Questions asked by Myrren Porter, Ryan McConnell and Chelsea Ness
Last week, Glasvegas frontman James Allan kindly lent us his time to discuss a range of topics including his previous football career, how well his Scottish slang-infused lyrics travel outside the country and the future plans for the band which may or may not include a new album… read below to find out now!
Chelsea: A lot of your lyrics are based on Scottish slang, how do people from outside Scotland react to the lyrics?
I think any person, whether inside or outside Scotland would react to the lyrics in different ways, whether it’d be something they understand or not. Some people can connect to a song, just the music, like they see a picture when they listen to Beethoven where there are no lyrics and they connect. I think all people receive music in different ways and understand it in different ways too. I’ve never had anybody approach me and say that there are lyrics they don’t understand, but I get that there is a possibility that someone might not understand some of the words in the songs. Because there are songs I grew up listening to and I thought the lyrics were something they weren’t. I think it’s more often people don’t understand because I sing with a Scottish accent. I read somewhere that a guy thought the lyrics for ‘Daddy’s Gone’ were “be strong” and not “he’s gone”. Another example is when we went to Japan and met our label there. I got to see the Japanese import of our album and I thought “wow, Japanese import”. Then I opened the booklet and they had the Japanese lyrics and then the English translation next to that. The lyrics were completely wrong. It was like reading a different song. And not just that, the lyrics were really bad. If they had been really good I would have just kept quiet and pretended they were mine. But I said to the label and asked how they could get mixed up. This is a big record label as well, Sony, Columbia music… I thought they would just send the lyrics in an email from New York or London, but they told me that this Japanese man had just listened to the record and guessed what I said. So… yeah, they just had a different approach to it.
Chelsea: ‘Flowers and Football Tops’ a release from your the self-titled Glasvegas album has over 2 million streams on Spotify – it’s a song that relates to a lot of real issues such as death and heartbreak – what was the influence behind it?
I guess there are a couple of influences there. First of all, there was a boy called Kriss Donald who was a young boy from Glasgow. Kriss was murdered in a very shocking attack on him. That was the beginning of me writing the song. Because I had seen his mother in the newspaper and I just kept thinking about them. I had seen his picture and I just immediately looked at him like a brother. Such a kind face. But when I say that it comes from a few places, it’s because the song came when I was sitting playing Buddy Holly’s “Love is Strange” in the house. When I was singing that I just started singing “flowers and football tops” That’s just songwriting at it’s most spontaneous and natural and there’s no plan on writing a song. It’s like the song is already alive and just waiting to get out, somehow. That’s the same with all songs that I have written. It’s kind of like trying to remember a dream. It’s like you snap out of hypnosis and you wonder where the last hour went and you look down at the paper that used to be blank and now it’s got ink on it. That window of time just goes missing.
Chelsea: Your debut album, Glasvegas sold 56,000 copies in the first week of release and also reached number 2 in the UK charts – a huge success! It’s an album a lot of people can relate to – was there a particular message / meaning that you wanted the album to represent?
No, not really. You’re not really concerned about what the message is, because you’re so pre-occupied with the idea of the music trying to tell you where it wants to go. All your efforts go to actually trying to listen and take it to that place, so there’s not really any space to consider what the message is.
Chelsea: What advice would you give to you bands / musicians just starting out in the industry?
I don’t really see myself as someone who could give out that kind of advice, but… I guess… Trying to stick to your truth, whatever that is can’t really lead you to anywhere that’s bad or wrong. And no matter what happens in the future, no matter where you go, you will always have that on your side.
Myrren: What’s the song you most like to perform live?
It differs every time. There are certain songs that may possess a certain power one night and you think you’ll get it back the next night, but you can’t get that light back no matter how hard you try and then that light has been passed onto another song. It’s just the way it seems to go.
Myrren: Out of all the venues you have performed in, what’s been the most memorable and why?
I don’t know. We’ve played in quite a few different environments. I think one of the most memorable places we’ve played is prison. Barlinnie prison, which was a heavy experience. It made me think a lot about humanity and quite obvious things that I already knew before we played there. There are people who have to be kept in a cage, basically, for different reasons. There’s a guilt when you leave the place because you can and they can’t. It’s the most obvious things and you don’t think it will affect you but they do. When it comes to actual venues we’ve played I think it’s the things you seen growing up as a kid. Going to Hampden park or watching the football on the telly and it’s at Wembley. Or you see bits of Live Aid. And then you go and play Wembley as well. Getting to play venues like that, legendary places you’ve heard about… like Mercury Lounge in New York, The Troubadour in Los Angeles and the Barras…
Myrren: Who is the biggest music influence of each member of the band?
All around Phil Spector. That’s the biggest influence. But if I think about the now I tend to not listen to music while I’m working on music. But I listen to talks or interviews. And now, I’d say William Friedkin is my biggest influence when it comes to our music.
Ryan: You recently played the “Boys Don’t Cry” mental health fundraiser for SAMH at Firewater. Do you think music can be used as a positive tool in helping those in need, and how does writing or performing live help yourselves in expressing your own emotions?
I guess it doesn’t really matter if I think it can be a positive influence or not, cause it is and it has been for a long time. Any of the arts can be used as a positive tool for people. For us as a band, we never expected what we do to change people’s lives, but we’ve had enough messages saying that our songs have helped people in their dark moments to know that what we do matters. And it’s the same for me. Art has been there for me in my times of need.
Ryan: You used to play football professionally, how does winning promotion with a club compare to being nominated for a Mercury Prize award? Was music always the main dream, and do you still follow football closely today?
I actually think my biggest struggle with the pandemic right now is that the football is cancelled. It is something I did appreciate before, watching football, believe me. It’s a beautiful thing. My main dream out of the two was always both. I played football when I played football and when I thought I wanted to do music and play in a band I just jumped into that. I was lucky to get to do both and I was lucky to meet all the mad people that I met when I played football. I’m lucky for the experiences that I got playing football even though some of it was pretty rough as well. There were some dark characters. I’ve obviously been really lucky with music as well, with the experiences I’ve got and the places that I’ve been and things that I’ve seen. And about comparing the promotion and the award thing… Well, firstly I actually never really got a game for that team that got promoted so I never felt part of it. I contributed nothing to that. And secondly, I never really turned up to the Mercury Awards either. So what do I prefer? I like them both as little.
Ryan: What’s next for Glasvegas, has the current lockdown served as any form of inspiration to write new songs, or is there a new album planned at all for the near future?
I’m not sure I’m supposed to say this, but we were actually supposed to release the new album this autumn. We had started getting a plan together for a UK tour and a European tour and to start releasing singles, but because of the lockdown a lot of it ended up getting pushed or put on hold. We’ve now decided to postpone the new album, our fourth, for a little bit longer. It’s to give the songs their best chance and the love we think they deserve. But hopefully a wee single or so isn’t too far away. I am inspired during this time as well. It’s just trying to actually complete the ideas and get them to where they need to be. It’s like a queue of the ideas just waiting to get out.
Keep up to date with the band via their socials below….
Tim Burgess will join James and Paul for a listening party featuring the debut album on Tuesday 9th May at 9pm on Twitter…