> Arab Strap are totally fine with it, and don't give a fuck anymore 👍 - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Arab Strap are totally fine with it, and don’t give a fuck anymore 👍

Interview with Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat

It’s been nearly thirty years since ‘The Proclaimers from Hell’ Arab Strap’s debut album, The Week Never Starts Round Here. They’ve since become one of the most beloved bands in Scottish music. Following a ten-year hiatus, they returned in 2021 with the majestic As Days Get Dark, to great reviews and an outpouring of affection.

You’re following up a critically acclaimed, commercially successful album – does it feel like you’re back on album two?

Malcolm Middleton: I was thinking about this earlier because we’re talking about the 30th anniversary coming up. Our second phase has already been eight years and we’ve only done two albums. The first ten years, we did, like . . . was it five albums? Six?

When we did our first comeback album there was no pressure. And with this one as well, it wasn’t like: quick, we need to get another record. We didn’t have to feel like we’re in a rush to do another album. To me it feels like this album and the last one are higher quality, because we’re taking the time. Not saying our old stuff is filler, but there’s always one or two that were a bit like: man, we just need twelve songs.

Aidan Moffat: Probably my favourite ones he’s talking about!

Malcolm: We did have the idea to not do an album next, but to do a bunch of singles. So that maybe led to a lot of it being upbeat, but we kind of got bored halfway through and thought: we need some depth; let’s calm things down a bit because every song is quite intense.

Photo Credit: Marilena Vlachopoulou

Is there something unique about an Arab Strap album as opposed to the work you’ve done with other people?

Aidan: Malcolm and I have never really listened to much of the same music. There are certainly things that we both enjoy, but we generally listen to completely different stuff. We’ve always been like that and I think that’s where the sound comes from. I suppose when I work with other people they’ve come to me through hearing Arab Strap. So there’s a certain sort of expectation.

Malcolm: He’s trying to say he normally works with other people whose music taste he likes.

Aidan: Yeah, that’s the difference. I got an email the other day saying ‘can you do a playlist of all the music that inspired the new album?’ There’s nothing that inspired the new album. The only inspiration for Arab Strap comes from each other. Everything else starts when we start making the music. I don’t write lyrics without music; I always wait till I’ve got music to respond to. I don’t have notebooks full of ideas and stuff.

So is the process always led by the sound first?

Aidan: Yeah, always. Sometimes, like with ‘Strawberry Moon’ – I did that beat, sent it to Malcolm, and then he sent it back with that big, growling bassline. I think at the time you said something like, ‘I don’t expect you want to use this’, but it was great right away because it didn’t sound like anything else we’ve been doing. I’m always excited by us doing something new and hearing something we haven’t tried before. I try and respond to the music, and find something that fits the mood of the tune as well. Sometimes not. I mean, ‘Bliss’ is a strange one. I’m not quite sure why I chose to write such heavy subject matter for a very danceable song.

Arab Strap – Strawberry Moon (Official video)

‘Bliss’ is a really interesting song, talking about that artifice of social media. Do you think social media is something that in a generation we’ll look back on as a regret?

Aidan: I’d like to think that, but I doubt it. I think it’s here to stay. I mean, it’s such an essential part of most people’s lives now. I’d like to think there’s some sort of hope that we can get past it, because it’s functional and it can be good fun, but it’s also pretty damaging in so many ways.

Malcolm: But do you know what? Going to the pub, you don’t hang about the places or talk to folk you don’t want to. And if you think there’s going to be problems, you go somewhere else.You [to Aidan] love getting in the thick of it.

Aidan: That’s something the songs in the album are about. I gave up all that getting into fights with strangers; a waste of my time. I tweeted about how none of the taxi drivers would accept my card as payment, so I had to go and get an Uber instead. Within seconds, someone was accusing me of modern slavery because I had to get an Uber home. That’s its whole business, you know, anger and aggression. So I stay out of that as best I can these days.

Arab Strap – Bliss (Official video)

Allatonceness’ (the name of the first track) is a phrase that encapsulates that kind of overwhelm quite well. Where did that come from?

Aidan: That was coined by Marshall McLuhan in his book The Medium is the Massage. Back in the sixties, he came up with the global village concept as well. So he was very much ahead of his time. At the time, it was all about how types of communication will always alter society. You know, first it was the printing press, and then in the sixties it was all about TV and mass media. And of course, now we’re seeing probably the biggest change to society.

Most of my communication with people is online these days. I’m trying. I’ve been going to some gigs and making an effort to get out. I think the next album might just be banger, banger, banger. Arms in the air, glow sticks, me in my vest, all that stuff.

I’m totally fine with it 👍 don’t give a fuck anymore 👍 is out May 10th on Rock Action Records


Main Photo Credit: Kat Gollock

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