Olive Hope 'Trip-Pop' Sound Will Find U.S. Success

Keyboardist/producer Tim Kellett writes female-protagonist lyrics for singer Ruth-Ann Boyle.

Trickle, the latest album by British trip-pop duo Olive, tells the story of a woman who married too soon and craves an extramarital rendezvous.

Tracks such as "Love Affair" gush with the emotion and honesty of an "Oprah" episode. Amazingly, "Love Affair" (RealAudio excerpt), along with the other 11 songs on Trickle, was penned not by elegant singer Ruth-Ann Boyle but by keyboardist/producer Tim Kellett.

"They're all based on things that have happened to people I know or I've heard of," Kellett said from a New York hotel room. "It just seems relevant to choose those subjects because they interest me and because a woman is singing them."

Boyle, whom Kellett recruited for Olive after hearing her sampled voice on a keyboard, said she can always relate to her partner's lyrics.

"Some of them he writes after having a conversation with me about something that has happened, or sometimes he writes a song that I just happen to be able to relate to because it's happened to me or someone I know really well," Boyle said. "We have such a great relationship that I could say, 'I can't sing that; I don't know what I'd be singing about.' But luckily, we haven't had that."

Madonna Lends a Hand

Trickle, released May 30, is the follow-up to Olive's 1997 debut, Extra Virgin, which spawned the #1 UK single "You're Not Alone." The song, which the Village Voice said "epitomized trip-pop" at the time, also cracked the top 40 in the United States.

However, RCA, the group's label at the time, dropped Olive, opening the door for one of their biggest fans to sign them — Maverick Records founder and pop queen Madonna.

"I'd like to give one in the eye to RCA," Boyle said of her goals for Trickle. "We worked really hard on it and there's a lot of songs that people can relate to. So if the album is successful, that would be great.

"A couple million would be OK," she added with a chuckle.

Trickle, though layered with Olive's trademark soothing beats and simple horns, is a more commercial record than Extra Virgin, the duo said.

"The songs are more prevalent rather than having all those clever sounds and programming," Boyle said.

"It's a bit less moody and more straightforward, 12 tunes in a row," Kellett added. "It's a bit less self-indulgent, perhaps."

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Kellett, a former keyboardist for British pop band Simply Red, who scored #1 hits in the '80s with "Holding Back the Years" and "If You Don't Know Me by Now" (RealAudio excerpt), called on longtime keyboard tech Roger Lyons to produce Trickle.

"We are a good team," Kellett said. "We get along very well and, coincidentally, he lives down the road from me. It's not often, in the [desolate] part of England I live in, you would find a programmer living next door to you."

Olive's first project for Maverick was a cover of the 10cc song "I'm Not in Love" (RealAudio excerpt of Olive version), which was placed on the star-studded "The Next Best Thing" soundtrack. Maverick released the cover as the first single from Trickle, rather than the duo's choice, "Love Affair."

The move seems to be paying off, as the song, with help from a remix by MTV's DJ Skribble, has quickly climbed to #4 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Club Play chart.(Sonicnet.com's parent company, Viacom, also owns MTV.)

"It was fun to do because it's such a classic song," Boyle said. "It's kind of frightening to do something as big as that. It was #1 in England. But it was good once we started it because it began to sound like an Olive song. It took on a melody quite similar to some of the songs we have done."

Olive will play a handful of U.S. shows this month and possibly return in the fall for a full tour.