In the five years since we last heard a full album from Trashcan Sinatras, things have been looking up. After more than two decades in the business the guys behind the 1990's GO! Discs albums Cake, I've Seen Everything, A Happy Pocket and 2004's Weightlifting have decided to throw caution to the wind and get happy. The result - new album 'In The Music' is released on Lo-Five Records on 14 September 2009.
"It's five years since Weightlifting came out, we toured it for two years, then we started coming back down to earth. Mostly we've been just writing and playing." says vocalist and rhythm guitarist John Douglas. The band has discovered that they're not for the treadmill approach, or being tied to a label and a deal that demands an album every two years.
Those songs - full of relaxed harmonies, typical Trashcans - were set to arrangements in a back room in the South Side of Glasgow over the summer of 2007, and recorded in New York over a crisp, cold winter in 2007 / 8. At the heart is a studio process that's new for the boys - of relying on instinct, and leaving the received structure of songwriting and recording behind. Joined by occasional bassist Grant Wilson, in Davy Hughes' "family duties" absence, two extra members were drafted in for the album - Stevie Mulhearn and Jody Stoddart, both old friends, and both pulled in for their musical magic. A trip to New York was probably enough to entice them!
"The idea to record in New York came up, and it was brilliant. We love that town. The first time we went there we played CBGBs and it was fantastic. That would have been around 1990, when we were just wee boys. We hadn't really toured in Scotland, just a few shows, and the record got played in the States so we went there.", says Douglas.
Someone must have been smiling on 'In the Music'. As an added, and somewhat unexpected sparkle, the band bagged 70s singer - songwriting legend Carly Simon to sing on 'Should I Pray'. "It was sheer chance. Producer Andy Chase's parents live up in Martha's Vineyard, and we went up there when we'd finished in New York just to record a few more tracks. Carly lives there, James Taylor has a place there too - it's a kind of musical hippy vibe. Andy mentioned that he knew her and I said, I love Carly Simon, for me she's just amazing, an incredible songwriter with such a beautiful, distinctive voice,an icon."
With Simon's powerful vocals already in the mix, another feminine element comes from Ali Smith - the poet whose words in Half an Apple had already been put to music for the band's contribution to Chemikal Underground's 2007 album, Ballads of the Book, a co-operation between Scottish writers and musicians. The pairing of poetry and the Trashcans' sympathetic arrangements was so successful that Douglas took another of the poet's pieces for In the Music; it became the eponymous title track.
"I guess with Carly, Ali and with an Eddi Reader co-write plus fellow writers' Paul Livingston and Frank Reader in long term relationships with new partners, there is a bit of a feminine addition to this record," he smiles. Guitarist Paul Livingston married in 2007, singer Frank in 2008, both guys now living happily in LA; with John raising children and touring with partner Eddi Reader (Frank's sister) and drummer Stephen busy doing charity work in Glasgow, the guys have moved into that late 30s-early 40s realm of being happy with their lot. It comes across in this very relaxed "loving" album.
"When we play music together, it just seems special," admits John Douglas. "None of us can leave this behind us for any period of time. With this album we gave ourselves space to be creative, and to have faith in what we were doing - and it's totally satisfying." He grins. Eddi has just popped in to say she's off to Asda store, so it's time to go. "You know, there's no worries any more."