There Will Be Fireworks' self titled debut was released last year to a sea of plaudits and accolades. With their visceral and anthemic songs, they make being a successful unsigned Scottish band look effortless.
I asked front man Nicky McManus a few questions about their follow-up, touring and his thoughts on 2009.
Your self released debut was extremely well received, did you expect this sort of reaction?
We've been really pleased with the reaction we've got - the blogosphere has been kind to us, for the most part. We thought the album was good when we finished it, so we hoped it would get a decent reaction, but weren't sure if many people would hear it given that we don't have a label or any press people behind us. So far it's done OK. It's been a word-of-mouth thing really, which we're quietly proud of. We've had to order a reprint on the physical copies so hopefully more people will listen to it and - ideally - enjoy it.
You recorded it at Old Mill Studio, will the follow up be recorded there and how is it getting on?
The follow-up(s) will definitely be recorded there. We've already started, tentatively. We feel like we're just getting used to the studio and really improving from a production point of view. I think that the experience of producing the last album and In Excelsis Deo ourselves (along with Marshall Craigmyle - Old Mill's resident guru) was a real learning curve for us. We know a few more tricks now so we're having fun with the production; trying a few different things out. The Mill is the perfect environment for experimenting and we absolutely love it there.
Recording is going well at the moment - we've done a fair bit but we're kind of being pulled in two directions at once so we're thinking of doing two separate albums. We're not quite sure how it's all going to pan out yet or how long it will take.
You draw comparisons to Explosions in the Sky and, perhaps lazily, Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit quite a bit. Which bands influence you?
Explosions in the Sky were a massive influence on us when we were writing the first album. You can probably hear that in the guitars. It's the whole being atmospheric whilst being melodic thing. And they're incredible live. We're all fans of The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit as well. I think the comparison there is mostly a Scottish thing.
As for influences, we all have quite varied tastes so I can't really speak for the other guys. From my point of view, I listen to a ridiculous amount of music so what influences me changes quite a lot. Recently, I've been listening to Sunset Rubdown, Broken Social Scene, The Low Anthem and The Wedding Present a lot. I got the new Wilco album and The Pains of Being Pure At Heart album over Christmas as well, so I'm going to listen to them a bit more.
There are, however, some artists I'm obsessive about and listen to constantly: Fionn Regan, The National, Neutral Milk Hotel, Bright Eyes, Iron & Wine and WHY? are some that I've been immersed in for the last few years.
You had Kevin McNeill, the author of the amazing 'The Stornoway Way', contribute to your debut with the song Colombian Fireworks. How did that come about and will he be featuring on the follow up?
Basically, I'd read his book and absolutely loved it. He came to one of our gigs and he seemed to like our music so I emailed him a few days later and asked if he fancied doing us a wee turn. Happily, he agreed and wrote the piece for the album, recording it on Shetland with his brother and sending the file to us.
We haven't spoken to Kevin in a bit - I think he's busy writing another novel. No idea if we'll ask him to contribute again, given that we're trying to do something a bit different from the last. If it feels right for the album, then we'll definitely ask and hopefully he'll agree!
Your touring routine seems to be some what sporadic and sparse. Is that fair to say? Is this due to work commitments and is it hard to fit everything in?
That is definitely fair to say. I wouldn't even say that we have a touring routine. It's more like massive periods of inactivity followed by a few sporadic gigs. It's partly to do with work and university commitments, yeah. We don't do the band as a full time thing, and probably never will, so our opportunities to travel are curtailed quite a bit. And since we can't really tour for any sustained period, we don't play all that often in Glasgow and Edinburgh in case people get bored of us. To be honest, it doesn't really bother us. We like going to play in different places - we've had good crowds when we've played in London and people always show up in Glasgow - but we're much happier in the practice room or the studio.
You once told me the last track on your album 'Joined Up Writing' was an idea borrowed from Neutral Milk Hotel, with the last song tying the whole album together. Does this mean the last album had a common theme throughout?
To an extent, yeah. It's more of a common thread, though, in that lyrics refer back to other lyrics and some songs are about the same things and stuff like that. Yeah, you probably could say that there's a common theme. I thought it was important that the album should feel like a whole, consistent work and not just a hodgepodge (is that a word?) collection of unrelated songs.
Favourite things about 2009, music, film, books, hair product?
(in no particular order)
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (catchiest thing I've heard in 2009)
Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle (Eid Ma Clack Shaw is the funniest song I've ever heard - I'm note sure if it's supposed to be)
The Antlers - Hospice
Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (technically released in 2008 but re-released in 2009 and everyone heard it in 2009)
That Grizzly Bear song (Two Weeks) that rips off the riff from Dr Dre's Still D.R.E.: amazing.
That Jay-Z song with Alicia Keys in it about New York: tune.
I think the only movies I've seen that were released in 2009 were The Hangover and Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee. I liked them both. I got In The Loop on DVD but still haven't watched it. I bet it's good though. I mostly just watched The Sopranos and The Wire boxsets.
The best books I read in 2009 (none of them were released in 2009) were The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, Indignation by Philip Roth, I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe and a couple of books I read about the Spanish Civil War, the names of which I can't remember.
Asda's own brand hairspray (apparently it's better than all the other hairsprays).
What are There Will Be Fireworks' plans and aims for 2010?
Get the new album/albums/whatever recorded. Play some gigs. I think we're playing at the Haldern Pop Festival in Germany and The National are supposed to be playing, so that's cool. But mostly the recording.
There Will Be Fireworks - Says Aye (Odeo is taking a wee bit long today so please be patient, the files do stream)
There Will Be Fireworks - Joined Up Writing
There Will Be Fireworks - I Like The Lights
There Will Be Fireworks - Midfield Maestro