The 21st State are an up-and-coming, unsigned band from Glasgow. who have just released their latest single ‘Shadows’. I met up with the young man on lead vocals and guitar, Andrew Duncan, to chat about their latest offering and what drives the band on to continue writing and creating in the studio as well as how they refine and enhance their live sound.
Shadows came out last week, impressive track with similar but more rounded sound to your Stepping Stones EP.
Yeah, we kept it like the sound on the EP but we’ve progressed over the last two years and added some electronic elements. We’ve now got synths in the band and I think that helps. We also worked with Bruce over at 45 A-Side Recordings which helped with the new electronic parts and producing how it came out.
The EP itself was really good, where was that recorded?
That was at The Old Mill in Strathaven and that was a really good experience as well but with it being our first time recording, we were learning all about the process. So, although we feel the EP was good i think we’ve made a step up with the new tracks.
Going right back to the start, how did The 21st State come about?
We formed at school. We were all friends at high school and we competed in a battle of the bands competition. Myself and Craig had wanted to be in a band for ages so that was the perfect opportunity to get some guys together. We won that and we all wanted to keep the band thing going. After a few name changes we settled on The 21st State, played a few gigs around Glasgow and things just went on from there.
So, are you all quite like-minded when it comes to the sound you’re producing and the direction you’re heading in?
The good thing is that we all have quite a broad music taste so we quite like experimenting.We’re all open-minded about the styles we want to follow. We’re not stuck to one genre or limiting ourselves musically.
Who are the full-time members of the band?
Myself (Andrew Duncan) on guitar and vocals, Craig Horne on Guitar and Vocals, Craig McCormick on Bass and Callum Anderson on drums.
You added the synth over the top of the existing set-up?
Yeah, I play some synth and Craig (Horne) doing some samples on the laptop and Craig (McCormick) doing some bass synth as well. We’re all doing some double-timing at once so it’s quite hard doing that live but we’re getting used to it and finally getting the hang of it.
You are one of very few bands with a shared lead vocal, how does that dynamic work in the band?
It was something we both felt strong about because we both started out as singers and both write songs so we made use of that. One of the main selling points of our band, is that we have strong harmonies because we’re both comfortable in being lead singers. It also adds some variety to our performance as well.
Who would you say are your biggest influences?
We’re definitely fans of Scottish bands like Fatherson, Prides, Frightened Rabbit and Biffy. We’ve also got influences in Imagine Dragons, Alt J. Bands with kinda electronic vibes. We love The 1975 but also some heavier bands like Foo Fighters and some other American bands. There’s a lot of influences there but we just try to take little bits from each and make it our own.
How would you gauge the success of the band so far?
It’s going pretty well. We’ve played King Tuts (Wah Wah Hut) a couple of times, which is our favourite venue and we’d wanted to do that from the start. Now we’re playing some tours across the UK and we’re off to Liverpool tomorrow (23rd September) and just played Edinburgh on Monday there. That’s just the position we wanted to be in at this point, start branching out to new cities and slowly releasing new songs.
Do you think anything in particular is helping you stand out from other unsigned bands?
I think our dedication to playing live gigs. We played a lot last year and because the Glasgow scene is so good at helping you out you just keep playing gigs in the hope that people will notice you and keep coming back to see you.
…like people spotting you out busking on Buchanan Street – like I did?
Yeah, even busking as well. By doing that – and having the band details displayed – means that people can Google the band and the songs. Definitely a little help to be out there busking.
With the new material starting to come out, what’s next?
We’ve got another track coming out in the next couple of weeks, which we also recorded at 45 A-side, called ‘Hide’. We’ll let ‘Shadows’ play itself out then release the new single shortly after. Once those are released we’ll be looking to record a new EP. We sometimes take a break from gigs to write new material but sometimes it happens at the same time so we can live-test new songs to see what works and what doesn’t. It can be a bit of a continual process.
You’re currently unsigned, are you utilising social media and the likes to promote yourself?
We do, we try to use all platforms available as much as possible and now having the tracks on Spotify and Apple Music makes it easier for us to get our music to people. It’s not like we have to send out anymore, it’s already there and available for everyone. Although you’re not making a lot of money from the likes of Spotify it just makes it more accessible for fans which is great as we want people from all over the UK to listen to and enjoy our music, whether that be in Glasgow, Liverpool or London.
New single ‘Shadows’ is out now, ‘Hide’ will follow that – anything else in the pipeline?
We definitely want to get another big Glasgow gig in the next couple of months. As once we have the new tracks out, people will want to hear them live. We’re currently self-promoting so hopefully we can get some people to help us out with that as well (winks at the camera). We’re also always open to playing shows across the UK so we’ll be trying to get on with other bands as support to get out there and keep pushing it.
Going back to your latest single ‘Shadows. Tell us some more about it.
For me personally, it was about having these ideas and goals in my head and then when it came to the situation I’d hide – like staying in the shadows, away from it. The words “take a look outside” meaning just go out and do it. I’m always proactive in my mind but sometimes a little more hesitant in actually going for it.
Do you find that the busking helps with that?
The Glasgow busking scene is amazing. There are so many talented buskers out there and I definitely think it does help. I remember first going out there and it was really scary just singing in the street to all these random people but now it just feels normal. It doesn’t even feel like I’m performing, I’m much more comfortable like I’m sitting in my room practicing. So, it’s good practice, helps cut down on the nerves and is good fun as well.
Does that help when it comes to performing onstage?
It certainly makes it a lot easier and because I busk two to three times a week it’s become quite normal now.