Viva...Glasvegas! The quartet making a big noise

They are inspired by Elvis Presley, Suicide, and Sixties girl-pop, but they come from working-class Scotland. Gavin Cumine meets the band

From the post-funk of Orange Juice and the intellectual pop of Belle and Sebastian to the contemporary art-punks Franz Ferdinand and the boisterous wall of sound of Mogwai, Glasgow has always provided a strong platform for independent music. The diverse music that has surfaced out of Glasgow has allowed it to avoid cliché, unlike many bands south of the border.

Glasvegas are four East End Glaswegians who look like they have walked off the set of a Fifties B-movie, who pay homage to Elvis Presley while blending art-punk sensibilities with the white noise of Suicide and the romance of Sixties girl vocal bands, all sung in a broad Glasgow drawl. What materialises amid their dense wall of arranged sound, deafening drums and lyrics – which fuse violent intensity with an underlying core of vulnerability – is a recipe for pop success.

But the lead singer, James Allan, says: "I never bought records when I was at school. I just played football. I had my guard up against a lot of music. Even with my sister I would always say, 'I hate music, I just like football'. I didn't know anybody at school who played any instruments, and if I saw someone with a guitar I just thought: 'What can that guy be getting out of life with that guitar? It must be boring and I'm so glad I'm into just my football'. It's funny how things turn out.

"The band came about gradually," he continues. "We were all pals and we never played music at first. Rab [Allan] is my cousin so we grew up together, Paul [Donoghue] and I were mates, and I met Caroline [McKay] when she was working at a clothes shop in the Merchant City area and we ended up getting really friendly and becoming good pals. At that point it was only me, Rab and Paul who were together and we were just messing about. When Caroline came in she had never played the drums before. I had written a few songs, so I told her to hit some drums and it all began from there."

Over a period of musical exploration and gradual progress, Glasvegas began to develop and produce their own songs in James's bedroom, leading to a sound that excited many music critics. Their debut single release, "Daddy's Gone", sold out its original pressings of 1,000 copies almost immediately and was voted NME's second-best single of 2007. "Daddy's Gone" was a coarse blend of Sixties avant-garde rock and Nineties UK shoe-gazing merged with dreamy melodies and heartbreakingly candid lyrics. What ensued was a whole load of hype, a record-label steeplechase for their signature, and a billing as a band far removed from anything else going on in the contemporary music scene.

View the video to 'Daddy's Gone'





"We must stand out," agrees James. "Every interview we do, that's all people say about us. The only thing I really can put that down to is that we don't really know about what is going on with the bands and scenes that people talk about. People would ask me about other bands and I wasn't able to say anything. The thing is, though, we are four people that have spent time together, had some good times and expressed ourselves and been quite unapologetic about that. I am now starting to see the differences between us and other bands, when before I didn't."

He continues: "Glasvegas right now are finding their feet. Back at the start we only knew two chords, whereas now we know maybe six. I think technical ability and soul must be on the opposite sides of the planet. I can't really measure technical ability, maybe that's why a lot of our sound is really basic. There is a real minimal approach to what we do and that approach often leaves room for something else and is a good backdrop to the lyrics."

Undeniably, one of the most beguiling aspects of Glasvegas are James's lyrics. Unafraid to confront subjects close to his heart, he conveys a raw honesty, as shown in the lyrics to "Daddy's Gone" – "I won't be the lonely one/ Sitting on my own and sad/ Forget your Dad, he's gone" – which expresses from a child's perspective the absence of a father, but also articulates the regret and guilt experienced by a father who has lost touch with his child. What he speaks of is a subject that affects many children across the country, and the way in which he wears his heart on his sleeve is not normally associated with the traditionally stoical, tough-man image of the average Glaswegian male.

The lyrics, James explains, have had effects far beyond his control. "What's hard for people to understand is that I wrote that song a year ago and I don't think you can ever estimate the value of the songs you write. I try to put as much soul in and give myself away as much as possible, but you're never sure if other people will like what you do. Such a big deal has been made of it and now my family are picking up papers saying that 'Daddy's Gone' is about my absent father, which is something I never saw coming and never really thought about."

He continues: "Some of my lyrics may upset some people who think they are about them, and I want to say to them that they aren't. I am a songwriter and that's what happens, but I don't write to hurt other people's feelings. I could moan about how things are perceived or I could just write about things that don't mean anything. A lot of kids' parents have split up and most of the time one parent will see the kid more often than the other, which leaves them with a lot of regret over the things they have missed out on. I noticed that because my parents split up when I was younger, but all my friends' parents broke. It was just normal. That's what I was trying to say, that for me all this was a normal thing, but I realised the regret that went with it and that I didn't want to feel like that at any point in my life."

Glasvegas expose the possibility and the power of music. They also celebrate their roots, something heard in the thick Scottish colloquialisms of Allan's vocals. "I don't think I could get away with singing those lyrics in another accent. I am not going to lie, I have heard other bands and been curious over why they are singing in an American accent. I don't think I could get to sleep if I was singing in a different way. For me when I sing it comes from within me and where we are from. As a band you are letting people into your world and the way you see things. Elvis didn't kid on that he was from Liverpool; Elvis was from Memphis, Tennessee; so I don't get it when bands sing in some vague way," says James.

The band's origins in Glasgow's working-class area of Dalmarnock are unusual in the city's music scene, which has almost always produced bands that were based in the trendy west. Dalmarnock is a place that has slowly decayed due to a lack of investment, resulting in increased unemployment and high crime rates. For a band to emerge out of this side of the city is a refreshing change, and offers a new take on an area that has so much potential, but is often perceived as no-go area.

This change is something Allan hopes to encourage further with the band's success as a possible source of inspiration to the kids growing up in the area. "I wonder what the possibilities are for the kids in the East End and the kind of music that they could make. I hope that a band like us coming out will help to encourage kids to express themselves more. If kids in the East End let their guard down and became more comfortable about picking up a musical instrument and forming bands, then their power and strength of character would come through their music.

"I think that would be really interesting to see, as it's something that has never been tapped into. Who knows if things will change? I have always wondered what the East End would be like if it had more pennies put into it. At one point, I couldn't play an instrument, and then I heard Oasis and all the options I had in life seemed wider and limitless. Oasis made me feel that I could play that massive gig even when I hadn't picked up a guitar."

Despite all their potential, Glasvegas remain an unsigned band, taking their time to ponder the various record deals that have been thrown at them.

"Record deals don't matter to us," says Allan. "How could we write the songs we have written with that in mind? We were never about that. It takes away from what really matters, which is when you are having self-doubt about what you are creating and thinking it's not working. It's when it comes together with the four of us and the colours that you want come together. Those are the happiest times I have had in this band. I would love it if people could keep faith in what they are doing and know eventually it is going to get to people, and if our band can help people do that then that's something beautiful."

Arts and Entertainment
Britain's Got Talent judges: Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral