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"THE SOUTH ARE BRILLIANT" - THE SOUTH SETTLE THE NORTH/SOUTH DIVIDE AND TALK ABOUT A NEW ALBUM

The Beautiful South formed in 1988 and went on to sell 15 million records. When they officially split due to 'musical similarities' in 2007, the remaining members reformed as The South. Having released another album 'Sweet Refrains' in 212, the band continues to perform the legacy of hits.


We caught up with Alison Wheeler and Gaz Birtles at The Beautiful Rewind South.





PHOTOGROUPIE

How was the set today? There seemed to be a lot of energy on stage and in the crowd.


GAZ

I always feel that it takes until the last song before I can get into it.


ALI

I loved it. Playing down south is always a bit of a gamble. You never know what kind of reaction you're gonna get. But they all are enjoying themselves and we're blessed with a beautiful day and you can just see the pockets of people go mental, and it's just lovely to feed off.

PHOTOGROUPIE

These songs are really like the soundtrack to people's lives, how does that feel to have that responsibility?


ALI

I think it's a real compliment. If people say “Oh, you were my first dance at my wedding” ‘This will by this will be our year’ was a song that was used for a lot of weddings. And I think that's really beautiful that everybody's got a story to tell. They connect with a particular song because something happened in their life when it was released.

GAZ

But also, they accept us doing it. I know me and Ali are from The Beautiful South originally, but to accept the full band and us and singers of The Beautiful South songs it feels great.

PHOTOGROUPIE

There’s a sense of irony to the band’s original name isn’t there?


GAZ

Yeah, that’s Paul's (Heaton) sense of humour.


ALI

I'm from the Midlands, but they weren't having that. So as far as I am concerned. I was a Southerner through and through. They called me Lady Wheeler because I'm from the south. They just thought I was a bit posh. But I’m from Birmingham.


PHOTOGROUPIE

I know it was a bit tongue-in-cheek. And that was always that north, south divide. But how have things changed in the last 30 years?


GAZ

From a band's point of view, it's a different vibe up north than it is down here definitely. Generally, it's a cooler atmosphere down south.


ALI

I don't know maybe their lives are so hectic [down south], whereas up north, no matter what day of the week it is, it's a Saturday to them. They don't care, it could be a Tuesday and then I don't care if it's still Saturday. You get a different reaction from different parts of the UK. I want to come back here so yeah, the South are brilliant!

PHOTOGROUPIE

How did you both get into music?


GAZ

I started back in 1977 when punk rock started. The only reason I'm here is through punk rock.


PHOTOGROUPIE

Have you got a favourite punk memory?


GAZ

I nearly supported Public Image on Boxing Day at the Rainbow in London. My band was down to the support. We met with everyone, and it was great. So we thought well, 'we've cracked it'. It was iconic in my head, but not to anyone else.

ALI

Well, my dad was a music agent. So I was surrounded by 'performers'. You name it, magicians, strippers, quartets, trios, whatever. I kind of lost my way at university and went for a straight degree. But then I joined a covers band. And that was the moment where I was like, hold on. I'm really enjoying this, maybe I don't want to finish my degree, maybe I don't want to use my degree. So after a few strong words with my parents, I told them I was going to go and try and make it in the music industry. So that's kind of a turning point.


PHOTOGROUPIE

What were you studying?


ALI

Japanese and law. Which is why my parents were like " do you realise how much money you could make?" But that's not what it's about. But at the end of the day when I joined The Beautiful South my Dad was like, "who?" Then he went to the pub and met his mates and he said, "oh, my daughter's joining this band called The Beautiful South." And all his mates are like what? At which point my Dad thought maybe there was something in this. So he gave me his blessing after that. And he's always the first one to make use of the rider backstage. He enjoys coming along now and watching the gigs.


PHOTOGROUPIE

So what is your next? Are you working on an album, or any tours?


GAZ

Everyone asks us that and we really should have a good answer for it! And we really should write a new album.


ALI

We've come from The Beautiful South which was Paul Heaton and David Rotheray as a creative unit. Now we're a nine piece and anybody can bring stuff to the table and we'll listen to it. But it's trying to get this momentum going in between nine of us. It's like having all the cooks and none of the cooks at the same time. I'd love to do some more material. We've got one album under our belts called 'Sweet Refrains' which I'm really proud of. It sits really well with the back catalogue. I'd love to do some more, we do talk about it, don't we?

GAZ

Yeah we do. We will do one.


ALI

People don't want to hear the new stuff, but it would be nice.


GAZ

They'll be an EP one day. Maybe next year.


PHOTOGROUPIE

So it would be more about writing for yourself as a band at this stage than having hits?

ALI

Yeah, it would be good to do one for personal growth.


GAZ

Even putting old album tracks from The Beautiful South can go over people's heads because not everybody has heard the whole album. Yeah, but we should do a new one.



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