Johnny Lynch: 'With each tour you want to add something new, a different element or so'
- Harry Harris
- 9 January 2020
With Pictish Trail's biggest ever headline tour coming up, we speak to the psych-pop wonder about what to expect from the new album and live shows
Johnny Lynch is trying to walk me through his costume for the following night's Lost Map Starz in Their Eyes celebration at Summerhall. The year before he came out as Alanis Morrissey, which is exactly what it sounds like. This year he wants to ape an old Vic and Bob duo. As Pictish Trail, he may have his biggest headline gig ever coming up in January at St Luke's in Glasgow, but y'know, first things first.
'I'm thinking of how to develop the show a little bit,' he tells me over a brownie at Summerhall. 'With each tour you kinda want to add something new, a different element or so. I say that now, but the day before I might just be like "fuck this!"' Though the St Luke's show will be the biggest, and there's a Queen's Hall one on the horizon too, Pictish Trail have been building for some time, from playing opening slots for Belle & Sebastian in Europe to performing in huge capacity venues. There are more festival appearances planned too, now that the live set-up has grown from, as Lynch describes it, 'a bumbling lo-fi acoustic musician.' A new record, Thumb World, is set to be released in February on Fire Records – a dreamy, jammy, Super Nintendo-infused set of songs that flit between lean, 3-minute pop tunes and more spacious wig-outs, both of which are occasionally peppered with 8-bit 'sonic garnishes.'
'I think what I want changes quite a lot,' he says. 'The record itself, as big as it sounds, is still the creation of two people; myself and the producer, Rob. It sounds like a band throughout, but it's basically us two playing it.' The songs, then, end up being a bit like a magic act – minimalist and massive, intimate and expansive. Ambitious, but with a DIY setup. 'It's the sort of thing you could have in your bedroom,' he says, describing his recording setup.
It's easy to draw a line from the music Pictish Trail make to the music Lynch says he was pining for whilst living in America as a teenager in the 90s. 'I had a genuine High Fidelity moment. I used to go to a record store in Connecticut called Secret Sounds, heard The Beta Band and totally fell in love with it. The thing about that music that I really enjoyed was there was a DIY spirit to what they were doing. Even though The Beta Band were signed to a major label, they were doing stuff that was totally out of step with what would be considered mainstream. There's a definite magpie quality, they were taking elements of all the different genres they liked and making this amazing collage.'
From there, we get onto Belle & Sebastian, The Delgados, and Scotland's history of punchy indie labels, of which Johnny's own Lost Map that he runs from his home on the Isle of Eigg is a key part. Discussing next year, he enthuses about Savage Mansion, Martha Ffion, Molly Linen, Callum Easter, in between outlining the myriad thoughts he has on the next Pictish Trail album, re-arranging the songs for a five-piece band, and creating an ambitious live-show. 'God I'm really building this up! This better be fucking good!' We have no doubts.
Pictish Trail plays Celtic Connections, Saint Lukes, Glasgow, Fri 17 Jan, and tours from Tue 24 Mar–Sun 12 Apr.