Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble has shared his new solo single as Almost Nothing, ‘Instant Love’. Check it out first on NME below, as Woomble also tells us about his new project, supporting The Walkmen, and what’s next for the Scottish cult rockers.
After launching his new “genre-fluid” electro-tinged project under his new moniker with the new single ‘Anything Whatever’, now Woomble has shared the elegiac but “positive” next taster of his next album with ‘Instant Love’.
“It’s not a song that defines the record but is a really good indication of what’s to come,” Woomble told NME. “It’s got bits and pieces of the music that will follow, and lyrically captures what I’m trying to do – which is inject positivity but weave sadness through it.
“We aim for positivity. I get pulled away or sidetracked sometimes by melancholy, even just in verses. Quite often, my work has these quite anthems and likely choruses, then the verses are quite introspective and melancholy – think about ‘American English’ or ‘Architecture in LA’ from my last solo record. On this record, ‘Instant Love’ is very much like that. It’s quite optimistic and has a positive feel, but in the verses, I’m talking about reality disintegrating and things like that. Lyrically I’m quite interested in that – aiming for something, but then on the way, you get trapped by another thought or feeling.”
Woomble continued: “Even the name Almost Nothing walks the line between positive and negative, as do the lyrics and the mood. When the record finishes, you feel like it was positive and wasn’t languishing anywhere in worry or sadness. It’s a record that makes you feel good.”
“It’s a strange weakness! I’m trying to keep it really quite basic but also quite memorable.”
To launch the new single, NME caught up with Woomble to talk over his new moniker, being friends with The Walkmen, ‘90s nostalgia, and a potential future for Idlewild.
Hello Roddy. What can you tell us about the decision to return as Almost Nothing rather than under your own name again?
Woomble: “Releasing music is all about daring to fail. I’ve never been interested in trying to do the same thing all the time. A lot of people know me as the singer in Idlewild, or even just for ‘100 Broken Windows’ or ‘The Remote Part’. I could assume that role forever and just make those kinds of records, which, each time I try becoming worse and more boring. Similarly, when I started making solo records, they were principally acoustic and folk. People liked that, and I could have just pursued that too. I’m more interested in trying things that might not work.
“In the lockdown of 2020, I was like everyone, just thinking, ‘What comes next?’ I started working with Andrew Wasylyk [one of four producers on the record] to come up with ideas remotely. That ended up being [previous 2021 SOLO LP] ‘Lo Soul’, which was put out under my own name, but I thought it should have been something different. I’ve always been interested in these bands of one person, like Cat Power, Bon Iver or even The Fall. It frees them up to try different things. I should have really done that with Lo Soul.
“It kind of got lost a wee bit because when people see my name, they think it’s either going to be Idlewild or acoustic, and it’s really no. ‘Lo Soul’ was lo-fi and electronic. There was a songwriting soul to it, but it was experimental in places. With ‘Almost Nothing’, it’s continuing in the same vein with basic beats, but I knew it was going to be something new.”
So you’re very much on a new slate here?
“When I approach something, I’m not bothered if it works or not. I’ve got no expectations if it’s something new. It’s like making a debut album where there’s no real expectation. I’ve made a lot of records, so people might try and compare it to a lot of other ones, but it doesn’t sound like I’m attempting something within my reach. This is minimal electronic music with my voice and my words.
“I’ve got the record in my hands, and it feels like a new band and a new project. It references my past, but at the same time, it is quite new.”
Did you surprise yourself with some of the more pop-leaning moments on this album, like ‘Returning Shadows’ and ‘Better You Belong’?
“I’ve always been good at coming up with minimal melodies over the years in different forms – whether it’s been punk rock, anthem rock, or something folkier. I’m good at coming up with melodies you remember and unlikely words to go along with them. When I approach anything musically, I never worry about it. That’s not the way I work. When I work with a more disciplined musician like Andrew Mitchell or [Idlewild guitarist] Rod Jones, they can take my idea and refine it a little bit.
“For ‘Better You Belong’, I was working with Scott Patterson. He’s excellent at coming up with beats and ideas. It came together very quickly then he worked on it a lot. I wasn’t worried by it being very catchy and infectious or the beat being something that you might hear on Radio 1. We were just making interesting music together.”
Will you be pulling some different moves on stage, then?
“This is what people are saying to me! That I should be considering adapting my stage persona, which is generally me shuffling around, looking at my feet, and then standing at the side when I’m not doing anything. I’m going to try something new for the tour.”
How are your dance moves?
“My dancing is terrible! Well, I’m good at ceilidh dancing. I’ve been reading a lot of books about this. When you go on stage, you become a different version of yourself. I’m an introverted person, and I don’t like attention, so it’s very strange that I’ve ended up on stage. Particularly now, I love the fact that I’ve got an alter-ego as Almost Nothing, so I could do something a bit more unlikely.
“For me, it’s a new creative project. For the next one, I love the idea of incorporating more words, journals, records, and possibly even more things. It started off as a writing project where I was going to make a series of short stories where almost nothing happened in them. I was originally a film student and used to write scripts. I considered making films where almost nothing happened and soundtracking them myself. These were pandemic thoughts when we were all sat looking and wondering where our lives were going to go.
“It feels like it could develop into something really interesting, depending on who I collaborate with.”
You’ve got some support shows coming up with The Walkmen. What can you tell us about your relationship with them?
“I’m very excited about this tour because The Walkmen and I go way back. I did my first ever Idlewild tour back in ’97 with Jonathan Fire*Eater, which is the band that became The Walkmen. I loved the band, and we became friends. I saw one of the earliest Walkmen shows at CBGBs in New York, and I’ve always loved that aesthetic – literary but basic rock’n’roll. What they do with that format of a rock band is just really interesting.
“They toured with Idlewild on ‘The Remote Part’ tour, and they even stored an upright piano at my flat in London. We’ve been friends for a long time. I sent them the record to listen to, and they just asked if I was playing any shows and wanted to support them. I’m really excited to see them play every night because I haven’t seen them for 15 years. They’re a truly magnificent rock band – one of the best of the last two decades, I think.
“This is not a normal support tour – The Walkmen are one of my favourite bands and friends. I’m really excited that they’re behind my new band and want me to do this. I’m just looking forward to playing under a different format and under a new name. Being able to do something fresh should not be taken for granted.”
It’s often said that Idlewild were an overlooked band. Have you felt that recently amidst the recent wave of ‘90s and Britpop nostalgia?
“I think we are one of the more overlooked bands of that era. Look at Muse, Coldplay, Snow Patrol – all of these bands around just after us and became hugely popular. We were always on the fringes and kind of a cult concern. That always suited us. We weren’t stadium material, and we didn’t play the game like we were expected to. We just weren’t ready for it, and it all passed us by. One thing is that the records are really good. Time is always the decider on how good a band is, really. Think of all the bands you listen to from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s that really weren’t that popular at the time, but their music has had a longevity. Idlewild made records that people will listen to for a long time.
“We never associated ourselves with Britpop at all – apart from Blur, who we all collectively loved, but they weren’t even a Britpop band. I saw Blur in ’92 supporting Dinosaur Jr and they seemed more like a punk band to me, like The Buzzcocks or The Jam. We were a bit anti-Britpop, almost. For us, it was all about American underground rock and that’s the kind of band that we emulated. I do appreciate now that it’s a culturally significant thing. Generation Z looks at it with the nostalgia that we did for the late ‘70s. There are infinite possibilities with music, so keep making them.”
It’s been four years since Idlewild’s last album ‘Interview Music’. Have you been thinking about the next one?
“I’m not saying other concerts are out of the question. The pandemic really de-railed the band. ‘Interview Music’ came out in 2019, the record and tour were well-received, and we were all set to go into 2020 and make a record. That just didn’t happen because of the lockdowns, with everyone living in different places with different lives.
“Since then, we’ve got back together to play some rescheduled anniversary shows, but we’ve not worked on new music together for years. I don’t know. Rod Jones runs a recording studio and management company for bands, so he’s Mr Business now. I’m not sure where his mind is creatively. At the same time, it’s such a lovely thing that we made together over the years that I don’t think we’d ever close the door on it.”
Almost Nothing is available to pre-order now and will be released digitally on Friday
September 6 before the CD and vinyl release follows on Friday, October 6 via Assai
The band will make their debut live shows supporting The Walkmen on their UK headline dates this summer. Check out the dates below and get tickets here.
August 21 – Glasgow, Galvanizers Yard SWG3
August 26 – Manchester, New Century Hall
August 27 – Bristol, SWX
August 29 – London, KOKO
August 30 – London, KOKO
August 31 – London, KOKO
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