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bis, eh? They’re so brilliant. My life, pre-bis seems strangely distant – what did I play in the morning before I discovered bis? ‘School Disco’ was the first bis song I fell in love with when I heard it on the radio, although I’d been wanting to hear them since reading about them in SunZoomSpark magazine.

I thought they looked ace and their ‘punk/disco’ sound described made me want to hear them NOWWWW! I eventually caught up with a copy of ‘Transmissions on the Teen-C Tip’ and every single since then has been so mega exciting. It’s impossible to pick my favourite bis song – I’ve got about ten favourite bis songs and I hadn’t even heard the album yet!

Manda Rin by George Bean

I was getting increasingly jealous that everyone except me could see bis live, to the extent of pleading with their (now ex-) press man. They eventually set up an Aberdeen date on the ‘Atom Powered Action’ tour so I arranged an interview via their new press man and filled my notebook with questions. We thus felt a little silly when after sidling up to two tables of bis people and asking politely for my interview, it transpired that bis knew nothing about it. Luckily, bis like fanzines so they said they’d do it anyway. I’d also made a Hello Kitty t-shirt for the ‘Hello Kitty Cutie’ herself so that swung things in our favour as Amanda seemed fairly delighted. Steven wasn’t impressed with this blatant favouritism, asking “where’s mine?”. I dodge this question by asking how the album’s coming along.

steven “Why don’t we ask it?” [looks behind chair] “How are you doing?”
amanda “It’s almost finished. We’ll be doing a few tracks from it tonight. But it’s a lot different – a lot of people, I think, are going to expect sixteen ‘Kandy Pop’s but it’s not going to be like that.”
steven “It’s fourteen ‘Kandy Pop’s.”
john “And a couple of reggae numbers.”
amanda “Very different.”
steven “And everything’s quite identifiably bis still and the same amount of people will hate it even though it’s different.”
amanda “Really annoying screeching…”
steven “Lots of shouting…and no swear words.”
amanda “Your voice sounds really serious.”
steven “Does it?”
amanda “Yes.”
steven [In bright, happy tones] “I’m sorry!” [They all laugh] “But anyway…yeah, I’m sorry I’m sounding so serious.”

marceline: Would you do a singles compilation?
steven “Thought about it.”
amanda “There’s not really much point ‘cos you can get them all.”
m: But a lot of record shops say ‘last few copies’.
amanda/steven “That’s ‘cos they lie.”
steven “That’s what the distributors tell them so they’ll buy more.”
amanda “They sent a form round saying ‘new bis single – only 500!’, and it’s like, ‘aye, that’s why there’s box-loads at home…’. You can get them all. The first one is difficult but it’s crap anyway so you don’t want it.” [everyone splutters with amusement] “We re-recorded ‘Kill Yr Boyfriend’ for the American release. It’s much better – the vocals are less Saint Etienne…”
john “It’s got feedback on it. You can hear the guitars.”

m: Were you influenced by Riot Girl?
amanda “Yeah, I think it’s really good that it’s bringing all these people together. It does inspire because some girls think, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t sing properly, I’m not pretty enough…’, but the whole Riot Girl thing made…it didn’t matter. If you had the attitude and you loved music you could do it. If you could scream or whatever you could be in a band, so it did help a lot and it’s really good that it’s given a lot of girls more confidence.”
steven “The thing about Riot Girl is that a lot of people don’t realise that it had a positive effect on boys as well. Boys were really bored with having to like heavy metal or stuff. A lot of people thought it was all “girl power’ but it had a positive effect on me and probably on John as well in like, ‘we can get involved in this’ and we can do something more exciting than just your standard rock outfit.”
nicolette: Did that politicise you?
amanda “Not too much. I’m not a political person at all.”
m: But a lot of your songs go on about building your own world and smashing the system…
amanda “I think that’s ‘cos a lot of people kind of make you an outcast. When we started in the music industry they made you feel like you’re a little kid, you’re just a lot of rubbish…”
steven “So we built it out of Lego, that’ s the thing they don’t realise.”
amanda “Isn’t it better to be in your own little world, to feel on top of your own little world than at the bottom of everyone else’s?”
steven “Mmmm…that’s quite profound. I like that.”
amanda “Thank you.”

n: Are you worried about eventually having to sell out?
amanda “I don’t know what people mean by the term ‘selling out’. It means absolutely nothing to us. We’re selling records the way we want them to look and sound and I think that’s great, that’s what everyone should do. If we changed, if we did nice glossy sleeves and had a nice…”
steven “Photo of us on the front.”
amanda “…bis in nice lettering with flowers and a few models on the front, then we’d be selling out. But we sound exactly the same and look the same so… We love music – we want to continue the way we want it. We’re not going to let someone with lots of money make bis big – we want bis to make us big.”
steven “It does work against us because the press are really sceptical about us because we’ve had success on our own terms and stuff and that’s not the way it’s meant to be done. We do get people being really cynical and really looking forward to when we fall and…” [thumping music starts over the speakers] “Woah! It’s going to get dead loud now.” [laughs]
amanda “Keep it down!”
n: We’ll just have a bit of a dance instead.
steven “Yeah.” [laughs] “Pause for dancing.” [music quietens slightly]

m: You’ve done fanzines, haven’t you..?
amanda “We’re still doing it. A lot of people say, ‘are you not going to find it hard to do all these things and all your own artwork?’, and it’s like, ‘NoooO!’, because you can still do it – it just might take longer.”
m: Would you like to do a magazine, like the Beastie Boys?
amanda “Yeah. If it was a band thing then maybe we’d have the money.”
steven “It takes them two years to do one… they haven’t done one for about two years so…”
amanda “Neither have you!”
steven “I know, I know.” [music starts up again, much louder] “Why do soundmen play this type of music? It’s like, Yello. They all play Yello. It bloody annoys me.”
amanda “Who are Yello?”
steven “They’re those two German guys. You know, they did that song, ‘The Race’.”
amanda “Oh yeah.”

m: What do you think of bands like Dweeb, who say they started a band because they were influenced by bis?
amanda “With them…they weren’t influenced by us – they happened because of us. I don’t like they way they’ve gone about it, they’ve just ripped us off completely. Dweeb are just a total copy, really.”
steven “It’s quite funny really. At least we don’t have to have a tribute band ‘cos we’ve already got one…NoWaybis!” [everyone laughs]
john “We can quite rightly say that we are responsible for them and they can’t deny that because…because they’ve told us! But, yeah, good luck to them. Hope they…”
amanda “Die.” [everyone laughs]
steven “No, no. Hope they go far..into the distance.”
amanda “It’s alright – we’ve heard that they’ve been beaten up by several people already!”

n: Do you think you’ll make a lot of enemies for doing the Smiths tribute album?
steven “Yeah, especially when they hear it. We have destroyed it completely, and enjoyed it greatly.”
amanda “I hate the Smiths! I hadn’t even heard the original song until after we did it.”
steven “They are the complete antithesis of what bis is, ‘cos they’re really quintessentially English and really formal and…”
amanda “Boring.”
steven “…y’know, a proper band. And we’re none of that so we thought it would be dead good to go on this album and destroy it and have people slag it off.”

m: Can I ask you a really boring question…where did the name bis come from?
steven “Yes.”
john “Please ask us that question.”
steven “It’s short for biscuit. No, it’s just to avoid having a name like Menswear or Death By Rotting Carcass that obviously says what type of band you are.”
amanda “We’re just trying to avoid the question really.”
m: And is it law that you have to spell it with a small ‘b’?
steven “That’s legend, yeah, but it looks nicer. Capitals look rubbish ‘cos it looks like it’s initials for something, and it’s not.”
amanda “The letters look like each of us.”
steven “Do they?”
amanda “The ‘b’ and the ‘i’ are very tall – that’s John and Steven – the ‘s’ is small and wide and that’s me!”

A particularly horrendous Bryan Adams ‘track’ comes over the sound system
steven “Oh, come on…that’s outrageous!”
[much horrific perv-lyrics]
everyone: “Oh nooo!”
Amanda notices the chorus’ similarity to “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll’ so they all sing along loudly to prove it. Indeed, it is true
steven “We could do the interview in that cupboard. Hold on, I’ll just see…”
[goes off, still singing, to check out nearby cupboard]
Okay, let’s go in there.”
amanda [speaking into the tape-recorder] “We’re going into the cupboard!”

So we all crowd into this tiny yellow cupboard full of camouflage background scenery…!

steven “There isn’t a lot of room, but…”
amanda “This is our dressing room!”
steven “Right, Amanda, ask me a question.”
amanda “Right, why are you called bis?” [we all laugh]
m: Gosh, I’ve never been locked in a cupboard with a band before.
steven “Yeah! Is it locked? Oh god.”
john [fiddles with door] “It is now.”
amanda “Go!”

m: Do you play games on the tour bus?
steven “We don’t have any.”
john “Footsie.”
steven “Truth Or Out The Back Window.”
amanda “Stick your finger up at every kid that goes by…”
steven “Yeah, we’ve got darkened windows so if there’s old people driving past we can do that to them. We don’t have a fancy van though…but it’s much fancier than anything we’ve had before ‘cos it’s got a TV in it. Which isn’t tuned in…”
amanda “It is fancy!”

m: Tell us your birthdays, then everyone can send you presents.
amanda “Oh, excellent! Mine’s the 22nd of March, 1977.”
steven “Mine’s the 20th of March, 1976.”
john “21st of August, 1978.”
amanda “There you go. Buy us presents!”
m: Don’t blame me if no-one sends you anything.
steven “I know, yeah.”
The door suddenly opens to reveal a bemused roadie
john/steven: [squashed by door] “Woaaah!”
amanda “It’s too noisy out there.”
roadie: “I’ll come and tidy the cupboard in a minute then.”
amanda “Okay!” [the roadie departs]
steven “Oops.”

m: I like your watch, John.
john “Yeah, I keep losing it and then finding it again a we ek later.”
steven “why do you take it off?”
john “To wash my hands.”
steven “Do you take it off to go to bed?”
john “No, no.”
steven “No.”
We all compare watches
amanda “Mine’s very…big.”
steven “Mine’s good!”
m: Oh yours is cool.
john “Pop star watches!”
steven “Anyway…that’ll be good for the tape.”

m: Have you been to Hamleys [mega toyshop in London]?
amanda “Oh yes. When I first went, I spent £107 on Sanrio stuff and I felt really guilty. But now Harrods is actually cheaper for Sanrio stuff.”
m: People do connect Hello Kitty with you. I had my t-shirt on on Monday…
steven “You were down as a ‘Hello Kitty Cutie’, weren’t you?
m: Someone [revealed, a year later, to be Carl from ‘Fancy Biscuits’ fanzine! Sorry Carl.] …first they said, ‘where did you get your t-shirt?’, and then he said, ‘are you going to see bis?’.
amanda “Aaah..”
steven “Oops.”
amanda “But that’s okay.”
steven “I suppose if you see a really bland suit or something, you can say, ‘Where did you get your suit? Going to see Cast?”. So, yeah, that’s probably better for us. Or, “Like your scooter – going to see Ocean Colour Scene?”

n: Did you get to meet any bands when you were on Top of the Pops?
steven “We met Cast!”
amanda “He’s tiny, he’s the same size as me! He was like, ‘It’s the bis girl!’, and I was just like, ‘You’re really small!'”
john “We exchanged nods.”
steven “Who else did we meet? No-one exciting…”
john “Gary Numan.”
steven “Gina G was on!”
amanda “Dubstar.”
steven “And there was that guy…oh, what’s his name…
john “Robert Miles.”
steven “No…Kendo, who did a song called…erm…”
john [in hilarious falsetto] “I need a lover!”
steven “Yeah, that one. He was dead nice! He was like, ‘Oh, I really like your record’, and I was like, ‘Yeah…I, erm, like yours too…”
john “We were on before Peter Andre once and he had to do the end bit five times…”
steven “‘Cos he was rubbish!” [john mimes perv-dancing] “He couldn’t get that last twirl right.”

n: Have you had to meet any fat businessmen?
steven “We don’t have any fat businessmen. Gary [Wiiija] is just like a wee twelve year old boy. We’re like, ‘Gary! Does your mum know you’re out? Does your mum know you’ve just signed bis?’. Yeah, so we only have to deal with him and the Beastie Boys so…not really a fat businessman among them.”
john “The Beastie Boys took us to their house.
steven “Yeah, we went to Mike D’s house, that was quite good. We went in the swimming pool that was in the ‘Sabotage’ video!”
amanda “We met his wife. And they’ve got a dog called Rufus which is big and furry.”
steven “Yeah…go sometime!”

m: Do you get recognised a lot in Glasgow?
amanda “Yeah! God, I was standing in Central Station the other day and I honestly had about ten people around me in a semi-circle. I couldn’t see past them; Question, question, question…Waaaah! It’s really embarrassing ‘cos they just look at you as if you’re meant to stand around and just start talking.”
steven “Yeah, it’s like, ‘Hi, you’re Steven from bis’. Yep. Silence. And?

amanda asks john to have a look outside the cupboard to see if they’re meant to soundcheck yet. john pokes his head out and reports that ‘the gear’ is being set up so we bid our farewells for just now
steven “It’s getting a bit hot in here anyway.”

We stay to watch the soundcheck and to take a few photos and are treated to an a capella ‘School Disco’, a preview of ‘Dinosaur Germs’ and ‘Poster Parent’ and a completely riotous version of ‘Kill Yr Boyfriend’. Amanda’s vocal check is something everyone should hear too (and you can, a bit, on the album just before ‘Popyura’) – it really is fab.


The gig itself was fantastic fun – non-stop pop hits. Amanda was wearing a nice dress made out of Care Bears curtains and a pair of hovercraft on her feet, while Steven sported a school shirt with a hand-drawn bis crest on the pocket. They also had a mega backdrop of manga bis but sadly manga manda (erm..?) was hidden by the equipment. “You’ll have to make do with the real thing”, joshed Steven. I liked the use of musical accessories (recorder for ‘Icky-Poo Air Raid’, megaphone for the stomping ‘Monstarr’ and -hey!- cowbell for ‘Secret Vampires’). The best thing about bis is their energy and their sense of fun – they’re constantly moving, swapping places, using different instruments….no way could you be bored at a bis gig. Every song is a jump-up-and-down top pop tune and the new songs were sounding fab, especially ‘Sweet Shop Avengerz’ and ‘Antiseptic Poetry’. I wish they’d played ‘Keroleen’ though so manda could do her cool Bikini Kill screaming and growling – grrr.

And since then, it’s been delight after delight. The next day TOTP2 showed the ‘Starbright Boy’ video, possibly the best pop video ever made. It’s got a really cheesy storyline and it’s dead funny – Steven completely plays up to the camera when he’s miming and Manda’s rap bit (wearing a blonde wig!) is so cool. And the bit at the end when John goes, ‘we could call ourselves……bis’. You have to see it.

Then ‘the New Transistor Heroes’ – I love the pretend sleeves for every song. I like the ‘Monstarr’ one best. I couldn’t believe ‘Popstar Kill’ when I first heard it – it’s so funny and so cool. Other faves: ‘Photoshop’ (it’s really sad, especially the little bit of music at the end), ‘Monstarr’ (yay!), ‘X-defect’, ‘Popyura’ and ‘Poster Parent’. The b-sides for the recent singles have been well up to standard especially ‘I’ll Get You Back’, ‘Ninja Hi-Skool’, ‘Girl Star’ and ‘Cookie Cutter Kid’. The two 7″ idea wasn’t a rip-off but are we seeing the beginning of a lapse in bis’ amazingly high standards with the ‘Sweet Shop Avengerz’ remix and the ‘Popstar Kill’ demo? I bought the american ‘This is Teen-C Power!’ 10″ for ‘Kill Yr Boyfriend’ which sounds so much better and the artwork is so ace too. And finally, ‘Popsong’ with Pink Kross – bis, you do too many good songs too often, I can’t cope!

Additional questions by Nicolette Smith