The Scottish indie band from Glasgow were formed by cousins James and Rab Allan in 2003. The band received critical acclaim for their debut album Glasvegas which was released in September 2008, reaching No. 2 in the UK Album Charts and was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in September 2009. Rab sat down before their gig at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago to discuss the new album Euphoric///Heartbreak\.
Hi, Rab. Tell people about your music who don’t know about Glasvegas.
That is one of the hardest things. I would like to think it is soulful and ethereal. I would like to think I am good looking also, but that is not true (laughs). It is hard to describe our music. I guess we just make some noise.
How did the band get together?
Me and my cousin James started playing guitar around the same time. I was going to school with Paul Donoghue the bass player then we met Caroline McKay who used to play drums for us. We were all just friends and didn’t play music really. We decided to start a band. We were signed with or first album. Then Caroline left and we got a new drummer Jonna who is Swedish, she is lovely. The new album just came out here and in Britain a month ago. It is all going good so far.
Great. Where does the name come from?
I have asked James and he has give about ten different answers. I guess the best explanation is he didn’t want the band to be named what it was. So for example the name Gothic Vampires would mean it would be quite dark. He says, “Glasvegas just rolls off the tongue.”
That will work. James’ sister is the manager?
Yes, that is Denise. We have two managers Jimmy’s stepfather Dean also. It is a big family affair.
And then your mother is on the album as well.
That is right. She is on the last song on the album, “Change.” That was quite strange.
Yeah, yeah. The whole song was done in a half an hour. It is the quickest song we have ever recorded. It was really fast. She came out, did her thing, then left. It was incredible and a special moment.
That is something you will always have a song with your mother.
Exactly. She is actually on the front of the album. That is the woman on the cover.
That is a good Mother’s Day present.
I need to do something very special to beat that!
Does your mom ever go on tour with the band?
Yes and I have had to stop her. It is funny. Me and Jame’s mums have come to Santa Monica when we were doing the demos and they were more drunk than we were. We were going to bed before them. We thought this is not the way it was supposed to be. If people say we behave badly all we have to do is introduce them to our parents and show them where we get it from.
You have a track called “I Feel Wrong (Homosexuality, Pt. 1).
Yes, the song is about a guy not feeling comfortable about being honest about his feelings. Even in the modern age it’s still very difficult for some people to feel comfortable about themselves.
Bono is a big fan of your group. He said, “That song ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’ is one of the best songs I have ever heard.”
It is one of those crazy things. I used to listen to U2 and then he says that in a newspaper. It is quite a nice thing. Then we were asked to do gigs with them. That was even more mad. Bono was standing on the side of the stage singing our songs!
The new album is produced by Flood. So did you get involved with him through U2?
It is funny how that happened. I was in Santa Monica one day running and had borrowed Jimmy’s iPod. I was listening to Depeche Mode’s Violator that was produced by Flood and it blew me away. Then I found he had done Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, Smashing Pumkins, PJ Harvey, everyone. When it came to picking a producer there was only one choice for me.
How did you track him down?
He contacted our record company and asked us if he could make the record. We wanted him and he wanted us. It was a match made in heaven.
Amazing. Can you describe a live show for people that haven’t seen it?
It is quite intense and energetic. It is all about Jimmy’s vocals and songs. It is a bit like poetry and telling a story. As opposed to a bunch of drunk people jumping around, it is more in depth than that. We put on a show not just play music.
When are you coming back?
We just did a huge tour in Britain, next there is Japan and we will return to the United States in September.