On the last night of their tour with Anberlin, Murray Macleod took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Room Thirteen.
R13: How's the tour going so far?
MM: Good. This is the last date, we've done about eight shows and its been great. We got off to a bit of a slow start just for us personally because we have had about six months off, so we were quite rusty for the first two shows but as soon as they were out of the way we had brushed off the cobwebs. We've been playing well and with lovely people.
R13: How did you become involved with the tour?
MM: Anberlin asked us; we have the same booking agent. When we were asked we were not 100 percent sure whether we would be able to do it or not as we thought we might have some recording commitments but it just so happened that we were free so we figured we may as well do this. We've been hard at work writing and we were starting to get a bit of cabin fever, so thought we'd come out and try some new songs.
We have met Anberlin before, we had done three shows with them about two years ago, so we'd made the connection a wee while ago and got on with them and they invited us back.
R13: Were you aware of The Getaway Plan before this tour or have you discovered them on the road?
MM: I had no idea who they were but it has been great getting to know those guys. They're really lovely and super talented. I like a lot of Australian bands but had never heard of them; it's always nice to discover new bands. We've been asking them a lot about the Melbourne music scene because we want to get out to Australia.
R13: You need to try and get onto the Soundwave bill; it's the best festival in the world.
MM: They've also been bigging that up, so, we'll definitely try and get onto that.
R13: Do you have a preference between playing headline and support shows?
MM: They are very, very different interties because on a support slot you're the underdog, we always treat it as though no-one knows who we are. It makes you feel hungry each night to captivate the crowd and win them over. I really enjoy headlining because you're safe in the knowledge that people have bought tickets to see you, so you know they're on your side. I still find it daunting to walk out onto a stage in front of a room full of people who have no idea who we are and are just staring at us, but I like both.
We don't have to worry about ticket sales when we support so there's a lot more pressure when you're headlining in terms of ticket sales; especially in the current climate.
R13: As you mentioned before hitting the road you were penning your new album; what can we expect to hear on there and how does it differ to 'Scatterbrain'?
MM: It will be very different to Scatterbrain. This will be the first time we've conceptualised the sound. On Scatterbrain we wanted to be noisy; we already knew what we wanted it to sound like in the studio but this time around it will be a lot more in-depth and we probably won't have figured out the overall tone of the record until we're in the studio.
It will be a lot more instant than Scatterbrain, it will be a lot more poppy. I'm sure people will say they can hear Scatterbrain moments in it or what we have done in the past, but we want to create a really lush rock record; in a similar vein to The Cure. That said, we've been listening to a lot of classic artists, which is where the pop element has come in. We're currently obsessed with Tom Petty, The Pixies and Fleetwood Mac. For us, it really made us want to hone in on song writing as it is a really great art. We definitely didn't fully think about it on the last record, we just wanted to be chaotic and what came out was very natural. We're hoping this album will sound classic with a modern twist, so we'll see if that works out in the studio.
We are actually playing quite a few new songs tonight, four actually.
R13: Wow, that's impressive.
We're taking advantage of people not knowing who we are so they're not expecting to hear certain songs. That said, there have been quite a few people each night who knows who we are. It's a good thing when people are on your side when you're just a support act.
R13: Is the writing and recording process something you enjoy or does it seem like hard work?
MM: Personally, I love being in the studio but I know there are a lot of bands who get into the studio to get out of the studio, simply so they can tour with a new record. For me, song writing is quite hard because we're only a three piece. I write a song and in my head I can hear the trumpet part and five guitar lines and then we'll work on it in it's barest for but make it sound as good as it possibly can be, then in the studio we can make it come to life because we have the necessary tools. I love the writing process although it can be agonising. As a unit we're pretty switched on and together as we've been best friends for way too long!
I love nothing more than writing something in my bedroom on the acoustic and then taking it to the other guys to hear them say "Well done, it's really good!". It's a good ego boost!
R13: Do you feel a bit of a struggle trying to recreate the sound you created in the studio onstage?
No, I've always seen the studio and live as two separate things. The live show to me is an instant spectacle; you're there in the moment watching something unfold and it should be exciting whereas if someone owns a record, they can go back to it any time they like and hear it played perfectly. If you're a rock band a live show should be a live in the moment thing whereas the record should show the song in its most pristine form.
There are a lot of bands that have a backing track; Anberlin, for example, to try and recreate that studio sound but if it sounds good before you record it in the practice room then it will still sound good after the record is done. It is a little bit difficult especially if you've recorded a polished version because that does live in the back of your mind is the polished version so it sounds a bit rough.
R13: We all love a bit of rough!
MM: Exactly, exactly! I love a bit of rough.
R13: You've been labelled as one of the hardest working bands in the UK, how does that make you feel?
MM: Depressed! It is nice that people can see that we work hard but at times it can feel a little bit redundant. I'll get a lot of stick for saying this but take One Direction for example, people who listen to our music won't understand how hard they work. They have crazy, crazy schedules. Biffy Clyro would be the same; their press schedules are mad, their travel schedules are crazy, the only difference is they have the luxury now of travelling in nice buses and getting first class flights, whereas we're seen to be in a van.
We travel a lot to get our music heard and we do work incredible hard but there are a lot of bands that work hard so we can't take the crown of 'Hardest working band in the UK', but maybe we should.
R13: I think you should take it and run with it!
You might be right; people have been saying that for a long time now. So, maybe we're going around in circles but I'm seeing our shows getting busier. It's funny that JLS got the hardest working group in Britain and they only did 34 arena shows.
R13: That doesn't strike me as hard work!
It doesn't strike me as hard work either, especially when they're only doing UK shows. It was very strange.
R13: Last year you played at SXSW, how was that experience and would you like to do it again?
MM: I would love to do it again; it was fucking mayhem! It was incredible, we had four shows, we played in the backyard of a bar which was pretty funny and the three other shows were in the same venue; which meant we got set up pretty quickly as the soundman knew the desk. I've asked friends about it before and they've always said "I can't explain it, you just have to see it for yourself" and now I can't explain it. It is literally mayhem; I fell asleep at the side of the highway on the last night because Fearless Records invited us to their showcase and gave us a bar tab so we had free drinks all night. It was carnage and myself and Jordan fell asleep on the side of the road with our manager and drummer shouting at us.
R13: Good work; I'm impressed!
MM: It was a lot of fun! It was nice to experience America as well. We've done CMJ in New York which is similar but it was really good to experience playing to American crowds; although it didn't seem that different to here, but maybe it would seem different on a tour.
R13: You were announced to support Guns N' Roses before being dropped for 'logistical reasons', can you explain what actually happened and how you felt?
MM: All I know is we were dropped for "logistical reasons"; it was very, very hush hush. Our manager asked if we wanted to be put up for it and I think Jordan and I said no because we didn't want to go on stage in front of ten thousand people and fall flat on our arses! I agreed to do it if we got a bus, which our manager agreed to. Then he gave us provisionally dates and then he called me two days later to tell me we were going on tour with Guns N' Roses and I was like "Oh shit! Cool, so we're going in a bus?" and he was like "No, you'll have a van." He'd totally backed out of our arrangement.
We were on a month long headlining tour at that point and the longer it sat with me the more I realised that I wasn't going to meet Guns N' Roses and I don't like that band, I'm not a fan of their music so it wasn't that much of a big deal to me. If we were to play with Aerosmith or Bruce Springsteen, I would freak but I don't care for Guns N' Roses; I'm Nirvana obsessive so I would never like Guns N' Roses, so I just thought we'd just be going to see the circus; see how big their entourage and production is and thought it would be fascinating. Just as it settled with me, we got pulled from the shows so we weren't that upset.
I felt bad because there was a million other bands out there who wanted those shows and we took it from them, and then it was taken away from us. The most devastating thing was being told how much our PRS money would have been for playing in venues of that size and it made me want to cry!
R13: I can imagine that would be the breaking point; I wouldn't even want to know what I could have had.
MM: The financial aspect of it was incredible, I can't think about it because it makes me feel sick. My dad does our accounts and he told me and was like "I'm so sorry!". My parents still bring it up; it has never been about money for us, but that would have been so sweet, my back account would have been looking healthy. But, you've got to roll with the punches.
R13: I was at the first night at the O2 in a VIP box, I'm a fan of Guns N' Roses but expected to be disappointed, so in theory, Axl should have impressed me, but no.
MM: Seriously, you expected him to be awful and he still disappointed?
R13: Seriously. Thin Lizzy were great, but then we waited for almost two hours for them to come out. They didn't sound good, pretty much only played Chinese Democracy. I left after about 45 minutes along with hundreds of other people.
MM: I saw them at Leeds Festival, I was going to watch LCD Soundsystem and I was walking back and I thought Guns N' Roses had finished due to the amount of people walking back towards the camp site so I asked someone if they'd finished but they were still playing but literally thousands of people were walking away. People were clearing out and I went to watch some and managed to get right down to the sound desk which is impossible to do at a festival but I walked straight there and it was terrible! I don't understand now how people can still facilitate the guy's ego. It's not cool not to turn up on time and it never has been. It's not hard to be there on time.
We got told that before his set at Reading and Leeds he was asleep and before he went to bed he told people not to wake him under any circumstances, they were about an hour late so someone had to wake him up and he freaked out. He believes in his own mythology, yet doesn't believe in it so has to do that sort of shit to feel validated and so that people are talking about him.
After the UK tour it was a real joke, I feel so sorry for the people that went to the show. People's hard earned money is just wasted. He's so ungrateful. He's from a different world that guy, it would have been great being in one of the biggest bands in the eighties but he must just be stuck in that era.
R13: After going completely off topic and spending a lot of time bad mouthing Axl Rose, I feel like I should wrap this up.
MM: Don't worry about going off topic; the guy's a dick!
R13: I love that he was hit by karma once he left the UK and had a heap of jewlry stolen in Paris.
MM: I know, we were like "Yes! Karma has served him well." It was funny, I was in Paris at the time and was getting all these texts asking if I'd nicked Axl Rose's stuff. The girl was caught red handed and had to get his stuff back; I was so annoyed! It wasn't me, don't worry, I would have nicked something though, maybe a dreadlock.
R13: You could have taken one of his bandanas.
MM: I would have taken one of his bandanas and burned it to the ground!
R13: What can we expect to see from you over the next twelve months?
MM: We're about to announce something that is really cool but I can't say anything even off the record because if it gets leaked I will be in so much trouble. It is very, very cool and will be happening in March. We are doing four more shows in April with a band but I can't say who because that is also not announced. Then, we'll be writing, starting preproduction for the record and then, we'll be recording the record. We need to make some concrete plans and then it will be super hectic. We're hoping it will be it will be a huge, huge success so that we can headline Brixton and venues like that.
R13: Brixton Academy is great.
MM: We just played there for the first time, and it was so much fun, I had a blast and the sound was so good! I couldn't believe how good it sounded for a room that big, I think there's loads of natural reverb so it makes these huge cacophony of sound, it amazing.
R13: Hopefully you'll get back there.
Hopefully. I'm aiming for 2014, that should give us enough time to get to Brixton. End of 2014. I'm dead set on making it happen.
R13: Well, when it happens I'll remind you of this interview and congratulate you.
MM: There it is, your closing words. Brixton. 2014.
R13: Great, thanks for your time.
On the last night of their tour with Anberlin, Murray Macleod took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Room Thirteen.