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The Pastels

Catching Up for a Bit

Jul 03, 2013 The Pastels Bookmark and Share

With a core of Stephen McRobbie, Katrina Mitchell, and Annabel Wright, indie pop patriarchs The Pastels were highly influentialtheir ‘80s and ‘90s albums are revered by bands such as Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscurabut they were never very prolific. The Glasgow band’s new record, Slow Summits, is only their fifth studio album across four decades, and their first since 1997’s Illumination.

“The songwriting for this album began quite soon after Illumination,” says McRobbie. “Quite soon afterwards, Annabel left the group, and we weren’t sure what to do. She was such an important part of the group. It wasn’t like you could bring in another musician and make a simple replacement. It took us a long time, really, to have another group song that was really good.”

Although there would be no new album for 16 years, The Pastels weren’t taking all that time off from music; they scored a film, released a remix disc, and collaborated with Japanese act Tenniscoats. McRobbie and Mitchell applied some of what they learned from those projects to Slow Summits, which features appearances from Wright, Teenage Fanclub’s Gerard Love and Norman Blake, and others.

Up for a Bit with The Pastels was the absolute limits of what we were capable of,” McRobbie says about their 1987 debut record. “Maybe it doesn’t sound very well-played, but we really tried our best to make the best record we could. I think collectively, now, we’re better musicians. We probably think about things more now. As you get older, you start to become more reflective, and I think that shows in our music.”

In spite of the dearth of new material, and older releases such as Sittin’ Pretty and Truckload of Trouble remaining out of print for long stretches of time, younger generations of fans are discovering The Pastels through bands citing them as an influence.

“There’s no doubt that groups like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Crystal Stilts mentioning our music has been really helpful,” says McRobbie. “People have gone back to look at things that we did maybe in the same way that in the 1980s, when we mentioned some of our influences, people went back and looked at some of those records.”

The Pastels were part of a musical era in Glasgow that also produced acts such as Primal Scream, The Shop Assistants, Lloyd Cole, and The Vaselines. McRobbie believes there’s a reason for the city’s rich indie scene, which has turned out Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Mogwai, and numerous others since then.

“Glasgow is a socialist city, a working-class city,” he explains. “A lot of our parents and grandparents were union members, so there’s always been this sense of community. I think that within the music scene, the groups have tried to help each other, and there’s a real spirit of cooperation.”

While the band’s immediate plans are not yet set in stone, McRobbie believes The Pastels’ future isn’t likely to include another long hiatus.

“I hope to get into working again, and maybe do more soundtrack stuff, but not to take so long to make another record,” he says with a laugh. “We can’t expect our audience to wait that long again.”

[This article first ran in the digital/iPad of the June/July 2013 issue.]


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