Boasting a run of UK chart singles and an American college radio hit in ‘Laid’, James enjoyed phenomenal success in the 1990s, establishing themselves as a prominent fixture of the Manchester indie scene whilst avoiding the Britpop tag.
The band split in 2001 following the departure of singer Tim Booth but burst back into life six years later – and the seven-piece have been prolific ever since, with a number of tours and new studio albums.
Daniel Jeakins spoke to founding member and band namesake Jim ‘James’ Glennie ahead of the release of their latest record Girl At The End of the World to talk crowning career moments, a new three-album deal and their reformation.
Hi Jim. You’re in the process of promoting your latest record Girl At The End of the World. How’s it all going?
“Really well, thank you. We’ve got a really busy schedule lined up – we’re doing lots of in-store performances, BBC Breakfast and things like that. Personally I’ve been really pleased with the reaction we’ve got from the new material – we really enjoy the challenge of bringing new songs to our audience and not just playing the same old songs. We’ve always wanted to be an active band in that sense.”
Your last record, La Petite Mort, was labelled as being about the death of (singer) Tim Booth’s mother. Does this latest album have a similarly specific subject.
“Not really no, this album isn’t about anything in particular. Obviously there are certain songs you can point to which are about things Tim has experienced recently.”
You’ve been extremely prolific since you reformed – you’ve toured pretty much non-stop and this will be your fifth album since 2008. Obviously the hunger hasn’t died?
“We’ve always been a band that want to constantly update our sound. It might be hard to believe, but ever since the beginning it’s kind of felt like every album could potentially be the last one. We’ve never had any assurances that we’d be able to carry on – actually now is the first time we’ve really had that assurance.
“Our new label (BMG) have given us a three album deal, with this being the first one, so we’ve got plans to release more going forward.”
You’re the only member of James who has been a part of the band for its whole duration – what would you say are the highlights of your career?
“I could reel off things we’ve achieved and amazing things I’ve done, but it’s the small personal things that really stick in the memory. Growing up I was a huge fan of The Jam and I remember seeing their name written above the Apollo and thinking ‘I wonder if my band will ever get to play there’. Then years later we headlined the Apollo and our name was written in the exact same letters – sentimental stuff like that is what really sticks out to me.”
You’re known for playing very different sets every night and not sticking to the same selection of songs – why did you decide to vary your performances?
“I think it’s important to play a set that suits your setting. I remember we had a flight delayed when we were due to play Latitude so we ended up playing the day after in one of the tents at 11:30am. With that kind of set you have to respect that everyone’s a bit hungover, so we played a lot of quite intimate ones.
“If you’re on late afternoon when everyone starts drinking again you bring out the big anthems. Most bands like to rehearse a specific set list, which is a lot easier for our lighting and sound guys, but we like doing it that way. It does lead to a lot of arguments before the gig when it comes to choosing what songs we play though!”