Q&A - BMX Bandits
Q: First and foremost congratulations on your 30 years of being a band. How do you feel that both being a band and the musical environment as a whole has changed throughout BMX Bandits lifetime and have you had to do much to adapt with the times?
A: I think it's a lot harder for new groups to find an audience and even more so to sell music now. I think new music in Glasgow has never been stronger. There are so many great new acts that I love TeenCanteen, Honey & the Herbs, Happy Meals, Elara Caluna, Sacred Paws, Spinning Coin, Dr Cosmo's Tape lab and many more. BMX Bandits have had many line up changes. I think we've had something like 30 members over the 30 years. We are more like an extended musical family than a conventional group. Apart from the changes in personnel, which keeps things feeling fresh, we haven't really adapted much to fit into current ways of doing things.
Q: One thing that you say has changed over the period for you is the necessity to play live in order to keep in touch with your former self. Is this the only reason, or is it also due to a change in musical climate ?
A: We play live more now than we've done for a while but not as much as we did in the early years. It's good to play live and meet people who like your music. I love playing with the guys in the group and being with Chloe on stage I feel complete. We complete each other and I think that makes our shows better than they've ever been.
Q: Your tracks have been referred to by critics on occasion as 'twee' or 'kitsch'. Was this a rebellion against the harshness, anger and often misery of alternative music at the time ?
A: I've never connected with angry young man music or music that is overly earnest. I think when some people detect humour in a group's work they write it off as being a joke group or kitsch. That's a very simplistic attitude and a rather immature view point. Most great art has elements of humour about it from Picasso to The Beatles to Hitchcock to Cole Porter to Shakespeare to Orson Welles to The Beach Boys and it's often used as a key for by passing people's natural prejudices and intellect and going straight to their emotional core. We deal with subjects like depression, addiction and emotional abuse in our songs. We have a few that are lighter but for the darker subjects and emotional content humour and melody make these things easier to digest and I think less alienating for the listener.
Q: Would you have liked to have had the same wide spread popularity of Oasis who supported you on your first tour ?
A: I would like it as long as it was on our terms. I wouldn't want to compromise what we are about or try to present ourselves as something we are not just to make more money and sell more units.
Q: Yourselves, Teenage Fanclub and The Vaselines all emerged out of Bellshill. Was it a collective of like minded people who created the sound which has become so iconic or has the town itself got a part to play in the scene ?
A: Well The Vaselines were from the East End of Glasgow but Norman (Teenage Fanclub), Sean (The Soup Dragons) and I were close friends with Frances McKee from The Vaselines and later with Eugene. Frances was in a group called The Pretty Flowers with Norman, Sean and me and we mostly hung out in Bellshill at that time. Sean, Norman and me meeting in Bellshill and going forces was crucial. We were outsiders in a rather straight working class environment where males were expected to be hard fighting, hard drinking and cynical. We were dismissed by weirdos and mocked by most people around us and we gained strength through mutual support and friendship.
Q: Kurt Cobain infamously said if he could be in any band it would be yours. If you were to join any band today who would you choose ?
A: I genuinely have only really ever wanted to be in BMX Bandits because it's not just a group it's my family.
Q: BMX Bandits has had over 20 members over it's lifespan. Do you feel that changing line ups are productive or unproductive in the creation of new music?
A: See above. For me it's a positive. It gives me more colours to paint with, When a musician like Francis Macdonald or David Scott come along they have such unique talents that suddenly you have a whole range of new possibilities to explore musically and I've been so lucky with the amazing cast of musical collaborators and co-songwriters I've had to work with. It's similar with singers. When Rachel joined the group her personality and voice inspired me to write songs I would never written for me or any other singer to sing. When Chloe joined she was completely different from Rachel, her unique physicality and personality and voice and the dynamic between us inspired a whole lot of material that wouldn't have existed if she hadn't joined the group.
Q: Your new album is due later this year. What can we expect ?
I've been told by friends it's darker in tone over all from previous BMX Bandits albums. I wasn't very well when I we recorded pretty much all of it. I think my shaky mental and physical health during the process gives it a real emotional punch and a vulnerability. But there's still some light and humour and hope in there. The songs are still melodious and romantic. Stuart Kidd was my main collaborator on this album and on some tracks it's just the two of us or three of us including Chloe. I think it sounds very much like BMX Bandits but has something new to offer too.
Q: The Bandits seem an unstoppable force ? Do you plan on making music for as long as you can?
A: Yes. I can't imagine stopping. After the Summer of 2014 I was feeling so low and really thought about quitting but I couldn't stop thinking of songs and feeling the need to express things through music. I'll be a BMX Bandit until I die.
BMX Bandits play the Gigantic Indie All-Dayer - Vol. 3 on Saturday 28 May 2016 at Manchester Academy.