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More subtlety and better songs

Idlewild lead singer Roddy Woomble and new boy bassist Gavin Fox discuss the last year's developments, including Gav's controversial defection from Turn.

Scottish band Idlewild had to deal with the departure of bassist Bob Fairfoull last year after a major row apparently made it impossible for him to remain in the band. But the year wasn't been all bad news. They have also gained two new members, former bass tech Allan Stewart on guitar, and former Turn bassist Gavin Fox, who has replaced Bob. It must be an exciting time to join the band, as this year has seen them go gold with their latest album, "The Remote Part".

The new album has seen their sound change significantly; gone is the "flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs" sound of the first couple of albums, replaced with a much more mature sound, reminiscent of The Smiths and early REM, especially in songs such as 'You held the world in your arms' and 'American English'. While they were once seen as indie personified, they have gained a lot more popularity with the new album, and newfound fame has seen them supporting Coldplay on their UK and Ireland tour, and headlining the Rising tent at last year's Witnness.

I first asked Gav how he was he getting on touring with Idlewild as a member of the band for the first time. "I'm the new boy, so it's really exciting, but I still have to keep looking at what I'm doing, so I don't mess up, y'know!" he replied. He looked quite nervous though, as that night was to be his first gig in his hometown of Dublin with Idlewild. "Y'know, my mother's gonna be there, my family and everything, y'know, it's a bit of a family occasion!"

He confessed that there is a big difference between playing with Turn and Idlewild, as the bass-lines he is playing at the moment aren't his own. "I'm playing stuff that I've learnt off the previous albums, y'know? It is good playing something that you feel is your own, but, yeah, I'm being made feel very welcome, and I really feel like a proper part of the band now. So that's good. And, eh, yeah, that's the only real difference; I am looking forward to making a new record though!"

Gav seemed to feel a bit guilty about leaving Turn for Idlewild; giving the impression that he felt he had acted selfishly in leaving the band, as he said, "I suppose I was just thinking about myself really, y'know, and the opportunity I had been given". He revealed that there had been some anger from his former bandmates, but went on to say that everything seems to have worked out for the best, sounding relieved as he said "y'know, they replaced me, so the band didn't split up as a result of me leaving." He also said that he is back talking to the band. "It's fine now. I talked to Ollie today, and, when Ian got married, I went to his wedding, everything's fine, y'know? It's still the same band."

He admitted that he had heard some rumours that a lot of fans weren't happy with the change, but he had a quick peek at the fans' message board, and was happy with what he read. "All of it was positive, just people saying good luck. That was good!"

Roddy has noticed a difference in how the crowds were responding to the new line-up so far. "Bear in mind, we haven't really played since the end of August last year, so it's been kinda different. Obviously with Alex, he's been on stage with us for two years, but now that he's become a proper full-time member, he's got a lot more confidence. He really has become more part of the band. So yeah, I think people are just excited to see it, it's cool."

The conversation then turned to their recent success as a band. I asked Roddy jokingly how the newfound fame and fortune was affecting him, what with the record sales on this side of pond, and growing acclaim over the way in America and Australia. He just laughed, saying, "I don't feel famous at all; I don't wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and go..."

"Alrioght big marrnnn!!!!!" Gav sniggered, in an extreme Scottish accent.

"Hahaha, I don't, eh, because it's been very gradual for us, and because we've always understood what we're doing, and because we've actually gotten better, musically, it's something I can actually understand now. I understand why 'The Remote part' has sold a lot more copies and is a lot more popular, because it's better! Y'know, we're a better band. We're not the kinda people that are, urm, particularly, like, show-offs. So, I think we've always just deal with it normally, y'know? It's a strange thing."

Some fans have gotten very bitchy about their new direction. There were a certain few on the Idlewild message board on their site who seemed to spend all their time posting bitchy messages about Roddy's clothes and calling him gay. Roddy had obviously read these messages and did seem very bothered by these fans. "Yeah, on that message board there is a percentage of people that criticise me for, like, wearing scarves, and like, saying specific things, and y'know..." he trailed off. But then he seemed to laugh it off, calling them "unhinged youths", "Uber Neds" and "Nerds" He seemed to find it easier to laugh off personal insults rather than insults about the music.

Some fans have expressed their dislike of the newer Smithsy sound compared with their older material, and accused them of selling out by supporting Coldplay. Roddy replied that he thinks a lot of that is absurd. "Because I think that those songs still exist, and the records exist, and we still do play some of the songs live the way we recorded them!" He added, "We're essentially still a rock band. And I think people will come to the concert tonight and see that. It's loud, it's noisy, and it's energetic. But now there's just more subtlety to it, and what's more, there's better songs! And I don't think that's a bad thing!" he said with a smile.

Roddy also revealed that they have written a few new songs, including one that was debuted on the tour, called 'Better stranger'. He also said that a new album was in the pipeline, which they would hopefully start to record in September. It'll have to wait until then because "we probably won't have time to do it probably till the end of the summer, because we are gonna be on tour, and doing festivals till then."

Roddy seemed unsure of how he felt about festivals. "Do I enjoy them? Yeah and no, because they can either be really great or really rubbish. 'Cos, I mean, you don't get a soundcheck, you just basically walk on stage, and if the weather's bad, y'know, all of these things contribute. If it's a really nice day, and it sounds good, it can be the best concert ever, but they can also be the worst concerts ever. It depends on the audience as well. Actually, the more I go to festivals, the more I don't like them quite as much as concerts for the bands. I just like to hang about!"

But he likes the randomness of festivals, saying "Yeah, they're not as focused or specific, it's not like buying a ticket and going to see a gig in a club, it's more of a random thing. That's good for that." He also revealed what festivals he was hoping to play this year, saying, "nothing's confirmed yet, but we will be doing quite a few. We might do Witnness again, Glastonbury, Reading, some other ones in Europe."

Idlewild may have been given some stick from the more hardcore of their followers about changes within the band recently, but as the interview today showed, Idlewild are going on to bigger and better things. And if some people are going to get bitchy about it, Roddy and co couldn't give a shit, and rightly so!

iDLEWiLD - Hope is Important
Idlewild, Ambassador, Dublin, 1st February

by Claire McKeown

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