Hope Is (Still) Important: the Idlewild interview
Having quietly disbanded in 2010, everyone’s favourite Scottish indie scruffs Idlewild return in 2014 a band renewed. With a new record and European tour set for early next year, we secured a chat with frontman Roddy Woomble to better understand the circumstance behind their return, writing and recording. Everything Ever Written is released in February. Previews suggest it to be a blinding return to form.
Much has happened in the last five years both with your solo career, in music and socially in the UK. What is it you want to articulate through 'Everything Ever Written' that you may not have been able to do elsewhere?
What I like about being in Idlewild is the fact that it is a collective of people working together, making music and creating songs. I missed being a part of that and to be honest if Everything Ever Written is trying to articulate anything then it is celebrating the band. My solo records are from one perspective generally, but Idlewild albums are from several - musically and lyrically.
You have two new members, Luciano Rossi on keys and Andrew Mitchell taking guitar duties. How did they both come to be a part of the 'new' Idlewild?
Andrew I have known for many years. He sings and plays guitar in a great Dundee group, The Hazey Janes, who played with Idlewild on several occasions in the past. He has also played guitar in my solo band. When we needed to ask someone to play extra guitar and bass in Idlewild I asked Andrew straight away. He is also a brilliant singer, and his harmonies have added a whole new dimension to the band's sound.
Lucci, I met through Sorren Maclean (the guitarist I work with on solo albums) about three years ago. He is a truly brilliant all round musician - certainly one of the best I’ve ever worked with. Lucci was involved very early on in the album, adding piano, keyboard and melody ideas on early demos that Rod would send him. His involvement in Idlewild happened very gradually and naturally, and now he is a very important part of the group, both musically and personally.
The lyric “Young, but only for a moment in time” on [new track] 'Collect Yourself''s' chorus feels you're making it immediately clear 'we are different people now'. Is there a particular way you're hoping people interpret these words or is it something personal you needed to vent?
No, not really. Lyrics are always open to interpretation. That is their beauty. We are all only young for a moment in time though. I’m just stating the obvious.
There's a moment on 'Come On Ghost' where it descends into a brass fuelled rock instrumental. It's genuinely uplifting and quite cathartic, what has this album allowed you to do musically that maybe Idlewild in 2009 wouldn't have settled for?
Well, we had no pressure or timeframe. We had a few thousand pounds and lots of ideas.
The record was recorded in bits and pieces over a year in Edinburgh and Mull. We’ve never made a record in this way and I think that is why songs like 'Come On Ghost’ don’t sound like something we have done before. A new way of working. Always good.
I understand yourself, Rod and Colin have all been living fairly apart these past years. What happened during that time to make you all feel comfortable making music again?
We have never lived in the same town since about 2001. Rod has always stayed in Edinburgh though, and in many ways that is why the city where we formed has still remained our anchor. It is where we still practice and demo and record a lot of our stuff. I have lived in the Hebrides for the last six years. It is quite a remote way to spend your life, but i like it.
Of course, with the telephone and the internet you are never far away from each other. We always knew that we would make a record again - it was just a question of when it would be. We started work on Everything ever written in February 2013. It is always a pleasure to see them and work on songs.
Your original touchstones like Pavement and REM followed a similar path, starting out raw and witty but ending up cleaner, wiser and matured. On 'Every Little Means Trust' this maturity definitely shines through but have your influences changed at all to get there?
I still love all the records I did back then - Fugazi, Pavement, Superchunk, Teenage Fanclub, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr - in many ways the music that you get into when you are young remains the most important music to you. Nowadays I listen to a lot of music that I could never make - jazz, electro, funk, reggae. As a band, Idlewild have always loved real straight ahead stuff too - Fleetwood Mac, Badfinger, Springsteen etc We’ve never shied away from our love of a good FM melody. I guess ‘Every Little Means Trust’ is a good example of that.
Your songwriting sounds confident and thoughtful throughout the album. 'Utopia' in particular is very bold in its message of “suffering the people for a utopia” - what was going through your mind when you wrote this? Is it by any chance a commentary on the recent Scottish referendum?
No, it’s not a comment on anything other than being a human being alive right now, surrounded by lots of other human beings, trying to find your own place.
What do you hope young people take away from the whole experience of the referendum? Do you predict a rise in younger people taking a more vocal stance politically?
This is a question that would take time to answer properly. I’ll be brief and say that of course the younger generation and the creative population took a major blow. the ‘No’ vote was a backwards step and it still gets me angry thinking about it. One think that happened though is that politics in Britain was shaken up severely and that can only be a good thing. Young Scots are politicised, the SNP are stronger than ever. I think there will be another referendum
within the next ten years.
You recently expressed a dislike for 'Hope Is Important'. Does this mean that those songs are now put to rest for good when playing live? Any curve balls we expect from the up coming shows?
I don’t dislike it as such, I just prefer all the other albums. There are some good songs on that record. I find it hard to listen to my voice though. I sound so nasal and young - and American! Live, we will play a selection from all the albums. A real mix. Fans will not be disappointed. Well, some will be but you can’t please everyone.
Any plans for the rest of 2014 before it all kicks off in the New Year?
Not much - drinking by the fire. Making Stollen. Going to the woods for a Christmas tree. Opening presents. All the good stuff!