THE STRANGE, WHIMSICAL AND FREQUENTLY SPLENDID ... LAND OF CHOCOLATE
Back in the late nineties, long before the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a very different variety of Everlasting Gobstopper was making herself known. Known simply as Fantastic Everlasting Gobstopper, this precocious talent blew onto the scene in 1997, with the seminal Christmas anthem - that - never- was, "Schoolgirl Psychedelia", which she recorded at the tender age of twelve, along with "I Am A Kitten" (she was evidently much too young to record "I Am A Tiger") for the Trattoria Menu compilation, "Songs For The Jet Set," which became a college radio hit in America. In 1998, she appeared on the labels "Bend It! Japan '98" compilation, covering "Back Home" before vanishing from trace and re-emerging a couple of years later as Angela Faye Tillett, teenage chambermaid from Clacton-On-Sea, and singer in psychedelic pop ensemble, Death By Chocolate.
Like the "Songs From The Jet Set" compilation, Death by Chocolate are inspired by sixties soundtrack pop, and as such make psychedelic soundscapes in which Tillet's spoken word musings on colours, chocolate, and word association sit happily alongside a particularly innocent sounding "My Friend Jack", sharp modish pop such as "Ice Cold Lemonade" and "Salvador Murder Mystery" and film songs such "Who Needs Wings To Fly?" (from The Flying Nun) and best of all, "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" (from Harold and Maude). The later album "Zap the World", includes the track "While I'm Still Young" from "Smashing Time", which could be seen as representing Tillett's approach to her musical career very well. "It's a band," she told Alexander Laurence of the Free Williamsburg site in 2001, "It's me and two other guys. There's also a producer who decides what we will record. They do the music and I do most of the lyrics." Mike Alway, who runs the label el Records, had worked with Angela before, and it was he who put the band together. The idea being that, "We wanted it to be like you were watching the film Willy Wonka."
At the time of Laurence's interview, Angela was working in a pub at Colchester, "I grew up in a pub, so I like it. That's what they did. I like to drive around in my car. I like cider. I drink Guinness, too." When she was at school, she had a job in London, working for the government. "I worked in the publicity office. It's a job that you do when you're at school. It was at Whitehall right by Big Ben."
Keen to stress that Death by Chocolate weren't jumping on any kind of sixties revival bandwagon, Angela told Brenda Khan of Womanrock, "People sometimes think, especially in America, that (Death By Chocolate) kind of jumps onto this kind of sixties Brit bandwagon, but it's been going on a lot longer than that. People have been passionate about it for a lot longer than it seems." Of course, reviving the sixties in any way, shape or form, can often lead to misunderstandings, as Angela recognised: "But there's other ways that's it's been done that I think are really crude. Like Austin Powers or something like that. It makes people forget what it was really like and really about. Now all of a sudden there's young people thinking that kind of sixties thing in London was about walking around Carnaby Street looking like a twat." Good things she takes from the sixties include Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and The Monkees, "I used to watch them (the TV shows on video) with my brothers and that, and I never really liked sort of the eighties, so it had to be the Monkees. When I was little I liked Davy, but now I'm older, I like Peter."
As to her musical career, Angela, in 2002, was remarkably down to earth and matter of fact, telling Brenda Khan, "Well I think I might be pushed to get a career in it. But I don't know, I see it as a hobby really. You know I have do insurance and such to get by, and then everything else is a bonus. If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't bother." These comments echoed her general approach to music, as explained to Alexander Laurence a year before, "You have to want to do it because you believe in personal expression. Don't bend over backwards to please other people. Just do something silly and relevant to yourself. You are not going to change the world and be anything better than you are. Do it for the right reason."
Whilst Death by Chocolate haven't released anything since 2002's "Zap the World", both it and its self-titled predecessor are well worth hunting down if, as Brenda Khan put it, "you never got a chance to learn first hand about the sixties, bands like Love, Jefferson Airplane, Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd) and Strawberry Alarm Clock then Death by Chocolate just might be your ticket in."
Notes: The quotes in this piece were taken from interviews available on the following websites www.freewilliamsburg.com/still_fresh/february_2001/death_by_chocolate.html and Womanrock (site no longer up).
ARTICLE BY CAZZ BLASE.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MAY 2008.