Live @ Gloucester Guildhall
February 14, 2008
Interview & Photography: Steve Bateman

Daddy's Gone, is a song that can only be described as chill-inducing, and its creators, Glasvegas - who hail from Glasgow's East End working-class area of Dalmarnock - have everything in place to become one of the great bands of The 21st Century. For they, like the best groups, already inhabit their own musical world! The NME declared, "If The Libertines defined the start of the decade and Arctic Monkeys its middle, then Glasvegas are almost certainly going to define its end. And beyond."

And after first seeing them play live at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow in 2006, fan and close friend, Alan McGee, even went as far as to call them, "The best band to come out of Scotland in 20 years," going onto regularly post ecstatic blogs on his MySpace page. With proclamations ranging from, "The most exciting thing I've heard since The Jesus And Mary Chain in The '80s," to "The sound of young Scotland today." To "The sound of Scottish Morrissey singing Del Shannon's songs, with Phil Spector arrangements and Jesus And Mary Chain fuzz, meeting Noel Gallagher's anthem addiction." Coincidentally, like Oasis back in the early '90s (who McGee also famously 'spotted'), Glasvegas were also third on the bill that night.

But in terms of classic songs, Daddy's Gone, is only the tip of the iceberg. Take a listen to the home-recordings of Geraldine, Go Square Go!, Flowers & Football Tops, It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry or Whitey - all drenched with heart-wrenching emotion and passion, and sprinkled with musical ingredients and hooks that would make the aforementioned Phil Spector proud! A producer's whose Wall Of Sound, along with Elvis, Rock 'n' Roll music and Rockabilly from The '50s, Girl Groups and Doo-Wop from The '60s, and more recently a host of C86 and Creation Records artists, the quartet are heavily indebted to. Glasvegas have even gone on record calling their songs "Sugary & Soulful." And discerning listeners will have no doubt picked up on the "Orchestral Guitar Backdrops and Experimental Surf Pop," as well as musical references to the likes of The Velvet Underground, Suicide and The Raveonettes. The latter of which are already big enthusiasts, and personally invited Glasvegas to support them in the USA in March - however, due to recording commitments, the band have now had to unfortunately pull out of these dates.

But what makes James Allan (vocals / guitar / songwriter), his cousin Rab Allan (guitar), Paul Donoguhe (bass) and Caroline McKay (drums) - who were all friends prior to the band forming - so different to other groups who also make music like this you may ask?

Well, for a start, James refreshingly sings in an unbridled Glaswegian accent, which amplifies the sincerity of his words and the listening experience as a whole. In an early interview he explained, "I don't think I could get to sleep if I was singing in a different way. For me, when I sing, it comes from within me and where we are from. As a band, you are letting people into your world and the way you see things." And Glasvegas' songs, are songs that beg to be heard and need to be heard! Yet the delivery is so natural, so effortless and so self-assured, and the lyrical themes so universal, that you'll be left thinking that every track has been a part of your life since you can remember, which for such a new act, is no mean feat! And then there's the group's image. If you like a band to look like a band, to give the impression that they share a genuine love of music, that they have that 'last-gang-in-town' mentality and that they're kindred spirits, then look no further… Dressed in brooding black, Glasvegas ooze James Dean cool, both onstage and off!

Remaining unsigned up until now (more on which later), Glasvegas have so far released 3 very limited edition 45s - Go Square Go!, Daddy's Gone and It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry - and were ranked #4 in BBC's Sound Of 2008 Poll "to find the brightest musical talent." Unsurprisingly, the group's fanbase is speedily growing and also includes celebrity admirer, Lisa Marie Presley, who Glasvegas are even rumoured to be recording a song with in America in the near future - which could well be included on their highly-anticipated debut album? Only time will tell.

As my first ever visit to Gloucester Guildhall, I feel thankful that I've managed to catch Glasvegas in such intimate surroundings (due mainly to this being the band's biggest headline tour to date), as venue sizes are sure to increase as the group's journey continues onwards and upwards! At 4.45pm, I'm introduced to James, Rab, Paul and Caroline, by the band's Manager / Tour Manager, Dean, who seem absolutely thrilled with the position that they currently find themselves in, because they realise that "the possibilities could be endless for the band." It's definitely the plushest dressing room I've ever been in too, and even has a washing machine and tumble dryer - filled today, with 3 weeks worth of Glasvegas' touring clothes! All four members are so lovely and even offer me a drink from their Rider, from which I fittingly take a chilled can of IRN-BRU.

Later this evening, Ennio Morricone's theme music for Once Upon A Time In The West, acts as the ideal entrance music for Glasvegas' seven-song set, which sees the stage permanently soaked in red light, smoke and shadows. It's certainly a sight to behold, and in one word, the songs all sound magnificent - and as the penultimate song of the set, Daddy's Gone, finishes, the crowd's lengthy ovation afterwards leaves the band standing speechless and smiling. It's a magical moment and everyone knows they deserve it! Proceedings are then aptly rounded up with a cover version of the timeless, Be My Baby.

To borrow a line from Joe Strummer (who James bears an uncanny resemblance to), "The Future Is Unwritten." And it's perhaps another obvious thing to say, but when a group excites you and moves you so much, why not rejoice in this fact and shout it from the rooftops? So here goes, VIVA GLASVEGAS…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1. To begin with, if it was R*E*P*E*A*T's round, what drink would you have and which song would you choose on the pub jukebox?
James: "If it was your round, then it would be some Buckfast. But if you didn't have Buckfast, then a Guinness would be fine. And which song would I choose on the pub jukebox? That would be (thinking)… At The Hop by Danny & The Juniors."

2. As both a musician and a music fan, what do you like music to do for you?
James: "Well, the things that I've enjoyed and that I've got out of music so far, is probably a means to express yourself. And, I think if you're involved in music for some of those agendas and that ethos, then I think you can't go too far wrong, do you know what I mean? That's the main thing for us probably, yeah! Everything else just falls into place I think."

3. Complete the following: I would like to write a song as good as… and make an album that equals… ?
James: "Hmm, let me see (long pause + thinking)… your tape my run out by the time I've thought of my answers (laughing)!"
Rab: "Daddy's Gone!"
All: (laughing)
James: "It's a serious question man, do you know what I mean? Off the top of my head, I would've liked to have written Blue On Blue by Bobby Vinton. But there's millions of songs that I probably would've liked to have written, but as you'd understand, we haven't got time to go through them all. I would like to make an album that equals The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. If you aim up that high, then you might fall short of it man, but I think if you aim for something like (pausing), nah, I'm not going to say anything like that, but you know what I'm trying to say."

4. In terms of songwriting, a lot of musicians talk about "The thrill of the chase" - where they're constantly trying to write the perfect song. Is this the same for you, and can you remember the first song that you ever wrote?
James: "Melodically, we're searching for something quite sweet - but I don't think you can sit down with the intention that you're going to write a song. I think a lot of the time it will just happen, and a lot of the time, it's pretty hard to explain how it happens probably. For me, that's what it's like anyway. Sometimes, you wait until you're quite relaxed and just let things happen - you don't force songs, do you know what I mean? But obviously, like anybody, any songwriter would like to write a good song (smiling)! And, I can remember the first song that I wrote - which resembled a song - that I could play and which left me with the feeling, "This is a song!" It was a song called, Everybody Knows How To Smile, and I think I was about 21-years-old when I wrote it. I'll recite the chorus, since you've asked me…

"Not everybody sees, not everybody hears,
Not everybody's lived a hundred odd years,
Not everybody knits, not everybody fits, not everybody's run a mile,
But everybody knows how to smile."

Maybe when I'm really struggling, I'll pull out my songs from the vaults!"
All: (laughing)
*I say to James that they could form part of Glasvegas' Bootleg Sessions*
"Aye (laughing)!"

5. To date, you have released 3 very limited edition 7" singles - but how did it feel to hold and play your very first pressed vinyl?
James: "Um (thinking), well the first time to be honest (pausing), I think sometimes you get a bit too close to the recordings and stuff, and you can be a bit too uptight with it. You listen to it and you kind of separate it all into parts, and you can't just listen to it as 1 song - like somebody who's arms length away from it would, do you know what I mean? You get too involved in it sometimes, and when you're listening, you're like, "Oh, that sleigh bell is just too loud!" And it's like the end of your world, because the sleigh bell is too loud or something, instead of just actually enjoying the thing. So, I can't imagine that I would've listened to it, and just been sat down with a cigar sparked up and enjoying it, because I probably would've been over-analysing it."

6. Can you tell us about the artwork used on your record sleeves?
James: "Well it was just really me and our manager, Dean. We just messed about trying to get some ideas together, and then for the last 2 singles, we basically gave a guy an idea and he made it a bit better, a guy called Rob. We just didn't want the artwork to look shit, and I think a lot of the old classic records by Ben E. King and Phil Spector, have kind of got a nice look about them. So it's simple, but I thought it would be quite nice to have."

7. Do you think the best bands are a product of their environment / agree with John Lydon's idea that, "Anger Is An Energy?"

James: "Well, I think that for any artist or any songwriter, your surroundings have got to influence you - that's just what happens! But, whether you want to bury that or hide that, or let that influence your music, is another thing. I know some people could probably just brush it away and stuff, whereas others may show the exoticness of it, and I'd rather bring that out, and be quite proud of it! In answer to John Lydon's idea that "Anger Is An Energy." To be honest, I try not to be (pausing), if I'm angry about something, I'd generally probably not write a song about it. And if I was hot about something, I don't think I'd write a song about that either. Because it would maybe come out wrong, do you know what I mean? If your vision's clouded, then your lyrics would become clouded, so you'd write something that probably didn't sound right. That's why I don't write angry."

8. Would you say that Glasvegas could have existed in any musical decade?
James: "If we were in The '70s, we'd probably have had Afros and pencil moustaches, black leather coats and flares!"
All: (laughing)
James: "We would have been like The Bee Gees I think, if we'd been in The '70s man! Paul's quite nimble. Caroline just floats - no matter how pissed she is, even if she can't speak properly, she can still dance amazingly! And Rab would be the guy wearing the bling, with the Afro hair on his chest, playing a tambourine…"
Rab: "I'd be like Mr. T."
All: (laughing)
James: "Aye, and I'd probably be the bouncer or something. So, I think we could work in any decade - we've just established that!"
All: (laughing)

9. A recent report on musical genres, discussed how different parts of the UK like them in different measures - but where have you found audiences to be the most receptive to your music?
James: "Well the audiences have just got different styles, do you know what I mean? Most of the gigs that we've played on this tour, nearly every one has sold out, so there's been an equal amount of people there each night. But some nights, people are just a bit madder and louder when they're singing the songs. And other nights, they're just quiet - but they're quiet watching, and that's a different atmosphere. Not in a good way or a bad way, it's just different really - some crowds are a bit more rowdy. The rowdiest places that we've played on this tour, have probably been Liverpool and Manchester…"
*The venue's promoter enters Glasvegas' dressing room*
Promoter: "Hi, I'm the promoter, but I don't like saying that because it sounds wanky doesn't it?"
James: "Well you're on tape anyway, and that's a quote isn't it? "I'm a promoter but I don't mean to sound wanky."
All: (laughing)
Promoter: "Sorry, have I fucked the interview up completely now?"
James: "Nah, it's cool man."
Promoter: "Now listen, I won't see you tonight - I'm going to be watching the show and enjoying it and having a few beers, but I hate coming down to the dressing room afterwards saying, "I'm loving it!" So, have a top show tonight! I've seen the pictures and the descriptions seem quite accurate. I'll get out of here now, but have a good one yeah - we're all really excited about tonight. Nice one and all the best!"
James: "Cheers, and thanks for all of the stuff and for looking after us. Where were we (looking at me)? Ah yeah, the Liverpool and Manchester crowds - they were just a bit more rowdy (pausing), but to be honest, this probably sounds a bit wanky (laughing), but I've enjoyed every night for the different moods, do you know what I mean?"

10. Is there anything that you would like your fans to know, which they may not know about you yet?
James: "Somebody asked me this yesterday and I was like, a budgie flew in the bath a few years ago and it was a horrible episode in my life. But then you're asking me, so I'd better say something different. See, normally, the reason why they wouldn't know it, is because we're trying to keep it as a secret for whatever reason (laughing)! Yeah, we'll leave it at that - what our fans don't already know about us, we don't want them to know!"
All: (laughing)

11. What inspires you outside of music?
James: "Outside of music? That's quite a big question man, do you know what I mean (long pause + thinking)? These are different questions man, and they're good questions, because other people always ask, "So what inspired Daddy's Gone?" But outside of music, there's friendships, people, films, it could be the sun shining - when I see the Celtic team line-up from 1967, that makes me feel really inspired! When you see the picture (pausing), the team that won it, were guys who grew up in a certain radius of Glasgow, and they won the biggest cup in the world! That shouldn't really happen do you know what I mean? But these guys didn't give a shit about that man - they made it happen! And I like that attitude and ethos! So that's what makes me feel inspired as well! But, it could be loads and loads of things man."
*Rab, Paul and Caroline, have to leave the interview to soundcheck*

12. James, you recently said, "I think technical ability and soul must be on the opposite sides of the planet. I can't really measure technical ability, maybe that's why a lot of our sound is really basic. There is a real minimal approach to what we do and that approach often leaves room for something else, and is a good backdrop to the lyrics." And one of the things that first drew me to your music, were your honest, thoughtful and touching lyrics. But are there any bands' or songwriters' lyrics that you admire?

James: "Lyrically, Hank Williams is an influence, and a lot of his lyrics have played on my mind a lot - I can really believe the authenticity in them when I hear his words. Aye."

13. Is it heartening for you, to think that your songs, will now become a part of the soundtrack to many peoples' lives?

James: "I've never thought about that really, and I've never even imagined it to be honest with you (long pause + thinking). If that ever happens, then I guess it's quite a flattering thing man, do you know what I mean? That's quite a far-out idea for me really (smiling), but it would be flattering if that did happen!"

14. Glasvegas have a classically cool rock 'n' roll image, but who for you, have been some of the sharpest dressed bands and artists over the past 50 years?
James: "Let me see (long pause + thinking). I'll go for the obvious, and say between 1954 and 1959. I quite like the simplicity of that period, which is probably an obvious thing for me to say, because that era is an influence on my music as well, but, I'll pick that time!"

15. If you could join any other band for just one night, who would it be?
James: "Probably Elvis Presley's band."

16. How would you spend your ideal day?
James: "An ideal day off, would be me and Dean at the amusements, playing each other at football games and hockey, and maybe eating some candy floss! Also, if there was a pier with roller coasters and an aqua park, and a free tab at the bar all day, that would be good (laughing)! Dean, can you think of anything else? You can have anything!"
Dean: "A small stall that allows you to play games that you used to play years ago, like Sensible Soccer…"
James: (laughing) "That would be pretty cool man!"

17. What is your biggest extravagance?

James: "Well, what I need to get is my shoes re-healed! I think that would be my biggest extravagance (laughing), but I need to soundcheck, so I'm not going to have time today. But if I bought myself a pair of new shoes, that would be quite a big extravagance (smiling)! Aye."

18. James, you love football and nearly chose this as a professional career - once revealing, "I never bought records when I was at school, and if I saw someone with a guitar, I just thought, what can that guy be getting out of life with that guitar? It must be boring and I'm so glad I'm just into my football." Although your outlook later changed, as a massive football fan, who do you think is the greatest footballer of all-time?
James: "The greatest footballer of all-time? Wow! Let's make a shortlist here before we (pausing), Jimmy Johnson…"
Dean: "Cantona. Giggs…"
James: "David Cooper maybe? I'd say it's either Jimmy Johnson, or it's a Rangers player called David Cooper. And my reasons for that is probably just (pausing), I've not got any reasons, but I think they're the 2 greatest of all-time man!"

19. Do you have any favourite haunts in Glasgow, that you'd recommend to us?
James: "Well there are some places if you take a walk along The River Clyde. It's quite nice on a sunny day - you can walk right along the path, but just don't walk there at night! Are there any other places in Glasgow (long pause + thinking)? I would say that."

20. You've now spent the past couple of years developing as a band, but what are your memories of the first ever gig that you all played together, and if you could play a show anywhere in the world, at any venue, where would it be?

James: "The first show was just like the shows we play now - we're trying to get from the beginning of it until the end of it, without totally fucking it up too much! That's my biggest aim with each gig that we play, and it's my biggest aim for tonight (laughing)! If I could play a show anywhere in the world, at any venue, it would be at Glasgow Barrowlands (pausing), and also at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. A lot of people have said that the Bowery's a really nice venue… Gloucester Guildhall is also where I've wanted to play as well (laughing)!"

21. Are there any artists or bands that you really dislike, but can't help liking one of their songs?

James: "I'm pretty open-minded man. I mean I'm a fan of music and I don't care how uncool somebody is - if they've got a good song, then I believe that they're good! I guess there are some people who are quite (pausing), not demonised, but in rock 'n' roll bands, people frown upon certain songwriters and stuff. To be honest, I'm a fan of Pete Waterman - Stock, Aitken & Waterman - for what they did. Maybe it isn't thought of in the rock 'n' roll scene as being a cool thing or whatever, but, I think they did really well and should be appreciated a little bit more. But there's loads of people who should be appreciated more, do you know what I mean? That was just off the top of my head - I won't be starting some big campaign for people to appreciate Stock, Aitken & Waterman (laughing), but Well Done to them man!"

22. Which song should every young guitarist learn to play, and of groups past and present, who do you think will continually inspire bands to form?
James: "Every young guitarist should learn to play Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly - it's almost 3 chords, so it's quite simple. I think bands like Oasis will continue to inspire kids to pick up a guitar, but then I think it's always moving on as well you know? I guess The Libertines have inspired some British bands to form, but then it's totally different in America - they'll be other bands there who'll inspire kids to pick up guitars, but I'm not entirely sure who the bands are. But then they'll be another band that will come out! I think the key things to inspire bands to start are probably (pausing), if kids look at something and they see it as being something that they could do, i.e. it's simple enough that they can do it (pausing), I think The Ramones were such an influential band, and I think that was one of the reasons. People could actually (pausing), especially when it was going into punk at that point, people felt that they could do that. And it was the same thinking right through to Oasis. But then I think a lot of the genius ideas in rock 'n' roll, have been the most simple and obvious ones, do you know what I mean? So whoever's going to inspire the next generation of kids to pick up a guitar, it's going to have to be (pausing), not unbelievably technical to play, it'll probably be something pretty simple, but something really good kind of thing."

23. Almost every label has now chased after you with a record deal, and today will be remembered as an important piece of Glasvegas' history, as it's your last ever day as an unsigned band. Can you tell us more?
James: "Well, we've agreed with Sony / Columbia and we're going to sign tomorrow."
*I say Congratulations*
"It's just the beginning man, and lots of bands need stuff like that. They get a platform to bring out an album, and either the time is right or the time is not right, do you know what I mean? But we'll just kind of see what happens."
*I ask James if there was a reason why Glasvegas chose this particular label*
"It was just instinct really, because I think a lot of labels have the same template, and they've got the same (pausing), not ethos, but they've got the same ideas. I don't think any of them have any brand new super duper ideas, that nobody else has ever heard of in the industry. So, I think it was just instinct. I mean we met some really nice people man, and a guy called Seymour Stein flew over from New York to meet and speak to us - he signed The Ramones, Talking Heads and Madonna! He's such a sweet guy, and he was telling us amazing stories and stuff. And although we've chosen to go with Sony / Columbia, I'd still love to meet Seymour again and hang out - the guy's 70 man, but his stories are unbelievable! So in that sense, I'm quite glad that we met a few people, because we met some good people man, do you know what I mean? We could only go with one and you just have to do it! But as I said, it was based on instinct - there was no reason really."

24. James, you were quoted as saying, "I would love it if people could keep faith in what they are doing, and know eventually that it's going to get to people, and if our band can help people do that, then that's something beautiful." But can you tell us what we can expect from your debut album, and what your biggest hopes are for Glasvegas long-term?
James: "Well you can expect that I'm going to give myself to the album as much as I can - I'm going to let my guard down as much as I can, and I'm going to try and make the most soulful album that I can! I'm going to push myself right to the limit man! I'm going to give everything, to try and make it as special as I can for people that buy it, and for people who want to listen to it or whatever. They'll get (pausing), I'll throw myself at it, do you know what I mean? You can expect that! My long-term hopes for the band are that us four as people, are happy - if we're all happy and inspired, then we've got hope for the future! If we've got that man, then I don't think we can go too far wrong."

25. Lastly, chips or cream buns?

James: "Can I not have chips with cream buns as a desert (looking at me)?"
*I say that if you really want to, then you can*
"But then I would really need a can of IRN-BRU as well, because I can't eat without a drink of ginger. So, I'll have it all man (laughing)!"

A very special thanks to James, Rab, Paul and Caroline, to Glasvegas' Manager / Tour Manager Dean, and to Carl @ Coalition, for all of their time and help.

Gloucester Set List

Flowers & Football Tops
Cheatin' Heart
Polmont On My Mind
Go Square Go
Daddy's Gone
Be My Baby

"I won't be the lonely one sitting on my own and sad,
A 50-year-old reminiscing what I had,
Forget your Dad, he's gone."

KJG: We don't know yet. We're playing a lot of new material