Interviewing Amandah from Operator Please…
Gold Coast formed Operator Please are hot-on-the-heels of releasing “Logic”, the debut single from their as-yet-unreleased sophomore album ‘Gloves’. Gearing up to headline at this years mammoth Future Music Festival, the bands front-woman, the passionate and delightful Amandah Wilkinson, sat down with me for a chat about the new album, working on the road, Lady GaGa, and preferring to be labelled as a pop group rather than an Indie one.
Operator Please had a wild 2007/2008. Releasing their debut album Yes Yes Vindictive saw them touring globally and promoting their wares across the world. Alternative radio were hammering their singles, but so were the commercial radio networks. It was hard to escape Operator Please mania, and whether you loved or loathed their debut single, the quirky “Song About Ping Pong”, there was really no denying these kids were on the rise.
It’s 2010 and they’re not exactly kids anymore. ‘Logic’, the bands new single, is a spiky pop song that demonstrates a clear growth, not only as artists but as a collective. It’s punchier, perhaps more importantly; poppier, and feels more refined.
“We only really decided on the single maybe a month before we put it out,” says Wilkinson. “There were a lot of contenders, but the band kind of felt like ‘Logic’ should be the leading single for quite some time, so we just did it.”
It’s an exceptional pop record, even if the Alternative stations try to tell you otherwise.
“I’ve always written pop songs,” Amandah says, before laughing. “I was a little confused with the Indie/Alternative title we got, but I’ve always thought we’ve written pop music.”
In a year where pop finally took precedence thanks to the emergence of Lady GaGa, Wilkinson gets excited as I mention Lady’s influence on the pop spectrum. “I think pop is becoming more predominant,” she says. “We went through particular styles of music; a few years ago pop was all about bubblegum, but a while before that pop was Blondie and Madonna, then you had the trio of Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson. Now Lady GaGa’s coming through, I don’t think people are expecting it but I think it’s amazing.”
Surely there are fans who would guffaw at claims that Lady GaGa was worthy of attention. Maybe even some that would do the same at the mere mention of the word ‘pop’. Amandah doesn’t seem to care though, and is quite pleased the great divide between credibility and pop music is moving its way closer to one another.
“There’s always going to be people that hate pop music,” she adds. “But the majority of the time, most people aren’t aware they’re listening to a pop song when they are (laughs). It’s true though, it’s a structural thing, all these key elements that make up an incredible pop song – you can put fuzzy guitars or whatever you want and call it whatever genre you want, but chances are you’re putting fuzzy guitars over a pop song. You know? Pop connects, it connects with people. The Beatles were pure pop mate, and think of how huge they were. I just think it’s really good that the stigma is disappearing, because particularly in the 90’s there was this big separation between pop music and alternative sounds. It was a very big spectrum, and we’re not necessarily closing the gap, but it’s definitely being turned around.”
Gloves, the bands follow up to their 2007 debut Yes Yes Vindictive is said to include lots of synths, xylophones and drums. The band took the combination of being on the road and listening to music to form the creation of the songs within the new record; everything from pop to 90′s RNB.
“I think I personally reverted to a lot of stuff I was listening to when I was in high school – you know, lots of RNB (laughs) and Hip Hop, I’ve always loved 80′s Madonna and Janet Jackson and Prince. All the experiences from being on the road, watching other bands perform live; it all just kind of rolled into one really.”
Being on tour for such an extended period of time did play tricks on the bands mind however. An element of cabin fever began to brew as they tried to juggle being on the road, writing new material and not being able to record any of it.
“I guess that being on tour you don’t get too much of that time, so it was a mixture of absolute frustration, but also enjoying being on tour simply because we were on tour (laughs). But if you get the two worlds melded up it can actually get quite frustrating and difficult. You’re there to play live and you really need to give it your all to do that. You think about a new record, mainly what we used to have to do, because we, you only get so much time to yourself, so I find if I can get ideas down by myself and then get them out to the band I feel less nervous about it. Because I’m always real nervous about showing people new ideas or showing people new music, wearing everything on your sleeve and being vulnerable to everything (laughs).”
Amandah admits to me that, during the albums early days, she was nervous and a little scared to share the music. “I’m not now though,” she assures me with a cheeky laugh.
“I think, because you have a back catalogue of music, when you’ve first written your new stuff it’s actually quite alien until you’ve played it with the band. You’re forever comparing the new stuff to your old stuff, which is something you can never do, you just need to have the confidence to do what you want to do. I was nervous at the start, but now I’m ready to just get it out (laughs).”
Between agonising over the tracklisting, to choosing which songs will end up on the final cut, Wilkinson’s job at arranging the albums finer details have caused her somewhat of a proverbial headache. Striving for perfection is hard, but the burning desire to get it right is evident in her responses.
“We want to make sure it’s the right title. It’s kinda the same with naming songs and putting together the tracklisting for the record, you have to make sure it’s right and sit with it for a bit. Which can be a pain the arse!”
It’s an album Wilkinson and her band are hoping to take overseas, after spending most of 2008 on tour through International shores. “We didn’t spend much time in Australia on the last record,” she says. “We were in London, Europe and Japan, some shows in the US, but we’re really hoping to just step it up another level you know? I reckon growth and growth through new records and whatever (laughs). I’m not the kind of person that’s like, oh yeah, I want to be the biggest band in the world or whatever (laughs). I know it’s ambitious and all that crap, but you need to take it step-by-step I think. I’m just hoping we bump it another level, and that’s all I can hope for. And if it goes further than that – awesome.”