Meet the newest polka (dot) band from Britain

[12 June 2007]

By Len Righi

The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) (MCT)

Off stage, she is Rose Dougall. But on stage, as the brunette member of Brit pop sensation The Pipettes, she becomes Rose Pipette, aka Rosay.

So, who is Dougall more like—real-life Rose, or Rosay, who wears short, polka-dot dresses, sings, plays keyboards and does synchronized dance steps?

“I don’t know that it’s relevant,” replies Rosay over the phone, sitting on the roof of her home in Brighton, England. “They’re both emotionally engaged with the music we’re making.

“I’ve done this for 3 ½ years, and it would be difficult for me to be involved in anything I didn’t care about very much,” she adds. “We’re writing for a cause, an idea more than anything else.”

That cause—putting a modern spin on the traditional `60s girl group sound—has already enlisted sizable support in Britain, thanks to The Pipettes’ debut disc, We Are The Pipettes, which was released in the UK last July.

Now The Pipettes are ready to tap into America. The group released its first U.S. EP, “Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me,” on June 5. (The North American release of We Are The Pipettes is set for Aug. 28.)

The four-song EP samples the group’s strengths—brash banter set to schoolyard chants (the title track), winsomeness and self-deprecating humor (“I Love You”) and classic girl-group singing (“Really That Bad,” about the wrong kind of guy, who, says Rosay, “always gravitates toward me. I can’t really help it.”).

The track that meshes most of those qualities is “Guess Who Ran Off With the Milkman?” “We decided it didn’t quite fit on the (album), but we’ve been playing it (live) for a year and a half,” says Rosay. “The main idea is not wanting to grow up, of resisting the pressures of how you’re meant to be with certain people.”

Is the rippling production a nod to the Murmaids’ 1963 David Gates-penned hit, “Popsicles and Icicles”? “I love `Popsicles and Icicles,’ but I never thought of (`Milkman’) in that way,” she answers.

Although Rosay, Becki Pipette (Rebecca Stephens) and Gwenno Pipette (Gwenno Saunders) are the visual focus, the group also has four male backing musicians, including guitarist Monster Bobby (Bobby Barry), who came up with idea for The Pipettes in 2003.

So Rosay, who early in life was partial to British folk musician John Martyn and singer-songwriter extraordinaire Joni Mitchell, stresses: “We are a seven-piece band. All seven of us take part in the songwriting and in making decisions. It’s quite a democratic process. ...

“The idea was formed by Monster Bobby. He may have had some notion to be like a Svengali, but he made the fatal error of involving six people in his idea. It’s not really about an individual at all.”

Why polka dot dresses?

“We wanted to have strong, simple, bold image, something uniform for three girls, a brand,” Rosay responds. “It was cheap and it was good. And we were bored with bands that looked like they just rolled out of bed.”

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/meet-the-newest-polka-dot-band-from-britain/