Idlewild formed in December 1995. In Edinburgh, Scotland.
Roddy Woomble (Born August 13th 1976), a then nineteen year old photography student, who had recently moved to Edinburgh from the north of Scotland to take photographs, meets up with Colin Newton (Born April 18th 1977) on the window cill at a party in the Toll Cross student flats. (Rod Jones is also present at this party, but Colin and Roddy don't meet him until later that night). Colin had done exactly as Roddy and moved from the North to the city to study. Both had similar backgrounds, both had similar record collections (Pavement, Sonic Youth, REM, dEUS, Bob Dylan, Superchunk, etc.). By the end of the evening they've already talked about forming a band. Enter Rod Jones (Born December 3rd 1976), who when introduced to Roddy and Colin later that night, informs them he's already formed a band and they didn't need any new members. Compelled somehow not to believe him, they keep in contact and after a few weeks hanging out, start working on songs and listening to records together. Drafting Rod's friend and Joy Division enthusiast Phil Scanlon (Born May 21st 1976) to play bass (because he owned one), Idlewild mark one form and start practising in the winter of 1995 in a room so cold all early songs are written with gloves on. (They take their name from the quiet meeting place in Roddy's favourite book at the time, 'Anne of Green Gables')
They play their first concert on January 16th, 1996 in the Subway club on Edinburgh's Cowgate. In front of thirty friends, the concert, deemed a success, leads to more shows around Edinburgh throughout the year. The Cas Rock Cafe (West port, Edinburgh), soon becomes the band's training ground and haunt and Idlewild start playing every month striking friendships with other Edinburgh band's Gilded Lil and CHI to name two. With over twenty of their own songs by now, in May 1996 Idlewild make their first trip into a recording studio, recording three songs ('House Alone', 'Suicide' and 'Paranoid') at Spilt Level studios, a converted cottage near Edinburgh airport. The tape is sent to other venues around Scotland and it's not long before the band start playing in nearby Glasgow. It also receives good reviews in a number of local publications. But it's at the Cas Rock that the band come to the attention of local studio owner/producer/scenester Jamie Watson. He suggests that the band records at Chamber Studios, the studio he owns and works at in the Granton area of Edinburgh.
In October of this year Idlewild record another three Songs at Chamber, 'Self Healer', 'Queen of the Troubled Teens' and 'Faster'. So impressed by the results and the building buzz locally about the band, Watson suggests that they are released on his Human Condition record label. Being fans of Eugenius (another band that had a recent release on Human Condition) and excited generally about having a record out, the band agree and help finance the printing of the seven inch by dipping liberally into Roddy and Colin's student loans.
In February 1997 Phil Scanlon decides to leave the band and concentrate on his studies (he's since become a highly successful chemical engineer, now living in Detroit). Roddy asks friend Bob Fairfoull (Born August 6th 1976) to join as bass player. Bob had been present at every Idlewild show since last summer and had impressed the band with his spoken word and solo acoustic shows (along with his involvement with Edinburgh performance noise troupe, Pussy Hoover). He plays his first Idlewild show on February 28th in Glasgow at Nice and Sleazy's.
The debut single,'Queen of the Troubled Teens', is released on March 17th 1997. It begins building on the reputation that their chaotic Scottish concerts have already garnered and it's not long before the record has been picked up by Radio Scotland DJ Peter Easton along with influential Radio One DJ Steve Lamacq. Who was so impressed with the song 'Self Healer' that he asks on air after playing it, if anyone knows anything about this band to contact him.
Someone contacts him.
The buzz begins to grow. In the summer of '97, Idlewild play their first London gigs, attended by Lamacq and certain people from Deceptive Records. They get their first live review in the NME and Melody Maker and are compared famously to "a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs" (it's a positive thing). Supports slots with Scarfo, The Fall, Jonathan Fire*Eater and Superchunk follow. And the band are soon asked to record a single for Simon Williams and his Fierce Panda label. At the same time the band agree to record an EP/mini album with Deceptive. It makes sense to record them together, so in October of 1997 Idlewild spend six days with producer Paul Tipler in River Studios in south London. Six important days. Tipler turns what is essentially an enthusiastically played out of time racket with a few pop hooks and repeated lyrics into 'Captain', an innocent, frank, nugget of noise pop magic. Surprised and amazed (in the best possible way) by the transformation, Idlewild soon become the object of desire by major record labels in the UK. They resist temptation until after the 'Chandelier/I want to be a writer' single appears on Fierce Panda on December 3rd to a great response, then sign a modest deal with Food Records/EMI. Mainly because they like and trust the A+R man Matthew, and they like new label mates Blur a lot. Roddy quits his college course, Colin quits being a pizza chef, Rod quits serving customers at a retro clothes store and Bob quits being unemployed.
This was the year that the world was introduced to Idlewild. They started the year off with their first UK tour, supporting pop punk band Midget. 'Captain' sees the light of day on January 18th and garners rave reviews in NME, Melody Maker and Kerrang magazines, who all tip the band for great things in the year to come. A single 'Satan Polaroid' (backed with a re-recording of 'House Alone' from the first demo) comes out in February and the band tour the UK again with equally hotly tipped London group the Warm Jets (where are they now?). They also make their mainland Europe debut in Amsterdam before returning to the studio, again with Paul Tipler, to begin recording their first full-length album for Food records.
'A film for the future' is the first fruits of their labour, released in April 1998. Compared to 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' by one overly enthusiastic journalist, the single nevertheless cements the band rapidly growing fan base. The band continue touring the UK, selling out clubs and working on their album, releasing another single 'Everyone says you're so fragile' in the summer to coincide with their first Festival appearances (including a legendary Reading festival debut). They complete the record in their temporary adopted home of Dublin (where they meet Gavin Fox, but more of that later...). The album 'Hope is important' arrives in October '98, a confused, skewered, noisy, sad, pop record, it's preceded by a single 'I'm a message' . The band tour the UK again, this time with Ash, before making their US debut at the CMJ festival in New York. They also go to Japan, it was a busy year.
The band are on tour again blowing stages on the NME tour. 'When I argue I see shapes' comes out as a single and goes into the UK singles chart at number 19. Europe is toured with Placebo and then the Manic Street Preachers.
All thoughts then turn to what do they do next. Touted and praised for the past year as Britain's best live band, Idlewild grow increasingly aware that their records have maybe been seen as fliers for their concerts. After all, there's only so many times one can watch four young men mangle and abuse their songs and instruments. So they return to Edinburgh and start writing songs. Taking inspiration from American bands such as Rodan, Slint and Fugazi, and wanting to try a different approach in the studio. The band contact Bob Weston, Chicago based indie rock engineer of legend (and member of Shellac). He likes their ideas and flies over to London to record. The band record six songs with Bob. Showcasing a much emptier, aggressive sound. The band are pleased with the results, but still think they've not fully decided where to go.
During the summer the band are invited to play at the opening of the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh. They also play several European festivals and take stock back in Scotland, tapping into the environment around them to write songs which represent them as they are. They soon hit a stride and are back in the studio, this time with Dave Eringa. The band record 'Little Discourage' and 'Roseability' in the first session, and are so happy with the results and the blossoming relationship with Eringa that they continue recording what will become '100 broken windows'. 'Little discourage' comes out as a single in September '99, displaying a lyrical and melodic sense no one imagined before, the single brings them new fans and radio play they'd never had. The band hit the road in support of the single, starting their tradition of playing all over the north of Scotland by beginning the tour in an old theatre on the Orkney Islands.
Towards the end of the year they make another trip to the US, recording three more songs with Bob Weston in Chicago, and doing a handful of dates on the East coast in support of 'Hope is Important' (which has recently crept out one year late in the US - beginning the tradition). They end the year by mixing their album in Glasgow's CaVa Studios with Dave Eringa.
March - 'Actually it's darkness' is the single that precedes the album. Another top thirty hit sees the band make its first of many appearances on Top of the Pops! The band play their biggest UK tour to date (including a concert on the Isle of Skye which is filmed for a Channel 4 documentary on the band). Jeremy Mills, at the time Roddy's flatmate, joins the band on tour playing extra guitar and keyboards, helping replicate the sound Rod had achieved on the new recordings. '100 Broken Windows' is released on April 15th entering the UK album charts at number 15. A critical hit, quashing many critics view that Idlewild were no more than a night out for teenage indie rockers. The album's sense of identity, poetic lyrics and harmony coupled with the distorted pop of earlier efforts make it a record for old and new fans alike. Comparisons start to be drawn with mid-period REM and Echo and the Bunnymen amongst others. One critic goes so far as labelling them the punk rock Smiths. The album goes silver in the UK and the band do what they do best and go on tour again, this time in Europe, headlining clubs and supporting indie-opera-rock band Muse.
'These wooden ideas', possibly the first radio hit to encourage the listener to be a bit more postmodern, comes out as a single in June to coincide with further festival appearances. It sees the band on to Top of the Pops again and into Just 17 magazine!
Another big UK tour follows in October coinciding with the release of 'Roseability' as a single. Support comes from Hundred Reasons and Irish band Turn (who feature Gavin Fox on bass). This tour includes a very memorable show at the Glasgow Barrowlands. The band then spend the rest of the year on the road in Europe with Placebo.
Idlewild return to the studio in January with famed English producer Stephen Street to record some songs they'd written in the last half of 2000. They're happy with the results, but put thoughts about the next album aside when the USA finally comes calling.
American music magazine Spin, names '100 broken windows' as "the number one album you didn't hear in 2000". Then follows a long list of glowing US reviews, and the records not even out! Capitol Records finally get behind the album and it appears in April 2001. Idlewild are quickly embraced by college radio and press and tour the US, coast to coast with friends Brassy during March and April. Gaining fans wherever they go, the band finish the tour by performing 'Little discourage' on the 'Late Show with David Letterman'.
Allan Stewart (Born January 21st 1977) replaces Jeremy as extra live guitarist for the May/June US tour, most of which is playing support to Placebo again. The band stay on in New York after the tour, hanging out and spending six days in the studio with Patti Smith Group guitarist/musical encyclopedia/producer Lenny Kaye. Who teaches the band the importance of understanding what you're going on about before you go on about it.
A further summer US tour is cancelled when Rod falls ill, but the band shake off the disappointment and move up to the highlands of Scotland, writing and demoing what will become 'The Remote Part'. In a cottage in Inchnadamph, Sutherland. Allan and Jeremy join the band up there and along with a load of locals, the whole thing has a 'big pink' type atmosphere. During the summer Roddy also strikes up a friendship with Scottish poet laureate Edwin Morgan who writes some words for the band, which will eventually end up on the album. They spend the rest of the year recording and mixing the album in various studios over Britain with Dave Eringa. This was their longest break from the live stage.
'You held the world in your arms' is the first song the public get to hear from the upcoming album. The reaction exceeds expectation. The single is A listed on Radio One, finds its way onto television and enters the UK charts at number 9, the bands biggest hit to date. Idlewild play their first UK tour in one and a half years in April with kindred spirits Ikara Colt as support. Another single 'American English' comes out before the band's third Glastonbury festival appearance. The album follows two weeks later and enters the UK charts at Number 3. Universally heralded as their best album, and a work of considerable depth, as well as being one of the most melodic records of the year 'The Remote Part' quickly re-establishes Idlewild as the UK's most clever, tuneful and interesting rock band. The album goes gold in the UK. And interest in Idlewild the world over increases.
'Live in a hiding place' is released as a third single to coincide with the start a four-month European tour in September (incidentally, the video for this song is made by Idlewild fan and acclaimed German art house film maker Wim Wenders). This tour includes an opening slot with friends Coldplay on their massive arena tour. On September 29th, after a show in Amsterdam, Bob Fairfoull leaves the group. "Fairly amicably" is how it's described. His distance from the band had been growing over the past year and it seems his musical relationship with Rod, Colin and Roddy has run its course. They remain friends and Bob is now playing the guitar with Edinburgh rockers Degrassi and staying at home where he always preferred to be.
Enter Gavin Fox (Born March 6th 1978) a long time Irish friend who agrees to join the band and starts learning bass parts at home in Dublin. It's also decided that Allan will become a permanent member of Idlewild, graduating from his touring guitarist role into a full time member of the band.
The band finishes all their touring commitments for the year with long time technician and friend Alex Grant playing the bass guitar.
The band end 2002, their most successful year by far, with a sold out show at Edinburgh's Corn Exchange. Roddy gives away his boots and crawls off stage. The end of another chapter of Idlewild.
'The Remote Part' finds its way into most best of the year lists. The Scottish Sunday Herald name Idlewild band of the year.
Now a new version of Idlewild, with Gavin and Allan officially in tow. January is spent writing songs and practising in an old lighthouse outside Edinburgh. A final single from 'The Remote Part', 'A modern way of letting go' introduces the new line up to the UK via several television appearances and a further short tour of Britain and Ireland. Then it was off to Australia for the first time for a short tour and a very long flight home!
The Remote Part' receives a US release in March and the band embark on a cross continent, nine week headline tour playing their biggest US shows in New York and Los Angeles (and their smallest in a Mexican restaurant in Saskatoon). The band return to the America in May at the request of Pearl Jam, who ask the band to open one leg of their 'Riot Act' world tour. These are the biggest venues idlewild have played in, but quickly get in the swing of things, making friends with Pearl Jam and their audience and even playing with them onstage on the last night in Chicago.
After returning for a fourth Glastonbury and a fifth T in the Park festival performance, the band make one last trip to America in July, headlining a stage at the New York Siren festival.
The band head back to Scotland and take stock of the last year. Almost as quickly they pack their bags again and head for a house in Glenelg in the Scottish Highlands to start working on songs for the next record. Writing continues intermittently until early December (pausing only to open for the Rolling Stones in September at Glasgow's SECC) when the band head to Sweden for a recording session, again with Dave Eringa. five songs are recorded and the band end their year in their respective homes now of Edinburgh, London and Dublin.
The band spend the first four months of the year writing and demoing new songs up in the Scottish highlands and in Roddy's flat in London. The songs have a different feel to them, and the band decide to start the record afresh, choosing American producer Tony Hoffer to man the controls. The band head over to Los Angeles toward the end of May and spend the next three months sorting out, recording and mixing all these new songs. This is the first time Idlewild have recorded an album all at one go, but it's not long before they settle quite comfortably into a Californian way of life. Needless to say, beards and hair are grown, shoes and socks are discarded, barbeque and tequila nights frequent. During the summer the band also find time to play two acoustic shows at the wonderful little Hotel Cafe.
The band finish up the record in October (after a couple of Irish concerts in August) in New York with Mixer Michael Brauer. Roddy rents a room on the lower east side and stays there for the rest of the year, listening to the album they've just made. 2004 is the first in the band's existence devoted almost entirely to writing and recording an album. At the end of this year they title it 'Warnings/Promises'.
The band begin the year with a series of acoustic shows around the UK.
Building on the Hotel Cafe concerts, these concerts are a delight for band and audience alike, and show just how far Idlewild have come in the past nine years.
The first single from 'Warnings/Promises' entitled 'Love steals us from loneliness' appears in February and becomes Idlewild's fourth top twenty single. The album follows two weeks later and debuts in the UK top ten. The record receives mainly glowing reviews, although some critics and fans don't understand the change the band has made over the ten years and decide they don't like it much. Oh well......
In March the band make their third trip to Austin for the SXSW music festival, and end up playing a show in a fan's living room, described by a Spin magazine journalist as the best gig he has ever seen. Back in the UK the band embark on their largest and most successful UK tour. Changing the set list every night and revisiting songs from all their albums this tour garners the band their best live reviews they've ever had. Support on the tour comes from kindred spirits Sons and Daughters.
A short European tour and a second trip down under to Australia and a quick stop off in New Zealand follow. In the summer Idlewild play a number of festivals and open shows for U2, REM and the Pixies. Colin has a baby boy and takes six weeks off, being replaced by Lester Nuby, an old friend and drummer extraordinaire from Alabama. The band also play at the Cambridge Folk festival and further cement their reputation as a damn fine folk band.
In the autumn Idlewild take 'Warnings/Promises' to America and embark on another five week long headline tour with Inara George opening. The tour includes some memorable gigs in New York and Los Angeles and some not so memorable gigs in Houston and Salt Lake City. Roddy gets married. It's a trip to remember.
The band spend the rest of 2005 taking a well needed break from the live stage, in eight years the band have played hundreds and hundreds of concerts and they decide staying at home in Scotland and writing songs for another record is what they want to do the most.
However, the year will end in style with a Christmas show at the band's spiritual home, the Glasgow Barrowlands. Playing two sets, acoustic and electric, showcasing the songs and performance that have made them one of Scotland and the world's cherished bands. .............. (to be continued).