With The Xcerts having just returned from a seemingly successful working trip to the US of A to record their second album, Flares n Seagulls scribe JustBoy57 was quick to pounce on Murray MacLeod as they took a well deserved breather before going on the road again.
So… how are things in The Xcerts camp?
Things are very good thank you, tired, but good. We’re back from recording our second record, so it’s nice to be back doing normal things like cleaning the house and seeing friends. It’s also nice to be able to talk to my parents on the phone rather than Skype.
You’ve just been in New York recording album number 2! How was the Big Apple?
New York treated us very well. We were recording in a wee town called Bethpage in Long Island, it was really great. Not much to do apart from eat, but that suited us fine as we had just been on tour before travelling to America, so we needed a good feed.
How long did it all take from start to finish?
It took just over three weeks to record everything. Mixing is happening right now, and then the record will be mastered and then album number 2 will be complete. Three weeks seems like a long time, but we could have easily stayed for three more.
And any interesting stories for us?
On one of the days off we decided we were going to visit the local mall, and what appeared to be a very generous man turned into a bit of a nut! This guy offered us a lift to the mall, and being the adventurous guys (idiots) we are, we thought we’d take him up on his kind offer. Turns out he was living at the hotel we were staying at because his house had just burned down. He was a really intense racist, and kept saying really inappropriate things to us about his doctor who was Indian. We got to his car, which was the biggest heap of shit I’ve ever seen, he then told us that he had a Cadillac but it had just been written off as a topless Brazillian dancer had crashed into the back of him a few days ago. He had some more stories but they are maybe a little too private for this interview. Needless to say, we had a change of heart and decided to get a taxi to the mall. We never saw Mark again, hope he’s ok.
I’ve heard that you basically headhunted producer Mike Sapone for this recording… how does that work then… and it was obviously a `no expense spared` choice? Who makes that sort of decision? Was it difficult to get Mike on board for The Xcerts cause?
We’ve been big fans of Mike’s work for a long time, and when we started talking about who we would love to work with for album number 2, we jokingly said Mike, really not thinking anything would come of it. Turns out our friend knows a guy who is close with Mike and he basically set up a conversation between our manager and Mike. We sent him a few tracks, and he seemed really excited by them and the rest was history as they say. We are lucky enough to be on a fantastic record label called Xtra Mile, and if it weren’t for them, none of it would have been possible.
How long does it take to organise an overseas expedition like you’ve just had?
From inital talks with Mike, it really didn’t take that long. I think overall, it took about three months.
Thoughts on NY?
I love it, I usually feel a little uneasy in big places, but Manhattan blew me away and I can’t wait to go back there. We got to see the best of both worlds I think as Bethpage is very suburban and sleepy.
You’ve played overseas before anyway, how does that compare to playing in the UK, and closer to home in Aberdeen?
We’ve had really strange experiences playing overseas as every show we’ve played outside the UK has been really big. We toured Europe with Blood Red Shoes and those guys are really popular out there, so each show was great. Japan was crazy as we played a huge festival and a big aftershow party to the festival, so again both shows were mobbed. The UK is fantastic, each show seems to be getting busier and busier which can only be a good thing. Scotland is amazing, especially our hometown of Aberdeen, people are very passionate about us there which means the world to us.
Is the recording experience something you look forward to or is it solely about the live shows? Is it difficult to get the `edge` from a live show onto cd, or is it a different thing altogether?
It’s a completely different thing altogether! A live show is a spectacle, people come and see you to be entertained, weather it be an incredible light show, or the band jumping around spitting on one another…… you get the idea. You can listen to a record anytime you like, you can only see a band every so often, so the band has to put on somewhat of a show. I love playing live, and I love being in the studio. As we’re a three piece we are slightly restricted in a way, but when we are in the studio there no boundaries, we can do anything we like. I think our songs come alive in the studio, when we write we don’t solely think of guitar,bass,drums and vocals, we think about all the other insturmentation. It’s an incredible thing to add all those extra parts and hear how the song was intended to sound.
Is there added pressure on album number 2 after your debut, “In the Cold Wind We Smile”, was received so well? That difficult second album syndrome etc etc.
Not really, as I personally think the new record is a million times better than the first. We’ve adopted a new outlook ever since we started recording this new record, and that is we really don’t care about what other people think of us. At the end of the day, we’re the ones having to play the songs night after night, we have to be somewhat selfish and make music that we find interesting. We’ve made a record that the three of us love, and if it’s shunned by critics and people who used to enjoy our band then so be it.
What can we expect from the new album… carrying on where your first album left off, or something slightly different? Does it have a name yet?
The new record is a bit noisier and much more experimental. Mike really pushed us to experiment with different sounds which was great. The album definitely has a 90’s feel to it, a forward thinking 90’s if you will haha. I think there are hints of the last album on a couple of songs, but that’s about it. It’s a very heavy record, as in it’s very layered, the lyrcial content is a bit more downbeat… It wasn’t a conscious decision to change our sound, we wrote these songs in the space of two months and it’s just how they came out, it was a very natural thing. It doesn’t have a name yet, our wee baby is currently nameless. There are a few names being thrown around, but we haven’t decided on anything yet.
When can we hear anything from it? We’re desperate!!!
That’s great that you want to hear the new material! I do believe the first single will be released on the 31st of May, but you’ll definitely be able to hear it before then.
What are your plans for the rest of the year? Festivals in the Summer, album release around about September?
You’ve nailed our schedule! Festivals in the summer for sure, I think we have a small headline tour in May to support the single, dates will be announced very soon. The album was scheduled for a September release but there is the strong possibility that it will be pulled forward.
The Xcerts are one of the most hardest working bands I have ever seen, with constant gigging and general business being a mainstay. Are there times when you think you could be doing with a couple of weeks off or is the enthusiasm we see in the live shows ever present?
There are definitely nights where I’d rather be at home than being in a venue. The main problem I have is that I’m not very good at hiding how I’m feeling. I should leave my worries and problems offstage when we play, but I don’t because that’s just how I am. We love playing live though, and we tour with great people which makes things alot easier.
What are the bands currently doing it for you just now? Anything that the Flares n Seagulls listeners should be going out and listening to?
The new Low Anthem record is really great, and also David Bazan’s latest album is a treat.
Did moving down South from Aberdeen make it easier for the band to get noticed when it was all starting before album number one?
We actually moved to Brighton, and yes it definitely made things alot easier. Being an hour away from London, is/was extremely handy.
A worthwhile decision then? Anything you miss from Aberdeen? Birds, butteries or whatever!
I miss everything about Aberdeen, the shitty weather, the granite, friends, macaroni pies….My parents live there and I miss them a tremendous amount. Having moved away, it makes me appreciate Aberdeen a lot more. Some people think they have it bad in Aberdeen, but trust me, I’ve seen just about every city this island has to offer, and Aberdeen is pretty great in comparison.
Do you think the Aberdeen music scene gets the attention it deserves or was this ultimately a contributing factor as to why the Xcerts camp shifted down to England?
It’s pretty much the main reason we decided to move down South. Aberdeen has alot of great bands on offer, Copy Haho, Cast Of The Capital, Kristoffer Morgan, Right Hand Left….But the sad factor is, no-one in the industry cares about bands from the North East. Until a band from Aberdeen makes it big, the industry will continue to ignore Aberdeen’s music scene. Before The View blew up, no-one cared about the Dundee music scene, but as soon as labels saw that The View were doing well, they all flocked to Dundee to see what else was on offer. It’s sad, but that’s how it is. There are so many bands in London, why would an A+R man/woman think to go to a small place like Aberdeen when there are a million bands on their doorstep. 98% of these bands are terrible which definitely makes matters worse.
Any advice for up and coming bands in the ‘deen trying to ply their trade?
Times in the music industry are hard, so expect to work hard.
Your five desert island tracks?
5?? I need alot more than 5, but here are a few good tracks.
The Cure – Six Different Ways
Brand New – You Won’t Know
Elliot Smith – Speed Trials
The Beatles – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
Nirvana – Scentless Apprentice
And finally, your favourite flavour of crisps?
Not a big crisp fan, but i’m quite keen on Red Sky’s bacon and cream cheese flavoured potato snack.
Thanks for your time Murray, and hopefully we’ll see you in the ‘deen again soon! JustBoy57