New Blood: The Gothenburg Address

In just over a year, <b>The Gothenburg Address</b> have come out of the starting trap to play a gig in front of thousands and soundtrack a short film alongside Mogwai. <b>Ewen Millar</b> sniffs out the secret of their success, and asks how far they're willing to go

Feature by Ewen Millar | 28 Apr 2009
  • The Gothenburg Address

Whether you want to talk about The Travelling Wilburys, Audioslave, Zwan or Velvet Revolver - the 'supergroup' label hangs like a noose around the neck. Supergroups inevitably have the faint whiff of disappointment permeating their very existence as fans damn them with that same old crestfallen praise: “they're...OK.”

These bands often confuse musical alchemy with a maths equation- if guitarist X and singer Y were good in different bands- won't they be twice as good in the same band? History, it seems, has answered that question quite decisively in the negative.

Instrumental Scots act The Gothenburg Address -composed of former and present members from Sans Trauma, Arab Strap, The Zephyrs and Raising Miss June- are the intriguing exception to prove an otherwise failing rule. While not selling out arenas (well, not just yet), after forming early in 2008 they have soundtracked a short film (Alex Boyd's Sonnets from Scotland) and played to a crowd of thousands on Glasgow's George Square as part of Winterfest.

Fortunately, the diva-like behaviour that often curtails the meteroric rise of the supergroup have thus far eluded the Address. “There have been no ego clashes so far," reports guitarist Luke Joyce. "Though being on a tour bus for months does turn you into the caretaker out of The Shining.” They have, however, witnessed some prima donnas on tour, including “one guy from a local support band in Spain who couldn’t play unless he had a full length mirror to watch himself.”

The quartet attribute their success so far to the contacts they have built up in previous outfits, admitting that they've “been quite lucky with the people who have taken an interest in the band from the very beginning.” They also allude to a philosophy of brutal self-analysis in regard to the quality of the material they're writing and playing: “You have to be honest and ask yourself if you would pay to see your own band- if there’s any doubt, then why would anyone else want to?” This no nonsense approach extends to their advice for any new band looking to make a go of it: "Don’t take any shit.”

Of course, playing purely instrumental music in 2009 comes with the price of having a 'post-rock' sticker slapped on your back. Admirably, despite any negative connotations, this doesn't trouble the band. “The post-rock label is something we accepted just to please the social networking sites," says Joyce. "But if it allows someone to understand what you’re about, then it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Most people are intelligent enough to listen to music on its own merits.”

While there's no singing to be found on their first EP (or forthcoming single The Lesser Coming Home, for that matter) Joyce in particular foresees a time when they might dabble. “Having no vocals was a very conscious decision, as the plan was to play music that moved people emotively, although, after hearing Chris [Bathgate]'s vocals on the recent Sans Trauma album, I wouldn't rule out a vocal track or two in the future.”

Although the genre they've been identified with is often accused of scoring  films that don't exist, Joyce suggests The Gothenburg Address are hands for hire since their experience on Boyd's project. “It's such a natural place for our music to be heard.” Such high falutin artistic principles are fine, but you can't eat them, as the band collectively acknowledge: “We want as much success as we can, and if someone wants to use our music and pay us then fine. There is this selling-out argument, but living off music is hard. Any success is a good thing, and if it brings us the opportunity to expand our listening audience, then we're happy to receive it.”

And if this means supergroup style world domination, then we say so be it.

The Gothenburg Address support Amusement Parks on Fire at Cabaret Voltaire on 6 May and play the Skinny Dip at The Bongo Club, Edinburgh on 28 May.

A Lesser Coming Home is released on 5 May and is available via the band's website.