It’s been a whirlwind twelve months for The Xcerts, announcing their comeback with the massive choruses of ‘Feels Like Falling In Love’, completing two headline tours and releasing ‘Hold On To Your Heart’, a triumphant album of romance, last chances and huge 80s anthems. Taking a breather after their busiest festival season, the three-piece are releasing ‘Late One Night’, a collection of stripped down songs from 'HOTYH', all recorded in (you guessed it) one night. We caught up with Murray and Jordan to get the lowdown on the new music, acoustic shows and their massive tour with You Me at Six to close out the year.
How’s festival season treated you this year?
Murray: Good, man. It’s been amazing. It’s the first year where we’ve felt wanted and in demand. Usually, we’re begging festivals to let us on, but this year we’ve been asked to play quite a lot. All the festivals have been amazing, and we did three shows with Goo Goo Dolls. We’ve had a really fun summer, it’s felt like a victory lap. I think because it’s our most accessible record and because we’re playing to a lot of new people they’ve been drawn in a lot quicker than they would be if we were playing the older stuff. Just ‘cause they’re built for big stages, and a lot of the songs fit the sun and outdoor stages, and hanging with your best friends and making memories. I think that ‘Hold on to Your Heart’ is the soundtrack to those moments, that’s what we wanted the record to be.
Jordan: That’s what we thought when we were making the record, so it’s nice that it seems to work on a festival stage.
Murray: I think when people were passing in years gone by they probably thought “Jesus that’s a racket!”, but now it’s like “Oh this is a nice pop song!”
Your festival set is all 'Hold on to Your Heart', do you miss playing any of the old songs?
Murray: We’re always thinking about now, and the future…
Jordan: It’s a shame because the old stuff is great, but generally, yeah you get stoked on the new stuff it’s the only thing you wanna play really.
Murray: And we believe all the new stuff is our best material so if we can play as much of it as possible that’s great. It’s our fourth record so the fact that it’s more relevant than ever and people are enjoying the band is a really big deal. We’re very fortunate that it’s our most successful record because it’s our favourite. We do try and cater for people who’ve been with the band a long time; we don’t want to shun anybody, so we throw in a few older songs.
Jordan: But then that guy that’s always yelling out that weird song from the first record, they’re always gonna be unhappy.
Did it take yourselves any convincing to come out from behind the shelter of being a rock a band and embrace these pop songs on the new album?
Murray: No, I think it came naturally. It’s been going that way for a while; you could tell that ‘There Is Only You’ was going in a different direction. The three of us are obsessed more with being great songwriters than we are with making as much noise as possible. That was a lot of fun when we were younger.
Jordan: That was the goal when we were younger, as a three-piece to fill the stage, fill the sound as much as you could. And sometimes that would be to the detriment of the song. So when you have a bit more experience with it you can lay back let the song do the work.
Murray: You realise from watching Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, they’re just playing songs. Like when we supported Goo Goo Dolls, they don’t do anything special on stage, no special wild production it's just amazing songs. And that’s what fills a room, the actual power of the songs. We’re very much in love with the idea of writing songs that connect with people and to make them as widescreen as possible. Rather than just ‘let’s spit on each other and throw guitars around’.
Jordan: Yeah you can make great songs without making a fucking racket. Songs can still have character.
Why did you make this acoustic EP and why release it now?
Murray: We got the idea when we were doing the instore run, and we were playing the songs half-acoustic, half-electric, and a lot of people were saying they dug the alternative versions. We got a kick out of playing them. So we went into the studio after the UK tour with our friend Ryan who played second guitar, and we just wanted to do a throwback Dylan’s ‘Basement Tapes’ kind of thing. We recorded it live, filmed it, all done in the studio where we rehearse and demo. This was just perfect timing for us to release something because we’ve got a gap. We have got another release coming, but because of the YMA6 tour, we’re gonna hold off on that. So that’ll be a new song that didn’t make ‘Hold On To Your Heart’.
Jordan: And it fits the season as well, [the EP]’s got a sort of autumnal sound to it, which came about very naturally I think.
Murray: Yeah we had a lot of fun that night, it was mellow, took a couple of takes on each song. We didn’t necessarily forget about it, but we put it at the back of our minds because we had so much going on. When our manager said we should release the EP, it was like ‘Oh yeah! We recorded that! It’s all done’.
Jordan: It came together within a day, it was like ‘Oh we’ve got a full release!’ The show’s gonna be great.
Murray: Ryan who plays guitar is a professional musician, so however much we sucked, he set the bar, and we jumped. Still didn’t reach the level but we tried.
Jordan: He makes everything sparkle on that record.
You’re playing St Pancras Old Church to coincide with the show…
Murray: I think we’re gonna make it a bit of a deep dive into the entire catalogue. Play some stuff that people are shouting for that we never play and do it differently. We’re in the heat of summer and working on new stuff so September is when we’ll knuckle down, we’ll talk about bringing in some tricks from the sleeve.
Jordan: Dust off some deep cuts.
Were there any disagreements over arrangements when you were putting together these recordings?
Jordan: Immediately when Ryan started adding his parts everything just sounded great, we had no qualms about that. A few of them were ones that we played on the instore run, so we had rough arrangements for them.
Murray: We knew we were gonna put all the singles on, because people like the singles. And they sounded great, not to toot our own horn, but they were in a good spot. And then ‘The Dark’ we wanted to make raw and stripped back, no kind of synths, a bit of backing vocals, a slightly roomier take on the song. With ‘Cry’ it lends itself to being quiet. Five songs felt right.
We’re releasing a 12”, and the five songs are on one side, and the other side is an etching of a rose that we’ve been using, on the whole, the campaign - the aesthetic! We’re on our management's label, so as long as they don’t think it’s a totally stupid idea, we can release anything any time we want, and it’s good for us. We don’t see ourselves as just a rock band; we love the quiet stuff, we listen to a lot of that. And we get to show a different side to us and those songs in a different form.
We’ve always been fans of showing where the songs originate from. Cuz that’s normally where they start, from us playing something quietly, or me showing Jordan something on the acoustic. So it’s nice to show the song in its purest form because the record’s very polished.
Jordan: It’s a good rule of thumb, if you can play a song on the acoustic and it still sounds great, it speaks for the song.
You’re touring with YMA6 to close out the year.
Murray: They do an energetic rock show, and some of the new stuff they’ve done is a bit different to what we do, but we’ll just get up there and do what we do. If their fans like it that’s amazing, if they don’t then we’ve just wasted half an hour and it ain’t no thing! We go out there and try and kill it as much as possible whether it be with Goo Goo Dolls or YMA6 or... Alice in Chains! Once you’ve supported Alice in Chains sounding the way we do, YMA6 is a breeze!
Jordan: Once you’ve heard THAT smattering of applause after the first song. In a sold-out Glasgow Academy. You can do anything after that!
What’s on the agenda once the YMA6 tour wraps? More writing? More touring?
Murray: Yeah, we’re gonna be out in February for a UK and Europe headline run.
Jordan: Try and fit some demoing in as well, we’ve been writing a lot so trying to fit all that in as well.
Murray: I think it’ll be quite a quick turnaround for having something out for the record, I think there’ll be something out next year from that new album. Gonna try and capitalise on the momentum that we’ve picked up... because a lot of people think this is our first record. So we’ve got to follow it up with a “Difficult Second Album”. Sophomore Slump! So we’re going to keep fighting the good fight!
The Xcerts' EP ‘Late One Night’ is out now.