By the standards of their contemporaries, Idlewild at the very least deserve an award for longservice. Bands have come and go and of those that are still with us several are resting on former glories, but Idlewild eschew the norm and return stronger than ever with "Warning / Promises" - the album few fans could have ever imagined around the release of the debut "Captain" in 1998. With an acoustic core at it's heart the melodies allow Roddy to truly sing for the first time in the bands career. Designer Magazine caught up with bass player Gavin Fox to chart the bands past couple of years making Idlewild's finest album.
Q: On the lead up to receiving this record I was reading
in every interview that it's a grower and will take a while to get into.
I got it on the first listen. How was it for you?
A: It's taken me 28 listens to get into this record properly. As a musician you just sit there listening out for all the little bits you might not have heard previously.
Q: How have the acoustic dates been going so far?
A: We did the first show a couple of nights ago. It was in this guys barn in the highlands. He'd converted the barn into a venue and he'd put a stage, a bar and restaurant in there. People just come over there from the adjoining villages to see shows there. It's doing really well and he's getting in bands like Biffy Clyro and comedians like Ross Noble up there for shows. The weird thing is when you walk up to the venue and even inside it still looks like a barn, all the wooden beams are still intact and they've got these benches in there to keep it authentic.
Q: You weren't a member of the band when Idlewild did
the low-key acoustic shows a couple of years back, but over in the states
they've been fairly regularly occurrences I believe?
A: When we were doing the album in Los Angeles we wanted to do a show out there. We were only there for 3 months and we weren't comfortable doing a full on band show. We just didn't have the time to rehearse, so we decided if we were going to do anything it was to be an acoustic set. Right round the corner from the studio was this venue that myself and Roddy had seen a gig in before, so we organized these two gigs and they sold out straight away. It was just such good fun, we'd spotted this piano in the corner so Colin started learning all the guitar riffs on the piano. The shows went so well that the idea came up that why don't we do a full warm up acoustic tour.
Q: What was the first show you saw at that first acoustic
A: I have no idea, but she was f**king terrible. The f**kers charged us $8 in as well and when we got in it was her last song and the minute she finished the lights went on and it was like get the f**k out!!! The guy who had charged us in was like I hope you guys come and play here. We should told him to get the f**k away, but it was really good place.
Q: The reason you've been doing the acoustic show is
the album "Warning / Promises" does have an acoustic core at the heart
A: Maybe 8 of the songs were written acoustically. It's funny because the new songs that we play sound fantastic acoustically because that's how they were written. When we went out to the States and recorded it with Tony he turned it into a more electric album. It's also funny when you're reworking "Hope Is Important" or "When I Argue I See Shapes" for acoustic cos you do have to change them quite a bit.
Q: The shows and the album have laid Roddy vocally
quite bare. Would you agree?
A: It's amazing, and maybe it's something to do with age, but his voice is getting so much better. I think the fact that people still know the band and still have time for us has given us all confidence, him to sing and us to play. Also when we were in LA, Tony was definitely pushing him vocally which I don't think he'd ever been done before. Tony was great for all of us cos he's a great motivator and he makes us feel very confident. It's great when you see that Roddy's not screaming his head off anymore, he's actually singing.
Q: Obviously you joined a few years later, but to look
at that journey from "Captain" to now with "Warning / Promises" is bizarre.
A: Sure. It's not the same band. That's good for me because after two years and writing this record it's good for myself and Allan to get out of the new guy thing. We don't feel like that now and it must be good for the other guys to change as well. It would be boring to be in the same kind of band with the same kind of music. This record is the sound of a different band.
Q: When you were writing this album it didn't start
off like we know it now. The process was quite different. Would you care
A: We're going back quite a while here cos when I joined the January or February a couple of years back we were writing songs together in this lighthouse. The chorus to "Love Steals Us From Loneliness" was all written with me on guitar, Rod on piano, Alan on bass and Roddy singing. That chorus has been around for over 2 years now and the verse came about when we'd finished the rest of the record.
Going to the Highlands, getting two weeks supply of food and just locking ourselves away writing was how much of the record came about. It was almost like working 9 to 5 with an hour for lunch. At night-time we'd just sit round a log fire and chat. The original demos started off totally electric with Rod mixing them down onto his computer. There were quite a few things on the record that we don't together as a band.
I love "The Remote Part", but I'm just so happy to get
away and do something new.
Q: How did recording in LA affect things?
A: The climate's different for a start (laughs). I don't know whether we'd have made the same record if we'd have recorded it over here. I don't think we would. When you get over there as well, we have to give Tony Hoffer a lot of credit, we had a weeks pre-production and just the simple stuff and ideas that he has. And of course being in a studio that has this warmth and history about it is bound to affect your outlook. If we were sit in London in the pissing rain it wouldn't have sounded how it does. It sounds so f**king pretentious, but you can hear the warmth on the record. I'm not sure whether it's a good example, but I'm a massive U2 fan and I absolutely adore "Rattle & Hum", which is on a lot bigger scale, but you can tell where they recorded it.
Q: I haven't read a review that doesn't mention REM
yet. What are the least REM moments on the new album?
A: I think "Too Long To Wait" with it's real My Bloody Valentine kind of sound. That was a really cool thing for us to do. And very un-Idlewild as well cos it has no real chorus or verse. And then "Goodnight" at the end of the album. I think the great thing about this record is there's not really one song on it that you skip.
There was one track we did, "Gone Too Long", which didn't
fit onto the record. It's going to be one of those live favourites. It's
just two and half minutes of indie disco hit. It's on the B-side of "Love
Steals Us From Loneliness"
Q: Do you see yourselves more as an albums band than
a singles act?
A: I suppose it's weird because over here you have to do the single thing and it was a worry for us over the two years we were writing this record. In America you have none of this crap and it's all about the record. I think people need that tester to see whether they'll by the record and I hope "Love Steals Us..." has done that
Q: There is a different set of fans I think between
the States and here. Looking at Amazon for "people who bought Idlewild
also bought..." it was Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service and Franz
Ferdinand in the US and in the UK it was Snow Patrol, Feeder and Ash.
A: That's funny with Death Cab For Cutie cos he's also in the Postal Service as well isn't he? He's a really big fan and he wanted to record with us. He'd been in the studio a few days before and left us a note saying "Sorry I didn't get chance to see you. I'm a really big fan. Best of luck with the album". I'd love to meet him one day.
Words: Alex McCann
Photos: Karen McBride www.karenmcbride.com
"Warning / Promises" is out now
Idlewild tour the UK throughout April
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