The Vegan Leather
Paisley has given us some of the biggest names in Scottish music over the decades: Stealers Wheel, Paolo Nutini and The Fratellis drummer Mince Fratelli, to name a famous few.
With the release of their excellent debut album Poor Girls/Broken Boys, it’s now not particularly out-there to predict that The Vegan Leather will be a solid future addition to this list. The album variously brings to mind the genre’s greats like Metronomy, Bis and Franz Ferdinand, but it’s far from derivative; TVL have found their own oddball slant to the whole indie pop thing and realised the potential they always hinted they held. We caught up with joint-lead vocalist Gianluca Bernacchi to discuss the album and how he felt growing up in Paisley played a role in igniting his passion for music:
“Because Paisley is detached from Glasgow, there is such a strong sense of identity there,” Gian told me. “Musicians such as Gerry Rafferty and Paolo Nutini were drilled into me growing up.”
“I think the one thing that inspired me to pursue music in my early to mid teens was our open mic night for young people, held at St Matthew’s church on Gordon Street. It went from about 35 people coming, to getting 800 people through the doors. Mental! We had to move the event to the Student Union after that.”
“WE PLAYED THE SOCIAL IN LONDON AND IT WAS AMAZING. IT WAS SWEATY, AND IT WAS BEAUTIFUL, AND I LOVED IT”
Gian and fellow band members Marie Collins, Matt McGoldrick, and Duncan Carswell have come a long way since meeting through the local music scene. They recorded Poor Girls/ Broken Boys at the legendary Chem19 Studios, following in the footsteps of icons like Franz Ferdinand and Deacon Blue. Excitement rises in Gian’s voice when talking about their experience at Chem19:
“I definitely think Franz Ferdinand are an inspiration for us… on the wall of Chem19, there’s a single for Calvin Harris’ Ready for the Weekend! That was a big record for me growing up.”
Of course when you think Chem 19, you think Paul Savage (and Emma Pollock). Poor Girls/ Broken Boys was produced by the former Delgados drummer. Savage has one of the most impressive resumes in Scotland, working with bands such as Primal Scream, Mogwai, The Twilight Sad, The Phantom Band and Arab Strap.
“Paul Savage is hot as the lot!” Gian tells me. “He taught us how to make a record sound like a band was playing it… he got us to record the drums and bass together.”
The album performs the old trick of combining upbeat dance floor tunes with dark and complex themes: mental health, social anxiety, and female inequality are all examined. Listen between the cheery instrumentals of ‘French Exit’ and ‘The Hit’ and you’ll catch lines like ‘you think thoughts that give you turbulence’ or ‘give up on the bright ideals, we’re sick and lost appeal.’
On whether the contrast between lyric and sound was intentional, Gian says:
“I suppose it was, but mostly they are just songs about our own experiences. When the band writes lyrics, the four of us come together and we all bring
things forward and combine ideas. When it came to the instrumentals…we’ve always been upbeat. That’s what we like.”
“Also, we originally had a different name for the album. For the longest time, it was going to be called Big Top which is a lyric from ‘The Hit.’ The reason we changed it from Big Top to Poor Girls/Broken Boys, another lyric from ‘The Hit’, is because we felt it was a bit more encompassing of the themes of the album.”
Gian reflects on whether he thinks that artists have a responsibility to be talking about wider issues in music:
“I’m not saying we have a massive platform, but I think anyone with a platform who makes art has a responsibility to talk about important issues… we did feel like we needed to be saying something, even just for the sake of our own heads.”
With the launch of the new album at King Tuts done and dusted back in early November, next on the band’s agenda is an early 2020 tour. The dates are still to be announced but we’re told that there will be news on this front soon.
The King Tut’s launch was packed; from that performance and hearing Gian’s passion about the upcoming tour, and playing live generally, it’s hardly surprising the band won Best Live Act at this year’s Scottish Alternative Music Awards.
“I love Tuts, Tut’s is amazing!” Fully animated, he continues, “For me personally, small and more intimate venues are great. We played The Social in London and it was amazing. It was sweaty, and it was beautiful, and I loved it.”
Poor Girls/Broken Boys is out now on Midnight Pink Records/Believe Digital.