We spoke with Perth group The Riot Vans ahead of their Glasgow show on Friday as part of Alt Waves Recommends 2020. We chatted about breaking into the Glasgow scene and how that effected the evolution of their sound, Paul Weller and their electric new single ‘Blazin’!
Do you remember the first time you picked up an instrument?
(Charlie) – You wouldn’t actually believe but I started out playing bagpipes, imagine that? I must’ve been around 8 or 9, give me a few years and I dropped it for the guitar, a good choice in hindsight…
(Aidan) – I guess I’m in the same vein of instruments as charlie. I first took up clarinet when I was around 10. Which lasted less than 6 week it just really wasn’t for me.
How did your love music transform into actively wanting to play and perform in a band?
(Charlie) – It had to be the moment I first heard Paul Weller in The Jam, I tell this to everyone but this guy was the game changer to me and has been ever since. Learning the chords to ‘In The City’ and all that, good times.
Were there any gigs in your formative years you witnessed that had a significant view upon the way you looked at music?
(Charlie) – Haha once again, first gig I ever went to was Paul Weller at The Hammersmith Apollo in London, think I was 11 at the time, the place erupted. Still to this day the best gig I’ve ever been to. Miles Kane was supporting too.
Despite coming from Perth you’ve established yourself as a part of the Glasgow scene, how did you go about breaking into Glasgow?
(Charlie) – Gigs. Gigs. Gigs. Can’t remember the last time we played in Perth or down that neck of the woods. Glasgow has the venues, the bands, the people, couldn’t find a better scene anywhere else on the planet for sure. Fallen in love with this town.
(Aidan) – Charlie’s completely right, play good music, and lots of it. That seems to work.
Has playing gigs in Glasgow as opposed to back home impacted your music at all?
(Charlie) – Without a doubt yes. We came down as young fresh faced indie bawbags thinking that’s what girls liked and we’re now doing things for ourselves now, punk along with disco, rock and everything in between. It’s exciting to see where our sound is going for sure.
(Aidan) – and in such a competitive industry of promotion and bands where the biggest seller always gets the best venues and the best crowds a band needs to be able to make a name for themselves. This proved to be an issue for us where we really couldn’t always have a solid crowd as we were from Perth. Forming a fan base from friends and family and expanding into Perth was no use as that was an hour from where we were actually playing.
How do you feel you compare sonically to other band’s coming out of Glasgow right now?
(Charlie) – We like to think we show four different personalities on stage with live gigs, never having all eyes on one guy at the front. Marcus has that firey side, Jack just plays it super cool, while Aidan and I just run about making a racket, it works I think. As for the music, staying away from too many synths and fifth members and all that, we like to keep things raw, we just say let’s make the meanest sounding tunes with just four boys and a couple guitars, see how we get on eh?
You describe yourselves as a rock ’n roll band, what do you think you need to be a rock ’n roll band in 2019?
(Charlie) – Rock ‘n roll band, it sounds a bit cooler than just a rock band doesn’t it? For us it’s all about the clothes and the tunes, if you look the part and sound the part you’re sorted. Forget all the other shit.
How did the process for writing and recording latest single, ‘Blazin’, compare to previous work?
(Charlie) – What was great about this tune was the idea came about on a night out the four of us, first hand. He won’t like me saying this but one too many pints in spoons left Aidan let’s say, slightly unwell. Give a listen to the lyrics in that second verse and you’ll know what I’m on about… so, we had all these lyrics written but no tune, and then bam, the big guy (looks at aidan) came up with these chords, da da da, da da da, it all came together in a matter of days. And that whole second bit I had written myself, some wee fun chords and the lyrics conclude the song as ‘Davie’s’ night comes to a close.
(Aidan) – We recorded it in Dundee this time, moving from Perth to a new studio and a new producer. Scotty from Magic Box put this thing together and couldn’t be any more chuffed with the song. Learnt so many things in those few days, Charlie was singing notes he didn’t knew he could even hit, I was seeing all these mad guitar effects I had no idea about, and even Marcus, the master of the beats, learnt a thing or too. We loved it.
Do you feel now you have a good idea of how you like to work in the studio?
(Aidan) – We think so but definitely open to new ideas, the way we did ‘Blazin’ suited us perfectly, the sound, the energy, everything suited us to a T. But when someone has a new idea or a new technique we want to be the first to try it.
Have you noticed any themes or ideas that continually crop up in your music?
(Charlie) – We love social commentary lyrics, and we’ve ended up okay at coming up with and writing little stories. We love poking digs at certain types of people, whether it’s the old guys getting a bit close to the young girls in clubs or it’s the big wall punching mallet heads who can’t squeeze into their size small T shirt, asserting their “dominance” of a room. It’s all about having a laugh with your lyrics, love songs are boring.
What’s the most exciting part of being in a band?
(Aidan) – For us the most exciting part of being in a band is the idea of hanging about your three best mates seeing where things are going. Trying not to think about the future or whatever, the best thing about it is just having a laugh with your mates, I don’t get bands that aren’t even mates or whatever, turn up to practice and leave straight after sort of thing.
What’s been your proudest moment so far as ‘The Riot Vans’?
(Charlie) – We’ve had some amazing gigs so far, but I think for me ‘Blazin’ is my proudest moment, having it sound the way it does and having people honestly say they love the song, that means the most to me for sure, and I’ll keep aiming for that with every song. So many tunes in the pipeline at the moment and I’m sure they’ll come to impress. Also our next gig in Room 2, Glasgow on 6th of December with Dogtooth, Parliamo and Concrete National is set to be a belter.
The Riot Vans play Alt. Waves Recommends 2020 at Room 2 in Glasgow this Friday!