By Laura Ferreiro
The first words Glasvegas frontman James Allan uses to describe his band's new album are "unsymmetrical" and "out of balance." These aren't words your average musician would use to describe their work, but Allan is no ordinary frontman.
A former pro soccer player in his native Scotland, Allan is often referred to as "the people's poet" for writing bitingly honest and insightful lyrics that he delivers with raw, visceral emotion on hits such as "Daddy's Gone" and "Geraldine."
The Scottish quartet's highly anticipated third album, Later… When the TV Turns to Static, which hits stores Tuesday, features a heartfelt collection of songs that tackle universal themes of loneliness and lost love amidst a screeching wash of guitars that create a Spector-esque wall of sound. Simultaneously challenging and accessible, the new album harkens back to Glasvegas' critically acclaimed 2008 self-titled debut, which received a nomination for the prestigious British Mercury Prize for its "bittersweet sounds of classic rock 'n' roll" and "gloriously elegiac anthems of contemporary life."
"I think some of the nature and energy on this album to me seems like one that has quite a broken nature," Allan says. "It feels like something's quite out of balance."
Interestingly, it's the first album the band has ever recorded in their hometown of Glasgow. Their debut full-length was recorded in New York, and they laid down their 2011 sophomore album, Euphoric Heartbreak, in Los Angeles and wrote it primarily on the sunny shores of Santa Monica, where the band rented out a beach house for several weeks. In fact, Allan says that the beach city is where he feels most comfortable. "I feel most at home in Santa Monica," he confesses. "It's my favorite place in the world. I went through stages where I've thought about it every day. For various reasons I've had to be [in Glasgow] – my family's here. But I've really missed the U.S. a lot. Especially Santa Monica."
The sounds and sights of Glasgow made their way onto the new record, Allan says. "I think the album seems like quite a Glasgow album for me. It's my own experiences, walking to the studio at night time and the way the sky looks…the atmosphere and the city. Just the way I could feel Brooklyn and New York for the first album and Santa Monica for the second album."
Since recording Euphoric Heartbreak, Glasvegas has weathered a lot of changes. Original drummer Caroline McKay left the band; and just three weeks after the album was released, their longtime record label, Columbia Records, gave the band their walking papers. "It was quite unnatural the way it worked out," Allan says of the split with the label. "It was a shame – I felt quite sorry for the album. It went Top 10 when it came out but because of the dysfunctional family, the band and the label, it never really had a chance."
Luckily, the band – which includes James' cousin and guitarist Rab Allan, bass player Paul Donoghue and new drummer Jonna Löfgren, picked themselves up and dusted themselves off relatively easily, and found a new label, BMG, with whom they partnered to release Static on their own imprint, Go Wow Records.
"It happened in such a natural way, thank God," Allan says of beginning work on their new album. "We started writing and recording. We signed with BMG for this album….it's nice because we've got a good friend of the band, Jason Hradil, who worked with us at Columbia and now he's working for BMG. I don’t think people understand that – they imagine [the music business] to be quite robotic and mechanical." But Allan believes that succeeding in the music business and staying sane while doing so is as much about forging friendships and relationships as it is about doing business.
While previous albums were mostly Allan's brainchildren, the enigmatic singer says he's matured and learned to be more open to other people's input. "Before I was exploring my own ideas – it was quite a one-way thing, and now I've tried to listen to other people. I've tried to get to the bottom of their imagination and not just my own."
Despite addressing heavy themes in their music, Glasvegas manage not to take themselves too seriously. Their recent video for the single "If" features a bombastic intro from none other than William Shatner, a.k.a. Star Trek's Captain Kirk.
"It was a really random thing for us," Allan explains. "We were on the Craig Ferguson late show and we walked in to do the show and William Shatner was doing the introductions. We always really loved the little thing that he'd done so we asked if we could use it in our video and he said yes!"
Glasvegas are currently gearing up for a tour of the UK and Europe to support the new album. They plan to head to the U.S. in early 2014 for a series of tour dates. "I'd like to think we learned how to let our guard down," Allan says of performing the new material. "We don't get in the way of it and let the true essence of the song shine through."