“We didn’t want to put ourselves in a box,” The Snuts’ Jack Cochrane tells NME. “If you record the same song over and over again, then people will just expect that from you. It was something that we were always cautious of while making this album.”
Cochrane is speaking to NME on behalf of the West Lothian band, who are preparing to release their debut album ‘W.L.’ next week and gear up for a tour that, COVID-permitting, will see them play three sold-out gigs at Glasgow’s iconic Barrowlands in June.
One listen to the record makes it easy to see why the four-piece are already packing out shows. Stadium-ready songs like ‘All Your Friends’ sit happily alongside the tender melodies of ‘Somebody Loves You’, the kind of track you’d imagine being warmly embraced as the soundtrack to finally meeting up with your mates for a long-overdue boozy BBQ this summer.
Crucially, though, ‘W.L.”s sonic variety doesn’t come across like a cynical attempt to get everyone on side. Instead, genre-hopping producers like Rich Costey have helped The Snuts avoid the all-too-common pitfall faced by bands whenever they dare to step out of their lane for the first time to try something, well, different.
“You see it with a lot with UK bands: as soon as they try something new, their fans immediately get stand-offish about it,” says Cochrane. “We want our sound to take you to different places: instead of causing you to throw pints, we want to connect on a deeper level. This album says that there is a place for guitar music in 2021, and it’s nice for us to be able to say that we’re not sticking to that classic UK indie sound.”
The record is also, in many ways, a lifetime’s work. While Cochrane might be a relative whippersnapper at 25, album opener ‘Top Deck’ includes verses he wrote when he was just 13 – and it’s just one example of the many long-written lyrics which are scattered throughout the record. After all, The Snuts began life when the bandmembers were all in their teens and attending the same school in Whitburn, West Lothian.
“There were only heavy metal moshers, and we were never any good at doing covers!” Cochrane recalls with a laugh about the band’s early days. “I was never meant to be the singer: we went through so many singers that it got to the point that someone had to step up or the band was dead. That bond we have as best friends is what has glued us together, and it’s made us more comfortable.”
The Snuts quickly outgrew performing in the school hall and soon found themselves on the local gig circuit that also included a little-known singer called Lewis Capaldi, long before he established himself as one of the biggest British solo stars in a generation.
“We’re from the same town. There’s only 10,000 people [there] so we’d always be playing in the same pubs and clubs for no money, just so that our friends could come and hear our songs,” Cochrane says. “We’ve been on tour with Capaldi – which was intense. It was like opening up for Jesus Christ!”
Cochrane likens Capaldi’s breakthrough success to that of guitar-wielding troubadour Gerry Cinnamon, who has secured a similarly near-religious status among music fans north of the border.
“Seeing people go above and beyond where they belong is inspiring, and there’s a belief right now in Scotland that work and hard perseverance will get you there,” Cochrane says of the general feeling of optimism within the country’s music scene. “They’ve got a work ethic that you don’t notice on first glance – but this is what happens.”
Looking to the near future, Cochrane says that The Snuts are hoping that their upcoming tour will provide a bit of much-needed unity during these darkest and most divisive of times.
“We never agree about anything in Scotland, but there’s something about music that brings all of these different sub-cultures and beliefs together into one room – and there’s something quite special about that,” he says. “Any artist I’ve spoken to around the world, they’ve always said that playing at the Barrowlands or a Scottish festival, or when a Scottish artist is doing well, it really brings people together. There’s never any division for that: people just like to see others doing well.”
While their fans might be only too aware of music’s healing power, Cochrane isn’t so sure if the Scottish government are quite as onboard with that sentiment. The frontman says he’s spent every day in lockdown so far writing a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asking her to save the country’s cash-strapped and shuttered music venues.
“We wrote an open letter to say: ‘This is what we need’. None of it was financially-driven, it was us asking if we could have this conversation about what we’re going to do to get back on our feet,” he says about the devastating impact of the live music shutdown. “It was on behalf of our live crew, our tech [crew] and all the guys whose livelihoods have been completely destroyed. We wanted to give us a voice.”
Sturgeon’s response, however, struck far from the note that Cochrane had been hoping for. “She eventually responded and told me she just received the one letter – but that’s madness, because I dated them all and took pictures of them!” Undeterred by her otherwise non-committal reply, Cochrane says that he “just wanted to have that conversation [about live music], and I’ll keep trying until she does”.
In the meantime The Snuts are continuing to dream of that first post-pandemic show, where they’ll have that banging debut album already under their belt. “I’m gonna be fucking terrified when it comes to stepping on stage for the first time again,” Cochrane admits. “Livestreams might be the new normal at the moment and we appreciate the fact people are staying on-board, and it’s a real help at the moment. We just can’t wait to play live for them again.”
The Snuts’ debut album ‘W.L.’ is out on April 2.