To preview their performance, I spoke to all four Bad Books ahead of their recent appearance at the Tidal Wave of Indifference show at the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh.
It’s fair to say that the interview turned out to be a bit of riot during which two Bad Books speaking at the same time was far from uncommon. The location probably didn’t help, with people walking past on the way to the venue, but hey, it was all good fun. Even the plot to oust singer Graeme and replace him with Neil from Meursault!
Here are the edited highlights of that lively chat.
The band’s live appearances to date have been fairly rare as they have managed just 6 shows in roughly 16 months. A side effect of that has been to raise expectations when the band play but that’s not as a consequence of any deliberate strategy.
Scott Finnigan (Bass/vocals): “It’s logistical a lot of the time, but playing fewer gigs does keep it special.”
Michael Morrison (guitar): “Yeah, we’re very busy, but it means that every gig is more of an event as a result and we try harder.
“I’m amazed that anyone comes to our gigs because we’ve not got any songs on the internet. I’m just pleased people are there and that’s enough for now. But hopefully we’ll play more in the future.”
Five of the six shows the Bad Books have played so far have been in Edinburgh. With one exception.
Michael: “Yeah, we played the Peebles Folk Festival.”
Scott: “The only non-folk band!”
Michael: “We played with feedback and megaphones.”
Quite what the Peebles Folk Festival made of that was left unsaid. Instead we turned to where the band are with their songwriting.
Andrew Brodie (drums): “It’s about the quality. We’ve got a lot more songs than we did a year ago. We’ll only play 6 or 7 songs but they’re better songs and the old ones have fallen by the wayside.”
Michael: “We could probably play 10 or 12 songs if we had to.”
Scott: “There were a couple of earlier songs that I played acoustic guitar on but they were more filler. I feel that you have to become more established before you start throwing in new people and new vocalists. We didn’t necessarily want to become known as the instrument swapping band.”
At this point Graeme Anderson (vocals/guitar/keyboards/megaphone) finally escaped from the bar to join us and was brought up to speed on the topic of conversation.
Graeme: “I think we’ve got 8 or 9 songs that we could have a go at full band wise but there’s loads more in motion. It’s awkward when you have four guys together and you’re trying to write, it’s really hard to get all the parts sorted out in that practice room.”
Scott: “Because there’s a drummer in the practice room, so it’s a nightmare!”
Graeme: (to Andrew) “You want to play and it’s noisy.”
Michael: (also to Andrew) “To be fair, you’ve been fixing all the problems. We used to practice and try and write without Andrew but we stopped doing that because it just sounded shite without the drums!”
Graeme: “It’s just different though. We write a song, the three of us and it comes out all acoustic-y, we sound like Belle and Sebastian. Then Andrew turns up and its ‘Boody hell what happened there?’”
A feature of the Bad Books shows I’ve seen has been the constant introduction of new songs and that’s a process that seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
Graeme: “Even after this gig we’ve got the first few practices booked where we’re going to start writing songs properly. We feel like we’re always working towards a gig and we’ re making sure we’re tight on the songs we’ve got.”
Michael: “No-one knows us well enough to know if we’re doing new songs or not.”
Andrew: “It’s process improvement, it’s better songs, going one better than the last time.”
Michael: “We’re not as prolific as we’d want to be but it means that there’s no pressure. We all just have a lot of fun with this.”
Whilst the band are all agreed that they’re in this for enjoyment, that’s not to say that they lack ambition.
Scott: “We’ve got targets.”
Graeme: “The four of us enjoy playing live and I think we’ve been lucky in that we’ve had some good gigs recently. It’s picked up by people giving us a hand and giving us some good publicity. We’re looking to push it on.
“I mean time-wise obviously we all have other things to do, but, primarily, we all want to be involved in music as well. So it’s getting that fine balance.
“Maybe some bands would be happy to go and drop their jobs tomorrow if they got offered the chance to go and sign for Chemikal Underground. But we’ve got a lot of responsibilities. We’d still like to do it but it would be can we do it part-time?
“But it doesn’t take away the drive and the chances that any other band goes for is what we’ve after as well. I think the only difference is that we’re trying to approach it for the fun and enjoyment but we also want to be really good at it and produce a fantastic recording.”
Which leads us naturally onto discussing when that first Bad Books record might appear.
Graeme: “I’m dying for a vinyl album! Downloads are downloads but it’s got to be vinyl.”
Andrew: “Download vinyl, is that possible?”
Scott: “A 3D scanner! A 3D printer!”
Andrew: “When someone figures out how to download vinyl!”
Graeme: “We tried home recordings but we approached it the wrong way in that I didn’t know what I was doing with the kit.
“But by the end of the year I’d like to have our first concrete thing out and record in September/October. Obviously it’s expensive to get good quality so we’re looking at these gigs to put towards a good recording. But I think long term we’ve got enough songs to put out an album.”
So you might just be able to get a Bad Books record in your Christmas stocking whether it’s released on vinyl, download or, my particular hope, concrete.
As discussed above, the band have only played once outside Edinburgh. So luring them to Dundee on Saturday is something of a coup. But then a couple of members of the band have Dundonian credentials.
Graeme: “I’m from Dundee, from Broughty Ferry. I was in a band growing up called Malcolm’s Cardigan. Basically we did some fab things in Dundee. Me and four mates played in a band and our claim to fame was that we supported the Supernaturals. I don’t know how successful that is but at the time it was mega.
“So Dundee’s always been my home town. It seems to be a place that a lot of bands struggle to go to and do well at but there’s so many possibilities there.”
Michael: “My dad’s from Dundee so I’m half Dundonian!”
At which point said father walked past and proceedings quickly thereafter lost any semblance of sanity. It seemed as good a place to stop as any.
One thing is sure – if the Bad Books can have as much of a laugh doing an interview with a blog, think how much they must enjoy playing.
I’d urge you to come along on Saturday and find out.
As a wee bonus to whet your appetite, here’s a track from the legendary Sneaky Pete’s bootleg. Play loud!
The Bad Books appear at Beat Generator Live! on Saturday (28th) with Whigs and Rakes (interview), Hookers for Jesus (interview coming soon!) and Playground Tactics (interview). Kick off is 8 pm with tickets £4 on the door.