Back From the Moon: The Spook School return

As The Spook School gear up for their return from the moon, they take us on a trip down memory lane exploring the evolution of the band as they celebrate ten years of their debut album

Feature by The Spook School | 27 Nov 2023
  • The Spook School

The Spook School formed in Edinburgh somewhere around 2011. It started with practising in the basement of the Forest Café, Edinburgh, and getting told off by poetry nights trying to perform upstairs. We were a bit loud. In 2019 we played our final show – at The Art School in Glasgow – and blasted off to the Moon to be its first musical residents. We were never very good at saying goodbye, or talking about our feelings, that’s what the songs were for.

In 2023 we make a brief return from the Moon to do a ‘Big Shop’ – we’ve run out of supplies. This trip back also marks ten years since the release of our debut album Dress Up. We thought it might be nice to throw it a party.

When we started in 2011 we weren’t the openly queer and trans band that we evolved into. We figured it out and gained more courage in our identities through our time being a band. The versions of us that wrote the song I’ll Be Honest (“A song about the fear of coming out to the people most important to me, written at a time when I hadn’t gained the courage to do that yet” – Nye Todd) wouldn’t have believed that in just a few years we would be playing Binary to crowds singing the words back at us in an amazing affirmation of transgender and non-binary identity, experience and strength. 

Being an openly trans and queer band was such a positive experience in so many ways. Sadly, in the ten years since that first album, even in the four years since our last shows, transphobia has taken root in the UK in a truly horrifying way. Transgender people, specifically transgender women, are spoken about in the media (and by many UK politicians) as dangerous, a threat to others, or potentially worse – as though a transgender identity was only some kind of disguise to allow access to gendered spaces. Currently, to be a transgender person online is to open yourself up to a constant barrage of abuse from people furious that you dare to exist.

If UK society had been as transphobic as it is now in 2011/2012, I think we would still have decided to be as open about being trans and queer. But the decision would have been much harder. In another ten years, I hope that we will be looking back at the kinds of media coverage today in the same way as media stories you see about gay people from the 80s that cast them as the boogeymen – messages from an ignorant and fearful past. 

Our first ever show was at Henry’s Cellar Bar in 2011. Those early shows were always wonderfully ramshackle and silly, but those audience reactions caught us out. People actually seemed to enjoy what we were doing. 

In 2012 we got a late invite to play Indietracks where heroes like Los Campesinos!, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and The Wedding Present had been before. This is where we first met the mysterious Sean Price of Fortuna POP! His email address referred to him as ‘El Presidente’ and that weekend he never was without a pair of sunglasses. We obviously thought he was a very cool dude.

In 2013 we were asked by the Fortuna POP! label to record a debut album. There was a lot of excitement at being invited to record at Soup Studios in London, where Allo Darlin recorded! Tigercats! Let’s Wrestle! Veronica Falls! The Wave Pictures! We had a great deal of excitement and awe – lots of, "and what does that button do?" ("Niall, please don’t touch that!!!")

When Dress Up came out it suddenly all felt very real. We had physical vinyl records in our hands (with a photo of Adam wearing a wolf mask applying lipstick in AC’s parents’ bedroom)!

Our ramshackle and not-sure-what-we’re-doing nature continued into our live shows. The anarchic tours claiming we were sponsored by Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausages without asking them first (they were very nice about it and sent us a lot of sausages to say thank you), Adam Todd Business Man trying to do his best Alan Sugar impression to shift merch, and eventually, with customised boiler suits and cardboard helmets, we fled to the Moon.

It’s been nerve-wracking and nostalgic getting back into practice rooms. It’s also been a really amazing reminder of the journey that we’ve been on – both the ups and downs – and how I’m not sure it would have been possible without my three best pals. We all still live so close to each other in G̶l̶a̶s̶g̶o̶w̶ the Moon and, even if this is just a one-off, we will be in each other’s lives for a very long time to come.

Thank you to everyone who has ever come to a show. We didn’t deserve half the adventures we got to experience but we are forever grateful that we got to spend nearly a decade living our dreams.

The Spook School play SWG3, Glasgow, 8 Dec