In the early days of the millennium, Isle of Wight band The Bees were a joyous blast of indie psychedelica, talented musicians who could borrow from any genre and make it their own.
Their debut album, Sunshine Hit Me was nominated for the Mercury Prize, and for a brief, beautiful period their music seemed to be everywhere, soundtracking TV shows and adverts.
But since touring 2010’s fourth album, Every Step’s A Yes, it’s been all quiet from The Bees’ camp.
So when two of its members, Aaron Fletcher and Tim Parkin, snuck out the single Love Said (Let’s Go) as new project 77:78 earlier this year, the limited edition run sold out in 48 hours. Their debut full-length Jellies was released on Heavenly Records in July, and its sound is not a million miles from the pair’s other band.
‘When we first started the record,’ Aaron tells The Guide, ‘we thought let’s try and make it not like The Bees – that’ll be interesting. And then during the recording, it became clear “Oh it does sound like The Bees with a few different elements – let’s just go with that…”
‘We just couldn’t help it really. Me and Tim were pretty much the main songwriters for the last couple of Bees albums, so it was going to sound similar. We wanted to make it a bit more accessible, we still love The Bees massively – that’s not over, but 77:78 was borne out of wanting to make some music, so let’s reform slightly…’
The initial response to Love Said was a huge relief to the pair, but as Aaron admits, they used it to help build a buzz when the single’s run sold out so quickly.
‘It was a bit of a PR stunt – it wasn’t many copies, it was a few hundred. But in today’s climate, to sell out is cool. That was like, oh, right, it’s got legs, we haven’t muddied the waters with The Bees’ fans, they like what we’re doing.
We were massively relieved.
‘Love Said had had a few radio plays, but it didn’t hit any playlists - we thought we were going to walk on to 6Music, but we didn’t get it,’ he laughs. ‘It’s fine!’
The band played its first live show supporting label mates and critically adored psych-rockers King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard. ‘It was bonkers, but that was a brilliant slot, it went down really well.’
This November run of dates is their first headline tour, but as Aaron adds: ‘Gigging’s really hard because we’ve all got jobs now. Back in the days of The Bees, we were in our 20s and were like: “Yeah, let’s do it!” We didn’t have the other responsibilities, the families, the mortgages and all that, and it went really well, we were a bit blessed.
‘Now we have to work a bit harder to make things happen.’
But the live set up is one they’re very comfortable with. ‘It’s pretty much The Bees’ old live band with a couple of new inputs – a couple of guys I’ve always wanted to work with. Me and Tim, it’s our project though, we wrote all the songs.’
The Bees were renowned for routinely swapping instruments between, and even during songs. Does that still happen?
‘Me and Tim are all over the place, the other four stick to their positions. We fine them if they move,’ he jokes. ‘But there’s not as many instruments on stage these days.
‘Going live, we don’t worry about replicating the recordings like we used to, because it was stressful carrying around all these instruments that we’d only play for half a song!
‘It’s very loose live, it was very formulaic with The Bees – we worked really hard on nailing the parts and the recordings. We’re having a lot more fun now. Tim’s a phenomenal musician, so we’re getting really loose live, more jammed out, a bit more baggy,’ he reaches for the right word, ‘a bit more fruity – we’re jellies, we’re wobbly.’ He triumphantly exclaims: ‘We’re very wobbly!’
With the guys now having day jobs – Aaron works at BIMM music college in Brighton, they have to make the most of their time on the project.
‘It has to have legs – we’ve started recording new stuff, there’s more demos on the go. We’re doing some more, and there’s songs that didn’t make it onto the record that we’re going to get out. And we’ve had a remix done by [house music legend] Ashley Beedle recently, who’s a bit of an old school hero of ours.
‘There’s things dripping out from us. We can’t unfortunately commit the time we used to have to it.’
But the biggest change since the ‘old days’?
‘The rider’s shrunk – there’s a lot less beers now,’ he says, mock ruefully. ‘It’s all changed...’
The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
Saturday, November 17