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NB. This will be available to download in full for free from 27th February.
There are some who reflected that arranging an alternative to the BBC’s Sound of 2012 was a fairly pointless exercise, in fact one comment on the DIS community board made me chuckle so much I really must share it – “What a load of bollocks –a list in reply to another list that no one gives a shit about. ” – Genius!
But whatever your take on such lists, and I entirely understand such views, I felt personally that I benefited from arranging and taking part in it for the simple reason that it opened my ears to a number of bands who hadn’t really been on my radar. The Scottish blogging contingent was well represented on “the panel” and one band in particular started to pique my interest – “French Wives.” There were two main reasons for this, and initially, I must confess neither had anything to do with music. Firstly I had vowed and failed ( restraining orders are SO unfair) from the age of 15 to make Sophie Marceau my wife and “French Wives” is also the name of an unintentionally amusing “adult movie” which alas, manages to tickle the ribs much more so than the trousers! This of course shows me up for the shallow, dissolute charlatan I undoubtedly am but happily when I investigated French Wives further, I found I rather liked their music too! And having duly obtained a copy of their début album “Dream of the Inbetween” I began to see what all the fuss was about.
It’s an album that’s accessible, anthemic, melodic, lyrically astute and manages to sound radio friendly without ever being dull or generic. The fact that the bands only female member Siobhan Anderson plays violin (she also plays in Rachel Sermanni’s live band) would have some label French Wives ” indie- folk” a tag I’m not sure I entirely agree with. At times their sound conjures up the image of a Caledonian version of James’ front man Tim Booth fronting The Arcade Fire with a touch of Goodbye Mr MacKenzie and even a vague hint of the pop sensibility of Deacon Blue. But despite these comparisons it’s also very much their own sound and one you feel would translate just as well from intimate venues right up through to whopping great festival sized stages.
Ahead of a brief UK tour and dates in Texas at SXSW we chatted to Scott from the band.
VP: So you aren’t French and we deduce it’s unlikely any of you are Wives, so what’s the truth, who are you all and how did you meet?
Scott : We’re Siobhan, Chris, Stuart, Scott and Jonny and you’re correct, none of us are French and at last check none of us are married women. I can confirm though that Siobhan is A woman, just not a married one…. or a French one. Stuart and I (Scott) met in early 2008 through myspace initially (cringe) and then the rest of the band was put together through mutual friends at University. Pretty generic, boring story for how a band is formed, unfortunately!
VP: Please tell us the band name came following a drunken night in which you all watched this film (HERE). Which isn’t actually French either !
Scott : I wish! I’m yet to actually see this film, but it’s not through lack of trying. We didn’t know it even existed until we had been a band for quite a wee while, and I hear it’s rather blue! Can’t believe it’s only got a 4.6 rating on imdb though.. I’ll need to see it to give it my proper judgement!
VP: Your début album ‘Dream of the Inbetween’ is due out in May, what can you tell us about it ? Was it fun to record, was it a tough slog getting it done and dusted? Or perhaps a bit of both ?
Scott : It was very much a bit of both. It was a great learning experience- I feel like we learned more about the total process of being in a band during our studio time with Tony than we did for the rest of the four years we’ve been together. However there was a lot of downtime separating the recording sessions for reasons that were out of our control which at times made it quite frustrating, as we really wanted a finished product and that often seemed like a distant fantasy. Ultimately, though we’re really pleased with it as a record. Tony Doogan the producer is an out and out genius and we all felt that he had a really good grasp of how we wanted the record to sound and he made it a reality. It comes out on May 7th and we’re really excited to see how people respond to it.
VP: People are often keen to bracket music, and some seem intent on labelling you indie -folk. After hearing your album I’m not sure that really fits. Do lazy categories annoy you, how do you see your music yourselves ?
Scott : I think that labelling music is an inevitability and whilst it’s easy for us to get annoyed about it quite often when people label music they do it in a nice way and that’s forgiveable. What does annoy me a wee bit is when people listen to a song for about 30 seconds and make wild comparisons that are stylistically way off the mark. Recently we’ve been compared to both Tindersticks and The Fray! We were also called adult contemporary recently, which for anyone who knows me is laughable because I’m easily the most immature 23 year old I know. The folk thing has followed us around for quite a while. Our first batch of songs were admittedly a bit more folky than the songs on the record, and if they weren’t out and out folk songs they at least featured the violin in a more prominent and folky way. This kind of irked us, and it was a conscious decision to sound a lot less like folk music on the album. Halloween, which was one of only 2 old songs retained had a lot of the folk elements in the chorus and in the string parts stripped out, and made a bit more poppy. Trust us that when folk music becomes really popular we shy away from it! Personally I’ve always seen our music as pop music. For me the best songs that I enjoy listening to and want to write are what I’d like to think of as “disguised” pop songs. By that I mean not ones that have a really obvious structure and chord progression but songs that have all these interesting bits and pieces but remain pop songs at heart. They’re a lot harder to write than a lot of people think as well. But yeah, basically interesting pop music is what we go for!
VP: You’ve actually been together a few years now, but are still new to many Sassenachs (and beyond). Why has it taken so long to get your début album recorded and released ?
Scott : Pretty embarrassed to admit I had to just look up what Sassenach meant! Alex Salmond will NOT be pleased with that! Do they use that word in Braveheart? It does ring a bell! Yeah, I imagine that we’re flying pretty low on most people’s radars, if at all at the moment. We’ve been going for quite a while, but I think getting the album ready has taken so long for a number of reasons. Firstly we were all at university until last year, and there was always a consensus that it came first. This even involved me studying abroad for six months which put a spanner in the works a bit in terms of creative output, although our profile rose quite a bit during that time. Also the main reason is that we didn’t want to commit to releasing a body of work like an album until we felt we were ready to do so. You can only have one first time, so we had to make sure we knew exactly what we wanted, etc. before jumping into it. For all of us this is our first “proper” band, so we probably had to do quite a lot of learning and honing of skills before we were able to do a proper record. Hopefully more Sassenachs or just people from anywhere will be more aware of us over the course of this year.
VP: Best gig/ Worst gig scenario ? Which ones stand out at both end of the gigging experience spectrum ?
Scott : It’s a very Scottish mentality to dwell on the bad ones and shirk talking about the good ones, and to be honest the really terrible gigs often end up acting as much better stories than the really good ones. There was one gig we played in a town in central Scotland where there was only about 12 people there, but as we went to start our first song two girls got in a fight, which involved them falling downstairs.
There was also a remarkably rude chap who played pool with his pals for the duration of the gig and when he potted a ball (almost always during the quiet bits) he’d scream “THERE’S YER DINNER” at his opponents.
There have been a few gigs that have stood out as good ones for various reasons- T in the Park was great just because of what it meant to us as a Scottish band and the night we played with Two Door Cinema Club there was a great atmosphere and it was really busy, so they’re both memorable.
VP: I have to admit that I started to take notice of you guys when adding up the “Blog Sound of 2012 BEEB alternative” votes and noticed you were getting a lot of love from the Scottish bloggers. So essentially the question is are blogs an important part of the process for bands to get their new music out there
Scott : Absolutely. I think they’re the most important vehicle for bands like us in terms of getting exposure. We got more plays in a few weeks off of the Blog Sound of 2012 listing on our soundcloud than we’d had over the previous couple of months. Plus, these days if the blogs are going wild about something it makes people in labels and radio take notice rather than the other way round. I think that element of it is great, it’s kind of giving music back to the people. You don’t need to be an employee of a massive organisation to be a music journalist any more and I think that’s really healthy. Obviously some blogs are better than others but the more the merrier, for me!
VP: How is the music scene up in Scotland? Are promoters generally supportive and are there any other great artists/bands we should be watching out for ?
Scott : It’s great, there are so many bands/artists that are making really huge steps in the world at the moment. I read today that there were three Scottish bands whose music was featured in Superbowl adverts which, for me, is remarkable given that we’re a really small country. If we could do anywhere near as well as the likes of Frightened Rabbit, the Twilight Sad and Admiral Fallow have done, both in the UK and the US then it would be amazing. In terms of people to watch out for I’m not too sure, as it seems quite often that a lot of the bands in our peer group are already quite a bit bigger than us, so you’ll probably have heard of them. The two bands playing with us on our Scottish dates in our upcoming tour are great though- Bwani Junction, who are already accruing a massive following and have a really cool sound, and Galleries, who had daytime Radio 1 airtime earlier this year.
VP: I read a review a while back that Siobhan missed a gig on account of her being in China. True? And if so is this some smart forward thinking and part of your plan to musically conquer this emerging superpower ?
Scott : It is true, yeah. It basically gave us an excuse to play really loud and swear a lot, which we definitely did . Don’t think we’re quite ready to hit China yet, though, but we are going abroad for the first time as a band in a matter of weeks. We’re heading to the US and Canada to perform at SXSW and Canadian Music Week, respectively. It’s going to be a massive adventure, and we’re massively looking forward to it.
VP: And finally is Stuart incredibly tall or are the rest of the band just very, very small ?
Scott : Stuart has, at times, been styled “the tallest man in rock.” I’m not sure if this is strictly true, but it must be close. However, because a lot of people only see me next to Stuart and Chris (who’s pretty tall himself) they always react with surprise at how tall I am! If we didn’t have Siobhan we’d definitely be the tallest band touring just now. I’m putting it out there! Jonny is probably just above average height, but he sits down so it doesn’t count.
“Dreams of the Inbetween” will be released on 7th May 2012, via Electric Honey.
February/March Tour 2012
- Tuesday 28th February – Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
- Thursday 1st March – Hootenannys, Inverness
- Sunday 4th March – Harrisons Bar, Sheffield
- Monday 5th March – Brixton Windmill, London
- Tuesday 6th March – Dry Bar, Manchester
- Thursday 8th March – Milo, Leeds
- Friday 9th March – Stereo, Glasgow