Among the plethora of junk messages that usually trundle onto a Myspace page offering ways of boosting your page count, “hot” pictures and various other dubious offers, there are occasionally messages of merit. Such was the case for Aberdeen via Brighton trio the Xcerts, whose single ‘Just Go Home’ has been granted a physical release due to a note they received on it from Sam Duckworth, aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. As the Xcerts laconic lead singer/guitarist Murray MacLeod reveals, the offer came as a total surprise to the trio.
“We got a Myspace message from him, out the blue one day just saying that he really liked our stuff. We were like great, thanks a lot, really appreciate it. The next thing we know, he was asking if he could release our single [on his Mannequin Republic
label] We were like, yeah! We didn’t really have any plans to put it out other than download but he was like ‘Oh, I’ll release it on vinyl’ and we love things that are released on vinyl.”
Bassist Jordan ‘Joe’ Smith feels that the decision has helped focus the band more on their current tour, adding: “It kinda made us pay more attention to the single in general, cos it was gonna be download only and it felt like we were just doing it so we could be on tour and say we’ve got this as well. It doesn’t mean as much as when it’s actually got a hard copy release that you can hold in your hands. It meant a lot more to us and since then it’s got a lot more radio pay and stuff, things happening, it’s really cool. We still get texts saying oh my God you’re on Radio 1 and we’re like holy shit, so we are!”
The single release is capping off a excellent year for the three-piece, who Gigwise meets prior to their Barfly show with hotly tipped folk pop-sters Make Model. While the band admit their brand of intense, hard indie-rock may not be “ anything original” their songs are loaded with so much explosive energy you can easily forgive the fact they’re not re-inventing the wheel. The combination of striking songs and ferocious live performances is now starting to give the group some attention, something which Murray admits they’re trying not to focus on too much. He remarked: “It’s really strange because from our point of view, things are still the same but we’ve just had really good radio play, it’s weird, I guess from an outside point of view it’s great but for us it’s just kinda keep our heads down and keep working away. We’re really grateful for everything that’s happened and want to keep the ball rolling.”
The recent success is a long way from the band’s early days slogging around Aberdeen. It’s now been five years since the group started, though as Murray admits, the band’s beginnings weren’t exactly promising. “The XCERTS formed with me, Joe and our original drummer Ross, when we were all still at school. Joe lied to me to get into the band! I was putting this gig on with an older friend’s band and I was shitting myself because I hadn’t got a band together. I don’t remember how we bonded but he said he could play bass.” Joe picks up the story: “I lied and said I could play bass, and he asked if I could play Man Overboard by Blink 182. I was like yeah… I went home that day and asked for a bass for that Christmas, got it, we played the show and it was alright.”
And it was bands like Blink that provided the Xcerts original inspiration, as Joe explains: “All the pop-punk bands, like the Ataris and Blink, that whole scene. They’re still very much our roots and we still listen to that kind of music. We still like it. But we kinda grew when we started listening to more Scottish types of music, bands like Idlewild and I think every 3-piece in Scotland goes through a period where they sound exactly like Biffy Clyro. There was the American indie scene too, bands like Death Cab For Cutie.”
But to move the band on further, the group had to up sticks and leave Aberdeen, as Murray elaborates on: “About 2 and a half years ago, Ross left for London. Me and Joe had to decide whether to move down South or stay up in Aberdeen. We decided to move down South but we weren’t too keen on moving to London so we moved to Brighton and in that time Ross left. We’d known Tom [ Heron, the Xcerts drummer] for a year, cos he was one of our friends in Brighton. So we decided that Tom would be the man!”
One reason for the Xcerts growing reputation is their full on live shows. And gigging is obviously something the band love, as Tom explains: “I find we get a bit restless when we’re not on tour. When we’re not on tour we’re writing new songs. Which is how we like it. It makes you a lot better as a band when you’re touring, and we’ve grown as a band just from the tours we’ve done. We always find noticeable improvement in ourselves after a tour and that’s definitely really important.”
Among those tours have been recent support slots with Brakes and Make Model, both bands who the Xcerts are clearly impressed by. That feeling is clearly mutual, seeing as Make Model vocalist Aimi passes by to opine that the Xcerts “just have a fucking immense sound”. However, a challenge for the band will be replicating that sound in the studio when they record their debut album next year. Murray points out that: “Being a three piece, it’s quite tough to do the things we do in the studio live, because there’s a lot of different sounds but I think we need to look past it and try a bit of experimentation in the studio. We kinda see touring as more important than being in the studio."
Joe expands on this theme: “It’s weird as well cos the songs have really stepped up in the last six months or so, the songs that we’re putting out as a single back in Jan or Feb, to us they don’t hold a candle to the ones we’ve just written, they’re so much stronger. But at the same time there’s kind of an obligation to stick with the songs that got you there in the first place, they’ve got a place on the album. So we’re still deciding on that. We’ve never had a recording that’s lived up to what we’re like live, people say I’ve heard this recording of this song and it’s great and we’re like cool but see us live, cos you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more because there’ll be more energy and passion in it and that’s what it’s all about. It’s sometimes hard to live up to the live sound in the studio. I think too many bands think that when they go into the studio they have to recreate the live sound exactly, they’re too afraid to put other things in.”
But the band’s commitment to touring won’t stop due to the album, with more gigs already planned for the New Year. Although, as Murray and Joe both explain with a shudder, there have been some gigs memorable for all the wrong reasons. According to Joe: “Ullapool was funny, it was in a fish restaurant. It’s a venue as well, they’re trying to make it one but as far as we’re concerned, it was a fish restaurant."
Murray adds: “We’ve had our fair share of awful gigs. Liverpool Barfly is an obvious one because I was tremendously ill and it was weird. We did a gig in Hastings as well and I was still ill and couldn’t open my mouth and so we played about half an hour, we just stood still and did instrumentals. People after the gig were getting their money back.” After later seeing the Xcerts perform, Gigwise suspects there won’t be many people demanding refunds in future.