23 February 1985
'We Didn't Form For Any Other Reason Than To Show Off!' Say Strawberry Switchblade
It's surprising that Strawberry Switchblade have only become successful in recent times with the big hit Since Yesterday. Their outrageous looks get them constantly noticed and they've had helping hands from some famous names along the way, too.
Strawberry Switchblade are Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall. They live in North London now, but come from Glasgow and first got to know each other when punk arrived there in 1977. Jill explains the meeting. 'Punk was sort of banned in Glasgow so we used to have to go to Paisley, which is just outside Glasgow, and we met there. There weren't that many punks so we all just got to know each other.'
They eventually formed a four-piece band with two other girls but later decided they'd be better off as a duo. Then in 1981 they started to get help from several other bands. James Kirk of Orange Juice thought up their name and they went on tour as their support band.
'It was like going on holiday,' says Jill. 'We didn't have a van so we just piled our clothes in the back of the car. We had these really cheap guitars and this reel-to-reel tape machine that kept breaking down. It was great fun.'
In 1983 there was more support for the girls: Will Sergeant of Echo and The Bunnymen released Strawberry SWitchblade's debut single, Trees And Flowers, on his own record label and among the musicians playing on the record were Woody and Mark form Madness and Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera.
Naturally enough it got them publicity but it didn't seem to help the single much. 'When we got the press for it, it just seemed to be a list of names,' Jill remembers. 'Except for us: we weren't mentioned! It wasn't a publicity stunt or anything like that because originally it wasn't even going to come out as a single.'
After the release of their first single there was a long silence as Strawberry Switchblade worked their way through a number of producers in an effort to find the right sound. Over a year later they did find what they were looking for and released Since Yesterday.
As well as the sound, looks are also important for the duo and they love dressing up. 'We didn't form for any other reason than to show off!' says Jill. 'That might sound pretty trivial but it's the reason a lot of bands form.'
You may think they look pretty outlandish now but Rose says they've looked even more outrageous in the past. 'We used to be much weirder when we were punks. Sometimes before we went out we'd collect everything in the house that was red, black and gold and put it on the floor. Paper, kitchen utensils, the lot. Then we'd share it and stick it all over us. We'd also wear things like five pairs of earrings each!'
The Strawberry Switchblade look isn't, surprisingly, expensive. They buy things from jumble sales and markets, then adapt them to their own taste. In fact they freely admit that the beads, braid and ribbons they tie in their hair cost a lot more than their outfits.
Looks can be deceptive, though. 'Some of our photos might make us look like sweet little girls but it's certainly not the way it is to us,' says Jill. 'We don't think about it much.'