Saturday, 30 January 2010

Interview with Murray Macleod (The Xcerts)

In case you hadn't noticed, this blog is named after a song by The Xcerts. They're 2/3 Aberdonian, 1/3 whatever-you-call-people-from-Exeter, and their debut album 'In The Cold Wind We Smile' didn't just get a lot of good reviews from people who take music very seriously, but connected with normal people like a good friend or a voice in your head that just *gets* stuff and feels things the same as you. Or maybe that's just me. But probably not.

They've got an honesty and a vulnerability without being introverted or... emo. It's pretty much gutsy, loud pop about, y'know, life stuff. Thinking things. Heavy and light in all the right places, beefy enough for Kerrang! but soft enough for, well, a lot of girls to go to their gigs. Cool girls, though. Obviously ;)

Anyway, if you've not heard them yet - it's OK, I won't judge you – now's your time for redemption.

The Xcerts – In The Cold Wind We Smile (on Spotify)

And for the already converted.... Murray Xcert was lovely enough to answer a few questions for me. So here it is – the first ever Listen Don't Panic interview. Enjoy!

Did you have a nice Christmas and New Year?

Murray: I had a lovely Christmas/New Year. We weren't home very much throughout last year, so it was great to be home and spend some quality time with my family and friends. Christmas is always a treat, and New Year's is just another night out for me now.

Has the problem with wasps in your parents' bathroom been resolved?

Yes, those pesky wasps have been exterminated and don't live with us any more. They weren't paying rent and they never cleaned up after themselves so my mum kicked them out.

How is the second Xcerts album shaping up?

The second record is shaping up nicely, I think we have about 15 songs, but we are going to continue writing up until we actually record the record.

How will it differ from the first?

The songs are very different, they are a little noisier and there is definitely a darker feel to them. I think it will be quite a heavy record, not in a metal, make devil horns with your hands sort of way, i mean lyrically and the overall feel of the songs. I guess in the same way that 'Control' by Pedro The Lion is a very heavy record, yet musically it's not heavy at all.

What influences you now that didn't influence you then?

A lot of things have happened to me personally, so obviously that will have had an effect on my songwriting. We were out on the road for pretty much a year straight, so it's obviously going to take it's toll on your head.

If you're meaning musically, I've been listening to a lot of loud 90's bands and artists like Elliot Smith, Bon Iver. I've read every book by Charles Bukowski since the release of the first record, so maybe that's had a subconscious influence on me.

What was your favourite record of 2009?

My favourite record of 2009 was 'Daisy' by Brand New. There were some really great releases last year, but since the release of 'The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me', no band has connected with me quite like them.

You got backstage at Brand New's Wembley gig. That must have been a pretty awesome fanboy moment?

Yeah, that was a really strange evening for me. One minute I was watching them with 10,000 other people in the room; the next, I was stood in a tiny dressing room chatting away with them. They were incredibly nice guys though and that is always a good thing when meeting people you look up to.

I also met Daryl form Glassjaw which was a really big deal for me. He suffers from the same illness that I have, and he's been a bit of a hero of mine ever since I was 15.

You chose the supports for your December tour. Who was your favourite?

Well, we co-headlined the tour with our good friends Flood Of Red, and getting to watch them every night was really great. I love that band musically and as people. They are a talented bunch of boys and everyone should check out their debut record entitled 'Leaving Everything Behind'.

Besides Flood, we played with some great bands including Montmartre, Cast Of The Capital and He Slept On 57. Both Montmartre and Cast Of The Capital are from Aberdeen, so it's great to see that our home town is producing some great up and coming bands.

If there was an Xcerts big-budget Hollywood movie, who'd play each of you and what predicament would you face?

Tom would be played by Harrison Ford. He can't get enough of the Ford. The man is handsome, we'd just have to hope he could play drums well....or at least look cool behind a kit.

Jordan would be played by Woody Allen. Not only are we big fans of Woody Allen, but we would be able to cut costs on make up as they do look quite similar. Well, their glasses are similar.

Myself, Ryan Gosling. I actually had a bit of a debate with myself on this answer. I'm a huge Mickey Rourke fan, but I think Gosling is more suited for this part......... Good lord, I'm taking this a bit seriously aren't I? haha. I love Gosling, who doesn't love him? I defy any man to watch The Notebook and not cry. He also has one of the most handsome beards I've ever seen. Don't think handsome beards exist? Watch the Notebook.

If you could hang out with Bruce Springsteen for a day, where would you go and what would you do?

Me and Bruce Springsteen would just hang out drinking coffee all day long, and I would just sit and listen to him as he told me stories about his life. Maybe in the evening we'd have a couple of beers and play a few tunes together.

You got to play guitar on 'Captain' as a wee birthday present from Idlewild on the last night of your October tour. If you toured with Idlewild and it was Rod Jones' birthday, which Xcerts song would you let him guest on?

Rod could take his pick. Maybe he could play lead guitar on Home Versus Home...? That would make sense.

You're touring with Fightstar in a couple of weeks. If you could get Charlie to do just one wee Busted song, which one would it be?

Believe it or not, this is quite an easy question for me as I had a bit of a soft spot for Busted ever since I saw an interview with them and Charlie had an Aereogramme t-shirt on. I also thought they had some undeniable pop songs. I like the songs 'Meet You There' and 'Why'. I think 'Why' was the only song on the record that Charlie wrote [LDP: well, he co-wrote some others, but penned 'Why' alone] - it sounded the most legit that's for sure.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Pacific Theatre

Pacific Theatre are my friends. I was once their manager for a few months, then we amiably parted ways. It's all good.

Anyway, I owe them a shout out for a couple of things -

They've put a song called 'Far Away' up for free download.

And they're playing at Capitol in Glasgow tomorrow (Wednesday 27 January) with a bunch of bands including two of my wee favourites, Young States and Penguins Kill Polar Bears. It will be a good'un. 7.30pm, £5.

It's A Girl

This morning, this blog got its first 'can you write about my band' email. They're called It's A Girl and I thought it would be nice to reward their speed and efficiency by mentioning them.

Their sound is very much from the Fall Out Boy/Taking Back Sunday school of songwriting, and if they deliver it well live there's no reason why they couldn't be another You Me At Six. I'm not sure what to say about the way each member appears to have a 'colour' (it was the purple one who emailed me), but some sort of reference to JLS has to made...

Anyway, there you go. Email me about your band and I *might* write about you.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


I have recently been reminded of my love for OK Go, which started seven years ago when I saw the video for 'Get Over It' on MTV. I fell instantly in love with a band who wrote smart-but-fun pop music with 'hey!'s and handclaps and bright colours and wordplay... Their debut album had songs about spiders and absent cats, and it all played out in a way that, for every obvious crowd pleasing guitar hook and danceable beat, was imagined in a different way from any band I'd ever listened to before. Their creativity and playful spirit pleased me. As did their hot singer. I never understood why no one else seemed to 'get' it.

Then they started dancing on treadmills and everyone started loving them as a novelty band and it all got a bit... weird. It's like when your best friend gets an awesome new haircut and cool trainers, and suddenly everyone wants to be their best friend. It's easy to drift off.

After hearing 'WTF?', my expectations for album three landed pretty low. I sort of thought they'd gone mental. But that's just because I'm an idiot who can listen to awesome songs sometimes without noticing that they're awesome. When the full album went on MySpace, I gave it a few spins and quickly fell in love with 'Needing/Getting'. And then everything else.

As someone who has never really given Prince much time or attention, I'd be lying if I said how obvious the Prince influence is. But that's what people keep saying, and they're probably right. There's a lot of singing-very-high, unusual sounds and peculiar rhythms. And even the most obvious pop hit ('White Knuckles') is far weirder than its first and second album counterparts. This time, the crowd pleasing moments seem like beautiful accidents rather than the things each song was built around. It's like they've just followed their imaginations and made a brilliant pop record that, actually, critics and musos might like too.

And just to add to my overexcitement, they've done another incredible video. If you haven't seen it, please, first go listen to the album recording of 'This Too Shall Pass' on Spotify. Then, go watch the video on YouTube. Awesome.

OK Go – This Too Shall Pass (on Spotify)
OK Go - This Too Shall Pass video (on YouTube)

There Will Be Fireworks

I thought from the start of 2009 that no album could top 'In The Cold Wind We Smile' by The Xcerts or 'Everybody Loves A Scene' by New Rhodes as my record of the year.

Then one day I decided to Google this local band There Will be Fireworks that a bunch of people had told me were really good. I had ordered their album before I'd even got to the bottom of their MySpace player.

There's something of The Twilight Sad about the way they combine and contrast tender vocals and pretty, quiet bits with these big, heart-stopping loud bits that feel like they fill a room to the point where it could almost burst. But I like what There Will Be Fireworks do better. They're gentler, mostly. Perhaps more obvious too. And more spritely and uplifting. There's more of them, playing more instruments all at the same time, too.

Their album is a masterpiece. Yes, I said masterpiece.

I could mention as well how it was recorded in some wee place near Glasgow, is such a low-key release it doesn't have a barcode, and the PayPal receipt when you order it from their site is under the singer's name. But the album doesn't need any sympathy votes. They're not just amazing in the context they inhabit. They're amazing in ANY context.

There Will Be Fireworks on MySpace

There Will Be Fireworks on iTunes


So... I've decided to start blogging. I aim to brief and probably mainly overexcited. Life's too short for reading about music you could just be listening to. And definitely far too short for reading/writing about music that sucks. Yes?