Before we heard about the Pixies reunion, before The Cure announced their new album and tour, a little email about another South by Southwest (SXSW) artist’s performance came through into my inbox. This wasn’t just some band, this was an invitation to interview Trashcan Sinatras, a band who 14 years earlier tore at many a heart string with their debut release Cake, launching them onto the pages of Melody Maker. It has been eight years since A Happy Pocket in 1996, when they seemed to disappear into that “wonder what happened to them” category in musical history.
But here they were, back and on their way to releasing a new album.
Still living in Glasglow on Scotland’s west coast, the group had gone through their share of financial ups and downs with the collapse of Go! Discs that had released Cake, and all the while their fans had kept the fire burning in their honor. They were also all on that same page with intense sense of passion for continuing on the road they’d paved over a decade earlier. Trashcan had been writing songs. Now it was just a matter of regrouping and getting over to the states to see what kind of record deal could be cut, one that would hold the promise of a positive future.
After the announcement of Trashcan’s return and gig at the Troubador in Los Angeles, it sold out in just three days. And this was just the warm up gig for their dates in Austin at SXSW. They were my first interview after arriving in the Texas town, arriving the first day at the convention center without a moment to waste, meeting up with rhythm guitarist and vocalist, John Douglas. I had to start by asking him about the sold out gig in L.A.
Kaffeine Buzz: How does it feel when after you’ve been out of the picture for so long, and your fans have picked right up where you left off?
John Douglas: It felt great. We kind of figured that it would be mostly people our age, but there were a lot of younger people as well. It was a really nice surprise.
KB: It wasn’t until I pulled out my copy of Cake did I realize it had been that long since you guys first came out with that album.
JD: Yea. Well, the last album that came out Hence, it only came out in Europe. And then we came out with a single in 1999. But we had a lot of troubles, money troubles. And that took over the studio, the label.
KB: Did all of your stuff go with it?
JD: Oh yea. We would have to buy it all again. But it’s so expensive. Maybe one day. It’s hard dealing with companies like that.
KB: I know…what happened with the record label mergers and all years ago. I felt for those bands at that time that were caught in this Catch 22, where they couldn’t get out of their contracts and couldn’t release anything either.
JD: It was awful. But now you have the Internet where bands can release music themselves. And that’s really helping in it’s own way, especially for a band that hasn’t made a name for themselves. And even for a band like ours, the Internet is good so we can all stay in touch. Even with the message boards and such, people were still out there looking for us, wanting a new record. So it kept us going.
KB: Aside from the fact that you still wanted to make music, was the fan aspect a big part of what you’re trying to do now?
JD: Yea. You don’t want to leave music in a vacuum. It was easy to get going again when you know that what you did gave a lot of pleasure to people. It was just horrible for a while, sweating about money. But we would do the off-one gig, going out and play every few months.
KB: Back at home?
JD: And back in Japan. Some Japanese bands liked us, so we played with them and made some money, which cheered us up.
KB: Well you’ve gotten through that now and going into the next phase, so now you into more of a state of renewal. You’ve played here [in the U.S.], you know that people still want to hear your music and are supportive of you. That’s a tough thing to pull off. There are bands that still have stuff coming out but no one’s paying attention.
JD: Well the guy from the Troubador sent us an email and he said that a lot of bands that come through that have been off the radar a bit don’t always do as well.
KB: So when did you guys say, “Okay, let’s move forward and make this happen.”
JD: Well, we have to raise the money ourselves first. The past few years we’ve been trying to get the money together. About three years ago we tried to make the record and came over to the coast over here. A friend of ours organized a session for us and recorded a load of songs. But we didn’t bring them out. It was all very dark. It was quite depressing. We got back from Hartford [CT] and listened to them and said, “No, we can’t put this out.” It’s a nice record. It’s just too depressing.
KB: Are you ever going to put it out?
JD: Well, some of the songs are on the new album, just not all together. So we decided to cheer ourselves up after that and do more of the lighthearted part of it all. So we wrote some nice soothing songs. Two years ago we recorded in Glasgow and we hunted around for someone to mix it. We got recommended to a guy in New York named Andy Chase in a band called Ivy. We decided to take the tapes over to him last November. We were just in New York to check on things and he did a great job.
JD: Oh yea, it’s lovely. So since then we’re just trying to find labels that we trust and not just the first person that comes along. We don’t want to make the same mistake again.
At SXSW Trashcan Sinatras had many chances to test out their new material with numerous bookings on the schedule, including a performance on the convention stage that day. Months later they would go on to find that label they could trust, releasing Weightlifting on SpinART in August, much to the delight of old and new fans alike.
“What Women Do To Men,” written by lead guitarist Paul Livingston, flows with languid reflection, “Miracle” parts the skies of their darker days as lead vocalist Francis Reader glows as bright as ever, and “All The Dark Horses” shimmers like a thousand wind chimes, shining with warm optimism, just as lovely as John said it would be.
Trashcan Sinatras play in Denver Friday, October 15 at Lipgloss (La Rhumba) in Denver. Band goes on around 9pm with the diggin’ dance tunes after.