Their Library: Lightships

Literary influences explored...

One quarter of Teenage Fanclub, Gerard Love is already responsible for countless nuggets of beautiful, evocative pop music.

But his new project Lightships is something a bit special. Roping in a few fellow Glasgow indie pop luminaries, Gerard Love set to about building an album which has an indefinably touching atmosphere.

Out now, ‘Electric Cables’ is a showcase for a songwriter who is both steeped in multifarious pop traditions and unafraid to takes chance.

An obvious choice for Their Library, ClashMusic tracked down Gerard Love to discuss his literary tastes and influences.

– – –

What is your favourite book and why?
‘Siddhartha’ by Herman Hesse was a kind of starting point for me. It wasn’t the first book I read but it was the first book I really got. I guess it has to do with the simplicity and the clarity of the writing. I’ve read it a few times and it always resets something in my mind and puts me in a good place. It’s an important story that everyone should read.

What other authors do you like?
Amongst lots of others, Jack Kerouac, Knut Hamsun, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Paul Auster, John Fante, Dylan Thomas, JD Salinger, Colin MacInnes. John Kennedy O’Toole, John Steinbeck. I’m not much of a reader but I’ve read a small selection of good books.

What draws you to certain books?
I think I’m mainly attracted to books that have some type of philosophical strand running through them, possibly aiming to arrive at some type of redemption/enlightenment. I like poetic writers who have a hint of existentialism. I like parables and idealistic characters, I like slightly mystical stuff, I like misfits. I also like really simple and direct writers. Sometimes I might be drawn by the cover or the title; I might read a couple of paragraphs and give it a shot. I have lots of unread books.

Lightships – Sweetness In Her Spark

– – –

Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
I don’t think I’ve been first to anything that hasn’t already been celebrated but ‘Hunger’ by Knut Hamsun felt like a lost classic to me. I became aware of Knut Hamsun and John Fante through reading Charles Bukowski. ‘Hunger’ is the story of a writer, trying to make ends meet in late nineteenth century Oslo, trying to be accepted and gain entrance into high society but then coming to the realisation that he’s at his sharpest when in isolation and on the fringes. Although it was written in the nineteenth century, its almost stream of consciousness language makes it feel way ahead of its time. Although I might make it sound like a heavy read, it’s actually quite light and funny in places.

Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
I think they probably have to an extent, maybe in a very slight subconscious way. Most of my favourite writers put you in a time and place, set a scene, create an atmosphere and, rather than a series of extraordinary events, their story is the slow motion unfolding of one basic truth. Songwriting can be similar, it can be less about drama and more about tone and depth, it can be about a singular moment.

What are you reading at the moment?
I have to admit that I haven’t read anything for quite some time. I go through phases of being able to sit and read a book and phases where I feel quite restless and my mind is on other things. Touring can be quite a good place to read as the days are built on repetition with lots of sitting around, the pattern is predictable and can be quite settling. At the moment, I’m in the process of reading Grace Maxwell’s ‘Falling And Laughing’, but I’m not in the right place to be able to read it well.

What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
The first books I read alone were things like ‘The Last Of The Mohicans’, ‘The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn’, ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’, ‘The Man In The Iron Mask’, ‘Kidnapped’, ‘Treasure Island’ – the classics.

Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
Not too much, but I enjoyed going to the library now and again. I grew up in the 1970s in Motherwell. The library in the town was half modern/half traditional. I remember, as a child, being as interested in the modern multi-coloured glass panels that lit up the new space at the back as I was in the books on the shelves. Looking back, I always really enjoyed being at the library, there was always a good feeling in there – it was always really calm, lots of ceiling space.

Have you ever found a book that you simply couldnít finish?
‘Battlefield Earth’ by L Ron Hubbard. I was about twenty years old, it belonged to one of my flatmates, and I felt I was spending too long in fantasy world where everything seemed slightly intangible. It was a book that didn’t give me much back, it didn’t make me think about anything. I got to the stage, halfway through, where I realised that I didn’t care what happened next and that was it – the end. There are a few other books that I stopped, like Ulysses or Don Quixote, but the problem was all down to me. I’ll eventually get back to them.

Do you read book reviews?
No, I don’t think I’ve ever looked at a newly released book review; most of the books I’ve read have come from personal recommendations, magazine articles, and browsing in bookshops. Possibly in a music magazine I might get tipped off about a new biography, but fiction-wise I tend to follow readers tips more than reviewers opinions.

Would you ever re-read the same book?
I’ve read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ a couple of times and I recently re-read ‘The Catcher In The Rye’. I read them both at high school for exams, I wanted to see how different my understanding would be as an adult. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is an amazing story and had a massive impact on me at the time, but ‘Catcher In The Rye’ is quite subtle and although you can follow the gist of the story as a teenager, there is a lot of implications and hidden depths that require life experience in order to grasp more fully.

Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
I guess that’s what can pull you into a book so I’d say that I’ve almost always identified with some part of at least one of the characters that are being presented. Reading can be aspirational, so maybe sometimes you choose to identify with a character in order to attempt to make some type of subtle life progress. I don’t think I’ve ever fully identified with any one character.

Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
I can only read one book at a time.

Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
I only know about really famous, and mostly dead, authors and poets so I don’t think there would be any realistic chance of collaboration. It would be nice to work with someone who really knew how to make good use of language. A few years ago, there was a cultural project overseen by Chemikal Underground that matched up Scottish writers with Scottish songwriters. It was a nice idea and the results were really good. If I was offered the chance to try something along these lines I would probably have a go, but otherwise I wouldn’t be out looking for a collaboration.

– – –

‘Electric Cables’ is out now.

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.