Glasvegas play the Futures Stage at T in the Park on Saturday 12 July
Invariably dressed in leathery black, with a quiffs'n'riffs aesthetic that recalls the Beatles in Hamburg, Glasvegas could easily become the darlings of London's fashion scene. Thankfully, there is a lot more to them than style, and with their unpretentious attitude rooted in the east end of Glasgow, it's hard to imagine them hanging out in the English countryside with Kate Moss's fast set; their taste runs more to Buckfast than Buckinghamshire.
A buzz began building around the group last year, thanks mainly to their brilliant single 'Daddy's Gone' but also because music mogul Alan McGee was so vocal in his praise of a band who, like his famous signings Oasis, he saw playing third on the bill at King Tut's. Blogging, McGee described them as "rockabilly neds playing a frenetic homage to Elvis, art punk and noise". As a result, Glasvegas were tipped by many in the media, including an influential BBC poll, as a band to watch in 2008. They signed a record deal with Columbia in February and recently finished recording their debut album in New York with Rich Costey, the producer of Franz Ferdinand and Muse.
I meet Glasvegas in the caf of St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, next to Glasgow Cathedral. James Allan, who sings and writes the songs, is 28 and looks like Joe Strummer mixed with John Sessions, which is a surprisingly cool combination. His cousin Rab Allan, the 25-year-old lead guitarist, is a big guy with a flat-top and a gold chain round his neck. He's very proud of the boots he bought in New York – "Look! Cowsers!" Caroline McKay, 34, plays the drums standing up. She's got great Liza Minnelli-ish hair and a tremendous laugh which begins as a slow guffaw before picking up speed, like a river in spate, and ending as a staccato chuckle. Bass player Paul Donoghue is 24, a former tiler; skinny as a liquorice lace and with hair whipped up like a 99 – among his bandmates he most closely resembles a genuine greaser, the sort of geezer who might have mugged you for three bob at a fairground in 1957.
Glasvegas were friends before they were a band. Donoghue was at school with Rab, and McKay got to know them through Mr Ben, the vintage clothes shop in which she worked. She has a flat in the city centre where they gathered to drink and listen to music. McKay's record collection – doo-wop, rock'n'roll, Sixties girl groups, barbershop quartets – was a key influence on the band's eventual sound.
A couple of days before this interview, Glasvegas had what was probably their most significant bit of exposure yet. Appearing on Later With Jools Holland, they performed 'Daddy's Gone' and the new single 'Geraldine', holding their own on a bill that included the Bad Seeds and Raconteurs. "That was amazing," says Donoghue. "It felt like quite an accomplishment to go from sitting in the house with no money to being out there. It feels like things are moving on."
Anyone watching the show and hearing Glasvegas for the first time would probably have been struck first by James Allan's voice, emotional and rough, a Glaswegian Billy Bragg. Then there is the music, which marries Phil Spector stateliness to Jesus and Mary Chain fuzz. The single describes the relationship between an addiction counsellor and her client in the most lyrical terms – "I'll be the angel on your shoulder/My name's Geraldine, I'm your social worker". This is typical of Allan, who specialises in taking the darker aspects of Scottish urban culture, particularly violence, and treating them poetically. He refers to his lyrics as poems, although it is only in the last few years that he has felt comfortable with this artistic side of his personality.
"I thought poems were for queers and weirdos, and anybody expressing themselves in that way should be slagged," he says. He remembers writing verses in first year at St Mungo's Academy about how bad the school dinners were, and his work being praised by the teacher; this stuck in his head as one of the few positive things he did at school. Gradually, through listening to the music of other songwriters, he has become more at ease with the idea of writing, although he still felt shy when he played the songs for the album to the band.
Allan, by the way, is from Dalmarnock and speaks in a rough, curse-studded Glaswegian dialect which, written down just as he says it, would have this article reading like a James Kelman novel.
As a result of his efforts, Glasvegas have a wide-ranging clutch of tracks. 'Daddy's Gone' is a very personal song addressed to Allan's absent father ("All I wanted was a kickabout in the park/For you to race me home when it was nearly getting dark"), which captures perfectly a peculiarly Scottish kind of sentimental machismo. 'Flowers And Football Tops', sung from the perspective of a mother whose son has been killed, was inspired by the murder of Glasgow teenager Kriss Donald and the shrine that sprang up near where his body was discovered. 'Polmont On My Mind', meanwhile, is about Polmont Young Offenders' Institution, one of a number of Scottish prisons in which Glasvegas have performed.
Why play in prisons? "Because Glasvegas isn't exclusive to anybody," says James. "When we played Cornton Vale it was really heartbreaking. You look about the room and there are all these women with the saddest, saddest eyes. You could probably just run through the performance and get out, but if you let their energy in then it's overwhelming."
His cousin grins. "At Saughton Prison they actually threw pool balls at us while we were playing. The guards were just laughing. But those gigs were a really good experience... everyone took something from it."
Glasvegas say that, much as they love the east end of Glasgow, it has no culture of ambition. When they were starting out they were forever being asked, "What do you want to be in a band for?" and told that, coming from where they did, they would never succeed. Seeking an example that said otherwise, James, who used to play professional football for Falkirk, among other teams, looked to Celtic's European Cup winning squad of 1967. "I love it when anybody rises above the normalities," he says. "The Lisbon Lions had a lot of class. They were a total football team with some amazingly talented players and they were all from within a 30-mile radius of Celtic Park. They were the best and they won the best trophy. For them to achieve that is such an inspiring thing, and I guess that's influenced me."
They also have evidence that their music can touch people who weren't born within spitting distance of the Clyde. "I was at a gig in England the other night," says Rab, "and a guy came up to me and started crying, telling me how much 'Daddy's Gone' means to him."
According to McKay, that's a common response to their music. "That's how we know it's not just a Glasgow thing or a Scottish thing," she says. "Glasvegas is universal."
• Geraldine is released on June 23, but available to download from June 22. Glasvegas play Raigmore, Inverness, June 17; Fubar, Stirling, June 18; ABC2, Glasgow, June 19; and Ocean Nightclub, Kirkcaldy, June 21 and T in the Park, July 12