30 Sep 2017

A conversation with Look Blue Go Purple's Francisca Griffin

From RNZ Music, 3:10 pm on 30 September 2017
Francisca Griffin, Look Blue Go Purple

Francisca Griffin, Look Blue Go Purple Photo: RNZ/Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Look Blue Go Purple stood alongside The Chills, The Clean and The Verlaines in defining the Flying Nun sound.

The gentle jangle, flute lines weaving through, splashes of tambourine and layered, vocals still sound as fresh as they did 30 years ago.

Songs such as ‘Cactus Cat’, ‘Circumspect Penelope’ and ‘I Don’t Want You Anyway’ all have whimsical folk-pop melodies that linger in your head well after the record has finished.

Look Blue Go Purple

Look Blue Go Purple - Dunedin, 1985 Photo: audioculture.co.nz

Look Blue Go Purple only released two EPs in their four years together between 1983-87, but earlier this year they re-released the two together, along with the best of their live recordings.

It was a process that took them four years. Leading the excavation was Francisca Griffin, formerly known as Kathy Bull – bass player and co-songwriter, who lives in Port Chalmers.

"I was really astonished at the first live tape of ours from 1983, from Victoria University. It was a month after Martyn had died."

Francisca is talking about Martyn Bull, drummer for The Chills, and the subject of 'I Love My Leather Jacket.' He had acute myeloblastic leukaemia. He became Francisca's husband shortly before his death in July 1983.

"I really had to do that show ... to keep me going. And then when I heard the recording of it, it was really good! Really quirky, and very much us just doing what we wanted to do, what we could do.

"We had limited guitar skills at that stage, and so we relied on other things. And the songs stand up."

Look Blue Go Purple had only been together since the beginning of that year. Lesley Paris was on drums, Francisca (Kathy) was on bass, Norma O’Malley played keyboards and sang, Denise Roughan and Kath Webster both played guitar and sang.

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Photo: Photo by Kat Spears

"When we started playing, it was the scene. It was never girls and boys, men and women. It was never like that, not ever. We were all a bunch of bands, and we all played together and we all hung out together."

And had mutual respect? “Absolutely! Went to everybody's gigs, and tried to copy each other. I really admired David [Kilgour's] guitar playing, and would go home and try to reproduce it myself on my acoustic."

“I was ambitious back then. Some of us weren’t. But we didn’t get the enthusiasm for continuing that we could have had from our record company.

“But we did what we did. And this year we put out a spectacular compilation that’s been lauded worldwide. Pitchfork made it their reissue of the week and there have been hundreds of good reviews.

"Now people are finding that music and listening to that music and I think that’s fantastic.”

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