It’s been 4 years since the release of your second album ‘Let Me Come Home’ and 3 whole years since you finished touring with that. You’ve been missed! What have you guys been up to in this time?
We’ve been pretty busy underneath the surface. We made the record in 2012, but since splitting quite amicably with 4AD, we’ve been trying to figure out how best to release it in the current climate. We talked about – and to – a few labels, but in the end, as we had made the product ourselves with some help from Creative Scotland, we thought why not go the whole hog and release through our own record label?
So we set up J# Records, and the last year or so has been about just working on the infrastructure of that. Challenging and scary, but a lot of fun. We decided that we would use Pledge as our shop front, as we had already made the record, and the whole thing has felt like a great success so far. Plus a couple of the guys have had kids, setting up the junior team, so we had to take a little time just to live a little. After five years on the road, it felt like time to take a little break and take stock.
You answered my question about 4AD even before I asked it!
So, this March 24th you release your EP ‘Toska’ and the title track is absolutely beautiful. You seem to be talking about relationships – what emotions are you drawing from here?
I think the new record deals with a lot of things that are closer to home for me. I found it really difficult to write specifically about myself over the last two records, maybe a little bit of old fashioned British reserve kicked in, and for some reason with this record, because it felt that the pressure I put on myself had lifted a little, I was able to write from a more relaxed position. Certainly it felt like a bit of a breakthrough in my songwriting, as I was no longer hiding behind characters in songs anymore.
It’s great to know we’re hearing more from you, as Jamie, in your songs. What is the overall ‘theme’ (if any) of the EP?
I think the EP is about progress, and is thus an extension of the record. “Toska” is about not understanding why something is going wrong, and not knowing how to fix it. “See you on the way down” is about jealousy and the burden of putting too much pressure on yourself; “Ward 3” was written by Ian, and was written for his mum, who sadly died last year, and is something I still can’t listen to without choking up; and “Revival” just seems like the kind of perfect antidote to all that came before it. It was the last song we finished, and the positivity in that song is certainly where we feel we are at with the band.
Wow, it’s great that every song has such different meanings yet they’re all in this EP together!
In terms of production, you’ve gone for Tony Doogan. What has he bought to the project?
Tony is a gent and a bit of a mad genius. A totally belligerent Scot, who won’t fail to tell you everything is shit, everything you did was wrong, only to spend hours meticulously tinkering with your songs to make them the best they can be. We have loved his previous records, and we loved the experience of making our last record, and we didn’t want to work with anyone else for this one. Incredibly helpful, incredibly generous with his time, and incredibly good at what he does!
Ha! Tony Doogen: the ultimate tough-love man. And genius, indeed. So is this a taster of what to expect from your third album in May?
I think these songs show off a side of the record, but these songs were kept off the record, except for Toska, because they didn’t quite flow in the way we wanted the record to go. It was only in putting them together that we realised they kind of had their own flow, and thus we wanted to put out a full EP. The new record is definitely the one I am most happy with, and a really happy reflection of what the band has been through in the last four years.
Amazing, that makes me very excited to hear it! However, Dave Smith is now in New York! How did this affect the creative process?
Dave met his wife at a show in New York on our last jaunt to America, and has since gone to live with her over there. It was like losing a right hand for a while, but luckily he was still there to play and record the album. One of the best and most interesting piano players you could hope to work with. We are proud of the fact that nobody has left the band badly – it has always been because life has caught up with them, and we are still in touch. Indeed Gill, our old Bass player, is back in the fold on guitar. This band has always been like a family, and the door is always open if situations change.
That’s a pretty great dynamic to have!
What growth have you experienced as a band since the beginning up till now? What element would you say has made you better with the years?
Purely the act of being a professional musician, and touring with other great acts makes you work harder to be better. Certainly regular practice on stage and in the practice room has led to all of us being better musicians, and the confidence you get from that bleeds into all aspects of your life. To treat this thing as a craft, and to constantly strive to be better at it is a major thing in what keeps us going.
You are coming to London on the 15th April! What can we expect at the gig? I’m excited!
A lot of noise! The line-up is noticeably more guitar driven than before, but all the old songs are there and represented. Certainly, with the passing of time, we have been able to look back at playing songs off the first record, as we had played them so much previously we were sick to death of them, and it is nice to look at your own body of work and breathe new life into it.
Right, I shall be rocking out in the front then!
Finally, what is your Summer looking like for you? Hitting many festivals?
We will be hitting the road in the summer, and hopefully a few festivals, but as yet we are keeping things close to our chests!
Intriguing! Well thank you so much Jamie. I’ve loved the EP, I’m really looking forward to the gig, and of course, the album in May.
Words: Irune Rue Chamberlain