Scotland Week: The Pastels

"We're voting yes to independence because Scotland is confident and quick-witted and wise enough to determine its own future." - Katrina Mitchell

Sep 03, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


We have a special theme on Under the Radar's website this week which we're simply calling Scotland Week. All throughout the week we will be posting interviews, reviews, lists, and blog posts relating to Scotland and in particular Scottish music. For some of the Scotland Week Q&As we emailed out the same set of Scottish related questions to various different musicians from the country.

For this interview we talk to The Pastels. The band formed in Glasgow in 1981 and its lineup features Stephen McRobbie (aka Stephen Pastel), Katrina Mitchell, Gerard Love, John Hogarty, Tom Crossley, and Alison Mitchell. The indie pop band has been highly influential on the Scottish scene and are revered by the likes of Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura. In 2013 they released Slow Summits via Domino Records, their first album since 1997's Illumination.

Read on as Stephen McRobbie and Katrina Mitchell discuss their favorite Scottish albums, bands, and films, as well as their thoughts on the Scottish Independence Referendum, in which in a few weeks the people of Scotland get to vote on whether or not to secede from the United Kingdom and have Scotland become its own country.

What are your thoughts on the Scottish Independence referendum? Are you for or against independence? Could you explain why? 

Katrina Mitchell: It feels like a really great, exciting moment in Scotland's journey just now. We're voting yes to independence because Scotland is confident and quick-witted and wise enough to determine its own future. But as things stand, we're not in control of our future. We have a socialist history that we're proud of, but the rest of the U.K. is moving steadily towards the right in terms of politics. That divergence began a while ago and the fork is widening. At the U.K. ballot box our vote size is too small to affect the overall outcome, so very often Scotland finds itself controlled by a government that our neighbors voted for but that we didn't. It makes sense to get rid of this situation when we have the chance. Our fantastic national health service is at serious risk if we stay in the U.K., and there are loads of other good reasons to vote yes. If our country is to have an equitable, bright, socialist future, its best chance is to become independent in September.

How do you think Scottish Independence might affect the arts and the Scottish music scene?

Katrina: People are energized by the independence question in a way I don't remember feeling before. Most artists and musicians that we know will be voting yes, and there's a feeling of being open to the moment, poised on a cusp. Of course Twitter has chucked up some funny, unexpected conversations and spontaneous creations. If we do get independence I expect exhilaration and sparky purpose and in time, momentous art!

What is your favorite album by another Scottish artist and why?

Stephen McRobbie: I wouldn't be able to pick just one but Orange Juice's You Can't Hide Your Love Forever, The Jesus & Mary Chain's Psychocandy, and International Airport's Reunion of Island Goose all resonate importantly in my heart. And I would also have to mention Man-Made by Teenage Fanclub.

Who is the most underrated or underappreciated Scottish musician or band?

Stephen: I'm sure a lot of great music has slipped through the net or been under-regarded but I have a feeling that The Wake aren't really given the credit they deserve. Maybe it's because they've been around for so long without ever seeming all that integral to any of the main eras of music that have come out of Glasgow. By that I mean that they were always there but never exactly the high profile frontliners. I think many people are as inclined to associate them with either Manchester (they were on Factory) or Bristol (they were on Sarah) as with Glasgow, where I think they've always been based. I think they always seem slightly exotic, if grey can be exotic, and for me it is. I love each of their three great phases (1980s, 1990s, now), and the melodies, spaces and wonderful lyrics which define them. Their newest record, A Light Far Out, is as interesting as their first, as impossible to pin down. I just feel I want them to go on forever.

Who is your favorite new Scottish band or solo artist?

Stephen: Ela Orleans. Sacred Paws.

What is your favorite film that takes place in Scotland?

Stephen: Again, one's impossible. Play Me Something by Timothy Neat, Gregory's Girl by Bill Forsyth and Young Adam by David Mackenzie are all favorites.

Can you explain the Scottish aesthetic and how the Scottish music scene is different from others around the world?

Stephen: I'm not sure if there is a Scottish aesthetic, or one that I could truthfully identify. Even a Glasgow aesthetic is not completely unproblematic as it's shared to an extent with other post-industrial U.K. cities like Liverpool and Manchester. One thing that I think is important here is that a lot of our parents and grandparents worked on the Clyde and were union members and socialists. I think their lives were to an extent "co-operative" for want of a better word. I think there is still something of a spirit of co-operation in the city and generally musicians are supportive and helpful of each other. Maybe there's also something questinga longing to make something beautiful or affecting out of something else which isn't.  

www.thepastels.org

 



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