With bands like Franz Ferdinand and El Presidente, The Hussy's time is most definitely now. The new project of ex-Supernaturals frontman James McColl he decided to leave his life behind singing the hits "Smile", "Built To Get Up" and "Day Before Yesterday" for a new challenge which didn't involve him being like Aladdin at a pantomime. That's where 20 year old ex-folk vocalist Fifi comes in and the rest of the Hussy's. Their debut EP including lead song "Tiger" and the glorious "We Expected" is out now on their own Fat Cheerleader". Designer Magazine caught up with James McColl and the Hussy's to get the low-down on Scotland's finest new band
Q: The last time we saw the Supernaturals was on tour with The Proclaimers. Why did you decide to put an end to the band?
A: We had done 700 gigs with each other and wanted a new challenge, which didn't involve lifting huge packing cases with the letter "S" on them.. We thought we had made a great album with "What we did last summer" and with our label Koch being taken over by Universal, a few weeks before release, everyone being made redundant, it became quite grim. Sort of like a Dickensian tragedy, with Derek and me working as painter and decorators to get money. We thought "Three decent albums, some good singles and great gigs. Lets quit while we are ahead, and not in thousands of pounds of debt. Can you hand me that other can of paint as well?"
The band fanned out in different directions. Alan (drummer) went to work for William Orbit. Paul
(guitar) bought an Arran jumper and became a solo folk musician. David (Keys) had an ambition to build the greatest Peter Kay type club band in Motherwell, which he has done. Derek became a plumber. Mark works in a Casino. Ken makes films.
Millions of bands don't know when to stop. It is particularly bad in Glasgow, where you should get NHS
help, and counselling. "No Mr McColl, I don't think it is good for you to do a 2006 Christmas Supernaturals reunion concert. It may push you over the edge" I cant think of too many bands who draw a line under things. We had an unwritten code in the band which was "quit while you are ahead".
Q: We discussed it last time we spoke, but do you feel in retrospect the Mull Historical Society essentially stole the Supernaturals sound?
A: I love Mull Historical Society. Particularly their second album. They've had their problems and should be more successful, although I am not too keen on Colin's perm. Supernaturals were possibly a bit more easy going and songwriting was generally more upbeat and bubblegum. Also, we were a band, where even Derek's cat had a say, whereas I think MHS is basically Colin. I'm not sure I could write a song as good as "Asylum" but then I don't think he could write a song like "Life Is a Motorway". I think maybe the Mulls had some similar influences but no, I don't think they stole anything from us, apart from the dreaded "next big thing" tag.
By the way, Mark had a bubble perm in 1997, which at the time stood out like a skyscraper on the top of Ben Nevis. He was the only famous member of the band, basically because of his fantastic hair.
Q: Do you feel any other bands were influenced by the Supernaturals - Kaiser Chiefs for example?
A: It is always good when someone says they were influenced by you, even if it is only someone doing
Radiohead covers in the local pub. If we were in the back of a van in 1998 and someone had said we were an influence on them, there would have been howls of laughter ending with that person being left on the hard shoulder in say, Exeter. We were never taken seriously by critics or our fans or our families,
which sort of rubbed off on the band. We just did our thing, whether it was songwriting or gigs and never
cared much what happened, really. We cared, but not to the point where it was dominating our lives. That was Dereks influence. He was very funny and easygoing, and sort of ran the band in a strange way from his command post in his armchair, but let me think I was the leader. I think Kaiser Chiefs have a few of the same influences like XTC, but we never bothered going the whole hog , singing in a Swindon accent. I keep hearing these bands from like Whitley Bay singing in West Country voices. What's that all about? Getting back to the point, I like the Kaisers, particularly "I predict a Riot".
Q: How did the Hussy's come together and what was it that prompted you to take a step back from being a frontman?
A: I had been writing songs for a couple of years after the Supers finished. My initial plan was to find a
female singer who was good and try and make a band like the Cardigans, who to me were the best band of their era (although they were Swedes). That was difficult. If I'd known how hard it was going to be I
might have emigrated to the North Pole. I thought you just put your voice up to a microphone and it sounded half decent. How wrong was I? Trying to get someone who could stay in tune and had just the right amount of character in their voice was difficult. They either sounded like Mariah Carey or Linda McCartney (God bless her soul). Steph, who is also in The Starlets , basically persuaded me it was worth persevering. We came across Fili purely by chance. She was recommended by a guy who runs a folk club. Her voice stood out immediately. She had got tired of singing to the Arran Sweater brigade herself and was up for it.
Being the front person is hard at times. For example playing to Death Metal fans in The Pyrenees, you are the focus of attention like a lightening rod on a chimney, when maybe you just want to be an incongruous piece of guttering. Everyone either wants to shake your hand or fill you in for looking at their
girlfriend. I just want to play my guitar and sing some backing vocals and kind of take it easy, instead
of being like Aladdin at the blinking pantomime. "Lets see everyone clap their hands in time!"
Q: Could the other Hussy's introduce themselves and tell us a bit about what they've done before the band?
Steph (bass & bobbing about): I've played in various bands & in a range of styles from punk to laid-back indie pop. To me it's not the genre that's important but whether or not the songs are any good. I'd always liked The Supernaturals & thought they had great songs so when I heard that they'd split I got in touch with James. I still play with The Starlets who I've been with for about 6 years.
Fili (vox & hand-flapping): Fili had been writing her own stuff for a couple of years & performing it with acoustic guitar at folk & singer/songwriter nights in pubs around Glasgow.
Greg (keys & Mick Jagger impersonations): Greg is Mr Session man around these parts - if you want good keyboard playing give him a call. He had his own funk band called Nacoya for a couple of years although I don't think they're going any longer. Recently he's also played with world music band Zuba, with The Sound Development Agency amongst others as well as many recording sessions for other people. He's also been known to tootle his trumpet in a local brass band, which is how we came to know him funnily enough.
Gordy (drums & Rush infatuation): Also a sound engineer, Gordy has been drumming & writing with rock band Graduation Day for about three years. He also plays in local blues band Roost. In his sound engineer role he was working in Glasgow venue Rockers, which is where we met him.
Ronnie (guitar & hair): With a name like Ronnie Smith we just had to have him in the band. It is the ultimate rock name. It is almost as good as the guy who plays for Kilmarnock FC called “Danny Invincible”. The most recent addition, Ronnie previously played in another female fronted band with Gordy a few years ago, and has another local band that he plays with.
Q: Scotland used to be known for jingly jangly Teenage Fanclub & Astrid style bands, now it's known for quirky pop ala Franz Ferdinand & El Presidente. Is this where you feel the Hussy's fit in?
A: We hadn't thought of it like that. Yes our sound is quite quirky, taking bits of whatever we like, musical
Magpies. Don't be ashamed to try anything once in a musical sense. With James' lyrics and Filis voice it
always takes on a "Hussy's" identity anyway.
Q: Tell us about the four tracks on the EP? How does the dynamic of the band work in terms of songwriting etc.
A: James writes the songs and does rubbish demos of them. They are then arranged by the band into whatever shape takes everyone's fancy. The recording and live versions are a band product. A song like "We Expected" was triggered by Gordy and Steph messing around with "Police" type dynamics on the drums and bass. We're open to anything. Fili writes as well and the process is the same with her songs.
James version of "Tiger" was a bit more electronic, and when Gordy and Steph got their hands on it, it
took on a ragtime 1930s feel. Fili sat on top of it like she'd been singing it all her life. It was done in one take to capture that.
Snowboard was the first thing we recorded and has an intentional girl group thing going on. Glockenspiels
and Phil Spector backing vocals.
Warm and Fuzzy was done in one take as well to try and get a rough and ready feel. Fili's vocal is the guide, which was so good we kept.
Q: Are there any plans to tour the UK?
A: At the moment we only have dates confirmed in Scotland. We are restricted by the usual factors,
where everyone works part time and we have to watch our cash for hiring vans, recording. If we could sell a few of our Tigers (sounds like Hong Kong zoo) we might be able to go to Manchester, Liverpool and London. I'm sure we'll manage it in the next few months.
The Hussy's debut EP is out now on Fat Cheerleader Records
The Hussy's play Manchester's Night & Day on Nov 29th for Designer Magazine
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