Star Scene: Norman Blake ~ TEENAGE FANCLUB

Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake chats to What’s My Scene’s Mary Boukouvalas about vaccines, lockdowns, catharsis through music, as well as their upcoming release, Endless Arcade.
https://youtu.be/xkJ2szEdLhk

Teenage Fanclubs Endless Arcade, already a hotly-anticipated release this year according to Pitchfork and The Guardian, arrives on its new release date of April 30, 2021.

The band have just shared the next single from the album, the Norman Blake-penned ‘I’m More Inclined’

The band’s Raymond McGinley says: “When we first starting talking about getting songs together for a new album, Norman said, ‘I have one ready to go now!’—and that was ‘I’m More Inclined.’ He played it to us, we loved it, and that got us started on the whole thing that became Endless Arcade.”

‘Endless Arcade’ is the long-awaited follow-up to the band’s album ‘Here’ released in 2016 to universal acclaim and notably their first UK Top 10 album since 1997, a mark of how much they’re treasured. The new record is quintessential TFC: melodies are equal parts heart-warming and heart-aching, guitars chime and distort, keyboard lines mesh and spiral, harmony-coated choruses burst out like sun on a stormy day. ‘I’m More Inclined’ follows ‘Endless Arcade’s previous single ‘Home’.

Even if we weren’t living through extraordinarily troubling times, there is nothing quite like a Teenage Fanclub album to assuage the mind, body and soul, and to reaffirm that all is not lost in this world.

In the 1990s, the band crafted a magnetically heavy yet harmony-rich sound on classic albums such as ‘Bandwagonesque’ and ‘Grand Prix’. This century, albums such as ‘Shadows’ and ‘Here’ have documented a more relaxed, less ‘teenageFanclub, reflecting the band’s stage in life and state of mind, which ‘Endless Arcade’ slots perfectly alongside. The album walks a beautifully poised line between melancholic and uplifting, infused with simple truths. The importance of home, community and hope is entwined with more bittersweet, sometimes darker thoughts – insecurity, anxiety, loss.

I think of an endless arcade as a city that you can wander through, with a sense of mystery, an imaginary one that goes on forever…” says Raymond McGinley, one half of the band’s songwriters for this album alongside Norman Blake. “When it came to choosing an album title, it seemed to have something for this collection of songs.

Track listing:
1. Home
2. Endless Arcade
3. Warm Embrace
4. Everything Is Falling Apart
5. The Sun Won’t Shine On Me
6. Come With Me
7. In Our Dreams
8. I’m More Inclined
9. Back In The Day
10. The Future
11. Living With You
12. Silent Song

‘Endless Arcade’ by Teenage Fanclub will be released on April 30, 2021

Pre Order now!
Available on translucent green pink or clear vinyl, CD and limited cassette
smarturl.it/ENDLESS-ARCADE

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About the making of ‘Endless Arcade’

So how did the band set out to explore this Endless Arcade? Raymond: “The process is much the same as it always has been. In 1989 we went into a studio in Glasgow to make our first LP. Francis starts setting up his drums, the rest of us find our spots around him and off we go. Thirty years later Francis is setting up his drums in Clouds Hill Recordings in Hamburg. A few hours later we’re recording the first song. We don’t conceptualise, we don’t talk about it, we just do it. Each of us are thinking our own thoughts, but we don’t do much externalising. We just feel our way into it.

Dave McGowan has been feeling his way into the band’s sound since 2004, mainly on keyboards and guitar, but the past two years have seen him take over on bass, his primary instrument. Francis Macdonald on drums was there at the outset. Although he has played and sung on record with the band previously, this is the first time Euros Childs has featured on keyboards across a whole Teenage Fanclub album.

We were very comfortable with each other in the studio,” says Norman. “I think some of the playing is a bit freer and looser than on recent albums. Dave and Euros’ playing is amazing, and Francis on drums is really swinging. The whole process of making this album was very invigorating. Everyone in the band contributed a lot and the song arrangements came together really quickly. Everything felt fresh.”

Something else they all feel good about is the artwork. Euros suggested they use his friend Huw Evans, aka musician H. Hawkline, to design the sleeve. “It’s amazing,” Raymond says, “we absolutely love it!

A preview from the album came in February 2019 with Raymond’s ‘Everything Is Falling Apart’, an online single released at the outset of a six-month tour and a highlight of Endless Arcade.

Everything is falling apart? Well, yes, but the song was written long before COVID-19 arrived. Neither was Raymond’s inspiration political or social, but more, “the entropy in the universe, the knowledge that everything eventually decays,” he explains. But Raymond says relax. Or rather, “Relax, find love, hold on to the hand of a friend”.

Fortunately, Endless Arcade was virtually finished by the time lockdown was announced, bar the odd tinker under the engine hood. It seems timely, given how everyone had to initially stay home under lockdown, that the album starts with Norman’s ‘Home’, though it was chosen in part because of its opening line: “Every morning, I open my eyes…” The album’s longest track (at seven minutes) typifies TFC’s relaxed groove, culminating in Raymond’s peach of a guitar solo.

Norman’s search for ‘home’ could be literal: after all, he’s been living in Canada for the last 10 years. But it’s also figurative. Like Norman’s other Endless Arcade songs – The Sun Won’t Shine On Me’, ‘Warm Embrace’, ‘I’m More Inclined’, ‘Back In The Day’ and ‘Living With You’ – his words on ‘Home’ are etched by loss and yearning. “Without going into too much detail, the last eighteen months have been challenging for me on an emotional level,” he admits. “But it’s been cathartic channeling some of these feelings and emotions into song.”

In contrast, Raymond’s songs – he’s also responsible for ‘Come With Me’, ‘In Our Dreams’, ‘The Future’ and ‘Silent Song’ – are philosophical and questing. As he sings in ‘The Future’: “It’s hard to walk into the future when your shoes are made of lead”, but he’s still going to try, “and see sights we’ve never seen.”

In the band’s own near-future, they’re already planning another new album given they can’t yet tour the one they’re releasing now. Welcome back, Teenage Fanclub, unafraid of this endless arcade that is life.

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Above – ‘I’m More Inclined’ artwork by Huw Evans

About Mary Boukouvalas 1299 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs Rocklust.com where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos, blistering.com, theaureview.com, noise11.com, music-news.com. She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.

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