Fatherson - Interview

28 September 2015

An Interview with Fatherson at the Reeperbahn Festival

An Interview with Fatherson at the Reeperbahn Festival

Fatherson are an Indie rock 3 piece from Glasgow. Formed in 2010 they quickly achieved a sizeable following around the city's vibrant music scene. An EP release in 2011 was followed by what is seen by many as their signature song 'First Born'. Their 2014 debut album 'I am an Island' charted at No 5 on the iTunes indie chart and was championed by radio heavyweights such as Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens and Ally McCrae. Since the album release, the guys have been busy touring, writing and recording. With a new album recorded at Rockfield Studios complete, the guys are genuinely excited by what may be their finest work to date. We managed to spend an afternoon with them at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg on September 24th 2015, where they were one of only a handful of bands to play multiple slots.

How was your gig last night?
Ross Leighton (Vocals/Guitar): It was great, really, really good fun.

Marc Strain (Bass): Really good fun, we played Hamburg almost a year ago with 'We Were Promised Jetpacks'. Last night's venue was in the same building so it was quite nice to be back there. The gig was for Napster, it was a kind of party thing. Really loud!

What I'd like to do is go way back and ask what your first musical memory?
RL: We actually were 'The Beatles' in a Primary school summer play thing. It's really quite weird because me and Marc were friends with Greg but we didn't really know each other. I hadn't thought about that until about a year ago, when I saw a picture of it and I thought that's really weird, of all the people to be picked.

MS: We were just randomly picked to play like 'The Beatles', I think it was primary 6 or something, we must have been 9 or 10.

Did you come from a musical background?
RL: I came from a fairly musical background, my dad was always playing the piano in the house.

MS: I didn't really play anything. We kind of started this band before I knew how to play a musical instrument. Basically, we have grown up in this band.

Greg Walkinshaw (Drums): My original role was a tuba playing band manager! We had a guy who played the drums and the keyboard. I think big influences come from other bands that are around us; the bands we have toured with that maybe we hadn't listened to previously, hearing and seeing them over a period, you start to pick up on stuff. You see something and think, "I would never have thought of doing it that way". That's probably been where our biggest influences come from.

MS: Yeah, when we started off we didn't really have favourite bands it was more the local bands in Kilmarnock that we bounced off, most of them probably aren't even bands anymore.

Did you go to many gigs when you were young?
MS: Yeah, loads. The first gig I went to was A1 at Ayr beach followed by Busted and McFly supported them, that was pretty good. Probably not cool but pretty good.

GW: We went to loads of gigs in youth centres and stuff in Kilmarnock where we sort of cut our teeth. Friends would play and we would go down and support them and then they would come and see us. Eventually when we were up in Glasgow we went to gigs all the time to play and support.

RL: None of us could play football or anything like that, so music was our main interest and we went to gigs. When we were growing up, there were lots of bands coming through Kilmarnock.

MS: Yeah, for about 18 months there was a really cool little scene with loads of bands and little festivals and music nights. It's still kind of there, but it was really cool.

What would your Desert Island Album be?
RL: Mine would be 'Ribbons, Regards and the More Machine' by My Familiar Smile. A band from the Cummnock area. It's the biggest tragedy in Scottish music that that album isn't massive.

GW: It is a great album. I dont know if I would loose my mind listening to it over and over so I think I'd go for 'Grace' by Jeff Buckley.

MS: Yeah, I'd go for 'Grace'.

The Reeperbahn Festival comes at the end of the European season but it is probably one of the more important festivals, in that it attracts some industry heavyweights, labels, publishers management etc. Did the business side have any bearing on you coming to play here?
GW: We already had a couple of shows booked in Germany and from the shows last year we kind of wanted to do this festival anyway. We did SXSW earlier in the year as well and it is good to do these kind of festivals but we just look on them as gigs. We did the Great Escape Festival, which is quite similar, a couple of years ago and you can get a little bit caught up on who might be there which can effect how you play the show. I actually forgot this was an industry festival, I just looked on it as coming to play 2 shows in Hamburg.

Are you aware you are one of only 2 bands to play 2 shows at this festival?
RL: Someone mentioned that last night and they couldn't get how we got to play 2 shows. It wasn't something we paid much attention to until it was pointed out to us. It is really cool.

How do you find audiences in Germany?
RL: So respectful...

GW: We are a band where it works really well if everyone is jumping around, singing along and going a bit nuts. It also works at the opposite end, which I like just as much, when everyone is silent. Our music is really dynamic and it's great when you go down to the point where you can hear a pin drop. We've had that a few times playing in Germany, which adds a different dimension to things. I think they are great.

The last time I saw Fatherson was in 2013 at a sold out King Tut's in Glasgow. Since then you have played many shows there including T in the Park's King Tut's tent. Has King Tut's become like a spiritual home to you?
RL: It definitely is, we have played there so many times.

GW: King Tut's is special to us. It was the first venue where we were treated like a proper touring band with a dressing room and a rider. They always look after us. There's the atmosphere as well which comes from the heritage. When you play Tut's and you sell it out, you know there are 300 people who have caught on to what you are doing and are coming because they want a good time. Every time we play there, the sing-a-longs are something else.

RL: It's also nice because of the 2 tiers so everyone can see and you can see everyone. The whole room fills out, I remember the first time we sold it out, it was like that scene from Life of Brian where the crowd had gathered and were all hanging out the windows and stuff. It was crazy.

Are you aware of anyone back home in Glasgow that folk should be listening to at the moment?
MS: Pronto Mama. They've got a brass section and produce really great song writing and weird arrangements. Quite poppy.

GW: I call them the Lennon and McCartney of the East End [of Glasgow]. There's 2 singers who write most of the tunes and the rest of the band are ridiculous musicians, they should be a supergroup! The way they think things up is crazy.

'I am an Island' was released last year with some real radio heavyweights pushing it for you. Did the positive response to the album surprise you?
RL: It totally grew arms and legs.

MS: We hadn't played outside Scotland before releasing the album. It was a self-released album so there was no label involved, it didn't have much money behind it for marketing or anything so we weren't sure. We recorded the album sort of hoping that it might get picked up and we may get to release it through a label. That didn't happen, but we didn't want to hang about. Afterwards we did a tour round the UK and there were actually people at the gigs, whereas before there weren't any! It was a very stressful time, but in a really rewarding way because the album was such a labour of love. We had done pretty much every aspect of it on our own with our management.

GW: From there the whole thing has sort of grown by word of mouth.

RL: Look where we are now, in Hamburg talking with you in this crazy disco room. This wouldn't have happened if we hadn't put out the first album.

MS: Having put the album out ourselves and played in something like 13 countries since is a pretty cool achievement.

You have just had a few weeks at Rockfield recording your new album. Was the process the different second time round?
GW: Yes, it was. We had a very tight window this time. You have your whole life to write your first album. After we signed with the new label it sort of pushed things back before we realised, then we were thinking 'we need to write this album'. So it was a very concentrated time of working hard, writing the songs and turning it into the best album we possibly could. We had looked at some studios but the history of Rockfield is so inspiring. You're sitting next to Freddie Mercury's piano, Chris Martin wrote 'Yellow' there and there's 'Wonderwall'. It just doesn't get any better than that.

MS: There are not many studios like that left, it is cool. It's something we have always wanted to do but never thought we would. One day I just called them and asked if we could do the few weeks we had and it all happened. It's such an old place, Ross's accommodation was haunted!

RL: We were living in these farm out buildings. Greg's was nice, Marc's was nice, mine was like doom!

MS: I walked in to get a beer out of his fridge. I went back out and said to him "Ross, your house is so creepy"! "I know" he said, "I haven't slept for 3 days".

RL: The bath kept filling up with water and there was none there. Bruce [Rintoul] was living next to me. He went upstairs and I went into the studio. When I came out he was waiting outside my door, I was like "Bruce, are you alright"? He nearly jumped out of his skin, he thought I was inside the room. He said there was someone walking up and down my stairs. It was weird.

Who did you have working on the second album?
GW: We had Bruce Rintoul who recorded our first album and pretty much everything we have done as a band. We were really keen to keep him, he's as much part of Fatherson as we are. We were also keen to get someone else involved just to make sure we hadn't lost our minds musically. Bruce called Jason Perry in who'd been recommended by a few people. Jason did a few days pre-production with us and some of the session which was great. It really seemed to breath some life into they way we write. 

MS: Jason is like a bull in a China shop a wee bit. It was quite a strange experience. I mean we all got on great, it was his job to break everything down for us. He was honest, if he didn't think something was good he'd say so.

RL: He was great to work with. The first thing he said was "look, I don't have a God complex. If I think an idea is good and you guys don't like it, we will try it. If you still don't like it we'll have a full blown argument about it then we'll sit down with a brew and talk about how we are going to fix it." We never fell out over anything.

Did the success of 'I am an Island' make the follow up more difficult to write?
GW: We knew we wanted to make the album better than the first one. Which is easier said than done, how do you make it better? It would be very hard to capture the magic that was on 'I am an Island' so you don't pander to that, we're older now, we've played more gigs and stuff so we just use that experience we have gained.

MS: It did get quite stressful from time to time but we tried not to get too bogged down in it. There was a moment when I listened back through the demos and rough recordings of all the stuff we had for the second album, then listened to the first album again. I thought to myself "this is 100% better".

Are you in a position to give us any more details on the new album?
MS: It's still a bit up in the air. The manic period of getting it all together is still happening and were sorting out a name and a release date. This week in Germany has actually been a welcome break. We'll know soon though.

RL: There was a period when we were just a bit lost and thinking the tracks weren't very good. Then Jason came in and finished it with us and now I'm really quite excited about it. 

Signing the record deal with Easy Life & Sony earlier this year must have been a huge step forward. Are you now content that the time, the energy and the commitment you have all put into the band is now coming to fruition?
RL: It's funny but the goalposts are constantly shifting. I mean when you hear you're gonna headline Tut's you're the biggest band in the world. After you've done that, you start looking at bigger venues. You go and do that one and you're kings of the world again. Then America comes onto the radar so you shift towards that.

MS: The record deal is the Holy Grail though. Then you sign it and everything changes again, there's a whole bunch of other stuff you need to do. It's great and it's exciting.

GW: I think our next aim to have our own line of lunch boxes.

Your obviously in a good place right now, what can we expect next year?
MS: We're going to be touring a lot until the end of this year. The plan is to go back to America and do a bit more over there. Obviously we'll be getting the album out, probably in the UK before anywhere else and just play loads of gigs and become a better band.

GW: We'd like to spend a lot more time in Germany.

RL: I think we're just going to knock the pan out of it in the next 18 months. We're out through November around the UK supporting 'Prides,' then theres some more gigs up till Christmas. From January I can see it being full time for us. Which is awesome, to be honest it's a bit crazy even thinking about it but as long as we can play shows to people who enjoy the music, whether it be 20 or 2000. As long as we all enjoy it, it will be an awesome year.

Spike Porteous

Official Site - https://www.facebook.com/fathersonband


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