Between Glasgow’s thriving DIY indie music scene, Dundee’s underground talent and Edinburgh’s poetic heritage, Scotland is a recipe for bands bursting with bold originality and unflinching creativity. And the result is infectious.
Here at Culture Trip, we sat down to have a wee chat with some of the best Scottish music acts around that, quite frankly, you need to add to your playlists now! The best part? You can hear them all in one place at this year’s Live At Leeds music festival.
The XCERTS have represented Scotland with heartfelt lyrics, relatable narratives and killer tunes for some time now – how would you say your music and band’s mantra have evolved over the years?
Our music has definitely become more refined and focused over the years. As songwriters, we’re now at a point where we get a kick out of simplifying. It’s an incredibly hard thing to do as there is a thin line between tasteful and dumb. Melodically, we are always striving to write blockbusters. We used to think in terms of TV, and now we think in terms of cinema. Our mantra has always been the same: work hard, play hard, write great records. Rock and roll ain’t rocket science.
Congratulations on your fourth and newest album, Hold On To Your Heart. This one stands out for its epic anthems reminiscent of the 90s pop-rock scene and the inspired storytelling of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. The theme is finding that light at the end of the tunnel – was it a painful writing process tapping into the memories needed to capture that life-affirming sense of hope?
Well, at the time of writing, I was dealing with heartache and depression, and the first batch of songs we wrote were just miserable and uninspired. I needed to write Hold On To Your Heart to fuel my own soul and to almost create a map to find light. The early stages of writing were painful for sure because I was breaking down regularly, and I was just a black cloud. But once the light crept in, the whole thing was wildly cathartic, joyous and life-affirming.
The XCERTS have had a loyal following for years, including fans who have been there from the start. Can you tell us a moment that sticks out when you’ve seen your music connect with your fans?
We played 2000 Trees Festival in 2015 – it was our first time on the main stage, and we couldn’t believe how many people came to see us. I played ‘Aberdeen 1987’, which is an acoustic song I wrote when I was 17, and I could barely hear myself because the crowd was so loud. It was an incredible thing to hear and witness. Whilst performing it, all I could think was how much the three of us had experienced between the time of writing the song and performing it that day. It was a moment for sure.
Although based in Brighton now, The XCERTS formed in Aberdeen. What was it like starting out in the Granite City’s music scene?
We were incredibly fortunate to grow up at a time when the local music scene was overwhelmingly healthy. There were a lot of venues to play – bands were really keen to help one another out, and it was a very welcoming scene to be a part of. I always tell my mum it’s where I got my real education – she loves that.
Irn-Bru or Tunnock’s?
Tunnock’s for sure.
Your sound pays homage to the likes of Blondie, Best Coast, Richard Hell, Phil Spector and Patti Smith, yet with its own ‘LUCIA’ essence and bellowing guitar riffs. Has that signature sound always been the status quo, or did it take some soul-searching to find that perfect balance?
It definitely took time for me to eventually have this sound. Growing up, I went through phases of listening to different music, and it was only a few years before I wrote and started playing these songs that I really started to get into 70s and 80s music. There are obviously more current bands that I am inspired by too, like Best Coast, The Kills, etc., and I get small bits of inspiration from lots of different genres. I love 60s girl group back vocals – that’s where all the ‘oo’s’ and ‘aa’s’ come from.
As Glasgow natives, what’s the best part about being involved in the city’s burgeoning DIY indie scene?
I love being in Glasgow, and the music scene is really tight-knit. And everyone is mates. There are so many great bands here right now, and each one of them has their own thing going on. It feels good to be a part of something that’s constantly exciting and fresh.
Your hypnotic and hazy lo-fi garage rock vibes are addictive to say the least. What rituals do you embark upon when entering the creative songwriting process?
Thanks! To be honest, I don’t have much of a structure when writing songs. If I have something to write about, then I do it. I really like to keep things simple because I want people to be able to relate to my songs. They are all thoughts and situations I’m sure other people think or have had, and I feel if you’re just straight up about it, it’s probably easier to understand and have a connection with — and then I like to put a twist on it to sweeten it up, like ‘Melted Ice Cream’ and ‘Best Boy’.
Can you talk us through the premise of ‘Melted Ice Cream’ and the making of the video?
I wrote ‘Melted Ice Cream’ with Hamish, who plays guitar in the band. There seemed to be a lot of relationships falling apart around me, but not just romantic ones, friendships too. I feel like a lot of things were changing for me at the time as well. The idea of having the song ‘Melted Ice Cream’ came to me before I realised what it was going to be about, but with what was going on in my life at the time, it just made sense to make it about friendships falling apart.
The video was really good fun to film. I wanted to work with other creatives in Glasgow (who didn’t have to be experienced in any way) just to understand the song and what I wanted to do. It was filmed by my friend Dylan Moore, an art student in Glasgow, in my best mate Neelam’s room with a few other friends. I don’t like to say what made me want to do the idea because I like people to just make what they want of it!
Lucia, you started out busking around Glasgow’s city streets. How was that experience, and are there any amazing moments that stand out?
I was around 15 when I started busking. I would go most Saturdays for a few hours, sometimes all day. I enjoyed it at the time, and it was good for making money, but I’m glad that I moved on from it because I like writing my own music and getting a bit more creative with things. I guess busking was just where I started out, and it was a great confidence boost too.
Best live music venue in Glasgow?
Obviously, I am going to say Barrowlands. It’s iconic, and nowhere else comes to mind!
The Ninth Wave
Soaring choruses, smoky vocals and sharp lyrics all add to The Ninth Wave way. As a four-piece band, you must have different inspirations. How do you negotiate and incorporate these individual influences to create that succinct signature sound?
We don’t usually discuss our influences when writing music, but they definitely shape how we play. We all listen to a little bit of everything, from stoner metal to synth pop, which gives us a vast array of inspirations.
How has the Glasgow music scene nurtured or helped carve The Ninth Wave band mentality and image?
Glasgow has a great energy around the music scene where everybody supports each other, which has given us the mentality of not giving up for something you truly believe in. For image, there are so many different styles in Glasgow that you can go out wearing exactly what you want to wear and know that you won’t be judged.
First off, you struck gold with your debut EP, Reformation, on which you partnered with Dan Austin (whose past work credits include the Pixies). Congratulations on the release of your new EP, Never Crave Attention – was the pressure on after the success of Reformation?
We were really happy with the way that Reformation turned out, but there was a little bit of pressure to make sure our music kept translating as well as our first EP did. A lot of the songs were already written by the time the first EP came out, and we knew we were going to be working in the same environment again. So, we were familiar with the processes and weren’t completely unaware of our next steps.
Most underrated Scottish city?
Glasgow has this stigma of being the most violent and grimy city in Scotland, but it’s less about tourism and more about the booming culture and art scenes.
Best Scottish word?
The Van T’s
What has been the best part of your adventures so far as a band?
We’ve managed to do a fair bit of travelling around and had some opportunities to play in places which I’m not sure I’d otherwise have had the pleasure of discovering. Festivals are always a highlight too!
You’ve been referred to as ‘Scottish surf-rockers’ before. How do you feel about that observation?
I’d say the ‘surf’ reference has a lot more to do with Chloe’s guitar influence on the sound. It’s not an inaccurate comparison, but I wouldn’t say it’s a full description either.
The Van T’s have rocked a number of Scotland’s music festivals now. Any that stand out as particularly memorable?
The obvious answers would, of course, be the big ones (TRNSMT/T in the Park/Electric Fields), but there seems to be a bit of competition with the rise of the multi-venue city festivals (Tenement Trail/Xpo North/Stag and Dagger), which have been pretty surreal too.
Favourite thing about Scotland?
Best Scottish saying?
‘Fev pes an an ingin ing anaw’ (Five pies and an onion one as well)
About Live At Leeds
Graced with the line-up of dreams, Live At Leeds can do no wrong. This celebrated music festival is saturated with the hottest in new music names and trusted favourites, with talent from all parts of the UK and the rest of the globe. As the main event of the Leeds International Festival – ‘an annual celebration of new ideas, local creativity and international culture’ – Live At Leeds is destined for musical greatness and inimitable festival banter. With The Vaccines as the headliner, how could it not be? Hop on the festival bandwagon and catch these Scottish bands take the crowds by storm in Leeds on Saturday, May 5, 2018.
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