The Basement are on the way up

HAVING named themselves The Basement as a nod to Bob Dylan's line in Subterranean Homesick Blues, listeners should have no difficulties guessing this band's influences. Despite all being in their early 20s, it's no indie rock for this lot.

Rather, they are a mix of folk, pop and country sounds, with a tuneful, organic approach from a band who were never that much influenced by the usual suspects, such as Oasis.

Several years ago, before they were called The Basement, John Mullin, (singer, guitarist and songwriter), Mark McCausland (lead guitar) and Declan McManus (drums) got together in their hometown of Omagh, Ireland and started writing songs and playing together.

"We decided to decamp to Liverpool the first chance that we got," explains Mullin, whose band come to Cabaret Voltaire on Thursday evening.

"There was no real mystical reason for Liverpool. It was the first place we hit land from Ireland."

Within a few months in England, the lads had joined forces with bass player Graeme Hassall, moved into a shabby cellar flat and started to devote their days to rehearsing.

Their decision proved a shrewd one.

Having made a name for themselves on Liverpool's rich music scene, they were promptly signed to the Deltasonic label.

The Basement's name came as a nod to Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues because, as Mullin says, "the place we were living and rehearsing in was like a basement and Mark used to take the p*** out of me because of the line in the song that says 'Johnny's in The Basement'. So it stuck."

In the summer of 2003, The Basement released debut single Medicine Day to enthusiastic reviews from the UK music press, instantly turning them into a buzz band.

The band's follow-up single, Do You Think You're Movin' On, was a similar success.

But rather than rush into the recording studio to lay down their debut album, the Irishmen took their time, working on songwriting and arranging material during the week and heading into the recording studio only on weekends, giving the songs a chance to mature before the album was completed.

An unusual tack for a band in the midst of a lot of industry hype - so what was their reasoning?

"I was never comfortable with the idea of walking into the studio with some guy you've never met and the clock's on and you've got to make magic," explains Mullin on the long recording of the album. "It was about finding a situation that was comfortable for us."

Since work started on the record, two entire albums' worth of songs have been scrapped, but Mullin insists, "It wasn't because anyone thought they weren't good enough.

"We wanted the album to be the best it could possibly be, for us to be proud of it," he says.

Never ones to do things the conventional way, The Basement opted to give themselves a musical apprenticeship of a different kind, heading back to Ireland where they spent four months travelling the motherland and playing in pubs with old men who, they readily admit, "were far better musicians than us."

Having found the right combination of tunes, The Basement re-entered the studio and recorded the album in just three weeks. It may have been years in the making, but the band's patience has really paid off.

Illicit Hugs And Playground Thugs was released last year to enthusiastic press in the UK, with the NME predicting that it would "sail way beyond all the other pretenders".

Having taken cues from the stars of their parents' generation - the Beach Boys, Dylan, Leadbelly, Hank Williams and more - Mullin explains that he and his bandmates spent years absorbing various musical influences.

"I just listened to loads of stuff, anyone with a bit of soul and truth to their music," he says. "I think you just pick up on stuff, but then sometimes I'll get really addicted and soak myself into one type of music for eight months until I know what makes it work and how it works.

"Then you just move onto the next one. I did that with the Beatles and then on to Dylan and even people like Jack Kerouac and writers - soak myself in something until I understand the mechanics, and then you just take the essence of it and put it in your own work."

With The Basement enjoying another flood of rave reviews on their current UK tour, you'd be a fool to miss their anticipated appearance in the Capital next week.

• The Basement, Cabaret Voltaire, Blair Street, Thursday, 7pm, 5, 0131-220 6176