“I'm so wet!” announces Kate Holmes, picking up the phone. A quick glance back at the number scrawled on a piece of paper confirms that Remix hasn't accidentally dialed a late-night sex-chat line. “We're having torrential storms,” the Client keyboard player clarifies. “It's a typical English summer.” Whew! With the sleazy electro-pop that she plays on her band's second album, City (Toast Hawaii/Mute, 2004), the conversation really could go either way.
Client is somewhat like a grown-up version of T.A.T.U. — but good. Holmes and vocalist Sarah Blackwood, formerly of Dubstar, dress in skin-tight flight-attendant uniforms. “We took the idea from 1960s Scandinavian airline uniforms,” Holmes says. They also insist on being photographed while discreetly fondling each other. “We flirt with all kinds of imagery; make of that what you will,” she says. And they sing songs about fantastic things like pills, sex and prostitution.
The band is also connected in more ways than one to the overlords of whip-cracking, bondage-strapped synth pop, Depeche Mode. Client formed while Holmes' former band, Technique, was its opening act. The sultry duo is also the first signing to Toast Hawaii, the label that the Mode's Andy Fletcher runs through Mute. And Martin Gore even lends guest vocals on City.
But don't let the familiar analog and analog-modeled sounds of Roland Jupiter-8s and Clavia Nord Leads on angular pop songs like “Radio” and “In It for the Money” fool you: Client is not interested in revisiting the past. “We're contemporary,” Holmes insists. “Everybody goes, ‘You sound like an '80s band.’ But we never really think that. We think the lyrics are contemporary and the look is contemporary. And the music, I mean, all music is vintage in a way, isn't it? All rock comes from something else, and rock people never get accused of being retro.”
Holmes should know. She is married to Alan McGhee, former Creation Records boss and the man who discovered the likes of Oasis, Primal Scream and The Hives. “All our lead keyboard lines are like lead guitar lines,” she explains. “They could be played on a lead guitar, but we played them on really dirty-sounding keyboards.”
Produced by Joe Wilson of the Sneaker Pimps, City definitely presents a more full-bodied listening experience than Client's self-titled 2003 debut (Toast Hawaii/Mute), which is a bit odd considering the way it was recorded. Holmes composed most of the songs on a small, portable MIDI keyboard while she was traveling through Europe and then cleaned them up using Novation's V-Station synth and an Apple Mac G4 running Logic 6 after returning to her home studio in London. “Sometimes, we would replace the sounds I put in with even better ones,” she says. “Obviously, we use some Logic 6 [EXS24mkII sampler and ES1 soft-synth sounds], as well, but we tried not to use quite as many for this album.”
Most of Blackwood's vocals, meanwhile, were recorded illicitly, in the middle of the night, at a local university recording studio where a friend of the band's works. “Everything is pure,” Holmes says. “We didn't use any effects. We just had a bit of delay, and that was it.” The band only entered a proper studio to mix the disc, this time on an Amek Hendrix desk. “It shows you can make cheap records sound good,” she says.
Just don't call Client a cheap band. And despite outward appearances, never suggest that it would be easy to imagine the girls from the Human League — vocalists Joanne Catherall and Susanne Sulley, former cocktail waitresses — starting a band like Client. “People say that, but I don't think it's true,” Holmes says. “I think just because there's one blonde and one dark, people think we look like the girls out of Human League. I think we're a bit more upmarket than those girls, really. I think we're a little more classy. They probably can't do anything. So maybe we're like the Human League girls of the 21st century. The girls who are at the shop but can actually write and play.”