Glaswegian five-piece Spinning Coin are one of the most exciting new bands to emerge from the city in many a year. Having formed just over three years ago, the band put out their debut single 'Albany' in the early part of 2016 after one of their demo cassettes ended up in the hands of indie-pop legend Stephen McRobbie of The Pastels. McRobbie immediately signed them to his Geographic label and recommended them to Domino Records, who've licensed their eagerly anticipated first long player Permo.
Out on the 10 November, Permo is everything you'd expect from a band whose sound has drawn comparisons with artists ranging from The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers to Orange Juice, Josef K, and The Jam. They're also currently in the middle of a UK tour that's a combination of headline shows and support slots with Girl Ray, The Pastels, and Dinosaur Jr.
DiS caught up with the band - Sean Armstrong (vocals, guitar), Jack Mellin (vocals, guitar), Cal Donnelly (bass), Rachel Taylor (vocals, keyboards) and Chris White (drums) - prior to the final headline date of the tour at Sheffield's Picture House Social.
How did the band start?
Jack Mellin: We'd all been playing in bands in Glasgow for a while, particularly me, Sean, and Chris. We've known each other for a long time. Then one day me and Sean got talking about playing some music together; I wanted to play some of his songs and he wanted to play some of mine. He got offered some gigs for his solo project that we ended up playing - me, Sean and Chris. After that we started to play more of my songs as well and it became a different thing from what Sean was doing on his own. So we came up with a name and that's how the band started.
What year would that be?
JM: It was 2014 that we started playing together. We played a few gigs as a three-piece. No bass, just two guitars, vocals, and drums. Then we met Cal at Green Door recording studio in Glasgow and he started playing bass. After Cal joined we played more shows in Glasgow followed by a couple of small tours around the UK. Rachel got involved around the time we were recording the album. She sang some harmonies on the album so after it was finished we thought it would be better if she became a permanent member of the band so asked her to join which she did.
Were you quite surprised at the buzz generated by your first single 'Albany' when it came out last year? It seemed to generate a bit of an A&R scramble at the time.
JM: Totally. It's been really nice. We were surprised to get that single out so quickly as well. We self-released a cassette tape that Stephen Pastel heard. He wanted to put it out on seven-inch but it ended up being an album deal as well as two singles which came as a total surprise.
How did the link up between Stephen Pastel's label Geographic and Domino Records come about? Is it a permanent arrangement?
JM: I think it's pretty permanent. He's their person in Glasgow when it comes to spotting new bands. They like his taste in music.
Chris White: I guess it helps that him and Katrina (Mitchell, The Pastels) happen to be good friends with Laurence Bell who runs Domino Records as well.
Were you aware of the lineage of Scottish independent music from the Postcard Records scene through to the Mary Chain and Creation up to the present day when you first started the band? Was it a big influence on your music?
JM: I was aware of it but I wouldn't really say it's had a big influence on what we're doing. It's such a big part of Glasgow's musical history and we all respect what it's done for the city but I wouldn't say that's what brought us together. Our musical influences are quite broad. Way beyond the Glasgow scene. We've all been a part of the DIY scene in the city for a while now and played in a lot of very different sounding bands. I really like a lot of those artists but they've not played a major part or had any conscious influence on what we do or how we sound.
That definitely comes through when listening to the album, particularly the American influence on songs like 'Floating With You' and 'I Feel The Need To Be An Actor'.
JM: People don't tend to pick up on the American influences just because we're from Glasgow and releasing records on Stephen Pastel's label. I guess it is hard for people to work out where we're coming from all of the time but then I also quite like that. But it is frustrating to be compared to all these other Glasgow bands because that's where we come from rather than what we sound like.
Do you both have different styles of writing?
JM: I take ages to write songs whereas Sean's pretty fast! We do write slightly differently but when we're doing the songs we try to put them together in a similar way. We're quite democratic when it comes to things like that.
Your debut album Permo is out next week. When did you start working on the record?
Sean Armstrong: Some of our oldest songs are on the album. 'Metronome River' for example. We played that at our very first gig as a three-piece. 'Powerful' and 'Sides' too.
JM: A lot of them have changed over time. There's a version of 'Powerful' that's a lot slower and has different lyrics to the one on the album. I think we just developed both as songwriters and as a band the more we played together. It's been a gradual process throughout. We practiced a lot until we worked out what we wanted to do. We felt some of those songs we first wrote were too good to leave off the record. It was just a matter of deciding which ones we wanted to use and which of the newer ones would work alongside them. 'I Feel The Need To Be An Actor' and 'Money Is The Drug' were the last two we wrote I think? I'd say Permo is a mix of the last two years.
Were there any other songs that were written towards the end of the recording process that didn't make it onto Permo? If so, will they be revisited in the future?
JM: There's a few that we'll probably go back to. We only had so many we could use when it came to recording the album so I think we'll definitely look at putting some of those out that didn't make it onto Permo. It would be good to re-record them with Rachel too now she's a full-time member. Maybe we'll put them out as an EP before we start work on the second album? I'm not sure.
Are you already planning for the second album?
JM: Nothing's set in stone yet but we have a few ideas. Once we have enough songs that we're happy with we'll start working towards the next album. I think we'll follow a similar process to how we did with Permo. Wait until we have a bunch of songs then choose the best ones to go on the album.
Edwyn Collins recorded the album. How did you end up working with him and what did he bring to the recording sessions?
JM: That was through Stephen (Pastel) and Domino. They introduced us to him and recommended we work together, so we went up to his studio in the Highlands and it was an amazing experience. It was such a peaceful vibe to hang out in as well. Edwyn and his wife Grace are so much fun to hang out with.
SA: He was a really positive influence. He's quite funny as well. Edwyn doesn't take himself too seriously but also knows he's great at the same time. We're also big fans of his music so I think that helped us click straight away.
Did the tracklisting on the album change from when you first started working with Edwyn to how it eventually turned out?
JM: Quite a lot to be honest. We went through several tracklistings and running orders until we came to the one that made it onto the album. It took us quite a while to get there. Maybe two or three months.
Were there any disagreements over which or whose songs made the final cut?
JM: I don't think there were any disagreements as such. We had around twenty songs recorded - maybe a couple more than that. We even thought about maybe releasing them all as a double album but then eventually decided against it. It wasn't easy trying to pick the final 14 that made the record but there were no real arguments along the way. We always knew the ones that didn't make it were good enough to go back to so it wasn't as though those songs were being scrapped.
Songs like 'Starry Eyes' and 'Money For Breakfast' seem to be influenced by what's happening politically at the moment. Did that play a big part in the songwriting?
SA: The political climate definitely influenced the writing on the record. Sometimes you try to forget what's going on but it's difficult at the minute. We mostly tend to write about events, people, and daily life and they're all influenced by politics. Some of the songs are about how they relate to it. We also want to push against that as well, and how people are affected by the decisions made by those in power. Which I'd like to think explains some of the less political moments on the album.
JM: Everything we do is influenced by what's going on around us so it's hard to pinpoint anything too specific a lot of the time. We know the political climate is probably the worst it ever has been in our lifetime so that will play a part. That's always influenced us.
On the flipside, a song like 'Magdalene' seems quite hedonistic by contrast?
JM: 'Magdalene' is about two different things which I'm not sure I can explain but it's partly about breaking the rules about the way you're supposed to behave in society. Let people have fun. It's also supposed to be the opposite of that; people often feel the only way to have a good time is to get wasted which is a real shame.
In most people's eyes you're still a relatively new band even though you've been around for three-and-a-half years now and many of your songs date back to when you first started. Do you ever get bored of playing them? Are there any which won't feature as heavily going forwards?
JM: No, we never get bored of playing them. We play everything in the set. There are a few songs from the very early days that we've dropped and we're not playing. At the moment anyway. But all the other ones I really love. Songs like 'Albany' and 'Sides' for example. It's probably a bit more fun to play newer stuff but we still enjoy playing the older ones too.
Tonight's your last headline show of the tour. The rest of the tour sees you opening for Girl Ray, The Pastels, and Dinosaur Jr respectively. Do you prepare differently when supporting other bands to how would for a headline show of your own?
JM: The setlists aren't much different. Maybe one or two songs shorter depending on how long we get to play, but the principle is always the same; just go out and play. It's what we enjoy doing. I actually really like playing the support slots. It gives us the opportunity to play to lots more people than we would at one of our own shows and because it's someone else's audience there's less pressure as well. We've been so lucky to get these supports. It's such a great experience so we intend to make the most of it.
SA: It's also given us the chance to tour more than we've been able to before. We did something like 16 shows with Teenage Fanclub this summer which we'd never have been able to do ourselves at that point. It feels very different playing them but musically it's the same.
What's been your biggest highlight so far?
SA: For me it would probably be playing the Barrowlands in Glasgow. I've seen so many gigs there over the years, and I honestly never thought I'd get to play there. So not only was I surprised at being able to do it but also that I didn't make any huge mistakes either! Playing live just feels so natural to me. Not just the Barrowlands show but everywhere. Everyone's been so nice wherever we've played so far; it's all been one big highlight. I really enjoy practicing as well which not many people would probably say. It's just great being in a band with people who are all on the same page. We all want to do the same things even though we're not as young as we once were. We're all quite focused in a really nice way.
What advice would you give to new bands that are just starting out?
SA: Just do it!
JM: Do what you want to do. If you want to make an album, make an album yourself and send it to people. Try and play as many gigs as you possibly can. Just do it. Don't wait for someone to come along sign you. We got signed because we put out our own tape and somebody heard it. So go for it. Don't hold back.
Are there any other bands you'd recommend for Drowned In Sound and readers to check out?
JM: We like a band called Beards from Leeds. They've got a couple of albums out that are definitely worth hearing. Current Affairs are another band from Glasgow we really like that people should check out. Rachel's also in a band called Hairband who are really good.
SA: Drug Store Romeos from Southampton are really good. They're quite reverby, quite dreamy yet also spooky in places.
What are your plans for 2018?
JM: Hopefully we'll be releasing more music in the new year. Whether that's just an EP or maybe even a second album we're not sure yet. There's not much set in stone yet but we'll probably do a big tour and hopefully play more shows around Europe. Maybe even play some shows in America as well. I don't know yet but we definitely hope to travel more. The album will be out then, so hopefully more people will be aware of us by then.