Idlewild - London, UK - Spring 2007
28 Feb 2007
"some people say they loved what we did, while others were there going 'what are you doing?!'... i really don't think we set out on this record solely to please the people who slagged us off last time..."
There's been a break of a year, solo albums and now a comeback album and tour. New album 'Make Another World' is rockier, more like earlier Idlewild, and sees the band on top form once again. They seem at an apparently happy and realized stage in their career that (let's not forget) has spanned the last ten years and has most recently birthed a fifth album release. Over a nice cup of tea in the plush surroundings of the Sanctuary Records offices (the band's new label after splitting with Parlophone last year), we braved the impossibly early time slot to chat with Colin Newton and Gareth Russel from the band.
What follows is a selection from a vast array of insights that only such elder statesmen of the British rock scene have the ability to enrich our minds with. Read carefully for knowledge that only ten years in this game can give. With rock years being similar to dog years, it's like talking to a war veteran. Just don't call them elder statesmen - they didn't like that so much.
RFB: What motivated you to make a harder and more rock sounding record after the more acoustic direction of 'Warnings / Promises'?
Colin Newton: We never really set out to make a more rock record. We just thought we'd try and do it like we used to do it - write some songs in rehearsal rooms; more as guys playing together all in one room. It was refreshing. I don't want to say it was easier or anything like that, but this was a record that I really enjoyed making. At Parlophone we felt more pressured - I don't know if that was because of stress we put on ourselves but this time it just wasn't like that. It generally just felt more natural, possibly more than it even ever has.
RFB: How was it making a record for a new label, having parted company with Parlophone after the last album?
CN: I think in our time at Parlophone it got to that stage where they were just expecting more and more from us. When you start thinking you need to sell a million records every time, it gets harder. We're just not that kind of band, and we just weren't really trying to go down that way I suppose. With this record we didn't have to start with that aim to sell that million records, so it feels much easier, its kind of a fresh start.
RFB: New single 'No Emotion' sounds a lot more electronic than we're used to hearing from you. Have you been inspired by shifts in current music to make that sort of sound?
CN: When we recorded that track we definitely went for that sort of electronic sound. It something that we've never really done before; but with the dance beat the song has, it seemed to work really well. We did specifically go down that route for that track, but it's not something that I think we've done that much of on this record.
Gareth Russell: There are definitely nods to the sort of stuff that's around. We've been listening to a lot of Bowie and Can records, and that sort of repetitive beat sound has definitely crept in there. We're new rave!
RFB: How were you affected as a band by the polarised critical response to 'Warnings / Promises'?
CN: It's easy to say you don't care, but you read all this stuff everywhere. Some people say they loved what we did, while others were there going 'what are you doing'? And I understand that, but you know, I don't agree. You do take it in, but you try as hard as you can to ignore it. It's not something that I think has that big an effect on us. I really don't think we set out on this record to please the people who slagged us off last time.
RFB: Having had the longevity most bands could only really dream of, how do you see things for bands currently, compared to when you started out over ten years ago?
CN: It's pretty much always been the same story. It's always the NME trying to make a new band big really quickly. While record companies just want to have success straight away with bands. This was definitely the case when we were starting. Having said that, now it's probably harder. There are just so many bands, and I just can't see what everyone is trying so hard to find.
GR: It's become more and more that record companies are just a lot more realistic about things. Its not like times in the eighties, when it was pure hedonism charging sixteen pounds a CD, everyone was getting involved and releasing so much stuff. That's just not ever going to happen again. People aren't prepared to stick cash in front of something when they're never going to see it back.
RFB: In your time as band the music has been able to change very visibly. You've gone from punkier sounding indie to Americana tinged indie-pop. Why do you think you've changed so much over time?
CN: Being in a band for a long time, its really important to keep things interesting for yourselves and people listening. It keeps it exciting for everybody. You'd definitely notice we weren't happy if we weren't changing and growing as a band. I'm just really happy we haven't just put out the same record again and again.
GR: You can tell when a band isn't developing when they put out records that sound the same every time. Idlewild records for me have just been musical development over time.
RFB: With Roddy's Womble's recent solo folk album and the work you've done with the Reindeer Section, how important is Folk music and traditional Scottish music to you as a band?
CN: (laughs). Well to be honest that's Roddy's thing. Personally, I'm not as into it as Roddy is. I appreciate it's history and I'm glad its there. I have seen quite a lot of it recently as we have been quite sucked into the folk world in recent times. There is some amazing stuff there. It's just not really something that the entire band sit at home and enjoy.
RFB: Has that caused any difficulty within the band? With Roddy recently successful solo folk album it does seem an important thing to him...
GR: Its good to have that difference in the band. As I get older, I don't listen to one style, or one thing because someone says it good or anything. I can like a folk record too. Everyone pulls together different parts and that works well for us.
CN: Everyone can like different things and it's fine. I like chocolate and Roddy doesn't... (laughs). It's not been problematic at all having that difference. In honesty, it has probably one of the reasons why we have lasted so long; everyone can find something in the band that they like.
RFB: You have a poetry project album 'Ballad's of the Book' that's a collaboration between Scotland's top writers, poets and musicians, and you've previously collaborated with poet Edwin Morgan on 'The Remote Part' - do you see yourself as more part of a general artistic community in Scotland rather than just purely a 'music scene' of sorts?
CN: With 'Ballads of the Book', for me it's the first time that music and literature has really crossed over like that in Scotland so much. I think there's real development between the writers and the bands. Everyone seems to respect what's going on, which is great. I suppose that generally that there is an artistic community with bands, writers and artists for us. We had David Shrigley do the artwork for our last CD. So its nice that in Glasgow it is the case that everyone's pals and people know each other, its good like that.
GR: Yeah it seems to me that maybe unlike other 'scenes' or whatever, we're all pretty similar really.
RFB: How do you feel when you get cited as an important influence for bands more recently?
CN: Yeah its weird seeing bands who used to give us demos, who'd come and see us and say they liked us, and then go on to become bands that are now really big and great. Bloc Party were one of those bands that said they big fans, and the Futureheads, Captain, people like that. There are lots of bands that watch us, or say they used to really like us, who I think are really great. When someone says they like what you're doing, or you've helped them out in there life its always good, it's really nice.
RFB: Elder statesman of the British rock scene?
CN: We're still in our twenties for Christ's sake!
On that note, we thought we'd better call it a day before a light age joke could go on to cause real offence. The band went off to do an interview with a Thai magazine, causing some hilarious misunderstanding on our part. We ended up telling them we never thought of them much as a Tie band... oh, har har. They looked confused. The issue was cleared up. We all laughed. What fun can clearly be had with Idlewild on a Wednesday morning.