Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Happy View Year

THE last time I met Kyle Falconer, lead singer in Dundee rock sensations The View, he'd managed to wrap up the story of his life thus far in under 15 minutes. Bored of having his picture taken after two minutes, he then bolted for home via the back gardens of his housing estate; the black, curly mop-top finally disappearing behind a sturdy privet.

That was four months ago, also two hit singles, 80 gigs, innumerable beers and interminable games of I-Spy ago. But it's just as well I don't now expect - or want - him to be slick and glib and blasé about the troubadour's life, because that's the length of the Tay from what I get.

I'm lucky to get Falconer at all. At a Boxing Day party, he was "bouncing aff the walls, delirious, couldnae see", and for once his disoriented state wasn't self-inflicted.

He was rushed to Dundee's Ninewells Hospital, where pneumonia was diagnosed and he was placed on a drip. The View's Hogmanay gig in Glasgow was suddenly in doubt, and beyond that their storming of America.

But they build 'em tough in Dundee. Two days later, I'm being driven by the band's manager, Grant Dickson, to Falconer's sister's house, where he has been recuperating. "Kyle must be 80% proof. The bugs didn't stand a chance," says Dickson, who's witnessed The View's toe-rag hedonism close up.

Then sis phones to say he's escaped. A New York Times journalist, intrigued by the hot new young sound-of-the-schemes coming out of Dundee, had to be turned back at the airport when illness struck, and Dickson fears he'll have to send me home as well. For whatever Falconer had, the other three have now got.

Finally the elusive frontman calls in. He's in the Park House Hotel, close to the Dryburgh estate where the band all live, the subject of so many of their songs. "Grant gave me a binbag full of DVDs but I just got bored with them," he explains. "Plus, my sister was doing my heid in."

Kyle Falconer doesn't look much like a rock star. He barely looks old enough to be in this lounge bar. A hoodie compresses his curls; the jeans are faded black and skinny. Espadrilles without socks complete the look - very "Dundee in December". He's 19 but could pass for any of the younger kids kicking about in the Wellgate shopping centre - that funny age when you're bored with Christmas and more excited by Hogmanay.

Drummer Steve Morrison - "Crazy Mo" - was 20 yesterday and now joins the veteran class shared by guitarist Pete Reilly and bassist Kieran Webster. While the others rest up, Falconer looks back on the last year, and ahead to the release of The View's hotly anticipated debut album.

"When we last saw you, none of us had been away from home for any length of time, and we were just about to start our tour," he says between slurps of orange juice. "It just got bigger and bigger and madder and crazier. We played places in Wales where all we could see in the first few rows were faces frae Dundee. We were so late for a show at the Brixton Academy we had to slug our voddy as we ran frae the bus to the stage.

"We supported Primal Scream. By the end of those dates, Bobby Gillespie [lead singer, hellraiser of some discernment] gave up his fancy hotels and moved in with us in the Travelodges. We played Japan with the Ordinary Boys and when me and Kieran stage-dived during their set, the crowd parted and we fell on our faces! As we're lying on the ground all these Japanese girls are taking pictures of us and Preston [lead singer, used to being usurped by Scots, eg George Galloway] breaks off and says: 'That'll be The View then'. That'll be The View then. As slogans go, it's not as good as "The View, The View, The View are on fire!" This football chant echoed around sweaty halls as the fervour grew and more and more fans began singing along to teen-angst anthems they couldn't yet play on their iPods but which they'd already claimed as their own.

"We've played places we didn't know existed," says Falconer. Such as? "Aldershot! Actually, that was a crap gig, but Japan was Beatlesque. We were chased up the street in Tokyo by these screaming girls all with really rare EPs folk in Dundee haven't even got."

The album is called Hats Off To The Buskers. It was produced by Owen Morris, best known for turning the amps up to 11 for The View's heroes, Oasis. Already Falconer admits it's out of date.

"We recorded it ages ago," he says, which for a 19-year-old translates as seven months ago. "By the end of the tour we were playing the songs so fast we almost didnae recognise them. But we're really happy with it. It's who we are and where we're frae."

Among its 14 numbers, 'Gran's For Tea' namechecks Dundee ("There's a mile-long queue at the chippy/I wish I was at my gran's for tea") and 'The Don' goes even further and references the Dryburgh shops which have become a Mecca for their more anoraky fans. There is now no shortage of opportunistic nine-year-olds willing to show tourists where the band live for the price of two cans of fizz.

Other songs centre on boredom, bevvying, dropping Es, stealing cars, fighting with "posh boys", wearing the same jeans for four days on the trot and how, when you grow up in Dryburgh, a good trade and a "house in the [Broughty] Ferry" must be the ultimate of your ambitions. Unless you're The View.

'The Don' is about the band's mate, Marco. 'Face For Radio' is about their friend Clarkie. And 'Claudia'? "That's about a girl I met," says Falconer, "although that's no' her name. Claudia is my dog, one of the Magic Roundabout kind."

So, groupies. Do The View have any? Falconer blushes. "Kind o'." Back in Dundee, his mother has to field phone calls from "randoms, girls I must have gi'en my number to when I was drunk". But he has a girlfriend. For Christmas, she gave him an accordion. "It's really ancient, like." How old? "1960s."

Do their parents worry about them? "Aye, they must. But I'm sure they would rather this than being on the dole." He says the others are already talking about moving away from Dundee, but he's staying put. "What would be the point in buying a flat in London when we're aye on the road? It would be a waste of money."

Let London come to The View. One English broadsheet profiling the band couldn't resist this jibe: "The wider world hasn't seen such ill-looking Scottish boys since the Jesus and Mary Chain." The piece went on to dub the band "the Bash Street Kids on Ecstasy". Still, at least the paper had done its homework on Dundee's pop-culture heritage.

You do wonder, though, what anyone beyond Dundee makes of a chorus (for the debut single 'Wasted Little DJs') which goes: "Astedwae ittlae ejaysdae..." I have to have it explained to me. It's the song's title in a Dundonian version of Pig Latin which the band use as a secret language.

For ultra-secret business, The View mix the Pig Latin with Egg. But their mums didn't sail up the Tay in a banana skin. They've cracked the code. Just the other day, from a kitchen in deepest Dryburgh, the chilling cry rang out: "I ken what bloody 'wegg' is - weed!"

There is no real secret to The View's appeal. It's a joyful collision between a desperate music scene already verging on being bored with the Arctic Monkeys and four young Scots with local colour to burn.

Falconer is not daft. He knows his band are being hyped something terrible and admits this worries him. "But what can you do?" he says. "Once the momentum builds you cannae stop it. You've just got to hope that you're good enough to outrun it."

On 'Same Jeans', Falconer sings: "You'd be amazed at what you can achieve in a year." The View have already done so much. Famous for jute, jam and journalism, Dundee hasn't been notable for jingle-jangle since the heady days of The Associates. The Dundee Courier has even cleared its front page for them in 2006, and that's no mean feat. Their 2007 will begin properly in New York.

"I cannae wait," says Falconer of the short American visit which also takes in Los Angeles and San Francisco. "I've aye wanted to go to New York. I wasn't brave enough to try sushi in Tokyo, but as soon as I get to Manhattan I'm going to hit the streets and order a hot dog and three pretzels from the first vendor I meet."

Falconer is getting hungry and says he must be going. "Sister's for tea." That's a full 40 minutes he's lasted this time. He's just an old, bloated, washed-up rock pig.

The View play Glasgow's Hogmanay in George Square tonight. The single 'Same Jeans' is released on January 15. Hats Off To The Buskers (1965 Records) is out on January 22

by AIDAN SMITH, Scotland on Sunday 31/12/06
thanks to rrrichyrich for link


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