Friday, May 04, 2007

In Sight/ Music & Arts: View ready to play 'nice' in Japan

You're 19 or 20, and already people expect you to be a role model. This is the situation faced by members of one of Britain's hottest new rock bands, the View, who will tour Japan in May.

In March, less than 24 hours after receiving the prestigious NME award for Best Track of the Year for their ebullient "Wasted Little DJs," the band's singer and co-songwriter Kyle Falconer was fined £1,000 (243,000 yen) for possessing cocaine last August and was criticized by anti-drug campaigners for being a poor role model for Scotland's youth.

Almost as quickly as the members of the View have shot to stardom with their energetic brand of street rock, they have also earned one of rock's most notorious bad-boy images. This is something that Kieran Webster, the bassist and co-songwriter, said he found unfair during a recent telephone interview from Glasgow's famous Barrowlands music venue, where the band was sound checking for a gig.

"Things did happen," he said, admitting he was hungover during the interview. "But you can focus on other things apart from that. Other great stuff happens that never gets mentioned. But as soon as you get chucked out of a hotel or something, it's all over the place."

In one incident, the group was banned from the Bayview pub in Dundee, Scotland, an early rehearsal venue and the source of the group's name, after band members rode a motor scooter on the bar.

Of course, for a rock band, getting into a bit of trouble can be great publicity, but it can also have its downside. Falconer's conviction for drug possession has already led to visa problems and the cancellation of a trip to the United States, including an appearance at the influential South by Southwest rock festival, where they were being touted as the next Arctic Monkeys.

Webster dismissed the idea that the band acts up in an attempt to be seen as rebellious.

"I don't think it's really rebellious taking drugs," he said. "I think there's better ways to be rebellious, like writing a rebellious song or whatever. We don't try to have any kind of image. We just do our thing and play our gigs. As long as people come, we keep playing them."

Much of the negative publicity the band attracts seems to be caused by its association with British rock's No. 1 bad boy, Pete Doherty, the Babyshambles singer whose chaotic lifestyle and convictions for a variety of criminal offenses, combined with his high profile relationship with supermodel Kate Moss, has aroused frenzied interest from the British media.

Doherty played a key role in the View's breakthrough when Webster pressed a demo CD into his hands during a visit by the Babyshambles to the View's hometown of Dundee. After a quick live audition, the band was invited to support Doherty's band onstage and subsequently invited on a national tour. According to Webster, the demo contained four tracks, including "Street Lights," "Face for the Radio" and "Comin' Down," which are on the band's British No. 1 debut CD "Hats Off to the Buskers," released earlier this year.

To those familiar with Doherty's media image as a heroin junkie, it seems surprising that Webster chose him as the person to give the band's demo CD to. But Doherty is also known as an artiste who does not set himself above his fans, and rejects the self-importance of the rock world.

"We never pushed ourselves too much," Webster recalled. "We just used to give our demo CDs to people who asked us for them or one or two bands that were playing in Dundee. I know Pete's reputation, but I also know that he really likes music. I thought he might let us play, so I asked him and he did, so I got it right. I knew he would. There wouldn't be many people who would do that--only him."

Members of the View have sought to maintain a similar borderless approach to their fans. This is all part of the new guerrilla, DIY ethic of the British music scene since the success of Doherty's first band, the Libertines, and the Arctic Monkeys. But, as Webster says, it's getting harder to keep the informal relationship between band and fans that existed in the early days.

Luckily, with its off-the-cuff lyrics and rousing ensemble playing, the band's debut album has managed to capture much of the intimacy and warmth of the band's early fan-centered period, when songs like "Wasted Little DJs" were cranked out on the spur of the moment at the behest of fans.

As for the bad-boy image, Japan should take care of that. Webster remembered the positive influence Japanese fans had on him during the band's brief trip here last December.

"The people are really nice," he said. "It makes you want to be a better person being in Japan."


* * *

The View will perform May 24 (7 p.m.) at Drum Be-1 in Fukuoka. Call Kyodo Nishi Nippon at 092-714-0159.

May 30 (7 p.m.) at Nagoya Club Quattro. Call the venue at 052-264-8211.

All shows 5,500 yen in advance.

Sold out: May 28-29 in Tokyo and May 31 in Osaka.(IHT/Asahi: May 4,2007)


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