Indie band James are back on form - just don’t moan if you don’t hear Sit Down at Norwich gig

Music feat pix 21/4/16

Music feat pix 21/4/16 - Credit: Archant

Its three decades since James first arrived on the indie music scene. Ahead of next month's gig at Norwich's UEA, guitarist Saul Davies told DAVID POWLES the secrets to keeping the magic alive.

Music feat pix 21/4/16

Music feat pix 21/4/16 - Credit: Archant

It is fair to say the interview has got off to a ropey start.

Although most chats with musicians normally take several attempts to get going as they invariably fail to pick up the phone at the agreed time, on this occasion James guitarist and violinist Saul Davies answers straight away.

But he's already deep in heated discussions on the other end of the line - and it doesn't sound like a particularly friendly chat.

'We're lost,' he eventually tells me, before resuming his debate with what turns out to be a Manchester taxi driver unsuccessfully attempting to get the band to rehearsals on time.

'I hope it's not a metaphor for the band?' I ask once the minor drama is over, in the way that all journalists do when looking for a decent line, a tactic which after 30 years in the business this band must be all too aware of.

And over the course of the next 20 minutes the likeable and chatty northerner makes it all too clear the band is anything but lost as he spells out exactly what it is that still strives them on to release new albums and take the band out on tour.

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He said: 'We just enjoy all of it. We love going into the studio, everyone coming together again and seeing where it goes and we love the touring.

'The travelling can be a pain, but that's it, everything else is great. What is there not to love?'

The band, who have 20 top 40 singles in their armoury, released their 14th studio album, Girl At The End of The World, in March to critical acclaim.

It's not a massive departure from the James so many know and love, but Davies himself admits they've tweaked the sound a bit, made it tougher, possibly a bit more introspective and put a bit more electronic in.

On May 9, fans in Norwich will be able to hear for themselves as they head for the city midway through a 15-date tour.

Live James are a real treat. The sound is as clear and note perfect as you'd expect from a band with so many years under their belts, while Tim Booth remains a mesmeric presence on stage, all swirling arms, twirling legs and brilliant soaring vocals.

There's certainly no going through the motions, which is something Davies himself is keen to get across.

He explains 'Live we always try and do something different, no James gig is ever the same and that's something we deliberately set out to ensure.

'We will rehearse a bit but then decide at the last minute to throw in songs we haven't played in a long, long time.'

For a band whose most well known songs, including Sit Down, Laid, She's A Star, will roll off the tongue of any self-respecting indie fan that feels like a brave move.

Doesn't it risk alienating the fans who come along and want to hear the classics, I ask? James think differently. They see it as a selling point.

Davies explained: 'We couldn't just go out there every night and play the same set, it would get too boring. People who come and see us know they'll get something they don't expect and hopefully that's one of the things that makes them come back for more. Even we don't really know what we are going to do.

'Hopefully we have that bond with our fans, where we don't need to simply pull out the hits night after night. People will appreciate hearing songs they loved for the first time in years.

'We played a gig in Scotland last year to 12,00 people which just went off, it was fantastic. Afterwards a Conservative MP tweeted that we were rubbish because we hadn't played Sit Down. The next thing hundreds of people told her she was talking rubbish, that made me really happy.'

'Happy' certainly seems an apt word to describe where the band are at this moment - and according to Davies that's because they are being given the freedom to do what they do best - simply make the type of music they love.

He added: 'It is really important to us to make new records. We wouldn't do it otherwise. We are not prepared to simply be a band playing old songs but nothing new, basically one of those bands that are just in it for the money.'

Bands like James, even the ones with no new songs, are enjoying the fruits of the current wave of indie and Britpop nostalgia, which has seen many of their contemporaries from the late 1980s and 90s return to the fold.

But Davies says that in James' case it's more than nostalgia which keeps people coming back for more.

He added: 'I think people enjoy that attachment with bands they have been into for a long time.

'There's a sense of a shared experience. People might have followed us or other bands from when they were playing in front of 20 people. They have been there as they've grown to be bigger. People like to feel part of that.'

James play the UEA LCR, Norwich on May 9, 7.30pm, returns only, 01603 508050, www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk

Girl At The End Of The World is out now

Further listening: www.wearejames.com

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