The Zutons: ‘You can only not get on or hate each for so long and then you start loving each other again’

Liverpool band The Zutons have reformed and are about to hit the road. Lead singer Dave McCabe spoke to Duncan Seaman.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 28th March 2019, 8:00 am
The Zutons
The Zutons

As his band The Zutons prepare to reassemble for their first UK tour in nine years, lead singer and songwriter Dave McCabe is nothing if not plain spoken about the reasons for their initial demise and why they’ve now regrouped.

“I always missed them, not as people, just musically,” the 38-year-old Liverpudlian says of his bandmates, not trying to cover over past differences. “I’ve never really missed them personally, but you can only hate each other for so long before you start to like each other again.”

Initially The Zutons reconvened for a gig in memory of Kristian Ealey, a long-time friend of McCabe’s from their days in the band Tramp Attack. That supposed one-off three years ago led to further discussions between band members about the possibility of working together again on a longer-term basis.

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“It’s nice to do some big shows,” McCabe says. “Playing in a band when you’re a kid, you don’t really get that back with anyone else, you don’t get that mischievous feeling, or it’s not even that mischievous, it’s just that growing up together feeling. I think 90 per cent of people feel that way.

“I’ve got a load of new songs and they’re Zutons’ songs, they’re not something else. I mean they don’t just sound like The Zutons, but I put all this work into it and I want to carry on doing it.”

McCabe’s lone solo album, Church of Miami, from 2015, suggested he was moving in a more electronic direction than The Zutons’ bluesy guitars and saxophone-based sound of old. He has an open mind about where the band might head next musically.

“There will be keyboards on this stuff but I’m not too sure until it’s done. It might just be me singing, I don’t know. It might just be an a capella album.

“I missed singing. One thing I have noticed at rehearsals is the singing in this band. We’ve practised so much together and done so many gigs, you can’t replace that, really. As soon as we started playing within an hour or so we were back to it. It’s good. Is it muscle memory, what they call it? That kicks in, and just the general vibrant feeling of playing together is good.”

The only member missing from this tour will be bass player Russell Pritchard, due to his commitments with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. McCabe sounds philosophical. “It’s fair enough,” he says, adding the door may be open for Pritchard to be involved if and when they make another album. “Maybe,” he says. “I’m not too sure yet.”

On their UK tour the band will perform their first album, Who Killed The Zutons?, in full. “And then we’re going to be going off,” says McCabe, “then coming back on and doing another set of other things, all different things, really – new stuff, second album, a bit of the third. I don’t even know, we might even do some covers. It’s like two halves.”

McCabe says it felt “good” going back to their early material. “I forgot how loud they were, and how full-on they are. Compared to the album, the live thing’s different, it’s a lot more heavy and I’d forgotten about that, to be honest. I forgot how high I used to sing. I had to go and see a vocal coach in the other day because I had to learn how to sing again, basically, for these shows.”

The songs they play live will be true to their original arrangements. “We’re not going to be playing synth lines, keyboard bits. We’ve got a keyboard player but he’s doing percussion and singing. There was always a bit of piano and strings on that album anyway, so we’re just going to play them the way we used to. They will sound more like the record, I think.”

Back at the turn of the Millennium, when The Zutons formed, Liverpool’s music scene was particularly vibrant, with the likes of The Coral, Edgar Jones and The Stands all vying for recognition. Was there camaraderie or competition? “Of course there was,” says McCabe. “I hated most of the other bands, I still do, to be honest, I’m not going to mention no names. They still seem to be going.

“I think every band’s like that on the surface. I haven’t really thought about it since, to be honest. I don’t hate anyone in Liverpool particularly. The ones I hated were in The Zutons, they were all the ones I didn’t get on with, that’s why it stopped for a while, but you can only not get on or hate each for so long and then you start loving each other again, don’t you? We’re all back in the big bed, if you know what I mean.”

Who Killed The Zutons? spent 36 weeks on the charts, gaining a second wind after it was nominated for the Mercury Prize, a couple of songs were used in adverts and the band were also in the running for a Brit Award. McCabe acknowledges word of mouth may have been a significant factor. “A lot more people bought records then as well,” he says. “I think the downloading thing was just starting out, really. I don’t know how it works now but we played live so much.

“Alan Wills, who ran Deltasonic [the band’s then label], he put a lot of time and effort and money into us. I feel sorry for bands now because there must be a lot of bands who don’t get those opportunities. We built it up by supporting other bands, so when people would come and see you they’d come the next time and bring their mates and it just had a snowball effect.

“I don’t know if it was a lot more positive. There’s still great bands going now but everything’s dying, the money is just getting sucked out of everything, more and more so. I feel sorry for young bands, to be honest.”

The Zutons play at O2 Academy Leeds on Thursday April 4.