DCSIMG

Pump up the volumes

INSPIRATION comes from the strangest places. Like Greenock, for example. It doesn't get the best press in the world and it's not exactly known as a hotbed of musical creativity, but no one seems to have informed My Latest Novel of that fact.

The five-piece indie folk outfit hail from the west coast town and, despite their less than salubrious origins, they are creating an almighty stir in the music world.

Having only been together for a couple of years, things are moving pretty fast for My Latest Novel. The band, consisting of Chris Deveney (vocals, guitar, bass), his brother Gary (vocals, guitar), Paul McGeachy (vocals, guitar, xylophone), Laura McFarlane (vocals, violin, piano) and Ryan King (drums, percussion), have risen rapidly from playing bars in nearby Gourock in front of a handful of punters to performing at T in the Park and playing to 10,000 people at Meadowbank Stadium, supporting the Pixies.

Last week they played sold-out shows in London and Germany, and in the past few months they have also toured Spain, France and Scandinavia. It's all a long way from their stuttering genesis in a practice room in Greenock.

Says Chris Deveney: "Myself and Laura started working on some music ideas we had. Simultaneously my older brother Gary and our drummer Ryan were trying to work on some stuff. Strangely enough we were in the same rehearsal block, in different rooms, but it took us quite a while to realise we could do it all together as a foursome. Once we got a set together that was vaguely playable we did a couple of gigs down in Gourock, then Paul joined and it all went from there."

It didn't take long for the industry to take notice. After a handful of shows and one demo, the band - who are all still in their early 20s - had numerous record company A&R people beating a path to their door. Turning down more lucrative offers from bigger labels, they plumped for indie outfit Bella Union, run by former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde. According to Deveney, it was an easy choice.

"We'd met with quite a few record labels, and we were getting a wee bit fed up of people talking to us about units and product and all this kind of thing," he says. "We were like, 'What are you talking about?' Simon came to one of our shows in London and he never spoke about how many units we could sell, he just spoke about how much he loved our songs, and the kind of band we are. Simon doesn't phone us up and say, 'Right, you have to write a top 40 single' - he phones and says, 'God, your B-sides are pretty weird, I like them.' That's a whole lot better."

The band released a wee taster of things to come last summer with their Sister Sneaker Sister Soul EP, the title track of which is more than six minutes of moody, folky majesty, starting like a jangly Belle and Sebastian and finishing in a mess of post-rock noise, like Mogwai and My Bloody Valentine having it out in the studio.

After that taster, now comes the main course. The band release their debut album, Wolves, tomorrow and it fulfils the promise of that early EP many times over. Blending indie, moody post-rock soundscapes and folk-rock nuances with a distinctly literary bent in their lyrics, My Latest Novel manage to sound like a hundred bands at once, and yet entirely fresh and original in their own right.

The sculpted sounds and celebratory air of Wolves have brought comparisons with last year's Canadian indie crossover success story Arcade Fire, and given the right breaks there's no reason why My Latest Novel shouldn't enjoy similar success. For Deveney and the rest of the band, the enthusiastic reaction to their music from punters and critics alike is welcome, if a little bemusing.

"It was weird, we started getting all these reviews saying we were quite folky sounding," he says. "To be honest none of us had really listened to a lot of folk music, except for things like Bob Dylan and Nick Drake. So then we went away and listened to various things and thought, 'Oh yeah, maybe we do sound a wee bit folky.'"

My Latest Novel don't sound like any other band coming out of Scotland at the moment. That fiercely individual style and independent attitude stem, at least partly, from the fact that the band grew up outside the Glasgow indie circuit, a scene which, though creating many great bands, has a tendency to be cliquey and incestuous.

"We all moved into the same flat and lived together in Glasgow for a while, the five of us," says Deveney. "But it was too much. Sometimes you can't breathe, you know? That was a complete suffocation situation, and it was so much healthier for the band when we all came back down to Greenock. That distance, it allows us to come away from what we're doing and look at it a bit more objectively. Plus, we just practise all the time, every night, because there's nothing else to do around here."

One of the ways in which the band stands out from the crowd is in their thoughtful, intelligent lyrics. There is the obviously literary reference of their name, for a start, and in the past Deveney has namechecked the likes of Jack Kerouac and Aldous Huxley as being just as influential as indie bands such as Low and Smog in moulding the band's music.

"Lyrical inspiration can come from anything," he says. "A lot of the time it's just completely made-up stories. It's fun to write stories and to experiment a wee bit with language. We all love lyrics in the vein of someone like Nick Cave, it just adds another level to your sound. I would hate to have an album that was just 10 songs of me singing about some girl that I couldn't get or whatever - that would just be boring."

That sense of experimentation is mirrored in the band's music. At gigs, instruments are swapped between bandmates with abandon, creating something which is chaotic and shambolic at times, but never dull. Right from the beginning, the band were all about creating something new and different and not allowing themselves to be restricted in any way.

"When we started out, we didn't want there to be any boundaries in terms of genres of music that we played, and we also didn't want any instrumentation boundaries either," says Deveney. "It's funny in the practice room when we're trying to write a song. A lot of the time we'll just put down all our instruments, because if you're strictly attached to one particular instrument things can become stale.

"We have these big boxes full of percussion things, xylophones, melodicas and all sorts of other stuff, and we'll just go through the boxes seeing what we can find and what noises we can make."

As their debut album reveals, the resultant noise they make is spectacular. Says Deveney: "It's a first step for us and it's a bit scary, exposing ourselves to everybody and saying, 'Take it or leave it.'"

• Wolves is out tomorrow. My Latest Novel play Mono, Glasgow, tonight; The Venue, Edinburgh, Tuesday; and Moshulu, Aberdeen, Thursday

 
 
 

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