In which 17 Seconds goes round to Bwani Junction’s flat for coffee, and discovers about how they met at school, hears about the strange eating habits of the Bhundu Boys and learns pretty quickly not to bring up Vampire Weekend…
Ever since the Beatles’ Help! Film perpetuated the rather nice myth of the fab four all sharing a house together in London –in much nicer circumstances than an earlier line-up had shared accommodation just five years previously in Hamburg, there’s always been a nice image of a band living cosily together in a Bohemian style. (Particularly if it contrasts with the too-comfy, bourgeois environs that you grow up living in with your Parents. Cough.) Bwani Junction do actually live together. They offer me a coffee and having armed themselves with cigarettes – you never know when a Blogger could turn dangerous, after all, we sit down for a pleasant chat.
Bwani Junction are four extremely nice lads who formed the band at Edinburgh’s Merchiston Castle School. Though the earlier line-up sounds rather different – there are mutters about eight members and dancers – the line-up now welcoming yours truly around their dining room table are singer and guitarist Rory Fairweather, guitarist Dan Muir, bassist Fergus Robson and drummer Jack Fotheringham. The soundtrack, by the way, is Fleetwood Mac’s Tango In The Night album. They seem a little taken aback when I remember watching them on Top Of The Pops in the eighties. It is, after all, before any of them were even born.
So, first of all, why the band name? If we’re going to start with boringly obvious interview questions, I say, slightly self-consciously, why not start with that one?
‘We should have a boringly obvious answer for that,’ Rory says. ‘The truth is that we didn’t have a decent name. And I went to my Dad, and my dad is one of these people who loves coming up with names for things, and he spent weeks on end coming out with just God-awful names, and eventually he said ‘Bwani Junction,’ and we were like, alright fucking shut up, we’ll take that one!’
Jack explains how the nucleus of the band started at school when they were twelve. ‘Rory had been there [at the school] before, and he was like the best skateboarder and the best guitarist, and he hated me because I was a better guitarist. And he was a bit miffed and a bit pissed off. He finally said ‘Let me into the band,’ which at that point was an eight piece set up!’ They cheerfully joke that it might have sounded a bit like Dream Theater.
Dan joined in the second last year of school. ‘He was following us around like a flaming fart,’ they say airily, and eventually they let him join.
This was about three years ago, before a certain band came along from America to make life complicated, with a certain amount of stupid comparisons… I don’t even need to mention Vampire Weekend’s name before there is a collective groan around the table. ‘We don’t mention that round here!’ I’m told, quite firmly.
Dan Muir’s father Gordon is the band’s manager. Young Dan must have had quite some childhood, as his father was amongst other things, the manager of the Bhundu Boys, the legendary Zimbabwean band, who taught Dan how to play guitar. A story follows about one (unnamed) member of the Bhundu Boys, who upon staying at the Muir’s house, was found eating out of the cat food tin, surprised that cat was eaten in Scotland and even more amazed that there would be special food for cats in Scotland, coming from Zimbabwe.
The band’s debut, Fully Cocked was released in November of last year, on their own label, Aksatak. Upon investigation it transpires that this was after an infamous gig in the band’s history where a man slammed an axe into the bar at a gig they were playing at. It was produced by legendary Scots producer Paul Savage at the Chem 19 studios in Hamilton, who is not only Emma Pollock’s husband and the, former drummer for The Delgados, but has also produced records by the likes of Arab Strap, Mogwai and the Twilight Sad. The album sessions seem to have been a very positive experience for the band. They liked the way that Paul Savage approached the album, even if it appears he may have been quite strict with Jack, making it clear that he wanted him to do less.
‘He’s not harsh!’ Dan says, defending their producer. ‘He had a very nice way of telling us our stuff was shit. ‘It teaches us not to be precious,’ says Rory.
‘Paul had a mind for pop songs,’ Fergus adds. He explains that they hadn’t thought about ‘I’ve Got The Minerals’ being a single, until they worked with Paul on the track ‘He let me use his Hammond organ!’ Fergus tells me, still clearly touched at this opportunity.
With the album out, they certainly aren’t resting on their laurels. Rory tells me that they’re doing an EP, rather than a new album to tie in with the festival season in the summer. ‘Gordon wants us to keep writing,’ explains Jack. Certainly their gig the previous week had seen them playing new material written subsequently. Though they’re ken to get back in the studio, according to Fergus, it is clear that they don’t feel under pressure to do the second album. Will they be working with Paul Savage on the forthcoming EP? ‘He might not have enjoyed working with us!,’ they all tell me, rather modestly.
Interest in the band is steadily growing. They were picked as one of the 100 new bands of the year at the start of the year by the NME (the only other Edinburgh band to make the list was Discopolis). But they’re kind of glad that they haven’t had a front cover yet, happy to let things keep bubbling away. They’re hoping to be playing several festivals this year, though they seem reluctant to tempt fate by telling me which ones, just in case it tempts fate.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the cockerel on the front of Fully Cocked is called Doodle. It was, Rory jokes rather weakly ‘my neighbour’s cock’ – but apparently, the poor bird has since literally fallen off his perch and broken his neck. Hopefully a far brighter future still awaits these young men.
Fully Cocked is out now on Aksatak.