An Interview With Broken Records

If you’ve spoken to any follower of Scottish music recently about bands to look out for, the chances are Broken Records won’t have been too far from their lips. The Skinny tipped them for greatness as far back as 2007, and through a series of positive single and live reviews have tracked their progress ever since. 2009 promises to be a huge year for the band, and they kick it off by playing a headline slot at The Mill. Finbarr Bermingham caught up with Jamie Sutherland and Ian Turnball to hear what pursuits have kept Scottish music’s hottest properties busy.

Who are Broken Records?

The short answer: a much-hyped seven piece indie-folk outfit based in Edinburgh. Helpfully, Ian is on hand to provide the background. “Jamie and I played in a band together at university, and when we moved back to Edinburgh we continued playing acoustic shows with Jamie’s brother Rory on violin. We met Arne, our cellist, at one of these shows and he joined us from there. In December 2006 we got offered a support slot with Degrassi at Bannermans and felt we really needed drums and bass to fill out the sound for it, so we roped in other some other university friends, Dave and Andy, to play piano and drums respectively. Jamie had been introduced to Gill through a friend and invited him to come and play bass, but I’d also been in the same music class as him at school years ago! It all seemed to come together really well from the first practice and it’s been the seven of us ever since.”

What do they sound like and where do they fit in?

Many column inches have been devoted to this one. With their bohemian get-up, strings ‘n’ accordions and soaring crescendos, the Fourth Estate have happily lumped them in with the Arcade Fires and Beiruts of this world. While flattering, the band dismiss such comparisons as marriages of convenience. “It’s just lazy journalism,” rants Turnball, “and frustrating for us when someone sees seven people playing strings, mandolins and accordions and calls us a Scottish Arcade Fire because we don’t think our songs sound anything like theirs”.

The band may have to endure such scrutiny, with publications local and national hailing them as the “Celtic Arcade Fire.” The band’s actual influences, though, range from Calexico, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Ros and Mogwai, to Philip Glass, Arvo Part, Neutral Milk Hotel and Yann Tiersen. Despite the band’s music tastes having a decidedly international flavour, there is a tangible Celtic element to their music, something which has won the band admirers at home and further afield.

The band’s frontman and lyricist Jamie Sutherland has earned plaudits for the diversity, literariness and originality of his songwriting. “I made a conscious effort not just to write about girls a couple of years ago, as the subject just bores me,” he explains when asked to identify his muses. “Certainly few things beat a well-written, personal song but I guess for me, only in moderation. I’ve tried writing about politics, yet have never had the courage to dive into it with any conviction. If you have a hard and fast political view, and feel obliged to pen it, you can find yourself looking pretty foolish pretty quickly, so I have found myself researching a few lyrics to make sure I get the tone right.”

Sutherland is clearer on what he won’t be writing about anytime soon.

“Certainly the Arctic Monkeys style of observational lyrics has never appealed. I just take a walk down the Cowgate on a Saturday night to know how rancid it is. I always hoped that like Nick Cave or Tom Waits, the lyrics might take you somewhere you hadn’t been before, stretched your imagination a little.”

Where can we hear the band?

Last year, Broken Records released singles on both Young Turks and Distiller Records and the good news is there’s a debut album in the offing. “We were in a situation earlier in the year where a [record] deal fell through for various reasons and it caused us a few setbacks,” says Ian. “We’re currently in discussions with who we believe to be the right label, and that’s all we’re going to say on the subject for now. But all being well, we hope to begin recording an album in January.”

What were the band’s highlights of 2008 and what are their ambitions for 2009?

Having become fixtures on the nation’s festival circuit last summer, it’s unsurprising that some of those gigs feature heavily in Broken Records’ ‘Best Of…’ list. “We had an amazing time at the Latitude festival. We were playing on the Sunrise stage which was an incredibly beautiful setting in the middle of a clearing in the woods. To get to the backstage area you had to get ferried across a lake on a little boat and the atmosphere for that show was brilliant. We also had a great time playing headline shows at Wickerman and Connect.”

Perhaps their most surreal moment of 2008 took place at Hyde Park, London. Ian explains: “When we got to our dressing room Portakabin backstage we found we were sandwiched between The Police on one side, and The Stranglers and Mick Jones on the other!”

As far as the year ahead, the band are understandably ambitious. “The main one at the moment is to get an album recorded and out on the shelves,” says Ian. “Then we’re really looking forward to playing festivals again, and because we haven’t managed to do it the last couple of years we’d really like to play at Glastonbury. We just want more and more people to hear the music.”

Jamie also admits that the transatlantic success of Skinny favourites Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad is inspiring for Broken Records, too. “To tour the States has long been a dream of mine, so seeing these bands doing so well is really encouraging, in that people there might be responsive to what we do. We have already been offered a few shows in New York and the States, so hopefully we can get over there and try and make a name for ourselves as well.”

Watch this space…

Video: Broken Records – Wolves (in session with the excellent Song By Toad)

Originally posted here:

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