Sunday, 28 August 2016

Teenage Fanclub (Interview & album preview)

"...Life stuff, side projects and more besides means we’ve only had 2 'Fannies’ albums in the last decade, that silence finally broken by ‘Here’ with supporting Autumn dates in North America and the UK to boot..."

The small Lanarkshire town of Bellshill is probably most famous for being the birthplace of a certain Matt Busby. Rock and roll has made its mark there too with Teenage Fanclub amongst its alumni, a band generating many admirers during the 1990s with a bunch of seminal albums including breakthrough release Bandwagonesque, expertly followed up by Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain to name but two, all managing to blend classic Caledonian indie-cool with a sprinkling of Stateside West Coast fairy dust. The resulting tunes provided boatloads of fuzz and melody in equal measure, setting them apart from many of their peers, perhaps one of the reasons why The Fannies have survived the longest of all their former Creation stablemates following the demise Mr McGee’s label. To prove my point, the lads are back from a six year hiatus with new album ‘Here’, recorded in Provence and released in September on the band’s own PeMa label via Republic of Music.

As a fan I’m thrilled to be speaking to Raymond McGinley, one of the triumvirate of creative forces within the band and in the ensuing preparation, I’ve realised it’s been a while since I’ve listened to Fanclub at any length, having previously worn out my cassette copy of Bandwagonesque many moons ago and also witnessing them live during their 1990s heyday. Unfortunately, the latter half of their back catalogue kind of passed me by as the explosion of digital music formats saw vast increases in the amount of music I became exposed to post-millennia but as I reacquaint myself with their work, what quickly becomes apparent is how fresh their music still sounds, their post millennial material standing up really well too, making these new discoveries similarly pleasurable to the stuff I’ve heard before. Sharing this fact with McGinley brings a typically humble response from the unassuming Scot, “It’s good to hear that, we don’t really listen to our old stuff much but it’s good when people still say to us “We like it”, a journey into our past has been ok”.

These days things have inevitably slowed down a touch for Teenage Fanclub, whose core of Raymond McGinley, Norman Blake and Gerard Love have survived intact since their inception a generation ago. Life stuff, side projects and more besides means we’ve only had 2 Fannies’ albums in the last decade, that silence finally broken by ‘Here’ with supporting Autumn dates in North America and the UK to boot. Shimmering summery pop tinged lead-off single ‘I’m in Love’ recently debuted on Mark Radcliffe’s 6music show, the remaining eleven tracks on ‘Here’ also worth a listen as the band members continue to mellow together whilst still writing separately. The workload for ‘Here’ is almost identical to splendid 2010 predecessor ‘Shadows’, namely a quartet of tracks each from Blake, McGinley and Love as Raymond discusses the band’s creation process ‘It’s pretty much always been the way. The song kind of comes from within one person, based on some kind of solitary thing, whoever wrote it kind of directs an extent through the recording. You also want to give whatever you can to someone else’s song to make it happen. We take someone’s rough idea and fill in the blanks….. We’ve been playing together for a long time, so we kind of find our way through.”

The new album itself is packed full of fine tunes including the disarmingly dreamy ‘I Have Nothing More to Say’, ‘I Was Beautiful When I Was Alive’ and ‘Steady State’ proving that age has not blunted their craft. Explaining their evolution Raymond’s explains “As a band we’ve always liked to be comfortable with who we are, where we are now, what the reality of life is like, how we view things, just trying to reflect all that in what we do,” adding, “We’ve never really tried to conform to a template of what we think a band should be or what the songs should be like, we’ve always seen ourselves as human beings existing as other stuff goes on around us, some good, some bad, trying not to get caught up in any musical movements, genres or whatever, taking a slightly bemused and removed view of the whole thing.”
Listen to 'Thin Air'

Speaking about the hiatus following ‘Shadows’ Raymond fills in the blanks accordingly, “During the period immediately after the Shadows record, we did a lot of touring, then got involved in other projects, Gerard made Lightships, I was involved with a band called Snowgoose and Norman was with The New Mendicants although all through that period we still felt we were together talking about things, it never actually felt like we went away and got back together. We started this new record in earnest three years ago and finished it in September last year.”

For those wishing to catch up with TF this autumn, you need to move fast as a handful of dates have already sold out, much to Raymond’s surprise and delight as he looks forward to touring once more. ‘It’s really heartening, we don’t take these things for granted, all these people making a decision, spending money, making themselves available that night to go and see us. It’s reassuring that people still want to check out this thing we’re still doing. It’s not exactly recently that we last did this so there’s a novelty to just being back on the road again anyway. We’re not exactly jaded by the whole experience because it’s six years since we last did it.’

Teenage Fanclub will be busy promoting “Here” for the next 12 months, after that who knows, McGinley always keen to remain in the moment, ‘I’ve had the same approach since we started….you make a record then you finish that then you think ‘Maybe there’ll be another record or maybe there won’t', similarly if I’m out on tour I think, 'this is perhaps the last time I’m going to be in this town or this country'. I never really think ‘I’ll be here again in a couple of years’.

I think the lesson learned here is Carpe Diem.

Words - Mike Price

Teenage Fanclub official

Tour dates

3: Bristol Fleece. *SOLD OUT*
4: End Of The Road Festival, Dorset.
5: London Islington Assembly Hall. *SOLD OUT*
6: Edinburgh Liquid Rooms. *SOLD OUT*
7: Manchester Gorilla. *SOLD OUT*
9-11: Heart of Glass, Heart of Gold. Saint-Amans-des-Côts.

November 2016
15: Inverness Ironworks
16: Whitley Bay Playhouse *SOLD OUT*
17: Sheffield Leadmill
18: Manchester Academy 2
20: Leeds University
21: Norwich Waterfront
22: London Electric Ballroom *SOLD OUT*
23: Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
24: Brighton Concorde 2 *SOLD OUT*
26: Birmingham Institute
27: Cardiff Glee Club *SOLD OUT*
28: Nottingham Rock City
29: Bristol Anson Rooms
30: Cambridge Junction

December 2016
2: Dublin Academy
3: Glasgow Barrowland *SOLD OUT*

4: Glasgow ABC *SOLD OUT*