Interview by Ian Clement.
Fans of The Xcerts have been waiting quite a while to hear some new material for the band after their last album “Scatterbrain” came out in 2010. We were lucky enough to catch up with Murray MacLeod from the band to talk about their current tour supporting their new single and about the new album.
There’s been a four year gap between “Scatterbrain” and your new material, so I guess a lot of fans will be wondering… Why the long wait?!
It’s a funny one because it doesn’t feel too long to us. Basically, we were only meant to tour “Scatterbrain” for two years but basically we ended up touring that record for about two and a half to three years. By the end of it we realized we should probably start making a new record. We kept getting offered really good tours, tours that we couldn’t say no to. So we kept touring and then took some time off because we were really burnt out. So we did our own thing, regrouped and then some really boring label stuff happened. People said they believed in us and didn’t act upon it because they were worried about rock music, which we totally get. So we just took our time make the best record we can.
This current tour is in support of your new single “Shaking in the Water”. When will we hear more about the album? Is it going to be a 2014 release?
Yes, we have an announcement coming out in a few days, but it’s going to be in the autumn.
“Shaking in the Water” definitely sounds more upbeat in tone. Was that a conscious decision to go in that direction?
Yeah it was a conscious decision. We never actually realised how dark in tone Scatterbrain was until the whole thing was done. At the time of making that record we just wanted to make some noise and be quite visceral and raw sounding. With this new record, at the beginning we started writing stuff that would have fitted in with “Scatterbrain” so we took a wee break, came back and decided “we need to change our sound”. It’s kind of a cleansing process writing a new record, so we came back and decided we wanted to make an almost romantic sounding rock record. It will make a bit more sense when it actually comes out, but I think “Shaking…” is the closest thing on the new record that resembles “Scatterbrain” and I still think it’s really different. Lyrically, the new record is still dark-ish, but musically we definitely wanted to try something new. We also knew we wanted to make a more polished record this time around. We wanted to write a pop record, make pop cool again.
How are you enjoying being back on tour so far? I’m guessing the Aberdeen show may well end up being quite a special one…
Well tonight’s show is going to be pretty special [in Glasgow] because it sold out in a day! Usually we normally have a longer amount of time when we announce a tour and we only gave a months’ notice for this tour, because we just wanted to play some shows and shake off the cobwebs, and we had the single coming out. I mean, Glasgow sold out in a day, London sold out and Aberdeen looks close to selling out, and last time we were in York there was only fifteen people, whereas this time around there was two hundred! Even that to us felt special. The whole thing’s felt really good. But yeah, Aberdeen’s going to be really great. It’s always feels special playing in your hometown.
Like you just said, the Glasgow show sold out in a day. Did you expect that sort of reaction?
No! When it went on sale, we were playing at a festival and we were all discussing about how terrified we were about the shows not selling and Glasgow and we thought “oh no, Glasgow’s not going to selling well, people have forgotten about us”. That sort of thing. Then just as that conversation was coming to an end, my friend who works for DF concerts sent me a text saying “you only have ten tickets left”. I’m not going to be cool about it; we were celebrating in the van! Also, London sold out really quickly. I mean, London and Glasgow are slightly smaller venues compared to the end of the last tour but it’s incredible to sell out any show so we are eternally grateful and totally blown away.
“In the Cold Wind We Smile” is five years old now. Any special shows planned like the “Scatterbrain” show you did in London a couple of years ago?
Is it really five years? Wow…
Have I just given you that idea?
Yeah you’ve just given me that idea! Wow. Five years, that’s insane. Haven’t thought about it. I don’t know. We might wait until ten years. I would love to reach the ten year mark. If we’re still able to do it when that record reaches ten, then I think that would be the dream I think, to get to that point. Maybe we’ll do something. I’m trying to think of any tracks we didn’t use and maybe do a re-issue. Oh, I don’t know. Thanks for telling me though!
You’re all based in Brighton now, but do you still follow the Scottish music scene? Any bands in particular that have grabbed your attention?
Yeah massively. I’m kind of between Brighton and Aberdeen at the moment, I’m back home quite a lot and I keep tabs on what’s going on up there. There’s my friends band called The Little Kicks in Aberdeen, Indian Red Lopez, There’s a new band out and about who’s recordings are solid called Hjearts. They’re very lo-fi and noisy but they’re basically pop songs masked in distortion. There’s another Aberdeen band called Pinact who are a two piece band, again very lo-fi.
How about electronic stuff, like CHVRCHES?
Oh yeah CHVRCHES are great. I mean that whole scene like Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, I love all that. There’s also The Birthday Suit. The scenes thriving at the moment it’s really great. Oh, and of course there’s Twin Atlantic as well, they’re huge now.
Yeah, The Xcerts and Twin Atlantic started roughly at the same time right?
Yeah, we’re still good friends, but we don’t see them much now because of schedule conflicts. But we just played with them actually at The Great Escape festival in Brighton. So that was great. It’s funny having so much history with that band and seeing where they are now.
Finally, any advice for upcoming bands and musicians?
Be prepared to work really hard. It’s not an easy industry in the slightest. But if you put in the effort and write good songs, then you’ll come through at the other end. If you want to succeed then you’ve got to be in it because you love playing music. Yeah, that’s the only thing I’ll say to people is work really hard.