The unforgettably-named Glasvegas have arrived and are set to sweep all before them in 2008 with their swirling retro pop soundscapes married with dark tales of love and violence against a backdrop of deprivation. Debut single “Daddy’s Gone” is currently causing a stir and has brought massive interest, from fans and industry alike.
Is This Music? caught up with lead singer James Allan to discuss playing in prisons, Alan McGee and being a former footballer…
Hi James! How’s the tour going?
It’s been fine, yeah. The gigs last week were pretty mad. We played Liverpool the other week which was amazing because there was all these scousers singing our songs with a Glaswegian accent; Glaswegian with a touch of scouse! It was great that all these kids came along knowing all the words to all our songs.
You were touring prisons recently as well. What was the thinking behind that?
It was really something I’d wanted to do since the beginning. We grew up in an area where a lot of people end up in prison and it probably could’ve been any of us really. We played to a women’s prison and there were a lot of girls there maybe through prostitution, it was quite sad.
How were you received?
In some ways we’ll never play a more real gig. There’s some things you expect and some things you don’t expect. You don’t realise just how striking it is looking out and everyone’s wearing the same uniform; everyone’s got a bottle of juice, not beer.
It’s like, when your leaving and they say to you “what you doing tonight?” and you know, you’ve got a gig or whatever, but you can’t say back “what are you doing tonight?” because you know what they’re doing. I mean, I don’t feel sorry for them, I just feel sorry for the way things are for them.
How are you coping with the praise you’ve been getting recently, particularly for the single, “Daddy’s Gone“?
It’s really, really flattering but in some ways quite bizarre. It was only a matter of months ago that I was writing those lyrics in the house. It’s mad how it’s just got out there. Those weren’t great days when I was writing it, though, put it that way.
“Flowers and Football Tops” is a pretty poignant song. Was it inspired but a particular event?
The one event which inspired it I guess was the boy Kris Donald who got murdered. Most of the songs I write are about things that are on my mind and there are some things I think about and can’t really let go of.
I think about that boy a lot; you know, I still think about that all the time. You know when someone wins the lottery and you think “what would I do with the money”, well it’s the same when something tragic happens – you put yourself in that position.
I tried to write that song from a mother’s perspective, how a kid could leave the house to go out with their mates but never come home again. It freaks me out a bit.
Do you think your music is then representative of a darker side of Scotland, one that people are uncomfortable with?
JA: I can understand how people would think that. The thing with “Daddy’s Gone” – it’s kind of a common thing, you know? It’s about not wanting to regret things. I can understand why people would think there’s a darker side to the music but with a lot of the songs there’s something positive there.
How has Alan McGee helped you and what sort of influence has he had?
Alan started as a fan and it went from there. Through time we became mates. I guess his influence on the band is his enthusiasm and encouragement. I think he must be next to my mum in terms of his enthusiasm for Glasvegas! Sometimes he’ll phone me at four in the morning to talk about a song that I’ve wrote. You know, to ask me about this lyric or that lyric.
He’s just a big fan of music and that’s on of the things that’s most impressive about him. When he came into my life I thought he was like my own Sam Phillips or Tony Wilson. I think it’s fair to say he’s the Tony Wilson of our generation.
Are you guys signed yet? What’s the story?
No, there’s people that want to sign us, whichever way we go, but it’s nothing really to do with me. I just let other people get on with that and I just get on with writing new songs and worrying about whether they’re any good or if they’re shit. I don’t worry too much about record deals and stuff.
But are you looking to put out an album next year?
Yeah, I’d really be expecting to put out an album next year. We’re quite excited about the possibilities of getting into a studio and having some time to make an album. Until now it’s been the odd day in the studio or just me in the house, what with limited resources and stuff.
So what did you do for a living before being in a band?
I was a footballer, while I was in the band, learning the guitar and stuff. I started with Falkirk, was with Stirling Albion at one point and played for Gretna as well. The funny thing is, guys like Rowan Alexander (former Gretna manager) won’t know I’m in a band. It’s quite bizarre, but they wouldn’t have a clue. I could say to Rowan “Alan McGee likes the band” but he won’t have heard of Alan! It’s a difficult thing because the football and the music never really went that well together. Being in a band was maybe thought of as a negative thing.
So which is your first love then? Music or football?
They’re really two different things. I think for some people who have a passion for something in life, things can take over. I don’t even know how long I’ve been making music for! I never planned to make music or be in a band. But now when I wake up I think about it and songs and it’s a big passion. I guess it’s a big part of my life now.
What do you think of the current music scene in Scotland?
I think there’s quite a few good things happening and potentially there’s massive things that could happen. Potential is one thing but seeing through potential is another. To be honest though I think I should make more of an effort to find out what’s out there in Scotland instead of listening to Phil Spector’s Christmas album everyday!
more at www.glasvegas.net