Indie Icons – June Brides

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Cherry Red Icons

During their brief recording career, from 1984 to 1986, the June Brides were among the most important independent pop groups in their native UK. Based in South London, the band released 4 singles and one LP, “There are 8 Million Stories”, which stayed at the top of the UK independent album chart for a month. The band did sessions for BBC Radio 1, including one for the legendary John Peel which was later released by Strange Fruit records. The band also featured on the front cover of the NME – the June Brides being the first independent pop group to have been given such a cover. In 1985 Morrisey named the band as his favourite group and they supported the Smiths on their 1986 tour of Ireland. They also played with the Go-Betweens, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Mekons, Alternative TV, The Television Personalities and The Wedding Present.

Following the band’s split in 1986 (due to persistent record label problems and internal fractures), singer-songwriter Phil Wilson signed as a solo artist to Creation records (the home of many influential British artists, such Primal Scream, Oasis and My Bloody Valentine). Phil released two singles on Creation, and one further single on the Caff label (run by Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne). The solo singles marked a change in sound from The June Brides. “Waiting for a Change”, for example was a precursor of what later became known as “Alternative Country”. However, whilst garnering critical acclaim, the records were probably too radical a change for his June Brides fans, and failed to sell. Phil returned to making music in 2007 after a 20 year break. He released the “God Bless Jim Kennedy” album in 2010, which received terrific reviews in Uncut, Mojo and the Daily Mirror. The band decided in 2012 that it could be time to think about playing together again…

01. Tell us how you got that name?

I wanted a name that didn’t suggest a type of music. “The June Brides” could sound like anything! I liked that idea…

02. When did the June Brides come into existence?

As a joke band called International Rescue in 1982 – but with more serious intent as the renamed “June Brides” in 1983.

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 03. You and other members of the June Brides come from South East London. What was this part of London like in the 1980s?

Grim! But it had a vibrant music scene, and housing could be found dirt cheap. Several of the band lived together, and rehearsed, in a house in Lewisham. We played our first concerts in local pubs, and with the local Performance Collective.

04. When did you first meet Alan McGee and what was it like playing at his club night ‘The Living Room?

I met Alan when he was running a club before the Living Room – I went to see the Television Personalities play there. It was very sparsely attended night, so it wasn’t difficult to get to meet he few people there! I bought Alan’s fanzine “Communication Blur” from him that night, and sent a (really poor) demo tape to him at the address in the fanzine. He asked us to play his new club “The Living Room” soon after that.

Playing for Alan was usually great fun – there were always too many people packed into small rooms above pubs. He paid us a pittance! But used the money from ours and other nights to finance early Creation releases.

05. The June Brides only album ‘There Are Eight Million Stories’ went to number 1 in the Independent Album Charts in 1985. Why did the band split the following year considering the success of the album?

We’d moved to a new Record label (InTape) and moved on soundwise. Our following singles (“No Place Called Home” and “This Town”) had moved on from the more jangly, scratchy sound of the album. But they weren’t as popular with the public. We decided to split up as we’d achieved far more than we ever set out to do. It just felt right to stop.

06.The band also had famous fans including Morrissey, and the June Brides even went on tour with ‘The Smiths’. Any recollections or standout moments from that tour?

It was really exciting to see The Smiths in their prime, but, at the same time, it kind of put me off the whole idea of becoming a pop star! They were on a tight schedule constantly, and it looked like they were having no fun whatsoever. Playing with them as another small part of why we broke up…

07.Many have referred to the June Brides as innovators of ‘Jangly’ Indie music. Do you feel flattered by these plaudits?

I feel extremely happy to still be mentioned by people in bands who’ve mentioned us as an influence – that’s the most important thing for me. We, of course, didn’t invent anything, but merely adapted lots of things that were already there.

08. Is it true that the June Brides refused to be on the C86 tape because you did not want to be ‘pidgeonholed’?

Yes! We thought we’d get wrapped up in some sort of spurious “C86” jangly-pop movement. Which is exactly what happened, anyway, so it was a big mistake on our part!

09. How do you feel about the June Brides inclusion on Cherry Red Records ‘Scared To Get Happy’ box set? It could be argued (although not by me) that the June Brides could be ‘pidgeonholed’ by being on this particular compilation?

See above! I actually played a small part in getting the compilation together, and am proud to be on there. We will forever be pigeonholed as part of the C86/Indiepop scene, so staying off it would probably have made no difference. And I think it would have been foolhardy, and possibly a bit churlish, to have done so! And I really don’t now mind, if I could now be pigeonholed alongside the Wild Swans and The Fire Engines.

10. What inspired your songwriting in the June Brides and did you already have the songs written before presenting them to the rest of the band?

Inadequacy! I felt I wasn’t very good, so was inspired to try and make the songs better and better. Whether I succeeded is entirely another question. I did present songs just about finished to the band. Very little changed in the arrangements, other than the addition of individual parts by the band members.

11. You released a solo album [single – not an album] appropriately titled ‘Waiting for A Change’, which saw you follow a more ‘country’ influenced sound? Have you always been a fan of country music? Who were the musicians on this record?

My father (who had split up from my mother when I was very young) re-appeared in my life when I was about 10, and he was a country singer in the Northern Working Men’s’ clubs. He introduced me to the joys of Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins and Hank Williams at that age, and I’ve loved good country since (and that does exclude an awful lot of bland Nashville nonsense). I liked the idea of surprising the press, and the Junies fans, by doing a country flavoured song. But it was a very poorly received (and selling!) record. I still lie it, though!

The band on it are The Triffids, plus the 76 year old (and since deceased) steel guitar player from my Dad’s band. It was his first, and last, time in a recording studio and he absolutely loved it.

12. Who would you say has been the biggest influence on you musically?

Probably a couple: the Velvet Underground and Hank Williams. They both had the supreme gift of being able to use simple chords and words to create complex songs. It’s what I aspire to, but have seldom achieved.

13. How did the June Brides eventually get back together?

Naturally, which is the best way! I had been playing with a new bassist and drummer (Arash Torabi and Andy Fonda, since replaced by Steve Beswick), and playing as “Phil Wilson” rather than as the “June Brides”. I was under pressure to use the old band name, but refused as it would not have been fair to them. However, in the intervening years, Frank Sweeney (Viola), Jon Hunter (trumpet) and Simon Beesley (Guitar) from the old band gradually started to play with us. When the line-up was complete again, it felt natural and right to go back to the original name.

14. The June Brides played the Cherry Red Records ‘Scared To Get Happy’ album launch night. Is this much need reappraisal to what many consider ‘under-appreciated’ music?

It felt more like a celebration on the night. Indiepop has never really gone away, it’s just looked poorly on occasion! It continues to be regarded well by small numbers of young musicians around the World. I think it will continue to operate on that sort of level, with the very occasional act breaking through. But that’s enough for me.

15. What does the future hold for the June Brides and yourself? Can we expected new music from the band and do you have any more plans for further solo releases?

The June Brides plan to do an album. But we don’t want to rush into it – it’s been 28 years since the last one, so there’s no real need to do so. Maybe next year or the year after? Time will tell…

Web Links:


Tour dates:

November 28: Glasgow
November 29: Dundee
November 30: Aberdeen

Records available @:

UK: occultation.co.uk
USA: slumberlandrecords.com

Photographs by: Heimo Reifetshammer, Nigel King & 2 unknown.

Long John

Charming Chap and a new sharp force for Eyeplug, being a toppermost writer with a keen appreciation for things of quality and distinction. A well known face on the London ‘Mod’ Scene but with an open mind and heart. Got a strange interest in Pirates? One to watch out for!

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Originally posted 2013-07-31 18:00:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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