The name may be questionable but the songs are as sublime an example of rock as you’ll hear. Suzanne Black embraces the overwrought magic of The Xcerts
Three boys from Aberdeen and Exeter are making a name for themselves among the throng of new bands out there, and that name is The Xcerts. The culmination of years of hard work for Murray MacLeod, Jordan Smith and Tom Heron (who barely grace their 20s) is the release of the album, In the Cold Wind We Smile, a debut rife with reasons to elevate this trio above the myriad contenders for your new favourite band.
According to bassist Smith, the title reflects living through hardships in the band’s lives over the past year, personal tragedies and that universal kicker, heartbreak, yet the melodies and MacLeod’s impassioned, heavily accented vocals are sweet enough to undercut the gloom. Think teenage angst and confusion shored up by a Mogwai-esque guitar landscape and an able pop sensibility.
In creating such a layered, voluminous sound from a three-piece, acclaimed producer Dave Eringa was instrumental. MacLeod explains the process:
‘He gets it. He gets what we’re trying to do. He’s worked with Idlewild and the Manics – big guitar sounds and big drums are his thing. He sits in a room for five hours with the white noise cranked up with six or seven amps and headphones so loud to get the perfect frequency.’
‘It’s top secret,’ is all Heron (token non-Scottish member) will reveal about that ‘perfect’ frequency.
With all this studied heaviosity combined with melodic hooks, the band eschew the current vogue for 80s dayglo, synths and irony, preferring a more direct route into the hearts of listeners without angling for the calculated heart-tugging moments.
MacLeod insists: ‘I don’t think anyone writes lyrics thinking of a mass crowd sing-a-long. When I’m jotting them down in a book in my room I’m thinking just about me, the people in them and these guys.’
‘That’s the fun thing about loving a band,’ agrees Heron, ‘taking all those really personal things they sing about into your own life’.
But it’s not all tempestuous youthful emotions. The Xcerts have a professional attitude to the music business, approaching the band like a job. They take the same approach to touring, supplies Smith:
'We had the archetypal ‘band on tour’ mentality at first. You get given alcohol for free and party every night which lasts for about three days, three seriously hungover days. We can’t do that.’
Rather than naive dreams of rock’n’roll success, it’s the business of music-making that drives them. After touring extensively around the UK last year steadily building a fan base the band have already started ratcheting up festival appearances for ‘09. But before that there’s the small matter of the launch of new single ‘Crisis in the Slow Lane’ and the album, which arrives at the end of the month.
But what about this name the world will be hearing?
‘It doesn’t mean anything,’ laughs MacLeod. ‘We chose it when we were 14. Your band name gets better as the band gets better. U2 is a shit name, worse than The Xcerts, but if you’re the biggest band in the world no one’s going to question it.’
King Tut’s, Glasgow, Sun 8 Mar.