Idlewild - growing old gracefully

By Stuart McHugh
Friday, 05 April, 2019, 13:42

You could forgive a band approaching their quarter-century for taking things a little easier. But Idlewild vocalist Roddy Woomble has lost none of his passion for music-making – even if he is more pragmatic than his younger self might have been.

“The longer you make music, your expectations lower,” says the singer, from his home on Mull. “I don’t mean that in a negative way, but learning to aim low... the music industry’s always changing and evolving.”

That unpredictability saw the band fired up by the reception for 2015 album ‘Everything Ever Written’. “We were surprised by that, I suppose, I didn’t expect it” – and started work immediately on the follow-up.

However, life got in the way. “When we were signed to EMI we were required to record quickly, but now everyone does a lot of different things... Rod (Jones) took over Post Electric studio which was a lot of work for him.”

That lack of record company pressure meant a half-finished album (completed at Jones’ Edinburgh studio), and it was the past that made them look forward, as they celebrated the 15th anniversary of breakthrough album ‘The Remote Part’. “That was the impetus, the focus we needed,” Woomble enthuses, ”to see the crowds of people and the music we made still really resonated with them.”

“Also, Dave Eringa came to some of those shows.” The producer, also known for his work with Manic Street Preachers, has been almost an extra member of the band for many years, transforming the “ramshackle teenage punk band” who made ‘Hope Is Important’.

“Dave put a lot more focus into the band – ‘100 Broken Windows’ was the first album that resonated beyond that cult fanbase, he was responsible for a lot of that – we wrote the songs but he made it more palatable – he recognised we could write good harmonies and memorable melodies. We’d always jump around with distortion pedals on and he’d say ‘harness that a wee bit’.”

Music fans can be fickle – even back in the band’s early days there were grumbles at their move to poppier tunes.

“People criticise more and more, and the internet brings out the worst – I appreciate it’s easy to book a hotel or a flight but generally it’s been a really bad thing.”

It would be easy to write Woomble off as a grumpy old man, but to be fair the World Wide Web’s creator Tim Berners-Lee is in agreement, at least about the downsides.

“It brings out the worst in people – everyone thinks they’re a critic, but people just take cheap shots sometimes.”

Happily, it seems Idlewild’s true fans have adapted their tastes along with their expectations – even if, as I joke, some may still shout for the tunes that soundtracked their own teenage years – like the rather more rough-round-the-edges ‘Captain’.

“I’m too old for that!” laughs the singer. “Seriously, I can’t scream any more, my voice got a lot lower as I got older and I’d ruin it if I did that now.”

“But I honestly think people would be disappointed if we tried to rewrite ‘American English’ every time we put a record out,” he adds.

It is apparent at Idlewild shows that they attract a mix of hardcore fans alongside more recent converts. “We always know, not in a blasé way, that we had a fanbase who’d see us and buy our records.”

Does this give them the freedom to make the music that they want to?

“When I was younger I was a bit kind of offended if someone didn’t like it, but now it doesn’t bother me – I’m too old to care!”

‘Interview Music’ is out on April 5th – more at www.idlewild.co.uk.