We spoke to Murray Macleod, lead singer of The Xcerts, whilst he rested up in his home town of Brighton before embarking on an extensive couple of months of touring, which started last night at Exeter's Cavern, the band have three shows this week, and then they are off on tour for a month and a half.
Have you been rehearsing ready for the tour?
It's been funny because our bass player just fractured his wrist, so we're actually practising as a two piece currently which is a total nightmare and couldn't come at a worse time really. We're doing these three shows this week as a two piece, and then when the big tour begins, Jordan, our bass player, is going to be using a keyboard.
Rather strange, but it's the best we can do. Basically the set is going to sound really different, and people are going to have to realise that our normal set and this set are two separate things, and it's once in a lifetime that we are going to do this. It should be interesting but he's already learnt the parts with one hand, and he's done exceedingly well, from being really pissed off with him, to being amazed by him, it's been a funny week for emotions.
It's good. But, we didn't want to pull out of these shows. I think momentum stops as soon as you start cancelling a lot of shows. We've put our heads down, worked hard and I think it's going to be okay.
How long is he unable to play bass for?
Basically he's going to get his cast off in six weeks, but it looks like he's going to be able to play the bass in about three weeks. He's going to have to play very lightly and we'll turn up the bass amp. It'll be interesting, that's for sure. It's his strumming hand, which I guess is slightly better because it's not as much work as the fret hand. Hopefully people will give us brownie points for trying.
How did the band get together?
We started the band when we were at school, Jordan and I started the band when we were about 14 and it just grew from there really. We didn't really take it that seriously until we were about 18, and had to decide whether we were going to continue it or go for education. We went for band, went for rock'n'roll, and we moved to Brighton, and in the time we were down here, the original drummer left, and we were good friends with Tom, our current drummer, ever since we moved down because he was living with a friend of ours. Once our original drummer left, Tom joined and we've been on the road ever since.
And how would you describe The Xcerts sound?
Our sound just now, distorted pop, we're very poppy, we don't scream too much, there's a lot of melody in our songs, and a lot of distortion as well. Distortion gets used quite a lot, so I guess we are a bit heavy at times, but still very poppy, distorted pop is a tag we like to use.
What made you decide to move to Brighton, and away from Scotland?
It was basically because our original drummer had already moved to London. Myself and John we weren't too keen on moving to London, we weren't massive fans of London, it's just a little too big. I think it's quite daunting moving from a small place in Scotland to such a big city like London. So we moved to Brighton, it seemed nice, and we both got accepted to a college here in Brighton, and studied here. But if our drummer had moved to Glasgow, we would have moved to Glasgow, it could have been anywhere really, having just followed him, it kind of worked out as when he left Tom replaced him. We've decided to stay down here because it's just far easier. If we were commuting from Aberdeen to London all the time it would be a nightmare, and we're in London quite a lot, and it's only an hour away.
Your debut album is called, 'In The Cold Wind We Smile', so where is the coldest place you've been?
I think we played Fureso in Scotland that was freezing, that was too cold. Scotland is pretty cold, and Aberdeen has been pretty to me at times as well, but I'd probably say Fureso in Scotland. It was freezing that night, and we were in the van, we didn't have great heating in the van, and it was just freezing, not enjoyable.
Where do you get your inspiration for your song lyrics from?
I guess for the album, there was a lot of quite tragic stuff that happened to us from an early age. Jordan lost his father whilst we were writing material for the record, I got diagnosed with Crohn's disease when I was a teenager, so not the happiest of subjects, and very personal. It's got some heartache as well, I suffered some terrible heartache as well, first love and all that.
Are these themes going to persist into future material, or has it been cathartic?
I think Jordan losing his father, and me suffering from an illness is never going to go away, it's always going to hang over heads like a bit of a black cloud. Lyrics wise, we've written 12 new songs for the next record, and some more personal stuff happened to us when we were writing it, so, I have a feeling that overall it might sound a bit darker. (Laughs) I think with the debut album we wrote pop songs with slightly darker lyrics and I think for some reason our music has become even darker still. I think with the first album the lyrics were sometimes a bit hard to understand.
My friends would often ask me what I was singing about in certain places, I think I was a bit cryptic at times, even though to me I thought it was really clear what I was singing about. I'd switch from subject to subject in each song. I think lyrically it's going to be very much one theme, and singing about it in its bleakest form. I think the subject is obvious although I'm touching on different subjects now rather than just heartbreak now, maybe it is even more confusing, but that's me just being self absorbed and thinking I might be some kind of poet.
Will the new material be getting an airing on this tour?
We were going to be with the tour with This City, and we would have been showcasing new songs, trying them out and gauging the reaction, and seeing what we needed to fix, but we're not 100% sure we're going to do that now because we want to play our new songs the way they were written, with bass. I don't really want people to hear them if they are not at their best. We may play a couple of new songs, we're currently working on the old set and trying to figure things out, but we might try two new songs.
Will that continue for your tour dates with Idlewild and Funeral For A Friend?
Well Jordan should be playing bass by then, so I think we're going to play another couple of new songs. Maybe we'll stick two new ones on the This City tour, and then another two on the Idlewild and Funeral For A Friend tour. I guess we have to adjust our set for each tour because Idlewild fans are quite different to Funeral For A Friend fans or so I would imagine. I'd have thought Funeral pull in younger, rockier kids, a lot of Kerrang readers. I guess we have to adjust our set for each tour, and I think we're lucky that we have some rockier songs and some slightly mellower songs.
What do you like most about touring?
Well, we've been playing live since we were 14 or 15, and I guess just getting to play music with your best friends. I know that sounds incredibly cheesy but it's true. I genuinely love being on a stage and playing in front of people, whether it's an empty room or to 100 new faces, I love the challenge of trying to win over people. It's also meeting people as well, I love meeting people as well. When we're at home either in Aberdeen or in Brighton I don't tend to go out much.
So you do like to go exploring after a gig?
After a tour the last place I want to be in is a venue or a club, I like to get out. I've been in forty of them over the last month and a bit. It's not where I want to be. I love chatting with new people, and chatting about music, or films. It's always difficult, but I try to see as much of the city that we are in as I can. I like finding little cafes, we're all quite big coffee drinkers, so we try and find a nice little cafe. It's always quite hard, because we always arrive a bit late, and then soundcheck, and then the venue will feed us. But, we also like to check out all the local Wetherspoons, that sounds terrible doesn't it? I know it's terrible but £3 for a hot meal, you can't argue with that.
Can you pick one record from each decade in your record box?
Oh no! I'm useless with dates, 70s Blonde On Blonde Bob Dylan, 60s Help The Beatles. Oh they're both sixties, okay I'll say Help. Brilliant film, I've got the film on DVD. When I used to skive off school I used to watch that, as soon as it was done I'd watch it again. All of their films were great A Hard Day's Night is amazing as well. So 70s.... trying to think, I'll have to come back. 80s has to be Disintegration The Cure. I think I'd say that's an amazing record, completely, just so bleak. 90s I'd probably say In Utero Nirvana, or Loveless My Bloody Valentine, a great record I love that record, it's bizarre how he got some of those sounds out of his guitar, unbelievable. I'm between the two, I'd probably have to say In Utero. 00s It's weird it's either an Idlewild record or... no I'll say The Devil And God Raging Inside Me Brand New. I'm a bit of a Brand New fanboy the really seem to have an intense sound.
The video to 'Nightschool?' has you performing at your own house party, do you often play them?
We've done a few. Tom's first ever gig was at a house party, and they're so much fun. I wouldn't say we're a big house party band like Foals, and I know Luke Leighfield, and Sam Isaac do heaps of house party tours, but we've only done a handful of house parties. We used to get told off by a neighbour to stop making noise.
Have you had a chance to meet Idlewild who you are about tour with?
Embarrassingly, I've only met them as a bit of a crazed fan. I went to see them play at a tiny little venue in Scotland, and they played to about 100 people and it was one of the best gigs I've ever been to in my life. I got to meet them all after, and I got them to sign the setlist, got my photograph with them, and stuff like that. That's the only time I've met them.
So do you meet them before you start touring?
We were supposed to meet them at Wickerman festival because they were on the main stage. We were trying to hook up because I know they wanted to meet up with us, and obviously we wanted to meet up with them. But it didn't work out because we had to head straight off because we had another show the next day and we had to drive down south. I don't think we'll get to see them before. Unless, I know a couple of them in Glasgow, so unless a couple of them come to our Glasgow show at the end of the month, I don't think we'll meet them before the tour.
That's going to be interesting with you being such a big fan, no pressure then.
(Laughs) Yes, it's always worrying because you've got the pressure of playing to a lot of people, and then you've got the added pressure of knowing that my heroes are somewhere in the crowd. It'll be a bit daunting, but I always think we play better under pressure anyway. So, that should be good, maybe if we get to chat to them during sound check or something that might be nice, and make us a bit more at ease. We might think that they are extremely harsh critics but if we meet them and see that they're nice guys then we'll feel a bit more comfortable. But, we've got eight shows with them, so I think it's going to be nice, and by the end of the tour hopefully I can Idlewild my friends. You never know we might get Roddy Woomble to sing on the second record.
The Xcerts release new single 'Nightschool' on Monday 5th October through Xtra Mile Recordings. Catch the band at the following gigs:
17th - Cavern, Exeter
18th - Inn On The Sqaure, Barnstaple
19th - Southsea Festival, Portsmouth
24th - The Tap House, Kidderminster with This City
25th - Unit, Southampton with This City
26th - Club Revolution, Peterborough with This City
27th - Fat Sams, Dundee with This City
28th - Tunnels, Aberdeen with This City
29th - Oran Mor, Glasgow with This City
30th - Fibbers, York with This City
2nd - Rock City, Nottingham with This City
3rd - Academy 3, Birmingham with This City
4th - Bivouac@Scy, Lincoln with This City
5th - Audio, Brighton with This City
6th - Barfly, London with This City
7th - Roadhouse, Manchester with This City
9th - Mad Ferret, Preston with This City
10th - Manchester University, Manchester
11th - Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
12th - Phoenix Centre, Exeter
13th - Arts Centre, Colchester
15th - Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
16th - Electric Ballroom, London
18th - O2 Academy, Oxford
19th - Waterfront, Norwich
SUPPORTING FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND
20th - Empire, Middlesbrough
21st - Fat Sams, Dundee
22nd - Moshulu, Aberdeen
27th - Rock City, Nottingham
28th - Junction, Cambridge
29th - UEA, Norwich
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article by: Scott Williams
| published: 18/09/2009 09:43|