Thursday, 10 March 2011

the tide is in, st deluxe are sailing...

St Deluxe Interview, Mono Glasgow, March 9, 2011

Despite its dark, brooding exterior, grunge can at times prove to be a jolly, whimsical affair, as was proved by Martin Kirwan of St Deluxe when I met up with him to shoot the breeze over a nice cold one.

The scorching four-piece, made up of brothers Jamie and Ross Cameron, Martin Kirwan and Brian McEwan, are still flying high on the sails of their debut album, which has been met with an abundance of critical acclaim.

And they deserve every ounce of praise they get, for these are guys who graduated from a band that the messiah of grunge, Kurt Cobain was once quoted as saying “if [he] could be in any other band, it would be the BMX Bandits.”

Fans of the early 90s scuzzy rock scene would be well advised to check this bombastic Glaswegian quartet out to the utmost extremes, as every track off the album is a gem, and a quick scour through the dusty cobwebs of the internet will undoubtedly unearth some fantastic little surprises such as Johnny Cash covers and Hitchcock inspired artwork that brings the charm of this band to tasteful new heights.

First of all, would you care to introduce yourselves?

My names Martin, I play guitar, Brian plays bass, Jamie is our lead singer/guitarist, and Ross, the newest member (also incidentally, Jamie’s younger brother), on drums.

How did you all meet?

Well Jamie and I have been friends pretty much forever, we were born on the same day in the same hospital, our dads met in the waiting room, my dad played guitar and his dad played bass so they just got chatting and then about three or four years later Jamie’s family moved into my street. Jamie met Brian through Francis MacDonald from Teenage Fanclub, they were playing together in Francis’ solo project called Nice Man and the Bad Boys, Jamie and Brian were the ‘Bad Boys’. Me and Jamie had been playing in another band called Speeder at the time, but we’d always contemplated starting up something new, so we brought in Brian and just started recording really.

You started out playing music with the mighty ‘BMX Bandits’, what made you four decide to follow a new path with your own band?

We kinda started St Deluxe before we all played in the BMX Bandits, It started out being just Jamie Brian and Stuart (Kidd) and I was asked to join a wee while later, we played a few shows which were great, the good thing about the band was that it was sporadic so we got to do some amazing things like playing a gig in Barcelona, New York, stuff like that.

How did you pick the band name? I don’t know why but it always reminds me of a brand of condoms… make of that what you will!

Haha! I actually don’t know, it was Jamie, who’s a bit more of a lateral thinker than me, just came up with it one day, I think a part of it was a b-side to a Gumball record, Gumball was fronted by a guy called Don Fleming who produced Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Bandwagonesque’, we were both big fans, but it’s a mystery I suppose you’ll have to ask Jamie that one.

I think I can already guess by listening to your songs but who are your biggest influences?

Well there’s Teenage Fanclub obviously, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Mudhoney who we were lucky enough to play with a couple of years ago, also bands like Sebadoh and all the 90s L.A. grunge scene like Dinosaur Jr. but I also like some harder stuff like Black Flag and all the early hardcore American scene, and a bit of electronic stuff, Brian’s into doom metal, so sometimes all these influences come together and create something a wee bit different, just mesh together and create St Deluxe.

St Deluxe have been compared to many pioneering bands of the last decade; Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Teenage Fanclub, does this put you under a lot of pressure to create music that lives up to those standards?

Nah, we’d never put ourselves up against any of those bands, we just sort of keep to the standard of music that we want to make, and as long as we like it then that’s really all that matters. I think once you start trying to appease people or do what other people think you should do, then that’s when it all starts going wrong for you.

You first established yourselves under your own record label ‘Grundioso Records’ (awesome name btw), how did that come about and is it still under your command?

We started it because we wanted to follow down more of a DIY route, we’re lucky in the sense that Jamie and his dad own a recording studio called Riverside Studios, so we can basically get in and record quite a lot if there’s downtime, so that way we can save a bit of money, whereas other bands would have to pay for them. Since the recording facilities are there we just thought instead of us using the money to record, why don’t we release a couple of singles and we took the opportunity to release some songs by other bands that we knew. The first song we released was a song called ‘Distant Light’ which was sort of a ‘here we are’ kinda thing, the next one we released was from a band called The Starlets called ‘The Brides of Frankenstein’ and the next one we did was with a band called Music In Movement which is a guy called Finlay MacDonald (Teenage Fanclub) and he works down the studio now and again.

Have you signed any other bands to that label?

We were never really in the position to sign anybody, it was more about just having fun with it and getting a couple of records out and actually just the excitement of pressing up a vinyl, I’m a big vinyl-head, we’re looking forward to getting a 10” vinyl record that we’re going to be putting out pretty soon.

Who’s the primary song-writing force behind St Deluxe?

It’s kinda evolved from being mine and Jamie’s project, but pretty soon it was more like me and Jamie would brings some ideas to the rehearsal room and we’d all just jam it out and structure it, so more and more everybody’s ideas have been coming to the table. It doesn’t necessarily have to extend from one person all the time which is good because it shares the burden a bit, makes it more diverse and I think that’s really going to show on the next album.

The music video for ‘Stupid Ideas’ off your self titled debut album is a really psychedelic totem of the band that I think suits you very well, was it a lot of fun to make?

Oh aye, that was a labour of love, we were in a disused railway tunnel in the middle of October, and basically most of the band apart from Jamie had to get buried alive in the freezing cold with bats flying about! We made all these weird props too and they were kinda cool, but aye, it was freezing, it took ages, the end products good though and it’s something different so we’re pleased with it.

The album has done incredibly well, making waves overseas in Japan and Germany, is it as big a success as you thought it was going to be?

I think it kinda achieved what we thought it was going to be, maybe a wee bit more in terms of doing full page interviews in the major papers and you get a buzz off of people going “I saw you in the paper!”, but in terms of how much the bands moved forward on the back of that album, getting over to Germany, playing shows with guys like Mudhoney, Spectrum, Sonic Boom from Spacemen 3, we also did a couple of shows with a guy called Stephen Lawrie from a band called The Telescopes and we were his backing band for a few shows, then we played a festival in a place called Bergen in Norway… just all experiences like that opens doors to places you would never think you would end up.

What has been your favourite experience as a band together so far?

Definitely going to SXSW. It was just an amazing opportunity and experience and the place is just totally buzzing, everybody’s there pushing their bands and playing as many shows as they can and going to see loads of bands, it’s just non-stop, it’s like 100 miles an hour. Hopefully we’ll be able to go back next year, we’re trying to schedule it to coincide with the next album, get over and do CMJ as well maybe, so aye SXSW in Texas, it’s a big thing.

What would you say to anyone today with a penchant for grunge music, looking to start a band?

Just go for it man! I think a lot of people starting bands start thinking “nobody ever gives us a break” and that’s why we did the Grundioso Records thing and started releasing singles ourselves and trying to help other bands, getting a few wee plays on the radio, it starts to snowball after that, but it just comes from having the “let’s do it” mentality rather than just talking about it.

What are your plans for the future in terms of recording/touring?

We’re releasing a new EP, and it’s got Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai producing the first track on it and Calvin Johnston producing the second one, and a guy called Joe Foster and Jamie’s dad Duncan co-produced it. We’re doing a launch in London on ‘Record Store Day’ (April 16) in The Brixton Windmill where people will be able to come to the gig and then afterwards buy records in the venue. Then we’re playing Manchester on the 17th and the day after that’s the King Tut’s launch. We’ve got quite a lot of songs recorded, we want to get the best 15 all together then maybe whittle it down to the best 10 or 12 for the album. So there’s that, and we’ll be going on tour again and hopefully be going back to the States and just doing it all again, it’s a never-ending cycle.

Are you considering any summer festivals?

Hopefully aye! Nothing’s in the diary yet but yeah, totally. We played a few just after the album came out like Rockness, Belladrum and Wickerman. So hopefully off the back of the EP we’ll get a few offers in!

Lastly, what are each of your favourite records of all time?

Oh god… it’s a really difficult one, I could probably name about five or six! There’s always really important albums that you buy when you’re younger, for me it’s all three Nirvana albums, In Utero’s my favourite, and you just wonder where a band like that would of went if things hadn’t turned out the way they had. I’ll try and answer for the other lads… Jamie would probably go for Dirty by Sonic Youth and Brian, I’d say probably Playing With Fire by Spaceman 3. As for Ross? I have no idea!