'We were written off as gobshites and didn't think we'd be here, so sod it. It's a testament to the fan base really'
The Courteeners‘ Liam Fray has revealed that fans should expect a ‘huge celebration’ from their upcoming 10th anniversary shows for debut album ‘St Jude’. Check out our interview with Fray below.
To mark a decade since the release of their acclaimed debut, the band will be playing two massive shows in London and Manchester, as well as releasing a new ‘Re:Wired’ unplugged version of the album.
They’ll perform at London’s Royal Albert Hall for Teenage Cancer Trust on Friday March 23, before a huge homecoming gig at Manchester Arena on Saturday April 7. Tickets are on sale here from 9am on Friday December 15.
Containing the huge singles and indie dancefloor staples ‘Not Nineteen Forever’, ‘What Took You So Long’, ‘Acrylic’ and ‘Cavorting’, the album peaked at No.4 in the UK charts. However, their success far outlasted their debut, making them an arena act in their native Manchester and beyond.
“We’ve not been exterminated yet, we’re still here,” Fray told NME of their continued success. “It just feels like we’ve almost been given a second chance by people. I think we were probably written off at the beginning, I can almost understand why when I look back on it now. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it and talking about it with friends and management. I don’t know if we were a bit naïve to begin with, or whether we went out all guns blazing. Maybe we were just young and stupid.”
“We did a lot of soul-searching after we had a lot of doors slammed in our faces early on. We had a lot of conversations about if it was all worth it. It just felt like we were getting written off all the time. It’s a testament to the fan base really. They stuck with us. If it wasn’t for that, then I don’t know whether we’d be having this conversation.”
What does ‘St Jude’ mean to you now?
“I don’t know really. It felt like it was such an important thing for us when it came out. Now it just feels like it belongs to everyone else. Your first record is always important to you personally, because it’s what puts you on the map – but when I see 16 and 17-year-olds now on the front row singing ‘Cavorting’, that’s just a bit of a head-fuck really.
“I think I wrote that album when I was 19 or 20. I was probably kissing goodbye to my own youth at the time. To see the next generation come through, it’s seriously humbling. There’s no fucking way we thought we’d still be here. We were like ‘let’s just have as much fun as we possibly can because this probably won’t last’.”
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Is this the record that fans flock to above the others?
“Yeah, I think so – but I’d be really, really disheartened if it was just that one. I feel like I’ve got my finger on the pulse with them. There are at least three or four tracks on each record that they’ve really taken to. Honest to God man, there’d be nothing worse than if we’d put out the last two or three records and they only wanted the first one.
“It breaks my heart when that happens with bands. I’ve been guilty of it in the past as well. Our fans have been so forgiving though. I think the second one was such a departure. That was when people were supposed to leave us and it didn’t happen, so we were super grateful after that. If you connect with people on the cusp of adulthood, then they stay with you for a long time.”
‘Not Nineteen Forever’ does that pretty perfectly, right?
“I wasn’t even sure it was going to be a single, there was nothing special to me. I was like ‘pfft it’s just another track’. Then you could see when it was played live, people were really getting into it. That was totally coincidental, but it’s nuts.”
Why did you decide to re-record the album for the ‘Re:Wired’ reissue?
“I think we were thinking that it was going to be quite light-hearted and take us a couple of days to get in the studio and get the acoustic sound. Then it ended up being quite a labour of love to be honest. We needed to raise a little glass to it, but there’s a little part of me, I’m always kind of Jekyll and Hyde with this kind of thing.
“I think it’s a bit cynical when you get a big tour surrounding an anniversary and make a big fanfare of it. If you’ve got nothing else on, then great, but we’re trying to write a new record so it’s a bit distracting at times. You’re trying to focus on the next step and go forward and you think of it as a disservice to not even mention it. This ended up being one of the things I’m most proud of that we’ve done. It’s different to the original, but we’ve kept the heart and soul.
“It was my first time in the producer’s chair as well, well co-producing anyway. I think people will really dig it. Some of it’s quite different.”
Is there an emotional side to it that benefits from the more stripped-down?
“Yeah, I think so. We’ve got the string section in on four or five of the tracks. That’s the thing with ‘St. Jude’, I think that’s why we were probably written off as these gob-shites because it was just so visceral. I wasn’t really thinking about delivery or emotion really.
“When we rehearsed that album, me and Campbell would drum it in my garage, and we didn’t have mics so I was just shouting over his drum kit. When we went in to record it, it was pretty much the same thing. Stephen Street was like ‘you don’t have to shout this, you can sing if you want’. So it was nice to live with the songs for a bit, tackle the peaks and troughs and give some of them a bit more of a delicate feel. Sometimes I’m screaming some of the lyrics, it’s like the message I want to convey has been lost.”
Have you got any plans for these shows coming up? Is it going to be a more stripped-down sort of affair?
“No, it’s going to be full-on. It’s going to be full band. We’ve not 100% decided yet, but I guess we’ll play it from beginning to end and then a greatest hits thing as well. That’s what people tend to do, right? I don’t know. It’s a bit new to us, like I say. I’m one of those people that always hated this kind of thing, then when you’re in the position you think ‘fuck it, why not, raise a glass?’ We didn’t think we’d be here so, sod it.”
So a full run-through then some hits to round it off?
“Yeah, I guess so. I think we’ve finished every gig we’ve ever done with ‘What Took You So Long?’ I think that’s track four on the album, so I don’t know how that’s going to work. Maybe we’ll re-jig it so people don’t go home after the fourth song.”
One of the shows is a Teenage Cancer Trust show. Is that a cause that’s important to you?
“Yeah definitely. The first time we did it, Noel [Gallagher] asked us to go down. It just puts everything into perspective. I know that sounds like a cliché but it really does. When you get called upon to do something like that, it’s just a yes straight away, it’s not even up for deliberation.
“They always have some of the kids down so you get to say hello to them and have a bit of a jam and stuff. If something can brighten their day ever so slightly, then do it. You meet the parents as well. You take inspiration from it massively. I think about the things day in day out that we complain about, and it’s so easy to do now because everyone’s just so self-absorbed with a phone at the end of their hand. Everything needs to be perfect and look great. It really does make you take stock, I guess, it’s mega important.”
Are you also working on new material at the moment?
“Yeah, we’ve not written anything but the plan is to get writing. I need fill my brain with stuff that isn’t Manchester for a bit, or London.”
As well as the new dates in London and Manchester, The Courteeners will also play a headline show at the inaugural Neighbourhood Weekender in Warrington on May 26, and Glasgow’s TRNSMT on June 30.