Around a year and a half ago, noise-pop trio The Xcerts burst into the UK’s consciousness with razor-sharp sophomore album Scatterbrain. With an appearance at SXSW and tours with Brand New, Taking Back Sunday and Manchester Orchestra under their belt, I caught up with a band preparing to make their mark once again.
So you’re in the middle of a few rescheduled dates in the UK, got back from SXSW two days ago and have another huge UK run coming up in May. Any plans to sit down any time soon?
Murray: We were meant to stop touring in November 2011 and that didn’t really happen.
Jordan: We had plans to write a new album...
It has been a year and a half since Scatterbrain was released. Are you moving towards recording a third album?
Murray: Kind of, yeah. There’s not much to report. We’re just taking our time with it. Everything’s been pushed back because we’ve been offered tours and had to reschedule shows so we’ve been focusing on playing shows. We haven’t really stopped touring. It’s just weird that towards the end of the album campaign more people have started coming to our shows.
Jordan: You can’t really dictate that – the time that people get into the record.
Murray: I think for us the idea of releasing a record, touring it for a year, recording the next record and touring that for a year seems pretty redundant now with the internet and stuff. I think bands should have time because recording a record needs to feel right so if we toured our last record for two and a half years and we still didn’t feel comfortable about recording then we wouldn’t.
Is going through the same cities over and over again starting to pay off?
Murray: Yeah! We’re not too sure if it’s happened everywhere but our January tour was the best headline tour we’ve ever done, without a doubt. On that tour the Scottish shows were all sold out.
Jordan: It was a total surprise as well. Like I was saying, you just can’t dictate that. You don’t know when the momentum’s going to come and go and you just have to roll with it.
How’s it been having your mates in Flood Of Red with you throughout the tour?
Jordan: Awful. [laughter]
Murray: It’s the only way to tour. They’re just a touring machine and not only are we massive fans of their band we’re also incredibly close with them as people so there’s never a dull moment when that lot around.
Jordan: As headliners we have to keep our game face on every night because they just kill it every night.
You’ve toured with bands like Brand New, I Am The Avalanche, Taking Back Sunday and Manchester Orchestra over the past few months. What do you learn from sharing that stage with bands of that stature?
Murray: You take different things away from each tour. What we learnt from Brand New are things that would probably scare our manager.
Tom: Like not doing press!
Murray: From Brand New we learned just not to worry...
Jordan: ...How to be comfortable in your own band, not be pressured and be free to do things your own way. That’s ok.
Murray: We’re all crazy about Brand New; they’re one of the reasons we chose to work with Mike Sapone so the fact that we became friendly with them and got to watch them every night was just incredible. You know, it’s funny because after touring with Taking Back Sunday we were like: “oh man, they’re so professional, we should be like that” and “maybe we should play to a click track” and stuff like that. But then we toured with Manchester Orchestra and Brand New who are way more about the feel and Brand New are so carefree when it comes to their live show – in a really good way – they’re so dialled in as a unit so we came out from that tour like “yeah, who gives a shit?”
Do you think your sound suits the more expansive venues that you got to play on those tours or do you prefer smaller, more intense rooms?
Murray: We think that we suit a bigger venue.
Jordan: It’s a toss-up. Would you rather have a small venue full of people who love your band or an enormous venue full of people who don’t really know who you are?
Tom: It’s nice to have them both. It’s nice that we get to play big shows and then come down and play smaller club shows. It’s the best of both worlds.
Jordan: But we do occasionally play small shows where nobody knows who were are either.
Murray: Yeah we’re doing pretty well down south but then there’s the Midlands where it seems like nobody gives a fuck about our band. It’s cool though, we’re always moving forwards even if it’s at an incredible slow rate. It’s never stalled.
You mentioned Mike Sapone earlier. Would you record with him again if you had the opportunity?
Murray: It would have to be a different sound. We’re kind of conceptualising the sound and look of the next record and that sound is way different to what we’ve done on the first two albums but we all know for a fact that Mike would nail it.
Jordan: Scatterbrain sounds the way it does because we were so terrified and didn’t know what we were doing whereas this time we’d be going in knowing the songs, knowing how we want to sound and knowing Mike.
You’ve just got back from SXSW. How did that go for you?
Murray: We played four shows; the Xtra Mile night, the Raw Power/Rock Sound night, Mightier Than the Sword Records’ showcase and the Scottish showcase. I’d have said three out of the four shows were incredible.
Jordan: The Mightier than the Sword one was in the dusty backyard of a pub.
Tom: We had no gear at all, we borrowed it all from people who just happened to be there.
Jordan: It was 1 in the afternoon and you’re just imposing every band who you’ve never met before like “hey, what’s up? I’m Jordan. Can I use all your stuff right now?”
Murray: It was weird because we were playing a show that night and that was the big one and we didn’t play all that great.
Jordan: Well that dude was at that show. We didn’t think anybody was there but it turns out that some guy from some agency group was there and he said that we were the best band at SXSW.
Murray: Best small band.
Tom: There’s Bruce Springsteen and then there’s The Xcerts.
Murray: There’s so much going on at SXSW that the fact that anybody was watching us is just insane to me.
You played a Scottish showcase over there – an indicator of how well British music is doing at the moment? Do you think it’s fair to say that people have started to care about British rock music again?
Jordan: There’s people trying to make people care but I don’t think it’s in the public’s consciousness yet.
Murray: I think people in the UK have always loved guitar bands it’s just that there’s way more young, UK guitar bands starting to get noticed. The whole “guitar music’s dead” thing baffled me.
Tom: It’s never gone anywhere.
Murray: We don’t fully take notice of people that we probably should. We don’t listen to much UK rock music.
Jordan: There are way more young bands than we are aware of playing shows right now.
Murray: I mean, we’ve played with people like Young Guns and Lower Than Atlantis and they’re great people but we don’t really listen to stuff like that. We probably talk about American guitar bands than we do UK ones so it’s hard for us to gauge it.
So what are you listening to at the moment?
Jordan: White Denim, White Denim, White Denim, White Denim, White Denim. Their album D came out like a year and a half ago but I don’t care. Everyone should buy it. It’s amazing.
Murray: I’m really into a band called Cloud Nothings. They just did a record with Steve Albini. They used to be like a Pitchfork-approved pop-punk band but now they sound vicious. Their new record is awesome. It’s like pop songs but screamed in Pixies fashion but way more harsh.
Jordan: He’s got barbed wire in his throat, it’s amazing.
What does the rest of 2012 have in store for The Xcerts?
Murray: We’ve got some festivals trickling in. We don’t want to go too crazy because we want to write the record. We have the May UK tour. There was talk of maybe going back to Europe but that’s not looking likely because we want to book out April to write and finish the record. We’re going to go away for a while and leave everyone alone because we don’t want to tire ourselves out and we don’t want to tire people that like our band out. We’re going to finish that UK tour in May then we’ll be pretty quiet for a wee while and then come back with a fucking monster.
Great band. I'm from the midlands and have a lot of time for them. Was meant to support them in Birmingham in fact with my band but I'll still be there to watch. Can't wait to hear some new stuff from them.