Lost in the international hoopla over the Spice Girls is Alisha’s Attic, a British duo of sisters produced by ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart.Karen and Shellie Poole play their own instruments, their voices aren’t a result of some studio wizardry and they weren’t seen at the Cannes Film Festival plugging their “A Hard Day’s Night”-like motion picture debut.
“The Spice Girls are quite the phenomenon,” Karen Poole said recently, “but I think they pretty much appeal to young kids. They’re like the female Take That, and they’ve cornered that market.
“With Alisha’s Attic, we’re writing songs and hoping that somebody somewhere will like them.”
So far, they’re on the right track. The Poole sisters, and their all-male backup band, made their recent stateside debut with “Alisha Rules the World” (Mercury) and the leadoff single “I Am I Feel” has garnered favorable comparisons to Shakespear’s Sister, Wendy & Lisa and Alanis Morissette. The album was certified gold in their homeland, and the group was nominated for best new artist at this year’s Brit Awards.
The A-word – Alanis, that is – comes up the most when journalists grasp for terms to describe Shellie’s striking lead vocals.
“When the first single (‘I Am I Feel’) came out in Britain, because of its aggressive feel, we were compared constantly to Alanis,” Shellie said. “Then when the second single (the title track) was released, it all changed. Suddenly, everyone said we sounded like Abba and Shakespear’s Sister, so it really doesn’t bother us too much because our sound is our harmonies and our backing vocals. Still, I don’t mind being compared to Alanis, because I think she’s wonderful. I would rather be compared to her than the Spice Girls.”
Besides, Morissette’s breakthrough album was released in 1995, just as the Pooles had finished writing their honest, witty, pop-pumped songs. Mercury caught wind of their demo and quickly signed them, and Stewart was brought in to produce them, recording at The Church in Crouch End, England.
Alisha’s Attic – named after a fictional character who’s pretty on the outside but evil inside – has been eight years in the making.
“When we left school, we were working up in our attic, where we had built a studio,” Shellie said. “We got rejection letters from record companies right and left. We were writing and trying to make our own music all those years before we actually got anywhere.
“It actually took a long time to figure out where we should be musically, especially when you’re out of the business and you’re just sitting in your room in Dagenham (in Essex outside London) and stringing a few lines together on a guitar. We’ve had a really good grounding and work experience. We did our time; we’ve definitely had to work hard to get where we are now.”
Karen Poole said the group’s pairing with Stewart was the perfect fit.
“At first, I thought it might be intimidating to work with him,” she said, “but he was fascinating. As soon as we met him, he said, ‘I love what you do. I don’t want to ruin it or take away from what it already is.’ He said he just wanted to take some magic fairy dust and spread it around, so that’s why we got on so well as people. On a personal level, he’s a really good bloke.”
BWF (before we forget): Their version of the Crystals’ 1962 hit, “He’s a Rebel,” appeared on the “Bean” soundtrack album in the fall of 1997.
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