Aberfeldy - Come On Claire
Although they’ve suffered unexpected personnel changes, the end of their record deal with Rough Trade and various other unfortunate happenings in the last couple of years, Edinburgh’s Aberfeldy are still moving onwards, having released a new single named Claire in autumn 2008 and continued the writing of their third album. Due a proper reintroduction, Aberfeldy 2.0 now consists of Riley Briggs (singer, guitarist, songwriter), Ken Buchanan (bass), Murray Briggs (drums; also Riley’s brother) and Vicky Gray (fiddle), and a revolving array of keyboard players – as Riley explains.
What is it with all the keyboard players?
We’ve gone through them like knives through butter. It’s been hard to get someone who can stay in the band, because they’ve all been doing their own thing. Currently we have a lass from Glasgow called Lorna Veverka, although she’s getting busier and busier with her own band (Wilburnsilver). Before that we had Donna Maciocia from Amplifico, who lives in London, and then it was Chris Bradley, who has his own solo thing. He isn’t in the band, but we’re hopeful he’ll be able to come back and play at these gigs.
How did the changes in the band come about?
Because Ruth (Barrie) and I split up, which is all water under the bridge now. And Rough Trade dropped us round about the same time, because I guess our second album hadn’t done as well as they thought it would. We also had a difficult tour with Paulo Nutini… I don’t know, you get asked to play these support tours… we did one before with the Beautiful South and it was great, their fans really took to us and the band were lovely, they really exercised their socialist principles with us. Paulo and his band were great too, but he has a much younger fanbase, so we’d go on his website and read all these comments about ‘what were the Addams Family doing supporting?’ That came at the end of a run of really bad luck for us, but we still had a few gigs in the diary, so the new band came together for them.
Why did you decide to keep going after that?
I considered going solo or renaming the band, but we’d already changed line-up before. We started as a trio (Riley, Buchanan, drummer Ian Stoddart), then the girls (Barrie and Sarah McFadyen) joined and Stoddy left, so we’ve had big changes already. There was already a certain cachet there, a bit of a fanbase for what we were doing, so I thought it would be a shame to waste that.
Have you been recording much?
We’ve been saying for the last two years that our album’ll be out in a couple of months! (laughs) We have a lot of stuff written and recorded, but we really need to find a label that can put out an album. 17 Seconds, who did our single, are just a fledgling label, they couldn’t afford it – we’ll probably do another single with them, though. I’ve actually been toying with the idea of just putting the album up on MySpace for free, rather than trying to prise 79p per track from people. We were quite pleased with the amount of airplay we got for the last single, though, and now we really want to get back to touring – that’s a military operation, though, because we all have jobs and kids too.
The single Claire matches up to anything you’ve done before, and last Christmas’ gig at the Voodoo Rooms (with the new line-up) was a great, celebratory show. The band and your fans are still as into it as you ever were, isn’t that right?
Yeah, that’s it. Aberfeldy is basically me, my songs, and some pals to help me play them. So it’s remained the same format with different people. Not that I’d want to sound like we did on our first album, though…
It was a good album, but it was just a kind of tortuous process. We decided to play it all at once, with no overdubs, which drew the recording process out. That’s what probably got us noticed by Rough Trade, though. I’d also just split up with my partner and my last band, so the songs all came out of a pretty miserable place, whereas the second album was more just an attempt at writing a good pop album. The new stuff is a mixture of the two, though – about half a dozen depressing, ‘why did you leave me?’ songs, and lots of uptempo folky disco things, as well.
It’s funny you say that about Young Forever (the first album), because it feels like such a sweet record.
I’ve heard a lot of people tell me they’ve courted their sweethearts to our first album. That’s really nice, it’s about the best thing you can hope for when you put out a record, that people make it a part of their lives.
What else have you been up to?
I did a tour with Kling Klang, just filling in when they supported Portishead in the summer. One of the guys in Kling Klang was in my old prog band Firestone: The Legend of the Hawk, and you couldn’t get two more different spin-offs from the same band than Kling Klang and Aberfeldy! So they were offered this amazing tour round Europe and half the band weren’t able to do it, so my flatmate and I were drafted in. What was interesting, though, was that Kling Klang named themselves after Kraftwerk’s production studios, because they’re big fans of German progressive rock – I won’t say Krautrock, that’s an offensive term. Anyway, when we got back from the German part of the tour, there was a letter from a German law firm ordering us to cease and desist. Real heavyweight lawyers, they knew where I lived even though I’d only joined the band about a week before. It was a real shame for the guys in Kling Klang, but I was jumping about, I was so excited – I’ve been sued by one of my heroes!
Aberfeldy play the ABC2, Glasgow, Mon 22 Dec; Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, Tue 23 Dec.