Teenage Fanclub
Photo: Donald Milne / Courtesy of Merge Records

Teenage Fanclub Discuss New LP ‘Endless Arcade’ and the Danger of Looking Backward

Legendary Scottish indie-poppers Teenage Fanclub discuss their new LP Endless Arcade and why they look forward to their future as a band.

Endless Arcade
Teenage Fanclub
30 April 2021

The record shares its name with one of your songs on the album, “Endless Arcade”. You described that phrase as “a city that you can wander through, with a sense of mystery, an imaginary one that goes on forever.” What was it about that song and that phrase that you felt worked for this collection of songs?

Well, we were talking album titles, and I think I was doing the vocal for the song. And I thought, “maybe that’d be a good album title.” But the title somehow seems to work for the album. If you spend too much time thinking about death, you can’t actually have a good time in the present. Everything comes to an end. A few of the songs on the record are addressing that reality. Yeah, everything comes to an end. We’re all going to die. The universe is going to cease to exist. Well, so what? [laughs]

This is the first album following Gerard’s departure. What was it like writing and recording without him? Did that shift the band or songwriting dynamic for the record?

The group that made this record had all worked together for years. There weren’t any people in the room that we hadn’t worked with before. Y’know? We all knew each other really well. You don’t want a band to continue, at any point in your career, in reference to what you’ve already been. We didn’t want to replace Gerry in the band because that would become a self-pastiche. So we were just kind of moving on.

In terms of all the chat surrounding Gerry’s departure and all the talk of that, we’ve kind of been through that since 2018. When the time came to make a new record, that was already in the past. We’d already played shows with Gerry after he decided he wouldn’t be playing with us anymore. We’d already played a lot of shows together after that. I don’t know how many bands do that. [laughs]

By the time we came to start making the new record, we’d already put all that behind us. We were moving ahead. So we weren’t really thinking about it—no disrespect to Gerry. I’m sure Gerry’d be exactly the same. If he’s recording, he’s not going to be thinking about us. He’s going to be thinking about what he’s doing. And that’s the way it should be for anyone, really.

I know you’re talking about being forward-thinking, but it’s hard for me not to point out that this November will be the 30th anniversary of Bandwagonesque. Approaching that milestone, what do you make of that legacy? For many people, that’s the first record that comes to mind when people think of Teenage Fanclub.

You know, as we’re talking just now, I can picture setting up in the studio. I can see what the control room is like. I can remember the minutiae of what the hotel was like and the daily journey there and back — I can remember all that. And I remember the four people in the band. We were all pretty focused on what we were doing at the time. We were pretty determined. And we had a really good time. We were working well together in that moment. And no one interfered with us. We hadn’t even signed to Creation Records at the time that we were making that record. Or anyone else. Although Creation paid for the recordings, but that’s another story.

So we were kind of free at the time. As a band, we always wanted to make the record first and then deal with the real world and the music business world afterward. It’s like, “we’ve made this record; what do you think?” And that way, it’s not like you’re selling the idea of the band or the record in advance of making it to set expectations. So we were in the studio with the time and space that we hadn’t had making A Catholic Education, which was done quickly and cheaply. [For Bandwagonesque] we had five weeks in a studio, which for us seemed to be a massive luxury. We had a good time making that record: we just did what we wanted at that point in time. It was only afterward that people started to react to it, but we were just in our own little bubble, satisfying ourselves. It felt like every record. You’re thinking, “Ah, yeah, it’s okay. I think we could’ve done better.” [laughs] People seemed to react to it really well afterward.

Photo: Donald Milne / Courtesy of Merge Records

With Creation Records, they had My Bloody Valentine in the studio makingLovelessat the time.And Primal Scream makingScreamadelica.And I think they were really distracted by all that. And we were just some other band. No one really had any expectations for us. We had the means to do what we wanted. I think we made a record with that identity; it’s got personality, you know?

Sometimes, it takes a while before you can hear the record. When you’ve just made it, all you can hear are things you think about it that are wrong. Now I listen back to it, and I think, “those young guys did okay there.” [laughs] I think we worked really well together, and we were all contributing. It’s a really good moment for us. I think we did okay there.

Heading into your fourth decade, what do you see as the future of the band?

It’s really hard to say. In my imagination, I would just keep doing this for as long as we can get away with it. When we come to make a record — from our first one to our last one — I never get any sense that people will like it. You always think there will come a point when people say, “Ah, we’re bored with those guys now.”

Having been around a while and having made a few records gives you an advantage. People are willing to give you a listen. But don’t assume that once people give you a listen that they’ll necessarily like it just because of what you’ve done before. We primarily try to satisfy ourselves. And if we can keep making records that we are satisfied with, then we’ll just keep going.