Scottish trio FATHERSON have recently released their new album ‘Open Book’. Ahead of a busy summer. They recently played to over 7,000 people with Biffy Clyro and a storming show at Live at Leeds Festival. XS Noize Editor-in-Chief caught up with band member Ross Leighton for a chat.
XS: Thanks for taking the time for a quick chat! I’ve been listening to the new album today and I really like it – very good indeed. Just to take you back to the beginning – you met Mark and Greg when you were very young. Did you hit it off immediately?
Ross: Yes, I was Greg’s best pal in school and Mark was his best pal out of school, so we hung out independently for years and then when we got to about thirteen we started to hang out together, and we haven’t looked back since. Very lucky – most people lose touch with their school pals and lots of bands that started in school break up further down the line, but we loved it and stuck at it so as I say, very lucky.
XS: Definitely. So what sparked you all to decide to form a band?
Ross: Somebody got a guitar for Christmas and somebody else had a guitar, and Greg originally was the tuba player and band manager! We forced him into playing drums. Everyone loved tunes, listening to tunes and playing tunes, so that was the common denominator and we started writing songs when we were really young, and hopefully got better at it from then, which takes us up to now and we’re still trying to get better. We all learnt how to play just to be in this band, really.
XS: And what music were you listening to that was influencing you in the band?
Ross: At that point when we started the band Bloc Party had just broke so we listened to alot of that, listened to alot of Stereophonics and Biffy were obviously a big influence. They were the local boys done good. Idlewild, and James Taylor and Joni Mitchell …we had a big bag of influences….Tenacious D, which is on the jokey side of influences! We all had similar tastes but also different enough tastes that everyone was bringing in new stuff. I suppose at that age you’re also influenced by your parents a bit. Greg’s family always listened to The Police and Elvis Costello, and Mark’s mum and dad were T-Rex and AC/DC fans. In my house my mum listened back to back to Gabrielle – “Rise” so I definitely knew that track. My mum’s favourites were all more singer-songwriter based, so it was good to have three heads that could all decide on similar things that they liked, and that is the same way it is now.
XS: You have recently released your second album “Open Book”. Was it an easier album to record than “An Island”?
Ross: I think having already experienced making an album before, it made it easier in parts but also made it a bit more difficult. It was a strange one to record, because we started off in the same recording studio in Glasgow (Goebbels Sounds) as we had used for the first album, so we did all the drums and the guides and the structures in there, and then went down and lived in Rockfield for two weeks to work on it. That was a bit of a change, but I mean it was a positive change. We’d always wanted to do an album in a residential studio, and to be able to actually go to Rockfield and do it was a bit “pinch me”. In terms of the process, it was much the same. I think we did alot more. Because this album really came out of nowhere we decided half way through April we’d write an album and by 1st June it was ready to go and we were just waiting on studio time.
So overall it took 6-8 weeks but the bulk of the album was done on three weeks between April and June. So once you’ve done an album and you go through all the re-production and set up you know it’s important to have all the core stuff ready to go. You don’t want to waste your time in the studio because then that gives you time to do cool things and experiment, because we don’t have an endless supply of money to do this. It’s not like the sixties anymore when you go to record an album for a year. We had three weeks. From past experience we like that, we like having an end goal when we start. The way people do things you can basically do most of the stuff on a laptop at the moment so you could basically spend your life fine tuning things and making it this and making it that, but we just like to make a record, right now, and that will be where we were, right now. We don’t need to prim and proper this until it dies. You might look back and think you would or wouldn’t have done some aspect differently, but people get to precious, and we’ve all heard of bands who spent five years on their first album, but that’s not right – it should be a snapshot of where the band are at the time and not some perfect record.
XS: Were there any tracks on the album that you played back and thought “we’re doing really good stuff here?”
Ross: It all stemmed from the first single, which was the first track to get mixed but we kind of knew it would be the first single. Everything else got mixed in December but the single came out in November, and that was a weird one because that just kind of happened and it came out and then it totally went off! We were really chuffed about it and it was all over the radio. Even at the point in the studio when we had recorded it we were like, “this is class”. And there’s a song called Joanna on the album that I think is maybe the best song I’ve ever written. There’s actually different points in the album, a bit like the first one, when it’s got its own “thing”, do you know what I mean? We try to think of the album like a live show, and think about where the peaks and troughs are, and where everything’s place is. So there are twelve songs that sound like an album together but which are all independent of each other. Even before we got into the studio we really felt that this was the best stuff we had ever done, and we were really excited about going into the studio and putting everything together in such a way that people could hear it. I’ve been pretty nervous over the last couple of months knowing the album was going to be released, and now that it’s three weeks away I’m just really excited.
XS: I’ve been listening and really enjoying it. You’re signed to a major label now. There must have been less pressure this time around?
Ross: Yes, we managed to sign with Easy Life because we liked the way that they worked and they liked the way that we worked, so it wasn’t like we got thrown in at the deep end with a major label. There’s only 6 or 7 bands on the label and so we get to be pretty hands on with them. It was the perfect route for us to take and it was therefore quite a painless process which is awesome because you hear all these horror stories from people signing to major labels and then experiencing massive breakdowns in communication, and lots of pressure put on people with alot of change made within bands. Easy Life are just totally cool, they’re like, “we signed you because we really like what you do, we’ve no intention of bastardising what you do to make it fit”. We’re so lucky to be signed with them. There was definitely personal pressure in that the first album got so much bigger than we thought it would. We made the album and then ended up in something like 14 countries because of it.
So there’s pressure to do a good job, in fact to do a better job than last time for the people coming to the shows. I think that kind of pressure is pretty common though. I think the next album won’t feel so pressured because we’ll have hopefully proven that we can do it a second time and so for the next one we’ll be able to focus on it for longer and have fun with it. This was a great album to do – it was fun and so it wasn’t stressful and it wasn’t like a weight on our shoulders. We were more interested in having fun and making a good album, and that’s what we’ve done hopefully.
XS: You certainly did! You’ve been out doing live shows, and you recently supported Biffy Clyro in Germany playing to 7000 people. How was that?
Ross: It was surreal, to say the least! We got the call 5 or 6 days before the show and it was a case of “do you want to come over to Munster and play a show with Biffy?” and we were like, “Yes!” We didn’t care how many bands were going to be on the bill, it was totally cool, total Bucket List territory. It was in an arena and was great to hang out with them, talking nonsense. We realised that if we played our cards right we could keep doing things like that.
XS: It’s a really exciting time for Scottish guitar bands at the moment – yourselves, The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit .
Ross: I know, The Twilight Sad they were away on a tour with The Cure, how cool is that? I was speaking to Mark from The Twilight and he was like. “ don’t even speak to me about it, I can’t think about it because if I do I’ll scare myself shitless about doing it!”. The new Frightened Rabbit album is awesome. It’s the guy from The National producing it and I met Grant at a wedding and he says it is totally class. So it’s a big time, and Biffy are also probably going to have a new album out and there are loads of Scottish bands putting albums out over the next couple of months, which is great to see Scotland’s music scene represented on a wider national and international level.
XS: One last question – what have you been listening to recently that you would recommend?
Ross: Today I was listening to Pegasus Bridge – they’ve definitely split up but I remember listening to them around 2009, 2010. In terms of new music I’d say Into Over It who are class, and the new 1975 album is a total screamer, The Japanese House as well who are their support band. She’s brilliant. In terms of Scottish bands, there’s a band called Foreign Fox from Dunfermline who are amazing, and a band called Pronto Mama from Glasgow who are also brilliant. They have just recorded their album recently so I’m not sure when that will be coming out but the stuff they have out now is class.
I think they’re possibly the most talented band in Glasgow. They’re on this thing called the Beatnik Retreat where they get poets to come and play along with a band and they cover different songs together – I saw it about a month ago and it was like this crazy cacophony of brass and sounds and the bass player and the drummer are two of Scotland’s best, I think. It’s like a cool combination of Franz Ferdinand meets Dodge Uncles. Brilliant! Next for us is Scala in London and then the ABC in Glasgow and then we’ll be going to Europe, Northern Ireland and the Republic to do some shows once the album comes out, so that will be over the summer as well as a bunch of festivals. We’re hopefully going to be out of the house for the rest of the year!