Few bands can last 12 years these days, so it’s refreshing to hear that Idlewild are as invigorated as ever about their musical predicament. Roddy Woomble tells Doug Johnstone why
‘We’ve always been the band of bad timing, haven’t we?’ laughs Idlewild singer Roddy Woomble. ‘We’re perennially called underachievers or underdogs, because we’ve always put out records that are out of sync with what’s being played on the radio. We’re always either two years too late, or too soon, but that’s allowed the band to grow at its own pace.’
Which is our gain, to be sure. Idlewild might be the band of bad timing, but after 12 years together, they have nevertheless become a vital part of the story of Scottish indie rock music.
Formed in Edinburgh as flailing teenage punk rock racketeers in the mid-90s, they have had a long and varied career that has seen them gradually mature into consummate purveyors of epic melodic rock, while also developing a deeper understanding of folk-influenced music.
These days, they are equally at home supporting Pearl Jam as they are playing the Cambridge Folk Festival, and as such they are the perfect homegrown outfit to deliver the goods at Connect.
‘I’m 30 years old now and these smaller festivals like Connect, Indian Summer and the Outsider are catering for people like me, music fans who have got a bit jaded by bigger festivals,’ he admits.
‘Jaded’ is not a word to be applied to Idlewild these days. The band recently split with EMI after ten years, and have signed with independent outfit Sequel. That move, along with the emergence of a solo folk album from Woomble last year, seems to have energised the band of late. Their recent fifth full album, Make Another World, was a confident affair that blended all their previous influences and periods into one stylish, melodic whole.
‘It’s all worked out nice,’ says Woomble, affably. ‘Personally, I’m lucky I’m in a position that I can decide to put out records under my own name, playing music that wouldn’t be considered rock music, but I can also play with the band and put out rock albums. It’s not like I wake up in the morning with a beard and a tammy and warble folk songs, and the next day it’s all leather jackets. The two things run in tandem pretty well.’
In the ever-changing world of music, the band’s longevity and consistency are something worth celebrating, which is exactly what they are doing later this year, when they release a ‘best of’ compilation called Scottish Fiction.
‘I was a bit sceptical to begin with, but I came round to the idea quickly,’ says Woomble. ‘It’s been ten years since our first record, so it’s a good point to put something like this out. It’s like a chapter of the band is over, and it’s time to carry on and see what happens next.’
A lot of bands, after a decade in the business, get depressed by the vacuous nature of the industry. Woomble claims to have met most of his musical heroes, from REM to Morrissey, and says they were all nice as pie. But there’s one aspect of the business that still dismays him.
‘The worst experiences are always with new young bands,’ he laughs. ‘They’re full of attitude backstage at festivals, throwing apples around, thinking they’re the coolest thing in the world. That’s the time I despair for rock music.’
Guitars and Other Machines Stage, Sunday