Back in September, Cancel The Astronauts released their very fine debut album Animal Love Match. We tried to set up an interview…and eventually, it happened!
17 Seconds: Please introduce yourselves
Matthew Riley: We are Cancel the Astronauts, an indie-pop band from Edinburgh who are slowly trying to become a bit less pop and a bit more indie. Individually are names are, in order of handsomeness, Matthew Riley (MR). There are four other members of the band, who in the interests of accuracy I will call Kieran McCaffrey (KM), Michael Craig, Neil Davidson and Chris Kay. They play the instruments that I don’t play, which is mostly most of them and sometimes all of them: guitar, synth, bass and drums.
17 Seconds: How did the band come together?
MR: Kieran, Michael and me went to school together and moved up to Edinburgh at the same time for university. We all lived together in second year and we started making music together. Me and Kieran had been writing songs together for various ‘bands’, none of which ever did any gigs. ‘Rehearsals’ for these ‘bands’ often involved ordering Chinese from Hurlford’s finest takeaway (5-star?) and watching films. It was only really after we moved up to Edinburgh that we started to take it in any way seriously.
KM: It was the Peking Star, was the Hurlford takeaway. The Five Star is in nearby overspill town, Kilmarnock. It’s quite an arrogant name for a takeaway though, isn’t it? Five Star. I’ll decide! It was pretty good.
17 Seconds: Who are your influences?
MR: 90’s Britpop.
KM: 00’s Scotpop.
17 Seconds: What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a gig?
MR: Getting paid is quite unusual.
KM: As a veteran of over twelve gigs by now, I can’t think of a single thing. That’s depressing. I fell over on stage one time, but that was more embarrassing than strange. I’m blanking here. Move on!
17 Seconds: Do you read your press? If not, why?
MR: Yes, when we get any. I’m an extremely vain and self-centred person and I love to know what people think about us, good or bad. Unfortunately most people don’t seem to think about us at all, but when they do the press has pretty much always been good. It’s encouraging when people don’t think you’re completely shit.
KM: We’re cursed by our easily searchable name — nobody wants to actually cancel the proper astronauts, and nor should they. But if opinion ever started to sway that way, we’d know about it first. We do all our (cough) PR ourselves though, so most of our press comes from people we’ve personally sent promo cds to or have been emailing or otherwise dancing in front of. This mean we get to be vain and sad and read everything anyone’s ever written about us and pretend we’re just being diligent PR bods.
17 Seconds: Do you think the word ‘indie’ still means something in 2012? If so, what?
MR: Somewhere in the mid-to-late 00’s it came to mean guitar music played by five guys in skinny haircuts, but I suppose it’s actual meaning has been massively diluted since the 80’s, when independent bands and record companies began to make successful, commercial music without major label support. I would say we’re indie because we’re 5 guys who make guitar music (although we don’t have skinny haircuts) and because the music we make is completely independent- it’s recorded, produced, released, promoted and paid for by us and us alone. We don’t even have a little micro-label to help us. We’re actually the most independent band I know of! I’m not particularly proud of this fact- I’d be happy to sign to Parlophone for a million bucks. I think then that ‘indie’ has more relevance now than it has for many, many years, although it’s definitely more accurate now as a philosophy or a circumstance than as an indicator of musical style.
KM: You could argue that our methods are more DIY than indie, but we describe ourselves as ‘indie-pop’ rather than ‘DIY-pop’ because DIY seems to speak to an aesthetic we’re not a part of (or are we, nowadays? And etc…). I suppose indie works as a sorta useful but ultimately reductive nod towards what we sound like. Genre labels are confusing. I don’t use them on my computer.
17 Seconds : Who would you most like to cover one of your songs, and which one?
MR: I would like The Smiths to reform and cover ‘I Hate You All And I Wish You Were Dead.’
KM: We got an email once from a teenager asking for the lyrics to Fanclub because his school band wanted to cover it. I don’t think it ever came to anything, but I would have liked to have heard that. Inspiring the next generation and all that.
17 Seconds: What are your favourite albums?
MR: Prepare yourself for some VERY boring choices: Automatic For The People by REM, Definitely Maybe by Oasis, A Rush Of Blood To The Head by Coldplay, Strangeways Here We Come by The Smiths, and Different Class by Pulp. I’m falling asleep just writing them down.
KM: Boring! Mine are In Rainbows by Radiohead, Rounds by Four Tet, The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit, St. Thomas by The Scottish Enlightenment, and High Violet by The National.
17 Seconds: If you could work with one other musical act, alive or dead, who would it be?
MR: I’d dig a very big hole in a very hot country with Cheryl Tweedy, and I’d let her do most of the work.
KM: I think she goes by Cheryl Cole, and I have to question your motivations. I’m going to plump for noted recording artist Scarlett Johansson.
17 Seconds: What are your plans for the next year?
MR: I’m going to release 4 solo albums (you heard it here first) and Cancel the Astronauts are going to write the greatest album the world has ever heard. One so good it will make your ears bleed piss and push A Rush Of Blood To The Head by Coldplay out of your Top 5 list.
KM: Somewhere in the guts of my guitar a loose connection is playing occasional havoc at pivotal times. I should probably fix it.
Animal Love Match is out now on Riley Records