Note To Self: Andrew Falkous On The Return Of mclusky*

Live shows, new material, and the impact of parenthood...

The term cult-icon is a double edged sword. In some ways it’s a mark of respect that the person in question is worthy of your praise, but there’s inevitably a bittersweetness to the term.

Andrew Falkous has earned himself that status with a feverishly loyal fanbase that he has cultivated over fourteen studio albums and three projects, namely mclusky, Future Of The Left and Christian Fitness.

However, it’s the first of those projects that cemented the near-mythical reputation which became the comparison point for everything that followed. mclusky enjoyed modest commercial success the first time around, but to those who had discovered them, they became an obsession, a band whose expressive personality and assuredness shone through in everything they created.

It was a reunion that felt like it would never happen. Their popularity was never enough for the cynical cash-in to replace their pension plans, and Falkous was outspoken with his animosity towards fellow founding-member Jonathan Chapple whenever the subject arose.

It wasn’t until the threat of closure hit Newport’s music venue Le Pub that a surprise inclusion of mclusky* appeared on the bill of the fund-raising charity show. It was true that mclusky* would be playing that show, but the asterisk was no typo. It was there to highlight that while Andy Falkous and mclusky drummer Jack Egglestone would be present, they were to be joined by Future Of The Left bassist Julia Ruzicka and Damien Sayell of The St. Pierre Snake Invasion instead of John Chapple.

The show was a resounding success prompting more mclusky* shows following without the charitable justifications. The reunion was becoming a more realised project, returning to a three-piece with Sayell as a permanent feature to replace Chapple.

Steven Morgan caught up with Falkous shortly before their second sold-out show at Dingwalls, a show that was being filmed for a later release.

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You wrote these lyrics almost half of your life ago now. Does it not feel strange singing those lyrics which you wrote so long ago?

Not quite half my life, but for all intents and purposes, sure. I think there’d be an issue if lots of the lyrics had lots of cultural references. There’s a little bit of that in Future Of The Left, but there aren’t really any immediate cultural references with mclusky. Michael Caine, maybe, but that’s a generally understood reference and probably will be until 2106 because of the popularity of Get Carter or whatever.

No, I don’t think it feels strange, it feels a bit silly at times, but it felt a bit silly in the first iteration of it. It’s difficult, because if you say they’re silly then it completely disregards them and trivialises what they are. All of my lyrics are by definition a bit silly, they’re certainly meant to be. They’re meant to be fun and if the occasional line accidentally means something, I guess that’s the subconscious working.

Were there any songs when you were deciding on what to play that were particularly off limits?

Just the songs which sound shit really. People ask questions about the setlist, but it’s just the best songs in the best order that we could think of and that’s the thinking which goes into it.

There’s a song which we probably won’t play called 'Slay', which we’ve tried a couple of times. Even though we’re a loud rock band, if you reduce our music to its constituent parts, it’s quite hooky, where as a song like that isn’t. Quite a few of the songs on the album 'The Difference Between Me and You Is That I'm Not on Fire' were quite different stylistically.

That album can now be seen as a gateway to Future Of The Left in a lot of ways. 'Curses' could have been the fourth mclusky album. Could have been, wasn’t even considered for a second that it would be, but it could have been, certainly.

Has mclusky* reached the point that you’re going to be like the Pixies and record a comeback album?

Well, we’ve talked about it but there’s a Future Of The Left album next year. There’s got to be or I’m going to explode. The problem is that since Julia and I got a child, I do most of the childcare. Jack (Egglestone)’s got two daughters. We live in different cities now, we moved to London and he’s still in Cardiff. We’ve rehearsed once this year, each rehearsal costs us about £300. We have to travel, get babysitters, a hotel, and actually pay for the rehearsal itself.

We’ve had a conversation about writing some songs as mclusky*, but I mean a four-minute conversation about two months ago where we said “This is quite good, we should spend a weekend writing some songs and see what happens”. It might never happen, and if it does and it’s not up to standard then it’ll just be a nice weekend of playing.

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I take it that would then be a totally different thing to Future Of The Left, there’s no Julia for a start.

Yes, obviously. Most people we’ve told have said that it sounds like a really cool idea apart from one guy in Leeds who went “Yeah, don’t do that, it’ll be shit”. Of all the places to hear that, I was expecting that in Yorkshire. “Don’t change the past”.

You know what? I get that attitude.

Well I used the Pixies as an example for good reason.

Yeah, the newer stuff is not of the highest standard, to put it politely. I don’t enjoy the new stuff as much as the old stuff, although to be fair the older stuff is one of the greatest rock bands who ever walked the earth, so it might actually be pretty good and just suffers in comparison.

On the subject of songwriting, are you still working on more Christian Fitness releases?

I haven’t, I haven’t written a song for about five months. I’ve just had some time off.

Oh! Is that because of parenthood or life in general?

No, I didn’t make a decision to not write, I just didn’t feel like it for a bit. I felt a little bit burnt out. I really enjoy doing all of the Christian Fitness stuff, but part of it is because I can’t make too much noise because Ella (Falkous and Ruzicka’s daughter) sleeps just above where I do music and now she’s two and a half, she’s more aware of noise and stuff.

I just decided to stop that for a bit and will start again in January when we get back from Australia and take it from there.

Have the live shows been getting better, or more comfortable over time?

I don’t think anybody has come away from these shows then just returning to the nostalgia of what it was. The whole point was to eclipse those memories or at the very least give a new memory to go along with it. There’s ages where you hear music where it becomes formative for you and it’s like a foundation of all of the other kinds of music that you like.

It becomes very difficult to feel the same way about newer music even if it is objectively better. There is a desire to play with the kind of passion and purpose which would make all other musicians watching go “Ah, there’s no fucking point”. For me every rock band should be like that, getting on stage going “We are the best rock band, fuck you”. That’s what rock music is. That’s not what Belle & Sebastian are, but for me a sense of community can wait until after we’re off the stage.

I think that’s a healthy attitude to have, no matter what the genre, you should be looking to be the best at what you do.

I mean I’m a competitive person by nature. Everybody needs those things to fuel them and that’s what fuels me. I’d be in bands with people when I was younger and they’d say they wanted to be in the biggest band in the world. The biggest band in the world is always shit by definition! You’ve got to be shit to get big, it’s an equation.

If you’re good and you have raw edges then you can’t get big. It’s impossible. You won’t be played on the right shows. I want every single night to put on the best show that anybody has ever seen.

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Words: Steven Morgan

Main photo via.
Internal photo: Jonathan Pirro

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