Wire Daisies: Cornish flower power

Wire Daisies, purveyors of timeless pop melodies, are coming along nicely. Phil Meadley meets them
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The Independent Culture

A Cornish beach café is not the archetypal place to meet the latest hotshot rock band. But then, Wire Daisies are not your usual run-of- the-mill rockers. For one, they produce timeless pop melodies without hiding behind the latest fad. For another, they are being championed by the internet- based music company Transistor Project, co-led by Dave Rowntree, Blur's drummer, whose primary aim seems to be grooming potential bands for future stardom.

A Cornish beach café is not the archetypal place to meet the latest hotshot rock band. But then, Wire Daisies are not your usual run-of- the-mill rockers. For one, they produce timeless pop melodies without hiding behind the latest fad. For another, they are being championed by the internet- based music company Transistor Project, co-led by Dave Rowntree, Blur's drummer, whose primary aim seems to be grooming potential bands for future stardom.

Ever since the success of Fame Academy winner Alex Parks, Cornwall has been earmarked as a place to find potential musical talent. Treana Morris is the charismatic lead vocalist of the band, and she believes that Cornish talent has always been there, even if it's sometimes reluctant to move out of its comfort zone. "I think coming from Cornwall you don't realise what you've got to give. It was only when we moved out and started playing in other places with people wanting to come back and see us, that we started to believe that we could actually do this."

"Everyone focuses on London, and London never looks outside its parameters," continues keyboardist Ol Beach. "But since last year people have started to look at Cornwall as an untapped resource. Before I came down here I didn't know anything about Cornwall. I thought it was all pasties and surfing. But we're part of the musical scene here and everybody we know is in a band or playing music. If you go to a pub on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night there'll be a decent live band playing."

"The trouble is that most of them don't bother about getting anywhere," interjects goatee-faced drummer Steve Jackson. "Everyone is so laid-back. You hear someone in a pub and wonder why he or she isn't world famous. But they don't want to leave, they're quite happy writing beautiful songs and playing in pubs. In some ways, that's real happiness because you're not competing with that corporate juggernaut."

The band's origins began with Morris and guitarist Alden Evans, who played as a duo around the Cornish pub circuit. One night they were playing in a pub on the Helford River and were spied by Queen's Roger Taylor, who has a holiday home nearby. "He phoned us up later and asked us to come and have a chat with him," relates Morris. "He heard some of our demos, liked it and became really supportive. Alden and I did a support slot for his tour a couple of years ago, and we got in touch with Jim Beach [manager of Queen and Ol's father] through Roger and then met Ol at the Eclipse Party shortly after."

Morris met the drummer Steve Jackson after she supplied backing vocals for local singer-songwriter Al Hodge at Plymouth Pavilions. Jackson had previously been working in America with a band called Wood, who were signed to Colombia Records but never made the grade. The band initially called themselves The House in the Wood, before settling on Wire Daisies. "Treana was going down every weekend to do pub gigs whilst we were up in London writing and recording demos," Beach relates. "It came to a point where we had all these new songs, but there were just two of us and we couldn't play them to anyone else. Treana was in a band in Cornwall which wasn't progressing because there weren't any new songs, so we decided it would be nice to spend a few weeks down there to try things out and see if we all got on. We all moved into this little farm just outside Camborne, up a little cart track in the middle of nowhere. Things worked out so well that we stayed there for two years."

With 30 songs in the bag, they needed record label interest and a producer who could put a final sheen to the tracks. Parlophone were interested but didn't commit, so Jackson suggested local producer John Cornfield, who had previously worked with the likes of Muse, Supergrass and Oasis. After hearing their demos, Cornfield agreed to produce two tracks, "Butterfly" and "Billy Boy", plus a live set of six songs. "He was so laid-back and easy to work with," Beach says. "We decided pretty quickly after that to record the whole album with him, so last summer we went back and recorded the whole thing. We were running on such a tight budget that he was working 20 hour days to get it finished."

Although Cornfield had produced the likes of Oasis and Muse, Beach believes that because he is based in north Cornwall he hasn't received the recognition that he deserves. "The sort of bands he's worked with have got quite a heavy sound and I think he was intrigued to do something that's a little bit more delicate sounding."

Morris was no stranger to the music business. She had her first record deal at the age of 15, went to America and released a couple of albums. "I went to school with this guy who used to work in a studio in Paul, near Penzance. He started writing songs and I'd come in and help him with lyrics and melodies. In return, he'd help my school band because we couldn't even string a few chords together. I used to go down to the studio in my school uniform, and then suddenly we got signed to an American label and flown over to the States."

Record company changes led to the duo losing their deal and it was back to the drawing board. "At that stage, I was getting into more acoustic music and the music we'd been making was a little bit poppy. It was good but I wasn't completely upset when it ended. I'd been out there for a few months on my own and was starting to feel a bit homesick, but it was a really good experience to travel around America."

Morris cites Nick Drake, Ani DiFranco and Joni Mitchell as strong influences; this can certainly be heard on tracks such as "Make Everything Change", and "Butterfly", although comparisons to Dido will abound. Songwriting is handled by all of the band members on the impressive debut album, Just Another Day, and democracy seems high on the agenda. "We've got so many different influences," Beach enthuses. "Alden's a really big Tom Petty and Queen fan. Treana is influenced by country and folk, and I was at jazz college in Switzerland. We can sometimes get a bit argumentative about ideas, but it gives us our particular sound."

Although buoyed up by performances at Womad in Reading, and appearing at a festival alongside Fun Lovin' Criminals, this year's most memorable gig was performing on the last night of the Montreux Jazz Festival. "Afterwards the local paper named us as one of the highlights of the festival," beams Morris. "We were the first band on in the Stravinsky auditorium, thinking that there would be a few hundred people watching, but it was almost full up - around 4,000. The people were so respectful. It was the warmest reception we've ever had."

'Just Another Day' is out now on Absolute; Wire Daisies UK tour begins in Glasgow on 16 November, ( www.wiredaisies.com)

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