“This has taken so long, it’s getting into ‘Smile’ territory,” says James Allan, Glasvegas’ crooner king of the crumbling tenement – introducing new album ‘Godspeed’ with a nod to Brian Wilson‘s long-gestating masterpiece. “It’s like I’m some psychopathic, narcissistic idiot. I must be!”
Allan can’t claim to be in the grand studio-shunning tradition of the Elasticas, My Bloody Valentines and Scott Walkers of this world, though. Ever since finishing the band’s 2013’s third album ‘Later…When The TV Turns To Static’ he’s been working on a follow-up, recording at the band’s Glasgow studio and basically travelling “with a recording studio on my back”.
“It took quite a while to get how I imagined it to be,” he tells NME. “I probably should’ve felt a lot more doubt – I don’t know if that’s confidence or stupidity or both. I never thought ‘this isn’t gonna work out’. If somebody would’ve told me seven years ago that this is how long it’d take me, that would’ve bothered me a lot. I didn’t intend to take this long.”
After seven years of work the album, ‘Godspeed’, finally began to take shape at the start of the year and is now scheduled for release in April 2021. Judging by first single ‘Keep Me A Space’, it revives the classic wall of sound enormity and gritty Glasgow scene-setting of Glasvegas’ prime era of their platinum-selling self-titled debut – taking in drug addiction, broken lives and emotional soul-searching over a single night-drive to nowhere. Let James explain…
“It was brilliant. It was the first time we’d played the album from start to finish. Even though you play the songs a lot over the years. they’re like the ocean – you never really touch the bottom. The way you view yourself, the way you view the songs that you wrote, the picture changes in time, you can feel one thing about it and that alters in time so there’s a different angle, a different perspective. It was a very positive experience…there’s an element of complete surprise that you’re there with an audience of people listening. We feel quite lucky to have a bunch of humans out there who are quite invested in it after that time.”
Did that spur you to finish this album?
“I’d like to say yeah, but it didn’t. This is the first album I’ve engineered, recorded and produced. So it was a bit like learning a new language, and trying to figure out how you want to speak that language as well, put your voice to it. That took a lot longer than I’d have thought but I’m quite oblivious to my limits and quite stupid like that. I’ve always been a dreamer. The band and management they’ve always been supportive but I’m sure there’s times where they’re like ‘what the fuck’s going on here?’”
What’s the concept of ‘Godspeed’?
“The picture I imagined was that all the songs were set on one night. I wrote a couple of songs and then thought that’s maybe the way this album is supposed to be. The character basically leaves the house at the beginning of the album and starts to drive somewhere. The character’s always inside the car but there’s parts of that drive that are like a daydream, not reminiscent but the way you are when you’re out driving somewhere, your thoughts can jump from one place to the next, and then you’ll maybe notice something that has a memory in real time. I imagined a retail shopping car park that’s empty at night. That was the picture that would pop into my mind all the time. Some kind of faith is involved with it, some kind of desperation, desperation to experience a certain feeling in your life. There’s confusion and searching, and there’s going to be faith attached to any search.”
‘Keep Me A Space’ comes across as a forlorn love song.
“I was writing that for my cousin who I grew up with who then, from the age of maybe 10 or whatever, I never really saw again. In the song I was saying ‘whatever was then, maybe that’s something that’s forever’. Because it happened all them years ago maybe you can’t touch it, you can’t feel a memory, it’s not tangible, but that’s not to say that doesn’t last forever because that’s maybe floating somewhere. Wherever you are in your thoughts, keep me a space’.”
There’s also the new song ‘Dying To Live’, which is obviously about heroin addiction.
“There’s part of it that is the heroin, which I’ve never experienced, but I’ve felt confusion before and I’ve felt desperate to feel a certain thing. It’s something that I’ve seen, but part of it is me imagining what it’s like.”
And ‘My Body Is A Glasshouse A Thousand Stones Ago’ sounds like a classic story of damaged Glasgow folk…
“That was about one night when I was walking home from the studio and there was a young girl that was walking towards me. There’s a certain park between the studio and my house and sometimes you see prostitutes there. This one girl was probably about 15 or something and I was walking past her and it kinda stuck in my head until I got home. I started to imagine a broken glass house and that’s when I wrote the song.”
Glasvegas had the advantage of sounding relatively timeless, but how will ‘Godspeed’ fit into 2021?
“I don’t know if it would or how it would. I don’t know how in touch or out of touch I am. Even when I was writing songs for our first album, Paul [Donoghue, bass] and Rab [Allan, guitar] used to come down and pick me up to go to practice and I remember thinking ‘I hope this is alright for them because they’ve got to go through my self-indulgent whatever-this-is because who wants to listen to this? It feels like the right thing for me to write, but maybe I’m making them go through this thing that’s a waste of their time’. Maybe it’s a bit different now because there have been a few people who’d shown that they like the band.”
What do you make of the modern landscape of music consumption?
“I like the way it used to be way back when there was a build up to something and anticipation, but a lot of that has broken away now. The positives of the way things are now are that there’s probably going to be some people who are gonna break away from music and be all ‘I don’t really fancy this anymore because it’s not as comfortable for me’, and the few artists that’ll be left are the people that can’t help but do it. That’s probably a good thing. Whether the music’s good or bad you’re gonna get a bunch of people expressing themselves in quite a true way.”
Having spent the best part of seven years making an album, what do you make of Spotify’s Daniel Ek suggesting everyone needs to keep a near constant connection to their audience?
“He never said you can’t release an album every seven years, so I’ll be alright! There’s something to be said for momentum, definitely. I hope in that space of time I’ve learned how to get myself to a point where I’m happy with the thing that I’m doing. I want it to be as quick as it can be and build momentum, so maybe the guy’s right.”
Glasvegas will release ‘Godspeed’ in April 2021, when they’ll also be heading out a UK tour. Full dates are below. There will be a ticket pre-sale for fans on August 17, before going on general sale on August 21.
Thursday 15 – Picturedrom Holmfirth
Friday 16 – Warehouse Leeds
Saturday 17 – O2 Academy 2 Liverpool
Sunday 18 – Asylum Birmingham
Tuesday 20 – Garage London
Wednesday 21 – Chalk Brighton
Friday 23 – Sub89 Reading
Saturday 24 – Thekla Bristol
Sunday 25 – Rescue Rooms Nottingham
Tuesday 27 – Gorilla Manchester
Wednesday 28 – Foundry Sheffield
Thursday 29 – University, Students Union Newcastle
Friday 28 – SWG3 Galvanizers Rooms Glasgow