OD: Lets first talk about the 5 year break / hiatus that Idlewild took. Can you explain why this happened and more importantly, what was the decision to come back after that break?
Roddy: Well, we took the break as we felt that we had taken the band as far as it could go at that point. We had always been in a band and it had been the band’s main source of income up until “Post Electric Blues” in 2009 and we just felt like we were rushing things with the album just to go on tour. Although that’s what working bands do, and I am not criticizing those who do it, but we found that it wasn’t beneficial to the music we were making. We were getting a bit disillusioned by the cycle and when you do something creative and you feel this way the only way to change this, is to stop doing it. It was a collective decision; completely amicable and we are all still quite close friends, it was just something we had to do.
We were kind of shooting ourselves in the foot, as we had to go and find other ways to earn money as Idlewild was something we had always done. We said we were not closing the door on it, but doing other things. You know, I made solo records and the others did their own thing. About two years ago Rod and I decided to start writing some songs, there was no pressure, we had no record company, no one was expecting a record and it was liberating. We just said lets write some songs and make the album ourselves, not involve any outside sources and when it is ready put it out.
OD: During that time, did you completely retire from writing music or were you putting ideas together that are now on “Everything Ever Written”?
Roddy: Well me no. I put out two solo records and about 500 shows. I have an acoustic solo band which is more for the folk scene in the UK which is quite a large one. I came over to Ireland the once and playing in Galway, Dublin and Belfast. So I have been busy that way, exploring a whole different side of music. Rod has another band with about three albums and toured quite a lot, obviously less in the spotlight and a more low key thing but Rod has been involved in music for the whole time that we haven’t been doing Idlewild.
OD: I believe that the album took about 18 months to write, did you find that you had to almost de-construct everything that Idlewild is and rebuild it again?
Roddy: Yeah, Rod and I started writing songs again around 2013. We had no grand plan and effectively, for the first four or five months, it was just the two of us. I live in the Scottish Highlands and Rod came up a few times. I played drums and Rod played guitar and bass; it was just the two of us making all these demos. Eventually we got Lucci, who plays keyboard for us, and started sending him demos. It came out of that. Previously Idlewild records came out of a band in a room with electric instruments lashing out song ideas and forming them into songs, this was done in a totally different way.
For a lot of bands it works like that but for Idlewild, we never worked like that. So we really only became a band towards the end. After we found Andrew Mitchell for bass, we spent a week in a rehearsal space coming up with band ideas and we recorded like that. And that’s how Collect Yourself and Left like Roses came about. That’s what I really like about the album that I can listen to a lot of different versions of people playing together. It is not like “Post Electric Blues” where it sounds like five guys rocking out, this has a lot of different subtleties and layers and is sort of a transitional record in that way as I don’t think we will make the next record this way. It is nice amongst our other albums and is quite a new approach.
OD: The album was self produced, when you look back over the 20 + years you have been creating music, how do you compare the experience of the DIY approach rather than the record industry involvement?
Roddy: Yeah, well when we first started as a band I didn’t have an email address, we made demo tapes and sent them out. We were probably one of the last to do that. Our first single came out on tape. People bought records and you went on tour to promote a record because the record was the thing that was going to sell. Whereas now, it is the other way around; you put a record out to promote a tour as bands make a living through live performance. And as artists realise this there are more saying we are going to put the record ourselves or use a distributor and this is taking the power away from labels completely. We do this and there is no reason to go to a label and let them take the fifty percent. The power is with the band and audience now. As the audience can go on the computers now and listen to anything and bands realise that they can sell directly to them so there is no use for the middle man.
Obviously we benefited a lot from the middle man as we were signed to a major label when people were still buying records and labels were still investing in bands and spending money on records and giving tour support. We wouldn’t have got the fan base that we have without that experience, but suddenly everything changes and we do things on a smaller scale and we do just as well as when we were signed to a label almost.
OD: Idlewild have inherited two new members Andrew (Mitchell) & Luciano (Rossi) how has their inclusion in the band reflected in the dynamic of the new material and have they added their own touch to the older material also?
Roddy: Yeah they have. It is kind of a new band and new approach now. We did an acoustic tour of the highland and islands of Scotland in October just to really get out and about playing the new and old songs and one of the main changes is obviously there is only one guitar now as Allan Stewart doesn’t play guitar anymore and Lucci plays piano, keyboard and the organ so it has changed the sounds and dynamic that way. And another thing is that both Andrew and Lucci are fantastic singers so we have an extra two singers which shows in the songs as a lot of the power comes from the harmonies in them.
Obviously we have changed the arrangements of older songs to a way that suits us better. Lucci really made a difference as he was involved a lot in the making of the record, whereas Andrew was more involved in the end although his bass is on most of the songs and voice on several. Lucci sort of dictated where the songs were going through his arrangement ideas and his playing. He had a big input on the album and made us like a band again.
OD: You have witnessed the most dramatic changes in the history of the music industry over the last 20 years, what is your take on the current status of being in a band and trying to release new material and what would you say to your 18 year old self if you had the chance?
Roddy: Well I am out of touch. Young kids of eighteen can teach me more as I have learned quite slowly. I am not from the computer generation; I didn’t get a computer until I was twenty-three. My son is seven and he can work a laptop better than I can, I am almost from a different era. And the band is from an era where people don’t see us as a temporary band, our roots are firmly in the ground and people, I don’t know why, are really into us. We are lucky we formed a band when we did and established ourselves through the infrastructure of a major label and left the label but developed a sort of cult following over the ten years past. People will pay attention to us, buy things from us and go to our concerts so advice to young people…try get proper fans and then make music because the spotlight is such a fickle thing. It fell on Idlewild in around 2001/2 and it moved on so quickly. You can only keep chasing it or accept that it will move onto another band. What you are left with you have got to work with.
OD: Regarding the album title “Everything Ever Written”, can you talk a little about that title and what the meaning behind it is?
Roddy: I have always been interested in album and song titles that celebrate vagueness. I am a big fan of the mystery of songs; I do like to understand a line put on top of a melody can make words on a page mean so much. So without trying to get away from the question the title sort of suited the record and the whole idea. We were trying to write everything, it is a celebration of vagueness.
OD: The cover of the album is a very unusual depiction of a sinking island, can you talk a little about the concept of the cover and how it came about?
Roddy: I wanted to do an illustrated cover and I got in contact with a friend of mine called Andrew Wightman who is a Scottish illustrator out in Cornwall who is really talented. He was asking about what I was looking for and listened to some of the songs and came up with the idea of psychedelia. He is a really funny guy but his take on it was drawing the new dawn of psychedelia.
OD: You are scheduled to perform in Dublin on March 21st, in terms of the set list, can we expect to hear plenty of the back catalogue, as well as stuff from “Everything Ever Written”?
Roddy: Yeah we were just practicing at the weekend and it’s a real mix. There is an emphasis on the new album so we will play six or seven tracks but the rest, we have a lot of records to choose from. We are not going to delve too far back because the early stuff that was written when we were teenagers and needs to be performed that way. I suppose we won’t play too much before Post Electric Blues and Make Another World. We have an extra member on tour with us called Hannah who plays violin and piano so it is like a six piece band
OD: When you look back over the last 20 odd years, what’s the most bizarre stand out memory that comes to mind?
Roddy: I suppose I don’t know I have a few chance encounters with musicians and disasters on stage. We have a few stories concerning our first bass player, but I can’t think of one. We have been lucky really as we have toured with REM and Pearl Jam. I have met a lot of people that I admire. I met Morrissey once at a gig and chatted with him – he was pleasant. But really these heroes of mine that I have met over time are just people who have been doing music for a lot longer than me and are more successful.
Tickets for Idlewild at The Academy Dublin March 21st are priced at €17.50 including booking fee and are on sale now via ticketmaster.
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Transcription – Karyn Corrigan
Photography – Stock