It’s an often heard adage in the music industry that a band’s second album is the most difficult. Having established an image and reputation with their debut, a lot of bands feel intimidated and uncertain when it comes to following up their success and meeting the expectations of their new-found fans, or otherwise can become so preoccupied with outdoing their first release they loose sight of what made their music appealing in the first place. For Glasvegas, who after 5 years of releasing on indie labels found massive mainstream success back in 2008 with the release of their major label self-titled debut, the album finding it’s way to no.2 on the UK Album Charts, this adage proved to be very true.
Speaking to lead singer James Allan we got the lowdown on the pressures and considerations that went into making their sophomore album EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\.
Music Feeds: So what’s it like finally having the difficult second album finished off?
James Allan: It means that I can go to sleep, that’s the biggest difference really. When I hear other people speaking about making records as well as going off my experience, I find that it’s a lot more thrown together than people imagine, and our record was like that. We just made it, by the skin of our teeth. With all the mixing and mastering as well as the fact we recorded in Santa Monica and London it was just crazy man, crazy days.
MF: Bit of a mad scramble then?
JA: Somebody asked me if I was obsessed by it. I would never have thought I was the sort of person to be obsessed by anything and when they asked me I said no, but as I said it I realised that I had been obsessed by it. I’d just been awake for that long, that I obviously was obsessed by it. It was very unnatural the way that I was living, although it seemed natural to me at the time, but I was just very occupied with working on it, and making it as good as I knew it could be.
That’s always the toughest thing, when your own expectations come into it, that’s the hardest consideration or pressure to live up to. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life making this album, by miles, even harder than the first one. The first record I found really difficult, but this one was more so, and I guess that that’s the thing, it’s never easy.
MF: Did the fact you were signed to Columbia, this big major label, and had experienced so much success since the first album add to the pressure?
JA: The label has deadlines and stuff like that, but they never put any pressure on us, nobody did. All the pressure came from within my own mind.
MF: But surely having gone from being an unknown living in Glasgow to one of the most popular bands to come out of the UK in the last few years would have added pressure to the process?
JA: The thing I’ve learned is that there are always pressures no matter what you’re doing. When I was unemployed and I wrote the first album I had pressures, I had pressures because I had no money for food, I had nowhere to live. So I signed the record label and I got money to eat, I got money to be able to pay for somewhere to live, but with any fortune there also comes a price. You get money for food and you get money for shelter and it brings it’s own problems.
With having the fans, when you’ve got all these kids who believe in you and what you’re doing, it’s only natural that you don’t want to let them down, but when it comes down to songwriting all that stuff doesn’t really matter. Everything around disappears and becomes invisible and everything around you becomes silent, there’s no audience, there’s no platform, there’s no label, there’s nothing like that around you and all you’ve got is a thought in your head and the guitar in your hand. It’s like if you play soccer and you’re running with the ball, you’re just that focused that everything goes invisible and silent. You hear boxers talk about the red mist, when they fix in on this one thing, to fight someone and everything else doesn’t matter, it’s almost like that with a song, it’s just you and your sentiment. It’s about taking a thought from my mind and turning it into something physical, i.e. an audiofile on a CD, or a decibel coming out of a speaker and until I get it to that physical reality then I’m so focused in on that thing that the pressures that go along with fame and success aren’t important. It doesn’t happen every time, some days you might feel insecure and nothing works, but then there are other days where you fall colossal and nothing can stop you.
MF: So you’re sort of chasing this state of clear minded self expression?
JA: It happens at the most stupid times, it will happen when you’re walking to the shops. It used to happen a lot when I was taking walks on the beach, and so I’d have to take a pen and paper with me because I’ve got such a bad memory and if I didn’t have a pen and paper I’d run back to the house before I forgot the words.