Music

‘Tears and swearing’: Bardot’s hidden heartbreak revealed

In a candid new interview with news.com.au, two Bardot members reveal why last year’s reunion plans failed – and what they did next.

It may seem an odd thing to say about Australia’s most successful girl group, but in many ways Bardot’s story is one of missed opportunities.

Borne from the hype machine that was the first season of Popstars in 2000, they experienced huge overnight success – but lost key member Katie Underwood in mysterious circumstances during their first year together.

They came back stronger with a killer second album but split abruptly in 2002, a sudden end that saw the group divided between those who wanted out (Sophie Monk, Sally Polihronas) and those who desperately wanted to continue (Belinda Chapple, Tiffani Wood).

Since then, a few false starts: a secret plan for a 10-year reunion never got off the ground, and the milestone that was last year’s 20th anniversary couldn’t coax more than three members to unite for a few interviews.

But out of all of this, finally, some new music from Bardot – sort of. Underwood and Chapple have teamed up to form KA’BEL (Katie Belinda – geddit?), a new dance-pop duo with a debut single, Broken Hearted, out this Friday October 15.

And Bardot fans can breathe a sigh of relief: The track is a tasteful slice of tears-on-the-dancefloor disco that sits perfectly alongside the group’s career-best single I Need Somebody and Underwood’s sterling solo work with Disco Montego.

For those who’ve waited so long for new music, it’s also emotional hearing two of the group’s most distinctive voices singing together once more, all these years later. Katie and Belinda spoke to news.com.au about exactly why last year’s Bardot reunion crumbled – and how KA’BEL rose from the ashes.

So how did this all come about?

Katie: The big Bardot revival that we had last year for the 20th anniversary was really the driver that got the four of us [Sophie Monk declined to take part] together initially – and then four became three, and then three became two. And then Belinda and I may have cried a little bit at that point and gone, “Oh man, I really wanted that to work.”

Belinda: She’s joking about the tears, by the way.

Katie: No, I’m not, actually! A little bit of tears, little bit of swearing also, possibly at the same time. I was just really disappointed that we couldn’t get something together, and the one consistent partner in crime I had was Belinda. We just kept saying yes: “Yes, we want to do a song. Yes, we want to do an Instagram. Yes, we want to do whatever it was put on the table by our dear friend, Joe [Dadic, who organised the Bardot reunion] …” And we just kept saying yes.

Then when Belinda mentioned that she was moving back to Australia from Singapore, I’m like, “Okay, let’s get this train moving.” And that is how we decided to do something together, so KA’BEL was formed and Brokenhearted was born.

It sounds like it was a tough process for you as other Bardot members dropped out last year. What actually happened?

Katie: I think everyone is at different stages of their life, with their family priorities. For Belinda and I, we’re fortunate. My children are old enough that if I had to leave them for a few days or longer at a time, it wouldn’t be a crisis. And Belinda’s a business owner like myself, but in that we have some flexibility. But I think for the other ladies, maybe they didn’t have as much flexibility, and making new music just wasn’t a priority. So it wasn’t so much that we were upset with them, but just having to accept that the timing wasn’t right for them.

Belinda: It’s just like the timing wasn’t right for me [during the planned reunion] 10 years ago. When we talked about it then, I’m sure everyone was disappointed, but things happen. And 20 years is a long time. In that 20 years you go on so many different journeys, whether you’re living overseas or having children or getting married, getting divorced. For whatever reason, the time’s right for Katie and I to do this.

Katie: I just didn’t want to wait another five years for our 25th anniversary!

Belinda: There were a few people suggesting that and I was just like, “Do you understand how old I am? I’m the oldest, guys. Get a grip. Do you think I’m going to be starting this all again in five years?” (laughs)

Bardot had number one singles and albums – what does success look like to you for this project?

Katie: I’ve been independent and under the radar for the last five years, releasing albums every year to a very small community of people – maybe a cluster of a few hundred to a thousand loyal followers in that genre. But for me, success when I release something is when I start getting those messages or emails and texts going, “Oh my God, I just heard your song. It’s amazing. It makes me feel this, this, and this.” To me, that in itself is success.

Belinda, I spoke to you last year about how sudden and shocking Bardot’s split was for you, and how you wanted the group to continue. Then we ran a follow-up interview with the band’s manager, David Caplice, who said Bardot fell apart because of constant infighting. What did you make of that?

Belinda: I thought it was quite interesting, because I’ve found that it completely conflicted with my experience. And in one moment he said we were constantly fighting, and then in the next moment he’s saying, “I want to manage them and put them on a big comeback tour!”

Every band, when you’re in a stressful environment, occasionally there’s going to be a moment where you’re stressed about something you can’t control. Whether you’re running late, a sound problem, whatever it is. But as far as infighting between us girls… it’s just not true. Bardot worked with so many people. Think about all the people around us wherever we went, whether we were at a radio station, filming a video – people would have known if we were fighting. They would have seen it everywhere. It would have been a known thing in the industry, which it just wasn’t.

Katie: And there’s a big difference between people fighting with each other and people under stress. People under stress raise their voices, maybe answer questions in a way that are not loving and compassionate the whole time.

But when you’re under the pump from 6am to 11pm every day, on tour, on the move, you’re not going to be smiling. You just don’t have energy for that. Now, do those same managers apply the same things to the proliferation of male bands? It’s a different lens and it is a sexist lens that assumes that if you’re a woman, you’re supposed to be all smiles and rainbows and sunshine the whole time.

We’re focused people. Powerful, professional, talented individuals. People don’t act perfectly under stress, but that’s not to say that you’re fighting with each other.

Katie – you’re a mum of two 10-year-old girls now. What do they think about you going back to your pop star roots?

Katie: Up until the age of five or six, they had no idea, I was just mum. It’s not like I was putting videos of Bardot in front of their faces when they were babies! When they were about five and I showed them the I Should’ve Never Let You Go clip because it was animated, and my story then was I used to be a superhero with four other superheroes.

The last couple of years, they did sort of float the idea: “Could you be famous again?”. I said “Well, okay. Would you like if I released some pop music and I could be more famous again?” They were like, “Yeah. That’d be cool.” (laughs) “All right. I will try.”

Broken Hearted by KA’BEL is available to stream from Friday October 15 and can be previewed and pre-ordered here. Follow the girls on Instagram for more updates.

Originally published as Bardot’s Katie Underwood and Belinda Chapple on band’s foiled reunion and new duo KA’BEL


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