Saul Davies from indie band James on 34 years of making music, why they owe everything to their fans and how he was discovered at a blues night.
YOU could say that James owe everything to their listeners.
More than three decades have seen the Manchester indie band rise up through The Haçienda days, rack up 12 million record sales and weather a five-year split.
They are well aware that fans have stuck by them through thick and thin.
But do not ask the Manchester indie band what their secret is because they are still trying to work it out for themselves.
“We might be one of the luckiest bands in the UK,” said Saul Davies, guitarist, violinist and percussionist.
“So many of our peers have dwindled and 34 years of a band existing and making records and doing great gigs is quite unusual.
“People take that for granted and even we do as a band, Maybe that’s right that we just get on with it and don’t think about it too much.
“But nevertheless we’re in some exalted company of bands that have been around that long and still make records.”
The band have recently announced their 14th album, Girl At The End Of The World, which will be out on March 18, 2016.
The seven-piece band’s tour will also take them to Manchester Arena on May 13.
Saul added: “We’re putting more tickets on sale for this tour in May than we’ve done for any other UK tour in 25 years.
“We’re not sliding away. It’s the opposite if anything and it’s a very interesting phenomenon. I don’t know what we’ve done to make that happen.
“We’re a band that you either get or you don’t and the people who have got us have stayed with us. That is quite a remarkable thing as a lot of bands gradually lose people.”
The Girl at the End of the World is James’ follow-up to 2014’s La Petite Mort which again saw them team up with long time collaborator Brian Eno and producer Max Dingel, who has worked with The Killers, Muse and White Lies.
Saul said: “It felt natural. We knew his working methods and he knew ours so it made it easier.
“Those who are familiar with our last record will find some similarities but this is more of a pop album.
“La Petite Mort was darker in many ways and I think this shows another side of us. I’m quite looking forward to people hearing it and seeing what their reaction to it is.”
James are also one of the few bands who have consistently put out records every two or three years.
“I would say that we’ve always wanted to stay creative and busy,” added Saul, whose favourite artists are Duke Dumont and Hurts.
“It’s the industry around us that has dictated that there are big gaps between our records.
“But we’ve had a lot of support from our record label BMG and so they’ve encouraged us to release another album relatively quickly
“We also felt that we’d gathered some momentum after La Petite Mort so it felt sensible not to leave it too late.”
And despite having massive hits like Come Home, Sit Down, She’s a Star and Laid, Saul said the band never feel pressure to play the old favourites.
“That’s also testament to the audience,” he said.
“We have a big bag of tunes. I think we had 17 top hits and that’s pretty healthy. We don’t play all of them and I think our audience would be annoyed if we did.
“We’ve made our way through our career and through the industry by being a little bit difficult
“There are some big arenas we’re playing and there will be many people who have come to hear the new record.
“It’s amazing that we’ve managed to create that bond with the audience. We look forward with a great deal of anticipation to being on stage as I genuinely think we are a much better live band than we’ve ever been.”
Arena tours are a far cry from Saul’s beginnings at Band on the Wall in Manchester. He was discovered by James’ Larry Gott during an amateur blues night.
“It used to be amazing there,” added Saul, who started to learn the violin when he was eight.
“They had bands there six nights a week from all over the UK. Larry was intrigued by a violin that I had with me. I just brought it out the car as I didn’t want it to get stolen.
“But he persuaded me to get up and play and then all these people suddenly gave me the opportunity to join bands
“I think nine people asked me as soon as I walked off stage.”
It was, of course, Larry’s offer that Saul accepted and soon enough he was swept up in the ‘Madchester’ scene of the late 80s and early 90s.
“It was a culture shock,” said Saul, who now lives in the Highlands of Scotland.
“This was during the time of the Haçienda and when Afflecks Palace was big and all this mad stuff was happening.
“It was an exciting period of time.
“We, as a band, were probably on the outskirts of all of that stuff that was going but nevertheless we were involved in it.”
Saul’s first Manchester show was at the Free Trade Hall.
He added: “I remember Morrissey came to see that show and New Order were there.
“I’d only been in the band for two and half months and given that The Smiths and New Order were two of my favourite bands it was amazing to me.”