Heart of Glas

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:15

    It's no mystery why Glasvegas is so popular in the U.K.The Glasgowbased foursome’s songs have the brooding, catchy sound that has launched a thousand NME covers (in fact, the band was named 2008’s most promising new band by the British music mag), but what remains to be seen is if the band’s punktinged gloom will catch on here. The last time the band swung through town it played the Mercury Lounge, but that was before the big push: posters in the Virgin Megastore (where the band will play an in-store on Jan. 5), planned appearances on late-night talk shows and mentions in glossy magazines to sell the self-titled debut record coming out next week. On Jan. 6, Glasvegas will play a sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom, part of a U.S. tour that will give the band its chance for stardom on both sides of the Atlantic.

    “Because we are starting out again playing in America, and playing smaller venues, it means we need to alter the production and scale it down a bit,” says bassist Paul Donoghue. “Being from Glasgow and going to the other side of the world, having people get our songs and being interested in our band is such a great thing. It’s like when we first started out, and we were playing similar venues, like being back in the good old days.” There have been plenty of successful (or nearly successful) Glaswegian bands.

    From Glasvegas’ most apparent influence, The Jesus and Mary Chain, to indie icons like The Yummy Fur and Bis and, more recently, Franz Ferdinand, groups from Scotland’s largest city seem perpetually on the edge of mainstream stardom. Donoghue says the band benefited from starting out as part of the well-worn local scene.

    “We started with a number of other Glasgow bands and there was no crowd at [shows at] all. Our first show we had four people,” he says. “We remember that time and that people don’t have to go and spend $20 on a ticket.When they do, they should get something special.”

    And that’s what Glasvegas is trying to deliver.This month the band released a six-song Christmas EP (two of the songs were recorded in New York) and Donoghue promises that even though the band regularly plays much larger venues in the U.K., the stage show it brings here will be equally intense.

    Part of that, he says, will be the speed and fury that was so exciting on the band’s early singles but is less apparent on the debut record. Songs like “Daddy’s Gone,” which on its single version sounded like a Phil Spector–produced Clash track, take a Valium on the album (thanks, perhaps, to producer Rich Costey who’s worked with Interpol and Muse) but apparently won’t in the live show. “When we did the album, we made it sound really orchestral.When you come to see us live, any song [we play] is gonna speed up,” explains Donoghue. “On the album, every song had a tempo as a way to

    help make space for the guitar and bass sound. It was a conscious thing to make it more orchestral. It had to do with confidence as well.” Indeed, singer James Allen writes all of the band’s music (“We’re not the most musically gifted,” says Donoghue), and the group has done plenty of practicing to ensure the songs work for each member.

    Still, with all of their success, the band still seems closer to hometown heroes than international superstars. “We’ve been a band for four years now, so after we were signed it was a really rapid rise, but there was a lot of hard luck and tears and tantrums before that,” explains Donoghue. But has a taste of fame put and end to all of that? “I threw one the other night,” he admits.

    And whether the band’s next trip to New York finds it at Madison Square Garden—where Donoghue favorites Oasis recently played—or back on the more manageable stage at Mercury Lounge, the group is still getting used to shows outside of the East Glasgow clubs where four fans would show up. “We’ll never feel like we’ve made it,” says Donoghue. “Sometimes you can’t get your head around the fact that people actually like your band.”

    > Glasvegas

    Jan. 6, Bowery Ballroom 6 Delancey St. (betw. Bowery & Chrystie St.), 212-533-2111; 8, $18/20

    Scots on the rocks: Glasvegas.