Lightships is the new project by Teenage Fanclub's Gerard Love. For Lightships, Love pulled together some of the Glasgow music scene's finest. Read M's exclusive interview with him.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 23 Apr 2012
  • min read
Lightships is the new project by Teenage Fanclub's Gerard Love.

For Lightships, Love pulled together some of the Glasgow music scene's finest - Dave McGowan (guitar, Teenage Fanclub), Brendan O'Hare (drums, from the first incarnation of Teenage Fanclub), Tom Crossley (flute, International Airport and The Pastels), Jim McCulloch (clarinet) and Bob Kildea (bass, Belle & Sebastian).

The resulting album, Electric Cables is an collection of candid, hazy and tender songs with a free-flowing, shimmering musical style. The album is out now.

Lightships will be performing their first ever shows at the beginning of May, playing shows at Glasgow’s CCA on Friday 4  May and The Lexington in London on Tuesday the 8 May. They will be supported by Snowgoose – a band featuring Jim McCulloch, formerly of The Soup Dragons.

Read M's exclusive interview with Lightship's Gerard Love.

Why do you think Bellshill has produced so much musical talent over the years, itís pretty remarkable isn't it?
I know the term Bellshill band is a commonly used tag but I don't know if any of the bands you might be referring to would actually consider themselves as being essentially from Bellshill. There have been a few pivotal musicians from Bellshill who have made a big impact on what we would refer to as the Glasgow music scene, people like Norman, Duglas, Sean Dickson, Paul Quinn are all from Bellshill and are all roughly the same age so maybe it's just a generation thing. I can't imagine there would have been much to do in Bellshill in the 1980s, with a high amount of youth unemployment, so lots of young people inspired by punk's DIY ethic got into making music, much like what happened in East Kilbride and other suburban areas around the country.

How has the music scene changed in your part of Scotland and do you think there are enough outlets and opportunities for young bands?
I have to say that I don't really interact with the music scene on a regular basis so I don't know how it has changed in terms of styles of music currently being made in the city. I imagine that local promoters and local magazines writers could give you a better perspective, Sometimes it's difficult to see things from the inside. Since I've been involved, there are obviously way more opportunities nowadays to record and present your music via affordable software and the internet explosion. You don't need to spend so much money and you don't need to do as much mileage as was required. In Glasgow, there are probably almost twenty times the amount of venues for live music as there were when we started playing in the early 1990s.  In the past there were two festivals happening every year, Glastonbury and Reading, now there are festivals everywhere in the UK booking thousands of bands. The opportunities are way more numerous and sophisticated these days, more radio stations and more TV channels, there is more of everything around so the competition is probably greater. I guess you have to be more self-motivating these days.

I think I read that bands like MC5, Big Star etc inspired you and Teenage Fanclub, why do you think their influence is still so strong?
I started listening to Big Star around 1988 - quite a long time ago. Since then I've listened to a ton of other stuff and I've picked up on lots of other people's ideas. I still consider Big Star a major discovery but since the early 1990s I've discovered so much more. Journalists made a big deal about the Big Star influence at the time and still mention it as if it's all there is. We were influenced by lots of things at the start of the group, we were probably more into Alex Chilton's solo stuff as we were Big Star, we were into Half Japanese and Beat Happening, Neil Young and Galaxie 500, Dinosaur and Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones, Daniel Johnston. I think the Big Star influence appears to be strong because it's the way people tend to write about us rather than how we actually present ourselves to the world. Big Star has simply been the most publicised of countless influences.

Do/did you make a point of exploring what the bands you like were listening to, do think that's an important thing to do?
I suppose that's how I got into music. The first group I loved was The Jam and Paul Weller would always talk about the bands who had influenced him. Through him opening the door to The Kinks, The Creation, Small Faces, The Yardbirds, Motown etc I eventually met people with similar tastes who tipped me off about lots of other, slightly more obscure possibilities, The Action  Love, The Left Banke, The Velvet Underground and it became more and more widescreen and more esoteric until you find yourself listening to Serge Gainsbourg, New Orleans soul, Tropicalia, Cambodian beat music or unaccompanied singing from deepest Donegal. I'm always following up musical leads. I really like when people in groups DJ or talk about their influences - I always find it interesting and rewarding. I think it's how you learn - how you organise, how you evolve.

Is Lightships a way of expressing a slightly different aesthetic, did you decide to use certain instruments or sounds?
I wanted the Lightships thing to be softer and more naive than anything I'd done before. I wanted it to be mood music rather than a Saturday night party thing. I decided I would use flute quite extensively and that I would have long passages of instrumentation in order to attempt a slightly more atmospheric result. I found that using guitar effects helped to create depth and atmosphere as well as aiding my limited playing ability. I used more effects on vocals than before. I reckon I was aiming for a slightly different aesthetic, but it was arrived at over a long period of time rather than it being a pre-decided year zero type affair.

How did you create the songs with the other members of the band Brendan O'Hare, Dave McGowan and Jim McCulloch, was it a case of jamming it out or a different kind of way of working?
I wrote the songs alone. I recorded demos of the basic structures with basic parts and then sent demo CDs to the guys in order to give them an idea of how the songs unfolded. We rehearsed twice before going into the studio. In the studio, we would mess around with them for a couple of hours to make sure about tempo, the key, and arrangement. I decided to keep the songs going and have big fade outs.

Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for some of the songs - Sweetness In Her Spark conjures up the warmth of West Coast America while being firmly rooted in the suburbs of the UK, if that makes sense?
I don't really know much about the West Coast of America, I've only passed through it a few times. It's very nice but I certainly don't long for it in any way. Sweetness in Her Spark is actually about  Spain. The inspiration for the music and lyrics definitely comes from some type of longing, but it's not usually a geographical longing, mostly it's a need for some type of fundamental change or some type of movement based on some type of real experience.

Are you a big record collector? What are of your favourites and have they influenced your own songs?
I guess so. I have lots of vinyl which I've been picking up since I was about fourteen. Some of my recent favourites have been the Harumi LP, produced by Tom Wilson, quite an unusual psychedelic pop album, the Here Is Barbara Lynn LP, beautiful soft guitar soul from the mid 60s, the first Jorge Ben LP Samba Esquema Novo, the first Caetano Veloso LP, the first Gilberto Gil LP. Everything I've ever heard influences me in some way.

Are you looking forward to playing the music live and is that an important part of making music to you?
Yeah, really looking forward to it. The LP was approached as a recording without thinking about it being a possible live thing but I'm looking forward to seeing how the songs change with a live group. Playing live is an important part of being a musician and I usually enjoy it but if I was to be completely honest, my favourite part of the job is writing and recording - it's less repetitive!