In the absence of actual live music, I have spent a lot of the past year watching concert footage on YouTube. Far and away, one of my favorites is Teenage Fanclub’s set at the 1992 Reading Festival. The Fannies are young, shaggy, and ecstatic to be playing to such a massive, muddy crowd. Their performance of “Everything Flows” and the way the crowd hops along in unison always makes me smile.
When I watch Teenage Fanclub today, I smile, too, even if the band looks quite different than they did up on stage in 1992. In their video for “Home”, a single from the band’s 11th studio album, Endless Arcade, they’re sitting in folding chairs in an empty auditorium, a lot less energized but no less happy than they were at Reading. In many ways, they are a different band; in many ways, they’ve been several different bands throughout their four decades of existence.
When PopMatters spoke with guitarist and singer Raymond McGinley back in February, he was excited about the record finally being released after two delays. However, he was more excited about what the future still holds for the band.
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How have you been holding up through the pandemic? How are things looking over in Glasgow?
I’ve been fine. As a band, I think we were lucky that we had just finished the recording for the new record just before lockdown. So we had something to keep working on, tinkering with. We weren’t in a state of waiting for things to change: we had something we could work on and finish mixing. It’s a shame we haven’t been able to go on tour like we’d like to. We’ve had to reschedule twice. But there are a lot of people a lot worse off than we are. So we’ve not been bad.
Your record was originally set to be released in October, then moved to March, and now has been moved to April. What’s it feel like having this record done but constantly having to push it back?
We’d hoped to get the record out in October of last year. Then it became clear that we wouldn’t get to do those shows, so we thought, “Well, this doesn’t really make sense.” So we pushed the record back to when we could play some shows. But we also thought, then, “we’ve got a lot more time here, so maybe we should tinker around and make sure we’re happy with everything.” And by then, everything was taking longer. The vinyl manufacturer was delayed because of COVID and Brexit. It’s just a shame we can’t go on tour. We’ve had to move most of our shows to next year. But what can you do?
With the extra time to mix, did the record change in any significant ways?
We were tinkering around with the 1% of the record that no one else would ever notice. [laughs] I think you have to be careful with records. If you’re not careful, you can lose the plot and make things worse by continually working on it. We really enjoy the process: listening to things, tinkering with things, moving things around. If we have the time to do it, we’ll do it. But you have to accept that there’s no such thing as a perfect way to finish the record. And then you always just kind of abandon it.
You know, a person you were at a certain point in time would do things a certain way, but maybe six months later. If you’d made the record that day, you would’ve made it a lot differently. I think you have to accept things as the person who made the decision at some point in the past. You don’t want to go back in time and make the record exactly as you would make it today because every single day, you would do something different. One day you wake up feeling something, and the next day you feel different. So, we were careful to try not to change anything. We were satisfying ourselves with little details no one else would ever notice.
I think that’s fascinating what you’re saying about allowing it to be what it is in that moment because, throughout your career, you guys have been several different bands. Now that you’ve got some distance from it, who do you think you guys were while recording this?
When you make a record — and this applies to when we made Bandwagonesque after making A Catholic Education or making Thirteen after making Bandwagonesque— you don’t want to become a pastiche of yourself. And you don’t want to do what you’re doing with too much consciousness of what you’ve done before. You want to deal with what’s in front of you and deal with how you want to do and not self-reference too much. From my point of view, anyway, you don’t want to have too much of an idea.
When you start a band, nobody knows who you are. Nobody cares who you are. And as you go on, you get a lot more self-conscious. I think you have almost to push away thoughts, like, “What will people who like what we did before think about this?” You don’t want to be thinking about that. I don’t think. You want to be thinking, “What do we as people want to do?” with no regard for what you’ve done in the past.
So, the band that we were on this record is hard to [define]…as a band, we were relaxed and having a good time. But we also decided to do this record and do some touring at the same time, which we haven’t really done before. We’d do a bit of recording; then we went on tour for a while, then we came back and did some more recording. In the middle of the second session, we did a couple of shows, then came back again and finished the record. I think that was good for us. Sometimes when you make a record, you go on the road, and you’re playing as a band, and you’re doing it all as second nature, as musicians. Then you stop that, go think a bit, do a bit of head-scratching and navel-gazing, you think of new songs, then you go to record them. Sometimes by the time you come to record them, you may have fallen off some as musicians.
So, we were rather keen to get recording when we hadn’t spent that long away from playing together. As a group of people, sometimes it takes you a while to be comfortable in close proximity and be creative again, just as human beings, never mind as musicians. But there’s something about going on tour — the idea that you’re setting up that day to make some music, and that’s what you do. “We do it every day.” Whereas sometimes, when you go away for too long and come back, you can lose the natural sense of “this is just what we do,” and you start to think about it too much. Now I’m wondering when we’re going to play live again. [laughs]