I'm under no illusion
As to what I meant to you
But you made an impression
And sometimes I still feel the bruise
Trembling Blue Stars was formed in Mitcham, Surrey, England in 1995 by singer/guitarist Robert "Bobby" Wratten, initially as a solo project following the demise of his two previous bands, the beloved Field Mice and its successor Northern Picture Library.
The solo project had turned into a full band by the time of TBS' first album, Her Handwriting, in 1996. Though the lineup has varied since then, there have been a number of core contributors to band that their sound would be radically different without, including Bobby's ex-girlfriend Annemari Davies (vocals), Ian Catt (guitar and bass, production), Harvey Williams (guitar and keyboards -- formerly had a solo career with Sarah Records), Keris Howard (bass -- formerly of Sarah Records luminary Brighter), Jonathan Akerman (drums), and Beth Arzy-Dean (vocals -- also a member of Aberdeen). As of late 2003, the band is back to nearly a solo project, now consisting solely of Bobby and Beth. Several others have added to the band's sound, either in the studio or on stage, since the band first came into being, though let's just concentrate on the core group, shall we?
Annemari Davies was Bobby's girlfriend during his time in The Field Mice, from 1988, at the relative beginning of The Field Mice, until they drifted apart in 1991, which is also when The Field Mice broke up. As you probably have guessed, Bobby never really got over it and has since written dozens of songs about the whole affair, from beginning to end to post-end self-loathing. Despite the fact that some might be creeped out by this, Annemari knew this wasn't what was intended and rejoined Bobby when he formed TBS, though not in a romantic capacity. She provides the odd backup or trade-off vocal on a few of the more heart-wrenching songs in the TBS catalogue. This has a surprisingly validating effect on those songs, and if you are of the disposition of many other TBS fans, these songs are either the best or the toughest to get through without crying at least a little bit. (Check out Dark Eyes off 2000's Broken By Whispers or Nobody But You from 1996's Her Handwriting for an example.) Despite how these songs tear-jerk certain people, I must make it painstakingly clear that Trembling Blue Stars is not an emo band.
- Interviewer: In retrospect, do you feel like you dwelled too much on your breakup with Annemari on Her Handwriting? For me, it would be really difficult to share such personal feelings to so many people.
- Bobby: No, I don't. I had to write those songs. For one thing I wrote the majority of Her Handwriting when there was no contact between myself and Annemari. It was my way of talking to her, of saying things I wanted to say. Jackson Browne once said "I'm not too careful about where I go and what I do" in response to a similar question. He said if you are careful then you’re not rock 'n' roll! I agree with him!
Three years after The Field Mice's record label, Sarah Records, ceased to exist, its founder Matt Haynes formed Shinkansen Records, and signed Bobby's new band (TBS), which was the first band to be signed to the new label. A couple months later the first Shinkansen release, and the first TBS single, ABBA On The Jukebox, was released. Critical acclaim once again followed Bobby, as it had with The Field Mice, and the LP Her Handwriting followed that same year. Despite Bobby's distaste for performing live (he's quite introverted), several intimate shows were performed around Surrey and London, and just as The Field Mice had done in the late 1980s, TBS built up a loyal fanbase all over Europe and the United States, mostly, but also found fans just about everywhere else. Shinkansen formed distribution deals with several prominent indie record labels in other countries (including Sub Pop in the USA), ensuring that TBS releases would reach many otherwise unlikely places. Indeed, TBS is one of the very few indie bands to achieve critical acclaim and a loyal following in both the UK and the USA. In summer 2003, the band left Shinkansen, ending a 15-year working relationship with Matt Haynes, the head and founder of both Sarah Records (now defunct) and Shinkansen. Bobby pointed out in a few press interviews since then that it "just wasn't working." After a delay of about a year, they signed to Spanish label Elefant Records, and began working on their next album, which turned out to be The Seven Autumn Flowers (2005).
All was well for the band during the latter half of the 1990s and the early 2000s, which saw them regularly release new albums and singles or EPs, tour the UK several times and even the USA once in late 2001 (which I missed, sadly).
In 2010, Bobby announced that the album Fast Trains and Telegraph Wires would be Trembling Blue Stars' last, after fifteen years, seven albums and eleven singles/EPs. The last song on Fast Trains and Telegraph Wires, "No More Sad Songs", says it all, really.
- Her Handwriting (1996, Shinkansen Recordings, CD)
- Lips That Taste of Tears (1998, Shinkansen Recordings, CD)
- Broken By Whispers (2000, Shinkansen Recordings, CD)
- Alive To Every Smile (2001, Shinkansen Recordings, CD)
- The Seven Autumn Flowers (2004, Elefant Records, CD)
- The Last Holy Writer (2007, Elefant Records, CD)
- Fast Trains and Telegraph Wires (2010, Elefant Records, CD)
- Singles and EPs:
- ABBA On The Jukebox (1996, Shinkansen Recordings, 7")
- The Rainbow (1997, Shinkansen Recordings, CD/7")
- Dark Eyes (1999, Shinkansen Recordings, CD)
- Doo-Wop Music (1999, Shinkansen Recordings, 7")
- She Just Couldn't Stay (2000, Shinkansen Recordings, CD)
- The Ghost of an Unkissed Kiss (2001, Shinkansen Recordings, CD)
- Slow Soft Sighs (2002, Shinkansen Recordings, CD)
- Southern Skies Appear Brighter (2004, Elefant Records, CD)
- Bathed In Blue (2005, Elefant Records, CD)
- Beautiful Blank (2007, Elefant Records, 7")
- Exploring The Shadows (2007, Elefant Records, CD)
- Correspondence (2011, Elefant Records, 10")
Rewritten on October 14, 2002.
Revised on July 30, 2012.