Few bands conjure up an image as readily as 80s scene-setters A Flock of Seagulls: that shock of sides-up, fringe-down blonde hair that continues to define their legacy. As I sit with frontman Mike Score, the sole remaining member from their heyday, the haircut is nowhere to be seen.
What’s more, I don’t feel like bringing it up. I feel like Mike has had to answer a dozen questions about that do for every one about his band’s music. And what amazing music that is. While they may be pigeonholed by their breakout hit ‘I Ran’, the Seagulls have a back catalogue of amazing synthpop: ‘Wishing (If I Had a Photograph Of You)’, ‘Telecommunication’ & my favorite, the peerless ‘Space Age Love Song’.
After an energetic sound check, replete with Sinatra impressions and extended wisecracking, I sat down with Mike Score to talk all things Seagulls.
HN: In pop culture right now there seems to be this fascination with the early 80s. How do you feel about 80s nostalgia?
MS: I think it’s a reflection of that the fact there’s nothing else. People go back to it. A few years ago people went back to the hippie look. So people look to what was cool in the past. The designers and stuff start to incorporate that into what they do and it becomes another fad, a new fashion. The music is part of that.
HN: You think there’s an absence of something new?
HS: It’s almost like there’s a gap between what’s coming next and what’s come before, so people in the gap go: “We gotta do something, right?”. Even subconsciously. The next thing after this might be punk again, because we’re sick of the 80s and the hippies. It has to recycle eventually.
HN: So I’ve heard your debut was a concept album, is that true?
MS: Well its sci-fi so it’s a bit of a concept about, you know, running off with a space chick.
HN: We’ve all though about it…
MS: A blue faced chick you know, if Captain Kirk can do it we all can do it! That’s what I was into, UFOs and sci-fi. In the late 70s and early 80s there wasn’t much about that so it was underground interesting. Now you have Ancient Aliens and it’s a big thing now. But in those days if you mention sci fi most people would be like “eeeeeesh” *tugs neck* not interested.
HN: I’ve been listening to your new album Ascension, and really love some of the treatments by the Prague Philharmonic. ‘Wishing’ sounds amazing…
MS: It all started with a guy from August Day Records. He said we’re interested in hearing your songs with an orchestra. Then it became: we want to re-record all the songs, do you mind if we contact everybody from the original band and see if we can do it? And I said as long as I don’t have to be with them, fine.
With today’s technology we did everything in separate studios, then the orchestra played over what we had done. Some really nice arrangements and things I never would have thought of. I never though Seagulls + orchestra would work, but then I heard a couple of new things and it was really cool.
HN: Your latest Inflight is a hits collection, but these are actually all new recordings aren’t they?
MS: They are almost extended versions, I think when the orchestral stuff they did several different takes and styles. These were from the recordings of the Ascension album.
HN: I want to focus on a single song – ‘Space Age Love Song’. I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. What was the story behind that?
MS: We rehearsed one night till 3 or 4 in the morning. When I got home I was still feeling so, electric. So I sat down with my synth and came up with some chords. I wrote several different sets of lyrics, but the most romantic ones fit best.
Part of the original idea for the song when I came up with the chords was I wanted really beautiful music but horrendous lyrics. Like a comment on the fact that everything gets glossed over and is said to be great, and when you dig down further it was all rotten.
I ditched that idea when I came up with the lyrics it was recorded with and I was like, now it’s a personal love song. When you look in someones eyes you can fall in love instantly, so that’s how it went. I wanted it also to just be a few lines, not to over exaggerate or try and cram in a bunch of stuff. It has no chorus it just has, basically, statements. Let the music do the talking.
HN: It does something which all great pop tunes should do: exactly what it says on the tin. It sounds exactly, like a love song in space.
MS: Well it never had a title. We just used to put on the board when we rehearsed – that one that sounds like a spacey love song. Then it just became a ‘Space Age Love Song’.
HN: Your favourite song to play live?
MS: ‘Space Age Love Song’ is certainly great, ‘Man Made’ is epic live, ‘Wishing’…you jump around. Some nights you’re really into one song then it’ll be something else. For me as a writer it comes back right into my head the minute I was writing this song. To me they can all be special like that. Because on tour you tend to play from a sort of muscle memory, so my mind starts wandering to the time I wrote this song, or came up with the idea, or what I’m going to have from the chippy later…
HN: What would you say to your younger self?
MS: Do exactly the same thing again
HN; That’s the confidence we like