The Proclaimers: Sing when you're twinning

The Reid twins are back with a new album. James McNair talks to The Proclaimers
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The Independent Culture

"Do we ever tire of each other?" asks Charlie Reid. "Man, I even tire of my dog's company. Craig and I have been together since we were born, but we're business partners too, and we've learnt to get on. Maybe twins learn to be pals so they don't batter shit out of each other."

The Proclaimers were born at the Eastern General Hospital in Leith, Edinburgh on 5 March 5 1962. Charlie arrived 30 minutes before Craig. The Reid twins grew up to sing strident, close-harmony songs in unapologetically regional accents. Their voices blended well, as those of siblings often do.

Their break came in 1987, when they sang "Letter From America" on The Tube. It reached No 3 in the UK charts and kick-started a career that has seen The Proclaimers shift five million albums.

We're in the bar of Edinburgh's Sheraton hotel, where the twins are rehearsing for a tour in support of their fine, Edwyn Collins-produced album, Born Innocent, and ordering the first of several lagers each. Craig's DKNY glasses have silver frames, Charlie's Gucci specs are black. Such are the details to which one clings in order to avoid mixing them up.

Impassioned, raw, almost skiffle-ish in places, Born Innocent is an insightful, sometimes witty record. "You Meant It Then" tackles amour's fickleness as Craig reads an old love letter. "He's Just Like Me" is a male-to-female caveat on the likelihood of Mummy's golden boy growing up to be a chip off the archetypal male block. Best of all is the rockabilly of "Role Model". Designed to big-up feisty Scots career women, it includes the fantastic lyric: "She's got more balls than me/ More balls than you/ More balls than all the sweatshops/ Making balls for Man U."

"That song's not based on any one person," smiles Craig. "It's a composite of people, some of them well-known. But you wonder how these woman juggle everything and still manage to look hot. Actually, I know how they do it: they've got seven cleaners and a nanny."

What I really want to know is whether the lyric that talks of a woman signing a hefty book deal is about JK Rowling. Charlie interjects: "It's not about her, but think of the sponsorship possibilities if we say it is, Craig." Way to go, guys. It might even lead to your kids scoring a part in the next Harry Potter film.

Craig has four children aged from five to 10, Charlie three from eight to 16. "I don't think they're deeply embarrassed by what I do," says Charlie. "And for me that's a victory, because I'm clearly not Robbie Williams. I tell my youngest, Michael, I've been on Top of the Pops, and he's like, 'Away ye go, dad!'"

When Craig and Charlie were younger, were they ever tempted to take advantage of identity-swapping opportunities with their girlfriends? Craig laughs: "Actually, we never did." But Charlie says: "Had there been more lassies around back then, we might have done."

The twins are smart, self-effacing and self-aware, and clearly different personalities. But, given their physical resemblance, surely a woman who found one twin attractive could fall for the other, too?

Charlie: "This is all getting very Freudian, but without being evasive, I think you'd have to ask the women we've been involved with about that. Whether they'd give you an honest answer is another matter," he adds, twinkling.

Craig says he and Charlie are more alike than they are different. They tend to have similar instincts, often sharing an instant like or dislike for new people they meet. They don't go in for all that twin telepathy stuff, but one strange incident has stuck in Charlie's mind.

"We must have been 17 or 18. We'd played a gig, and I was on my way back to Auchtermuchty. Unbeknown to me, Craig had been lifted by the police for something he hadn't done, to do with a smashed bus-shelter window. When I went to sleep I had a nightmare. I'd been arrested and put in a police van and the window got broken. I woke up feeling a bit shaken, and later on I found out that Craig had spent the night in a cell in Glasgow. I'm not mystic Mac or anything, but that happened one of the few times Craig and I were apart as kids."

As the interview melts into a conversation, we talk of much more: Scottish politics; the ugliness of football sectarianism; abusive relationships as discussed in their song "Should Have Been Loved"; and Craig's admiration for the work of Destiny's Child. By now I'm down to one last question, and foolishly, I ask the 41-year-old Reid twins if they still celebrate their birthdays together.

"Not as a rule," says Charlie, dryly. "And don't take the piss."

The Proclaimers tour the UK until 30 October. 'Born Innocent' is out now on Persevere Records