Indie mainstays James are back with a UK tour this Spring, including a date in Southampton. We spoke to bassist Jim Glennie about what we can expect.
Are the band looking forward to the tour? “Very much so” Glennie replies, “We’ve got this concept – slightly weird for us – to support ourselves acoustically, so we’re going on as our own support band.” Although it might be pretty unconventional, “we love playing acoustically anyway, and it meant that there’s a whole big chunk of the back catalogue that’s become available to play in that format. We’ve just been spending the last few weeks trying to whittle it down to a sensible number of songs for people to learn.”
At this point, they’ve got a rather extensive back catalogue. What sort of songs are they intending to perform, I ask? “The electric set will be more based on the last record – and some big hits as well – but doing the acoustic thing gives us a bit more flexibility to throw in some obscure back catalogue things that I think people probably wouldn’t expect us to play and quite possibly things that we’ve never played. There’s certainly some songs on the list that, as far as I’m aware, we’ve never ever played live before.”
I suggest that perhaps people might argue the case of the many up-and-coming bands who’d jump at the chance of supporting a band of James’ stature. Glennie explains: “We’ve got a great history of having support bands that have got bigger than us. We took The Slow Readers Club around and they’re just about on the verge of being bigger than we are, we’ve had Radiohead support us when nobody knew who they were, Stone Roses, Coldplay, Nirvana. Honestly we’ve had the best.”
“If I was working for a record company I’d sign every James support band because without failure they’re going to be bigger than we are at least,” he jokes, “I think it’s very important that you take bands on tour. I personally love hunting around for bands; on the last UK tour we took Lanterns on the Lake and they’re a brilliant band. It’s a way for bands to get out there and to put music across to people – we’ve had help massively from bands that have taken us on tour.
“Famously The Smiths did on the Meat Is Murder tour, New Order, The Fall did when we were small. Neil Young took us on tour in the States – we’ve had a lot of assistance from people giving us a hand up and I think that’s something incredibly important to remember. It’s not an easy industry to get a foothold, sometimes it’s just hard to be noticed and I’ve known great bands that have never made that jump and it’s a shame.”
It sounds like we’ll be seeing bands supporting James on any future tours: “I think there is an obligation really so I don’t think that we’ll stop having support bands. This is just a thing that we’re doing – it can be a difficult task at times [being the support band], you know, having a half-empty room to play to and all the rest of it but it’s a critical part of people’s careers I think.”
How long do they see themselves going on for, as a band? “I didn’t think I’d be here this long,” starts Glennie, “I started James, or the band that turned into James when I was at school. I was 15 so I’ve been doing this for 40 years or something stupid – I can’t believe it! It never feels like we’re going to be around for ages – it always feels a bit like the sword of Damocles.”
He finishes: “We’ll do one more record at least, BMG have took up the option on the next record, and we’ve already started writing it. I suppose all I look towards is what are we doing now – am I still motivated and excited by what we do? Do I think we’re doing something that we can be proud of, that fits into the James back catalogue in a way that’s valid and worthwhile? If it is, then fantastic.”
The Living In Extraordinary Times tour starts on 6th March, with a date at Southampton’s O2 Guildhall on 14th March.
Words by Adam England