The weight of anticipation for Have Some Faith In Magic must have put Errors in something of a pressure cooker of late. But just after its release and with more critical acclaim in the bag for the Glasgow band, we caught up with Steev Livingstone, who had chance to let off some steam in a pub to talk about going a man down, the upcoming UK tour and songwriting in the most unlikely of places.
music OMH: How would you describe your development in sound from How Clean Is Your Acid House to Have Some Faith In Magic?
Steev: I’d say our sound is probably more consistent now compared to then. At that point we were still finding our feet and I don’t really think that we knew what kind of band we wanted to be. That isn’t to say that we are entirely in control now and that everything we do all sounds the same, but I think we are maybe more self-aware, which is both a good and a bad thing probably.
OMH: There’s also an audible step change from focusing on beats to this album’s metronomic rhythms and vocal elements. Where did that direction come from?
Steev: I guess the more percussive aspects of the record probably came from listening to quite a bit of world music and traditional African music. Although our patterns are probably not as complicated as some of the polyrhythms used in those genres, there’s definitely an influence there, especially on a tune like Earthscore. In terms of the vocals, I guess it was just influenced from what we were beginning to listen to around that time, and also the realisation that it was possible to use vocals and not have it compromise the music.
OMH: Where did the inspiration for the album title come from?
Steev: It was a piece of advice that Simon used, to encourage Greg to write a guitar part. As with most of our titles, it doesn’t really refer to anything but sounds like it should mean something. It’s always interesting when people interpret the titles of our records – we get some pretty good interpretations by leaving it open in that way.
OMH: First reviews of the album seem very positive – do you set much score by what they say?
Steev: It’s very encouraging, definitely, especially ahead of a tour where we are mostly going to be playing new material. I do pay attention to them; I know different musicians have different ways of dealing with reviews, but for me it’s important to know what the opinions are, just as it’s important to read about other bands. Even the negative comments about any record we’ve made are actually quite helpful, though I wouldn’t really consider it when it comes to making a new record – luckily all that goes out the window when we’re concentrating on the creative process.
OMH: You’ve gained a lot of critical acclaim through the years, but is becoming a household name something that appeals to you?
Steev: Not really. It’s nice to have people appreciate what we do, but I’d hate to ever be at the point where it would be difficult to have a normal life as a result of achievements. Luckily, I can’t really see that happening, unless we do something radically different on the next record. One of the girls from The Saturdays posted about how much she liked our new record, so perhaps we are breaking through to the mainstream already!
OMH: Is it a conscious decision to follow your own creative direction, rather than opt for what’s glaringly popular?
Steev: It was a conscious decision, but it wasn’t about trying to get popular. We constantly want to change what we are doing, whether it’s the way we make it, where we make it, or the influences and outcome of the actual music. We do this because it would be really boring to be covering the same ground. I’m glad that in the early days we were so eclectic – it established us as a band that did that and meant that seven years later we could do whatever we wanted and no-one would be too confused.
OMH: Have you learnt any pearls of wisdom in the last five years about the industry that have influenced you?
Steev: Don’t take advice from guys in bands, particularly if they eat crisps from your dressing room and use phrases like: “See, when I was your age…”
OMH: Where would you like this latest record to take you?
Steev: To the point where I don’t need to do part-time work anymore and I can just spend my time making music and sitting in pubs during the day with my laptop doing interviews for well-respected national newspapers. I’m half-way there already.
OMH: You’ve got a sound that evokes Scottish highlands, dark days and Glasgow industry. Is that where you get your song writing inspiration from? If not, where else?
Steev: I think I can’t help being influenced by those things. I think environment affects what we do in a big way. I’m a keen hill walker so I think a lot of Scottish landscapes influenced this record. I always like to change the spaces where I do the song writing. I’ve set up stuff in a cupboard, in my dad’s house, in the back of a people carrier driving through Arizona, in my living room, in a cottage in Skye: all these different environments affect the outcome of the music as much as the music that inspires us.
OMH: Onto the Mogwai connection. How does it feel to have had such a history of support from them?
Steev: We’re really lucky to have guys like them supporting us right from the start, without their help I dunno where we’d be. They’ve been great to us throughout the whole time and we all get on very well, so it’s really a great situation.
OMH: You’re markedly different from a lot of recent bands from Glasgow, like Glasvegas, Mogwai, The Phantom Band and The Twilight Sad. What’s your take on the city’s current music scene?
Steev: Bands of a certain size really don’t have anything to do with the Glasgow music scene. I think many of them happen to be from Glasgow, but the part they play is often something that left many years ago. That’s no criticism, it’s just something that happens as a band gets more popular. The music scene that is important is the local bands and the network of supportive people who are helping each other out and turning up in weird places to watch and help out. I think it’s healthier than it’s been in a while and that might be due to the fact that the focus is not on Glasgow just now, so everyone is doing what they do for fun, or for a love of it. It has reduced the competitiveness, or career-motivated attitude that perhaps existed a few years ago and because of that, it seems to be growing naturally and even within that people getting popular off their own back.
OMH: What music most crops up on your stereo at the moment?
Steev: I’ve been listening to the latest Sun Araw album Ancient Romans for the last few weeks and rediscovering Brian Eno‘s Another Green World, because I was reading the book about it. I had forgotten just how unusual that record is and was at the time. It’s amusing because people referred to that record as his ‘pop’ record and the real prog-heads at the time were a bit snobby because he was using quite traditional elements on it.
OMH: You’re now a man down in the band, from four to three – how’s that going to affect the upcoming tour?
Steev: It’s definitely going to be weird. We did our last show with Greg just before Christmas and we’ll be doing our first show as a three-piece in a couple of week’s time. We’ve worked out a way of doing it live that seems to be working in rehearsals so far. I think the dynamic when touring – even just sitting in the van – will be different. He will be sorely missed.
OMH: What’s the most exciting prospect for the upcoming tour?
Steev: That our tour manager is going to set all our equipment for us every night from now on.
OMH: Are there any festivals you’ve got your eye on this year? Any you can name?
Steev: We’ve confirmed Field Day. We played there a few years ago and the line-up this year is really good again. Aside from that we can’t really announce a lot of them yet, but I’m really looking forward to it.
Errors’ album Have Some Faith In Magic is out now through Rock Action. They begin their UK tour at Newcastle’s Cluny on 9th February. More information and music at weareerrors.com. Questions were posed by Ruth Davies.