Pop Sex and creative gems

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As well as peddling their own sound around the charts, Frankie & the Heartstrings provide an outlet for creativity through their Pop Sex label. Katy Wheeler met up with Heartstrings drummer and Pop Sex’er Dave Harper to find out what’s in the pipeline.

FRANKIE & the Heartstrings could well have been called Pop Sex.

It’s a moniker they liked, but the more romantic-sounding Heartstrings name prevailed for the Sunderland five-piece who last year reached the top 40 with their debut album Hunger.

But it wasn’t the end of the road for Pop Sex. It lives on as a subsidiary to the band and is an umbrella which shelters a host of creative gems.

Anything the band does which is of interest is stamped with a Pop Sex number and is released under the brand. Tracks made after the band’s album have been released on Pop Sex, as have live recordings and B sides.

There’s also been Pop Sex karaoke nights and DJ sets which have attracted band members from the likes of The Futureheads, Kaiser Chiefs and former Suede member Bernard Butler.

Now they’ve extended the brand to other acts with a series of live music showcases in association with Independent Live.

First up, is a night at Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophy Society on March 19 in celebration of folk act Ajimal’s debut single, Footnote to Love (part one), which is being released on Pop Sex Ltd.

Dave said: “No one pays for us to do these things. We’re not music moguls, we’re just passionate about what we do. There’ll be limited Ajimal CDs which we’re making. It’s about creative thinking. We haven’t got money but we’ll get these records in the shops by hook or by crook.

“It’s the complete opposite of what you can do in a major record label. You won’t be dragged into an office because we don’t have one, and we won’t complain about selling CDs because we haven’t forked out to have 10,000 pressed.”

Speaking about Ajimal, a solo project by singer Fran O’Hanlon, Dave said: “Ajimal is a classically trained musician. The first time I heard him I wasn’t sure, but now he’s on my iPod, which I don’t put many people on and I think his song is one of the most beautiful I’ve heard in years.”

As well as an event in Independent, Holmeside, Sunderland, on April 21, and other events, Pop Sex is staging an Islet gig at The Cluny 2 in Newcastle on May 27.

Dave, who hails from Murton, says: “Islet are a Welsh band who run around on stage throwing instruments about. You feel overly-stimulated watching them but it’s a great show.”

Extolling the virtues of Pop Sex, he explained: “At our first meeting with Wichita Records (the label Frankie & the Hearstrings are signed to) we said we wanted to use this platform to put out what we wanted. We love the people at Wichita because they’ve afforded us this availability as Pop Sex, they work with us.

“It’s very much a symbiotic relationship between us. Wichita has a romanticism which we share which means that a year and a half after signing we still feel like we made the right decision.

“It’s great because it gives us an open space to fill with creative things.”

He added: “We work as a committee, like a workingmen’s club. We run it but Pop Sex is everyone’s, it’s a tool other people can use. We like the idea of other acts being involved.

“There’s this obsession with bands being a mystique but it’s been done to death, it’s not interesting. You should go out there and meet people who make records and meet people who make a living for you by buying records.”

l Tickets for Ajimal at Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophy Society, in the city centre, on March 19 are £5, available from netickets.net, seetickets.com and Hot Rats, Stockton Road, Sunderland.

Tickets for Islet at The Cluny 2, Ouseburn, Newcastle, on May 27 are £7, available from the same outlets as above.

Twitter: @sunechokaty