Personal stereo

Carole Cadwalladr meets the band who will transform your angst into pop
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Britain doesn't yet have vending machines selling used schoolgirls' knickers as they do in Japan, but from next week there will be an instamatic machine supplying similarly dubious personal material. Not underpants, but songs about your life, love or torrid affair based upon facts recounted by you.

The vending machine is not the latest in hi-tech but a semi-ecclesiastical "confessional" booth, built and manned by an up-and-coming band called Meanwhile. The booth will be transported to various locations around London, and customers will slip behind the curtains, tell all, and within an hour their life history will be processed, performed and recorded on tape as an original song.

Ben Glasstone, joint lead singer with Mark Espiner and one of Meanwhile's two songwriters, says that although they are hoping it will be a money- making venture ("as musicians we are always hoping for money-making ventures") he also wants it to be more than that. "We write songs about people's lives and we're always trying to write great songs. This is a way of combining the two. If you have to write ten songs a day, you never know, you could come up with something wonderful. "

Anybody who has had their passport photo taken and wondered who the ugly person is who has wandered mistakenly into the picture may be justifiably alarmed that the same treatment will be meted out to their private life. "If you are going to listen to someone's life story then you have to take it seriously," says Ben. "All songs exploit people's emotions, but usually they are your own, which, although disgusting, is at least ethical.

"We would have to be fair. We did once write a song about a very short girl called Ann Hawley which went along the lines of 'She's true, she's kind, some would say she's wise, a lengthy list of attributes for someone your size,' and she's still talking to us."

And entirely unlike a photo machine, satisfaction is guaranteed. If you are unhappy with the way you, your loved one, or the quintessence of your life has been portrayed, then there's a money-back guarantee. But Meanwhile will retain the copyright and with it the permission to air your dirty laundry, illicit encounter, or innermost anxieties in public, although your anonymity is guaranteed. And the best thing about it is that your life could be immortalised in a song that goes platinum. You could become the lovely Rita for the Nineties. The downside, of course, being that no-one would ever believe you.

Meanwhile already undertake song requests by mail order. Send them pounds 20 and whatever details of your or your loved one's life you feel deserves to be immortalised in song and you'll get your own personalised "Our Song" by return of post. For a rather smaller outlay of a stamp they'll send you a sample of the music they play. "We take our inspiration from pop, but we use acoustic instruments. Maybe we're fink, the thinking man's funk,"says Ben.

And their name? "Everybody in the music business is looking for the next big thing. What comes after Britpop? No one knows, but meanwhile..."

Contact Meanwhile on 0171-229 4645.

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