The Zutons: interview
Simon Parkin The Zutons emerged at the same time as Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Chiefs but their boisterously, hook-laden music was compulsively odder than that of their peers. Now they're set for a forest gig in Norfolk.
The Zutons emerged at the same time as Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Chiefs but their boisterously, hook-laden music was compulsively odder than that of their peers.
Though in a similar vein to “Scallydelic” label-mates The Coral, Liverpool's then great white hopes - they seemed, if anything, more demented.
They sang about zombies and dancehalls, and took inspiration not just from their home city's obvious musical heritage but rather from John Barry, Talking Heads, Ennio Morricone and arcane, long forgotten 60s acts.
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It didn't put off listeners though. Their zoot suit wearing debut, Who Killed The Zutons?, described by one critic as sci-fi trash rock, sold over 600,000 in the UK alone.
Follow-up Tired Of Hanging Around was even more successful, spawning three hit singles, including Valerie, which went on to be an even bigger Mark Ronson-produced smash for Amy Winehouse.
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The Merseyside five-piece open this year's series of summer open air concerts at Thetford Forest, as they prepare to release their third album, You Can Do Anything, already being branded their best 55-minutes to date, and recorded in the unlikely surroundings of Los Angeles.
Far from feeling homesick, they fell in with some Hispanic Texans along the way who, frontman Dave McCabe tells us, “saved us from ourselves”.
t Why did you choose to record the new album in LA?
“Well, sometimes you've got to go a million miles from home in order to discover yourself, you know? It was time for a little soul-searching, I think, and we also wanted a different vibe this time. LA certainly gave us that.”
t What was it like working with producer George Drakoulias, the man behind likes of Johnny Cash and The Black Crowes. He seems to have brought out the rambunctious rockers in you?
“I'll be honest with you, I'd never heard of the bloke, but I had been told he was good. And, right enough he was. He was a little nervous at first, but then I'd be nervous if I was a happy American facing five moody Scousers. Wouldn't you?”
t Speaking of moody, it's frequently pointed out what a cynical world view you seem to have?
“I may be cynical, but I'm Scouse cynical - with humour, and that's the best kind. Take my word for it.”
t People seemed to catch on to you very early on, the first album, Who Killed The Zutons?, produced two hit singles and you got a Mercury Music Prize nomination?
“We were amazed things took off so quickly. We were always a band who existed in our own little world, so to have the wider world accept us - well, it was unexpected. But good unexpected, the best.”
t Valerie went on to be a huge selling hit for Amy Winehouse, as it strange to see one of your songs take off so massively for someone else?
“It was mad, deffo. It's like the song has gone off and had a completely independent life of its own. It doesn't even feel like mine now - James Morrison recently did a version of it as well - and I like that it's spread its wings. Has it improved my songwriting confidence? Well, it hasn't hurt.”
t Tired Of Hanging Around was so successful, yet you said writing it came easy to you. Was it as carefree this time?
“There was a lot more pressure to deliver this time around. And have we delivered? I certainly hope so, but it's all a gamble, isn't it? It's like bingo, music. Grab a ball; hope it's a good one.”
t Four Walls Cry, a duet with saxophonist Abi Harding, seems to be an examination of disharmony among your band mates?
“It's about us doing one another's head in. We're always getting on each other's nerves, but then we've always had tension. After six years in each other's company, it's inevitable that you end up noticing the negatives much quicker than the positives.”
t The album closes with Little Red Door, a beautiful country croon, though, which gives the impression all is well and you're happy with the resulting album?
“Yeah, like I said bingo! You grab a ball, you hope it's a good one. And is this a good one? Well, we're happy with it, like. As an album, it's easily our most confident. We're still going to argue and bicker like the big kids we are, but we also know we've got enough going on here to want to make a fourth album, a fifth, a sixth. I think what I'm trying to say here is that we've found our feet.”
t The Zutons, Thetford High Lodge, Thursday, June 5, £26, 01842 814 612, www.forestry.gov.uk/music