The Spook School say goodbye
Ahead of their final show at Glasgow's Art School on 7 September, we catch up with one of Scotland's most important bands of the last decade, The Spook School
All great things must come to an end. After eight years and three fantastic albums, sadly, The Spook School have decided to call it quits. "We had two choices: to fizzle out slowly over the next two years, or hold one hell of a blowout party to say goodbye to our friends and fans properly, so we all agreed this seemed like the most appropriate way to do it," drummer Niall McCamley explains.
The quartet became much-loved on home soil for 2013's Dress Up and 2015's Try to Be Hopeful, which was followed by success on both sides of the Atlantic through their 2018 Alcopop! Records release Could It Be Different? Their inclusion on the 2018 Scottish Album of the Year longlist, for what will now be their final album, was a testament to the band's ever-growing ability as musicians and ever-expanding fanbase.
So why quit while you're ahead? Unfortunately, the answer is rather boring: life. Life gets in the way of hopes and dreams constantly, and while it is sad to an extent, all this door closing means is the opening of many others. For instance, bassist and vocalist AC has already started playing in other projects, including one where they have a recorder solo, much to the jealousy of their soon to be ex-bandmates – "there's still time!" AC retorts.
Meanwhile, McCamley (the band's "loudest" member – his words) has also initiated Squiggles, a solo project inspired by his struggles with mental health. McCamley tells us his invitation to work with the Mental Health Foundation and The Scottish Association for Mental Health helped shape the project. Visually, Squiggles involves McCamley playing a mental health-assisting superhero (complete with fluorescent orange spandex and cape) and says that had it not been for The Spook School, he never would've had the opportunity or courage to take on this project.
"Being in The Spook School has allowed and encouraged me to talk about this sort of stuff openly, so this is the first time I knew in advance what the subject matter would be. While it’s not easy, especially without my three best friends on stage with me, which is why I'm singing about it instead of talking, at times it certainly feels very cathartic and rewarding. I hope it will help some people in the same way The Spook School has."
In addition, The Spookies have been an important band for the discussion on queer and trans issues – a central part of their identities both as individuals and as a collective navigating through society. Songs such as Body and Binary specifically sing about issues regarding gender transitions and fluidity in such an honest and occasionally even comedic way, something few other artists have managed to do to any similar level of success. "People who have messaged us, queer or otherwise, saying that we mean a lot to them and that we have helped them has been the most amazing thing we’ve achieved," guitarist and vocalist Nye Todd, who is planning on taking a break after their final tour, says. "Being in this band has helped us grow as people and overcome a lot of shit, so it’s awesome that other people have felt that too."
The band, however, are reluctant to say they set out with any intention of being "the queer band" in any particular scene or community. "I wasn't even out as queer when we first started," Nye clarifies. Arguably, this slight awkwardness surrounding this question may well be down to miscommunication between different perspectives on the world; coming from a straight, cis-gender, introverted, male journalist asking clumsily formulated questions about a topic the interviewees have been endlessly bombarded with by the press. Importantly, the band's influence and representation of the human experience extends way beyond their queer and trans identities – they create music that touches universally. Either way, Nye and AC agree that it's incredible they've met so many people – fans and fellow musicians – who share their joys and frustrations.
As they prepare for their final tour, they're excited but trepidatious. "[There is] the pressure of not getting a second chance at this," says guitarist and vocalist Adam Todd, although the mood is generally high, "but we have some fun surprises planned for it."
"We're reforming immediately after!" jokes McCamley in response.
AC explains how "it won't feel real until it's really happening." McCamley, the self-professed "biggest fan of The Spook School", explains how at their recent performance at Indietracks festival (the unofficial kick-off to their farewell tour), he was "in bits" before, during and after the show, "and now we have to do it nine or ten more times!".
The band agrees, however, that the whole point of this tour is to get to say a proper goodbye to their fans and friends across the UK. "We'll still be around, even if not as The Spook School, besides, I will keep checking the emails afterwards!"
The band’s optimism doesn’t wane and they're keen to praise other local acts such as KAPUTT, Happy Spendy and "anything Chrissy Barnacle is involved in." Ultimately, the four best friends are extremely proud of their accomplishments as The Spook School, as they bloody well should be, and this final tour is to be a celebration and thank you as opposed to a lamentation. So, with that in mind, let's make sure to give The Spookies the send-off they so thoroughly deserve.
The Spook School play The Art School, Glasgow, 7 Sep