Sunday, September 10, 2006

Stardom will not spoil the View

Scotland's latest rock sensation are heading for success, but, bless, they have mixed feelings about a move away from their parents’ homes in Dundee to the bright lights of London, discovers Jeremy Austin

Keiren Webster is missing home. The 20-year-old bass player, all straggly hair and rock-star demeanour, is about a quarter of the way through a 80-date tour of Britain with his band, the View. Peterborough seems dark and empty outside the window of the restaurant in which he and the rest of the band are eating their pre-gig meal. And suddenly Dryburgh — a run-down housing estate on the northern edge of Dundee — seems the most homely place on the planet. “I didn’t really want to stay in Dundee,” Webster complains. “I wanted to move to London, but now I’m starting to miss Dundee.”
It is a serious concern. A year and a half ago, Webster was working as a joiner on a building site with the guitarist Peter Reilly, 20, and vocalist Kyle Falconer, 19. Drummer Steven Morrison had just started as a butcher. They played in a covers band around Dundee on Friday nights to supplement their income. Now all four are standing on the verge of rock stardom. A gaggle of groupies hangs around outside the restaurant, something of a novelty, according to the waitress. It is a mark of how far the band have come in a short space of time.

In 2005, after only a couple of gigs playing their own material instead of covers, they gave Pete Doherty, the Babyshambles singer, a copy of their demo CD while he was standing outside a venue in Dundee.

He offered them a chance to support Babyshambles and passed the CD onto James Endeacott — the owner of the indie label 1965 Records and the man who signed Doherty’s first band, the Libertines.

There was a bidding war, and the View were added to Endeacott’s roster. And then their lives exploded. A support slot on the ill-fated Babyshambles tour at the start of the year — it was temporarily halted while Doherty was a guest of Her Majesty — was followed by appearances at the Leeds, Reading and T in the Park festivals. Then came an invitation to join Scottish rock legends Primal Scream on tour, and repeated airplay on Radio 1 for their first single, Wasted Little DJs. The song eventually rose to No 15 in the charts.

But while all this amounts to an almost unimaginable level of excitement and possibilities in their lives, it also raises the inevitability of a move to London — the centre of the British music industry. And the trouble is, all the boys, bar Reilly, are still living at home with their parents in Dundee.

“I don’t want to move to London. I’m close to my family,” says Morrison. His girlfriend, Bobi, also lives locally. “She’s a good Dundee girl,” he says.

Falconer, whose girlfriend is in London, has no such doubts. “I love London. It’s great. Camden is brilliant,” he enthuses, his frighteningly young face beaming from beneath a mop of curls.

Leaving home, leaving girlfriends behind — these are the kind of difficulties faced by the young. Barely in their twenties, the band’s youthfulness is something they share with the Mercury Prize winners Arctic Monkeys, as well as a knack for catchy, poppy, punky tunes with wry real-life lyrics.

But don’t let their age cloud you to the maturity of their music: the construction of the songs; the layering of the instruments; the way Falconer’s screeching, growling rhythm-and-blues vocals thunder above it all as if he is Jim Morrison’s grandson — they cite the Doors, the Beatles, Squeeze and Crowded House as influences.

Lyrically they claim to “sort of celebrate the fact that we’re from Dryburgh”. They are also incredibly tight live. Once they had signed to 1965 Recordings they quit their jobs and began practising 12 hours a day in the backroom of the Bayview bar (hence the band’s name) 10 miles outside Dundee. Very diligent, but then, as they explain, that’s because their mums and dads told them to practise.

Reilly says: “If we were going to leave our jobs, we were pressured from our parents to start doing something. We were dedicated.”

But while the View’s parents are quite possibly now beginning to see the band as a legitimate career path, the band themselves, thankfully, are enjoying their new-found fame with all the youthful exuberance they can muster.

“I’m not really career-minded. Our managers are career-minded. We rehearse 12-hours a day to get good songs together, know what I mean?” says Webster.

“We don’t want money, we want happiness,” Reilly says. “We are not in it for the money. The money is nice, but we are in it to play gigs and make people happy.”

But having Doherty as some sort of crazy mentor does mean that the band has a walking, salutary lesson in how some of the more excessive aspects of the music industry can seriously stop a person’s ability to have fun.
Falconer recalls how Doherty’s erratic behaviour affected the tour. “We were supposed to be playing the Carling Academy in Newcastle and he never turned up,” he says.

“The night before that he was at a mad party in Aberdeen and he ended up getting caught by the police. Something happened and he didn’t come to the gig. We ended up playing the gig with the rest of Babyshambles. We went up on stage and played with them. We filled in for Pete.”

With the strong ties between the band, and their shared upbringing, there is a sense of belonging together that will, in the end, almost certainly see them move en masse to London.

But surely such a move wouldn’t bode well for the continuing development of the Scottish music scene, would it? After all, Scotland did throw up such ground-breaking acts as Franz Ferdinand.

“Franz Ferdinand, they’re not Scottish,” says Reilly.

“No, they’re not Scottish. They’ve not got a Scottish mentality,” adds Webster.

“We’re Scottish,” Reilly affirms.

So why not stay in Scotland? Move to Glasgow, perhaps? “If you’ve got a Dundonian accent, you try getting into a nightclub in Glasgow,” bemoans Falconer.

“Glaswegians don’t really like Dundonians,” Reilly agrees.

“Nobody likes Dundonians,” says Falconer.

The Sunday Times September 10, 2006


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