The last thing you’d expect to influence a Manchester band is the starlings in Piccadilly Square. Usually it’s the rain, or the industry or even the lager louts – but then James are no ordinary Manchester band. Into their melodic songs on their new album ‘Strip-mining’, they weave poetry and lyrics that linger rather than escaping into the nearest guitar twang ‘In the sky above the square starlings spiral dancing on all’. (What for?).
Explains vocalist and word fashioner Tim Booth… “It was the idea of this guy being really down, looking up and seeing the starlings swirling round and going ‘wow, that’s amazing’. It’s the best sight in Manchester – they can’t build anything to rival that in beauty.”
James have been around the Manchester scene for a number of years, and three years ago signed to Madonna’s label Sire. Their future looked rosy and still does, but to coincide with the release of the album, the band have parted company with the label, after waiting two years for its release, while Sire withheld backing as they thought the music was too ‘English’ and wouldn’t sell.
Guitarist Jim says: “We’re happy now. We wanted to get off the label two years ago because they wouldn’t let us do what we’re good at – playing live and recording. We’re not going a step backwards by any stretch of the imagination. This album will take us to the next step.” Trouble is, that James have got a reputation as a frantic live band – one of the best to see in the country, yet their album is very song based and tuneful – not what sells records in the age of pop pirates. Yet they wouldn’t budge… “No-one seems to realise that you just make the best album you can.”
Quite. It’s like asking Picasso to paint a bunch (???) of flowers… Tim “and then turning round to him and saying ‘well, those flowers would have been better painted blue instead of yellow. If you want them painted blue, then go paint your own! Recording an LP is a completely different medium and you’ve got to treat it differently. The music’s a bit more calm.”
Jim: “I like to think that we’re still doing the extremes, we’re just doing them better.”
Tim: “The aim is to have bigger extremes of franticness, but contrasted with the complete opposite with some really calm and beautiful things. When we start off with songs, they’re usually quite simple and then we play them a lot live and they just grow. All these songs are like little fledglings and then on tour, they’ll have to lean to fly…”
Jim: “We’ll put them out of the nest and see if they like it…”
And no doubt they’ll soar like the starlings in Piccadilly Square…
James play The Ritz on October 11.
Their album Strip-mining is now on release (Blanco Y Negro).