Newmarket Nights to welcome Bananarama
Nargis Borhan speaks to Sara Dallin of the legendary pop duo ahead of their appearance at Newmarket Racecourses in August.
They were the girlband of the ’80s with a golden touch for chart success – they managed 10 top 10 singles, including Love in the First Degree and Robert De Niro’s Waiting.
Add in the albums and they’ve sold an impressive 30million records worldwide.
Over the past three decades, you have become one of the most influential and pioneering groups in the industry. Did you think you’d still be around today?
No, I was 18 when I started, I’d just left college. I was in the music world, going to clubs. Keren Woodward (the other member of Bananarama) and I lived above the Sex Pistols’ rehearsal room. The ex-band members used to have another group and we used to sing backing vocals with them. Then I met Siobhan Fahey (another founding member) and we just decided to put the group together. I think we were signed as a novelty act because there wasn’t a great deal of girl bands around, well there weren’t any to my knowledge... They signed us and we had a hit. I don’t think they quite knew why but they didn’t interfere with what we were doing so we wrote our own songs, and the hits just kept coming so they left us to it. Being in my 50s now, it does seem like such a huge, long career for Keren and myself. I didn’t think it would be that long but it’s amazing.
Why do you think that is?
I guess you could ask that of any group that’s still going. It’s something I enjoy, I always loved writing. I trained to be a journalist because I loved writing, I wrote books, ended up writing songs. Keren and I have been friends since we were children so it’s like travelling the world with your best friend. I think we write great pop songs, we just appealed across the board really. I think young girls really liked us because they saw something they had never necessarily seen before.
Are there any groups that you’re really loving at the moment, or any girl bands that remind you of Bananarama’s early days?
Most girl bands in the charts have come from reality shows, which isn’t a bad thing. I think Little Mix are great, great vocals, great voices. I don’t really know any other girl groups that were quite like us. We formed our own group, had this friendship, it was very different in the ’80s.
Your debut album, Deep Sea Skiving, was released in 1983 and you’ve released an amazing nine albums since then. How do you think your sound and style has developed from album to album?
Keren and I are about to release our 11th studio album, so it’s obviously changed. We were teenagers when we started, we’ve been a duo for sort of 35 years, our music just evolved. There are different kinds of technology now – we write with a friend of ours in a studio in his house, it’s just very different.
Siobhan Fahey rejoined the band or a reunion tour in 2017. What was it like getting the gang back together and being a trio again?
We asked Siobhan if she’d like to do a one-off UK tour. It was fun – she had never toured with us. She left in 1988, and in 1989 we went on a world tour so she never experienced that kind of thing, so it was really good.
Having had 32 top 40 UK singles, sold out multiple tours, and released 10 albums, did you feel any pressure when making your upcoming new album, In Stereo?
No, it’s such an enjoyable process. It doesn’t really matter to me whether it was five years ago or 10 years ago – writing is just something I really enjoy doing, so I don’t think you feel the pressure. Back in the ’80s, you were waiting for chart positions, TV shows and radio plays, and now it’s just really enjoyable. I don’t feel any sort of pressure or competition.
What do you feel is the most memorable moment of your career?
There’s loads really: first starting out, making a demo, getting our first play on the radio, having our first top 10 in America – loads of things. Particularly now, Keren and I are off touring, it’s great fun.
You’re playing Newmarket Racecourses in August. Have you played at a racecourse before?
Yes, we’ve played quite a few racecourses – they’re always really good fun. Looking forward to it.
Have you ever placed a bet on a horse at a racetrack?
Yes, I have. We used to go with George Michael to the races, that was always really great fun. Not quite sure I knew what I was doing but I know people placed bets for us...
How did you go about choosing your horse?
Just if we liked the name!
Finally, after Newmarket what are your plans for the rest of 2019?
It’s festival season so we have loads of UK festivals, a couple European ones, then we’re playing Summer Sonic in Japan, which is a huge festival in Tokyo with 50,000 people – and that’s in August.
Bananarama will be performing at Newmarket Racecourses on Friday, August 9.
Tickets: premier enclosure £42, grandstand & paddock £37, garden enclosure £27.
Box office: thejockeyclub.co.uk/newmarket/events-tickets.