Suspire are a trio from Glasgow with unrelenting enthusiasm and a good few tunes to boot. The band have been together sporadically in various guises since the early 00s but this somewhat revised line-up finally released their debut EP, Legislate For Luck, late last year to various hoots and hollers. As the band get ready to sink their teeth into what could very well be a pivotal new year, here they are themselves to talk up a few burning issues and generally give you a heads-up.
Suspire - Succeeding
So, how did the band first get started/how did you all meet?
Clare (Kelly, drums): Suspire have been around in various guises since 2002. With the amount of changes in line-up and musical direction, it has been like being in multiple different bands. We kept the name as we had no real desire to change it, but our band as it is now first started in March 2008 when we became a three-piece.
I have been in the band since its inception and Paul (Duffin) joined in 2003 as bass player. Already being friends with the members of the band, Paul was asked to step in and replace the outgoing bass player. We went through one of our many line-up changes again in 2005 and Mark came in. Paul moved on to guitar, Mark (Duffin, Paul's brother) picked up his bass duties and we pressed on. Over the next few years, a couple of other members decided to go their separate ways, and we decided not to replace them. It was an unplanned and gradual transition from 5-piece to 3-piece. We have ended up with what we feel is our most creative and productive line-up through years of hard work and some elements of luck.
Do you all have similar tastes? Any particularly guilty pleasures?
Paul: We all have similar tastes in that we all have fairly expansive tastes. We share a lot of common ground musically which leads to a really balanced process when writing together. We love the classics like the Beatles, Bowie, Floyd (and the 'modern day classics' Radiohead!). But we were also raised on the likes of Prince, Tears for Fears, The Police, The Eurythmics, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Fleetwood Mac, Madonna - the list goes on and on. We (Paul and Mark) grew up with music on in the house constantly. Our parents were really keen on exposing us to as much music as possible while growing up. The artists and styles would change, but we would listen intently no matter what was on. This is still our approach to music, so we wouldn't really have any 'guilty pleasures' as it were. If we like a song, we don't feel any compulsion to decide whether or not we can admit we like it due to who has written or performed it.
How did you first get into playing music? Had you all been in bands before. Did you play instruments in school?
Paul: Having grown up (Mark and me) in a house with an emphasis on the importance of music, getting into instruments was a pretty logical step for us. I was given an acoustic guitar at a very young age. My abiding memory of that guitar is the vision of it innocently lying on the floor while I jump on and subsequently break it. I obviously wasn't ready. Years later Mark and I received guitars and by this time were both of an age to appreciate and use them. Mark got in to a couple of bands at a young age while I was happier to sit at home, strum away and wait until I felt absolutely ready to be in a band. The first one I joined was actually Suspire. We (Paul and Mark) spent a lot of our school years out in California. With the schooling system being a bit different, we never took music as an academic subject. The main tool for learning the guitar for both of us was Oasis tablature. Noel's song writing involved a masterful use of simple chords to create memorable songs. It was a perfect education. All in all, we were just totally self-taught; picking up the guitar, the bass or the keyboard at home and seeing what noise we could make that didn't sound too terrible.
What was your first gig like?
Mark: Our first gig as a 3-piece was August 2008 at Box in Glasgow. Our singer left to pursue a solo project in March 2008 and we decided to just proceed as a trio. Paul moved on to vocal duties and we started writing a whole new set. Unfortunately, just weeks after we made the decision to carry on, a tumour in Paul’s hand was discovered. Having this removed, and the subsequent recovery time, meant that we didn’t gig until August. The gig itself was nothing spectacular, but having been delayed in the manner we were, getting up on stage and starting on our new path felt great.
Do you feel you've come a long way since then?
Mark: I feel we’ve grown and learned a great deal since that gig. 2009 saw us tour France; play George Square; The Mill; record and release our debut single and establish ourselves as a confident and solid band. The change to playing as a trio, after years of having four or five musicians in the band, took some getting used to in terms of the use of dynamics. It is an ongoing learning process, but we love every minute of it.
What has been your favourite gig that you've played so far? Is there a least favourite?
Clare: I’d have to say that my favourite was our single launch at Stereo in Glasgow this year: 5th Oct 2009. We had a massive turn-out with an electric atmosphere. We knew we had people out there that supported us, but walking out on stage and seeing the place so packed was almost surprising. The gig itself was a culmination of a lot of effort by a close-knit group of people. It was a fantastic success for everyone involved and to top it all off, we had a great time onstage. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t point out a least favourite. Not all gigs go to plan, but it’s all part of the learning process. All gigs are worth playing!
Can you tell me a bit about One Creative Scotland? How did you get started with it? What it is exactly?
Clare: One Creative Scotland is a showcase of original and innovative offerings from a host of Scottish visual artists, music makers and film creators: to inspire ideas and cultivate collaborative creativity. You see, Glasgow is full of live music venues, but none quite like this. This has a very homely feel to it. Instead of being targeted towards the general public, this gathering of sorts is aimed at other artists. Bringing Scotland’s creative folk together in this way has proven highly popular amongst the local and underground Arts scene in Glasgow – and it has grown completely naturally. Playing with Paul and Mark in Suspire is really where it all stemmed. We have been part of the live gig scene in Glasgow for over four years, in various guises, meeting a wonderful collection of people along the way. One Creative Scotland is all about celebrating them – and all the rest we’ve still to meet. Chris Deeprose, owner of the big rehearsal studio where One Creative Scotland is hosted, is an exciting creative entrepreneur... he has been instrumental in the development of One Creative Scotland. We love the vibe his studio has, and just had to create a scene here.
This is only the beginning. The next big bohemian gathering at The Tollhouse Studio, which was previously the old Singer Sewing Factory, will be on Saturday 28th March. I’m especially excited about this one because Francis Lopez (Scottish Screen; Sounds Film Festival) is newly on board. At the Sounds Film Festival he had Johnny Cash’s daughter email him to clear rights for showing a rare film of Johnny Cash that had never been shown outside the U.S. He also put on Quadrophenia that same night in Gilmour Hill, Glasgow. What a guy! For One Creative Scotland, he’ll curate a ‘screen zone’ in Studio A, showing a range of wonderful and thought-provoking independent short films Jim Gellatly (BBC Radio Scotland) has also very kindly presented the past two events and he also ran a podcast via Radio Magnetic for it.
Imagine. One Creative Scotland normally kicks off with live jazz in the main art exhibition foyer, with intermissions from an ambient DJ. The visual art for the last few events have been very special. Tchai Ovna – our favourite tea house – sets up a ‘Zen Den’ with many cushions and infusions of spicy Chai tea served. Meanwhile, at the other end of The Tollhouse, we schedule acoustic acts in the ‘chill room’ - Studio B; and have somewhat louder bands in Studio C. There are also a couple of other small rooms we use for various art installations. I think the people like exploring the place. There is a warm, inspiring and beautiful atmosphere here - and it feels uplifting to be pioneering a movement that has meaning for us. It’s the people that take part that make it the way it is. This is only the beginning.
What are your plans for the coming year? (releases etc.)
Paul: We want to build on what we have done in 2009. We need to get more gigs under our belt, and ideally play a lot more outside of Glasgow. With our single having been a success, we are putting together plans to get an album recorded and released. We want to continue to strengthen the One Creative Scotland project and get ourselves in a position where we can really help fellow artists. Music is not a competition, it is a form of art. There are plenty of potential listeners out there for bands. At the same time, there are plenty of great bands out there that don’t know how to find these listeners. We aim to do what we can to help artists and audiences connect. We love making music and want to keep getting better at doing so. While progressing as artists, we can also try to be positively involved in helping like-minded people establish themselves in the industry. We are excited about 2010 and the main theme for it will be continuing to work hard.
Suspire play The Captain's Rest, Glasgow, 24 Jan