Interview by Murray Tompsett
I was working as a barman in a scruffy pool bar when I first met Betty Bontempy, one third of the then fledgling Blue Minkies. It was 1999, I think.
Betty worked alongside me, pulling the occasional pint, or more usually, small glass of orange juice, and making sandwiches and cheap pizzas for the pool team. She told me about her band and all the bands they loved – Helen Love, Thee Headcoats and Headcoatees, Le Tigre, Huggy Bear, The Rondelles, Die Cheerleader… She gave me a copy of their first demo tape, recorded at home on a cheap 4 track, with Jonny 2Shoes on one guitar, Jimmy Bullet on another, Betty on keyboards, the three of them sharing the vocals, and a drum machine providing tinny beats.
It was (and I am swearing for emphasis here) flippin’ amazing! Really really flippin’ amazing.
4 songs – Sick, Balloon, Helena, Bright Nights – of rough, raucous, bedroom punk with massive tunes and a wonderful gin-fuelled confidence. I don’t mean ‘punk’ as in mohicans, studs and glue; the Minkies were a million miles from that dead-end and they burned brightly, full of enthusiasm, energy and a wicked sense of humour.
Another tape followed – Kill Your Boyfriend – and the band started gaining more listeners. Their first gig was a fantastic night in that scruffy pool bar with Wild 500 playing too.
Over the next few years The Minkies went on to release more tapes, and a split 7” EP. They became a four-piece with Michelle Steele joining on drums and released a 6 track 7” EP. They featured on a slew of compilations, and played live all over the country with everyone from Valerie, Lesbo Pig and Velodrome 2000, to Le Tigre, Holly Golightly and…erm… Anal Beard. They were regulars on the Ladyfest and Riot Grrrl scene and were loved for their between song banter nearly as much as they were for their wonderful songs. They were, in short, just brilliant.
You can now listen to and download pretty much everything they recorded here: http://theblueminkies.bandcamp.com/
Earlier this year, there were rumours online of a possible reunion show, and now three dates have been announced, one in their hometown of Brighton, one in London, and a Saturday slot in the shed at Indietracks, sandwiched between Dorotea and Joanna Gruesome. Now that’s a dream gig.
I sent them some questions. They sent me some answers.
You’re back. Back. BACK! How come and why now? And what have you been doing for the last decade?
We kept being asked to reform by various friends and we laughed in their faces until it didn’t seem that funny anymore and thought ‘why not?’. The last 10 years have been filled with DJing every weekend all over town, playing with other bands, doing sessions with Jarvis Cocker and 6 music, going on tour in America, recording in Scotland and being generally a completely amazing female musician. That’s Steff, the rest of us have been working on the fish counter at Asda dreaming of glories once lived.
Are you still Betty, Jimmy, Jonny and Michelle, or do you go by your birth names nowadays?
Let’s not answer this 🙂
What are you looking forward to most about your upcoming shows, and particularly the Indietracks slot on the Saturday? There are other performances happening at the same time – why should Jo Public choose to come and see you?
You should come and see us if you like shouty female fronted bands, with songs less than a minute long. “If you let us in we’ll make you grin”
You were ace! Why did it all come to a stop 10 years ago?
It didn’t really stop. We went on holiday for the summer and never really started again. It wasn’t intentional it just kind of happened, we were still best friends with each other but we had fun getting drunk and messing about without the practising of instruments getting in the way.
Steff / Jonny was in the much-missed Shrag, and Michelle is in the hotly-tipped Slum of Legs; anything else going on musically that we should know about?
Betty is in the purely amazing Jam Tarts choir, which is a 50 strong group singing indie songs in glorious harmony. Check this out – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C10pqy5U3lU
Steff is currently in Summer Hunter with Neil Palmer from Spartan Dregs (Vermin Poets). And Jimmy is still writing poetry, his new pamphlet will be on sale at the gigs.
Where do The Blue Minkies stand regarding the subject of slow-moving Romero style zombies versus fast-moving / running ones?
Running ones of course!!! Betty loves zombie films more than life itself. The baby at the start of Walking Dead is amazing, but nothing beats Cockney’s vs Zombies at the moment, especially the Richard Briers/Zimmer frame moment:
What is your favourite and least favourite memory from the band’s early years?
Favourite = the tour with Valerie wins hands down. What can be better than spending time with the best people on earth, laughing drinking and playing music? There was one where we were dressed in tabards from the charity shop and Elvis was drumming in the street. Other highlights were playing Ladyfest Glasgow and the Grapes in Sheffield with Wild 500 and Veledrome 2000
There are no bad bits.
Are there any contemporary bands, performers, artists, labels, writers that you feel an affinity with, and is there anyone you are particularly looking forward to seeing at Indietracks?
List of things Betty likes at the moment:
Lovely Eggs – http://www.thelovelyeggs.co.uk/
Slum of Legs – https://www.facebook.com/SlumOfLegs
The work of artists Debbie Sharp and Rosanne Robertson, especially ‘Ill Band’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYXR51MDlp8
The relentless amazingness of the Unskinny Bop crew http://www.unskinnybop.co.uk/
We are all really looking forward to wandering around Indietracks and watching loads of different bands.
Can we expect any new songs or recordings, or what?
We have a new CD single out to buy at our gigs. The rest you’ll have to wait and see 🙂