Most musicians would think having a band as successful and critically acclaimed as the Cocteau Twins would be a good thing. But former Cocteaus guitarist Robin Guthrie is finding that the past can be a foreboding shadow from which to escape.
"Everyone wants your new band to be like your last one, or they say, 'It's not as good as …,'" Guthrie says of the comparisons being made between the Cocteau Twins and his new outfit, Violet Indiana.
"It's difficult to try to get people to open their ears and to review the music and not review me," Guthrie says. "I feel that some of the press haven't mentioned the Violet Indiana record at all. They went on about how I used to be in [Cocteau Twins], and I think, 'OK, but what do you think of the new music?'"
Fans of the Cocteaus will indeed hear some similarities on Violet Indiana's American debut, Roulette. Guthrie's distinctive, layered guitar wall washes through the songs, and that plaintive tug for the ever-elusive is still present. And the vocals are still handled by a woman. But this time, it's not Liz Fraser warbling above Guthrie's compositions.
Siobhan de Maré, best known as the vocalist for electronic act Mono, had never even heard a Cocteau Twins song when Guthrie approached her to sing.
"I was aware that he played in a band which my sister's gang were all into," Siobhan says with a laugh. Similarly, Guthrie had never heard of Mono.
The two "fell into each other's laps," Guthrie explains, when a friend handed him a demo of Siobhan's new material, for which she was seeking a producer.
"He said, 'I'm not going to produce you; I'm going to work with you and be in a band with you,'" Siobhan says of Guthrie's reaction to her tape. "And I thought, 'Band? Oh, no!'"
With bad memories of the tedious working relationship in Mono, Siobhan was reluctant to return to the world of collaboration.
"I didn't want to go through anything that took hours of sweating over and thinking about," she says. "I just wanted [a band] where I could scribble down some lyrics, sing them, and they'd be on the album. And that's exactly what happened [with Violet Indiana]."
While the two are excited about the future of Violet Indiana, Guthrie hopes people will not judge their future based upon their past.
"Robin reads [the press] and makes himself ill over it!" Siobhan says, laughing.
"I wouldn't say anyone's been particularly harsh, I'm just particularly sensitive," Guthrie laughs, noting his own negativity and his habit of thinking the worst about reviews.
"I completely own up to my style of doing things. I wouldn't say [Violet Indiana] is the Cocteau Twins with a different singer, which I'm sure might be the easy option to say," Guthrie says. "But the songs that we've got, we wouldn't be creating if it weren't for my interaction with Siobhan."