17th February 2016
I’m sitting in the Malmaison Hotel reception area, waiting for the band to come over. Jim Glennie and Saul Davies approach and I stand up to shake their hands. Immediately I have the urge to burst out the lyrics ‘oh sit down, sit down next to me’ …but I then think about how many times people must have done that before, and swiftly decide against it.
Being described as Manchester’s ‘best kept secret’, the two members reminisce about their university days and how they met. Saul tells me that he studied Law originally but left because it was ‘fucking bollocks’. He then went on to study Archaeology and Ancient History, on the basis that you do nothing about nothing.
The band very much fell together, they explain. You can understand why some hippie dippie people believe in shit like fate. Jim clarifies that in his younger years he was best friends with ex-bandmate Paul Gilbertson; however, they had an argument and fell out for a year. When they rekindled their friendship, while Jim had commitments to play football and games, Paul had reinvented himself and delved into the world of music, and made it his mission to educate Jim. He recalls a time in particular, when he was dragged into his friend’s house and was made to listen to ‘Psycho Killer’ by Talking Heads and repeating to him ‘YOU WILL NOW APPRECIATE MUSIC.’
Pre-James, Jim and Paul met lead singer Tim Booth in the Manchester Student Union underground bar, or as we know it today, Club Academy. Jim laughs that they used to go there a lot and were too broke to buy drinks, so would steal unattended drinks; this one night, it just so happened to be Tim himself…even if he did catch them in the act, and was…surprisingly chilled out about it.
Saul (who plays the violin and guitar) was spotted playing on a night out at Band on the Wall, where band member Larry was in the crowd, and invited him along to their rehearsals, and that’s how the band fell together.
The Academy and the Manchester Student Union hold great significance for them as a band, so when it was being decided that they were to do another UK tour, they were adamant that they wanted to play at the place where the band had been born, especially since they have never previously played the Academy despite playing other large venues such as The Ritz and The Apollo. They also explain how weird it was to be as huge as they were in Manchester despite being relatively small to the rest of the country. So to be back in their home town felt somewhat magical, and the tickets became a bit like ‘gold dust’.
Saul then talks about his memories of watching other bands play when he was younger, and thinking to himself, “One day my band is going to be on that stage!” and finally, having formed in 1982, they are getting to play in the place where it all started.
The pair get excited and explain that for the first time in a long time they’ve actually rehearsed together, and in the past this has always felt tedious and like being back at school. Also, bringing ten brand new songs to the setlist, that they’ve never performed before, in hopes of blowing the audiences’ heads off.
I was lucky enough to watch James perform last summer at Kendal Calling. Saul admitted that he loves playing at small boutique-y type festivals, as opposed to the much larger ones, because they feel more intimate. The pair go on and fantasize about one day starting up their own festival and how great that would be. Jim says they’d ask the likes of Biffy Clyro and The Courteeners to come play for them. Saul also says how he’d love to be able to encourage other small northern bands as well as some of the bands he used to love to listen to when he was younger, to come perform, too.
In conclusion, I guess the moral you could take away from this story is to steal people’s drinks in clubs…you never know, you could become Manchester’s next best-kept secret. (But take that advice at your own risk.)