I first saw ‘Cancel the Astronauts’ last year in Edinburgh. Worryingly, the venue looked like a shabby school sports hall and there were cupcakes at the bar. Then when the band bounded on stage my only thoughts were: ‘The singer is wearing trackie bottoms? Well, this is going to be bollocks’. How wrong I was. So very very wrong.
Instead I was treated to one of the most surprising live treats in ages. They play disturbing indie, with a touch off-kilter glamour. As they tore through their set, I just remember thinking these guys were for me.
I know I must like a band when I find myself singing their songs, badly I might add, the following day. For me that song was ‘I Am The President Of Your Fanclub’, not since Pulp’s ‘Babies’ has there been a tune which is both perturbing and an indie pop gem, all at the same time.
I have been pestering these guys to do this for me for a while now. Now that their excellent new EP is out, they’ve stepped up to the plate and Cancel the Astronauts become the twenty third entry into the ‘legendary’ Scots Way-Hay club.
Would you care to introduce yourself?
Matt: We are Cancel the Astronauts.
Michael: Individually speaking that equates to Matthew on vocals and guitar, Kieran on lead guitar. Neil on bass, Chris on drums and me on synth.
How would you describe the music you make?
Matt: ‘Creepy Pop’ is probably the most apt description of our music that I’ve heard to date. Although I can’t for the life of me remember who said it. I certainly try to make it as melodic and memorable as possible, with honest, odd and hopefully sometimes frightening lyrics.
Kieran: Creepy Pop, yes. Though more recently we’ve been adding elements of noise-mongery, which mostly involves jumping on our reverb pedals and hitting our guitars as hard as possible. Hugely satisfying, but hard on the strings.
Michael: It’s arguably becoming less ‘Pop’. I’m not sure if it’s becoming less ‘Creepy’.
Matt: It is indeed getting progressively less pop, which is partly deliberate and partly natural, although wholly un-noticeable on ‘Funny For A Girl’ which is very much a continuation of our last EP. It’s probably getting creepier too.
How did you come together as a band?
Kieran: Matt, Michael and me all went to school together in Kilmarnock and then — like a teen drama that went on a couple of seasons too long – lived with each other for a while while we were at uni, so we’ve known each other for ages. We met Neil through a friend and we got Chris off Gumtree.
Michael: I’d say our time living together was more like a rubbish sitcom. There wasn’t anything like enough partying or sex for a teen drama. Not between each other of course. I mean with ladies.
Matt: Which is to say, no sex. None. Not one bit.
How did you start out making music?
Matt: I was the bass player in Kieran’s old Oasis covers band called Morley Street. I had a great desire to write my own music. I was unsatisfied playing Guigsy’s bass parts. There was no art to it. No finesse. So I stole an acoustic guitar off an acquaintance of mine and I was immediately hooked. I was seventeen then, I’m twenty seven now and I haven’t stopped writing since. I’m only now getting any good at it though.
Kieran: I would like to take issue with the idea that I ever played in an Oasis covers band. I can’t though.
Michael: At school I always envied the fact that they were playing in an Oasis covers band. So I started making music on my computer. Later at uni, I bought a synth and after convincing Kieran that synths aren’t gay, I joined the band.
What process goes into the way you write songs?
Matt: I write the chords and words and melody and then we all add our own bits in the practice room. The structures tend not to stray too far from how they were conceived, but the actual sound and a feel of a song often ends up being quite different from how I’d imagined it. It takes us weeks and weeks to finish a song.
Michael: I often hold this process up…
Kieran: Usually we’ll take one of Matt’s demos and work to make it faster and louder, with much debate as to exactly how fast and how loud everything should be. At some point we’ll add a disco beat to it. There is no song in the world that can’t be made better by adding a disco beat to it. This is just true. We then spend a while playing it fast and loud and with a disco beat until eventually our drummer’s arms get sore and he suggests we do it slower and quieter and without a disco beat. Thus a Cancel The Astronauts song is born.
Who are your big musical influences?
Matt: The Smiths, The Lightning Seeds, The Divine Comedy, Pulp, The Strokes and more recently Frightened Rabbit.
Kieran: Similar to Matt’s, but without all the rubbish bands he’s obviously put down for a joke. Also, Radiohead, early Bloc Party, Four Tet, but mostly more contemporary, homespun stuff like the bands we play with/see around Edinburgh. But the best album ever right now is High Violet by The National. They win at music.
Having caught you live for the first time last year, I was really impressed by how entertaining you were to watch. Do you prefer the live environment or do you feel more comfortable being tucked away in a rehearsal room?
Matt: I prefer the writing process in the rehearsal room. I like making new things and I don’t like the pressure and trouble of playing gigs. I worry about the sound, and whether anyone will turn up and if they’ll like us or not. I enjoy a good gig, but you’re never sure which one is going to be good in the first place. Give me a rehearsal room any day.
Michael: Personally I prefer gigs. When they’re good. I’d say the good ones make up for the bad ones.
Kieran: We’ve been holed up writing new stuff for a wee while now, so I’m really looking forward to getting back to gigging and playing our shiny new songs to folks. Would this be the right time to casually mention that we’ve got a couple of gigs coming up? We’re playing at King Tuts on the 24th of July and then the GRV on the 25th. Everyone should come along. It’ll stop Matt worrying so much, for a start, and there is a possibility I’ll noise-monger too hard and break anything up to six strings at the one time, which as everyone knows is all of them. That’s what I’m worried about.
What can we expect to see/hear from you in 2010?
Matt: We’re writing an album which you won’t hear any of until 2011 I’m afraid. It’ll be much much better than anything we’ve already released though.
Michael: That being said, You can possibly expect to see/hear very little from us in 2010.
Cancel The Astronauts – I Am The President Of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home)
Cancel the Astronauts new EP ‘Funny For A Girl‘ is available on CD and download over on their Bandcamp page. In the unlikely event that you need a bit more convincing, as if could you?!, then make sure you check out their debut EP ‘I Am The President Of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home)‘ which is up there for free download.
If you fancy catching the boys playing live then you’re in luck as they’re playing at King Tuts in Glasgow on the 24th of July and then the GRV in Edinburgh on the 25th. Then again you should already know that as they already told you that (tut tut if you weren’t paying attention).
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Photo Credit: LouJauss