Monday, February 19, 2007

The children of the damned

When The View asked for Pete Doherty's blessing, they got it - and the rock'n'roll madness that goes with it. Luiza Sauma talks to four boys from Dundee caught in the headlights

The View's reputation precedes them. In the run up to meeting the biggest band to come out of Dundee since The Associates (ask your uncle), the warnings came thick and fast. "You're not going to understand a word of what they're saying," I'm told by all and sundry. "You should take a translator." "They're a bunch of rascals." "They hate journalists." One wily music writer managed to squeeze an entire feature out of a 10-minute interview, which was halted by hungover members of the band falling asleep. Another was interrupted by one of them throwing up on his own shoes. By the time I arrive at the Birmingham Academy - where I caught the band in the middle of the NME Indie Rock Tour with The Automatic, The Horrors and Mumm-ra - I'm expecting the worst.

What I'm faced with, are three sleepy-eyed young men, covered in mysterious scratches, scabs and bruises, milling about in their dressing room, surrounded by various hangers-on and crew members. One of the band says, "Aye, I remember you" to a blonde teenage girl, and she screeches gleefully, "You remember me!" One of their mates from home films the scene from the corner of the room, before knocking my dictaphone off a fridge, giggling guiltily and scurrying away. Drummer Steve Morrison has gone awol, but the other three each greet me with the kind of nonchalantly limp handshake a teenage boy would give to a particularly boring family friend. Which isn't surprising, since they're all aged 19 or 20. Then they proceed to ignore me, and cackle over a copy of the NME. Apart from pretty-boy bass player Kieren Webster, that is, who burns his arm with a lighter and scowls. A TV crew from Channel 4 are set up just outside the door. I ask frontman Kyle Falconer (the one with the bird's nest hair) how long the crew have been following them about and he grimaces, like he can't remember.

After a year spent on every rock critic's "ones to watch" list, The View's moment has arrived - and they're quickly learning the pros and cons of being the band of the moment. No wonder they're looking so bedraggled. Two weeks ago, their sparky debut album Hats Off to the Buskers outdid everybody's expectations and hit the No 1 spot, something that their heroes The Libertines only managed with their second album. And you'll be familiar with their recent single "Same Jeans" (you know, the one that bears an uncanny resemblance to Cornershop's late-Nineties hit "Brimful of Asha") which peaked a few weeks ago at No 3 but still sits happily in the Top 10. Everybody wants a piece of The View. But The View aren't giving anything anyway.

After their PR has chased everyone out of the dressing room - apart from their friend from home, who returns to skulk around with his digital camera - I sit on a box and switch on the broken dictaphone. They stare forlornly from a sofa, like schoolboys in detention. The first few minutes are excruciating. I ask them how the tour is going. "S'all right." How does it feel to have a No 1 album? "Amazing." Did they expect it, so early in their career? Unfailingly polite guitarist Pete Reilly shrugs, "Just hoped, not expected." Was it the best time in the band's life? Kyle: "Pretty much."

If anything, their lack of media-friendliness is refreshing - it's part of their appeal, as it were. There's no starriness here, no media training. I ask them when the band became a serious career prospect, and Kieren says: "It's never become a serious thing. Other people want it to be serious, but we don't want it to be serious." And he's right - people are working overtime to turn The View into stars. And so far, it's working.

When I arrived at the venue at 5.30pm, a queue was already snaking its way down the street. The fever surrounding the band is understandable: they've re-ignited a tired indie scene dominated by precocious stage-school alumni. There's nothing learned about The View, nothing mannered. Most importantly, they've got the tunes - great tunes, that cross-fertilise the jangle-rock romance of The Libertines with the swagger of early Oasis. (No surprises there - Owen "Definitely Maybe" Morris produced their album.) It's not science, it's certainly not Sonic Youth, and it's not trying to be. But they mean it - and they wear that sentiment on their sleeves; in Kieren's case, on his skin. The name of his band is etched, Libertines-style, on his upper arm.

Ah, The Libertines. One mention of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat's short-lived wonder, and the band visibly soften. "I love them," says Kyle. "And we never even got to see them live..." adds a dreamy-eyed Kieren, who finally stops trying to himself alight. In many ways, The View are eternally indebted to Pete Doherty - and not just musically. Kyle admits: "It all started when we played with Babyshambles. That's when we started getting a lot of people on our MySpace and stuff..."

The support slot in question came about when Kyle approached the Babyshambles frontman with a demo; impressed by what he heard, Doherty asked them to open for his band that very night. A tour followed, James Endeacott (who "discovered" The Libertines) signed them to Sony BMG imprint 1965 Records - and the rest, as they say, is history. Including Pete Doherty, it seems. "He's a hard person to keep in contact with," admits Kyle. "We last saw him in Fabric at a Love Music, Hate Racism gig. And he went, 'Oh you boys have been busy'." And there was the small matter of Steve being arrested with everyone's favourite junkie, for driving the wrong way down a one-way street - but I never have the chance to ask him about it: after popping his head round the door and treating me to another limp handshake, he makes a swift exit, flanked by several friends.

Being bothered by broadsheet journalists and stalked by a TV crew, travelling around the world, having girls fall at their feet, hit records, being arrested with notorious rockstars - it's all a long way from the Dryburgh estate where all four members of The View grew up. I ask how long they've known each other, and they mumble "forever", "all our lives". They've been playing together for years, including a requisite dodgy covers stage. "We used to do that when we went to school," says Kyle. "We never had any intention of making money off it; we just did it because we enjoyed it. We used to play Oasis and the Beatles covers..." But The View were officially formed two years ago; they got their name from The Bayview Pub, where they held rehearsals. What kind of music did they play then? "Just what we play now," says Pete. "All the same songs we play now." "Aye," concurs Kieren. "We played 'Superstar Tradesman' [their Top 20 hit from last October] at our first gig."

At the time, success seemed unimaginable. Kyle says: "I was a brickie, Pete was a joiner... [Steve] was a butcher." Pete, in fact, was in the middle of a four-year joiner apprenticeship, which his parents were keen for him to complete. "They wanted me to have something to fall back on, but it doesn't work like that, really." But they've made everyone back home proud. "Everyone in Dundee's gone mental," says Kyle. "Dundee doesn't have success like that, not since The Associates."

But when I ask The View about their plans for the future, the band look positively mournful. "Make another album," says Kyle. "Going to America soon," mumbles Pete. "I feel bad about complaining about it sometimes," Kyle goes on, "but we work really hard. We want to see our girlfriends and stuff." "It's not just that," says Kieren. "We need to write more songs too."

An hour later, when The View take to the stage, it becomes clear that this was just a spot of tired despondency. I watch the band from the wings; their young fans are squashed together and wide-eyed with glee, shouting back every word of an album that has only been out for a couple of weeks. The slumped boys from backstage are nowhere to be seen. Kieren - the grumpiest interviewee of the lot - still in a wine-stained stripy T-shirt, prances around like a pixie; Pete struts at the front; Kyle sings with shuddering intensity. Steve is, well, there. And in between each song, the audience chant: "The View, The View, The View are on fire!" The View are no performing monkeys, but they're articulate where it counts: on stage. And they're having the time of their lives.

The Independant, 18 February 2007


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