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coverpic flag Scotland - Full Moon 50 - 11/11/00

Teenage Fanclub
- 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 way.

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 e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Teenage Fanclub articles/reviews: Here, Howdy!, I'm In Love, Man-Made, Shadows, Songs From Northern Britain.

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