Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cocaine Knights

You wouldn’t want your daughter to marry one, but The View are still the real deal, says Michael Wylie-Harris

When The View broke in 2007 they were barely out of short trousers. Unapologetically young, uncompromisingly raw: they were a breath fresh air.

Hits like ‘Same Jeans’ proved they were radio-friendly, but there was also an energy about the band - particularly on stage - that said ‘this is the real thing’; and at the time it was a welcome antidote to the bland, chart-topping sound of The Kooks.

But mixing puberty with rock stardom is a dangerous game, and The View quite quickly proved they weren’t going to do the ‘loveable, indie pin-up thing’, which their afore-mentioned peers were doing with such nauseating aplomb. The View, you see, had balls. A boy band in their teens can be quite easily managed, but they were a rock band... from Dundee. They drank. They smoked. They got into fights. They took cocaine. They got - and still are - banned from America.

So The View got a reputation for being a bit of a hand full early on. Their singer, Kyle Falconer, was arrested in the States for possession of cocaine, and the band got labelled hell-raisers by the press. But at the same time their debut album, Hats Off To The Buskers, went straight in at number one and was nominated for The Mercury Prize. It was hailed a triumph by the critics (some of whom called the band ‘the future of indie-rock’) and between late 2006 and early 2007, they had three top twenty singles.

In February 2009 they returned with their second effort, Which Bitch?. Released two years after their debut, it has done considerably less well. Receiving mixed reviews from the critics, it went in at number four and dropped quite quickly after that, spending just two weeks in the top 40. The three singles haven’t done well either, with their latest, ‘Temptation Dice’, failing to even make the top 100. All of this has prompted those in the know to suggest that the band waited too long to release Which Bitch? and have fallen fowl of the evil ‘difficult second record’ syndrome.

This is of course something that’s dismissed as “a load of fucking shite” by Kyle Falconer; though when we meet, not long after the comparative commercial failure of Which Bitch? is unravelling, he does tell me that the band are eager to start recording their third studio album as soon as possible.

“We have kind of got a lot of songs together for the next album,” he says. “And Owen Morris [the producer of the first two albums] has just moved to Edinburgh and we want to work with him again because he’s a friend now. And we’ve got a lot of tracks we wanna get down so as soon as we get the chance we’re just gonna go in and start playing some tunes.”

Falconer is a curious package. Like so many of rock ‘n’ roll front men, he’s a diminutive figure, but he’s stockier than usual and though he’s good looking, it’s in a far from conventional way. With his mop of Bob Dylan curls it’s rare to get a good look at his face and you wonder if this is a hangover from the bad skin he suffered as a teenager. He talks at hyper-speed. Everything’s either, ‘sound as fuck, or ‘a load of fucking shite’ and in his heavy Dundee accent it’s difficult to keep up. Like all the best rock stars there’s a real energy about him too. There’s an edge and a tension there at all times, but it’s mixed with a pleasing honesty and lack of pretension reminiscent of a young Liam Gallagher. He’s upfront about his influence, and it’s none of your usual obscure, new wave nonsense either: Oasis, The Beatles and The Clash, thank you very much.

Like any kid his age, he likes going out and getting pissed and he neither hides the fact nor tries to make a big thing out of it. “London is,” he tells me, “a good place to get fucked up” (he is the only member of the band to have moved from Scotland); and of his cocaine arrest in America and the band’s subsequent reputation for booze and drugs, “It’s not the best of reputations, like, but we do get pissed up a lot. The cocaine thing, getting caught for it and all, that was just a one off, like. It’s pretty shite that we’re still barred from America, like. That’s the only thing that bothers us really. It’s really shite.”

In short, Falconer’s pretty fucking cool: ‘sound as fuck’ if you will.

He tells me the band are pleased with the way the second record turned out. Working with Owen Morris again (the producer has also worked with Oasis and The Verve in the past), this time Falconer co-produced. And typically, he refutes the claim that the band were trying to make a ‘more mature’ record this time around.

“It just happened that way,” he says. “We didn’t really want it to move on, it was just like something that came quite naturally really. We just kind of had more time really, you know. I don’t think we were really more mature or more thought out, it just happened.

“Last time we just kinda got chucked in the studio and it was a bit punk rock, where as this time the whole thing was a bit more professional I guess.

“It’s a bit more mysterious lyrically I think, and a bit more mythical. This time we were really just sort of saying whatever we wanted to rather than worrying about what people were gonna think.”

And did you wait too long to release it? “I think that’s a load of shite. Whenever it needs to come out, it’ll come out. Whenever it’s finished, it’s finished. There’s no point in rushing things. The music industry is always changing anyway, so what does that mean that we waited to long and didn’t release it at the right time? I’m glad we let it happen naturally. We just let it take its path, you know.”

Poetic ramblings on the ins and outs of the creative process are far from Kyle Falconer’s style. “It’s pretty chaotic,” he tells me of the band’s recording style. “We just kind of get pissed up and see what we come up with.” And on his working method with bass player and writing partner, Kieren Webster: “Some of them are mine, some of them are his.”

Which Bitch?’s failure to live up to the success of Hats Off To The Buskers puts The View in that perilous position of being another band that could all but disappear after their first record. There’s something about Kyle Falconer, though, that tells me that at 21, he’s not quite ready to throw the towel in yet.

by Michael Wylie-Harris, Tour, 2nd July 2009


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