Wrap your head around this – you’re in a rock band that has been relatively ignored for about three years, despite having a couple of albums and a ton of singles under your belt. And then suddenly, out of the blue, people start hearing about you – but only because no one knows about you. Weird? Yeah.
But that’s basically how things transpired for Scottish rockers Idlewild just a few years ago, flipping their world topsy-turvy in a sadistic twist of ironic fate.
Idlewild: “I guess it started with SPIN Magazine naming 100 Broken Windows (the band’s 2000 release, it’s third proper album) the ‘Best Album You’ve Never Heard’ for that year,” says guitarist Allen Stewart. “It got people interested in the album and got them to go out and get the record. We were really surprised with what was being said and written about the album because we didn’t expect to get this big a buzz around the band. I don’t know, I guess SPIN is somewhat of a respectable and reliable music magazine in the U.S. and it helped to have them say what they said.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that 100 Broken Windows is filled with songs bursting with sonic energy and yet gently brushed with the soft touch of vocalist Roddy Woomble’s introspective, soul-searching lyrics. The band’s overall grungy pop sound clearly connected with fans in North America – something few U.K. bands are able to do on a consistent basis. So what was the appeal? For years, especially during Brit-pop’s heyday in the mid-’90s, it seemed almost a mortal crime for a U.K. band to even hint at having influences from across the pond. Suddenly, though, from the late-’90s on, bands have lost the pretentious, pompous tone of their predecessors and have actually started making music that follows more closely to a North American lineage. Idlewild falls into this new category, especially with their last release, The Remote Part.
“When we came out in ’95 we were just an indie band with lots of loud guitars,” says Stewart. “Now we’re 26 years old and now we can say we’re music fans of bands like Husker Du and Sonic Youth. And that’s probably why we’re more accepted by the U.S. audiences. We were so surprised to see people at our U.S. shows (in support of 100 Broken Windows) not only with the album, but singing along to the songs. And even with The Remote Part, it’s continued. We’re really happy to see these hardcore fans.”
After the buzz created by 100 Broken Windows, it’s no surprise that fans are starved for more from the band.
Whether or not Idlewild felt any pressure to maintain their momentum, The Remote Part shows they are not lacking in confidence at all. This is a band hitting their stride at just the right time.
“The new songs are just the best songs we’ve written to date,” states Stewart. “The most refined version of Idlewild, I guess. It kind of makes hints to the last record, but as you get older there will always be change. But at the same time things will stay the same. In terms of our records and songs, people are looking for good melodies and a good time. People just appreciate that. As a band, we try to be genuine, especially in our songs, and I think people like that.”