Scotland Week: The Vaselines’ Frances McKee | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Scotland Week: The Vaselines’ Frances McKee

“There are a lot of creative people in Scotland ready for the change a yes vote will bring.” – Frances McKee

Sep 07, 2014 Scotland Week
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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 Francis McKee of Glasgow-based band The Vaselines. The Vaselines formed in 1986 and the indie pop duo also features Eugene Kelly. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was a big fan and described McKee and Kelly as his “favorite songwriters in the whole world.” Nirvana covered “Son of a Gun” and “Molly’s Lips” on their 1992 album Incesticide and covered “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” during their MTV Unplugged session. Kelly has admitted that he hasn’t made much money from The Vaselines apart from Nirvana royalties. But The Vaselines are much more than a footnote in grunge history, as they influenced countless Scottish bands too. After releasing EPs in 1987 and 1988, in 1989 The Vaselines released their debut album, Dum Dum, and then broke up later that year, but briefly reformed in 1990 to open for Nirvana in Edinburgh. Their proper reformation came in 2006. In 2009 Sub Pop released the Enter the Vaselines best of compilation and then a year later came the band’s long-awaited sophomore full-length, Sex with an X, also released by Sub Pop. The Vaselines’ third album, V For Vaselines, is due out on Rosary Music October 7.

Read on as McKee discusses her favorite Scottish albums, bands, films, and authors, as well as her 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. (And also check out the guest blog post Eugene Kelly wrote for us on the Scotland-set film Under the Skin.)

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

I think it has been a long time coming. It is time. I am for independence. I have lots of reasons for this but mainly Scotland should be able to stand on its own two feet, which means taking responsibility for its own future without dumping the blame on anyone else.

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

Change will create positive and negative outcomes. How this will affect the arts to be honest I have no way of knowing. What I do know however is that there are a lot of creative people in Scotland ready for the change a yes vote will bring.

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

You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever by Orange Juice. It still sounds fantastic, contemporary, and fresh

Which Scottish musician/band most inspired you to start playing music?

The Jesus and Mary Chain.

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

It has to be 1990s. Also, Anne Briggs.

Who is your favorite new Scottish band or solo artist?

Okay it’s not exactly new but he did release his albums this year on a new label. I am talking about The Pictish Trail. I saw Johnny [Lynch] (aka The Pictish Trail) perform a few months ago and it was just the best thing I had seen in a long time

What is your favorite film that takes place in Scotland?

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie works for me every time. I watched it recently and was taken with the strength of character of Miss Brodie and the feminism she radiated. She was her own person, of independent means and as such posed a real threat to society. It was her ultimate undoing but she fought a good fight. Of course it goes without saying that I identify with her as I too am in my prime. It would be amiss of me if I did not mention The Wicker Man! Everything about this film was brilliant. I did have a crush on Edward Woodward (don’t tell anyone) but Christopher Lee was spectacular. Come to think of it, I had a crush on him as well. But Britt Ekland. Oh my days. She was something else. But who to choose? As you can probably guess, I had a crush on her too. I wanted to live on Summerisle. I just recently learned that some of it was filmed in Culzean Castle which is on the west coast of Scotland and is one of my favorite places.

Who is your favorite Scottish author and what’s your favorite book by them?

I have two favorites. Firstly, Toni Davidson author of Scar Culture and My Gun Was as Tall as Me. Iain Banks, author of many books including my personal favorite, Complicity, and who sadly died this year

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

I can’t describe the Scottish aesthetic, I can hardly spell that. I live in Glasgow and between cities there are differences. Some cities within Scotland let’s say are more uptight than others. Glasgow has a special type of humor and this is reflected in the music. We simply don’t take it too seriously and that’s important. Inflated egos are burned at the stake in Scotland

What do you most love about Scotland and being Scottish and what do you most hate about Scotland and being Scottish?

The thing I love about Scotland are the mountains. The fact that you can drive into areas of unspoiled beauty and leave the city in a very short space of time. I dislike the kilts, the saltire [Scottish flag], and the parochial views of some. We need to embrace from the inside to the outside world not the other way about


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