[6 January 2009]
Glasvegas is moving fast.
Three years ago, the Scottish rockers weren’t even a band. A year ago, they hadn’t even been in a proper recording studio and hadn’t completed an album. But the swiftness of their arrival - they’ve already been crowned “Britain’s Best Loved Band” by influential British magazine NME - isn’t the result of any sort of plan.
Yes, Glasvegas (taken from a nickname for Glasgow) is moving fast. But they’re the first to say that they have no idea where they’re going.
Take the distinctive sound on their debut album “Glasvegas” (Columbia), which hits stores Tuesday. It’s a little bit Phil Spector “Wall of Sound,” a little bit girl-group simplicity and a whole lot of echoing guitars.
“It’s funny,” says guitarist Rab Allan. “That thing with the sound was quite a natural progression. Because Caroline (McKay) only plays two drums - she plays a floor tom and a snare drum - we had to fill in the gaps with the guitars and the distorted bass guitar. A lot of people think that we were influenced by Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, but we didn’t really get into some of that until later on when we already had the sound.
“Some people think we’re lying about that, but we’re not,” Allan continues. “To be honest, it was never contrived or planned out to be that way. We all just wanted something quite natural, that we could feel comfortable with. I guess sometimes if you put four people in a room, sometimes you can get something amazing from it.”
The band’s amazing run started last year with the single “Daddy’s Gone,” a wrenching tale of absent fathers set to stirring ‘60s pop, complete with earnest “woh-ohs” from singer James Allan. Its unique allure was so stunning that it landed Glasvegas - cousins James and Rab Allan, drummer McKay and bassist Paul Donoghue - all sorts of attention even before they had a record label.
British music exec Alan McGee, best known for discovering Oasis, said Glasvegas was “the most exciting thing I’ve heard since Jesus and Mary Chain.”
Soon, Glasvegas was the object of a bidding war, ultimately signing on with Columbia Records.
“Two weeks later, we were in New York doing the album,” Rab Allan says, laughing. “When you’re in a band, you get opportunities to do things that you wouldn’t normally be able to do. When the record company asked us where we wanted to do the album, we said, ‘New York.’ It’s quite an exotic place, and it’s got a lot of history, a lot of rock and roll history. We thought it was a good idea, and it was more of a holiday for us as well - a way to get out of Glasgow.”
In March, the band found itself recording at Brooklyn Studios with producer Rich Costey, who has worked with Interpol and Franz Ferdinand, and soaking in the atmosphere.
“The one thing people told me before I came to New York was that the people were a little bit funny, but I didn’t find that at all,” Allan says. “The people were lovely. People were really cheery, and they would hear the accent, and we would get into all sorts of conversations. You would be sitting in a bar, having a drink, and you would just meet people.”
And, as newly minted rock stars, Glasvegas found itself in some unusual situations, ending up at the Beatrice Inn in Manhattan one night with Mickey Rourke and sitting next to Bjork. The band’s next recording experience, for an EP released in England for Christmas, was just as unusual - a castle in Transylvania.
Allan says Glasvegas will continue looking for new experiences because it’s worked out for them so far. They plan to keep going wherever the music takes them.
“Things just click,” he says. “You can’t explain it but some things just feel right. You can’t say why. None of us are great musicians. It’s all pretty basic. And we taught Caroline to play the drums because she was great fun - that’s why we wanted her in the band, which I guess is a backward way of doing things. But it’s worked so far.”