Scotland - Full Moon 50 - 11/11/00
- an interview with Gerard Love
Say "Howdy!" - an interview with Gerard Love
The Fannies are back! Lost another drummer on the way, but apart from that, nothing
much changed. The stronger 60s influence already apparent on the last album
Songs From Northern Britain
is still there on the cleverly titled Howdy!. The band's first drummer Francis makes
his return as a guest on the drumstool and after the demise of Creation this album is now the
first worldwide release on Columbia Records for the scottish lads. It's doubtful though that
the ads in the papers will scream 'THE LONG AWAITED MAJOR LABEL DEBUT' because in the world of
Teenage Fanclub things don't work that way. To improve on their songwriting is still their
main interest, as Gerard Love told LUNA KAFE during our recent interview in Cologne, Germany.
And on Howdy! there's not only great, great songs to be found, there's also the gorgeous
singing. One thing is for certain: Anybody who claims to sing nicer harmonies than Teenage
Fanclub is either a fucking liar - or a member of The Byrds!
Luna Kafé: You've been around the block once or twice now...
Gerard: Yeah, it's quite satisfying that we've lasted ten or eleven years and released
six or seven albums. When we first started, we didn't really have any expectations other than
making a record and then we got to play New York and we thought: 'That's great, we've done it!'
Luna Kafé: Did you try to set new goals after you manged to release that first
record and play a show in New York? Or do youb see everything that happened in the last nine or
ten years only as a 'bonus' to your initial plans?
Gerard: Once you get over the initial excitement, you then want to go out and improve
and our main goal has always been to improve our songwriting. We don't really have quantifiable
ambitions - we don't want to sell a million records... It would be nice, but the starting point
for us is to improve our songwriting and if that leades to selling a million records, it would
be even more satisfying. At the end of the day we are contend any development we make as
songwriters, because there are so many variables to success, you can't really plan for it.
Luna Kafé: Obviously the sound of the records has changed quite a bit over
the years, but did the way you approach writing your songs change as well?
Gerard: I think it probably has developed more internally rather than having expanded
our repertoire. It's not that we try to do what Radiohead did, to really experiment with guitars
and guitar sounds. We just use guitars as a medium. Being in a studio for the first time is
quite overwhelming, because there is so much technology and there's a million different buttons
and lights flashing. I guess as soon as you realize that it's quite a simple machine, that
makes you feel a lot more comfortable in the studio. I think as songwriters who record their
own songs as well you have to be aware of the possibilities of studio technology. And our
knowledge of that has developed and simplyfied the recording process for us.... On the new
album a lot of the songs are over four minutes long. When we first started, our songs were three
minutes long, so I think we really managed to improve the arrangements, even though there are
no major changes.
Luna Kafé: Is music still your main source of inspiration?
Gerard: Yeah, I mean even things you don't really listen to, that you just hear on the
radio and that you really hate can be an inspiration, because they maybe tel you what not to
do. Musically we are influenced by a really wide spectrum of things that the cuasual listener
would never pick up on. It would be foolish for us to feature all our influences on the records,
because if I like listening to a jazz record, that doesn't mean we have to try to create a
jazz record that speaks to jazz fans. That would just be stupid. It would be like karaoke. We
know who to approach our songwriting and it frustrates a lot of UK journalists because they
want radical changes, just because it makes their lives easier. So they are frustrated by the
fact that they feel there is no progress. I think there is progress, but maybe at a slower
pace than say, the modern world.
Luna Kafé: At least to me it seems that the last couple of records were a
lot more 60s influenced....
Gerard: Right! I think the '60s sound', if there is such a thing, is just the sound of
a guy plugging in his guitar into an amplifier without any effects. If he wanted to have
distortion, he just busted a hole in the speaker. He didn't have a pedal, he didn't have a
processor. And That's what we do. What we do is a very simple thing. A lot of bands today put
their guitar sound through a lot of technology, which is fair enough, we're not against that,
but we do like the simplicity of the sound of a nice guitar just going through an amplifier.
We're not trying to recreate a 60s sound, we use digital technology to record, release CDs,
use computers and a 70s synthesizer every now and again but we try to use tem in a more subtle
Luna Kafé: Does that mean you're taking a step back and that in th beginning
you used more effects? I'm really not an expert on studio technology, but obviously your first
albums sound rather different.
Gerard: No, we never really used effects. Originally we used to bury the vocals
underneath the music and that was a self-concious thing, we were a bit worried about we'd
sound. Now we use harmonies more and pushed the vocals up a bit in the mix. As time goes by you
get more confident about how your vocals sound and therefore you're not as worried about having
them high in the mix, but I don't think we've conciously made a step back. We're not trying to
recreate any era, what we do is just ultra-simple. We're not a modern band, but we're part of
a tradition of modern songwriting.
Copyright © 2000 Carsten Wohlfeld