The Grim Northern Social
The Grim Northern Social certainly know how to make friends and influence people. Del Amitri, Elvis Costello, the a&r departments at In The City and T In The Park and most of the peeps on Scottish Radio have all fall under the spell of the band which resulted in them signing to One Little Indian earlier this year. Now with a bit of money in their back pockets they set about persuading Cosmic Rough Riders, The Proclaimers and Simple Minds to allow them on tour and the magic worked yet again. Designer Magazine caught up with Ewan McFarlane to find out the full story.
Q: F**king hell guys, i've just looked down your schedule. Four tours in four months. Busy guys?
A: We start this Thursday and were doing all over Scotland in the wee places you wouldn't normally play just to get out there to the people. We do that and then we do Virgin instores to promote the single "Urban Pressure" (out on the 25th August) and the self titled album on 8th Sept. After the instores we start a British leg of dates with the Cosmic Rough Riders. Were basically taking whatever supports we can get...simply because the more people we play to the better. Hopefully we'll be able to steal some of their fans.
Q: You must have made a lot of friends in Scotland because Cosmic Rough Riders, The Proclaimers, Simple Minds - you've got all the Scottish bands on side haven't you?
A: Hopefully next year we'll move further afield, but I just believe when you're doing things to start off you've got to concentrate on your home turf because if you can't get them behind you you're a bit f**ked really. It was always the plan to get a bigger following up here and then as I say move further afield - start off with the North of England and then take it from there.
Q: You had big ambitions from the start though as well. You're first gig was with Del Amitri and shortly after that Elvis Costello invited you to support him. How did you blag that?
A: We just kind of chanced with luck. We thought f**k it - were gonna send him some stuff and chance our luck, see if we get it. We sent him a demo with about 6 songs on and the man himself, Elvis the God has a listen to it...and he was delighted. He offered us a slot at the Corn Exchange as part of the Edinburgh Festival last year which was f**king great. Number 1: Supporting Elvis Costello and Number 2: Him going it the go-ahead and last but not least playing in front of 2000 people is always a great buzz.
Q: At the beginning you'd had a load of failed bands and you'd worked on solo demos, but it was In The City in 2001 that things really started happening for the Grim Northern Social. It's that time of year again for ITC and we've seen so many cynical posts about the event on the web. How did you find the experience?
A: Again I think we've just been very very lucky. I believe were a good live band and it probably came across better live than we do on our record so I think if you're putting 110% into it when you're playing live people appreciate it. Were not the shoe gazing types as such, i'm quite a flamboyant character.
My personal opinion of ITC is that anything that promotes music and new bands can only be a good thing. Bands that have a negative response perhaps they've had a bad experience in the past at similar events. But last year we played at a thing called T Break which was basically a competition to get onto a New Talent Stage at T in the Park, we got through to play on the stage last year and this year we've been offered a proper stage because were a signed band now.
Q: The name really sticks in the memory. Where did it come from?
A: I used to live in London for 6 or 7 years and when I was moving back I was obviously moving back with the intention of starting a band. That was the name I had in my mind. Before I'd even met any of the other members I knew that was what my next band was going to be called.
Q: The bands essence is that mixture between the traditional songwriting and the atmospherics of the keyboards and production. I'd say it's similar in that respect to a band like the Cooper Temple Clause, but without sounding like a clone.
A: I haven't heard a lot of the Cooper Temple Clause's stuff, but I think they're cool. We just wanted to be as eclectic as possible so it would give us scope so that when we do the 2nd and 3rd album people won't know what were gonna come up with next. I'd say that in general that I love classic rock such as Led Zep, The Who and The Small Faces but saying that there's a big part of me which loves black music as well. I'm a big Curtis Mayfield and Al Green fan as well and in the early 90s I was very much into Massive Attack and albums like Leftism as well. There's so much and I could sit here all day and mention 50 bands which are all fantastic, but that's just a nucleus for you.
It all came together when I met Andy (the keyboard player). Andy was basically the guy I was destined to meet as far as having a music relationship was concerned. As far as I'm concerned Andy's a genius. I'd probably say I'm the more raw element of the band...I have all the ideas in my head and I bring them out and he puts them into action on the computer and stuff.
Q: You've lived in Scotland, Canada, London and back to Scotland again. That must effect you big style both in terms of lyrics and musical influences.
A: When I first moved to Canada I was only a kid, I was about 13. I just loved hip hop and I loved breakdancing, but I'm afraid Scottish guys aren't very good at breakdancing and I gave myself more injury's than medals. When I was there I used to watch the movie Beach Street and people like Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaata, Run DMC in the early days, and even before I moved to Canada there was the whole Rude Boy thing going up over here.
Q: Was the hard thing about the album simply trying to squeeze all those influences onto one record?
A: It was pretty difficult because we had 30 songs recorded on demo and from that we had to pick 11 songs. The next single "Urban Pressure" has got a b-side called "The Kinky Telephone Song" and it almost sounds like a different band. We don't want to have any boundaries and I write a tune that has a different feel to it I want to be able to have the freedom to do that. Obviously the downside of that is it can confuse some people whether it be fans, critics or otherwise but at the end of the day you're not doing it for that, you're doing it for yourself. So if people are going to come onboard and enjoy what you're doing they need to hear the whole picture.
You've got 2 or 3 sides to the band on the album. With the more rocky stuff like "Urban Pressure", "Maybe It's Time" and "Your Favourite Girl" which are maybe slightly post punky kind of feel. And then there's songs like "Snap The Impostors" and "Clash Of The Social Titans" which are more trippy Floyd influences and dope smoking basically.
I just wanted make sure that the first record had as much scope to move on to wherever we wanted to go. The next record I don't have a clue how it will sound. I've already started writing, but as far as direction is concerned I don't know where were going to go with it. That's the good thing. If you knew where you were going it wouldn't be exciting.
"Urban Pressure" is out August 25th. The Self-titled album follows on 8th September
The Grim Northern Social tour extensively between now and Xmas
For full dates and info check out
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