Idlewild have a new album and it’s as affecting a rock record as any you’ll hear all year. Here, singer Roddy Woomble lifts the lid on its creation as well as the frenzy of festivals and the folly of fame. Words: Mark Robertson
Was the process of recording the new album a lengthy one?
It took ages to get going. We originally started working with Stephen Street [Blur and the Smiths producer] because we were big fans of his work. We did about seven songs and thought they were really good but went to America because 700 Broken Windows was coming out. It was receiving really good reviews and we got a slot on Letterman so we put the new record aside and stayed there. We got back in June  and we hadn't worked on the new record since January. It felt that the longer the months go on the more the tracks we did with Stephen sounded like 700 Broken Windows: Part Two. so we spent some time in the summer with Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith group.
What was he like?
He's a bit unorthodox in his approach but he was brilliant. He's produced some fantastic records in his time: Suzanne Vega. Kirstin Hersh, Soul Asylum. He just lives music: he writes for the Village Vo/Ce and he's a hugely exoting personality to be around. We went to a rehearsal room and played the songs and he was jumping abOut the room. And he was talking about stuff we never normally w0uld.
He turned the band around about how we wanted to approach the record. We came back home and started again with a whole new mindset. a whole new idea of what we wanted to do.
Lenny encourages you to be a bit more open With yourself which is a dreadfully non-Scottish concept. It's a totally American concept and if you can reach a middle-ground it's quite smart. We managed to reach that middle ground. He'd Sit down with Rod [Jones gUitarist] before he did a guitar part and ask him why he was doing it. which at first youre like "what?" then after while you get into it. I know that this may get to sound kind of cheesy but he helped us deconstruct rock muSic as we wrote it and then let us reconstruct it in our own way when we got back to Scotland. It's the same ingredients we've always used in all the records but they're pieced together in a different way. This isn't a criticism of what we've done in the past. I hate bands that release a new record and dis the one that went before. I still like Hope is Impertant; I much prefer this rec0rd but that was me then and this is me now.
How else does this differ from past albums? We've been given the liberty of time. There's a huge preSSure on a lot of bands to provide hits straight away. Or they've had a big hit and need to sustain it. And we've been allowed to grow.
How have Idlewild coped with growing fame and fortune?
Sometimes people are under the illusion that we are a much bigger band than we are. We've been on Top of the Pops I suppose and the guy in the street might have heard of lleWlld but he won't have a record by them. It's this weird thing: I still regard us as a Cult band both here and in America.
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Are you a fan of America?
I love it. It's a flawed masterpiece: a big mass of contradictions. I'd love to live there. I did when l was yOung but that was in the south. South Carolina. l'd love to live in New York or something like that. I just think it's the kind of place that's excmng to be in. TOuring in the US you meet peOple who are into the band: they show you around. take you to cool bars. We got on really well with loads of American indie rock bands: they kind of have an affinity With us. seeing us as their Scottish indie cousins.
You mentioned indie rock. Are Idlewild still an indie rock band?
When people hear ‘indie rock band'. they think you are totally negative about ambition. that you don't want to get any bigger. We still appreciate the SOund but not the ethic. We're becoming more acceptable to people who w0uld maybe shy away from indie rock. But people who like indie rock will still enjoy it.
So you’ve come to terms with becoming bigger? Oh aye. I don't think we've ever been more prepared
What attracted you to him in the first place? One thing I like about Edwin Morgan's poetry is there is a sort of ambivalence about it. The fact that you can say the word ‘you' and people normally assume that you're talking abetit someone else. ie some kind of relationship. but you don't have to be. It's the same With his poetry. I'm not gonna resort to the cliche abOut the listener making the meaning but they [the songs] are all about relationships but not about love. I'm not sure how qualified we are to comment on that either th0ugh.
How do you feel about festivals?
I like the fact that you can play a really good show at a festival. It's a really cool feeling cos yeti'ye iust played to a lot of peeple. but then the same goes it you play a really bad one.
We've had our fair share of complete nightmares: the first time we appeared at T in the Park the PA broke down ‘6 minutes in and the following year Bob's amp blew up. Despite a?! that we always enjoy :t.
The worst ever was Our Glastonbury debut. We did our first festival in Sweden the night before and it pissed with rain all the way from Heathrow to
‘There are so many love songs around that you don’t need any more from us’
for people to like us and the new record reflects that. We come from a leftfield place and we write pop songs that are informed by the stuff around us. It may be pop muSic but it's educated by the fact that we're not Just four straight blokes in trainers singing along With D. C and (3. It's pop from a messed-up place.
And do love songs fit in that remit?
I've got this Opinion that love songs don't eXist. I believe people write them for themselves and no one else. And I do think that there are so many love songs around that yOu don't need any more from us.
Scots poet Edwin Morgan contributes to the album closer ‘In Remote Part/Scottish Fiction’. How did that come about?
I was corresponding with Edwin Morgan and I said I liked the idea of muSic being seen as fiction. Eventually he wrote this poem and called it ‘Scottish Fiction' and it was what we were talking abOut in our letters. At that pOint it seemed like the perfect introduction to the album but over the c0urse of the six months we were recording. the perspective of the record slightly changed and it seemed much more appropriate for that to be the full stop instead.
Glastonbury. When we got there the vans got stuck in the mud and the stage was sinking. We got on. played and left. soaked.
Were you a festival goer before you played at them?
Definitely. I went to Glastonbury four times from 92 to 95. Every year the Sun was shining and those were my perfect festival memories. By the time we started playing them I had this idea of how good they could be. but now I like them for totally different reasons. They're good fun if youre. like. 16 or 17. That's when I went and it was perfect.
What are the best things about them now? For us. the seeial aspect can't be faulted. We've made friends with lots of bands and there is always someone hanging about at festivals. And Scottish festivals are obViously espeCiaily good for us.
Idlewild play the NME Stage on Saturday.
ATHLETE Who? In sharp contrast to the petulant types bemoaning the state of their eyeliner come a quartet of upbeat Englishmen
' unafraid to make you smile. Their second single ‘You Got the
Style‘ is a lolloping anthem: the perfect soundtrack to the
" summer. Summer soundtrack? What, ‘Here Comes the ' Rain Again’? Such pessimism. Think a little bit of Blur. a little I f bit Space and a little bit of Pavement. Could actually be a real
' feelgood hit of the summer. Go see for yourself.
I Athlete play the King Tut's Wan Wan tent on Saturday.