New York punk outfit Mommy And Daddy, otherwise known as Vivian Sarratt and Edmond Hallas, were good enough to let Betweenplanets Bob shove a microphone in their faces for a while before they opened for the Wannadies at Readings Fez Club in November 2003.
They had just got back to England from a gig in Dublin, which is where we start¦
Betweenplanets : So, how was Ireland?
Vivian: So cool. We were only there for twenty-two hours, but the show was really fun.
Edmond: Yeah, the show was great.
Vivian: The people are really nice. I think they are more American than some of the people that are here. More in your face, you know. Like WHOOOOO! And I think that we havent run into anyone like that. I guess the Wannadies are kinda like that, but even they are a bit¦
Vivian: Kinda reserved, yeah.
Betweenplanets : I read that you find people in the UK more accepting of your sound?
Vivian: Theres a big history of like, dance rock in the UK that Im really into, anything from EMF to stuff like Audio Bullys. I like bands that bridge a lot of genres.
Edmond: And I think its also the way kids are brought up with music here, its like¦ In the States it is very pigeonholed – you have your rock person and your hip hop person, etc. There is a little of that here but a lot of people are just really open to the idea of music being music and saying I like that and that whatever the style. And thats healthier.
Betweenplanets : Are you finding it difficult being together twenty-four-seven?
Vivian: No, its great.
Betweenplanets : Not claustrophobic at all then?
Vivian: Not really.
Edmond: I think that we always hung out together anyway. So this is just a more fun way to spend the time.
Betweenplanets : So youve never been tempted to expand the line up?
Edmond: One of the reasons there is only the two of us was that we are a couple, so its like who wants to hang out with a couple?
Edmond: We wanted to do stuff where we could practice in our own house, work on it twenty four hours a day, and an element wouldnt quit. Usually, and no offence against drummers, but drummers are the usual reason why bands break up. They leave because they have the choice of any band they want because everyone needs a drummer, right.
Betweenplanets : Its a popular choice these days with bands like The Kills and The Fiery Furnaces¦
Vivian: We saw them three years ago. That band is AMAZING. Before, I think it was just that girl Eleanor.
Edmond: They were a trio when we saw them.
Vivian: So the duo thing is a more recent thing for them. In the past year or two. Theyre good, good songs. They are underground dudes.
Edmond: I think that, thanks to stuff like that getting in the press, when people see us its a little easier to take in. Because even at home, people see us and it takes until the second or third song before they start to think I like this.
Vivian: People dont like it at first. A lot of the time they are put off by what we do and sometimes they are hard to win over because people have a view that is so old fashioned about how a band is formed – like it has to be 5 guys with the same haircut.
Edmond: And people are like, Do you wanna add a drummer? or Do you wanna add a guitarist? No! Its the exact same mindset from when people first heard hip-hop – Oh its just a guy playing records and another guy singing stuff?
Vivian: Or its just one guy!
Edmond: Its the same kind of reaction from those guys now who like hip-hop but they cant put the same mindset around the rock sphere.
Vivian: Well change them!
Betweenplanets : How long have you two been together as a band then?
Vivian: Well Mommy and Daddy started on the 1st of June 2002, we saw a band called The Gossip, they are awesome and my favourite band, and on the walk home we both said that we really have to start a band again. How could we not have a band after that show? So that week we wrote five songs, put them on a demo and sent it out to everybody we could think of. We first started making music together in 98, no 97 doing Tom Waits or Neil Young kinda stuff. You know, depressing stuff. And between those two we have had a whole bunch of bands.
Edmond: Weve had a lot of different incarnations.
Vivian: A lot. Been making music since we were kids.
Edmond: This is the one that stuck. I think it stuck because in the other projects that we did together I was like the principle writer and Vivian worked on the tunes and would get bored. And then wed stop because it was just Vivian and me all the time¦
Vivian: And I would never want to follow somebody elses songs. Thats boring for me.
Betweenplanets : Too much like a nine to five?
Vivian: Yeah. Its like work. More like, its not creative thought at all. Like How can I build a harmony around this – Which is fun for a little while but it got really old. So we started this band¦
Edmond: Yeah, one of the great things is that we are writing 50/50 now. Which is really cool.
Edmond: And also the vibe of the project is completely different. I think the earlier stuff that we did was definitely way more serious, way more introspective. And I think that, certainly for me, after September 11 everything having to do with life but also the appreciation of the arts switched. I used to be more into getting a more cathartic thing from the process of creating something or appreciating. I think that now I am a total escapist – so if its bubblegum I want it. Whether its movies or cartoons or¦
Vivian: Yeah, after September 11 we started watching cheesy movies like Monsters Inc and it would be Wow! Thats Great!
Edmond: Yeah, all those happy movies I would hate previously I just soak up now. The project, because of that, is supposed to be escapism, fun, full on energy and performance.
Betweenplanets : You dont want people taking it apart as high art then?
Vivian: No, no.
Edmond: Its definitely not high art.
Vivian: The whole point of the band is that its really fucking simple. Anyone can make music and if people are like Oh its too easy then I say to them start a fucking band, already!
Edmond: I think that equipment-wise in a band, or anything artistic, you dont have to have extra money to get the whatever the next gadget or cool thing is. Just do it with what you got. Thats exactly what we did, you know.
Vivian: We only had a crappy bass and a drum machine from 1997.
Betweenplanets : And the name?
Vivian: We got that from talking to the cat, Id say, Mommy and Daddy are practicing now. Edmond: And a lightbulb went off!
Betweenplanets : Would I open a whole can of worms by describing you as an electro- band?
Edmond: One of the situations with us is that we dont fit into that scene but we played shows with those people¦
Vivian: Yeah, we played one show and it went ok but people like to pigeonhole everything that comes out.
Edmond: And then there is a backlash against everything of that scene like Oh, electroclash is over blah blah blah¦
Vivian: I think Peaches is the closest thing to what we sound like.
Edmond: We dont sound like Peaches at all!
Vivian: We are like a harder band, way harder.
Betweenplanets : You are certainly not as perverse!
Vivian: Yeah. But she is awesome!
Edmond: Anyway, away from electro. We are not an electro band. We are not electro anything. We are a punk band without a drummer.
Betweenplanets : The thing I find with the term punk is that, certainly in the UK, it can cover a massive range of sounds and styles.
Edmond: I noticed that. Someone once said to me Yeah, were kinda punk and I went Oh, cool. What do you sound like? and he said People compare us to Manic Street Preachers¦ and I said WHAT! I mean what does that have to do with punk?
Betweenplanets : So that begs the question. What is punk for you?
Edmond: [groans] Well, I grew up in the punk and hardcore scene. So I think its an energy and an attitude, like everybody else says.
Vivian: Its an approach. It doesnt have to be a pigeonholed way of playing music.
Edmond: What I consider punk is a classic 77 type song or a hardcore song. You know, its verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, boom, done. Thats it, and thats exactly what we do too. Its a framework within three minutes. Its hard-hitting with not a lot of dynamics.
Vivian: Its full on. I think our approach is pretty punk. We are on an indie label, were tiny, they dont give us any money, we are totally broke¦ What else is punk about us?
Edmond: Being happy with a tuna sandwich is pretty punk.
Vivian: Were not demanding a lot on this tour.
Betweenplanets : So punk is being poor and having a bad diet?
Vivian: Yes! Malnutrition is it. We are trying to avoid fast food because we both just eat fish. There are so many sandwiches in train stations; we have been eating sandwiches for like, three weeks now.
Edmond: If we are lucky we get stuff off the Wannadies rider. They get fruit.
Betweenplanets : I saw a lot of Vivian sounds like Debbie Harry and Ed Sounds like John Lydon in reviews. Does that annoy you or do you think it fits?
Vivian: Its not annoying but¦
Edmond: I can see the Lydon thing, because tonally we are the same. Thats whiney and high and I cant sing and he couldnt sing. We are going for the same atonal thing. But with Vivian I think its a case of journalists thinking Whos female and in music?
Vivian: Yeah, its how many big females in music are there? Well, theres Patty Smith, Debbie Harry, PJ Harvey¦ Ive even had Kate Bush!
Betweenplanets : What Kate Bush gig did he go to?!
Vivian: I know!
Edmond: They just pick female icons.
Vivian: People are very lazy when it comes to comparing women in music.
Edmond: There are Karen O comparisons too because they are both half Asian.
Vivian: Thats just the similar haircuts.
Edmond: But as compliments go, Ill take John Lydon.
Betweenplanets : Are there any of your heroes youd prefer to be compared to?
Vivian: You like HR [from Bad Brains] a lot and people have compared you to Henry Rollins too.
Edmond: I had Henry Rollins in high heels. I dont know what that means really? I suppose they mean a fey Henry Rollins? Ill take that too, thats good. All my favourite singers are the ones who cant sing like Roger Miret from Agnostic Front, Ray Cappo from Youth Of Today, John Lydon, Neil Young. These weird voices that shouldnt be but they are out there and theyre doing it. That ties in with our attitude to song writing too because Vivian is super trained and Im not at all.
Betweenplanets : You play the flute, dont you?
Vivian: Yeah, the flute, violin, saxophone, from a lot of dumb stuff with bands.
Betweenplanets : So youre a one-woman orchestra?
Vivian: No, Im a dorky band person! I taught myself guitar and bass on my own its a really different way of looking at how to play music.
Edmond: That works well with our writing too. She brings out things I would never think of.
Betweenplanets : So when you write songs is it a clash or collaboration?
Vivian: We havent clashed in a long while.
Edmond: I think we are more comfortable now. If Vivian creates something, Ill say No, that sucks or go with it.
Vivian: We just say, Thats not interesting enough if we dont like it.
Edmond: Then we just try to keep selling each other on it and it either works or we say fuck it and give up!
Vivian: We dont clash about band stuff anymore?
Edmond: We have the couple fight and the band fight.
Vivian: They are pretty separate these days.
Betweenplanets : So, What does the future hold for Mommy and Daddy?
Vivian: Well the tour finishes with dates in London and then we have the CMJ Festival back home. The thing is our album is only available in the States on import. We are hopefully going to get it licensed in the US when we get back.
Edmond: Weve got another record we want to get moving with as well.