Speaking to the longest-running member, official band namesake, and genuine Moss Sider James “Jim” Glennie, the band appear enthusiastic to get onstage and show the world their most critically acclaimed material in years.
After a one night stand with The Charlatans at Liverpool Arena in 2016 thoroughly enjoyed by all involved, the two heavyweights of British indie decided to rendezvous once again, touring the UK this winter.
Before dishing out praise for their touring contemporaries, Jim reveals that James and The Charlatans had rather unusually never crossed paths for the majority of their careers before the enormously successful show together two years ago. Once they finally ran into each other they got along like a house on fire, eventually inviting them along to their Christmastime shows, a reignited James tradition following the release of their new album.
Living in Extraordinary Times, released earlier this year, is a “release of summer tension”, as Jim puts it. Singer Tim Booth wrote lyrics to play off world politics “rammed in your face”, creating attention and protesting against societal issues. “I have a sneaky feeling it’s a one-off”, says Jim: Tim generally stops himself writing overtly political songs, but sheer passion blew his top on this occasion. If you’re looking for inspired songwriting, look no further.
“Amazing producers” Charlie Andrew and Beni Giles had a massive impact, working with the band to create a rhythmic basis for the album perfect for live performance. Jim recalls their studio time experimenting with everyone from opera singers to Spanish flamenco heel tappers, recording his favourite song from the album, Coming Home (Pt.2): “a big anthem, a tune”. “We are massively, massively proud of the album – it’s hard to have the self-discipline not to play it all the time”, Jim says of their new creations.
Yet speaking of discipline, Jim pens the longevity of James down to a constant ambition to produce fresh music that challenges the consensus, describing a band who inherently do not give people what they want. “We demand a lot of a James crowd”, says Jim, and this is undoubtedly true, no less than touring entirely experimental material around smaller venues earlier this spring. On suggestion that this is the James ideology, Jim references a quote from a review of their show in The Times in agreement: “in the world of rock and roll, the customer isn’t always right”.
The customer may not always be right, but is the critic? “If you start listening to other people, you’ll lose the plot”, Jim exclaims, reminiscing how the band used to be happy with having anyone review them at all. Nevertheless, Living in Extraordinary Times is their most critically acclaimed effort in years, The Guardian amongst those concluding that “remarkably, this 15th album might be their best”. The release even performed well in the States, and as a result, James are pencilled in to tour there next year.
It’s Manchester that James are excited for right now, though: Jim can’t wait for the “buzz backstage” returning to their hometown arena. Whilst the band have played Manchester Arena many times throughout their career, Jim is keen to note that this will be their first since the bombings only last year. Jim appears genuinely enthusiastic to reconnect and give something back to the city, looking forward to a “special occasion”. Mainly though, they just want to keep having fun playing their music on what is to them the biggest stage: “we’re looking for a party”, Jim laughs.