Interview: Hazey Janes

The Hazey Janes have been a constant in the melting pot of talent that is Scottish indie since their debut Hotel Radio landed in 2006. Vocalist-guitarist Andrew Mitchell, drummer Liam Brennan and siblings, keyboard-guitarist Alice and bassist Matthew Marra, released fourth album The Language of Faint Theory at the beginning of June, garnering positive reviews from The List, Mojo and Classic Rock and the band are currently touring to support its release. We caught up with Michael to discuss working with Paco Loco and John Agnello again, the connection between Scottish and American music and their home on the ace Armellodie Records.

You're based in Dundee, a city that seems to be coming on leaps and bounds artistically, culturally and economically. What is it about Dundee that's made it such a good home for arts and music?
Due to the city's location and size, it's a great place for any artist to work. It's big enough to sustain a strong arts scene, but not so big that you get lost in the crowd. A lot of people come here to study, then end up staying for the rest of their lives. That says a lot.

What was your approach with The Language of Faint Theory? How did it differ from your previous records?
I think the main priority was to get away somewhere and make the record fairly quickly. We've always worked much better with a deadline. We had some great times making the previous album but the sessions dragged on for almost a year as we were grabbing studio time here and there. When the idea came up to work with Paco and John again (they produced and mixed Hotel Radio) it seemed ideal. That environment in the south of Spain, coupled with Paco's analogue studio and vintage gear, was perfect for the kind of album we wanted to make.

I'm a big fan of Armellodie and its roster and you've been with them since 2008. Why are they a good fit for The Hazey Janes? Which of your labelmates do you rate highly?
We were friends and fans of Scott (Maple) and Al (Nero, Armellodie head honchos, also known for their work as the ace Le Reno Amps) and their music for a long time before they started Armellodie. It's just nice being on a label that's run by musicians, there's a real family feel to it. We got to know a lot of the artists through playing the annual Armellofest shows, and I like most of what I've heard from the label. The new Chris Devotion and the Expectations album Break Out is my current favourite.

From your own point of view, are you more of a live band or a record band? Or are the two not mutually exclusive? Do you enjoy being on the road? Is it good to get out there and meet your adoring public?
Personally I enjoy both, but outside of the band I've always been more of a record person than a gig person. It's good to have the cycle of recording and touring, so you don't get sick of either. I like the challenge of arranging live versions of songs which often have more expansive arrangements on record. And touring with your friends is a great way to see the world.

Throughout reviews of your records words like 'Americana' and 'West Coast' pop up frequently, as do comparisons to Big Star, The Byrds and you've supported Wilco. Why do you think Scottish musicians share such an affinity with American culture?
I think it comes down to a certain folk tradition we share with the Americans, which tends to come out in the songwriting. After all, Robert Burns was a big inspiration to Bob Dylan. With our band, it's maybe just where all four of our musical tastes overlap. We're certainly big fans of those three groups, but if I put on a Big Star record these days it's more likely to be the third album, Third/Sister Lovers, which is something else entirely. It's good that reviewers are starting to see past the usual Americana references with this record.

How have you found the tour so far?  How has the reaction to the record been?
We're five gigs in and really enjoying it. It's our first headline tour for a while so it's great to be able to stretch out a bit with our setlist. And it's nice that a lot of people are picking up the vinyl version of the album after the shows!

The Language of Faint Theory is out now on Armellodie Records.

You can catch the Hazey Janes live on the following dates:
20th June - The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen [TICKETS]
21st June - The Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore, Free Show
28th June - Twa Tams – Perth, Free Show
4th July - Iona Village Hall Music Festival, Isle of Iona (w/ King Creosote & Idlewild) SOLD OUT


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