Interview: A Band Called Quinn

Scotland's Best Kept Secret: A Band Called Quinn are causing ripples

By Sarah Hayhurst

Sitting in Stereo – Glasgow’s vegetarian bar come venue – chatting to Louise Quinn, I feel I’m here for a catch up with a friend over lunch, not an interview. This only reinforces the fact she is becoming known as one of the most genuine people within the music industry right now.

Louise Quinn is the front woman of Glaswegian indie/ electronica band A Band Called Quinn, alongside drummer/producer Ball Cooke, trumpet/ keyboard Robert Henderson, bassist Steven Westwater, Will Maxwell standing in and guitarist Adam Wyroslawski.

They have released five albums; ‘Inbetween Worlds’ (2001), ‘Luss’ (2006), And Ever Again (2007), ‘Sun, Moon, Stars’ (2009) and “The Beggars Opera” (2010). Throughout their career they have received raving reviews, with Madonna amongst their fans but still they haven’t broken into the mainstream.

Can you give me 3 words to describe your sound?

Beautiful, chaotic and abstract, no probably more structured than abstract but that’ll do.

Can you name me three influences for your music?

Probably Blondie, Bowie and Lou Reid.

You just played Aberfeldy Festival, alongside other great Scottish bands such as Admiral Fallow, how did that go for you?

It was great, it was really nice to see Ian Rankin again who asked us to play the gig, and he’s a big champion of Scottish Bands. The actual night was amazing, the audience were amazing, and the town was amazing.

Quite often I get a bit too excited when I perform and I end up shredding my voice half way through the gig so I was really glad my voice held out.

It was our first time playing with Will Maxwell, the bass player and it was his first gig so that was absolutely brilliant.

Unfortunately Robert who usually plays trumpet and keyboard with us, he was away touring Europe with Aiden Moffat and Bill Wells.

Supposedly you got to stay at Ian Rankin’s house, is that true?

No, it wasn’t Ian Rankin’s house it was Craig from Star Wheel Press’ house. Ian Rankin was supposed to be staying the night as well as Admiral Fallow and ourselves but Ian’s family came up so they stayed at a hotel as there wasn’t enough room.

You knew Ian Rankin from before, he wrote your album sleeve for “The Beggars Opera”, and how did that come about?

Just through twitter, people were like “Ian Rankin’s really into your album ‘Sun, Moon, Stars’.” Some people had been to a writing workshop Ian was hosting and has asked what he was listening to and he said our album. Because he liked the album he came to see The Beggars Opera and he really liked the show so we met up with him and he was dead down to Earth. We thought we’d ask him and he said yes to writing the sleeve notes, so we were just totally delighted.

The songs for the album were written for the play of the same name, produced by Vanishing Point, which the band were featured in.

Was it planned for the band to be so heavily involved?

Matt Lenton who directed it came to see us play Club Tromolo which was a cabaret night we used to put on at Buff Club, this time it was at The Classic Grand and it was just the usual chaos with badgers playing jazz and psychic burlesque performers, when we played our set everybody was just jumping around and I think he just loved the chaos of it, and he just said that’s the band I want for the show.

He took a big gamble because our bass player then hadn’t even been to the theatre before, and then he was going to be on stage for the whole play. The show was devised but I had written a lot of the songs beforehand, just writing from the script. It ended up that the songs I had written all fitted in, so yeah it was good.

Did you ever set out to create your own record label, Tromolo, or was it just a natural step for you?

We actually set it up for the album ‘Luss’ which was produced by French producer Kid Loco.

We shopped it around labels and had meetings down in London, a lot of people said they

loved it but nobody was offering us anything. We met up with Ronnie Gurr from the Cultural Enterprise Office and he just said set your own label up so Cultural Enterprise Office helped us go through that process. It’s so easy now anybody can set up a label.

The album “Red Light means Go”, is it still set for release?

Yeah, already 2 of the tracks have been on Lip Service on BBC 3 last year and Ghosts from Wars has been on a compilation that was distributed around Glastonbury and all the big festivals, people keep on getting in touch with us who are making films and who’ve heard it out there so I think we probably will. There’s a chance we could be doing another theatre show at the start of next year so that would probably take up all our time so it might not come out till later on next year.

Do you have any gigs, tours, or theatre work lined up?

There’s the 15th December in George Square, we should be on around 8 o’clock as part of the Glasgow Loves Christmas nights. There’s going to be loads of great bands playing like, 17th Century, Bear Bones and GoGoBot every Thursday night every week of December.

Wolf Cries Boy the video was nominated for the BBC Music Videos and Bornshorts, how did you feel about that?

Yeah and it also got its first broadcast on NBC LA after Saturday Night Live which was absolutely amazing, it cost less than £400 to make so we’re really, really delighted.

Where would be your dream place to play?

Oh Benicassim I think, it sounds like a great festival or The Moon, we do have a song called Astronauts.

Do you deal with the business side of the music yourselves or do you have any management for that?

No we deal with that all ourselves. We have had management in the past and it was just quite frustrating because they managed a lot of successful acts and it’s just that old sort of story of being at the bottom of the pile.

Did you even set out to be in a band/ fronting one?

I think I definitely did, I remember when I was about five I remember praying; I used to pray that I would have two things in my life: one was that I’d front a band and two was that I’d have a cuddly cat. I’ve got both of those things so I’m happy.

Do you think it’s harder to be a female lead in a band, and is it harder to gain recognition?

Yeah definitely, it is so hard, especially at the moment there is not really successful, big female fronted bands. I suppose there is the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs; Karen O is an amazing front woman and great example. Sometimes feel like I am quite strained because I’m fronting a band but it’s really good fun.

Do you have any advice for bands who are trying to get bigger the music industry?

Just focus on the music and just play, and make good contacts with other bands and stay positive and forget about the industry. There is way of monetising if you do persevere. I would just say it’s all about the music.

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