Indietracks interview #11: BMX Bandits

Wow, what a week it’s been! First, we were able to share with you the great news that Teenage Fanclub will be headlining the Sunday night on the outdoor (Elefant) stage at the festival. Then, last night BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens played a few tracks from this year’s Indietracks compilation on his show. The compilation is available now from Make Do And Mend Records, which was Huw’s DIY label of the week this week!

And, if that’s not enough, today we are joined for an interview by Duglas T. Stewart from Glaswegian 60s-influenced guitar pop legends BMX Bandits! The band have been making music from 1986 to the present day, and have shared members with other Bellshill bands, including Teenage Fanclub and The Soup Dragons. The band were formed by Duglas (songwriter and lead singer) out of the ashes of The Pretty Flowers, a group in which he played alongside Frances McKee (later of The Vaselines), Sean Dickson and Norman Blake. The group have had many line up changes throughout the years. Their songs mix melodic qualities and humour with, at times, raw and heartbreaking pathos. Stewart has written many of the group’s works solo including “Your Class”, “The Sailor’s Song” and “Doorways” but also has collaborated with many of the other members.

The group’s most celebrated song is perhaps the autobiographical “Serious Drugs”, recorded in 1991 but not released until 1993. The song featured in the movie This Year’s Love and was covered by American stadium power pop group Gigolo Aunts. Oasis did their first UK tour dates supporting the Bandits as a favour from Stewart to Creation label boss Alan McGee. BMX Bandits admirers include Kurt Cobain who was photographed wearing a BMX Bandits T shirt. Cobain claimed on a New York radio show that if he could be in any other band it would be BMX Bandits.

The band released their 15th album ‘Bee Stings’ in 2007, and will release a retrospective compilation later this year.

Hi Duglas, you’re releasing a compilation this year with some new and old songs. Why did you feel now is the right time for a retrospective?
Well a few years ago there was a retrospective album of “the best of” the stuff we did while on Creation records but that is only 4 years out of 24 years of BMX Bandits history so I wanted to release something that covered the times before then and after. A lot of those early tracks are no longer available and it seems that there are some people who haven’t got those recordings who want them. I wanted to put some other things on there that I love that we’ve done but weren’t part of an album. The compilation is called The Rise and Fall of Bmx Bandits because it’s the tracks that lead us from obscurity to being on Creation and Sony, but also the tracks after we left Creation and went back into obscurity. I think we’re very lucky to be back in the fringes where we can do what we want to do, what we believe in and not having the pressure of a label asking “where are the hits?”.

Tell us about the current line-up of BMX Bandits.
BMX Bandits has always been more like an extended family of musical family rather than the conventional of these four or five people are the group. There are people who play with the group regularly but it’s not always exactly the same people doing the same thing. I like that, it keeps shows feeling fresh. A few years ago Rachel became the first lady Bandit and it also meant I don’t feel so lonely now out on the front of the stage. I have a friend there with me.

What music are you enjoying at the moment?
A lot of my favourite current music comes from Japan. I particularly love Tenniscoats, Nikaidoh Kazumi and a group called Eddie Marcon. I also listen to lots Brazilian, Italian and French pop from the late 60s and early 70s. I’m a big fan of a lot of songs originally written for children, stuff from early Disney things, Schoolhouse Rock educational songs, the Muppets and Sesame Street.
I love Cineplexx from Spain and a singer from Korea called YeonGene. I’m very happy because I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of these people.

What’s the most unusual place you’ve played a gig in the past?
In 1995 we played in Barlinie Prison in Glasgow to some of the prisoners. The week before that we played in a Cathedral with the cathedral choir and organist and the week after we played to a conference of Japanese business men in Glasgow. Those three concerts were pretty surreal. The cathedral one was brilliant, the other two were less brilliant but still fun.

What attracted you to play the Indietracks festival?
We learned about it from Luis at Elefant Records and the type of location and bands playing seemed to be very appropriate to us. I don’t like these big corporate festivals where it seems at least 75% of the people don’t care about music and are just there to say they were there and to get wasted.

Do you have any surprises planned for the festival?
Yes, but they wouldn’t be surprises if I told you now.

Thanks Duglas! And here’s an MP3 he’s kindly made available for you to download: Do You Really Love Me

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