Fifty Shades of Client

by Jennifer Last

Client were a supergroup who preferred anonymity. Although formed by two charismatic performers, Kate Holmes of Frazier Chorus and Sarah Blackwood of Dubstar, they used code names (Client A for Holmes and Client B for Blackwood) and chose body shots over portraits for their promotional materials. Their choice of clothing was typically airline stewardess grey: neutral uniforms adding to the mystery, albeit with a hint of glamour. They used corporate platitudes as marketing slogans.

Musically, Client were capable of being as deadpan as The Flying Lizards or as melodic as Depeche Mode, with whom they toured. Andy Fletcher took them under his wing, signing them to his Toast Hawaii label, and Client were on their way. Then they weren’t: the band left Fletcher’s label in 2006, Blackwood left the band in 2010, and things went relatively quiet for an extended period. Earlier this year, Client returned with a new album, Authority, and a new line-up (Holmes and Nicole Thomas aka Client N). The site of their live relaunch was Gothenburg’s Electronic Summer festival, where CWNL’s Jennifer Last caught up with them.

How does it feel now, when the first show is all over?

[Kate] It was our first gig together. We’ve felt a little bit of anxiety, but good anxiety. You know, all the things that could go wrong: stage fright, the keyboard could stop working. But when you get into it, and the audience is so lovely. We’re quite blessed to be playing for an audience that lovely. They kept yelling, “We love you!” The set goes kind of up and down, so the audience grew with it. It was fantastic. They loved it so much, and we couldn’t ask for a better crowd than that, really.

Client3What’s the biggest difference between when you’re playing at a festival and at a club?

[Kate] I think, when we play at a place like this, people are coming because they love the music. They’ve heard the records, they’re singing along and know all the words. At most festivals, you get a crowd that moves around. They stand there for 15 minutes and then move away. Here, everybody pays quite a lot of money to get a ticket and it’s a true fan base.

How have you, Nicole, been preparing for this show, as being the very first show as the new Client?

[Nicole] I’ve been rehearsing a lot. One thing I’ve been trying to do is to bring some meinto the band. I’ve tried not to replace anything or anybody, or to pretend that I’m something I’m not. So it was great having Kate saying that I’m allowed to have that freedom.

[Kate] She’s bringing this new, sexy youth actually. Kind of vibrant. She’s like a young Madonna jumping around but electronic. She’s a little bit younger, which is nice.

How did you form the new Client?

[Kate] David [Francolini, who produced Authority], who is also a friend of my husband’s [Creation Records founder, Alan McGee], said that he really loved Client and that we should do another album, and I was like, “Yeah, yeah. Whatever.” And he said that he was going to write me some music. And I said, “Yeah, yeah.” I’ve heard this fifty times before, and no one ever brings it. No one ever does anything. They go away. They forget about it. It always reaches a point where nothing ever happens.

But then, six months later, I got a phone call from Bristol going, “I’ve done it!” And I was like, “WHAT?”

So, I went to Bristol. And we had to find someone to sing it. And he gave the suggestion of this amazing girl. She was a lead singer already. It was a natural process. I do believe – this is going to sound a bit spiritual – but I believe the universe, sometimes, it will give you something back. If I just let go of everything, it will come naturally. And we have this amazing energy. It sounds hippie and spiritual, but it’s all been very easy with this album. It came out; we’ve got amazing reviews; it’s not been that much struggling, really. And the expectations, for me, I was more like, “So, okay, we’ve got this. It’s amazing. Let’s just do it.”

How long did you work on the album?

[Kate] For a year now. Working, rehearsing and working with the David the producer, who is a perfectionist. It could take him weeks to just get the bass right, so it sounds amazing. We can play wherever now, because we’ve got it all set up. We had the album come out six months ago and we’ve played one gig. A lot of people will think that’s shit, but I think it’s amazing. The gig we just had was one of the best gigs in my life, really.

What is the worst memory playing live with Client?

[Kate] The worst place I’ve ever played in was in Naples at a Sky TV party. The venue was no bigger than this room [the backstage area at The Brewhouse is the size of a bedroom]. There were 20 people in it. There was no toilet. There was no stage or mixing desk, either. Our sound guy had to build a stage from scratch and build a mixing desk with two channels. We had to pee in a bucket on stage. In the corner of the stage, that was the dressing room. We couldn’t move for three hours. We just sat there.

Client5Nicole, what have you done musically before you became the other half of Client?

[Nicole] I’ve always been a vocalist. Basically, I’ve been helping people out with techniques in the studio, working in studios and things like that – in Bristol, where I’m from, but also in Scandinavia and in Germany. Last year was quite exiting when I played at a massive stadium. The Rugby League World Cup came to England for the first time in 101 years. My home town was one of the host cities. They’d asked me to write a song and perform it at the stadium, and it was so, “Gosh, twenty million people watching!” But before that, I did a lot of behind-the-scenes work. I was the tour manager for an independent label, so I’ve seen the other side of it as well – so it’s nice to be on the other side, finally.

Client have been very quiet for the past five years. What have you been doing during this period of time?

[Kate] Well, you’ve [to Nicole] been doing music. I’ve been working on my fashion line. I’m still doing it actually, but it’s so difficult. It’s a nightmare, to be honest.

How did you get into all that?

[Kate] I did a line of uniforms, but what I’ve realized in fashion is that people pay nothing for their clothes. In England, they pay like three pounds for a dress. And it costs to make the dress. 40 pounds just to make it, plus the material. So I can’t sell anything for less than 60 pounds. But the mass-market wants to pay three pounds for a dress from Primark. In a way I’ve realized that the fashion world is such a nasty, horrible business. Really. But I’ve still got the line going.

Do you have any plans for the future?

[Kate] Any gig anyone offers we’re gonna take. Hello, everybody out there! E-mail me, Facebook me! We’re hopefully coming back for a show in Sweden at the end of the year. And after that we’ll do China. So the next year: touring. But nice gigs, the ones that we like.

Are you going back to the studio for some new material?

[Kate] I think, with this album, we’re gonna be touring for two years actually.

[Nicole] But you never know…

[Kate] I think we’ll just tour the album and we’ll see what happens.

Can you describe your music with a colour?

[Kate] I think it’s kind of… It’s quite dark. It’s quite black. With a couple of shots of red or something. Vibrant. Dark green.

[Nicole] Some shoots of a color coming through. Many shades. It’s hard.

Fifty shades, maybe..?

[Nicole] Fifty shades of Client – yes! Exactly that.

[Kate] Brilliant. But why is it dark?

[Kate] I think the average music is kind of bright. Light colors. Then there’s a bit more passion, and it gets darker, isn’t it? But the melody is quite pop. So I think maybe it’s black with a strip of bubble gum pink, actually. That’s the perfect description.

Can you describe it with a feeling?

[Nicole] Intense.

[Kate] Quite anxious, I think.

And why is that?

[Kate] I think that, even in things that are good, there’s always some anxiety in it. What are the songs about?

[Nicole] It depends on which song.

[Kate] I think each song is more like a state of mind, you know? Obsession is about a stalker…

[Nicole] But then you’ve got the other side of the album which is quite political. Authority, Quarantine… Where you’re actually fighting against a big corporation, saying like, “Hang on. Wait a minute!”

[Kate] It’s a bit more punk, in a way.

Are you politically active?

[Kate] No, not really. I mean, I’m a feminist. I’m a left-wing feminist. I think every woman is a feminist, really. So these songs are from a feminist point of view, but it’s a bit anti-royalist as well.

What about you, Nicole?

[Nicole] Quite similar feelings to be honest with you. It’s quite funny, whilst making the album I remember Kate and David saying like, “Are you okay with this XXX action? You’re putting yourself out there a bit.” And I said that I’m actually fine with that. But I said that Quarantine, that worries me because it’s so intense and it’s so dark and the message is so real. But I’ve done some research, I looked into it, and I thought that, yeah, this is true. That’s why I can sing it and mean it.

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