Guide to Scotland's Festivals 2015: Idlewild's Roddy Woomble talks playing the summer festival circuit
Idlewild prepares for busy summer, following the release of new album Everything Ever Written
While the UK’s music festival scene has altered since Idlewild last played one, Roddy Woomble tells David Pollock that the band are geared up to sample some live excitement this summer
Roddy Woomble is a man with acres of festival experience. Fronting Edinburgh indie-punk outfit Idlewild, he appeared high up the bill at some of the biggest rock festivals in Britain, from Glastonbury to T in the Park. In recent years, however, the married father-of-one has been popping into the nation’s boutique festivals, playing intimate shows on smaller stages with his more folksy solo material.
Although no dates were booked when we spoke, the expectation is that he’ll be back amidst the chaos this summer, especially now that his old group have reformed for a seventh studio album, Everything Ever Written, their first since 2009’s Post Electric Blues. Although, as he insists, ‘reform’ isn’t the word he’d use.
‘People say we’re getting back together, and I suppose from the outside it looks like we stopped then started again four or five years later. But for me it was an ongoing process. Colin [Newton, drums] and Rod [Jones, guitar] are really close friends and we were in contact throughout. It felt really natural, there was no sense of picking up the phone and [adopts US rocker drawl] “let’s get the band back together”. We always knew we’d make another record.’
He describes Everything Ever Written as being created almost ‘like a scrapbook’, bouncing ideas back and forward with Jones, but feeling no pressure to complete them. Parts would be recorded with new members Andrew Mitchell (bass) and Luciano Rossi (keyboards), with the results stockpiled until they had enough for a full record. Woomble says he can’t pick out any favourite tracks because he’s lived with them so long; besides, it’s the demos which please him the most, the point at which a songwriter knows they have a good song to work with. That’s why Bob Dylan and The Band’s The Basement Tapes is his favourite record, because it captures that feeling in a bottle.
‘This one is quite different to the other records we’ve made. But I think fans of the band will get into it, because one thing we’ve constantly done is change our sound within the parameters of what we do. We started off as basically a punk rock band, moved onto U2-like anthems, then became more influenced by folk and country. So I suppose this has elements of everything that’s gone before. We’re a bit older and better at playing and putting our ideas across, so there’s a sense of accomplishment which people might not associate with us.’
Looking ahead to the music festival season, he considers how much things have changed in the few short years they’ve been away. ‘We caught the tail-end of the era when the live show was the advertisement for your record. Now that no one buys records, the album is the advertisement for the tour. It means festivals are much more important for bands in terms of money and exposure.’
His experience of playing festivals has been good, whether it’s the ‘lovely’ ambience at folk events or taking Idlewild’s chances with the stagetime roulette of big events, where you might be playing to a handful or thousands. ‘If you get really bad weather, it can be pretty miserable for everyone. There are a lot of things that make a festival go well or not.’
Idlewild’s new album Everything Ever Written is released on Mon 16 Feb. They play ABC, Glasgow, Sat 7 & Sun 8 Mar.