Interview: The Xcerts
The Xcerts might be one of the hardest working bands in Scotland right now - not that they've been spending much time in it. This year alone they've played slots at SXSW, toured with I Am The Avalanche and Brand New and have just completed a headline tour of the UK in support of critically acclaimed album Scatterbrain. Summer will see them popping up at a couple of festivals before they head back to Europe in the autumn with Young Guns. UnderSong's Harry Smith caught up with Murray Macleod, Jordan Smith and Tom Heron before their hometown gig in Aberdeen to find out how they've enjoyed being on the road and what to expect from album number three.
This is your last tour in support of 'Scatterbrain'. How has that album shaped the band?
Murray: The main thing was we wrote it without anyone else’s input. I think that’s given us more authority over ourselves as a brand. It’s made us stronger. We can write pop songs - we scrapped a tonne for that record that could have got on the radio - but you’ve got to do what makes you happy.
You’re opening for Guns N' Roses on their arena tour next week. Do you prefer bigger or smaller venues?
M: It depends; I enjoy playing bigger venues now because the sound is better. I think our sound is suited to big venues. But we played at The Great Escape festival in a fifty capacity room and that was so much fun. I like them both, but they’re very different. On a big stage it’s a real show, in a small venue it’s about the atmosphere.
How much have you written for the next record?
M: We’ve started, but we’re not talking much about it. We’ve demoed nine songs.
Is it taking on a different sound or approach from Scatterbrain?
M: It’s the first time we’ve written songs with a conceptualized sound in mind. It’s challenging because if we write something good that doesn’t fit the sound then we have to let it go. It doesn’t sound like the first record or the second, in fact it sounds better than both of those.
You’re creating quite a buzz now. Could the next album be the one that catapults everything?
M: I don’t like thinking that far ahead. In the music industry you get put up then knocked back down. If everything we’d been told was going to happen had happened, we’d be the fucking Foo Fighters. I’d love it to be the record; we’re ready to do that. The prospect is exciting, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. We just want to write great songs, and hopefully people connect with them.
Recently you’ve toured with Manchester Orchestra, Taking Back Sunday and Brand New. If you could steal one of their songs as your own which would it be?
M: In song writing terms, I’d love to have written ‘Jesus’ by Brand New.
M: Pick one song between Brand New, Manchester Orchestra and Taking Back Sunday to steal for yourself.
Jordan: Almost anything by Andy Hull. ‘Deer’ man, ‘Deer’.
M: Shit. I’ll say ‘Sowing Season’ by Brand New. This is weird because we know them. Andy might read it.
I’ll let you have one from each band.
M: I’ll go for ‘You Know How I Do’, the first track on the first record. Brand New: ‘Sowing Season’. Manchester: ‘Shake It Out’. I wish I’d written that.
J: We pretty much wrote that. It’s almost exactly the same as the break down in ‘Home Versus Home’, and they wrote it after we wrote ‘Home Versus Home’.
Here’s an easier question. What bands would you recommend at the moment?
M: He’ll say White Denim.
J: Always. White Denim, White Denim, White Denim.
M: I’ve been listening to Red House Painters this tour. It’s sad stuff, but I like sad songs. Also Japandroids and The Replacements.
The remaining questions were sent in by fans. Some are serious, some… not so serious.
(The band pick questions out of a hat and read them out loud)
J: “What’s the story behind the milk guy in the ‘Nightschool’ video?” Handsome Dan?
Does he just love milk?
M: Not even. He hates it, we made him drink it.
J: We just said, “Drink that, then pour it over yourself at the end.”
M: “Murray – what effects pedals do you use?” Sorry, trade secret. I get asked that a lot, but I never answer. You’ve got to keep your sound close to your chest, it’s like a recipe.
J: “Who’s your favourite Aberdeen football player?” Derek White, his kid went to my primary school. One time they kicked the ball to him, shouting, “Derek! Kick the ball back!” and he didn’t touch it. Just left it and walked away.
J: “Will you play ‘Tear Me Down’ live?”
M: No. I’d have to get a guitar set up for it, costing me £40. We talked about a show where we play Scatterbrain in its entirety, we might do it then.
J: “What’s the best gig you’ve been to?”
M: Idlewild at an acoustic show in a forest for about 100 people. Or Explosions In The Sky supporting Four Tet.
J: Mogwai at Latitude is up there. I nearly passed out because it just blew me back. Big ethereal sound. Whereas at Snow Patrol, I nearly passed out because they were so boring.
Okay, let’s finish by asking Tom the question about song stealing.
M: Fuck that question!
You’ve toured with Brand New, Taking Back Sunday and Manchester Orchestra recently. Which song by each of them would you steal?
Tom: I love ‘Sowing Season’. Manchester Orchestra… all their songs. Taking Back Sunday, I really like the first one on the new album, ‘El Paso’. That’s a monster.
Let’s get it all down definitively.
M: ‘You Know How I Do’ by Taking Back Sunday. ‘Shake It Out’ by Manchester Orchestra. ‘Sowing Season’ by Brand New.
T: I won’t pick the same as Murray, then. ‘The Archers Bows Have Broken’ by Brand New. ‘El Paso’ by Taking Back Sunday. Manchester’s ‘The Only One’.
J: ‘My Blue Heaven’ by Taking Back Sunday. I’m sticking with ‘Deer’ by Manchester Orchestra. That’s the one with the little guitar bit, right?
M: No, ‘Deer’ is the quiet one at the beginning…
J: Oh. Not ‘Deer’, then. ‘Pale Black Eye’. That one!
M: Shall we go again…?
After this interview, Guns N' Roses dropped the opening bands, including The Xcerts, from their tour for 'logistical reasons'. Screw you Axl, screw you.
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