Welcome Back: Idlewild

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After a five year break, Edinburgh alternative rockers Idlewild are set to return in 2015 with a new album and UK tour.

Everything Ever Written will be the quintet’s eighth studio album, and sees the core of Roddy Woomble (vocals), Rod Jones (guitar) and Colin Newton (drums) joined by new members Luciano Rossi (piano, organ) and Andrew Mitchell (bass, guitar). TeamRock sat down with Woomble and Jones in a Soho café recently to get the inside track on the group’s return…

When you announced your hiatus in 2010, were you secretly thinking that this was game over for Idlewild?

Roddy Woomble: “No, I wasn’t, but it’s always difficult to find the appropriate language in such circumstances. At the time we knew we didn’t want to just put another record out and do another tour playing smaller and smaller places, because we could see that people were getting less interested in the band just as we were actually getting less interested in that format. Creatively, we needed to take a bit of a holiday from each other. Not as friends, because we’re very good friends, but just to recharge. I was definitely thinking we’d make another record, whether in a year or five years, but I thought we should go find other things to do for a bit, so that’s what we did. And then about two years ago Rod and I met up in Edinburgh and it just seemed natural to start writing again. We’ve been taking things really slowly, and there’s been a complete absence of pressure, so it’s been a lovely way to make a record actually.”

Rod Jones: “I never thought that the band had run its course, but I could tell that we weren’t in the right place to make a good record if we didn’t take a break. It didn’t feel like the end, we just didn’t know how long we’d be away. I guess it what’s we do for a living, and it had started to feel like a job in some ways, so once we removed that ‘job’ aspect of it, suddenly it felt like fun again.”

Were you bored of the band when you decided to take that time away?

RW: “I was getting very bored of the rock band format. I’d made a solo record and another record with just folk musicians, and I loved being in an acoustic band, and working on those arrangements. When I went back to Idlewild, [former members] Alan (Stewart) and Gareth (Russell) and Rod, to an extent, were quite comfortable with the basic guitar/vocals/bass/drums set-up, and we were a good rock band, but I kinda felt that my heart wasn’t in it. Now that we’ve got Luciano and Andrew, they’re multi-instrumentalists, and they’re not from a rock background, so that’s opened up the sound and allowed us to be more creative and expressive.”

Was your time away from the band quite liberating then?

RW: “Yeah, well, I didn’t really have any big ideas of what I wanted to get out of it, but I was living in quite a remote part of Scotland – as I still do – and I had my family and I was just growing up, you know? I think the break was very healthy: more bands should do it.”

RJ: “Yeah, I did. When I did my first solo record [2009’s A Sentimental Education] it was a little strange at first, because I didn’t have Roddy as my usual foil and there was kinda no-one to ask ‘Is this good enough?’ apart from myself. So that first record took me a long time to do, and after that I kinda felt that I needed other people around me again for the next record [2012’s A Generation Innocence]. It was liberating to an extent, but it also felt so natural to come back to exchange ideas with Roddy. You don’t have that kind of chemistry with just anyone.”

You re-released one of your best records, 100 Broken Windows, in an expanded format after the split: did the reaction to that give you a sense that people were still there for the band?

RW: “Yeah, people really liked that record, I think it was one of those kinda pre-internet albums that people bought and listened to and played to death. People who were teenagers when that came out originally – and it was on tape then, that’s how long ago it was! – still love that album, in the same way as I’ll always love my Wilco and Pavement and Dinosaur Jr records from that time. And I think it’s one of those albums that people have discovered since, so even while I was doing my solo stuff on the folk scene I’d have people come up and talk to me about it and ask if we were planning anything else, so it was nice to know we hadn’t been forgotten.”

So when you started writing again, was it a case of just testing the water, or was the plan always to make a new album?

RW: “Well, Rod and I have always been on the same page, and had good chemistry and a great working relationship, so we knew things would come together pretty easily: we always planned to make an album, it was just a question of how long I would take. Taking our time has really paid off though I think: I think we were able to sidestep a lot of the formulaic rock song formats and come up with some really interesting arrangements and treatments.”

So what level of commitment are you bringing to the band now?

RW: “I think we really want to make the most of it again and really go for it. Everyone is really up for it. I mean, we’re Scottish realists, so we didn’t announce a huge tour – there’s just five dates in the UK – and we’ll see how that goes and then take it from there. I hope we can do more shows and festivals and give it a proper shot. People have already been really supportive of our return already, and so we’re looking forward to seeing how things come together.”

RJ: “Roddy and I have been doing this for two years now, on and off, to get to this point, and we didn’t invest all that time in it to approach it half-hearted now.”

Everything Ever Written will be released on February 9, 2015. The band follow the release with these UK shows:

March 7 Glasgow O2 ABC March 8 Glasgow O2 ABC March 10 Birmingham The Institute March 12 Manchester The Ritz March 13 London Roundhouse