Teenage Fanclub: “We never got caught up trying to follow trends”

by James Hendicott

GLASWEGIAN ICONS Teenage Fanclub’s latest release ‘Endless Arcade’, due in a couple of weeks, is a real stepping stone for the band, as the first record since the departure of one of their three core songwriters, Gerard Love.

Love’s departure has come as something of a shock to the way the band perform: they’ve long rotated vocalists on their tracks, and have already had to adapt their live performances to work around some of Love’s iconic hits. Not that it matters, particularly, to those still involved., now including Euros Child, formerly of cult Welsh act Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. They feel the partnership had run its course, and they’ve never been that keen on nostalgia anyway.

Instead, Teenage Fanclub charge on with a new album that’s bittersweet, and takes place in a mythical endless city of the act’s imagination. “The pandemic gave us a bit of extra fiddling time on the album,” Raymond McGinley, guitarist and vocalist, told the Gazette. “It’s new territory for us having a record out but not going on tour.”

“The title wasn’t so much born out of a conscious process, but it came out of writing the songs. I wrote the title track, and afterwards, doing vocals in the studio, Norman [Blake, co-writer and guitarist] saw it and thought it would be a good song title.”

“As a concept it just worked, and kind of came out of nowhere,” he continues. It was reverse engineered in our heads a little bit. It’s this idea that life is just a thing you kind of wonder through. It seemed to be something that fit. It was just part of our expression, really.”

After Gerard’s departure, in fact, the process for the album still felt quite normal particularly with Euros involved, too. “There was a long process with Gerry,” McGinley explains. “We still worked together for a long time after we knew he wasn’t going to be in the band anymore. More than six months. The weirdness was in the consideration of everything that was happening at the time. It had gone by the end, and we’d processed it while he was still in the band and rationalised it, and then we just got on with our lives.”

“I guess it’s unusual that someone who’s not going to be in the band is still in the band, but we did all that together. We worked together from June until November knowing he was leaving, and we had that nostalgia tour, and then we moved on. That’s life. We were a bit self aware about it, about taking it too seriously. It’s only a band. No one died, and we’re not The Beatles.”

McGinley is keen to see change is part of the process, too, and points out he’s not the same man who started out with Teenage Fanclub thirty years ago.

“We feel pretty good as we are now,” he says. “We decided not to do Gerry’s songs as we don’t want to be this pastiche, heritage band. We want to be us, as we are now. I don’t think the people who come to see us would like to see us doing these songs that we weren’t personally part of, so we don’t do that.”

“I feel quite pleased, looking back, with everything we’ve done. In a sense you do something, finish it, and you don’t want to hear it again, and get some real perspective maybe ten years down the line. But we never got caught up in trying to follow trends or fashions or anything, we did what we wanted to do at the time.”

“We don’t look back on the records, really, which makes things like the Creation reissues of our albums feel weird, as it’s our first time listening back and remastering after all that time. When we started, in the 80s, lots of people really wanted record deals. We just really wanted to make an album, and put it out, so we paid for it and did that ourselves. That’s how the band started.”

That means the more independent way bands run now suits Teenage Fanclub down to the ground.

“The way we started the band is the way we always wanted to be,” McGinley says. “The business stuff came afterwards. We see ourselves as a band that have always done things the same way, whatever label we’ve been on, so that makes things the same as always, except with less money sloshing around.”

“We still spend quite a bit of money making a record each time, though, as that’s how we started. So that’s what we’ve been doing, self-funded, for more than 15 years now. That’s how the business has changed, and we’re completely happy with that. We don’t spend time worrying about it.”

That means the space to do exactly as they want.

“The opening track on the album has a four-minute guitar solo. We liked the groove of it, a track called ‘Home’, and so we went with it. We thought about fading it out, but we went for this ridiculous guitar solo, and decided to keep it. We make these decisions quite quickly and just stick with them, really”

“In our minds, the next album isn’t far off. We’ve already moved on from ‘Endless Arcade’ in our heads, but you can mess around with things for a long time. The five years between albums isn’t something we plan on continuing with. I hope it’ll be quicker than that.”

Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Endless Arcade’ is out on April 30, and they play the Dublin Academy on April 21, 2022.

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