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
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin