In this edition of our TLAK TALK series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Brian “Bordello” Shea, the creative force behind The Bordellos, about his solo album Songs For Cilla To Sing. Throughout the interview, Brian shares the stories and evolution of these tracks, some of which have been recorded by other bands, as well as his thoughts on collaborating with Cilla Black if the opportunity had presented itself. He also discusses the intriguing yet concerning potential of AI technology in the music industry. Don’t miss out on this fascinating conversation with Brian Bordello, and make sure to check out his new album Songs For Cilla To Sing.
TLAK: You’ve been quite prolific with your group The Bordellos, but “Songs For Cilla To Sing” comes out under your name, as a solo effort. Is this the first release that features you exclusively as Brian Bordello?
Brian Bordello: Actually although this was the first recordings I made on my own, they where not recorded of course to be released by myself but as demos in hope for Cilla to sing. I have released three solo albums and a EP as just myself on Metal Postcard Records, I am a huge Nick Drake fan and he released three solo albums, mostly just acoustic sounding, so I decided to do the same recording in a very lo-fi way using just one track of my tape 4-track recording the vocal and the guitar straight onto the microphone and doing no overdubs. All three of the albums are very dark, especially the final one of the trilogy: The Cardboard Box Beatle, which is very fried and close to the edge at times. They are only available as download though all the usual places and streaming sites as Metal Postcard Records no longer releases physical product, sadly. Maybe one day when I am dead they will be released on vinyl or CD and be released as a box set like the Nick Drake Fruit Tree box set.
TLAK: Some of the tracks on this album have found their way onto other releases and even been recorded by other bands. Could you share the journey of how these songs evolved and reached these different destinations?
BB: These songs are of course years old now and having been knocking around my head and kitchen drawers for years. So not longer after finding out that Cilla was not going to record them, an old friend who now lived in Belgium got in contact and asked had I any spare songs going as she wanted to form a band and did not want to be a covers band. Although she is a talented songwriter herself, [she] did not have enough self written songs for a set. So I sent her over the Cilla tape to see if she could use any of them. The band was called The Winter Tyres and they ended up performing a number of the songs in their live set from the Songs For Cilla To Sing cassette plus another two I had written but was not on the tape “Stuck On A Memory Of You” and “Sugar Candy Free”. There is actually an excellent video of their live set on youtube performing the songs. They were a great pop band sadly I have only recently found out that the guitarist passed away a few years ago which is indeed very sad. They also included recorded versions of “Impossible”, “Setting Sun”, “Not Such A Bad Girl” and “Stuck On A Memory Of You” alongside two songs they wrote themselves on their excellent Tired Of Winter EP which is available on the Winter Tyres bandcamp. The Bordellos have also recorded a few of the songs there is a version of “Impossible” and “The Boy Belongs To Yesterday” which we recorded for a Dandelion Radio show session, which is on the Sessions album released on Metal Postcard Records, and we also recorded a version of “The Boy Belongs To Yesterday” for our cassette album that was released on Small Bear Records years ago. I also reused some of the lyrics from “Not Such A Bad Girl” in the much superior song “I May Be Reborn” which is on our Debt Sounds album. The lines reused where “You expect me to waste the night watching bats take flight empaphising with the moths clamouring for the light” which I thought were to good to waste on a song I did not think would see the light of day. “Handsome Jaques” I recorded a version with, with Ted Clark for the Bordello and Clark album Atlantic Crossing which of course was released on the Think Like A Key spin off label Dippy Records. The version was much sparser on the Bordello and Clark version and did not have the French pop feel of the Cilla version. We also have performed that live as The Bordellos. “The Kind Of Guy” track is actually coming out on a Bordellos comp to be released on Metal Postcard Records in the coming month or so. That version was recorded even before I recorded the Cilla tape it was recorded in rehearsal on a ghetto blaster just after the original 6 piece Bordellos split up and before Dan joined and we still had a live drummer playing a full drum kit. He left after this rehearsal and we devolved into the band we are now. This version is very power pop actually.
TLAK: Regrettably, by the time your song tape reached Cilla, she had stopped recording and performing. If she had been in better health, do you believe she would have connected with your material and possibly collaborated with you?
I really do not know. I would have hoped so if I had got it to her maybe 10 years earlier she might have gone for it, but by the time I got it to her she had retired from singing and was just making the occasional appearance on TV. We could have done something great, I think. I had ideas of how the songs could have worked using a mixture of 60’s beat band backing and strings and brass and trying to capture the Joe Meek unique feel and warmth. I think she might have been up for some of the slightly saucy lyrics as she was from a working class Liverpool background. I think we could have worked well together.
TLAK: As AI technology advances, it may soon be possible to have legendary singers like Cilla Black have their voice cloned so they could virtually perform any song. As an underground artist, does this concept intrigue you, or do you prefer to distance yourself from such technological advancements?
It actually both appeals to me and appalls me in equal measure. As a songwriter, it appeals to me that it would be possible to get an idea what it might sound like to get say Elvis or Roy Orbison to sing one of my songs but at the same time appalls me as these artists are now dead so may not have wanted to sing these songs and takes all the living human emotion from the performance. Plus…would record labels bother signing new artists when they can get dead Elvis or dead John Lennon or dead Otis Redding to sing the songs? I think may be another nail in coffin for new music and new artists. I am, it must be said, a technophobe. I have problems calling someone on my smart phone and if anyone ever rings me on it, I’m fucked, so the thought of dead artists recording new songs freaks me out a bit.
TLAK: Playlist Challenge: Please share with us your top 5 favorite Cilla Black songs.