Breaking point

Glasvegas guitarist Rab Allan tells Richard Smirke how they came back from the brink of self destruction

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“The best thing about our band and the worst thing is that we’ll always tell people the truth,” says Rab Allan, guitarist and founder member of Scottish indie band Glasvegas.

“We’ll never lie because there’s no point. So when people ask you something, you just tell them the truth. It was as it has been reported in the papers. It was mad,” he continues in a thick, almost impenetrable Glaswegian accent.

The unspecified “was” that he is referring to was the hedonistic two-year period that followed Glasvegas’s 2008 eponymous debut. Viewed from the outside, it appeared like a typical rags to riches fairytale: childhood friends form a band; get signed and release Mercury Prize-nominated album; tour the world, including support slots with rock giants U2, Oasis and Kings of Leon, and generally live out their adolescent dreams.

What was less well known outside of the group’s tightly-knit camp, at least until recently, was that drug use had become increasingly rife among various band members. At the time, exhaustion was cited as the reason behind a string of aborted shows in 2009. It has since emerged that singer James Allan (Rab’s cousin) had actually overdosed backstage at American music festival Coachella.

“When you get three working class guys from Glasgow and you give them a ton of money and you say ‘go and have a good time’ – you’re going to take full advantage,” explains Allan with a schoolboy snigger.

“We’re all quite mischievous. Sometimes James is really well behaved and I’m the one that will maybe lead him down him a path that he shouldn’t go down. Or maybe I’m well behaved. We all influence each other – for the good and for the bad.”

Thankfully, all members made a conscious decision to “put everything into the music” for the recording of Glasvegas’ recently released second album Euphoric Heartbreak. “Only Bowie can be on smack and go and make a good record,” adds the never understated Allan.

Written for the most part in a beachfront mansion in Santa Monica, California and recorded in London, Euphoric Heartbreak is an epic, admirably ambitious indie rock album that adds U2-sized bombast and sprinklings of electronica to the band’s “guts and guitars” backbone.

The initial reaction from fans and critics has been largely positive, although some have expressed disappointment about a move away from the evocative kitchen sink drama of their debut, towards more universal, at times bland, lyrical concerns.

“There are a lot of people who would have liked us to have done the first album again, but that would have been boring,” retorts Allan. “We just wanted to see where we could take the music and where the band could go next.”

Key to that progression was the appointment of Swedish-born drummer Jonna Lofgren, according to Allan. Lofgren joined the group in 2010, following the departure of the less skilled original percussionist Caroline McKay, who left of her own accord.

The new line-up is a far tighter, more powerful outfit, says the guitarist, who dismisses the band’s first incarnation as being “shi*e” live. I tell him that they weren’t but Allan isn’t having it. In his own words, he wants Glasvegas to “be better than everybody else”.

“That’s not putting anybody down,” he continues. “I just know how good James is as a singer and I know the potential that we’ve got as a band. Whether we see that through is a different story, I guess.”

Glasvegas play Liverpool O2 Academy, 29 April, Leeds Metropolitan, 1 May, Manchester Academy. 3 May. Europhic Heartbreak is out now.

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