We had a chat with Stewart from Scottish pop masters Prides about recording their debut album in a flat in Glasgow, opening the main stage at T In The Park and having problems with band members’ bladders…
How would you describe your music for people who don’t know you?
I guess that the most generic answer would be ‘synth-pop’ – that’s a label that gets bandied about quite a lot. For us, we’re just a three-piece pop band. We try to write big, honest and anthemic tunes that people can dance to.
You’re releasing your debut album The Way Back Up on July 10th – was it easy to write and record?
It’s not been too difficult, really. We’ve been working on it for a while – the oldest tune is about two years old, and the newest one is only about two months old, so it’s been quite a while in the making. We write and record at our drummer/producer Lewis’s flat in Glasgow, so it was mostly us just going round there, drinking a lot of coffee and shouting at eachother, and usually a song would come out at the end of it!
Does the album have any general themes?
Musically, we’ve tried to push ourselves as much as we can. Lyrically, it’s the story of my life, loves and losses in the last two years. I try to write honestly and from personal experience, so it’s basically just a chronological telling of my heartache.
What’s your favourite song from the album?
It changes all the time, especially now that we’re starting to learn some of the new songs for the live shows. I think at the moment, it’s probably The Way Back Up. It’s the title track from the album, and it’s definitely one of my favourites. It’s just a fun song to play, and it’s the most positive song on the album, lyrically speaking. That’s why I wanted it to be the title track. It’s a big old uplifting tune with general good vibes, and I really like it.
You’re also playing a load of festivals throughout the summer – what’s the best thing about playing festival sets?
It’s definitely the atmosphere that comes with the crowds at festivals. Everybody is there to have a good time, and everybody’s just in it together. It’s always a really engaging and pleasant experience. It’s so much fun to go out on festival stages and see everybody having a good time and going for it during the songs. It’s excellent fun!
Do you prefer playing festivals or your own headline shows?
It’s definitely nice to have a mix of the two, and it’s really difficult to choose between them. I would always have said festivals, purely because it’s always such a good atmosphere. Now that people have started to hear about us and learn the songs, though, I’m going to say headline shows. It’s always a real moment for us when we go out and play live shows, and we all love touring. You also get to take all the lights and stuff out with you, too, which is excellent.
Which festivals are you particularly excited about?
This will be our first year at Glastonbury, and because it’s such a big festival it’s probably the one we’re most nervous about. The big highlight of this summer for us is going to be T In The Park, though. It’s our home festival, and we’re opening the main stage at the new festival site – it’s going to be insane! It’s also the day that our album comes out, so it’s basically the best album launch party we could’ve hoped for…
You’re playing at Barn On The Farm festival again this year – are you looking forward to it?
I’d heard a lot about it before we even played it, to be honest! We played it last year for the first time, but I’d heard about it from friends in bands who’d gone down and played it, and they’d all said how much they loved it. We were really looking forward to playing it last year, and it was fantastic. We really enjoyed playing there last year, and we can’t wait to head back again this year!
Can you talk us through your usual songwriting process?
There’s no set pattern to it, to be honest. Sometimes one of us will have an idea, or one of us will have put some chords together… A song can come from anywhere. We then all just get together and start working through it, and just make sure that the three of us are happy. I’ll then sit at the piano, strip it right back to the chords and just work on the lyrics and melody until we have a finished song.
How important are your songs’ lyrics to you?
They’re massively important to me. One of the big things when I started working on Prides is that I wanted it to be a more honest telling of the things that have happened to me. I listened to a lot of Frightened Rabbit and being amazed by the lyrics – I remember listening to one of their albums and realising that I could relate to every single song. I just felt like I could understand exactly what he was saying on every song. For me, that was a big inspiration. If you want to be a good lyricist then you have to put yourself out there emotionally, and just write honestly about the things you’re going through. I know that a few people might not be too happy that they’ve had songs written about them, but that’s just part of the job.
Out of every song you’ve ever written, which is your favourite?
It changes, especially with playing live. There are ones on the album like Little Danger, which we always have the best time playing live, or Just Say It… The one I’m most proud of would be the album’s closing track, which is called The Kite String & The Anchor Rope. It’s a bit of a departure, and something that’s very different to our usual stuff. It’s just vocals and piano. When we wrote it, we just weren’t sure where it would fit on the album, but everybody fell in love with it. That’s probably my favourite.
Out of every song ever recorded, which do you wish you’d written?
I’ve actually got a Spotify playlist called ‘Songs I Wish I’d Written’! One of them is A Song For You by Donny Hathaway. It was originally written by Leon Russell, but it’s just the most soaringly beautiful piano ballad that you could ever imagine. X Factor by Lauryn Hill is also on there! I remember that Lauryn Hill really got me into soul and R&B music – I put that album on and loved it, and that was when I was a real pop-punk and emo kid!
What made you want to start making music?
I grew up in a very musical household. My Dad was always playing music, and I just grew up surrounded by it. I started playing the piano at a young age, but I only really did it to stop my Mum having a go at me! It was only really when I went to school and started listening to Blink 182 that I realised I wanted to be in a band. From there, it was just a case of roping in a couple of friends, getting them to buy some instruments and telling everybody that we were now a band. I guess that it all really stems from there.
Who’s your ultimate musical icon?
Peter Gabriel is up there for me. I saw him recently in Liverpool, and it was an amazingly ridiculous experience. His album So has definitely informed a lot of my songwriting, especially with how he experimented with how a pop song should be formulated. He showed that pop songs can have a really catchy tune but still have a deep meaning. That’s probably my most listened to album of all time, and I think that he’s incredible.
You guys spend a lot of time together on the road, but which band member has the most annoying habit?
We’re not terrible for bad habits, to be honest! Lewis has the smallest bladder of anybody I’ve ever met in my life, which can be quite frustrating when you always need to stop the van to have a pee… We generally do get on really well, and there are very few bust-ups, but if there is one then it’s probably Callum getting annoyed at one of us. He has quite a short temper, so you have to watch what you say when he’s in a bad mood!
Describe yourself in three words?
Emotional, heartbreaker, modest.
See Prides at Barn on the Farm festival on Saturday July 4th. Their debut album The Way Back Up is released on July 10th.