Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble: The TVD Interview

Idlewild are a band that need no introduction, yet when you mention their name amongst ardent music fans, it seems as though they are still a band on the fringes, but that’s always been their allure.

Front man Roddy Woomble, guitarist Rod Jones, and drummer Colin Newton met at a party in Edinburgh twenty years ago and since then they’ve journeyed through eight albums together—eight albums that tell the story of their rise, retreat, and return. Feeling tired of the writing and recording process, Idlewild went on indefinite hiatus in 2009. The core of the band—Roddy, Rod, and Colin—remained, but they had been through several line-up changes and had outgrown the blueprint they had grown accustomed to over seven albums. Roddy began to strike out on his own as a solo artist, releasing folk records and touring, Rod had his solo project The Birthday Suit, and all three had gotten married with Colin and Roddy starting a family.

However, the forthcoming full length release, Everything Ever Written feels like the brand new start of a fresh chapter for Idlewild with the addition of Luciano Rossi and Andrew Mitchell. The band feels whole again with a sound they are calling “Hebridean Psychedelia”—twelve tracks that really do feel like it’s everything they’ve ever written, the sum of their parts, the highs and lows of their experiences, and a melodic maturity that fans, old and new, will be pleasantly surprised to hear.

There have been a lot of questions about why you went on hiatus and why you returned, but how are you enjoying it now everything is in full swing again? Is there anything different from before about writing, recording, playing, and touring together now you’re back?

We stopped playing and writing together in 2010 after Post Electric Blues. We were tired of playing gigs and no one wanted to make another record, so the best decision was to stop for a while. Two years passed with occasional phone calls and emails. I made two solo albums and toured consistently with a small acoustic band. In 2013, Rod and I started meeting up and writing songs again together. It was absolutely pressure free, and after we had about ten songs we liked we hired a cabin on the cliffs at Carsaig in Mull and along with Colin starting demo-ing what would become Everything Ever Written.

It’s great to hear the album sounding so eclectic. How did Luciano and Andrew influence the writing and recording of Everything Ever Written?

Lucci was involved from very early on. As soon as we had some decent demos of the songs we sent them down to him to add ideas. Lucci is a composer and producer in his own right, and so straight away he was developing the songs, taking them to new places. Andrew came into the band about three-quarters the way through. By this point we had already recorded some of the album. But we all did a writing session together in a studio space in the Scottish borders. Album tracks “Collect Yourself” and “Left Like Roses” came out of that.

In fact, how did you meet Luciano and Andrew?

I have known Andrew for a long time, and he has played in my solo band before. Lucci I met through Sorren Maclean (who plays guitar and writes with me on the solo records) maybe about two years ago. We got on straight away, and what he has added to the band musically is significant. They are both great people, very talented, and it’s a pleasure to play with them.

The acoustic versions of the tracks (old and new) sound wonderful—have you ever considered releasing an acoustic album of purely new tracks?

There is an acoustic album Live From Duart Castle which you can get if you pre-order the album through the Pledge site. It was recorded on the acoustic tour last year.

How much does your environment influence your sound—do you feel it has any influence at all?

It is very important. If I was living in a flat in the middle of Paris, chances are that my motivations and inspirations would be different than they are here on the Scottish Islands. Still, I also find that the people you work with, the books you read, and the records you listen to, are much more of a consistent source of influence.

Looking back on your careers and considering where you’re all at now, have your past experiences shaped the way you make music today?

Of course… You are your past—with a mix of the present and the future!

The record starts with “Collect Yourself” and it’s a real raucous introduction to the album. Do you miss the days of jumping about playing heavier songs?

No, I’m not really into loud music. Even really good rock music—Fugazi or ACDC—I listen to quietly. I have a bit of a problem with tinnitus, which is another reason I took a time away from playing in a loud band. Jumping around is for younger men!

You get a lot of questions about your lyrics. Does it get tiring having to explain the meaning behind the songs? Is there sometimes any meaning at all or just random phrases you like the sound of?

I always found the constant search for the “meaning” of a song a bit perplexing. I don’t want to know what my favourite songs are about, or what they “mean.” I want to listen to them and revel in their mystery!

Song lyrics really are cool things though, they don’t have to be about anything and yet the music and melody give the words a totally new context and a new meaning. It is like a whole new language. Generally though, my words are more a series of observations on a number of subjects and themes or “money and death,” as my wife puts it.

Live, you’ve added violinist Hannah to the mix as well. Do you see the band getting bigger and more collaborative as the years go by?

Yes, I do—I think it is the healthy, creative way to go.

It’s been a while since you’ve all been out on the road together—how are you feeling about the forthcoming tour in March and any live dates beyond?

I think it will be wonderful. We are all really excited about the tour. We don’t take anything for granted, so selling 3,000 tickets in London and the same in Glasgow is a big deal to us.

Which tracks are you most proud of on the album and why?

I really love the whole thing. I couldn’t pick a favourite.

Where do you see Idlewild going from Everything Ever Written? It really feels like a fresh new chapter—will there be more records to come?

Yes, we have started working on new songs, so will hopefully have another album out before too long.

Everything Ever Written will be released on February 16th 2015 via Empty Words. It is available to pre-order now but will also be available via iTunes the week of release.

Idlewild Official | Facebook | Twitter

26th February – Strom – Munich
27th February – Luxor – Cologne
1st March – Lido – Berlin
2nd March – Knust – Hamburg
3rd March – Bitterzoet – Amsterdam
7th March – O2 ABC – Glasgow
8th March – O2 ABC – Glasgow
10th March – The Institute – Birmingham
12th March – The Ritz – Manchester
13th March – Roundhouse – London
20th March – The Academy Dublin – Dublin
21st March – The Limelight – Belfast

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