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The Xcerts

Poor drummers running from South Edinburgh to make rehearsals, lucky bird crap, caps in the ass, and music genealogy were just some of the things that came out of this quick catch-up with The Xcerts at Studio 24 earlier this month. With cracking support from Penguins Kill Polar Bears, The Winter Tradition, and Donnie Willow, the show was surely one of the best lineups this year.

I enter the venue while Murray MacLeod is drumming to the improvised, melodic tunes Jordan Smith is creating. The two casually give a great display of talent while killing time waiting for their drummer, who is running late – literally. The likes of PKPB are already loading in and re-stringing in preparation. I also meet Luke Joyce from I Build Collapsible Mountains, there to shoot the band’s music video at Livingston’s infamous Bangour Hospital. I hear it all went well… well, apart from some sunburn and heat stroke.

After soundchecks (after drummer, Tom Heron, catches his breath after his two mile sprint, that is) the lovely lads are at ease and blether away to me, quite the thing. This is just some of what we touched on…

So we’re at Studio 24 and the bands are soundchecking. What do you make of this place and the line up?
Murray – We’ve played here before, last February. We’ve played with The Winter Tradition a couple of times before, and we’ve played once with Penguins Kill Polar Bears at a terrible festival in London. Complete washout. And we haven’t heard Donnie Willow before.
Jordan – But we’re psyched to see them.
M – Young upstarts! They’ll be good.

What are American crowds like compared to Scottish crowds?
Tom – We’ve only played to two American crowds.
M – Yeah, we’ve only played two shows in a America.
J- And it was for CMJ so we can really comment, and it was New York as well, so it’s the biggest, most eclectic population ever. Plus it was all industry people anyway. We could make it up, if you want?!
M – They were good shows, cos they were festivals and it was frantic. Running across New York, lugging amps and equipment everywhere is “fun”, but it was cool.

Should I just come back in a year and ask that question? So, I’ll be like “yeah, that question, how’s that looking now?”
M – Rubbish.

What’s your favourite song on the album?
T – That’s like asking you who your favourite child is.
J – Sophie’s choice.
T – Choose one, now!

Any lyrics that click with you?
M – I don’t think I can do that. I can’t comment because I write them all and I’d feel really full of myself. [looks to Tom] Any lyrics?
J – Eh, “He sinks, he sleeps”? They’re good, but do you want me to say them? I don’t want to.
(Murray goes on to sing the lines…)
M – “When the spirits come, they’re going to corner me…”

What bands do you think people should be listening/paying attention to right now?
M- Bands that are going to be big?
If you want?
J – I have no idea. I am so out of the loop.
T – I like Copy HaHo, The Computers, Dinosaur Pile Up.
M – Oh yeah, Dinosaur Pile Up are going to be big.
J – They are going to be big.
M – And younger generations should go back and delve into the old stuff.
J – The 90’s.
M – Totally, like the whole skins generation.
J – Check out Murray, have a pop at the young crowd.
M – Well I found out who my favourite band’s influences were through tracing it all back. Like Nirvana, The Pixies, not enough people do that anymore. You discover more that way. So find out who your favourite band’s influences are.
J – Musical genealogy.
T – There will be one ultimate band. It would be like a blood line, or family tree.

Balancing work/education, when should a young band go full time with their music?
J – When you realise that you’re sacrificing too much of your other life, be it your job or your college, or whatever, when it comes to the point when you’re missing out on a lot of that to go on tour. You should probably re-think it all.
M – Depends on the amount of attention you’re getting too.
J – I’m not encouraging anyone to rush out and be in a full time band, end of up on the dole in six months time! I don’t want that on my conscience.
M – ‘Cos, for us, when we were in still in college, we were 18 and we got picked up by an agent and we had a label interested. We thought, okay, well, we have a manager and we just had it there in front of us.
J – An agent is your first sign.
M – Yeah, it is entirely up to your agent when you should quit college.
J – “I’m in my 2nd year of uni. I’m thinking about my 3rd, and my dissertation. Anything happening? You have 9 weeks of touring coming up. Okay, I’ll slack off”.
M – Get an education though.

Is that a message to the kids?
J – Yeah, keep off the streets.
M – Cos you might end up in the gutter.
J – With a cap in your ass.
M – And a bottle of gin… crying.
J – Cap in your ass, and a bottle of gin?!

If you had a friend who had been deaf all of their life, and then they had an operation to finally hear, what would be the first album you would let them listen to?
J – Wow. I mean, you can’t. How can anyone do that? It would have to be something classical, and beautiful, and big and grand like Mendelssohn.
M – Something African and tribal, something out there.
J – Yeah, something basic and instinctive.
M – “Or I’ll just put on The Black Album by Metallica”
T – I wouldn’t even do that, I just turn on Radio One.
J – I’d take the person into the country and let them listen to the world! Yeah, we’d get a train, and go walking through a field and we could listen to the birds chirping away.
M – The first music they listen to they could become a huge fan of. You could get them into so much.
T – Depends on how much you like them though. I would pretend they were still deaf. Play him nothing and he’d be like “It doesn’t work!”
M – Sgt Pepper, White Album…
J – Mendelssohn’s 4th viola concerto, in C [or E Minor, Op. 64?]
M – I’d freak him out with Pink Floyd.
T – Something mental.
J – We need to hold on to this deaf guy for at least a month.
T – We should blindfold him. You loose one sense, you lose another.

It could be like that scene out of A Clockwork Orange…
T – Yeah! Except, his ears, well, they’re open.

Scatterbrain is released on Xtra Mile Recordings. More at