With a new album release on the cards with a list of tour dates, Collar Up’s Stephen McLaren has much to offer in the coming months.
Stephen spoke with The Fountain about the Edinburgh music scene, what it’s like to transition from being in a band to a solo artist and where we are likely to see him play in the forthcoming future.
TF: With a new album release with We Used To Go Raving on 29th September you must be excited?
Yes, I am. It has been a labour of love, so I am delighted and excited that it’s now being released. I hope folk enjoy listening to it!
TF: Being Edinburgh-based, how much support do you feel the city has to offer with your music and the Scottish music scene?
I feel that the city is rammed full of talent. Those who’ve contributed most to my music-making, and who are my biggest influences, all live here. But the conditions are not conducive to allowing that talent to thrive and bloom. For one, the city is prohibitively expensive, dominated by highly-paid professionals, property investors, and old money, so many musicians and artists are not able to get out and support each other, since they are perpetually skint, and create a thriving, bustling scene. As if that wasn’t hard enough, we are blessed with one of the least supportive councils in the world. They do not care whatsoever about grass-roots music developing, not thriving. They have proved this time and time again; showing zero support to venues under attack from unreasonable noise complaints and vulture property-investors.
It is now illegal to busk on the streets using an amplifier. I mean, this is supposed to be the capital city of Scotland – it should be noisy! The council will, of course, point to the Fringe, but that is just a money-spinner for them, and the traditional forms of music that go on in the city being supported are only supported because the “right people” approve. So, no, it is not fertile ground for original music, which is a shame because it so easily could be, and it definitely should be.
TF: How is it to be working solo after previously being in Collar Up?
It’s different in lots of respects. There are things that I miss about being in the band; it’s now (obviously) much more solitary, not as many laughs during the creative process, and no-one to share in the excitement of creating something new. Still, there are benefits too. I feel much more mobile as an artist, able to do as I please, and make creative decisions faster, and play new songs live at gigs faster too. So, there are benefits and drawbacks, but, on balance, for what I’m doing just now at least, I think I’m better staying solo.
TF: And how is it that your sound has developed, if you were to describe to fans of Collar Up?
The songs are similar in content. Still angry, still sad, still trying to tell a story. Also, the piano is still the main instrument, and the voices still drenched in reverb. But, the sound, overall, has become much more electronic.
TF: With this eighties sound, and synth-infected tracks, it would be interesting to gauge where your influences stemmed from with this new release?
It’s funny that a few people have remarked that it sounds eighties, when I’d consider it maybe, if anything, more nineties. But, whichever the case, I have been heavily influenced by dream-pop: Cocteau Twins, Beach Hpuse, Mercury Rev, and there are possibly shades of Smiths, Kate Bush, Arcade Fire, and New Order in there too.
TF: What is coming up in the near future for you aside from the album release? Any gigs or tours on the cards?
I am playing live on the following dates:
23rd September, album launch @ Leith Depot
1st October, Ocktoberfest @ The Bier Hoose
7th October, Elvis Shakespeare (in-store 2.30pm)
22nd November, Voodoo Rooms (supporting Foreignfox)
16th December, Leith Depot (Little Love and the Friendly Vibes Xmas Party)
Apart from that, I intend to continue to take to the streets and busk my tunes to people. So if you see or hear a red-headed guy busking with a Yamaha piano, it’s likely me.
We Used To Go Raving is out 29th September 2017 via Errant Media.