Clash was recently in Glasgow for the inaugural Hinterland Festival – read our report HERE.
While floating from venue to venue at the city centre-staged festival, held across a variety of spaces, we took time out to speak to a pair of performers, both signed to Domino: fresh-o’-face songsmith Eugene McGuinness and, first, Adele Bethel of hometown heroes Sons And Daughters.
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SONS AND DAUGHTERS
Few bands are as intricately associated with Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, as Sons And Daughters (pictured, top).
Lead singer Adele Bethel was a guest vocalist with Arab Strap before forming the current four-piece. Showcasing her native accent, the band embodies that peculiarly Scottish dynamic of remaining true to oneself whilst attempting to sound as American as possible. Last year’s album ‘This Gift’ was a sensational offering, and its makers came closer than ever to capturing the frenetic sound of their live shows on record. But as electrifying and uncompromising as they are, little has been heard from the group of late.
ClashMusic meets Adele backstage in Glasgow, to talk about where she’s from and where she’s going…
What has your Hinterland experience been like so far?
(Laughs) Sorry I shouldn’t laugh, but I didn’t actually go last night, because I was worried about having a hangover for the show. I was being very professional and I didn’t go last night. But so far it’s been good. I really wish I had gone last night to see The Fall, as I haven’t seen them in a while. It seems like a great idea, to get something going; it’s kind of similar to In The City. I might see a few people tonight, but I get this thing where I feel superstitious if I leave the venue after I soundcheck. I don’t why, I just feel like it’ll be a bad gig if I leave, so I just sit in the dressing room and get really nervous, just terrified!
The band’s roots are in Glasgow, is that important to you all?
Our roots? You know, these days there’s not much point in living in London, I would think. It’s easy enough to get down there, unless you want to climb the social ladder – and we’re not the sort of people to do that. So it is important to us to stay here. It’s a good city for music as well, Glasgow, and it always has been. You tend to find that – maybe I’m being biased – but a lot of great bands do come out of the city. We’re here anyway so we get to discover them first, which is really good.
You sing in a Scottish accent as well, how do you find people respond to that?
Well, I think I was quite lucky. I had sung with a band previously, called Arab Strap, who all used their own accents so people were willing to listen; they were quite used to that. We were lucky at the time,as bands like The Futureheads came out and they were singing in their own accents. Now you have Biffy Clyro who do it. People come round to the idea, but I couldn’t really fake it and sing in an American accent. I just think it’s pretty ridiculous.
But again, with the band, there is a dichotomy between the singing and the music, which is heavily influenced by American music. Where did that come from?
Well, when we first started we were an acoustic band, to be honest; we were really into country music and folk music. I’m a massive fan of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Smog, people like that. When the band first started in 2001 we sat down and played acoustic guitars, accordions and lap steels – things like that. So it was a very different-sounding band. Then all of a sudden we went electric – just like Dylan. We went electric and it was just a lot more exciting. I remember going to see Yeah Yeah Yeahs and thinking: “Wow, that looks like much more fun”. So it kind of came around from that point as well.
There is that element to the Scottish psyche, though, that romanticises American culture.
I don’t know where that comes from. I think growing up in Scotland, and certainly Glasgow, you have a very glamorised view of America. I guess it’s there, but I can never pinpoint exactly where that came from. It’s certainly always been that bands such as The Beach Boys and The Velvet Underground are huge, specifically here. Not that they’re not big elsewhere but Glaswegians and Scottish people just have a fondness for that. It’s the sort of glamour and mystery of America is very intriguing.
I often wonder what Americans make of Scotland.
The thing is I think they think exactly the same about us: there’re all these anglophiles over there, and you get people who try to sound like My Bloody Valentine. A band like Interpol, for example, who are clearly influenced by English music.
You mention the acoustic side of the band, is that something you would go back to?
I don’t think so. It’s much more exciting and feels a lot more comfortable not to do that. We might have maybe one acoustic song here and there, but I definitely don’t think that people want us to go back and do that.
One of the things that marked ‘This Gift’ was its relentless pace, what inspired this?
Mainly because we had a lot of time to spend on it, and it was a case of finding out how best the songs worked, really. We had the luxury of having the time to do that. We benefitted as well from our producer, Bernard Butler, who knew what kind of band we were. I think, and the band would certainly agree, that if you’re going to listen to our music then it’s best to come and see us live. I think we’re a more exciting live band, really. But he was trying to get that, that sort of rock ‘n’ roll sound and atmosphere on the record.
How did Bernard manage to achieve this, do you think?
He knows so much about creating sounds, I guess. He’s just a master at that. He just knew. He’s a sonic genius!
He’s an award-winning sonic genius.
(Laughs) He is an award-winning sonic genius!
Is that a collaboration that you want to continue then?
I would never say ‘no’ as it was great working with Bernard, but we always want to keep it fresh for each record. I think it’s important to do this, as you learn different things from different people.
You mention the band’s live sound – what is it that a studio can’t capture?
I think it’s just because we’re a rock band, and it’s just the excitement and stuff that you feel when you play live – you just can’t really quite capture that in a studio. We do try, by putting down basic tracks featuring us all, to try and get an atmosphere, but it’s just not the same.
How will the group follow ‘This Gift’? What will the next record be like?
I don’t know. It depends who we’re going to be working with. At the moment we’ve got some new songs, some new ideas; a bit of synthesiser being used in places, which is a bit strange. It’s hard to say at this point. I would actually like to go back to recording the way we did on [second album, of 2005] ‘Repulsion Box’, because although I loved making ‘This Gift’ it was something that we spent a lot of time on, and you start getting bored. But with ‘Repulsion Box’ it was just two weeks, in the studio, in a room, go! I really sort of enjoyed that ramshackle element to it, so I think I would go back to something like that and do it really quickly again.
Who produced ‘Repulsion Box’?
It was a guy called Victor Van Vugt, who did a couple of Nick Cave records, a PJ Harvey album and a lot of other stuff as well – he’s done a Beth Orton album and worked with a wide variety of other people. It was mainly through time constraints at the time. We funded [debut album, of 2003] ‘Love The Cup’ ourselves, and we did it in about four days – recording and mixing. So two weeks was a luxury at the time! We were thrown in a room, and got on with it. I recorded the vocals separately but there were hardly any overdubs – it was pretty much us in a room together.
Is that how you’re working just now?
Yeah. We’ve actually just borrowed Franz Ferdinand’s rehearsal room, Govanhill. So we lucked out on that! It’s great when you don’t feel the clock ticking when you’ve got a place like that, you don’t feel as much pressure. We’ve been writing for about a month now. It’s exciting. We were really going for a new song which we would play tonight, but was it ready? In a word, no!
Have you found that, as you progress, the way the band writes has changed?
On ‘Love The Cup’ I was more involved in playing the guitar. I’m actually going to go back and play guitar on the next record. With ‘Love The Cup’ it was four of us in a room, playing together. But now it’s sort of gradually changed over the past few records – with the new one everyone gets together and sends me the music so that I’m not sitting in a room with one riff, played continuously for six hours. At the end of the day, you just think: “I am bored of this”. So I’m writing lyrics separately and hopefully it will all fit together.
Why did you pick up the guitar again?
I get bored really easily. Like, tonight I’ve dragged out a box of percussion to play during the show. The guitar thing… I don’t know, I just keep seeing people playing the guitar and thinking: “I miss that”. So I’m going to be getting slide and blues lessons, as that’s what I want to learn. That’s what I’ve always wanted to learn as I’m a big fan of Muddy Waters. I mean, I’m pretty pathetic at guitar playing just now – it’s all first position chords and barre chords.
Muddy Waters wasn’t exactly a virtuoso either…
Yeah! Well, I want to learn some scales, the slide and things. I can’t use the slide at the moment; it just falls off my fingers. So I have actually booked into guitar lessons for next week.
Is that something you will be introducing to the band?
Definitely, yeah. Well I haven’t actually told them that; they could be like, “Adele, fuck off!” They’re used to it anyway; I mean, I played a bit of guitar on ‘Repulsion Box’ and a bit of bass as well. It was just the last record where I felt I was sick of the guitar, and I had become bored of it. I sort of bought a Spanish guitar and I want to learn some Leonard Cohen songs – for my own enjoyment mainly, but if I can come in and play a bit of rhythm with Scott [Paterson, vocals and guitar] that would be grand.
Onstage you have this hugely energetic stage persona, but is that taxing?
It can be. It depends how long you’ve been on tour for, but I like it. It’s always been something with me that when I saw Nick Cave play it was just so powerful. He was really preaching to the audience and I loved that. So I just sort of stole it from him really, to a certain degree!
How do Americans perceive your music?
We’ve been so lucky. America has been as good, maybe even better, as over here. It’s a coast thing, just like everyone else, but New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle… we’re received so well over there. I think we’ve played more times in New York than in Glasgow, which is a dream! They seem to take to us very well over there. We’ve been lucky in that the two big supports we did over there we really big bands – Bright Eyes and The Decemberists – and they pull a lot of kids. So that exposed us to so many people.
Find Sons And Daughters online HERE
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Eugene McGuinness took a lot of people by surprise last year.
His sterling debut album sneaked out through Domino, and marked the arrival of a new, but mature, songwriting talent. A little bit folk, a little bit indie, it seems to herald a full-fledged singer whose integrity and honesty was a world away from the hectic hipster scene.
However, nothing in life is simple. Eugene McGuinness left his band to go solo, and then after getting signed decided he wanted a band again. No sooner had he released his debut album than he went straight back into the studio to work on a new one, which apparently wigs out to some serious garage rock vibes.
About to take a bit of a breather over the summer, ClashMusic caught up with the Liverpool-based troubadour at Hinterland to find out just what he’s up to…
Enjoying Hinterland so far?
I only got here about two hours ago. It was raining before, now it isn’t!
Have you made plans to see any other bands tonight?
Yeah, but I haven’t actually had a look to see who’s playing yet. I know Wild Beasts are playing. I was handed a pamphlet earlier, so I should probably have a look at that.
I heard you playing The Kinks’ ‘Dead End Street’ in the soundcheck.
I tried playing ‘Moscow State Circus’, but it’s got to be one of the trickiest things I’ve ever tried to learn. I only just learned the chords of that song recently.
Regarding your background, were you in bands before?
I was in about seventy thousand million bands, all of them awful. All indie. I might play some Strokes tonight, I’ve played them before.
What made you strike out on your own?
I don’t know really as now I’ve got a band anyway. I’m playing solo tonight, but normally I’ve got my band with me. I was in bands before, but I’ve always done things on my own. I wanted to do my own thing, but at the same time I didn’t want to force anyone to play my music, and I didn’t want anything artificial. So actually I don’t think I ever went solo – there was just a moment when I went solo, and now gradually over the last couple of years I’ve developed a band around me. It so happens that I got signed when I was solo. The earlier stuff is all me, so I’m seen as some cowboy singer-songwriter by some people. I don’t mind people seeing me as that, but now I’ve got a band.
Is Liverpool your base?
I’ve been there for some time, but soon I’ll be moving back down to London. I miss it loads.
Was ‘The Early Learnings Of…’, your debut mini-album, comprised of material you had already written long before recording?
It was, yeah. It was meant to be a four-track EP until the label person got involved, went to the studio, and heard the four tracks. They didn’t want me to do more; they wanted things to happen gradually for me instead of the big ‘debut album, here he is’ kind of thing, the next Jack T. Those songs were gathered from about six months before the sessions. They’re old now, but at the time they weren’t that old.
Where was it recorded?
West London. Acton. Nowhere really. I’m from east London so west London might as well be Mars for me.
Was it a difficult step to take?
I wasn’t a big step; it was just a dream, really. You feel ‘proper’. After years of working, you’re in the studio, so you feel ‘proper’ and it’s really exciting.
Who produced it?
A guy called Anthony Whitey, who also did the album. It’s very easy working with him. I was introduced to him by Domino, and he’s got a completely different brain to mine. He’s got loads of toys, and knows how to use them.
How did you then go about forming your band?
My little brother is in it. A mate of Anthony’s is in it as well. I was trying to find a drummer who was into it and would actually turn up, and Anthony the producer introduced me to John, who plays drums with me. He is just the best drummer I have ever heard, easy. Malcolm is just a mate from Liverpool who is on bass. I could have assembled something big and expensive and stressful, but instead we’re slack and just better. Wild.
Is it an easy group dynamic?
Well, we all know each other from before anyway. There’s no tension. You see some bands who seem tense, but that hasn’t happened to us yet. I don’t know though… I mean, maybe my ego will go massive and I will alienate myself from people who originally liked me. But that hasn’t happened yet.
How does songwriting work then?
It’s all me. Well I did do it originally, but now when I try a new song in practise we work on it until everyone is happy and they can rip it apart if they want. It’s always different. Sometimes we just play around with the song until it works, it can be very organic. Then other times when it’s a bit too reliant on me, or a guitar riff, then we have to pull it apart. Everyone has to be happy. We all have to look at each other and feel inspired by it. Sometimes it’s quick and other times it takes ages – just like my answer to this question!
How did the link up with Domino happen?
MySpace. I was in Liverpool and… yep, boring answer: MySpace. They found me on MySpace and got in contact. I was gigging around Manchester and Liverpool at the time, and I was really desperate to get busy. I had no money and nothing to do so I would just turn up wherever they would let me play. I was just bobbing about. I gave away free demos at every gig. I spent about all of my student loan on CD-Rs, and spent most of my time copying and giving away dodgy demos.
It’s a better way of spending your loan than most students manage…
Don’t get me wrong, I still spent it on pubs, student things as well, but an unhealthy amount went on blank CD-Rs. And card, as well, as I made these shitty insert things – it was really DIY.
What brought you up to Liverpool? University?
Yeah, but I wanted to be in a city which was completely different to London, in a way. When I played music in London… it’s not like I found it daunting, it’s that everyone in London takes a certain route when they do music. They tend to go to the stylist first, or they choose an ethos, an Arcadian dream or an electro-pop ethos before they’ve even written a song. I wanted to write a lot. I went to Liverpool as an awkward teenager, so I was just a mess anyway; I really didn’t know my arse from my elbow. But I wanted to gradually just kind of mould into something that I liked. In London you have to be the complete package, I think. Sometimes it’s really good, but other times I just think, “bloody hell”…
Sometimes I feel bands in London just look at another group and think, “that’ll do us”…
Well I’m all for influences and there’s a lot of bands in London that I adore, but I’m talking about how a lot of bands start out, how their minds work. Sometimes you talk to these people and you think, “Jesus Christ, are they in bands or are they in sales?”
Was the Liverpool scene healthy in that regard?
Yeah. Everyone was just wigging out, kicking back and getting totally plastered. When I went there, it was all going off. I went there in 2003 so you had The Coral, who are amazing. Tons of bands that got forgotten, like The Dead 60s… loads of stuff going on. I stuck out like a sore thumb for a couple of years, but I was the only one so I thought I was something special.
But now you’re moving away. Does this mean your attitude to London has changed?
I’m not going back because I miss the scene, as the scene is still hideous. But London is still a fantastic place. There are other things than indie music scenes. I grew up in Essex, east London sort of way. I’m always there anyway as I’m doing gigs, but each time I leave I miss it. I know for a fact that I’ll miss Liverpool loads, but to be honest I’ll probably I’ll be going back constantly on the train.
Were you surprised by the reception the debut album proper was given?
I don’t read publicity. I only knew about it when people told me. I always like it when people say nice things, but I’m reminded why I don’t read reviews – my ego inflates. It did just there when you said that. At the same time it didn’t sell millions. It’s good, but I like recording and touring so the actual reaction by critics isn’t really important to me. What exists for me is people at gigs and whether they enjoy it or not, that’s amazing.
Are you on a full-scale tour just now?
Nah, just bits and bobs here and there. I had a full tour a couple of months ago, but now I’m just mincing about. I’m in Amsterdam tomorrow. Pockets of being busy, pockets of being bored out of my mind.
Were the audiences quite receptive when you toured?
I was the support so it wasn’t really my tour – I was supporting Rumble Strips. I thought it would be a cold tour, no one really knows who you are, but it wasn’t like that at all. I was playing places like Gloucester, or Exeter and people knew who I was – I felt like Mick Jagger.
Any festival plans?
I don’t know how many I’ll be doing this year as I did a few last year and they probably won’t want me back. To be honest I don’t think we’ll be doing that many as we’re going to do a quick follow-up record.
The next album was recorded in five days. We didn’t have a producer. Well, we had a producer-engineer guy.
Just a quick word on this new revelation…
Have you been playing the new material live?
Bits and bobs. With the band we’re playing it loads, doing as much as we can. If we had our way we’d be doing the new album in its entirety, we know what the order is – we’ve obsessed over it. It’s been mixed but not mastered. I don’t think anyone wants to hear a new album by me, but I can’t help it, and it’s done. I’ll be ramming it in people’s faces, prancing about and stuff. I’m just really excited by it. The record is called ‘Glue’.
Has it got more of a full-band band dynamic?
In a way. We hinted at that on the first one, we’ve just got a lot better at it this time round. It was all done live, and so it’s very ‘bandy’. We listened to Grinderman loads, and bands like The Sonics. Just obscure bits and bobs. We’re trying to act cool with guitars.
That seems like quite a change…
Well the first album is quite guitar-y. It’s got some ballad moments, but really there’re a lot of guitars. If you put your name on something then people assume you’re a balladeer, if you’re not electric of whatever.
Planning any Sonics covers?
We’re going to do ‘Boss Hoss’, songs about cars. The first line’s “Just got myself a new set of wheels,” and I just think that’s hilarious. I just love the idea some guys in the States singing about cars.
Can you get the scream?
Maybe! I’ve been working on it. Probably not, actually. But I love ‘Here Are The Sonics’, the first album.
Find Eugene McGuinness online HERE