All of Their Eggs in One Mercurial Basket
Intentional or not, it’s rather fitting that the Cinematics pilfer lyrics from the Chameleons on their recent UK single, “Break”. Chameleon-like proves an apt descriptor for the Glasgow-based band, which has demonstrated a preternatural ability to bridge styles. With “Chase”, the band’s debut single, the Cinematics conjured a fleeting beauty — a deft and arguably more effective evocation of the Delays’ dreamy nostalgia. Contrast that with “Break”, a dark, Damoclean menace owing more to the oppressive realism of Joy Division, and you begin to understand the remarkable scope of the Cinematics’ sound.
In Scott Rinning, the band’s guitarist and singer, the Cinematics have a leader who typifies the group’s restless spirit. Over the phone, he is difficult to contain. Topics are broached haphazardly. Words struggle to keep pace with his thoughts. He fits the stereotype of the loquacious city-dweller. Yet Rinning’s rambling belies his roots. He hails not from Glasgow, but from deep in the Scottish countryside, specifically from a town of 5,000. “The nearest big town is 20 minutes away,” explains Rinning. “And even that one only has 20,000 people. The nearest one after that is four hours [away], and you have to drive through a mountain range [to get there].” And yet it was in these unusual environs, far removed from city bustle, that the members of the Cinematics — Rinning, guitarist Ramsay Miller, bassist Adam Goemans, and drummer Ross Bonney — first met as part of a small handful of local musicians captivated by the rock artists of the day, the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, and Jeff Buckley chief among them.
But it wasn’t until Rinning found himself down and out in Glasgow many years later that the foursome would officially become a unit, christening themselves the Cinematics. At the time, Rinning had just quit University. He hadn’t lasted long. Only a semester into his degree program, Rinning decided he’d had enough.
“I don’t think I ever had any intention of getting a degree. One of [the reasons I went] was to placate my parents. The other was that I thought there would be lots of new people to meet and that maybe I would find some musicians. But after three months I still hadn’t played music [with anyone], and I just started to get down about it. I couldn’t stand what I was doing. It wasn’t that I quite liked to be a musician, or wanted to be a musician. I needed to be a musician.”
His near-monomaniacal drive toward his goal did have its price. Rinning, convinced that anything would be preferable to sitting in a lecture hall, wound up not on a stage, but on a street corner, immediately following his decision to drop out. He admits that his parents expressed concern after he opted out of university for an uncertain future. “Parents are always a bit concerned. They’ll tell you not to put all your eggs in one basket and to make sure you have something to fall back on.”
The Cinematics – Play Glasgow Barfly, June 2006
Fortunately for Rinning, before he sprouted a mangy beard and his clothes turned to tattered rags, he was recognized by the rest of the Cinematics. After a chance encounter on the streets of Glasgow, the former childhood acquaintances began playing Glasgow’s local venues. Their timing was inadvertently impeccable. Thanks to the recent commercial success of fellow countrymen Franz Ferdinand, the city was already being scoured for fresh talent. The fledgling group was an eager beneficiary, quickly earning renown beyond the club circuit. Representatives of the NY-based TVT Records flew out and signed the Cinematics.
Unsurprisingly, Rinning is both amused and baffled by the rapid succession of events. “Not long ago, I was sitting around watching MTV2, and I realized that I had met half the people whose videos were being shown. I used to watch these artists on TV and think that they must be the most amazing people, but once you’ve become involved [in the business] you realize they’re all completely normal. Like us, they’re just really lucky to be doing something they really want to do [for a living].”
Despite their new celebrity acquaintances, Rinning has aimed to keep the band grounded, well aware of the rare opportunity that has been afforded the Cinematics. Since signing, they’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in the studio revising existing songs and creating new ones, all in an attempt to assemble a debut free of the filler that’s become commonplace on albums released in the past couple of years. “Right now, we’re debating between 10 or 11 [tracks],” says Rinning. “I don’t want it to be too long. In my experience of listening to an album, if it’s really long, you’ll just skip to the next CD. I don’t want people to be bored by it, and one song might be the difference.” So far, the self-consciousness and discipline has worked for them. The unmastered studio tracks posted to their MySpace site have been radically reworked, but each is a dramatic improvement over its demo version. “The Fall”, for instance, formerly a lean, “Coffee & TV”-esque confection, has been rendered near unrecognizable — outfitted with keyboard flourishes and a circuitous, minute-long intro.
While the Cinematics are quite committed, it’s not yet clear what they’ve committed themselves to. Even Rinning wraps the recording sessions with some trepidation, aware that by fixing these songs in a tangible form, his band takes the first step toward defining the entity that is the Cinematics. “When you start doing different things in the studio, you begin wondering, ‘Is this us anymore?’ There are sometimes conflicts about that. For example, if none of us can really play the piano, should we have it on [the track]?” Rinning takes an uncharacteristic pause, as if he had asked a genuine, and not rhetorical, question. “But I don’t think the studio is for photographing what you’ve got. It’s for playing around with how it can sound, and then moving the song to the next level.”
He sounds thoroughly convinced, if only for a second. Some things never change.
The Cinematics – “Chase” Live in Glasgow