Britpop meets redneck Alberta

By Jerome Mazandarani

Idlewild is a band that stands alone among their British contempories. While Blur and Oasis were battling it out for Britpop supremacy, Idlewild were touring every inch of the British Isles, playing their own unique brand of Minor-Threat-meets-Sonic-Youth influenced indie-rock. After already touring Australia and Asia, Idlewild released The Remote Part and are five weeks into their first headlining tour of the United States and Canada.

I had the chance to interview the band’s new bassist, Gavin Fox, as he took some well deserved time off from touring commitments.

“I was just in the hot tub, surrounded by palm trees,” states the affable bassist from his room at The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. I was, however, disappointed to learn that the hot tub was groupie free on this occasion.

For most fans of UK music living in Alberta, it is frustrating to see most of our favourite bands exclude Calgary or Edmonton from their itineraries. However, for Idlewild, the chance to play in some of Canada’s smaller cities is an opportunity to bring their music to a wider audience. As far as Fox is concerned, “It’s a chance to take our music to a new audience. Hopefully, we can create a buzz for the band in places where they may not have heard of us before.”

Apart from the usual dilemmas of tedium and homesickness on the road, Idlewild ware only one week into their tour when the war in Iraq kicked off.

“Initially our response was ‘don’t fucking do it.’ We were praying, like the majority of people in the world, ‘don’t let this war happen.’”

One of the advantages/disadvantages of modern tour buses as Fox atests, is satellite television.

“We were on the bus watching CNN every day, just getting pissed off. It’s weird, but over here [in the U.S.] TV is so in your face. Every time we turned on the television it was just bomb, bomb, bomb.

“I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but about a week ago we stopped realizing that it’s actually real. It felt like a fucking TV show; it’s unreal.”

The Remote Part has a strong theme of identity that many music writers have been keen to draw attention to; especially with songs like “American English,” and the contribution from Scottish poet Edwin Morgan, on “Remote Part/Scottish Fiction.”

“Roddy [Woomble’s] lyrics are pretty smart, but it’s not something I pay particular attention to. Roddy is very lyrical. I’m a bass player, a musician; I just pay particular attention to the tunes. People perceive his lyrics in many different ways, but they are very personal. It just so happens that people interpret them differently.”

Idlewild have become the music press’ intellectual rock band of choice. Maybe this is because so many other bands are lyrically shallow. Fox admits that the band’s vocalist and lyricist,Woomble is an inspirational person to be around.

“I like talking to Roddy a lot. He’s a smart guy, and he knows what he’s talking about. He’s turned me onto a lot of good books and literature since I’ve known him.”

Fox is new to the Idlewild lineup, just beginning to tour with the band in support of The Remote Part.

“I’ve been friends with the band for the last three or four years. I was in a band from Ireland called Turn, and we toured around the UK with Idlewild, that’s how we met and became friends. Then the whole Bob fiasco (Bob Fairfoull quit the band shortly after The Remote Part was released in the UK) happened, and they asked me to join.”

The album has been out for the last nine months in the UK, but Idlewild haven’t waited for studio time to get working on their next album.

“In January, we returned to Edinburgh for six days and we started writing some new songs. While we’ve been on tour we have started some demos on the bus, using a lap top, and Roddy is constantly writing lyrics.”

As well as headlining their own extensive North American tour, Idlewild have been personally invited by Pearl Jam to support them on a couple of their sold-out arena shows in the States. Fox cannot hide his enthusiasm nor pride in being invited to play in such prestigious company.

“It’s very exciting for us to be able to play at such enormous venues to so many people in one concert. Pearl Jam is a band we totally respect. We’re not so much fans now, but they were pretty influential to a lot of people our age.”

It seems as though everything’s looking up for Idlewild, but, is there anything that the band is looking forward to doing while in Alberta?

“Well, our driver has been telling us about the hot springs in Banff. We get a day off, so we are going to visit them.”

Maybe this time the band will be luckier with its female hot tub accompaniment.


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