The four humble & unassuming Glaswegians who make up Glasvegas have been pursued by a relentless media frenzy ever since the release of first single “Daddy’s Gone” in 2007. They have now risen to prominence as one of Britain’s best bands, headlining this year’s NME Tour. Impact’s Chris Jones recently met with bassist Paul Donoghue to discuss the group’s modest beginnings, the genius of songwriter James Allan, and plans for the rest of 2009 and beyond.
Thanks for having me, Paul. So – how did Glasvegas come to be?
Rab [guitars] and James [vocals/guitars] are cousins, and I went to school with Rab. Caroline [drums] used to work in a second-hand clothes shop which James would always visit to kill time. Through that we all became friends. James got some songs together, and we decided to give it a go. We formed in 2004.
Who was your audience back then? What kinds of bands did you play with?
We would play to anyone, wherever we could get a gig. I remember we played in Dundee once with a band called The Hussies. It was just them and us; there was no one else in the venue! We were oblivious to our lacking musical expertise back then.
What changed for you?
It sounds a bit prefabricated but the NME voted “Daddy’s Gone” as the second-best single of 2007. It really kicked off from there. Before that we did six gigs up and down Britain and there was no one there. After the NME did that in December, the January 2008 tour was completely sold out. We went from playing to 20 people to 200 or 300. The biggest shock was when the crowd began to sing our songs to us. We realised how much it means to people. No more than three months had passed, and no one gave a shit back then!
Can you talk me through your first album, Glasvegas?
We recorded it in Brooklyn. People always ask whether New York inspired our songs, but they were all written before we left. It’s not just a Glaswegian album; it’s a British album. It was written from a working class perspective. James wrote it on the dole. It was a hard thing to do at the time of writing; we all went through our own little demons.
Have you played Glasgow recently?
Yeah, we played in December, then for two nights as part of this year’s NME tour. It’s always pretty special. There is always a certain electricity about Glasgow, it doesn’t really appear at other places.
How did you enjoy being part of the NME Tour? Were there any memorable moments? I heard Lincoln was good?
The tour was great. I think everyone was worried that there would be a band that were arseholes, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t know what the highlights would be; there were a few that I don’t think I can say! Lincoln was good. I went to bed straight after our show to be woken up by the screams of Florence [and the Machine] as she beat our tour manager at an arm wrestle, to decide who would manage us for the rest of the tour!
Do you feel proud to be part of the NME tour, considering the bands that have done it in the past?
I feel honoured that we were top of the bill. NME have always been good to us. To be headlining this tour has put the backlash from them off, at least for a couple of months. Although I think it’s coming?! We’re just going to keep playing, and do whatever they ask us!
Is there material that you haven’t yet used, that may be released as an EP or on the next album?
There are a couple of things, but James always writes a song, then months later he’ll work on it again. He’s a perfectionist. He’s written good songs in the past, but he thinks, “fuck it, I’ll get something better.” It’s a hard thing to gauge as he does everything from the artwork to the single choices. 99% of Glasvegas is James’ imagination. Whenever he’s in the mood to write he’ll do it.
What are your plans for 2009 and beyond?
We’re going to be in America most of this year, doing SXSW, Coachella, and Lollapalooza festivals, as well as our own tour. It will be mostly Europe and America this year. After that we might split up?! That’s probably the only guarantee, at some point we will split! Perhaps SXSW will kill us?! No, we’re thinking about getting in the studio in January 2010. I think we’ve picked the city we want to go, it’s a bit sunnier than New York. Basically we want a free holiday!