Sweet Home Edinburgh
Idlewild Woombles back to Austin
Idlewild can't catch a break over here. Started a decade ago by some Edinburgh classmates, the energetic fivepiece released the melodic, snappy 100 Broken Windows in early 2001, well after the fall of Oasis and several months before the rise of Coldplay. 2002's even better The Remote Part, appearing in the A Rush of Blood to the Head/Franz Ferdinand interregnum, failed to enchant U.S. audiences like it did those back home. Is it any wonder singer Roddy Woomble, between yawns, sounds less than enthusiastic about the prospects for the quintet's new Warnings/Promises?
"It's interesting to come back a couple of years later and see if people still remember who we are," he says from New York. "I think people do, but our record company is still... [long pause] Well, I don't think we're being..."
TCB: Your last album did well in the UK and Europe. What size rooms do you play there?
RW: We did our biggest UK tour in April, and we were playing to in between 1,500 and 2,500 people a night.
TCB: What do you think about playing smaller rooms over here?
RW: I don't care about the size of the place. It's how busy it is. I don't care if it holds 200 people, as long as there's 200 people there. That can be quite frustrating sometimes, when you're playing smaller places and it's not busy. Then you start thinking, 'What am I doing here?'
TCB: Some of your American fans might not realize you've been around a decade.
RW: Well, we met 10 years ago. We formed a band pretty much then and there. I suppose we've been a band for 10 years, but we didn't release a record until a couple of years after that. We've been on tour pretty much for about eight years. Not solidly, but on tour, writing, recording, doing that whole involvement in a band thing for eight years solidly.
TCB: The band was just starting out the last time there was a real surge of U.S. interest in British music. Now that it's come back around, what do you think?
RW: I don't really follow those kind of things. I suppose it's good that people pay attention to it, but to me, I've never really defined things by being British or American. I'm only interested if it's good. Like when loads of American bands started getting popular in Britain a couple of years ago, like the Strokes and the White Stripes, and then these British bands like the Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand. It doesn't matter where you're from, just how good your songs are, what kind of band you are. Yeah, I guess it's cool that bands from Britain are popular, but I really don't care enough about it to have a proper opinion.
TCB: I read something about you guys doing "Sweet Home Alabama" with Mike Mills. That must have been surreal.
RW: It was pretty cool, yeah. Our drummer Colin took the summer off because he just had a baby, so we had a friend that was drumming for us, Les [Nuby, formerly of Verbena]. He's from Alabama and a terrific drummer. We were just mucking about with it, and that turned into one night, from just talking about and mucking around with the song, it turned into standing in front of 20,000 people in a stadium in Cardiff, playing it with Mike Mills on piano. I completely murdered it vocally. I think the audience found it funny.
TCB: Did you know the words?
RW: Yeah, kind of. I just kind of repeated the bit about 'Southern man.'
TCB: What are three things you can't live without on tour?
RW: I don't know. I can't live without a phone or a phone card.
TCB: You recorded the new album in California. What effect did L.A. have on the band?
RW: It had a lot of effect. It was somewhere we'd never spent more than two days. It's a bizarre place. It's not like any other city I've ever been to. Quite strange. And these were songs that were written up in the Scottish highlands and sounded quite a bit different. They were taken to Los Angeles and messed around with and pulled into different shapes, and that's what became the album.
TCB: Are you happy with the album?
RW: Yes. It's weird for me, because that was kind of like last year for me. It's kind of a description of last year, and this year's been very much playing it. I'm at the stage now where I feel like I need to write new songs. It's always the same in America. By the time we've got our records out in America and come to tour, we've been touring those songs for quite a while already.
TCB: Are you able to write on tour?
RW: It depends. We wrote quite a lot of songs for our last record when we were on tour. We're not workmanlike about it really. When it comes to writing songs, it comes in bits and pieces. Songs come together over the course of a few weeks as opposed to sitting down with a pen and a note pad and a guitar. That's not really the way we work.
Idlewild plays the Parish Saturday with Inara George.