Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Chris Devotion and the Expectations

The first time I saw the band name was while checking something else at Armellodie records. The first thought that came to my mind was ‘that’s vaguely like Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’. What are your thoughts on the importance of a band’s name?

“Well Oasis is an atrocious name but I love them, Nirvana isn’t even that great a name, but they were a great band (though their name did look good on a T-shirt), so I guess it’s not essential. However there is something painful about joke names, or wacky names, and there is something special about a band name that sounds cool (e.g. The Clash, The Who, The Magnetic Fields). As for us, out of all the names we thought of for the band, Chris Devotion and The Expectations was the only one that sounded like a rock and roll band so that’s why we went for that. As a side note Lloyd Cole and The Commotions is a great name for band (though not a band I have really listened to, an ex of mine was a big fan -despite her poor choice in men, she had good music taste, so I shall have to check them out)”

The next thing I did was listen to ‘Blister’. 3.27 later, I immediately shot off an email to request to send you some questions. It took one listen to know that this record was going to be one of my favourites of the New Year. Are there any releases by other Scottish artists you are looking forward to in 2012?

“Well, our labelmates Cuddly Shark are currently recording an album so hopefully that will be out at some point in 2012, their first album was really good. I have also heard that Gerry Love (of Teenage Fanclub fame) has been working on some solo stuff, so if that comes to fruition I’d love to hear that.”

The 2ndsong, I listened to was ‘Tell the Girl’. After that it became clear why my reaction was so visceral. Everyone that encounters your music will have a different frame of reference and signposts, but for me it was 1980 again – post-Clash inspired guitar bands. You remind me of one of the most influential bands of my youth – Blue Peter. I guess the vocal harmony in the song and overall guitar jangle resonates with me directly. Guitar band is, of course, a silly label. How would you describe the music you make and what has helped shape and inspire it?

“Guitar music is a start since we play guitars, I like short sharp hook filled songs, pretty much all of my favourite bands follow that template. Even the obscure bands I like (of which there is many) have catchy hooks and melodies, they may be buried under noise, or maybe not presented in a polished way, but it is always there, for me the big touch stones are 77 Punk, 60’s pop and soul, and 80’s underground and indie music. Probably the biggest specific influences are The Clash, Pixies, Springsteen and Dylan, but they are just four of many, it’s a constant process. I am influenced by any great record so it all gets filled away and filtered through everything else

For the most part they may be obvious influences, but that’s because they are so great, people are naturally going to draw from the best. Hopefully by putting them together via my own and the Expectations’ idiosyncrasies then we get something that sounds like us”

It was extremely kind of you to let me listen to the entire record. Listening to it repeatedly, it is clear that although the overall sound is suggestive of the past, it is still uniquely your own and as ‘modern’ as any new release. How was the album put together?

“That’s certainly what we were aiming for, as much as I love a lot of classic records, I have no interest in trying to just ape them, fetishising the past is a creative dead end, you take what you need and move on with it. I had said when we went into the studio that we were there to make a modern sounding record, there is no point pretending it wasn’t recorded in 2011. We recorded the album with Andy Miller at his Gargleblast studio (he has engineered a lot of the Mogwai albums as well as Life Without Buildings and De Rosa).

Me and Andy talked a lot about balance –the record was recorded in a modern studio on pro tools and that gave us all the options that go along with it, however we recorded a lot of it with the band playing as live, like bands would have in the 50’s 60’s so you still got the energy of the band playing together but instead of recording on to analogue tape it went on to a computer, and then we overdubbed and added and subtracted when we needed. I think the reason that a lot of modern records sound bad is that they rely on pro-tools or whatever to fix rather than enhance and then they iron out every last kink until you get a lifeless mess, Andy totally gets that and is all about making the best record he can”

I love how you’ve included 16 tracks. The last song ‘Better Than This” is conspicuously longer. Was there a particular reason for using this for the closer?

‘We actually went through a few different versions of the track listing but we settled on that as the last one as it put a nice capper on the record, after the 15 short and for the most part furious songs it gives the album a nice change of pace before it finishes, and although this wasn’t part of the decision it touches lyrically on a lot of the themes of the album so it works well as a final track.

Could you cite any Scottish bands you found inspirational? What would you say was your favourite Scot release of the last year?

“Well, the aforementioned Teenage Fanclub are one of my all time favourites, as are Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream, all of those guys have made at least one all time great rock and roll record. As for last year, I have to say Le Reno Amps (as they are the guys who run Armellodie, our label). If I don’t they will send some goons round to take my thumbs. They have been consistently releasing quality records for a few years and last years Appetite and the accompanying Construction mini album are no different”

I’ve been reading some band comparisons that others have made that make me both cringe and chuckle. If you could be compared to a cross of any 2 bands, who would they be?

‘Ha! Yeah, in my time I have had everything from pub-rock to hair metal thrown at me(though there has been some pretty spot on ones as well), my two favourite bands are The Clash and Pixies so if anyone wants to compare us to those two I’d be pretty happy.”

I predict a tremendous amount of success with this. I’m pretty sure I’ve got the first of my best of list for 2012. I noticed you are releasing a special‘faux-vinyl’ cd edition. I have to confess that feels me with a good deal of dismay. Is an actual vinyl release just not in the works? Perhaps later?

“Thanks, I hope you’re right about the success. The‘faux-vinyl’ CD’s are actually for the two singles we released which are only available at gigs and our website (each CD has two non album b-sides). I would absolutely love to release all our stuff on vinyl, however realistically we are on a small (but wonderful) label and the cost of manufacture for vinyl is too expensive, particularly when most of our sales so far have been downloads.

However the album does come in a smart wee digipack with artwork from a guy called Dave Turbitt (who is the illustrator for a graphic novel called Dougie’s War) -I think it is pretty smart (though obviously I would say that). I always oversee all the artwork and packaging, cause I love seeing cool covers and liner notes and all that stuff, luckily Dave is brilliant at what he does”

I imagine that a North American visit is not going to be in the cards next year. What plans do you have to tour the new record?

“Well we (unsurprisingly) have a few Scottish dates in Feb-we have our first London date as well in March. We are a pretty new band so I think we are a bit of an unknown quantity to a lot of people, hopefully people like the record and we can tour more as the year progresses, as for North America we would absolutely love to play there (and anywhere that would have us) but again- small label, DIY indie band etc, etc but you never know, two years ago I never thought I would have an album out and be talking to people all over the world about it and here we are.”

Of course, CD/EX really don’t sound like anyone else. My take is that band comparisons are thrown around way to lightly. But it did remind me of a time and place from my youth and Chris even took the trouble to search for the reference.

 “Thanks for your kind words and your interest, I checked out that band, could only find some of their later stuff, (I still quite enjoyed it though, reminded me of a UK one hit wonder from the 80’s -Brilliant Mind by Furniture, anyway I’ll keep an eye out for their early stuff)”

Here is the definitive link to Blue Peter

– I maintain that ‘Radio Silence’ earns a spot in my best of all time top 10 and that ‘Almagamation and Capital’ will certainly rank as one of the best of this year.