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It's Play Time

A girl band that doesn't do jerky dance routines, and can play their instruments? Here comes Hepburn...

Interview: Mike Peake

Photography: Sean McMenomy


Cuddly "pop impresario" Pete Waterman has much to answer for. On the plus side, he helped shape the cheeky pop sound of FHM favourites Steps, but the evils far outweigh the good. The hideous caterwauling that was Sonia; the mindless drivel of The Hit Man And Her and - tellingly - the ill-fated pairing of Kylie and Jason. But the blonde twiddler's biggest crime has been to smooth the path for hideous single-sex singing bands. One minute, he's forcing all-male pop twerps Big Fun to warble Blame It On The Boogie; 10 years later Boyband The Musical is taking up valuable theatre space in London's fashionable West End.

Sarah and Jamie

Yet in these dark days, where talent is no substitute for a pretty face and a regional (usually Irish) accent, any musical combo prepared to splash out on such arcane devices as guitars and amplifiers is to be welcomed - especially all-girl newcomers Hepburn (named after actress, Audrey), as you'll agree from the pictures shown here.

Anyone who's heard either of their first two hits (I Quit and Bugs) may be quick to chastise the London-based four-piece - Nirvana they're not - but they could do a gig in your backyard.

"I love playing heavier stuff," says guitarist Lisa, "but we've had to compromise - although we do have quite a big guitar sound for a pop band. When I'm practising at home, that's when the grunge pedals come out..."

It's a noble defence - and at least they're the first to admit that they'd be useless as a more traditional girl-band in the vein of B*Witched. It's because they can't dance.

"Basically," says drummer Bev, "we're not the world's best groovers, so it's best to stick to what we do."

Which is catchy pop songs, crafted over the past two years while the four single girls shared a house in Cambridge. Now they share a flat in Kensington. Only a short drive to meet FHM at a photo studio in south London, then...


Sarah

With the exception of death, an overdraft and perhaps a dodgy speech at a family wedding, few things in life are certain. But there's no doubt that Hepburn's 18-year-old bassist Sarah will create a stir next time she's backstage at Top Of The Pops.

Sarah

"I fancy musicians," she says, "and the rest of the band call me a flirt anyway. I'm not, I'm just very friendly. I've got this thing that I do with my eyes that tends to attract boys."

But that doesn't mean there's competition for blokes within Hepburn: "Oh no - because they all know I'd win!"

It's easy to understand her allure. And the Nottingham-born beauty does know a very good party game.

"It's called the Tequila body slammer," she smiles. "You need two people: one holds a lime in their mouth, then wets their chest and puts some salt on it. The other downs the Tequila, licks the salt and then takes the lime out of the other person's mouth."

And is that the kind of trick the girls get up to at home?

"No. But we're always nicking each other's stuff - clothes, make-up, everything. Underwear? You must be joking!" Sarah smiles. "I think I'd rather go commando."


Lisa

Had fate dealt the pint-sized 18-year-old a different hand, she'd have been rocking out with the Smashing Pumpkins or forgotten Seattle stackers Pearl Jam. And getting drunk every night.

Lisa

"But I can't do that" she shrugs. "I've got a stomach ulcer - so I just have to laugh at everyone else when they've had a few."

After a recent band trip to Spain to shoot the video for latest single Bugs, Lisa is lamenting the fact that she's never had a proper girls' holiday.

"I went on a school trip when I was about 14," she says. "There were these blokes there in their 20s, and we all fancied them. We'd lift each other up to have a look at them in the shower."

No such pranks, however, were on the agenda for the band's recent fan-base-building tour of, ahem, schools.

"It was weird - we got to go into the staff room. The teachers were going on about how they were going to get drunk that night - and they swear a lot too. One teacher decided he didn't like our name and gave us some alternatives."


Jamie

Justifiably, Bognor Regis used to have merely one claim to fame - and even that belonged to Billy Butlin. Not any more, for Hepburn singer Jamie spent her formative years in the seaside town. But life wasn't all sun and splashing around; Jamie was working as a care assistant by the time she was 15.

Jamie

"It's not the nicest job - watching people die - but it makes you mature fast because you see a lot of things," she says.

All of which makes 19-year-old Jamie - a year older than her three bandmates - the mother of Hepburn. Even if she does have a reputation as the band's resident farter...

"I am not a farter!" she laughs. "They've got this one on me because I did one in the van the other day. But I've done one, whereas Bev and Sarah have got the smelliest feet in the world. Sarah's the worst farter anyway. I can hear her through walls!"

Rivalry with Sarah runs deep.

"Sarah thinks she's the bloke magnet but I'm just natural and down to earth... and I pull. I have the most success, but my kind of guy has to have blue eyes, he has to be quite laddish and he's got to have real character, like, 'Awright!'"

Ricky Butcher?

"I was thinking more Robbie Williams."

Despite her boundless energy, the half-Irish brunette also knows how to relax. She'd love to disappear on a quiet holiday...

"I'd like to go to an island where you can sunbathe, swim, drink - and get an all-over body tan. I might pull that way..."


Bev

North-eastern drummer Bev has turned into the daughter from hell after revealing that her icon is mental (and dead) Who drummer Keith Moon. "I'm reading his biography at the moment," Bev smiles. "And my mum's like - don't you dare do anything like that!"

Bev

Has she been brought up well enough to respect the privacy of others? Like when one of the other band members brings a bloke home?

"No way," Bev grins. "We're all listening at the wall, like. 'Oi, what you doing?'. But it's because we're all so close - we're always going on about romance, who you fancy... stuff like that."

None of the band fancied any of their audience on their recent schools tour. Drooling 13-year-old boys are no-one's idea of a hot date..

"It was a bit weird," Bev confesses. "But there were some really cool kids. One nine-year-old girl told us she was into the Stone Roses. But we were brought down to earth by one of the teachers who said, 'Could you take your chewing gum out before you play, please? We don't want you to set a bad example for the children'."

But real gigs with genuine red-blooded males are looming on the horizon...

"Oh that'll be really exciting," Bev says. "One of the first shows we did was in a boxing ring between two fights. It was full of blokes, so there was loads of 'Wooah!!' when we got up. You could smell the testosterone."


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