Page last updated at 18:03 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Homecoming sell-out for Glasvegas

Pauline McLean
Arts correspondent, BBC Scotland

Glasvegas
Glasvegas songs about life in Scotland have been much praised

It has been an extraordinary year for Glasvegas and as they prepare to take the stage of Glasgow's Barrowlands for the final sell-out date of their UK tour, the four band members are revelling in the ordinary.

Bassist Paul Donaghue and guitarist Rab Allan are enjoying being back in their own homes for the first time in two months, singer Caroline McKay is looking forward to a bit of Christmas shopping and singer James Allan has just strolled the four minutes it takes from his own home to the venue - "just time for one song on the ipod," he says cheerfully.

This time last year, the band were virtually unknown except to a small Glasgow fan base. This year, they're on everyone's end of year hit list.

Their debut album, Glasvegas, is one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of the year and practically every gig on their UK tour was sold out, not least tonight's debut at the Barrowlands.

It just feels we were made for this place...when I look at that sign that says Barrowlands, I always thought if Glasvegas were a neon sign, it would be like that
James Allan, singer, Glasvegas

"I met Caroline round the corner from here," says James. "It's one of those places that tell you the world is so small. I went to school at St Mungos just five minutes from here, I used to play football near here, all my best friends when I was growing up live in the Calton.

"We used to come to gigs her. I saw Joe Strummer here. Rab and I came to see Oasis here - that was one of the things that made us want to be in a band.

"It just feels we were made for this place - our band - when I look at that sign that says Barrowlands, I always thought if Glasvegas were a neon sign, it would be like that."

Allan's stark lyrics about life in working class Scotland have been much praised by the critics. Songs like Flowers and Football Tops, partly inspired by the murder of Kriss Donald in 2004, and Daddy's Gone, about absent parents suggest a songwriter who's tapped into real issues. But none of the band vote, or aspire to be in any way political.

"It's not that I care any more than anyone else, they're just thoughts," says Allan.

Barrowland sign
Glasvegas are making their debut at the Barrowlands

"I don't see myself as political or making social comment. I don't think it's as conscious as that. I daydream and that's how a lot of the songs have come about. Sometimes I snap out of it and I have pages of songs and that's the album."

And during a packed touring schedule, far from home, is he still able to write and begin work on that oh-so tricky second album?

"Do you mean am I still daydreaming now? Can't help it. I have started the next album already. It sounds nuts but it's a visual thing. It's shade or a colour and the words and melody will come out of that. It's hard to explain, like a psychedelic dream which you try to explain to someone but it's impossible."

Next year is already filling up for the band. An American tour begins in January, including several spots on TV shows like Letterman.

European journalists are equally fascinated by the group. As I leave, a journalist from a distinguished French music magazine has arrived to do an interview.

Christmas EP

There's a few days off over Christmas and then the band will bring in the bells at Edinburgh's Hogmanay. Perhaps not the obvious choice, given their often bleak outlook on life.

Then again, who'd have thought Glasvegas would release a Christmas EP - a seasonal mix of sadness (Cruel Moon) madness (Please Come Back Home) and cheeriness (A Snowflake Fell). They even recorded it in Transylvania - "because I'd always wanted to and that's the sort of thing you can do in a band," says Allan.

"I kept thinking about it when I was making the album in March/April. Christmas is a mixed-up time. Everything looks so beautiful, in frost and snow, even really derelict parts of the city, so it's a real leveller.

"Lots of friends and families come together but it's a really lonely time too, and lots of reflection about the past and the future. It's really extreme, the blue skies and the angels and the black gutter. And all the mums running around trying to get their kids the right bike."

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SEE ALSO
Glasvegas confirm Hogmanay party
24 Oct 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Sound of 2008: Glasvegas
01 Jan 08 |  Entertainment
Glasvegas - Daddy's Gone
04 Jan 08 |  Entertainment

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