Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Ballboy

Formed a few years back, the current incarnation of Edinburgh’s ballboy consists of songwriter Gordon McIntyre on vocals and guitar, Nick Reynolds on bass, Katie Griffiths on keyboards and Gary Morgan on drums. By day, Gordon and Katie are school teachers, Nick a nursery nurse and Gary a sound technician and the recent Easter break has allowed the band to take on their first ‘proper’ UK tour. ballboy are a band you can easily fall in love with, but I shall refrain from trying to eulogise on their sound as our brief interview with Gordon paints as good a picture as you will need. I tell you what, I defy anyone not to buy their excellent ‘Club Anthems 2001’ collection after reading this!!

>Please introduce yourself and your band mates. What qualities do you each bring to the world of ballboy?
Firstly myself, Gordon. I play the guitar, sing the songs and write the lyrics and basic parts of each songs before we go into a rehearsal room and everyone writes their own parts. Then there is Nick who plays bass. I couldn't even begin to tell you all the things he has done for the band. Suffice to say, none of this would have got this far without him. Katie plays keyboards and keeps down the average age of the band. She is also very beautiful and everytime we play I look into the faces of the crowd and see 90% of the boys just staring at her 90% of the time. She also does multi-coloured pees from time to time. Gary plays drums and provides a whole new angle on things. Out of all the other band members, Gary is the one most closely involved in the decisions behind the overall sound of the band.

>What influenced you to form a band?
Two things I think. The first was that I've always written things, such as short stories etc and writing songs seemed to fit me well. The second was that, when I learned to play the guitar, I didn't reallly like playing other people's songs so I ended up making my own tunes/songs. I think it all stemmed from there.

>What circumstances inspire you to begin writing a song?
Different things for different songs. I love it when something happens in my life which lends itself to a song. Songs like 'Donald in the Bushes' from 'Club Anthems 2001' or 'Avant Garde Music' from our second album just fell into my lap. The bizarre and surreal in everyday life appeals to me. Other songs come directly from having a point of view to express 'I Hate Scotland' being the main example. I've never sat down and analysed the themes that come through in the lyrics. I write them according to how I feel and how well I feel they fit what I'm trying to say.

>Your lyrics are certainly far from twee, do you consider yourself a poitical songwriter or a folk musician - where do you fit?
I'm not sure I consider myself any particular thing. I think as a songwriter I fit into a long tradition of songwriters who have tried to do something honest, but artistic. People like The Housemartins, The Smiths, The Violent Femmes, The Wedding Present, The Magnetic Fields, The Mekons, The Velvet Underground, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen. This is not a list of my favourite bands. Some of these I love, some I don't like at all, but they all put the words at the centre and built the music around it. I think that's where we fit it. I guess we would be a folk band if the woolly jumpers had not already hijacked the word.

>I notice the lyric "I hate the way people bring up their children to be exactly the same as them" - was this written after a particularly baffling Parents evening and does your career as a teacher reflect in your songwriting?
The lyric wasn't really linked to a specific moment. I think it's just something you see all the time living in Scotland. I guess teaching makes me spend lots of time thinking about the different relationships between parents and children, but I have a feeling that that lyric would have been written whether I taught or not.

>Do you get frustrated being constantly lumped in with the Scottish lo-fi usual suspects?
Yes, yes and yes! It is lazy journalism of the highest order! Arab Strap and Belle and Sebastian are the two we always get. Now both of them are fine bands and I like them both, but neither invented the form that they use. B and S follow in the pattern of all the bands I detailed above (esp the Smiths I would say), but they are a different and fine band. Arab Strap follow in the pattern of people stretching back to beat poets and beyond (Lou Rawls the jazz singer springs to mind with his mid song spoken word stories). And both bands have something in common with the Velvet Underground. But none of these descriptions tell you really what they sound like and I think it's the same as us. Belle and Sebastian will never write a song like 'I Hate Scotland' or 'All The Records On The Radio Are Shite', it is not their style, it's ours. Rant over, sorry!

>If you weren't making music, how would you fill your evenings?
I would read more books and play more playstation2. In fact if ballboy never write a third album it will be all Sony's fault.

>As far as I can make out, this is your first nationwide tour, is there anywhere you'd particularly like to play?
We did a very short set of gigs last summer taking in Manchester, Birmingham, London (twice) and Oxford, but I think this is the first one you could call a tour. I'm really looking forward to revisiting Birmingham and London again because we have good memories of playing there before. I also did an acoustic gig in Leeds (at the GoJohnnyGoGoGoGo festival) not so long ago and that was excellent. The one place we are not playing that I wish we were is Brighton because it is one of the best places I have ever been.

>Aside from the fact that it cobbles together all your EP material, why should people buy "Club Anthems 2001”
This is like one of those tie-breakers for kids competitions isn't it? We have one in school to win a gameboy advance and one of the kids wrote (for 'why do you want to win a gameboy advance?') "because my dad is too skint and I only have an old grey one". I don't know what to answer. Maybe - "because, if you are a boy, you can learn from my mistakes and ,if you are a girl, you can have your defences sharpened". That's all a bit melancholy. Or I could do it like Cyrano de Bergerac:

Twee - "because of the line about the polar bears”

Arrogant - "because it is the best debut album by man or beast bar none”

Childish - "because i'll be your best pal"

Unfounded - "because it will increase you attractiveness to the opposite sex"

Challenging - "because I suspect you are not ready for it - prove me wrong"

Lazy and Stupid - "because it sounds like Belle and Sebastian"

Religious - "because it will help you attain new states of belief"

Scottish - "don't buy it, it's shite"

Mute - ""

Corporate - "because it will help to balance your current musical portfolio which is frankly a bit nu-metal"

Fashionable - "because lyrics are just soo the thing this season darling"

Superficial - "because it has nice artwork"

Fanatical - "you need to ask? YOU NEED TO ASK?"

Tangential - "because the girl in the record shop is well nice"

Fanzine - "because, you know, it's underground, but accessible too"

Techy - "because I just get so nostalgic for the days of CDs, although mp3 is the (immediate) future you know"

Totalitarian - "because the sl records corporation is watching and recording"

Dyslexic - "becuase you lik records"

Anatomical - "because they must have loved your ears so much to have given you this to listen to"

Practical - "because you will probably like it, and you can always take it back if you don't"

>What are your future plans for recording?
We have one more studio session to finish the second album and then I intend to spend some time recording demos at home for future releases. I have ideas in my head for how the third and fourth albums should sound and feel, but there is a lot of work still to be done before they will be even nearly completed.

>Gordon McIntyre's Desert Island Discs
ballboy as a band would have 6 completely different discs, but here are mine:
galaxie 500 - on fire (the best album ever by anyone at all ever)
jesus and mary chain - psycho candy
bruce springsteen – nebraska
the magnetic fields - 69 love songs
the velvet underground - (can i have a 'best of' is that cheating?)
and ballboy - club anthems 2001.

>Gordon McIntyre's Desert Island Book
'The master and margherita' by Michail Bulgakov.

>Gordon McIntyre's Desert Island Luxury Item
My acoustic guitar edges out the ps2 (just)

>Which recent records that have received airplay haven't been shite? C'mon, you know you like a bit of Britney!
Mainstream songs? I liked 'Reach' by S Club 7 a lot (although it is hardly current). The start of that Stereophonics Rod Stewart cover version is amazing (the string section etc), but then it turns into one of the worst songs ever and spoils the effect. They should have just looped the strings and given up writing songs forever. Sorry! That's the best I can do.

www.ballboy.org

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