Guitar band the Trashcan Sinatras formed in Ayrshire, Scotland in the late 1980’s, but it wasn’t until early in 1990 that their debut single, the heavily Postcard label influenced 'Obscurity Knocks', was released on Go! Discs.

Highlighted as a band to watch in the music press at the time, the five piece lead by singer Frank Read and guitarist John Douglas soon issued a debut long player, 'Cake', which spawned further singles 'Only A Tongue Can Tell' and 'Circling The Circumference' as well as softer tracks such as 'You Made Me Feel' and 'Funny'. Despite the record’s obvious charm it failed to win over a public more wrapped up in less talented shoegazing bands.

Nearly three years later the band returned with a brilliant second album, 'I’ve Seen Everything', which despite housing such great tracks as 'Easy Read', 'Hayfever', 'Bloodrush' and the title track, again failed to break the band to a wider audience.

Unperturbed, Go! Discs sanctioned a third album in 1996. A more pop orientated record, 'A Happy Pocket' amazingly, considering such classic singles as 'Twisted and Bent', 'How Can I Apply' and dreamy cover version 'To Sir, With Love' were included, did not improve on the limited success of it’s predecessor.

After an absence of nearly a decade a fourth album, 2004's 'Weightlifting', brought the band back into view. Still very much a Trashcan Sinatras record, 'Weightlifting' was a far more mellow offering, but arguably the band’s finest.

Five years down the line and over two decades after the band had formed, their fifth album, 'In the Music', has just been released and shows an even more relaxed side to the band.

John Douglas reflects on life in Scotland’s best kept musical secret….


PB: You’ve just released a new LP,’ In The Music’. Compared to some of your earlier work it seems to view love a in very positive way - in particular tracks like ‘People’, ‘In the Music’ and ‘I Wish You’d Met Her’. Is it just a reflection of the personal moods and feelings of the band at the time the songs were written or are there some other inspirations?

JD: The album is a reflection of where we are at in our lives. These songs were written over a period of eight or nine years.. these years, for me, involved leaving my thirties behind and embracing my forties.. falling in love and building a long term, committed relationship... raising two step-children... watching the worlds' political upheavals and enjoying its multi-faceted culture... probably much the same as most of my generation, though maybe I came to the 'raising kids' part a lot later than most, due to rock n roll interference.

I got interested in history... local and world... a few songs sprung from this interest.. 'I Hung My Harp upon the Willows' from the new album is a vignette inspired by the discovery that Robert Burns walked in the woods that I played in as a kid... and a song called 'Orange And Apples' arrived after dwelling on the life and work of the uniquely wonderful English artist, Syd Barrett. Watching the rise of terrorism and the various groups spouting 'religious' reasons for carnage, exploitation and fear led to a song called 'Should I Pray ?' and, thankfully, being heavily in love led to a few songs.. namely.. 'Easy on the Eye' and 'In the Music'.. the last song I mentioned, 'In the Music' was sparked off by a poem sent to me by Ali Smith, the author. I had worked with her on a project called 'Ballads of the Book' a couple of years ago that resulted in a beautiful song called 'Half an Apple' and I asked her to send me a poem every month for a year and we would see if any other songs arrived... one day a poem called 'Naked' arrived and a few lines from it led me into inspiration and the song 'In the Music' was born. Most of the guys in the band are married now and having a bunch of love inspired songs feels very natural at the moment.

PB: It’s true to say that in terms of recorded output The Trashcan Sinatras are not a prolific band. ‘In the Music’ is only the fifth studio LP in 20 years as a band. Are you complete perfectionists or is a case of recording as and when labels, other commitments and life in general permit?

JD: In the past we would analyse every cymbal splash, vocal inflection, lyrical nuance until we were satisfied.. this led to some records that served us well in the world, though the process was time consuming, stressful and probably not to be recommended. Nowadays we think records are, in the words of Mr. Dylan,.. "not meant to be perfect.. they're meant to be great".. so we trust in the moment, and we are sure that if we show up .. all will be well. The delays in bringing out our past couple of records have been due to business factors more than artistic ones.

PB: Is there a frustration in the delay it takes from writing and recording a song to it actually being released? A number of the tracks on the new album have been road-tested live over the last few years. Do you find that some of the enthusiasm for the song has waned by the time it is released as no doubt newer songs are being written?

JD: Songs have their own two feet and once they are written they find their own path.. sometimes we can't stop them even if we try.

PB: The LP features Carly Simon on ‘Should I Pray?'. How did the collaboration come about? Is she an influence on the band? And did you ask her to clarify who the subject matter is in ‘You’re So Vain’?

JD: Andy Chase, the producer of the new album, has a family home on Martha's Vineyard, where Carly lives. He mentioned that he was friendly with Carly and was surprised that we were big fans. Her early 'No Secrets' record is a favourite of mine and we are all fond of 'Coming Around Again' as well as the classic 'Your So Vain'. So we asked Andy to get in touch with her to see if she would maybe write with us or sing. Andy said she gets asked to work with artists all the time and always graciously declines so we should not build up our hopes. I decided to write her a letter on the finest notepaper I could buy and express my love for her work and see if she would even just listen to a few songs. A friend of hers from the island came over to where we were recording and heard a few tracks and thought that the songs we had would be in with a shout.

Next thing we heard that Carly would love to sing on 'Should I Pray?' .. a session was booked in New York for when she was free of other commitments and the magic was captured. I cannot tell you how proud we are to have her on our record and also how ecstatic we are at the job she did. It's just beautiful.

PB: You don’t tend to play that many UK dates. Are tours very difficult to co-ordinate and finance these days? I presume you are past crashing on someone’s floor or kipping in the back of a van after gigs?

JD: For years we did not have a UK agent and also the UK radio has never been friendly to our songs so we would find it very hard to get gigs. This situation has changed recently and we now have an agent and radio is flirting with us.

PB: Are there any songs you have tired of playing live now and equally are there songs that you just love playing?

JD: Not so much tired of songs, but a bit disconnected from the earlier material, though not enough to totally disregard them. They are like old photos.. nice to look at every now and again but not my screensaver. I love playing all the new tunes and there are some old ones that still rock my world.

PB: I was fortunate enough to see you play live in Manchester in June 2005 and rate it as one of the best gigs I have ever seen. Hearing ‘Bloodrush’ reminded me of what a brilliant LP I’ve Seen Everything is; ‘Obscurity Knocks’ was a treat, but when the first notes of ‘To Sir, With Love’ started I could feel the hairs on my neck stand up. I am amazed that it wasn’t a hit when it was released as a single in 1996. Do you feel you have missed out on the level of chart success you deserved?

JD: Hmmm.. yes and no.. the path we are on somehow seems natural.. Though, i am not daft... a hit of some sort would have made life easier.

PB: I actually sort out the film ‘To Sir, With Love’ on the strength of your version of the song and it is one of my favourite feel good movies ever. Who’s inspired idea was it to cover the song and did you ever get any feedback from Lulu (who sang the song originally) or Don Black/Mark London who wrote the song in respect of your version (which in my humble opinion is the version)?

JD: Frank came up with the idea of covering that tune and making it a slow Walker Brothers vibe... Lulu said it was her favourite other version... and she knows best.

PB: I recall back in the late 80’s/early 90’s the Trashcan Sinatras were being touted in some quarters as the new Smiths. Do you think that kind of lazy journalism/promotion was a help or a hindrance back then?

JD: Fuck knows.

PB: Looking back at your various LPs, which would be your favourite and which track from your back catalogue are you most proud of?

JD: I am very proud of 'Weightlifting' and 'Wild Mountainside'... they are both songs that have been useful to a lot of people in a spiritual sense. I am also super proud of 'One at a Time' ...who would have thought that we would have a classic dirty rock riff in our canon?

PB: What is next for the band? Is a UK tour on the cards?

JD: Our six piece melodic groove machine will be touring the UK and Ireland in November

PB: Finally from a personal point of view is the ‘On A B Road’ compilation ever going to be repressed?

JD: I am sure the boffins at Trashcan central will get right onto this...

PB: Thank you.















Related Links:



Commenting On: Interview - Trashcan Sinatras








ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment
 


First Previous Next Last