What you always wanted to know about Miss Wyoming?
Interview about the making of the album FROGS NEVER LIE and the single (12" vinyl + CD-EP) RUN FOR YOUR LIFE
Where does the band name "Miss Wyoming" originate?
For the name there's an actual model: the woman that can be seen on the cover of our single RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. In fact, she's former Miss East Germany and twice Miss Saxony. However, no band could really call themselves that. More important, for almost all songs on the first album the songwriter Olaf Römer specifically had his relationship with this woman in mind. That then explains the "MISS". "WYOMING", on the other hand, was the idea of a friend and we all thought the name to be truly excellent, considering that this US State is rather out of the way as well. By any standard it surely sounds better than "East Germany". Who knows, it's also possible that this friend just nicked the title from the book "Miss Wyoming" by pop cult author Douglas Coupland who also wrote "Generation X".
Who is in the band?
All members of the band are old friends of songwriter and brains Olaf Römer (vocals and guitars). Drums: Jörg Dausend (Wuppertal), bass: Martin Scheer (Dortmund), guitars: Wolfgang Groehl (Dortmund) and keyboards: Udo Stunz (Dortmund). On the album there are also several guest musicians. The most prominent is probably Andy Cox of the Fine Young Cannibals playing guitar on RUN FOR YOUR LIFE and SWEET THING. Rebecca Holland (backing vocalist for bands such as the Pixies) has lent us her voice for OPPOSITES ATTRACT and ANGELS NEVER LIE (the band version, available on the single). The two singers Julie Isaaks and Debbie Longworth, heard on SWEET THING were just on tour with Roland Gift, the former singer of the Fine Young Cannibals. The piano parts for GOT YOUR MESSAGE, STILL ALIVE and ANGELS NEVER LIE are played by Tamás Bolba from Budapest, winner of the renowned Franz Liszt Competition - these tracks were performed on a brilliant Steinway grand piano.
Where and how was the album "FROGS NEVER LIE" recorded?
The base tracks by the band were created, for the most part, at ATM in Cologne. A few additional recordings were done at the Tonstudio Burkhard in Dortmund-Schwerte. Most important: everything was recorded analogue using reel to reel tape! The orchestral tracks were done at the Hungarian Radio in Budapest. The songs RUN FOR YOUR LIFE and SWEET THING, as well as a some overdubs such as vocals and percussion, were recorded at the London studio where top producer Mike Hedges (The Cure, Beautiful South, Manic Street Preachers, Travis) has compiled old 60's equipment from the Abbey Road Studios. That includes, the former mixing desk of the Beatles from 1964, 80 (!), old valve tube microphones and a mobile 16-track 2" Studer tape recorder, that John Lennon and Phil Spector used to record the "Imagine" album and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon". Almost all songs from the album and the single ended up being mixed by Dave Anderson at this studio. The two tracks OPPOSITES ATTRACT and ANGELS NEVER LIE (band version available on the single) were mixed by Cameron Craig who we actually first met at the studio itself. The original intention was to finish the songs in Cologne. However, because he was available that turned out to be a far better decision. During our time in London, Craig was additionally producing Pulp's "Bad Cover Versions", a remake of "Disco 2000" with Nick Cave on vocals, and Suede who were in the studio at the same time (Brett Anderson of Suede signed Olaf's Stratocaster after having borrowed it!). Craig Anderson has also done mixing work for Unkle, Pulp, Placebo w/ David Bowie, Garbage, Blur and Robbie Williams. Finally, FRIENDS and BEING COOL were mixed at ATM in Cologne.
How did the collaboration with Fine Young Cannibals producer Dave Anderson come about?
Olaf specifically wanted to mix in England, the capital of guitar pop, because there's a marked absence of good sound products from Germany. The guys of Reamonn gave us the tip to enquire for a mixer and producer at Stephen Budd Management, a production agency in London. The same place where the manager of their producer, Steve Lyon resides. We then contacted Stephen Budd and sent tapes to three different producers who seemed to suit our style. On September 14 2001, two days after air traffic over London resumed, we intended to meet each producer in person. However, the first didn't show up for the scheduled appointment. The second suffered an anxiety attack after five minutes and had to be seen by a doctor (due to having had too much "blow", as we found out later). The third was Dave Anderson, super-vital, super-likeable and super-engaging. He was most enamoured with the brilliant and somewhat unusual string arrangements. At this point, not all songs were yet completely recorded. There were solely the band recordings made in Cologne and the orchestral parts from Budapest. After coming to terms, Dave booked the studio of Mike Hedges, with whom he had worked previously, and because of the warm analogue sound resulting from our use of old equipment.
What concept stands behind the album FROGS NEVER LIE?
The whole album deals with "love, lies and loss". This woman "Miss Wyoming" is our hook. The frog and the fairy tale of the frog and the princess - an old passion of Olaf's - serve as symbols for misty-eyed love stories. That's also the topic of the intro piece COMEBACK OF THE FROG. At the end of the song, a toy frog can be heard, a souvenir from the USA. The traffic noise at the beginning was recorded from outside of the London studio. The album ends with the sound of live frogs, heard on the hidden track one minute after WIPE AWAY. The main song is ANGELS NEVER LIE with fabulous strings and also available as a band version on the single. At first it describes the wonderful time spent together, followed by the relationship demise due to abominable circumstances ("... opened strange doors of disgust") and resulting in an irretrievable loss of trust. Proceeding the intro song, there is a na´ve love song SWEET THING. Our album is no slick "risk free" mainstream pop production done by a major record label.
For what other artist would willingly engage in such diverse constellations of songwriters, recording, members and sound production?
This fusion is, however, part of the concept: we want the listeners to prick up their ears, to be surprised. They should not immediately find themselves on already well-trodden pop paths. As of the third song, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, the themes and sounds change significantly. For this song in particular has more of a brute force and sounds like it was played live in the practice room. It's the only cover version on the album representing not just a tribute to all the heroes of guitar pop but, also, as an inspired rendition of the rather plain 1965 original. The macabre text by John Lennon, concerning a jealous guy who'd rather kill his love than find her with someone else, clearly offered a much darker and forceful interpretation than offered by the Beatles. For us this involved a far more referential treatment of vintage material than otherwise seen throughout the wealth of mostly uninspired cover versions. Additionally, to record the song using the original equipment of the Beatles as well as the mix and master being done at the Abbey Road Studio by Chris Blair (former tape operater on the late Beatles sessions)ůsurely an homage aplenty! As a conciliatory counterpart stands the next song GOT YOUR MESSAGE. In contrast to the cynical piece RUN FOR YOUR LIFE about nerve-racking jealousy, the loss of trust and protective comfort, follow the first strings: three violins and two violas in the beginning of STILL DON'T KNOW. These describe a queasy feeling of disorientation, self-doubt and longing for an improvement of the current situation ("...considerations and consolations can't save me from these strange vibrations - oh, I just don't know..."). The answering machine at the end is from Olaf's office. Next comes a short children's song called LUCKY FROG, a home recording from 1982 on which Olaf plays all the instruments. OPPOSITES ATTRACT is another simple love song of couples newly in love, featuring Rebecca Holland as lead singer. Our album is no slick "risk free" mainstream pop production done by a major record label: BEING COOL deals with the idea of breaking out from life. It's inspired by Suede's song "By The Sea" found on the "Coming Out" album. The sprightly track FRIENDS portrays in a defiant-humorous manner the consoling effect of good friends. Disappointment and self-pity are suggested by ALONE ARE THE BRAVE, until it evolves into an angry Blues track by a hurt lover. In BREAKING UP this anger reaches its irrevocable zenith ("... I will never gonna kiss her again..."). The greatest contrast on this "Independent Rock" album is the transition from the fading distorted guitars and the hysterical scream in BREAKING UP to the sweet harp sounds at the beginning of ANGELS NEVER LIE. Any mainstream album wouldn't dare to do such a thing! The thematic focus of the album encompasses the beautiful memories of days in love, the reason and the dissolution of conflict. On this album there are no sampled instruments or other digital sound gimmicks. Everything was to be recorded "genuine" on tape. As genuine as major feelings, really!
How come RUN FOR YOUR LIFE is "only" available in mono on the vinyl single?
There wasn't enough money for a stereo pressing. Luckily, mono has more dynamic range than stereo, similar to black and white photography when compared to colour (behold Phil Spector's call for going "Back to Mono"!). The sound is actually supposed to be very well suited for airplay. Also, better producers of Rock music, tend to mix the drums nearly mono, in order to increase their intensity.
Will there be a tour soon?
Phew, it actually won't be easy to reproduce the extensive string arrangements and the intricate studio production, live on stage. However, we will try - in part with completely different arrangements including acoustic guitars and keyboards, though without daft string imitations. We're hoping for early fall. No dates have been confirmed as of now.