Frustrations of the Mundane – Book Group interview

bg_031215_2283sI feel like I’ve been waiting for the debut Book Group LP for years. Which is actually the case as it’s now nearly 5 years since I first saw them play (at the time as the Bad Books).

However that long wait was finally concluded when the band released ‘The Great Indoors’ last  week.

To mark that auspicious occasion, and ahead of the band’s return to Dundee on Saturday, MPT caught up with front man Graeme Anderson a couple of weeks back to talk about the new record.

It’s fair to say that Graeme is more than pleased that the album is now available.

“It feels great! We only received the finished vinyl last Thursday and seeing the artwork that Michael (Morrison – guitar/design) put together and the overall look was very exciting.

“We’ve always wanted to put out a vinyl album and this is one that we’re really proud of. We’re looking forward to seeing it in the shops at the end of the week.”

Whilst the record has been a long time coming, Graeme revealed that recording started far more recently.

“It feels like it has taken years but really recording only started last January (2015).

“Some songs came together really quickly (ones like ‘Electricity’ and ‘Do You Feel Insecure?’) and just fitted into what we wanted whilst others we have had the chance to road test live and make changes to during the recording process.

“One of the tracks I actually wrote at my pal’s stag do about four years ago and it has just been in my head since – hoping that’s it now out of my system!”

In some ways the present day feels a bit like the early 90s. Back then bands would initially release E.P.s before getting round to a full length record and these E.P.s would usually include much of their best known material.

But that meant when the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Lush finally got round to releasing their debuts they tended to favour all new material which meant that some of their best (known) tunes weren’t on the album.

A number of Scottish acts in recent years have found themselves in the same position. Bands like Cancel the Astronauts and eagleowl have opted for largely new material on their first albums whilst others, like Kid Canaveral, put out a record which included some (if not all) of their early ‘hits’.

On the face of it Book Group faced a similar dilemma but Graeme was quick to point out that settling on the final tracklisting wasn’t difficult.

“It was actually surprising easy. We were keen not to revisit too many old songs as we felt that the new songs deserved a listen. But most important was the overall feel and flow of the album. We had that in mind when choosing songs and selecting the order.

“We believe it works and there is a similar theme running through several of them.”

One of the consequences of this approach was that there’s a large amount of great tunes from earlier in the band’s career, including big live favourites ‘Victory Lap’ and ‘Here Is Too Near’, which didn’t make the cut. Graeme doesn’t see this as a problem.

“I believe that there are enough hits on the record already and those songs have already played a large part in our development. They’re always going to be tracks that we will play (and love playing) live but we didn’t think that we should stick them on for the sake of it.

“I guess going back to the album feel, the songs and the running order we have chosen just feel right to us.”

bg_031215_2378sAfter the ‘Tantrums’ E.P. suggested that the band were heading in a heavier direction, ‘The Great Indoors’ swerves back in the direction of a brighter production sounding more akin to the poppy sheen of the ‘Victory Lap/Lowdown of a Loud Sound’ single.

Graeme reckons that a number of factors contributed to the album’s final sound.

“I don’t think it was too intentional! We’ve written a poppy tune or two in the past so the law of averages would suggest that a pop number or two would feature. It’s nice to get a pop hook or two in when possible.

“As for an overall pop sheen, I believe producer Gary Boyle’s input would’ve influenced this slightly during the recording but on tracks like ‘Mayonnaise’, ‘The Art of Underachieving’ and ‘Do You Feel Insecure?’ I hope the rockier feel is evident. That’s kind of our foundations!

“It’s also the first time that we’ve recorded properly with Kevin (Fisher – bass) and he brings a lot of different ideas to the table.

“Musically – we work very much as a group. The sounds, structure and dynamics of the songs come from us experimenting and putting our ideas into the tune tub. It seems to come out OK!”

The record lyrically continues in a broadly similar direction to previous songs and Mrs MPT is a fan of the fact that the album references her (and Graeme’s) hometown of Broughty Ferry.

“Lyrically from our debut EP ‘Homeward Sound’ to the album, each release has had a few references of home dropped in.

“I’ve never shied away from the fact that a lot of the lyrics and songs are personal tales, normally linking to me growing up in Broughty Ferry and friends / relationships of that time (‘Late Show’ / ‘The Art of Underachieving’), right up to me currently staying in West Linton in the Borders (‘Year of the Cat’ / ‘Season of Screams’).

“Story wise, it nearly always comes from a true event but I do like to skew it slightly – a bit like Chinese whispers I suppose! A lot of the songs come from my frustrations of the mundane everyday challenges and chores that we face.

“I thought writing the songs might make them go away but they are sadly still lingering on.”

If those frustrations are going to mean that Book Group continue to make great records then I’m all for Graeme continuing to work them through in song. Certainly ‘The Great Indoors’ is destined to be one of the releases of the year.

To promote the record, Book Group have a co-headline show with Adam Stafford at the Cool Cat Club at Beat Generator Live on Saturday (21st May). Support comes from the excellent Hans Klammer.

Advance tickets are available in person for £6 (stbf) from Groucho’s or online here. More info here.

The show will be preceded by an in-store at Broughty Ferry record shop Assai – at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Prior to the Dundee appearance the band are heading to Inverness for a show at Mad Hatters on Friday 20th.

‘The Great Indoors’ is available from the Book Group Bandcamp and some good record shops.