Towersey Festival over the August Bank Holiday weekend has become a fixture in the calendar for its laid back, feel-good family atmosphere. What better way to see out the summer than in a field of friendly folk listening to feel-good folk? And who better to kick off proceedings on the Friday night than the Proclaimers? Personally, I know I’ll be singing myself hoarse, and after speaking with Charlie Reid, it’s good to know that I won’t be the only one...
What can we expect from The Proclaimers at Towersey?
It will be great to see everyone at Towersey. We keep the show upbeat, particularly at a festival. There are a few ballads in there, but we try and keep people on their toes during the entire show. The big majority of the shows we tour now are theatre shows or concert halls, so I really like doing the festivals as obviously the dynamic changes. People don’t necessarily come to see us, so you have to up your game a little bit more.
Do you ever get tempted to stay on and see any of the other acts?
We tend to stay on a little while if we can. It depends where you are on the bill if you get to stay on at the site.
I suppose you can’t wander around a festival with your brother…
You can, but it means that you spend a lot of time having selfies taken with people. I tend to watch other acts from the side of the stage which is probably easier to do rather than right out front in the audience.
Thinking about your music, there’s an anthemic quality that runs through a lot of your better-known songs. Is that in your minds when you’re composing?
You don’t sit down and try to write one of those songs, I think it comes from the public’s reaction, whether they adopt it as an anthem or not. I think, to be honest, with us it comes through the vocals, the singing. So if people identify with the lyrics and they know the tune it goes into the public domain doesn't it?
I’ve seen your music described as punk, rock, gospel, country, folk. How do you position yourselves?
I think what we do its primarily vocal: it’s singing. It’s obviously inspired by all those types of music – and more – and by what we listen to. I mean, continuously, right throughout time. Keep trying to listen to different kinds of music, not just all new music – new music is great – but music that you haven’t explored before…I think it’s important to open your ears.
With that in mind can I ask what you’re listening to at the moment?
Everything; old country records, 60s pop, Eastern European, vocal music, Jewish music, traditional Scottish music, and everything in between. I think that’s the point: I think you have to try and tune in when something’s on. Pick up something from it, particularly vocally; the records Craig and I make are based on the lyrics.
Talking about the vocals, one thing I think everyone knows the Proclaimers for is that you sing with your speaking accents. Did that happen naturally?
There wasn’t a thing of trying hard, but just relaxing and singing songs like you would a folk song or a school hymn. You wouldn’t try and put on an American accent or sound like Johnny Rotten.
At the time [when the Proclaimers first entered the charts] the only guy I can remember who sang in his accent was Ian Dury. Thankfully that’s not so much the case now and that’s what I like to hear.
Do you and Craig ever have artistic differences and are you able to contain them? And, the flip side, do you ever have sibling related grudges that you have to put to one side to work together?
I think you can’t do what we do, specifically with touring, without being able to get on with each other. That doesn't just mean Craig and I, it means everybody else in the van. There’s been a couple of incidents over the years where it was difficult, so people made way for other people, if you know what I mean. But we’re twins; we shared the same bedroom, we were in the same class at school, when we were younger we always had the same friends, so you know we’re together all the time. I suppose there’s always differences and there’s always…I wouldn't say rivalry, but disagreements. You get that within a family. I think the desire to carry on doing what we doing far outweighs any differences that we have.
Your popularity has sustained over such a significant amount of time, is there anyone that you’re looking at today and thinking they’ll be around for a while?
The thing with the Proclaimers is, we are always coming to a town near you – that’s really the vibe. We make an album and then we tour it for a couple of years. In regards of acts today, I suppose there are in all types of people who have legs, who seem to have the ability to write good songs regularly, but it isn’t just down to that. I mean, the most obvious example at the moment would be Springsteen: to walk on stage and to do three hours of your own material and still want to do it is amazing. I would say people like Craig and I were always just about writing songs and delivering them in our own way – truthfully – and trying to keep going till the next show. I certainly think that the desire to keep going is the number one thing: one, writing new albums, and two, performing them.
If you do that, and you've got sufficient talent, then you'll carry on. I think sometimes it’s hard to keep a band together – that’s one of the main things. Certainly with traditional bands ‘John Paul George and Ringo’ type bands – it’s hard to hold them together. With Craig and I because we’re twins and because of the desire to carry on is still as strong as it ever was it’s less difficult than it would be to keep four or five guys together.
What do you find to be the biggest misconception about the Proclaimers?
I don’t know. I remember a country music performer called Waylon Jennings in a rare moment of deep thought said something along the lines of ‘when you are in the public eye what people say you are is pretty much what you are’. So, I think, roughly, if you look at the way that the public take us, I don’t think there’s much in the way of misconception, to be honest. And if there are misconceptions, they’re not ones that I worry about.
So, you present yourselves as you are.
What people see in you…people who actually take a look at what you are, whether they are pro or anti, a lot of what they see is what you are. We know what we are, we don’t worry too much about whether people like or don’t like us. When one is younger, one is more concerned about what people think. We know we approach what we do honestly and truthfully, so people take from it what they do.
We're a bit old to be insecure.
Finally, I’ve heard your most recent album, Dentures Out, described as an ‘anti-nostalgia’ record so I wanted to ask; what are your hopes for the future?
The hope personally for the band would be to carry on as long as we’re fit enough and well enough to do it. As regards the future, the number one thing is trying to avoid a nuclear war. At the moment, I think that’s a real possibility. Number two would be the overall condition of the planet: to try and dial down the rhetoric and aggression which is coming from several sources, to try and have a sustainable planet. I’m now a grandfather, so you naturally think ahead and wonder what the hell is going to happen in my sons’ and my granddaughters’ generations when I’ll be long gone. Try to leave a sustainable world, try to leave a world in which people don’t rush to war as quickly as they do now.
The Proclaimers will be joining other headliners including Thea Gilmore, The Divine Comedy, Frank Turner Duo and Leveret at Towersey Festival 25-28 August at the Claydon Estate, Bucks. towerseyfestival.com.
Their latest album, Dentures Out, is out now. For more information on this and general news and tour dates visit the.proclaimers.co.uk