Colin MacLeod, aka The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, has come a long way since his days of playing in punk and metal bands around his native Isle of Lewis.
With major label releases, writing with the likes of Ed Harcourt, and busy festival season, keeping his feet on the ground may be tricky simply to the constant commuting between the Outer Hebridies and the rather busier musical epicentre that is the south of England.
Fresh from his appearance at T in the Park, Colin answered our questions…
So, I gather you still live on Lewis, but are you away so much that you feel you’re visiting when you get to your house?
I am still living at home, yes, but it does feel like a holiday the amount of times I’ve actually been at home this year.
There seem to be plenty of home reminders – the waves that start/stop the album – Scottish waves I presume! – and the old photos that adorn the album sleeve?
There was no real thinking behind it, I always had the idea for the wave noises at the end of the record, it was a last minute addition to have them at the start but it seems to bookend the album quite nicely. The artwork was definitely a reflection of the lyrical content, and the lyrics were just a case of writing what I know – it seems all a bit preconceived, but for most of my life my centre has been the island and all its inhabitants… it seems only natural to base the album on it.
Technology means there’s no reason why you can’t record on a pretty remote island these days, but how’s the scene up there now? Do you get a reasonable amount of touring bands, and are there opportunities to play shows yourself?
The scene in Lewis has recently kicked up a notch, I think it rivals any mainland city for quality of output. I mean, for a tiny island, to have produced so much and such a varied span of music is really amazing. Dot JR, Willy Campbell, Our Lunar Activities, Manor Park Elite, Iain Morrison, The Weather Journals – all bands everyone should listen too and some of the younger guys starting out (Can’t Swim) are going to be real contenders in a few years time, I really think so.
It’s also nice that bands from away are starting to realise that the highlands and islands will treat you good if you make the effort to come and play. I spoke to Marcus Mumford recently and he called Stornoway his spiritual home – not a bad recommendation!
What about more ‘rock’-oriented bands? I’d imagine that one man with guitar can crash a few folk clubs, how about 4-pieces with big PAs?
There’s a new venue called the Jager Room, started by Charlie Clark who used to sing in Astrid. It could cope with anything you could throw at it I think, minus maybe U2. It’s a great little venue and means there’s really no obstacle now for any touring band wanting to play on the Island.
And on that tack, I wanted to ask you about your musical past… Code Red, was it? (apologies if I got that wrong…) – are you finding it simpler being solo, or enjoying the collaborations and having extra musicians around you?
Sign Red? (That was it!) That was fun, but I don’t have the energy anymore. I’m too lazy. Acoustic music suits my more relaxed output on life. My little brother does the rock thing a whole lot better than me anyway. I leave it up to him now.
And whatever happened to The Girl Who Trapped The Sun? (The Boy and Girl Who Trapped The Sun was a duo of Colin and his sister)
Oh, I don’t speak about her. It didn’t end well….. Nah, only kidding! I’m a big kidder. We still sing occasionally, but since she sang with Arab Strap that ONE time she upped her rate. Also being that I wrote and recorded most of the last album in London she didn’t have much of an input, but now I’m at home I think she’ll be more involved in the next one.
I’d seen you played the surfing fest in Newquay last year, which surprised me, but is surfing something you’re into even at home? Does your music kind of fit that vibe?
I love surfing, I really enjoy the lifestyle and it’s really important to me and it’s always nice to incorporate things you love, but it’s a bit of a cliche. Really I treat them as two separate things. I’m a musician, and I enjoy surfing. I’m not a surfing musician or anything like that. Ideally though I’d only play gigs at places where I could surf, so it wasn’t weird at all!
So… ‘Katy’ – I know it’s a true story, what does she make of it… and are you lining up a whole bunch of exes to sing about, Arab Strap-style? 😉
Yeah a concept album of girls I’ve treated like shit…. Might be a triple album.
Colin, as he says himself, is a big kidder. Fireplace is out now on Geffen.