Scottish rockers Fatherson’s ‘I Am An Island’ album ended up being one of last year’s most beloved new releases for quite a few members of team Already Heard. So needless to say when we got the chance to not only see the band in action at 2000 Trees, but to have an in depth chat with Ross, Mark and Greg, we were pretty chuffed. Read on to find out more about the band’s plans for album number two, their thoughts on their new record deal with Easy Life Records/Sony Music, as well as why the Scottish mind-set helps to make good music and why bands need to be less scared and less clinical when it comes to writing.
AH: Well that seemed like a fantastic way to make your 2000 Trees debut, how was it for you?
Ross: It was a pleasure to play. We’ve been emailing this festival pretty much since it started.
Mark: I think every single year I’ve sent an email going “Can we play this please? Can we play this please?” and finally we actually got to do it.
AH: It did look like you were having the time of your lives on that stage.
Ross: It was heaving. We’ve never played a gig near Cheltenham before, I know it’s a festival, but even still there were so many people there. You can’t not have a good time when that many people have turned out to see you.
AH: You played a pretty epic T in The Park set last year, but how did that compare to that and the other festival spots you’ve played?
Mark: I think at every festival you have something slightly different. Like that T in The Park show last year was just after we released our album and it was a huge tent, like an eleven thousand cap tent or something stupid. You get really nervous for ones like that and aren’t really sure how it’ll go. But every festival we’ve done since then has been cool for its own reasons. Today especially as it’s a great festival and it’s a great lineup of bands, with lots of bands that we’re really into. And then to get to play and there be so many people there, like if there were ten folk in the crowd or however many people in the tent, that would still have been a good laugh.
AH: It seemed like there were an awful lot of people singing the songs back at you too.
Mark: That’s what I was quite surprised at. We get that all the time it doesn’t really matter where we play. If it’s in Glasgow, or Scotland we’d, not assume, but hope that people would sing back the words. But it happens in really weird places too and it’s quite humbling. It’s crazy. Like when we went to New York earlier in the year, there were five people at the front of the crowd singing the words to the stuff off the album; that kind of means more than 800 people in Glasgow.
AH: Huge congratulations on the new record deal with Easy Life Records and Sony Music, we’re guessing that ramps up the importance of the writing you’ve been doing for a new album?
Mark: The thing is it’s not finished quite yet but it’s almost finished.
Ross: It was in our plans anyway to have a record ready for this summer so, I mean my arse is knitting buttons, but I think because we already had things ready before it came along. It made it a bit less clinical of going right let’s right all the tunes for this album.
Greg: Now we have a record deal but we’d written a good proportion of it before we had it. It hasn’t really changed much about how we’re thinking about the song writing, but we’re most of the way there and we’re really excited about this record.
Mark: The majority of it was done before we even put pen to paper, so it’s more exciting than nerve-wracking. If anything else it’s a wee opportunity to get the hard work started now and then get it out to as many people as we possibly can.
AH: For ages a lot of writers and industry types have been tipping you to be the next breakout Scottish band, do you see this deal as starting to live up to that prediction?
Mark: It’s more like it gives us a platform to expand. We’ve no idea how things will go after we release our second album. Hopefully everyone that liked the first one will listen to it and maybe tell a pal, or through being on a label more people will get to hear a little bit more of us. But we just want to play music to as many people as we possibly can and keep it going as much as we can. Hopefully that’ll happen. I don’t think any of us are putting massive pressure on becoming the next Biffy Clyro or anything like that or anything huge.
Ross: We’re still just finding our place in the whole music scene, and we’re still trying to find what really defines what we do. This next album will be a representation of where we’re at right now. I think it’s important to just capture what you’re doing at that moment rather than trying to be anything. If it works out and we get held in the same breaths as Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro or…
Mark and Greg: Twin Atlantic
Ross: Or Twin Atlantic, or The Twilight Sad. Any of those. It would be awesome just to be thought of as in that scene.
Mark: But we intend to be going a long time, if it doesn’t happen now then it will at some point.
Greg: And then we’ll have this exact conversation during the next album cycle.
AH: On ‘I Am An Island’ there was quite a strong theme of isolation and trying to find your place running through a lot of the songs. What kind of themes have you looked at in the new songs?
Ross: I think the last album accidentally became a concept album. This time around I’m still trying to work out what I’m trying to say, or more what I want to say. I’m not in the same headspace I was when we did the first album. It was all written about situations I’d been going through at that point. And, to be honest, the last year or so has been pretty good. So the focus on the sort of Emo Scottish Rock has taken a different kind of shape this time. But I think production wise, the way we’re playing our instruments and the way we’re thinking about how our songs go is evolving. Which in turn has narrowed down the themes. It’s a bit more angry then the first album.
Mark: I’d definitely say that.
Ross: The first one’s kind of soft. This one is more like ‘Fuck You!’, but not in a punk way.
Mark: Obviously you do all the lyrics so you listen to it from a different point of view. It’s still got the same sentiment of a lot of things, but it’s probably got bigger peaks and bigger troughs to it.
AH: It’s interesting how in the year following ‘I Am An Island’ coming out a lot of Scotland was focused on many similar themes to the album, mainly the idea of being separate and isolated to where it was. Is that something you felt?
Mark: Not really. The first album was kind of a growing album. We’ve been a band since we were 14 years old and it was a mind-set that came with it. That was the album that came out of being 14 to being 20. That’s just what you feel like when you’re that kind of age. The music and the lyrics and all of that had that kind of vibe. I think the thing when Ross writes lyrics is that they’re quite open and you can take anything from any one of the songs because they can be interpreted in so many different ways.
Ross: That’s my favourite part of writing songs. People telling me what they think it’s about. I’ll go “I totally didn’t think of it like that, or I didn’t see it like that”. Or you get people taking from it exactly how they were feeling at the time. It’s what I love about music. I love finding something that I have a connection with it that may or may not be what anyone was trying to say. I think that’s what brings the community around it and helps people get involved with it. I mean I don’t really like to think the lyrics are ambiguous but, I’d like to think they’re relatable to a lot of situations. I think as long as someone can take something out of a song it’s been done right.
Mark: It’s kind of what’s followed through with the stuff we’ve done for the second album so far. That it’s kept that vibe of being able to take what you want from it. It’s not really a conversation we sit and have where we go “what’s that song about?” Hopefully when people get to listen to these new songs they’ll be able to find the things they liked about the first album.
AH: One of the most striking things about your songs musically is the way you build peaks and toughs of energy and mood, how calculated is that when you’re writing?
Mark: It’s the most uncalculated thing.
Greg: I think the first album, writing wise, was very organic. We’d start playing the songs and some of them would take five months to get right, some of them would take twenty minutes. But a lot of the time we’re just playing in a room together, with the three of us not really even talking to each other. We’d be playing the music and we’d all know when a bit felt right. It would build from there. And I think that’s just probably part of being friends for as long as we have. Everything builds and you know exactly when it needs to release and that would come with these breakdowns. It’s organic and we all just know exactly how it needs to sound at that point.
Mark: We can think about how the first album is dynamic with its ups and downs. We could be like do we want to do this again or that, but it’s best not to have any consciousness of doing that. The best things happen when you don’t really think about them. We’re a band that do use loud and quiet a lot and that’s cool. It’s fine.
Ross: I think it can become second album syndrome. Bands don’t lose the ability to write as good songs as they did before, I think they become a lot more critical about what’s there. And then I think they can start to take things in a direction that they probably never meant to, because they’re scared of being called the same or repeating themselves. If you’re able to write a second record, it’s because people liked the first record, so don’t beat yourself up about the things that you do.
Mark: You’re best to just not really think about that side of anything.
Greg: There’s progression in music that you don’t even really think about. Like you’re playing moves on a bit but you don’t notice it. Our playing has moved on from things we did on the first album. We do things that we don’t even need to consider or notice because they’re natural and organic. I think that’s the way we have done song writing and the way we continue to approach it. We don’t really want to all bust our balls for three days trying to work out how this verse goes into that chorus. That’s not how it should work.
Mark: Don’t sit down in front of a computer and spend so much time going through it.
Ross: If it doesn’t go into a chorus then it doesn’t work so write something else. Something else will happen.
AH: How inspiring for you as musicians was moving to Glasgow and becoming a part of the really strong music scene the city has?
Mark: It’s how this whole thing started, like us as becoming a band that people have heard of. We’ve been doing this since we were kids in school but we all moved to Glasgow when we were 18. You take inspiration from, well a lot of bands if you ask them they’ll go through a bunch of old bands as where they found their sound or where they wanted to go that gave them inspiration, but we just bounced off of a lot of other really cool bands. Because if you’re in Glasgow you’re hanging out with a lot of bands that maybe not a lot of people have heard of, or that should have been big but never were big. We’d bounced off of that a lot more early on.
Ross: Also I think because of the age we were when we dove into it, we were very receptive and, well, you don’t have a lot of inhibitions when you’re 18. You just get about and talk to people.
Greg: You find things you’ve never heard before and that was massively inspiring. Finding songs that you’d never have thought of in that way or hearing music that you’ve never heard before.
Ross: You find people that are poets and you idolise them. Like Jetpacks, We Were Promised Jetpacks, make things that I don’t think I could make sound interesting, interesting. It totally opens your eyes to going “just don’t be frightened of what you want to do”. Like if you try and it doesn’t work fine, but if you try and it does work then awesome. To be within a community of people who know each other, call in favours from each other and hang out with each other without it being forced.
Mark: Or competitive.
Ross: Or competitive. We didn’t move to Glasgow with an agenda, and because we didn’t do that we were lucky in how it turned out. Because I feel like if we’d gone in with something to prove or something to gain we’d have ruined it for ourselves. It’s wouldn’t have been a real experience. We grew up like that and it was pretty awesome.
AH: Do you see the irony that the Scots have a reputation for being dour and reserved yet the country has produced some of the biggest most expressive bands in recent years?
Ross: I know all the songs are dour. (All laugh)
Mark: Dour is good! You do have that slight vein through Scottish music of everyone just being a bit…
Mark: But that makes you think about stuff a little bit more. It’s just part of the mentality. Like you also try not to blow your own trumpet. I think that’s the main thing with Scottish music is that you can talk about things that are shite or things that are good, but you never go and just blow your own trumpet.
Ross: We’re naturally built to not boast. It’s like, when things happen that are good you’re like “oh yeah it’s cool” and then you just hangout. Because it’s not a Scottish thing to celebrate your own success because the be all and end all is…
Mark: You’re always heavy miserable about something! It’s a good vibe and we’ve got some good friends up there in Glasgow and it’s a nice atmosphere to create stuff. It’s honest. I think that’s why Scottish music does well. For whatever reason bands kick off from Scotland because it’s an honest, don’t really give a fuck so we’ll just do it kind of a vibe.
Ross: People write songs because they want to rather then they should do.
AH: You’ve been very busy playing a ton of festivals around Europe this summer. How have you found that experience?
Greg: It’s been really, really good and we’ve really enjoyed it. This has been our first summer of doing festivals in Europe and it’s been really, really great. The crowds have been massively receptive for the limited amount of time we spent on mainland Europe and it’s been really great. The shows have gone well and it’s really nice to play festivals where it doesn’t rain all the time.
Mark: Like today is so sunny and it’s really nice. Like its T in The Park this weekend, and I love T in The Park, but it’s definitely raining there right now. I’ve not seen the weather forecast but it will be raining. It’ll be great and folks will be having mudslides and a great time, but it is nice to be sweating a little bit.
AH: You’ll be the only naturally tanned people in Glasgow when you get back…
Mark: We’re going to soak it up, go back and see all our pals playing T and be like you might have had a nice time but we look like we’ve been in Tenerife for two weeks.
AH: How are things looking for the rest of the year, any plans for any headline shows around the country?
Mark: Yeah we’ll do some headliners. First summer is just a bunch of festivals. Then we’re going to go and record our second album and take the sort of time it takes to do that. Then we’ll get out and play as much as we can. I think next year we’ll have some songs out, maybe this year, but we’ll see how it all goes. As soon as we have new things people can hear we’ll play as many shows as we can.
AH: Will you be recording in Glasgow again or taking yourselves off somewhere?
Mark: We’ll probably go off somewhere. That’s the current plan. It’s not quite confirmed yet but it’s not far off.
Ross: We want to go somewhere that’s residential and spend a bit of time. Where if you have an idea at two in the morning rather than sitting in your flat and losing it.
Mark: We recorded last in Glasgow and it went really well and was really nice.
Greg: But we want to push ourselves in a different way.
Mark: We want to do something fun and seclude ourselves a wee bit. You’ll have to come talk to us in a few months and we’ll tell you what happened.
Words by Dane Wright (@MrDaneWright)