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Ballboy - Interview

  by Tommy Gunnarsson

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Ballboy - Interview


It's been about six months now since I first heard ballboy for the first time. The song was 'Donald In The Bushes With A Bag Of Glue', which is taken from their debut EP, 'Silver Suits For Astronauts'

It's been about six months now since I first heard ballboy for the first time. The song was 'Donald In The Bushes With A Bag Of Glue', which is taken from their debut EP, 'Silver Suits For Astronauts' and which was released last year on the small SL label in their hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland. Since then, it's been hard to get that song out of my head, and the truth is I don't know if I want to get it out of my head. It's just that great! So, when their second EP, 'I Hate Scotland', arrived this summer I knew I had to ask their leader Gordon McIntyre some questions. I, therefore, contacted Gordon via the new, modern technology called e-mail and asked him some questions about his thoughts and ideas on ballboy. If you scroll down this page, you will be able to see his replies. But first, a little information on this Edinburgh quartet. ballboy (always spelled with a small 'b') was formed some years ago and have since been through various line up changes. At the moment, ballboy features Gordon on guitar and vocals (he also writes all material), Katie on keyboards, Nick on bass guitar while Gary bangs the drums. Three years ago, they contributed to a compilation CD 'It's A Life Sentence' which was also released on SL. ballboy's aforementioned debut EP first came out last November and the 'I Hate Scotland' EP (which has sold out all the available commercial copies) was released in July this year. In August 1999, ballboy won the PopCom Band Showcase, battling with a hundred other Scottish bands, and got to play in the Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh in the finals, which were broadcast on cable tv and also on the Internet. John Peel and The Radio 1 Session in Scotland championed ballboy after the release of 'I Hate Scotland', and they were recently invited to play the prestigious 'In The City' music industry festival in Manchester. Their gig at the festival was a success, and the NME vote the band one of the top ten unsigned acts in Britain while Peel named "Olympic Cyclist" (off the second EP) as one of his favourite songs of the year During a weekend in November, the band will be recording their next EP, which will probably be released on the other side of New Year's Eve. PB : You are often compared to Belle and Sebastian, but what bands would you compare ballboy to? GM : The issue of who we sound like is a tricky one for me. It's always a compliment to be compared to good bands, but I always think the comparisons are lazy. Personally I think we sound like different things on different songs. Obviously people who compare us to Belle and Sebastian have never heard 'Fuck this for a Game of Japs and Commandos' or 'Public Park'. Bands we have been compared to in the past fortnight include The Wedding Present, Joy Division, The Kinks, B+S, Arab Strap (as ever), Bruce Springsteen (admittedly this one was by me), Billy Bragg and "Early Factory Stuff" (see Joy Division above). It's all just shite really - we are who we are and no one else is us. PB : Are your plans to be the biggest band in the world, or are you happy being rather unknown but having a steady fanbase? GM : I'm not at all satisfied with beingunknown. I think the only thing stopping us from becoming a much much bigger band is the fact that we don't have the resources at the moment to advertise, tour and put out our records in much greater quantities. No one in the band would be afraid to work hard to improve our recognition, but also no one will ever be able to dictate or change the songs we write or the way we play them. PB : Are there any competition between bands from Edinburgh and Glasgow? GM : Not really. As far as I'm concerned we're competing against bands from the whole of Britain. And to be honest I think we are as good, if not better than most of them. We were recently nominated by the NME as one of the top ten bands to play at In The City in Manchester which really is the benchmark for new bands in Britain. PB : What writers have inspired you in your lyric writing? GM : Charles Bukowski, Kurt Vonnegut, Armistead Maupin, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and a man called Steve Katz who wrote a beautiful book called "Florry of Washington Heights". PB : What musicians have inspired you in your music making? GM : In no particular order - Mazzy Star, Bruce Springsteen, Palace Brothers, Jesus and Mary Chain, Violent Femmes, Velvet Underground, Beth Orton. But I've also been inspired by bands I hate on the basis that if they can do it then I can do it better e.g. The Pastels, the Beatles, most folk music, anything sung in an American accent by people who are not American. PB : On the 'I Hate Scotland' EP there's a track called 'Donald Jr', which features kids singing the first verse from 'Donald In The Bushes With A Bag Of Glue'. Who are those kids? GM : My nephew, Robbie (age 7) and his two friends Calum and Katie (both 7 too) who had memorised all the words and kept singing them. It just seemed to make sense to put them on the EP. They are also in the video for 'I Hate Scotland' which is currently being shot. PB : Do you strive to have a theme in your lyrics, or do you just write whatever comes to mind? GM : The only thing I strive for in my lyrics is that theyare a) meaningful to me and b) interesting to other people. I throw out many many more lyrics than I actually use. My biggest hate is when I have one lyric I am very pleased with, but am unable to build a song around it which does it justice. PB : Can we expect an album from ballboy soon? GM : I don't know - for an album I'd really like about a month in the studio which is not possible at the moment because of finances. I also would want an album to have a proper release - not just 1000 copies which is what we do at the moment. In the (very) immediate future it looks like we'll be recording another EP (with the working title 'The Explorer EP' and releasing it early next year. PB : Many independent groups nowadays release their singles on vinyl, but not ballboy. How come? GM : Lots of reasons: 1. Because we're not indie purists and have no desire to be pigeonholed as a "low-key" alternative band. Our ideas are bigger than that and I think our songs deserve more than that. Daytime radio and Top of the Pops and all the big festivals need bands like ours. I firmly believe that. 2. Because CD's are much more accessible to radio etc and easier to mail out. 3. Because CDs are easier to sell at gigs and to fans of the band etc because so many people are going without a record player these days. PB : What do you think of the music scene in Edinburgh today? Are there many great bands that we just shouldn't miss? GM : The music scene in Edinburgh is okay at the moment. It is better than it has been for long time although there are still too many bands content to churn out some pale facsimile of their favourite bands. Bands to look out for are our labelmates Khaya who have genuine talent and innovation on their side and the Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ who will melt some indie hearts (boys and girls) with the honey-sweet pop songs PB : Andt last, but not least, list your favourite albums of all time, please GM : 1. Galaxie 500 - On Fire - A stunningalbum. Stunning, stunning, stunning! 2. The Wedding Present - George Best 3.Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy 4. Bruce Springsteen - Live Box Set 5. Mojave3 - Ask Me Tomorrow 6. Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes(at least 3 of these will change on a regular basis. PB : Thank you If you want more information on ballboy, I recommend their homepage,which is located at http://www.listen.to/ballboy. You can also download their songs from websites such as Peoplesound.com and Vitaminic.

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Ballboy - Interview

Ballboy - Interview

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