Friday 4 February 2011

K&A with Come On Gang!

For the last three years, Come On Gang! have been one of the shining lights in the Edinburgh music scene.  But, as you'll no doubt already know, the 3-piece have decided to call it a day next week... after one final hurrah that is.  Well, two really.  They'll release their debut album Strike A Match on February 12th, the same night as they bid us farewell with their final gig at Pilrig St. Paul's on Leith Walk.  I've had the album on repeat for the last week or so, and as swansongs go, this one is pretty spectacular!   There'll be a proper review in due course, but for now, just trust me, it's a belter.  They will be sorely missed! 

Anyway, here's Sarah and Mikey to talk you through the life of Come On Gang!  Hankies at the ready...

Kowalskiy:  Who are Come on Gang!?
Sarah: Well, we were a bunch of chancers from various different towns over the UK and Ireland, who congregated in Edinburgh, played a lot of gigs, made an album, and left it on a high note.
Mikey: That is pretty much it actually.

Kowalskiy:  How did you all get together, and what’s the story behind the name?
Sarah: We met when I put up a sign at the Art College in Edinburgh looking for musicians. Trev, the bassist, gave me a call, as he was also looking for musicians to jam with. We'd both only just moved to Edinburgh. We met up a few days later at a rehearsal studio. It sounds mad, but things were fairly cemented from there. The fickle hand of fate! We met Mikey soon after. After a couple of years, Trev, who's Irish, felt the keening sound of his homeland calling him back, so we got Rob in to play instead. The name came from a complete lack of agreement over what to call this band we'd created. Mikey said, 'Come on gang, let's go and get come coffee and think about it later' and I thought that sounded a bit catchy, so it stayed.
Mikey: They went through literally dozens of guitarist auditions before they found me. Even though I wasn’t new to the city, I definitely saw a similarity in the 3 of us as we all knew we wanted to play great music, but we had very little (or no) knowledge of how a band works. Six months later we all felt like old pros! Bands, like chefs, have always had a bit of pirate look about them to me. We’d cemented together so quickly that we soon were a wee gang of our own, so the name stuck.

Kowalskiy:  Let's cut to the chase... after the release of your debut album Strike A Match, you'll be calling it all day. How would you describe your album? Is it true it’s something of a health risk for motorists?
Sarah: Yes, we advise you not to drive or operate heavy machinery whilst listening to this album. No, in fact being on the road is a major source of inspiration for some of the lyrics. I'd describe the album as the summary of everything we worked for and believed in over the life of the band. We always wanted to make a pop record, to make music fairly free of any genre or style restrictions - we just wanted to have fun and encourage everyone who was listening to have fun too. It's big on rhythm, tunefulness, chirpy guitar... I'm proud of it!
Mikey: Two or three people have indeed crashed their car whilst listening to our first single, that’s a true story. However the rest of the album isn’t tarnished with that particular curse. I agree with Sarah. It’s the perfect summary of the band and everything we have done. We’ve never really cared about genres and always focussed on good tunes, so inevitably it falls under the three letters of ‘pop’. I think it has quite a timeless sound and Paul really brought the most out of each part of each song. Though parts of it might surprise some ‘fans’, I would hopefully say that if you liked our shows, you’ll certainly like the album.

Kowalskiy:  So, are you happy to tell us why the band have decided to go their separate ways after all those happy years together?
Sarah: Well, we just felt we'd achieved most of the things we wanted to achieve in Come On Gang!. It felt like the right time to lay it to rest, with the album as a great way to finish.
Mikey: Absolutely. We’ve cut our teeth and earned our stripes in this band, had a ridiculously fun few years, and now it’s time to start something else. The album really is us in a nutshell, so there’s no need to make a second.

Kowalskiy:  Your album launch night will be your last time performing together. What is a typical Come On Gang! gig like? Do you have anything special in store for the final gig?
Sarah: A typical gig - how can you describe that? We've played everything from a packed arena to an empty pub in Perth. From a personal point of view, I always get really nervous, always worry that my mind will go blank, but it rarely does. I always have a great time because playing music live is just the best thing ever. The final COG! gig will be great because the album will be for sale, and it'll have a sense of finality, I guess, so it will be one of a kind. It's not every day a band plays their last gig - and when we do, I hope people who've cared about the band will be there to witness it.
Mikey: Our gigs has always been the most enjoyable part of being in the band. We’ve played quite a diverse range of gigs, but a typical one always makes me sweat a lot. I guess live we take our nice little songs and give them more balls, probably reverting back a little bit to the punkier stuff of when we first formed. The final show will be fantastic though. We have one or two things up our sleeve and perhaps even a couple of ‘new’ songs. We really can’t wait to send the band off!

Kowalskiy:  Do you anticipate any tears? And if so, who's most likely to bubble?
Sarah: Mikey'll cry, he's always crying. He cries about twice a day. When he runs out of toothpaste, when he misses the bus.. anything. So after this gig, you'll probably have to swim to the exit.
Mikey: Almost certainly me.

Kowalskiy:  What's been your highlights of being in the band?
Sarah: Going to America twice - Texas and Washington. Meeting all the people we've met. The thrill of some of the gigs we've played, getting good reactions and stuff. Recording the album with Paul Savage who was a real gent. Arriving in new cities. Playing festivals. It has been loads of fun.
Mikey: Like above, the new experiences are always so exciting. I never would’ve went to Washington DC in my entire life otherwise! Apart from working with Paul though, the highlight for me has really been just gaining that wee bit of success with the songs we wrote. We knew pop music wasn’t cool and we didn’t fit into anybody else’s gang, but no one ever really had a bad word to say about us; so it was a pleasure to know that we hopefully managed to maintain some credibility whilst unashamedly having a great time. Maybe it even rubbed off on other people?

Kowalskiy:  Any low points, regrets, or things you wish you'd done differently?
Sarah: That's a tough one, because hindsight is always 20:20, isn't it? It would have been good to tour more, for example, but being low on cash pretty much constantly, we were variously students, or 9-5ers, it was difficult at times. Being in a band is really expensive. But I've learnt a lot, and I grew up with this band to an extent. There'd be no point desiring to change things, because it was an organic process, and we all learnt loads of things. About life, about music, about ourselves. At this point, poignant music has started playing and the credits are rolling.
Mikey: Sarah’s right. I grew up a lot in this band too, and made loads of great friends through it, so it would be naive to wish to change anything without changing any of the consequences. There were very few lows as the 3 of us had all agreed at the start that the absolute priority was to have a good time. The only lows we had were when we took our eyes off of why we were doing it all. I wouldn’t recommend anyone be in a band for any other reason than the enjoyment of music.

Kowalskiy:  Can we expect a Take That style comeback in 10 years time?
Sarah: When we're all wearing 'mature but funky' knitwear? Mikey's got designer stubble, we're looking weathered but not without a semblance of our former beauty? Definitely! Just make sure there are no blue m&ms in the bowl please.
Mikey: Ten years? I was hoping to play the next Away Game. Fuck. Aye, once the alcoholism kicks in and our talents become shadows of their former selves, we’d happily shuffle back on stage for the right money. Might even convince Trev to fly over from Ireland for the occasion. Seriously though, we’re available for weddings, bar mitzvahs….

Kowalskiy:  What are each of your plans for afterwards? Do you all plan to stay in music?
Sarah: Hell yes. I'm already quite busy sorting out the next step, but I'll let you know about that in the future.
Mikey: It’s not something you can switch off too easily. Same goes, already quietly working on the next step and looking forward to where it may go. For now though, seeing off Come On Gang! Is the main thing.

Kowalskiy:  Lastly, looking back over your time together, how would you sum it all up?
Sarah: ... oh god. Big question! It was a rarefied few years. It was great.
Mikey: Wow! Easily the best 3 years of my life. Nothing compares to meeting people in the street on the other side of the world who know the words to your songs better than you do. I would do it all again tomorrow if I could; being able to write and play music, and share amazing experiences with two of your best mates is not something I really expected to ever happen to me. It’s like the best drug in the world!

Kowalskiy:  Any famous last words?
Sarah: Famous last words? Listen to the album, whether the words in that achieve the realm of fame remains to be seen!
Mikey: Listen to the album. How it starts, where it goes, and how it ends are all you really need to know about Come On Gang! It’s been an absolute pleasure, thank you.

The pleasure has been all ours.  Thanks folks and all the very best for the future!

Come On Gang!'s final gig will be on 12th February in Pilrig St. Paul's church on Leith Walk, Edinburgh with support from Over The Wall and Cancel The Astronauts, plus some special guests.  The occasion aside, that line-up would make for a pretty special gig.  Tickets can be bought from We Got Tickets and Avalanche Records.

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