convention and hence not getting 'recalled', recording at the Queens Ave flat and accidentally baring butt-crack at practise one time. Oh, and one time I hissed 'Stop bickering!' or something similar. But both Scott [Brodie] and Justin [Harris; both, with Rob, from Inchworm] were the drummer at some points, right, so maybe a lot of this other stuff happened then…
Sarah: I don't think Justin or Scott ever played any gigs though. I'm pretty sure all live performances were only ever Jo, Lou, Rob and me.
HUP: What led to the demise of the band, and who has continued with music since the breakup of the band?
Louisa: Jo moved to Christchurch to pursue a career in media, so Sarah, Rob and I found new meaning to life with Grant Brodie on keys as Inspector Moog.
Rob: I don't remember; as the drummer, someone probably just told me it wasn't happening any more. I don't actually remember anything acrimonious, which itself seems amazing and unlikely.
Sarah: We’ve all continued with music one way or another. Louisa’s in Raglan working on a solo mini-album right now, and Jo’s been working as a musician for years in Kerikeri. Rob and I have been in various bands together in London since 2000 (Girlinky and Dobra Robota), and he’s still playing in Grok.
Any proceeds from Bandcamp sales will go to Phone Credit for Refugees.
Sarah and Rob in Girlinky