Musicscramble recently went along for our first big proper rock star adventure. We’ve had some great communication with bands so far what with our growing New Band Spotlight section and a few chats, but those have all been conducted via email or social media. This was our first proper face to face, and I for one was a little nervous. Dave McPherson comes across as a really nice bloke on Facebook and Twitter, but was it to be a facade? Would he really be swamped in a miasma of rock star ego in real life?
We met Dave outside of Stereo, the venue InMe were due to play in a few hours time. As first support band Mojo Fury were currently on and the noise levels were too high, we made our way round the corner to find somewhere quieter for a chat. From the outset with a warm handshake, friendly hello’s and mentioning he’d been for a shower in the nearby train station and managed to get a laundry on this week, any fears of a jumped up rock star were quickly shattered. Turns out in real life he’s just as affable and welcoming as he comes across on the ‘net.
Sitting down with a beer, Dave was outnumbered 3 to 1, but where it was all new to us he wasn’t phased by this at all so we quickly got to chatting about new album The Pride. We’re loving it – in fact I even considered going back to my review and heaping some more praise on it – but we wanted to know a little more about its genesis starting with what its creators favourite tracks were.
“As a band we love “Reverie Shores”, says Dave with certainty. “I think it’s the last song we wrote for the album. Lyrically I really like it. I like the groove and I think it starts off the album very well in a quite epic fashion, so yeah, that’d be my favourite. Live, I’m loving playing “Moonlit Seabed” just because it’s got this breakdown that kinda comes from nowhere and that’s just really fun to pull off live”.
So how long did it take to record the whole thing?
“It was June 2011 till October; obviously not all in one go because we’d be pretty crap musicians if it took us that long. We do a song in two days and we did about 4 or 5 sessions. We did “A Great Man” and “Pantheon” in the first 4 days, then we’d have a month off, write some more, and come back with another 2 or 4 songs and that gave us a chance to live with it across the months, change things, and focus on what we wanted in the mix. We have a really good working relationship with our producer Little Mike from Fei Comodo. He’s got his own studio in his parents back garden. I know that sounds like it’s a little shed or something, but it’s really a cool top line studio. He’s just really relaxed and easy going. There were two songs that were tricky. “A Great Man” I had to rewrite about 8 times to get Greg happy with it, and the same with “Guardian”. We had to work on that one quite a lot.”
Now if you’re a follower of InMe and Dave McPherson in particular, you’ll know the wealth of music that he’s written over the years. Aside from InMe, Dave also has a successful solo career and is such a prolific songwriter that they were able to give away almost 100 of their offcuts, live tracks, side projects and demos as part of the Pledge Music funding campaign. So what didn’t make the grade for The Pride?
“I tracked about 10 demos but they had no vocals. I scrapped them all because I thought they were too similar to Herald Moth and I want to do a different album every time. “Saccharin Arcadia” and “Bury Me Deep Beneath Your Skin” got on to Pheonix and I was really happy with how they came out, but the rest…..yeah”, he says shrugging them off as unworthy. “It was Herald Moth part 2. I wanted it to be more melodic and reign in the technical stuff a bit, make it a little less busy and a bit more space here and there. I think I achieved that.”
The album was entirely funded by fans via the Pledge Music campaign. In fact, InMe reached 314% of their target figure, one of the highest results I’ve seen on the site so far.
“I wanted to raise a certain amount in 3 months and I raised it in 24 hours”, says Dave, clearly impressed and overwhelmed by the fan response. “That’s what our fan base are like. They’re really loyal and want to get involved and help out, and they believe in us. We’ve got to put a lot of work in but in return the fans got 100 extra songs. That’s like 8p a song. That’s value for money and they help a charity in the process.”
5% of the money raised went to The Alzheimer’s Society. As we begin to talk about that a little further it’s clear the charity aspect is important to him. So why did you select this particular charity?
“Last year my granddad passed away because of Alzheimer’s, so it’s quite close to us and it’s a universal thing. It affects so many families and it’s a terrible disease so the work they do is incredible. They help people. It’s worse, I think, for the people that have got it initially. Eventually they lose their minds and to know you’ve got it must be a terrifying thing. Seeing what it done to my Auntie being with her Dad every day, then him forgetting who she was, him forgetting who his wife was; it’s a horrible thing, so these charities deserve that. That’s the great thing about Pledge. If you add up all the bands and all the artists who’ve opted to put to all these different types of charities, it’s much better than the conventional way of selling records.”
Moving back on to the focus of the music we begin to talk about the technical requirements of being in such a dynamic band as InMe. The band use a lot of hugely skilful techniques, so how do you find the time to learn and progress in amongst writing and touring?
“What we do is we write stuff that we can’t play yet. The “Reverie Shores” solo was written and recorded on the day in 4 sections then suddenly I’m like “Oh my god, I’ve got to learn this for live!” I think I’m just about pulling that off now but I think it’s important to push yourself; to do stuff you can’t do. Diminished 7ths and things like that; I ain’t got a clue what that means. Gazz knows all that. I’m just doing what sounds good to me, that’s interesting or progressive. I like music that takes you places you don’t expect sometimes. Sometimes Gazz will play a solo that doesn’t make sense to me so that’s quite cool as well. We’re not the same guitarist so we bring different things to the table. Greg doesn’t write his parts. He just sits down to record as and when and somehow comes up with those ridiculous bass lines.”
On the subject of Greg, why did it take so long for him to join the band? I know you had Joe (Morgan, original bassist), but Greg’s a talented guy. Was it a relationship thing that you didn’t want you brother in the band?
“Me and Joe had been in the band since ‘96 and that had come to an end. We never previously auditioned or tried Greg out but he was the first option, he said yes, and that was that. That was pretty much the day we knew Joe was leaving. Greg’s a crazy bass player but he’s an intelligent guy so to him it’s kind of second nature. It’s quite scary sometimes”. He pauses for a second and realising he’s just been recorded heaping praise on his brother jokingly adds, “I don’t want him to ever read this”. We promised to delete it. We lied.
On the Gazz front, does he take some of the burden off you as song writer? Does that allow you to evolve a bit and maybe approach songs from a different angle that you couldn’t do before as a 3 piece?
“Yeah, he can do the harder part whilst I’m singing. I like it when I say “you do a solo over that” and he just comes along and pulls something out of the bag. Everyone brings their own style to the band. I sometimes come up with loose ideas in rehearsal and sometimes I write an entire song, but it’s collaborative. Sometimes I don’t write a lead part and say to Gazz, “What can you play over the top”. He’s cool. He was a fan of the band before he joined. He’s not got an ego, like, “I wanna play. I wanna write every bit”. If I’ve written a rhythm and I’m better at playing it he’s not gonna go “I wanna play the left side and you play the right side”, it’s not like that. It’s a collaborative effort and it works.”
You’ve got a few synths on the album particularly on the aforementioned breakdown on ”Moonlit Seabed”.
“That was actually in the time where we scrapped all those demos. All I was listening to was Prodigy. There’s electronic stuff all over every album except Overgrown Eden, just sometimes not high in the mix. I was listening to “Omen” all the time and I guess that’s probably the biggest influence on that breakdown. I wrote the song and I was like “What am I going to do in the middle? I’m sticking that bit in for a laugh”, he says amused at the silliness of it, yet with a glimmer of satisfaction that he was right. It’s at this point that I show my journalistic professionalism by describing the breakdown as this strange electronic bit with a big “fuck off” crunchy guitar noise, which amusingly Dave takes the credit for. “Greg wrote that end rhythm. I just wrote the DUN!” and does his his best fuck off crunchy guitar impression.
As Dave then mentions that he’s looking forward to playing this live tonight, that gives us a great opportunity to segue into investigating the live show, starting with if and how they reproduce that electronic ingredient when on stage.
“We have tracks”, he says simply. “Anything that is non organic; all vocals, guitars, drums, bass – live. Any electronic bits, we have a track. Simon played to a click track for about 5 or 6 years, so it was just a case of click in one ear, tracks in the other, he pushes play, he knows when to start, and everything’s gonna be bang on time, fingers crossed. So far it’s been great. There’s not just electronic stuff, there’s orchestration, like “Legacy” has got lots of crazy orchestral stuff and that’s in the live sound.” Considering that the tracks are fixed, does that mean that the set list is fixed too or is there room for movement? “It’s a standard set. I’d rather people got the tightest set ever, and it’s 5 months rehearsed this set.”
The venue for the gig that night is little more than a basement with a quite small capacity, so we ask if Dave prefers to be playing these smaller venues or the larger less intimate venues.
“If we were playing 1000 people every night, I’d be happy in a certain way because things are ascending and what musician wouldn’t be ambitious? I don’t want to be in the same place in 5 years time, I want to be moving forwards with my life. I want us to be big, but if we got massive I think we’d really have to compromise our credibility and that’s a no go. So I think we’re doing things organically, building up a really good fan base and a really good live reputation. Hopefully things will continue to grow”. The answer leads very nicely straight into the next question we’ve got lined up. When The Pride was released it made into the Top 40 chart and you started a really big push on Facebook and Twitter to try and keep it up there. Do you feel the charts still have relevance?
“Only in a knock on effect. There are loads of people in the press and radio who that say we’re an old band; we’re not a buzz band. It’s important because I want to get radio play. I want to get in people’s faces. Like I said, I want to grow, and I think it’s done that. We’ve had some top names jumping on it. Ian Camfield on XFM has been amazing. We’re getting out there and doing it and the more that eventually happens, hopefully people will take note and start putting us in interviews and features and stuff. With Pledge you’re never going to chart properly. If anyone buys anything other than the digital download or the physical copy it’s not chart eligible, but we still hit 60 and Herald Moth hit 71, so it’s growing slowly.”
It’s intriguing to think what the result would have been with a conventional release. The Pride is a magnificent album and really does deserve to be the catalyst that drives InMe back into the popular spotlight. At this point we realise we’ve been chatting for over half an hour and any of those pre-meeting fears have been well and truly left behind. Much less like an interview and more having a chat with a mate down the pub, Dave McPherson is an absolute gentleman. More than happy to talk in depth about his band and their achievements, yet without any narcissistic attitude or arrogance, we couldn’t have had a better interview. Thanking us when it clearly should have been the other way round, he nips off to grab a bite before the show itself.