It used to be that to release an actual record you had to be a ‘proper’ band – quit your job, get signed to a label. Times have changed, but making an album – 12 inches of black plastic – is all the rage nowadays.
Adam Smith is on holiday from the day job when I catch him – something which might have seemed very far away when his band the Hector Collectors released their first album, ‘Straight Outta Comprehensive’, made as the title suggests in their late teens.
That early noughties self-release was inspired by a burgeoning DIY culture in a time when the music industry suddenly found it had less money to splash around and bands found they didn’t need record labels anyway. The band achieved the holy grail of airplay from legendary DJ John Peel, but chart success was far from their minds.
The four-piece have been a sporadic fixture on the Scottish underground music scene for some years – poking fun at minor celebrities to a backdrop of jangly guitars. Their songwriting is still astute – the album’s title ‘Remember the Hector Collectors?… You Won’t Believe What They Sound Like Now!’ a smart swipe at clickbait culture, while single ‘Edgelords’ notes their own advancing years and loss of street cred.
I ask if the lyrics have got more political over the years.
“It’s more social commentary,” says Smith. “It’s not agitprop or anything like an incendiary Exploited-style statement, but more politically aware… not about left and right but more culture wars – seeing both sides and making a satirical point.”
“That’s stuff which I couldn’t help but absorb as I was unemployed in 2016,” he continues. “It seemed no-one was writing good old fashioned indie pop about social issues.”
Having had something of a hiatus and undergoing several lineup changes, core members Adam and Ian Smith (no relation) and Gavin Dunbar, whose ‘other job’ is as drummer with indie pop darlings Camera Obscura. were joined by Joe Greatorex in a cast which has also seen members of Dananananaykroyd and My Legendary Girlfriend in its ranks.
The album will finally see the light of day at the start of October – hopefully. The record pressing company have been really messing us around,” he says, his exasperation clear. “But it wouldn’t be an album launch without the ‘will it won’t it appear’” – as any band trying to make a vinyl album since the format’s recent surge in popularity will attest.
“It at least gives you something tangible,” he says of his love for physical releases in these days of downloads and streaming. As a comic illustrator who has worked for Viz, he is regularly called on to design artwork for larger format releases like 7” singles, and of course, his own album.
He recalls a well-attended EP launch for ‘Dollification’ where everyone wanted the CD version rather than the 7” single they’d lovingly pressed up. “No-one wanted the record as no-one had record players!” he recalls.
“I can remember in the 90s buying a vinyl album because it was cheaper, which you can’t imagine now.”
After the launch show – unless the album is a surprise hit – it’ll be back to the day job on Monday – as a children’s assistant in a library. “I’m getting paid to sing, so I’ve finally made it,” he laughs. “Though the audience was younger than I expected. And it’s all covers like ‘Wheels on the Bus’.
“But I’m hoping to put in some originals into the set!”
The band launched the album with shows at Edinburgh Depot (October 6th) and Glasgow Stereo (7th). More at facebook.com/thehectorcollectors
This article originally appeared in the print edition of the Motherwell Times.