So first off how did you all meet?
Simon – Me and Billy (guitar) knew each other a little from playing in bands and our bands doing shows with each other. Terry and Colin (bass and drums) played in the band with Billy. But it wasn’t until Billy started working in the same music shop I worked at, that we became friends and found a musical connection outside what both of our bands were doing at the time. Billy went to school with our piano player Joe, and we brought in Helen and John (horns) through mutual friends.
Where are you all from?
Billy – We’re all from Glasgow in Scotland. Glasgow has always been one of the most vibrant and diverse musical cities in the world. Bands such as Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Simple Minds, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Orange Juice and artists such as John Martyn, Donovan and Lonnie Donegan to name a few, come from our home city.
How long have you been playing your respective instruments?
A combination of not long enough to be good, and too long to get better.
What genre of music do you consider your work to be?
What are your influences?
With seven main members of the band, we cover just about everything. Our horn players are part of jazz ensembles, big bands and a horns-and-percussion street samba collective. Other members of the band have played in bands ranging from quirky pop, to hardcore funk, to instrumental soundscapes, to electro. We started out on our first album ‘Pull Down The Moon’ with more classic country leanings with a drop of folk, murder ballads, and a spoonful of acoustic punk attitude. Our second album ‘Don’t Burn The Fortune’ built on what came before with a touch of dark noir-ish jazz, torch-songs, pedal steel-led sea-shanties and let’s be honest, more murder ballads. This third album (Forever), has found us shifting once again, a more dirty, electric sound. In the songs on the album, you can hear influences maybe only previously hinted at, like Roxy Music or the New York Dolls, but these sit comfortably alongside the fuzzy blues or chicken-scratch amped-up country , or plaintive horns and piano of previous records. Our sound is constantly evolving, but always sounds like us.
Do you do covers and if so what’s your go to?
The nature of our music means we can tailor a set to any style, which is important if you’re playing a show with another band or artist. We’ve covered everything from The Cramps, to the Flying Burrito Brothers, to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, to Love, to Madonna, to Tom Waits, to Elliot Smith, to the theme tune from ‘The Littlest Hobo’ (in Spanish!). We don’t do cover songs at every show, mainly at acoustic shows, but we end every set with the loudest, trashiest, sleazy sax-driven cover of Smiley Lewis’ ‘One Night of Sin’.
What if anything does your name mean/why are you called that?
The name comes from the James Ellroy book ‘The Big Nowhere’. It’s one of the band’s favourite books, and we used that as the band name, because that’s precisely where our music careers were heading when we started the band.
Do you have a process for writing your songs? /Which of you writes the songs?
Simon and Billy write the songs, and will usually do anything from a quick demo recording of them both running through it on acoustic guitars or piano, to a full recording before bringing it to the band, who ignore the recording and do whatever they like anyway. The writing process can be anything from writing and finishing songs separately, and bringing them to the other to tart up, or one will put music to a lyric, or the other way about. We don’t tend to write in the studio, or the with the full band. Once all of us are in a room playing the song, it can change drastically, the feel, the instrumentation, even the tempo or the key can change. It’s really there that the song takes shape. Some songs, the live version is very different from the recorded version.
What are your rehearsals generally like?
A long cigarette break punctuated with sporadic outbursts of music.
Do you have any interesting/funny stories about gigging or touring?
We once played a country music festival in Wales. When we arrived and saw the confederate flags, shooting galleries and boot-scootin’ country outfits, we quickly realised that we were not exactly the kind of ‘country’ music they were expecting. Needless to say, we garnered attention very quickly just walking through the grounds, and not at all of the welcome kind. As we took the stage, and started into the first song, the couple of hundred people line-dancing at the front of the stage stopped and gave us looks varying in range from outright loathing to a dog being shown a card trick. We decided, hurriedly, to get to one of our more sing-along ‘country’ tunes, Last Night With Lucy-Anne from our first album. This was at least something like what they wanted, and they got stuck right in, scootin’ their boots all over the place. From the stage it was an amazing sight – and a relief – the gig might just be ok. Then one-by-one, we all looked to each other. We had remembered the end of the song was coming up. And we realised what was going to happen. Now, this song just stops half way through a verse. It just ends. And yes, you guessed it, the song stops and we watch as two hundred-plus line dancers turn to the stage mid move, and suddenly have to try and stop themselves from falling over. Which, I’m sorry to say, not many of them managed. We finished the set to minimal applause, and a flying kewpie doll. We clear off the stage, and the MC passes us on the way, looking at us and letting out a slow whistle. Yeah. We’re dead. As we’re discussing how to get back to where we had camped without being shot (or being spotted by the seven-foot tall guy in the wife beater who had been following Billy all day), a white mini bus crashes through the gates to the backstage area – “GET IN!”. We pile in and the driver explains that he had heard our Scottish accents earlier, and being the only other Scot there, felt he had to rescue us. He puts the foot on the gas, hand on the horn and cuts a swathe through the crowd to get us to our camp. He drops us off with a wave, and we decided that we should probably pack up and leave right then. On the way back, we hit something in the road. In the dark. What it was, we never found out we searched all over. The wheel arch was destroyed, and the next morning we found blood and hair stuck to it. Did they send something after us? We’ll never know.
What song do you remember most from your childhood?
Simon – Be Bop A Lula by Gene Vincent. My Grandparents used to get me to pose with the handle from a smokeless ashtray and sing it at family gatherings. I would do the moves and everything.
Billy – Probably Teenage Kicks by the Undertones. I would be made to play it at every Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve) party with my uncle. It’s probably the first song I could play all the way through.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
Trying to organise seven people to be in the same place at the same time is quite a challenge!
How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?
Our three albums (or will be three when this one is released) are available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Google Music etc. The albums and two of our EPs are available from our
Bandcamp – https://thebignowhere.bandcamp.com/ and our first EP is available free from
Have you released anything yet/if you have how has it gone down and are you planning anything for the near future?
So far, we have released three albums (including Forever, which is out on Dec 1st), three EPs, and we are on two compilation albums, one of which will be released around xmas time. The compilation albums are released through the New Hellfire Club – http://www.newhellfireclub.co.uk/ – and are vinyl-only. Our track on the yet-to-be-released record was recorded specifically for the compilation, and won’t be available on any other format. Our album ‘Forever’ will be released as a collaboration between NHC Records and our own Devil Shake Records label. Simon also did the artwork for both of the NHC compilations.
The albums have been well received, and very well reviewed. Because of them, and our live reputation, we’ve landed shows with bands like First Aid Kit, Jonny Fritz, Justin Townes Earle, Juanita Stein and the Kat Men to name a few. Our second album was also inducted into the National Archive at the British Museum (the UK equivalent of the Library of Congress) as a ‘..work befitting preservation for future generations of the British public..’. The artwork for that album was provided by people with a shared DIY ethos, such as TROMA’s Lloyd Kaufman, author Christopher Moore, and writer Neil Gaiman.
Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
Our favourite venue to play here in Glasgow, the O2 ABC, recently had to close due to damage resulting from the fire at the Glasgow School of Art. We don’t really have a least favourite, but we are very choosy about which promoters we will work with, and sometimes that can keep you from certain venues. We’re also part of the New Hellfire Club, which promotes ethical gig promotion, and we are very, very anti pay-to-play.
What do you think about downloading music online?
If you mean illegal downloading, it’s part of the culture now, and we don’t really buy into the whole ‘every download is a lost sale’ thing. It’s been shown time and again that the people who download your music are the ones who buy merchandise and concert tickets. I would always advocate for buying the music of independent and DIY artists, as we have to support the grass-roots of music as much as we can. We try to provide something to encourage people to buy our music, whether it be the box-set CD we put out for our first album, or the guest artwork for the second, which you can only get by buying the CD.
What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
It’s still the same at the mainstream end as it ever was – create an act, throw money at it, see what sticks, then move on to the next. On the independent end, it’s different from the early days of independent music. Most of the ‘indies’ are actually bigger than some of the majors were, or a subsidiary of a subsidiary. The internet was meant to be the great equaliser, but it’s really not – there’s so much music out there that it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Anyone can do it, but very few actually stop to think if they should.
And let’s end with something a little different…Which famous person, alive or dead, would you have dinner with and why?
Billy – Charles Bukowski. For the stories. But it would be a liquid dinner.
Simon – Ric Flair. Don’t even ask why, you know why. He’s the Nature Boy!
First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org