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Taking on the world (in conversation with Rab Allan)

By • Jul 4th, 2008 • Category: features

I first heard Glasvegas over a year ago via Myspace and was instantly attracted to their sound. After a few messages they kindly sent me one of their demos, which I gorged over. I loved them but had difficulty seeing where they’d fit in the indie guitar ridden Glasgow music scene. I didn’t exactly see the ‘Best New Band In Britain’ NME headline coming. More’s the point did they? I caught up with lead guitarist Rab Allan to see what the hell happened that made the NME finally start cooing over a genuinely decent band for once.

Why now? The demo they sent me has the same songs and the same sound as what I heard at their phenomenal gig at ABC2 last week. “I think it’s because we started with a drum machine and it didn’t sound right for what we wanted to achieve. We always knew how we wanted to sound and Caroline playing the drums helped us get there, that and a lot of practice.”

So with Caroline on board the band gigged until their right of passage, they took to the stage of King Tut’s to play to a crowd including music svengali, Alan McGee. Mouth piece found. McGee quickly jumped all over them and has been championing them ever since. On Zane Lowe’s radio 1 show McGee said that they were the most important band to come out of Scotland in the last ten years, does Rab agree? “That’s not for me to say, you’re trying to make me say something” he laughed “to be honest, I’d have to pick Travis. They’re massively underrated and they managed to make it in America, which is more than a lot of bands. They’re fantastic song writers” Travis? Didn’t see that one coming.

Speaking of America, why New York as the destination to record the upcoming album and how did Rich Costey (Interpol, Muse, Franz Ferdinand) end up being their producer? “We’ve never really left Glasgow so it was a perfect opportunity to get away for a bit.” And Costey? “He actually contacted us. Someone had given him one of our demos. When you’re making a demo you don’t think about it making it all the way to America and then getting to a record producer like Rich Costey. He asked us if he could work with us even before the record labels had heard of us, which was mental.” They clearly made a great team as their first single to be released on Columbia, ‘Geraldine’ sounds as close to a live performance as you can get in the studio.

It’s easy to be dubious about bands that choose to sing in their own accents. Scotland have the particular shame of The Proclaimers, a comparison the band are fast becoming used to. Glasvegas haven’t had an easy time getting accepted in their city and I was concerned about how James’ tales of a Glasgow boy would translate in England, would they get it? “It’s not something as a band we ever really thought about, thankfully it hasn’t been a problem we’ve sold out in Brighton, Manchester, London and we’re playing venues that hold 500. We’re really confident about what we’re playing and that definitely helps.”

One thing their army followers all over the UK have in common is the variety of gig goers. “It’s really strange, we have such a mixed crowd, it’s not all young people singing and dancing at our gigs there’s older folk and really different types of people.” I can vouch for that, amongst the middle aged respectable types with their gin and tonics and the usual art school scenesters there were a fair few neds rubbing their hands together with glee, brimming with excitement saying, “awwww man a cannae wait for this”. Hilarious. “I think that’s a really good thing though, there’s not many bands that can attract such a diverse crowd.”

“I don’t understand why the people of Glasgow were so reluctant to get behind the band. I mean, it’s a passion thing. When you go out to a club in Manchester all you hear is Oasis and the Stone Roses, Glasgow has that but not as much.” Rab is looking forward to sharing the bill with a band who share the same sentiment, Camera Obscura wrote ‘Let’s Get Out Of This Country’ after feeling like Glasgow was rejecting them. “They’re playing Connect so I’m up for that. We’ve got loads of festivals on this year, it’s crazy.” Starting at the top though? “Aye, Glastonbury should be brilliant, I’m looking forward to it.” Jay-Z, for or against? “I couldn’t care less, to be honest.” Well would you if you’d just gained Alan McGee and Rich Costey as admirers, had to deal with some of the worlds biggest labels fighting to sign you, travelled to New York to record your debut album, had the British music press going wild for you and tickets for your gigs selling like hot cakes then getting told that you can play Glastonbury all in the space of 6 months? No? Though not.

Glasvegas are definitely a band to follow. I’m intrigued to see if they can retain that honest, working class rawness about them. When your world changes so quickly and you remove yourself from your initial inspirations can you continue to write fierce and veracious songs when your life becomes a whirlwind of champagne (I can’t imagine that Buckfast is as easy to get hold of anywhere like Glasgow) and photo shoots? Rab thinks so. “James will write about whatever he wants, if he’s in Glasgow or Transylvania I don’t think it’ll make a difference to him.” Well let’s hope not.

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