New Blood: Otherpeople
Exploring the darker side of pop on their own terms, Glasgow's <b>Otherpeople</b> aren't scared of a good chorus
“I'd say it's a lot easier to alienate people than it is to write great pop music,” says a bleary Andrew Manson from across a table of ludicrously large coffee mugs. “That's probably why there is so much shit pop in the world.”
It's early doors on a grey Sunday morning in Glasgow city centre and the four heavy-eyed members of Glaswegian alternative pop newcomers Otherpeople, propped up by heroic doses of caffeine, are explaining the genesis of their band with the kind of frankness that hangovers tend to facilitate.
The quartet, comprised of Manson as well as Bruce Rintoul, Richie Laing and Dave Reekie, has already generated a massive buzz on the Glasgow indie scene thanks to their unashamed love of a tune. With only one warmly received release to their name thus far – last October's furiously infectious single Hello – they are currently preparing for their next foray. Six track EP Memory Gag will make an appearance this October in limited edition format ahead of a wider release around the turn of the year, current label discussions permitting. The EP will also be supported by a video for fetching flagship song (I Hate The Sound of) Acoustic Guitars. Predictably, for anyone familiar with Otherpeople, it's a beautifully concise collection, blending indie guitars, rock percussion and flamboyant, catchy pop refrains.
“To be honest, Edwyn Collins' A Girl Like You is probably my idea of the perfect pop song,” continues Manson. “I mean, the bass only plays about two notes!” This comment invites a a snigger from bassist Dave Reekie who remarks: “That sounds like just about the right number to me.”
In fact the most obvious reference points for Otherpeople's streamlined, hook-filled indie are the likes of left-field pop masters Blur and Talking Heads, though there are huge flavours of classic American alternative bands including Pavement and Superchunk. The arrangements are unfussy and the songs are allowed room to breathe, especially when there's a massive chorus lurking round the corner – which there usually is. Meanwhile the lyrics are wryly observational, cracking jokes and specialising in the kind of good-natured post-modern prose Morrissey might manage if he were a bit more likeable.
Despite the members' youth, they are not without pedigree. Rintoul was a founding member of acclaimed (and now sadly defunct) Glaswegian emotional hardcore outfit Arca Felix, whilst Laing was a member of equally promising power trio Action. Reekie is also a current serving member of Song of Return, something of a super-group incorporating faces from Union of Knives and Admiral Fallow amongst others.
It's arguably this eclectic array of experience that makes Otherpeople so special. Whilst Manson guides the song-writing process, the music is filtered through the collective, where it really develops a personality of its own. Richie points out “Our music isn't really representative of our listening habits and we don't own many of the same CDs.” “Yeah but there are a few Scottish bands that have had a real influence on a few of us,” chimes in Reekie. “Richie and myself spent many a night off our faces and doing air-band to Idlewild records. Especially the B-sides from The Remote Part. We're both really into groups like Laeto too. There are loads of good Scottish bands going about and the four of us agree on a lot of them.”
It was one of those aforementioned drinking sessions that also led Otherpeople to contact a Mr Paul Tipler (of Eighties Matchbox, Reuben and Idlewild production fame) about the possibility of a recording session in London last year. As Reekie describes “Yeah, one night we had more than a few beers and then dropped him a message on Myspace, if you remember what that is. We didn't really expect anything to come of it but then a phone number just appeared in our inbox. It was all pretty mysterious.”
The collaboration produced mixed results however and galvanised the band's insistence on maintaining control of their recording process. Manson explains: “It was a fun experience but we came back knowing we needed to keep as much control in the studio as possible. Bruce [Rintoul] is a great engineer and we realised we can produce good results given enough time in the studio to get things right. To be honest we're probably not experienced enough as a band to work to a tight studio schedule but we know what we want and get there eventually.”
Rintoul's work as Otherpeople's engineer on his home turf of LoFi studios, slap-bang in the heart of the city, has certainly produced a strong, identifiable sound. In fact he had already recorded the band before their previous drummer departed and it was his positive experiences with them in the studio that led him to volunteer for kit duties. “So now we don't really let anyone in the studio with us,” explains Rintoul. “We don't need distractions and we don't really want anyone diluting our idea of how it should sound.” Or, as Dave Reekie puts it, "Aye. Nae burds allowed.”
This is not just a recording project however. Far from it. Otherpeople have some memorable performances under their belt, including closing the Friday night T-Break Stage at T in the Park as well as much-talked-about support slots to capacity crowds with Wavves, Japandroids and contemporaries/friends The Xcerts. They also have a series of upcoming shows scheduled to support the release of Memory Gag, starting at Captain's Rest in Glasgow with The Male Pattern Band before advancing north to Inverness and Thurso. If you're lucky enough to be in the vicinity, then get yourself along to these shows because, if there's any justice in the world, tickets to see these fellas are surely going to become a much sought-after commodity.
Video: Otherpeople in interview and session at T in the Park 2011