NORMAN Blake – best known round these parts as the affable frontman of Teenage Fanclub – will return to his native Glasgow on Monday as one half of The New Mendicants, a low-key duo he has formed with Joe Pernice of The Pernice Brothers/Scud Mountain Boys.
They chose their snazzy name because Blake’s first choice – The Mendicants – had already been snapped up by other outfits. Pernice’s solution? Simple, just add “new” to the moniker.
Since relocating with his family to Canada a few years ago, Blake has made a habit of showing up with the most informal of set-ups.
His previous band Jonny was another songwriting duo formed with ex-Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci frontman Euros Childs. But Blake points out that The New Mendicants is even more stripped-back – “just two acoustics and a glockenspiel,” he says.
The pair were quick to hook up when it was pointed out that they were virtually neighbours in the Toronto area. Blake actually lives an hour west of the city and had been feeling somewhat musically isolated.
“When I moved there, I thought what do I do?” he says. “There is a good music scene there – Broken Social Scene, Feist, The Sadies, all those guys – but I live too far away from the city to get involved in it. I don’t want to say I don’t have any pals in Toronto – I’ve met some very nice people there but I hadn’t really met any musicians I felt compatible with. So that was why it was great meeting Joe. We’re both middle-aged guys of a similar vintage. We like the same things. Also, Joe likes BMX bikes, that’s his obsession.”
So far, the duo have released an EP called Australia 2013 comprising versions of Teenage Fanclub, Pernice Brothers and INXS tunes plus three originals.
There will be more originals on their forthcoming album, magnificently titled The Book Of Norman, and their live set is also a lucky bag mix of new, back catalogue and cover material. Blake will also be finishing off another Teenage Fanclub album while he is on this side of the pond.
“It feels good to be creating,” says Blake. “When I don’t work I can find myself at a loose end, not that I feel melancholic but I can sometimes feel a bit directionless.
“But when you’re working you have some motivation. I feel best when I’m making music.”
• The New Mendicants play Mono, Glasgow on 15 July. The Australia 2013 EP is out now.